Weekend in Luxembourg

This week has been one of good omens, or coincidences, which ever you prefer. At the weekend me and the husband were discussing some of our favourite trips, and Luxembourg came back into the conversation – we travelled there for a gig just under 2 years ago to see DJ Shadow. We’ve made city breaks for gigs a bit of thing now, but especially since moving to Oxford where a lot of bigger bands don’t play, particularly non-UK based bands: they’ll often play London and Manchester and sometimes Glasgow. Travelling to London started becoming an unwelcome expense – not just the travel, which sometimes included a horribly basic hotel or having to get a late night coach home that takes 2hrs, but also drinks being incredibly overpriced (£5 for a very bland lager sir, single vodka and redbull that’ll be £9 madam etc..). So we made a concious decision to start travelling, to gigs especially to cities we’ve not visited before and bonus if the venue is just that side of smaller and more intimate.

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist at den Atelier

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist at den Atelier

So that is how Luxembourg came about initially, it also helped that at the time I had a fair amount of nectar points that can be exchanged for easyjet flights making the weekend even cheaper. We saw DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist in den Atelier, a really cool intimate venue where you could pretty much see the stage from anywhere, it felt like the crowd was probably only 500 people, but according to their website they can accommodate up to 1200, but it felt like seeing them in a small club.

So the day after we’d been talking about how nice Luxembourg was, another favourite band Interpol* announced a European tour, with UK dates in Manchester and London. So we checked out where else they were playing and narrowed it down to Copenhagen and Luxembourg (both weekend dates). After a quick search it was clear that Luxembourg was going to be the cheapest option by far, so to cut this rambling short: exactly 2 years to the day we saw Interpol play in Amsterdam, we booked tickets to see them in Luxembourg. Also the same day a blog post about Luxembourg came up on my feed, so it felt like all the signs were there.

So two years later, I’m going to tell you about my favourite things in Luxembourg, as it seems I never bothered to blog at the time!

The first thing we did was pick up at Luxembourg Card similar to city cards, its actually valid for the whole country, getting you into many attractions and exhibits for free and to be honest is actually a lot cheaper than most other city cards. We picked up a 2 day card and definitely got some good use out of it just with Luxembourg city. It also includes public transport in the price making it super easy to get around and we actually managed to make it to at least 5 attractions over the 48 hours as I recall (would’ve been 6 but the Bock du Casemates is closed in winter).

mirrors with the worrds Rectum Newt Racoon in a large gallery space with a woman in front taking a self portait with wooden crates in the background

Rectum Newt Racoon – Self portrait in front of sculptures by David Altmejd

These included the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (MUDAM) a contemporary art museum where the building itself is as impressive as the art it holds (€7) and the next door fortress Museum Dräi Eechelen (€5), Casino Luxembourg (which is now free, but was I think the standard €5) which was full of typography and graphic design. Not to mention the historical Musée d’Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg (€5), Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art (€7) and Villa Vauban – Luxembourg City Art Museum (€5) ~ it’s worth noting that some of these venues we probably wouldn’t have bothered going to without the card, and I’m glad we did because they were in stunning buildings with loads of history. It was good to see art and artefacts that were outside of our usual tastes, and of course all these venues meant seeing parts of the city that we might otherwise have ignored due to the comfort of staying within a certain walking radius. If you have the means and will to go further afield there are breweries and swimming pools and other stuff included in your Luxembourg card that is valid up to 3 days, worth noting the days don’t have to be consecutive either – so if you want to spend a day doing museums, a day travelling or doing nothing, then another day doing something then that’s ok – you just fill out the days you actually use the card.

Luxembourg is also home to a what I was going to simply say, a delightful park to walk along that follows the flow of the river, particularly from where we were based close to the Rue Dr Charles Marx, it was a nice walk into the centre via the infamous Adolphe bridge  but as the Luxembourg website says so much more eloquently “Laid out along more romantic lines, the Pétrusse Parks combine steep slopes, strange rock formations and the ruins of fortifications and bastions to form a harmonious unit”

the blue painted metal Adolphe Bridge, viewed from a distance surrounded by green vegetation and trees

Adolphe Bridge, Luxembourg City

Other things to do include the Notre Dame cathedral, maybe not as impressive as it’s Paris counterpart but still a beautiful church, very close to the gold lady war memorial. In the same area is the Place Guillaume II which has a few statues and the surrounding streets are very picturesque.

So after all this we’re very excited to return, particularly as it will be high summer, rather than winter, so we’d  love to hear any more tips of what to do in the comments!

*not just a favourite band, but a band touring their first album, of which several songs were ‘our songs’ early on in our relationship so actually hold a really special place in our hearts

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Review: The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well
The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a small, compact book and initially I thought I would finish it in a day, but as I found out from the first few chapters, this would be very un-hygge of me to do so. Although you might initially think the whole hygge thing a bit of a fad (there has been a slew of books come out all just before Christmas), this book has some really strong points aside from being written by someone who runs a Happiness Institute. Along with all the tips on how to make your home hygge, ideas for hygge get togethers there’s also some nice sounding recipes to try out, and getting together with friends to try them would be totally hygge. If you’re looking for something to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside whilst stuck indoors listening to the rain hit the window, this is it.

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Bout of Books round up

So I actually started this post back on day 3 (today is day 7!) on my lunch break, I got caught up in the fact that I couldn’t find the original wordpress post editor and ergo could not fathom a few features I wanted to use, so it fell by the way side.  Then if I’m honest I’ve prioritised the actual reading side of things with all my spare time, so I’m doing one update to cover the whole week.

I started reading Blackout by Ragnar Jonasson, it was on a Kindle deal over Christmas, and whilst I own his other two UK released books in paperback, I felt like this was too good to miss. The story is once again set in the Northern town of Siglufjörður, and has more twists and turns than an old fashioned rollercoaster. I rated the book 4/5 but the actual Kindle version 1/5, I realised once I was about a third of the way through that Jonasson usually includes a little map of the locations used in his books and sometimes more info: it turns out that this information is included in the e-book version, but upon starting it, it jumps from the title page to the first chapter, I also noted at least 4 grammatical / typesetting mistakes in the text – I’d have been really peeved had I paid full price. My other gripe with this book is that it’s listed as ‘book 3 of the Dark Iceland’ series, which for the UK order release it is, but not for the original and chronological order. This makes no sense to me, so I’ve read in the UK order book 1, 5, 2, leaping back and forwards in time is very confusing for the read how can a character have a child with his partner last book, but this book they’ve not had it yet and have split up… also kinda ruins the on going plot just a bit. (Page count 220)

Second book on my list was the Little Book of Icelandic – by Alda Sigmundsdottir a wonderful compendium of nuances of the Icelandic language, reminding me of all the things I loved about Lingo  and more. For example the reasoning behind some root words that haven’t evolved like English has, contained three examples that I could also recognise in my Swedish learning (the words for dog and meat). There’s also the explanations of pronunciation of those funny characters and my favourite – the compound words! I find it a lot easier to remember words when I know the history of how they could about, this is especially true when they are amusing or quaint (eg. laptop comes from the words meaning migrating computer). I think this is a must for anyone with an interest in the fun side of linguistics or anyone wanting to learn Icelandic. (Finished today, page count 162)

Third book, I’m currently reading and predict will be finished tomorrow, is The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, which is a beautifully designed, hardback, almost pocket sized book on the hygge lifestyle. So far I’m learning that candles, snugly scarves and coffee are all good elements of hygge, loving it. (page count on day 7, 75)

So total page count: 457

I hope next time for bout of books to get more involved with the twitter chats etc, but I’m fairly sure they’re all at 4pm UK time (the ones I’m actually awake for) which is commuting time and not great tbh..  til next time

Bout of Books 18 and reading challenges

Heading into the New Year and one resolution I kept, or rather challenge I completed (I like to think as resolutions as challenges to keep tally of), was my Goodreads Reading Challenge, of 52 books for 2016. I’ve actually exceeded that reading a total of 63 so far  and it feels slightly premature posting this, as I fully intend to finish another tonight and there’s still tomorrow to go!

books

This was in no small part to joining several Read-a-thons, and I’m stoked to say the next one starts in a few days – the week long Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 2nd and runs through Sunday, January 8th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 18 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Given that during the last read-a-thon I signed up to, I read nothing, as family descended on us for the whole weekend, I’m really looking forward to this one. It’s certainly more relaxed than a 24 hour read a thon lasting a whole week, and entirely in your own timezone. I haven’t decided what to read yet, I downloaded a few e-books over Christmas, and acquired a few more physical books during December (ok, more than a few, 11 to be exact, with 2 more in the post.. but who’s counting really?). So come Monday 2nd January, I’ll be reading on the bus, in my lunch break, after work, in my bed… wherever I can.

Bout of Books 18

Review: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The premise of this book is fairly simple – a 100 year old man climbs out of the window of his care home and disappears, but nothing could have prepared me for the gloriously funny stories that unfold. Not only the story of what happens once he turns 100 and nips out the window, but the back story of his entire life which is interspersed with the modern day adventure. Was he responsible for Hiroshima? Did he thwart Stalin? Become friends with Harry S Truman? read it and find out…

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Airwaves 16 – Days 1-2

Because I really haven’t had the time or energy to blog daily  🙂

Day 1 – Wednesday

A first for us this year was arriving the first day of the festival rather than a day or two before. So it was fairly late Wednesday when we got our wristbands and as a result we didn’t see very many bands, in fact we sort of saw one off venue band – VAR and despite how much I love them, the venue (bar 11) was awful, unless you were 6 foot plus you weren’t going to see anything, and for me there’s nothing more annoying that someone (or 3) shoving past you to get closer, who then puts ear plugs in – seriously go home.

Snorri Helgason & Mr Silla

So we chilled out for a bit then headed to see Snorri Helgason at NASA, or as the other half calls him (and his band) the Snorri Helgason Good Time Band. Really upbeat and with Mr Silla on co-vocals for several songs we loved it. So it turns out that half the band are also in Tilbury (I did not know this until now) who were on just afterwards – strange band, half look like they belong in a 70s metal band and the lead singer with his snap back like he should be in a rap group – but neither of these apply – really amazing uplifting vocals and streaming guitars. But we were totally knackered so left part way through.

Day 2 – Thursday

We started the day really lazily, taking a walk around the harbour and grabbing brunch at Fredrikson Ale House – we highly recommend this place, the portions were huge (think 8 pieces of bacon!) and kept us going until evening. We then headed to Harpa as we’d won tickets to an exclusive session with Mugison, courtesy of Nordic Playlist. With only 30 audience members and a backdrop of Reykjavik through Harpa’s amazing windows it was so cool – we heard a few well known tracks and some new ones from the album released this week, we must remember to get a copy before we leave.

We then headed to Bryggan Brugghus to see Mr Silla perform off venue as a solo artist, although she was accompanied by her husband on stage. Again, mind blowing vocals, different arrangements of song I know and love. She also tipped us off to another band she was performing with today – Throws, a UK band with one guy from Sheffield and the other who lives in Reykjavik.

So for our evening entertainment we started at the Reykjavik art museum for JFDR, aka Jofridur from Pascal Pinon, Samaris and Gangly. This was her solo stuff and it was a haunting and melodic as Samaris. We then quickly headed off to Hurra for The IllIs, a Slovakian band. I would like to peg them as metal, but they had moments of dreamy pop melodies that were then interrupted with the crashing guitars – they were so energetic and fun. And on their final song one of the guitarists handed his guitar to the guy next to me in the audience so he could rock out, this was hilarious as the guy like me clearly did not know what to do with it! If you ever get the chance to see these guys then do – they really know how to rock a party!

The Ills @ Hurra

We then arrived at Gamla Bio whilst Hannah Lou Clark from the UK was playing, highly popular it would seem, as afterwards the venue practically empty. So we waited for Throws – worth noting Gamla Bio has the BEST free wifi I’ve ever experienced that doesn’t require signing up for something/tedious registration process.

Throws absolutely killed it. They started with a male voice choir of at least 15 members who were all very impressive, then slimmed down to the two of them plus two drummers, who were so energetic I felt sweaty just looking at them, then Mr Silla popped in for a track or two in the middle before finishing back with the choir who some of which were drinking beer at this point! Fab evening, danced loads, smiled even more, went back to our apartment exhausted.

 

Culturenator’s guide to Airwaves

Well why not? Everyone is doing it these days, I feel like the last 2 weeks have been a constant stream of recommendations for bands to see, bars to visit, ad infinitum. This will be our 4th Airwaves (we’ve already decided next year is go), and by no-means do we feel like experts but still I feel like sharing some of our favourite places, bands and tips for making the most of your 5 days of non-stop aural excellence the city of Reykjavik provides.

On venue / off venue – what is it?

Quite simply put on venue is the official Iceland Airwaves schedule, it what you need your wristband to get into. The off-venue program is the plethora of ‘unofficial’ pop up performances that happen in almost anywhere imaginable from hostels, bars, banks, clothing shops to barber shops. These are free and open to anyone and mostly occur during the day. In places such as Lucky Records the off-venue program starts on the Monday, as Airwaves officially starts on the Wednesday.

The essentials

So you can do this the old fashioned way with the paper version of the planner or you can get with the kids, download the official airwaves app and stay plugged into social media. Key people to follow are the airwaves official accounts and the Reykjavik Grapevine – these two will keep you in the loop with schedule  changes (the app will send you 15 minute reminders for any show you mark as wanting to see, as well as push notifications of any cancellations, should they arise) and the latest news related to the festival. The grapevine also publishes a special Airwaves edition (physical newspaper) that is free – pick up from various locations downtown.

Rythmatik @ Iceland Airwaves 06.11.15

Planning

Basically our advice is don’t get too hung up on schedules and planning, as anything could happen – you could stumble upon a band you’ve never heard before then precede to chase after their 10 off venue shows, or a show could be running late because the drummer forgot his kit (it has happened before). You’d have to be one lucky person to not have a single schedule clash for any artist you want to see, and the best made plans can be blown away. But if there’s someone you really want to see, our advice is to get there at least one band before – turning up 15 minutes before they’re due to go onstage may mean you are right at the back with a limited view, that’s if the venue isn’t too full and you can’t get in at all. Also getting there for a band before, that you’ve not heard of is a good way to seek out new music. The off-venue shows can be a different beast, with people so desperate to be down the front for a free, tiny venue show, that even the band struggle to get on to the stage to perform (yup, saw this at one of the hostels on the main street).

The weather

As any Icelander will tell you, the weather is incredibly changeable and can turn on click of your fingers. Wear layers, so that when you get inside you can strip off to cool down – as it will inevitably get really warm inside. Thankfully venues in Iceland are not so strict (as the UK at least) and most don’t require a pat down/bag search which means entry is swift and you don’t have to worry about your multiple layers and 20+ pockets!

The music

There are many ways to find the new bands, here’s a playlist of a few of my favourites / who i’m hoping to see this year – enjoy!