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Eastern France & Luxembourg

May 2nd, 2023

France, officially the French Republic is a country located primarily in Western Europe It also includes overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, giving it one of the largest discontiguous exclusive economic zones in the world. The mainland European area extends from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea; overseas territories include French Guiana in South America, Saint Pierre and Miquelon in the North Atlantic, the French West Indies, and many islands in Oceania and the Indian Ocean.

Inhabited by archaic humans since the Paleolithic era, the territory of France was settled during the Iron Age by Celtic tribes known as the  Gauls. Rome annexed the area in 51 BC, leading to a distinct Gallo-Roman culture that laid the foundation of the French language. The Germanic Franks formed the Kingdom of Francia, which became the heartland of the Carolingian Empire. The Treaty of Verdun of 843 partitioned the empire, with West Francia becoming the Kingdom of France in 987. In the High Middle Ages, France was a powerful but highly decentralized feudal kingdom. Philip II successfully strengthened royal power and defeated his rivals to double the size of the crown lands; by the end of his reign, France had emerged as the most powerful nation in Europe.

From the mid-14th to the mid-15th century, France was plunged into a series of dynastic conflicts involving England, collectively known as the Hundred Years’ War, and a distinct French identity emerged as a result. The French Renaissance saw art and culture flourish, conflict with the House of Habsburg, and the establishment of a French colonial empire, which by the 20th century would become the second-largest in the world. The second half of the 16th century was dominated by religious civil wars between Catholics and Huguenots that severely weakened the country. France again emerged as Europe’s dominant power in the 17th century under Louis XIV following the Thirty Years’ War. Inadequate economic policies, inequitable taxes and frequent wars (notably a defeat in the Seven Years’ War and costly involvement in the American War of Independence) left the kingdom in a precarious economic situation by the end of the 18th century. This precipitated the French Revolution of 1789, which overthrew the Ancien Régime and produced the “Declaration of the Rights of Man”, which expresses the nation’s ideals to this day.

France reached its political and military zenith in the early 19th century under Napoleon Bonaparte, subjugating much of continental Europe and establishing the First French Empire. The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of European and world history. The collapse of the empire initiated a period of relative decline, in which France endured a tumultuous succession of governments until the founding of the French Third Republic during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Subsequent decades saw a period of optimism, cultural and scientific flourishing, as well as economic prosperity, known as the Belle Époque. France was one of the major participants of World War I, from which it emerged victorious at a great human and economic cost. It was among the Allied powers of World War II but was soon occupied by the Axis in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, the short-lived Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War. The current Fifth Republic was formed in 1958 by Charles de Gaulle. Algeria and most French colonies became independent in the 1960s, with the majority retaining close economic and military ties with France.

France retains its centuries-long status as a global centre of art, science and philosophy. It is the world’s leading tourist destination, receiving over 89 million foreign visitors in 2018. It remains a great power in global affairs, being one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and an official nuclear-weapon state. France is a founding and leading member of the European Union and the Eurozone, as well as a key member of the Group of Seven and NATO.

The “tricolore” (three-colour) flag is an emblem of the Fifth Republic. It had its origins in the union, at the time of the French Revolution, with the colours of the King (white) and the City of Paris (blue and red). 

Diesel price:  €1.60 and up to 1.82 per litre which is about $7 USD  per gallon

(not sure if we’ve ever mentioned this but diesel in Europe is cheaper than gasoline – this is due to EU subsidies – gasoline is at least 20 cents more per litre)

Currency: Euro

EU License plate letter:  F

Beer:  1664, Jeffe

After taking the short train trip from Kehl (German)  into Strasbourg, we went to visit a few historical places

First was the Vauban Dam/Bridge – this is a covered bridge built in 1690 and has a few levels, two of which are accessible to the public – the main lower level and the upper level that is exposed.  There is a museum type attraction on the second floor but it is currently closed.

Vauban Dam, is a bridge, weir and defensive work erected in the 17th century on the River Ill. Today it serves to display sculptures and has a viewing terrace on its roof, with views of the earlier Ponts Couverts bridges and Petite France quarter. The dam was constructed from 1686 to 1690 in pink Vosges sandstone. The principal defensive function of the barrage was to enable, in the event of an attack, the raising the level of the River Ill and thus the flooding of all the lands south of the city, making them impassable to the enemy. This defensive measure was deployed in 1870, when Strasbourg was besieged by Prussian forces during the Franco-Prussian War, and resulted in the complete flooding of the northern part of the suburb of Neudorf.

The barrage has 13 arches and is 120 metres (390 ft) in length. Within the structure an enclosed corridor links the two banks and a lapidarium serves to display ancient plaster casts and copies of statues (this was closed t to us).  Three of the arches are raised to permit navigation, and the corridor is carried across these by drawbridges. The roof was rebuilt in 1965-66 in order to construct the panoramic terrace.

From this bridge, we could see the Ponts Couverts. We took photos of the views around us including the Ponts and then actually walked across it.

The Ponts Couverts are a set of three bridges and four towers that make up a defensive work erected in the 13th century on the River Ill.  The three bridges cross the four river channels of the River Ill that flow through Strasbourg’s historic Petite France quarter.

Construction of the Ponts Couverts commenced in 1230, and they were opened in 1250. As a defensive mechanism, they were superseded by the Vauban Dam, just upstream, in 1690, but remained in use as bridges. As built, each of the bridges was covered by a wooden roof that served to protect the defenders who would have been stationed on them in time of war. These roofs were removed in 1784, but name Ponts Couverts (covered bridges) has remained in common use ever since.

This took us through the Square Louise Weiss to reach “La Petite France” – an historical district where tanners and xxx lived and worked.

La Petite France, ( aka “Tanner’s Quarter”) is the south-western part of the Grande Île of Strasbourg, the most central and characteristic island of the city that forms the historic center. At Petite France, the River Ill splits up into a number of channels that cascade through an area that was, in the Middle Ages, home to the city’s tanners, millers and fishermen, and is now one of Strasbourg’s main tourist attractions. Petite France forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Grande Île, designated in 1988.

tannery from 1572

The final stop before returning to the train station was the main square, Plaza Kléber, a huge square with historic buildings around it.

The Place Kléber is the largest square in the city of Strasbourg in the heart of the city’s commercial area, was named after French revolutionary general Jean-Baptiste Kléber, born in Strasbourg in 1753. In the square is a statue of Kléber, under which is a vault containing his remains.

The first name of Place Kléber was Barfüsserplatz (‘square of the barefoot nuns’ in German: square of the bare-feet-goers because a Franciscan monastery was standing along the square). In the 17th century the name changed to Waffenplatz (‘arms square’ in German).  On 24 June 1840 the square was finally renamed for the French general Jean-Baptiste Kléber, also going by ‘Kléberplatz’ after German annexation.

Then around 10 after much confusion at the train station, managed to find the correct track to catch the train back.  This should not have been so hard!

We drove towards Nancy, stopping in Saverne at a place that does the national vehicle inspections (we will need one this fall) to ask if that small hole in our tail light that Doug repaired with red tape will pass muster.  The fellow didn’t speak much English but with Fran’s smattering of French, she managed to communicate and he came out to look – without hesitation he said yes – thank was good news.

We arrived in Nancy in the early afternoon and it was time to relax.  We will visit the main attraction here, the Plaza, tomorrow morning.

We drove through two tunnels today.

After showers, etc. we walked into town stopping at yet another Control Technique; we forgot to ask about a slightly frayed seatbelt – would that pass?  The woman who spoke some English said “no” and after asking told us where we could buy one; we drove over that before leaving town with no luck – fellow said we had to get from a dealer (?) only.  We’ll check into this further later.

We arrived at the Place Stanislas under blue skies and full sunshine it was warming up nicely –

Place Stanislas is a large pedestrianised square in the city of Nancy. Built between 1752 and 1756 on the orders of Stanislaus I, the square is one of oldest examples of an architecturally consistent and monumental public square, and is an excellent example of 18th-century urban architecture. Since 1983, the architectural ensemble comprising Place Stanislas, the extension of its axis, the Place de la Carrière and the Place d’Alliance, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After the War of the Polish Succession in 1737, the Duchy of Upper Lorraine, of which Nancy was the capital, was given to Stanislaus I Leszczyńsi (Stanisław in Polish, Stanislas in French), former King of Poland and father-in-law to King Louis XV of France. An earlier ruler, Leopold, Duke of Lorraine, had undertaken much reconstruction in Lorraine, which had been ravaged by a series of wars. He had recruited numerous artists and architects for this work. Hence, Stanislaus found a pool of talent and experience to draw from on his arrival.

The square was a way to link the medieval old town of Nancy and the “new” town built in the 17th century. The square was also intended as a “place royale” to honour Stanislaus’ son-in-law, Louis XV. The design created a large urban square that linked two handsome existing buildings: the Hôtel de Ville (city hall, now centred on its grand square) and the Hôtel du Gouvernement, the seat of the duchy. The seat of city government and the seat of Ducal government thus faced each other as complements through a series of rational, symmetrical but varied urban spaces, unequalled in Europe at the time.

Construction began in March 1752, and ended in November 1756. A bronze statue of Louis XV that was erected in the center of the square. It was removed during the iconoclasm of the Revolution, when it was replaced with a simple winged figure. The square was renamed ‘Place du Peuple’, and later ‘Place Napoléon’.  In 1831, a bronze statue of Stanislaus was placed in the middle of the square; since then it has been known as the ‘Place Stanislas’.

The Place Stanislas is 125 metre long and 106 metre wide. It is paved with light ochre stones, with two lines of darker stones forming a diagonal cross motif. The square is surrounded by an architecturally harmonious ensemble of buildings, most notably these:

  • The City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) of Nancy;
  • The Opera house (formerly the Bishop’s Palace) ;
  • The Fine Arts Museum (originally the Collège de médecine;
  • On the north side, the buildings were kept lower for defensive purposes (to permit crossfire between the Vaudemont and the Haussonville bastions).

The four corners and the west and east sides of the square feature gilded wrought iron gates and lanterns. The north-west and north-east corners also feature ornate fountains.

It was magnificent – all uniform in design and colour.

This huge square leads to a small rectangular square with the a palace, now a government house, at the end:

We saw a large gothic church just off the square:

We wandered around some just enjoying the eye candy and then returned to Minou via the Parc de la Pepiniere which was quite a lovely stroll and includes a small zoo.  We saw a large cage with peacocks, one of which was white but the angle and the lights were terrible for photos.

As it was still early in the day, we made our way about 60 km / 40 mi north to the city of Metz.  Here is located the Church of St. Stephen.  Parking was beginning to look rather trying but we found a small area on a street where we could back in and stay for up to two hours.

Metz Cathedral, is dedicated to Saint Stephen. Though the diocese dates back before the sixth century, the present cathedral building was begun in the early 14th century. It was joined with the collegiate church of Notre-Dame in the mid-14th century, and given a new transept and late Gothic chevet, finished between 1486 and 1520.   Metz Cathedral has the third-highest nave of cathedrals in France (41.41 m / 135.9′). It is nicknamed la Lanterne du Bon Dieu (“the Good Lord’s lantern”), displaying the largest expanse of stained glass in the world!

The stained glass windows include works by Gothic and Renaissance master glass makers and range in date from the 13th century to the 20th century, and cover an area of 6500 square meters; the cathedral has the most stained glass of any medieval religious monument.

The early windows resemble mosaics, made of very small pieces of thick, deeply-colored glass bound together by thin strips of lead. The later windows became much larger and thinner, as glassmaking technology improved, with support of iron bars and stone tracery. They were often colored with silver stain, and enamel paints which could be etched to give different shades and three dimensions, more closely resembling Renaissance paintings. The later Gothic periods also made greater use of grisaille, glass colored white, grey or other pale colors, to bring more light into the interior, and to highlight the colored glass. Most of the original glass was removed in the centuries after the Middle Ages. Most of the glass today is restored or a more modern replacement.

We have not mentioned this before, but we have been looking for a place to store Minou over the summer.  We reached out on FB about a month ago and someone referred us to a website: and Fran found someone in an area that will work for us (well south west of Paris so less expensive but with train service nearby – we plan to head south upon our return in the fall) and today after messages, futile conversations and more messages  – all in French!, we got it sorted out.  So we arranged to get there May 15th, spend the night in Minou and the fellow offered to drive us to the train station about 30km / 20 mi away the next morning to catch our flight.  We had also reached out to the place we bought Minou and there price was double this one, so we are glad we did not decided to go with them.


We had received an email notice from EuroCampingCars that they had received a speeding ticket for us so luckily we were still in the 15 day period to pass the lesser fine and we took care of paying that online as they had emailed us the full citation.  It was for €45 for doing 86 in an 80 zone last month near Nimes.  Considering we’ve now driven over 40,000 in Europe, one speeding ticket is not bad!

We needed to grocery shop and Fran found a store with one of those 24/7 outdoor laundry machines outside.  Turns out that store was only for online shopping and pickup and the washing machine wouldn’t work so that was a bust.  We backtracked a klick down the road to the Lidl and shopped there before making out way to a place that sells campervan and allows overnight parking, has dumping facilities and you can buy tokens for water and power.  We did not need the latter, so we just parked for the night.

It warmed up considerably today and Fran is back in Keene’s with NO socks – a wonderful feeling.  No jackets required and the sun is brilliantly shining down on us – life is good!

Next morning, we dumped and filled with water but we know we did not get the 100 litres promised for €0.75 because the tank never filled but it’s probably enough for a few days for sure.  There was another mall up the road with an outdoor laundry so we drove there and got it all done.  While Fran took care of the laundry and got a few things in the mall, Doug researched getting a “pre inspection” done on Minou for the Control Technique so we’d know in advance what might need to be fixed.  If you do the real inspection, you have only two months to fix anything that requires doing and we’re leaving in less than two weeks so that won’t work.  The inspection is due at the end of September and we won’t be back in France till the first part of October but we understand that we as long as we have an appointment booked and can show we were out of the country, we will be okay if stopped by the police.  And really, the chances of that even happening as slim as we’ve never been checked yet.

Doug found an inspection place about 6 km / 4 mi away in the suburb of Talange, that appeared to have an 11 am appointment open but he couldn’t get it to say “pre inspection” so instead, we drove over.  Luckily, a young man inside spoke more than a little English, and he told us he could do it at 2:30 this afternoon.  We have over 3 hours to kill, but it will get done and we hopefully will learn we have no major issues.  We found a grocery store nearby with a big lot, went over and parked, had brekkie and chilled.

We returned to the Control Technique shop at 2:30 and by 3:15 learned our vehicle would pass; the rear brakes were just on the passing point (so we’ll have to take care of that down the road), the headlights need a slight adjustment (which he offered to take care of) and there is a touch of rust under the hood on one side but nothing major!  Good news; he said nothing about the taillight or the seat belt) so we decided to get the proper inspection done so we don’t have to worry about it in the fall and Minou will be good for another two years.

Now these appointments get booked out in advance but he told us he could fit us in tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 so we said sure.  We thought we’d just back track a couple of clicks down the road and overnight in a large shopping mall parking lot (the place we did the laundry this morning) and as we were heading there, Fran said “let’s go to Luxembourg City as it’s only 60 km away and we could do happy hour there and visit the city in the morning with plenty of time to get back to Talange for the appointment” – so that’s what we did.

We found the non-toll route (tolls in France are the highest in Europe so we prefer to avoid them) and drove north – we hit construction just inside Luxembourg but luckily we were going the right way cause there was a huge line up going back into France.


May 4th, 2023

Luxembourg, officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is a small landlocked country in Western Europe. It borders Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east, and France to the south. Its capital and most populous city, Luxembourg, is one of the four institutional seats of the EU  (together with Brussels, Frankfurt, and Strasbourg) and the seat of several EU institutions, notably the Court of Justice of the EU, the highest judicial authority. Luxembourg’s culture, people, and languages are highly intertwined with its French and German neighbors; while Luxembourgish is the only national language of the people, French is the only language for legislation, and all three – Luxembourgish, French and German – are considered official languages and are used for administrative matters in the country.

With an area of 2,586 square km / 998 sq mi, Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in Europe.  It is smaller than the state of Rhode Island.   In 2023, it had a population of 660,809, which makes it one of the least populated countries in Europe, albeit with the highest population growth rate; foreigners account for nearly half the population. Luxembourg is a representative democracy headed by a constitutional monarch, Grand Duke Henri, making it the world’s only remaining sovereign grand duchy.

Luxembourg is a developed country with an advanced economy and one of the world’s highest GDP. The city of Luxembourg was declared a UNESCO site in 1994 due to the exceptional preservation of its vast fortifications and historic quarters.  Luxembourg is a founding member of the EU, the UN, NATO, and the Benelux. It served on the UN Security Council for the first time in 2013 and 2014.

The history of Luxembourg is considered to begin in the year 963, when Count Siegfried acquired a rocky promontory and its Roman-era fortifications, known as Lucilinburhuc, “little castle”, and the surrounding area from the Imperial Abbey of St. Maximin in nearby Trier. Siegfried’s descendants increased their territory through marriage, conquest, and vassalage. By the end of the 13th century, the counts of Luxembourg reigned over a considerable territory.In 1308, Count of Luxembourg Henry VII became King of the Romans and later Holy Roman Emperor; the House of Luxembourg would produce four Holy Roman Emperors during the High Middle Ages. In 1354, Charles IV elevated the county to the Duchy of Luxembourg. The duchy eventually became part of the Burgundian Circle and then one of the Seventeen Provinces of the Habsburg Netherlands.

Over the centuries, the City and Fortress of Luxembourg—of great strategic importance due to its location between the Kingdom of France and the Habsburg territories—was gradually built up to be one of the most reputed fortifications in Europe. After belonging to both the France of Louis XIV and the Austria of Maria Theresa, Luxembourg became part of the First French Republic and Empire under Napoleon.

The present-day state of Luxembourg first emerged at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The Grand Duchy, with its powerful fortress, became an independent state under the personal possession of William I of the Netherlands with a Prussian garrison to guard the city against another invasion from France. In 1839, following the turmoil of the Belgian Revolution, the purely French-speaking part of Luxembourg was ceded to Belgium and the Luxembourgish-speaking part became what is the present state of Luxembourg.

In the Luxembourg flag, inspired by the French flag, the red color represents the spilled blood in wars, the white color represents peace and the blue color is a reference to France.

Diesel price:  €1.376 per litre which is about $5.73 USD  per gallon

Currency: Euro

EU License plate letter:  L

Beer:  Bofferding

By 4:30 we were parked in a large lot that charges 50 cents an hour and it’s free after 6.  It wasn’t a pretty place and it’s surrounded by streets, buses and a tram but it would do for a night.  We paid for parking till 6 and then the extra to stay till noon tomorrow and walked the kilometre into the centre of the city.  This lot is really in a good location.

By 4:30 we were parked in a large lot that charges 50 cents an hour and it’s free after 6.  It wasn’t a pretty place and it’s surrounded by streets, buses and a tram but it would do for a night.  We paid for parking till 6 and then the extra to stay till noon tomorrow and walked the kilometre into the centre of the city.  This lot is really in a good location.

We walked past the city park to the pedestrian zone and found the Place d’Armes with outdoor seating at Rabelais restaurant in the sunshine.  It’s 24C / 75F today and it’s so nice to walk around with no socks (Fran) and no jackets!  We ordered the local beer chatting with a German couple beside us.

They left and we ordered another.  A family of three sat beside us and we could hear them speaking Spanish; they were from Argentina!  Guillermo and Maria Flores were on holiday with their daughter.  We chatted with them for a bit about how we love their country and upon finishing our beers, we returned to Minou.

Today was a two tunnel day.

It was not a quiet night due to our location but we were prepared for that and felt it was worth it.  There is a castle in northern Luxembourg we might want to visit but we think we’ll do that when we tour Belgium.

After the morning routine, we walked back into town to check out this UNESCO awarded city.

The main attraction we wanted to see here was the former castle area on the “bock”.

The Bock is a promontory in the north-eastern corner of Luxembourg City’s old historical district. Offering a natural fortification, its rocky cliffs tower above the River Alzette, which surrounds it on three sides. It was here that Count Siegfried built his Castle of Lucilinburhuc in 963, providing a basis for the development of the town that became Luxembourg City. Over the centuries, the Bock and the surrounding defenses were reinforced, attacked, and rebuilt time and time again as the armies of the Burgundians, Habsburgs, Spaniards, Prussians, and French vied for victory over one of Europe’s most strategic strongholds, the Fortress of Luxembourg. Warring did not stop until the Treaty of London was signed in 1867, calling for the demolition of the fortifications.

Ruins of the old castle and the vast underground system of passages and galleries known as the casemates continue to be a major tourist attraction.  In 1744, during the Austrian period, these underground passages were considerably enlarged. The main passage, which still remains, is 110 m long and up to 7 m wide. Branches leading off on either side were equipped with no less than 25 cannon slots, 12 to the north and 13 to the south, offering considerable firepower. In the event of war, the Bock casemates, covering an area of 1,100 m2, could be used as barracks for several hundred soldiers. Water was supplied from a well 47 m deep.

There were a couple of lookouts over the area that we checked out but the museum and tunnels themselves were closed.

At the “corniche” in front of St. Michael’s was this mural:

Nearby was St Michael’s cathedral that has a foundation dating back to 987!

We checked out the sad looking old city gate:

We walked past the back side of Duke’s palace before seeing the front a little later on.  There were two guards out there taking turns doing sentry duty.

Then we walked to another view point to see the top Fort Bourbon in the distance and in that small park area where they were setting up a small fair, there was a tall wall memorial with a golden statue:

We walked over to another large square where the town hall is located and there is a statue of William II:

The city’s old section is not as historic as other cities and there are lots of modern buildings, high end stores and after we left the city, we realized we’d forgotten to buy a souvenir and then noted we’d never seen a souvenir shop during our walk this morning or yesterday.  (we fixed that by finding one on Amazon!)

We returned to Minou via the park:

Now as the petrol is cheaper in this country than in France, on our way out of the city we saw a couple of stations and we pulled into one and Doug did a fill, fill, fill!

We drove a whopping 35 km / 21 mi in Luxembourg in less than 24 hours.

Fun facts about Luxembourg:

  1. Luxembourg has more than 100 castles/chateaux’s.
  2. Luxembourg has the highest minimum wage in the EU.
  3. Luxembourg is one of the safest countries in the world.
  4. Nearly half of Luxembourg’s workforce commutes to work in Luxembourg from another country.
  5. 17km of underground tunnels are cut out of the solid rock beneath Luxembourg City.
  6. The Motto of Luxembourg is “mir wëllebleiwewatmirsinn,” which means ‘we want to remain what we are.’
  7. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in Luxembourg.
  8. Luxembourg has the highest rate of car ownership in the world with 647 cars per 1,000 population.
  9. Forests cover more than a third of the country.
  10. Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was the first European Union leader to marry someone of the same sex.
  11. Restaurant Chiggeri, Luxembourg city, holds a world-record for the longest wine list in the world.
  12. Public transport is free in Luxembourg.