Category Archives: Travel

THREE YEARS IN LUXEMBOURG

Christmas trees in Luxembourg

Is this real life? I’ve been in Luxembourg for three whole years. I’m still here. It’s discombobulating. Let me review some stand-out issues of the past years.

TRAVELLING

Well, I’m in Luxembourg, and I’m not. In 2017 I travelled so much – flexible work arrangements and a large amount of leave has allowed me to take a tonne of “extended weekend” trips. Being in Luxembourg is such a blessing for European trips – getting to most places is relatively easy, and being able to drive to places in France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands has been INCREDIBLE. So many last-minute trips.

STAYING AT HOME

This is in contrast to what I just said about travelling, but I’ve really learned to say “NO.” this past year. I’ve stayed indoors, happy as ever, eating and lounging and reading (so much reading) and doing nothing or being productive – everything. FOMO has been set aside and I just stay inside whenever I can – recharging and just chilling. So good for the soul. And our flat in Luxembourg (versus our homes in Malta) has central heating so it’s heavenly in winter.

BOOK CLUB

One of the best things about my life in Luxembourg. In January 2017 I joined a book club and it’s been such a perfect thing for me – it’s a group of wonderful, intelligent people where we meet every few months after reading a fascinating book (and sometimes we even meet for a cheeky film night), often with a glass of crémant and always with some sort of nibbles. So fulfilling.

FLIGHT SCHOOL

Another amazing thing about my life in Luxembourg now is that I started a course to (hopefully) get my Private Pilot Licence (PPL) in 2018. It’s been intensive but wonderful. Few things exist that really keep me in Luxembourg, but this is definitely something which has made me feel very happy to commit to the country for a while.

CAREER DEVELOPMENT

Newsflash! At the airport, on the way from Luxembourg to Malta for Christmas, I received a job offer from the Court of Justice to work as a lawyer linguist there in 2018. I (obviously) accepted. I’m so excited, and it’s going to be such a great challenge for this year.

FRENCH

My French is better. However, I STILL struggle so much with speaking. Conversation classes might be required in the near future.

THE WEATHER

Ugh. Now that I’m actually trying to squeeze in flying lessons (very unsuccessfully during October/November/December 2017 due to the weather), the weather in Luxembourg has been very disappointing. When it snows, at least it’s magical and great. When it’s rainy and foggy – no, thank you.

GETTING A PET CAT

WE STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN A PET CAT.

MISSING MALTA

As always. I miss Malta. Of course I do. My closest friends and family are still there, it’s my true home. Yes, Luxembourg is less of a “new place”, but my heart is in the Mediterranean.

I’ll probably still be in Luxembourg in a year, but who knows? Stay tuned.

TRIPS I TOOK IN 2017

Étretat, Normandy, France

2017 was definitely a Year of Travelling for me. I milked the fact that I live in Luxembourg and was finally earning a regular wage (with the fantastic availability of lots of leave), and took lots of little (and other not-so-little) trips to new and old places.

This post is a list for me to remember all the places I visited in 2017, but also a few travel ideas for you that might spark some plans for the months to come.

CITY BREAKS

I visited Paris in January with a group of lovely Italian women who also live in Luxembourg – we visited museums, ate delicious food, and did a lot of shopping and walking around. We also stayed in a real Parisian apartment in Montmartre – glorious.

My only new country for the year was Portugal, when I whisked my boyfriend away on a surprise trip for his 30th birthday to Porto in February. We ate a lot of yummy food and drank a lot of port. Mmm.

We went to Berlin in May for a long weekend visiting my boyfriend’s cousin. We had never been to this city before and we both fell in love. It is so painfully and excellently hipster.

Maybe this doesn’t really count, but I found myself alone on a sunny Saturday once and decided to drive to Liège in Belgium for a long day out. I visited churches and bookshops and had an amazing outdoor lunch in the sun. Trips on your own can be amazing.

One of the most spontaneous trips was to another new city, Padova, where we spent a couple of days boiling in the sun, visiting cultural sites and lots of churches, and eating the best food of our lives. Go to Osteria ai Scarponi if you’re ever there – we went twice in the span of 15 hours…

I visited Brussels several times throughout 2017, but only went once for a proper “touristic” visit, with a couple of my sweetest friends. We did the Magritte museums and lots of food and lots of bookshops. Also, wine.

Utrecht was another new city which we visited this year. A good friend of ours from Malta had moved there and we took the opportunity to visit him as well as his new city – which is gorgeous and very Dutch. Definitely one to return to.

Another old friend lives in Leeds, and we visited his lovely house in December for a couple of days of hearty English food and a Field Music festival. Great fun and lovely eggs.

I went to London twice this year, once as an add-on to our big Iceland trip (detailed below) (which was a bit of a bad idea, to go to the noise and craziness of London after two weeks in the serenity of rural Iceland). The other London trip was the annual Christmas trips with my two best friends, which is always a Christmassy success (even if my flight on the way back got cancelled, but that just meant that I could hang out and stay with some lovely London-based friends who took me in so willingly).

BIGGER TRIPS

For Easter we planned a last-minute mega road trip around Normandy (with Amiens as our first stop to split up the car ride). It was so gorgeous – their churches are seriously impressive (I love a good church) and the countryside was beautiful, as were their beaches.

My big trip with my two best friends this year was Ireland for a week – we went on a road trip (and a boat trip) and had a lovely time hopping from one place to another. So many beautiful bookshops and puffins.

Another “big” trip for the year was Werchter in Belgium, for Rock Werchter. We camped for 4 days in a muddy field and listened to some great artists. It was OK, but there was so little personal space and hygiene, that “OK” is as good as it could have been. At least it then prompted me to want to go “proper” camping in a Luxembourgish field the following weekend where it was completely serene and quiet and peaceful – heaven.

The final trip of the year was Sicily for 5 days – it was a “bigger” trip, but in reality I spent most of it in our beautiful B&B in bed, because I got hit by a terrible cold which completely restricted me to a horizontal position + Netflix. At least I managed to climb Etna and explore Catania (and the fishing villages above Catania) a bit. I’m actually writing this post from my bed in Sicily. So glamorous.

THE BIGGEST TRIP

I went to Iceland for the third time in October with my boyfriend and my parents – it was quite an epic trip and required a lot of preparation and organisation, but it ended up being brilliant. We did a road trip around Route 1 but also spent a few days in the Westfjords (easily my favourite part of Iceland now). Log cabins, natural hot pots, incredible Northern Lights… It was very special.

MALTA

I was never too far from a Malta trip this year. I visited in January, February, twice in March, May, June, August, September, November, and December. (Technically twice in December, if you count that we travelled to Sicily from Malta.) For my sanity, I’ve really come to realise that I need to touch base back in Malta at least once every two months, ideally every month. This might sound excessive to a lot of people, but it’s really what’s best for me right now. While I’m hoping to calm down with the travelling (at least concentrate on a few big trips rather than just a million little ones!) in 2018, I’m still keeping it in mind that I’ll need to fit in 6-10 trips to Malta during the year.

And finally, I should say that apart from the trips I listed above, I’ve done plenty of day/evening trips to places across the border in Belgium, Germany and France, but they don’t count since they were only for a few hours (especially since these usually only necessitate a 20-minute drive). Ah, the perks of living in a little country in the middle of continental Europe.

I’m very excited about my travel plans for 2018 – as I said, they will hopefully be more focused on longer, more special trips, and one of my resolutions is to travel to a new country… I wonder which one it will be. Any suggestions?

TWO YEARS IN LUXEMBOURG

Out walking a dog from a local dog shelter

Can you even believe it? I’ve been in Luxembourg for over 2 years now. It’s been a bit of a wild ride, but the main thing is that THINGS HAVE GOTTEN BETTER. I’m less lonely, more active, and I’m much happier. Here are a few of the main things I’d like to discuss:

HAVING A CAR

We got a car in May 2016, and it’s been one of the best things of the year. Waiting in the freezing cold for a bus happens less now, and grocery shopping is much easier. And, surprisingly, hikes are easier too, because we can just drive into the countryside and go for long walks, instead of always having to start from the city.

Driving to places in the region has also been amazing – we’ve gone to places like Maastricht and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Wesel and Cologne in Germany, and Liège (for a Kate Tempest concert) and Brussels (for our Christmas flights back home) in Belgium. And we can always drive to a city in France in the evening for comfort food at the place which makes the best chocolate fondant.

GETTING A JOB

In 2016, I did a traineeship at the European Commission, and then got a job at the European Commission which started in November 2016. It’s been life-changing and very good. I like having a job to go to every day.

FRIENDS

I still don’t have too many close friends in Luxembourg, but I love the ones I do have, and I am certainly becoming more involved in things (for example, I joined a book club this week, whee!).

THE WEATHER

It’s beautiful, sometimes, but when it rains every day in June (like it did last year), I’m over it. This country doesn’t have very good weather. And no sea. Ugh.

A PET CAT

We still don’t have a pet cat. I want one so badly. It still doesn’t make sense to get one (we’re away most of the day and sometimes for days at a time when we travel), but STILL. WANT ONE.

FRENCH

I’m still so far away from being fluent in French. BUT I am always inching towards that goal of mine. In a few weeks I’ll be starting more formal lessons, for several hours a week. Let’s hope that that will give me the confidence and knowledge I need to become better at this French-speaking malarkey.

SETTLING HERE?

This is not out of the question, for a few years, whereas a year ago I would have said that I can’t wait to go back to Malta (or move somewhere else) ASAP. Now, I could see myself staying here for a few years, if things pan out well on the job-front. There’s also the question of finding a more sustainable place to live (instead of throwing money down the drain in rent every month).

MISSING MALTA

I still miss Malta, a lot, every day. It’s the place, the people, my family, our new little nephew, my cat, the food, my car, driving on the left, my friends, the Pub, the restaurants… I could go on. Luxembourg is my home, but only for now, and not really. Malta is my home.

Who knows what’s in store for this next year?

How To Have The Perfect Day In Malta

Instax photos at Il-Kantra, Ta’ Ċenċ, Gozo.

The Situation

I’m Maltese. But I live in Luxembourg. A landlocked country. And I get homesick quite often. So today I thought I would put together a little guide for how to have a perfect day in Malta, which I’m hoping to recreate myself very soon.

The Essentials

Remember to practice your selfie game. This is one I made earlier outside Mdina/Rabat.

First, you need to realise that this endeavour is serious business. You need to ensure that you have all your bases covered. These are your sun, sea, culture and food.

You will also need:

  1. Suncream
  2. Sunglasses
  3. A camera/good smartphone
  4. Swimwear and a towel
  5. A companion or two (or three) (optional)

A beach bag, sunglasses, swimming goggles, a little backpack, towels, and a good book. Bliss.

If you’re embarking on this adventure in winter, check out this post about the essentials for your winter holidays in Malta (but add swimwear and a towel to that list as well – yes, I swim all year round, and encourage you to do too). ;)

Breakfast

Kinnie and pastizzi = <3.

Wake up at a leisurely time. If you’re up for a greasy, heavy, gloriously Maltese breakfast, head over to a pastizzeria for a couple of pastizzi (“wieħed u wieħed” for me, please).

That.salted.caramel.brownie. UGHHHHHHHHH, TOO GOOD.

Otherwise, if you want a very Instagrammable morning meal, go to the place-of-the-moment and have breakfast at Emma’s Kitchen (the hype is REAL, people). Please have a salted caramel brownie for me, because my mouth is watering for it as I type this.

The Morning

Take a stroll through Mdina or Valletta. You’ve got to get that intense culture in. These two cities are so full to the brim with history that you’re close to being overwhelmed after a couple of hours. Mdina highlight: Bastion Square. Valletta highlight: St John’s Co-Cathedral.

Imġiebaħ Bay, Selmun.

After that, it’s the perfect time for a sneaky swim. My favourite spots are Wied iż-Żurrieq (rocky) or Imġiebaħ Bay (sandy). The latter is more difficult to get to, but oh so worth it.

Swimming at Għar Lapsi.

Lunch

You have two options for lunch: you can either abandon the mainland for the afternoon, or else stay “on” Malta.

A ftira from Maxokk and a dip at San Blas, Gozo. Perfection.

If you decide to hop over to Gozo, you’re in for a treat. Malta’s sister island is a haven of hills, beaches, and some weird-but-wonderful people. A Maxokk ftira is the epitome of Gozitan food (especially one with ġbejniet), but also consider Il-Kantra (Ta’ Ċenċ) or cheap but cheerful Odyssey (Marsalforn). 

If you stay on the main island, then (guess what?) you’re also in for a treat. My idea of a heavenly lunch option in Malta is Rising Sun in Marsaxlokk. Have the pasta octopus and a bottle of white wine and thank me later.

The Afternoon

The view from Il-Kantra, Ta’ Ċenċ, Gozo. Paradise.

If you’re in Gozo, at some point, you need to go for a swim. I’d suggest Għar Qawqla in Marsalforn, Ta’ Ċenċ, or Ramla l-Ħamra. San Blas is also stunning. If the sea is rough, head to Mġarr ix-Xini.

Mġarr ix-Xini on a very windy day.

As an afternoon activity, I’d also suggest a stroll around the Citadella and/or a wine tasting. Tal-Massar Winery offer beautiful wine-tasting sessions which I’d highly recommend. So much wine, so little time.

Tal-Massar Winery. (That’s a wine called Garb that’s being poured. It’s heavenly.)

There’s so much to do in Gozo, so even spending the evening and the night there would be a great option.

Ramla l-Ħamra is great for a swim or just a place to consume an ice-cream and a book.

If you’ve stayed on the main island, unless you want to continue with the cultural/historical theme, the afternoon is great for a drive through the Maltese countryside – finding hidden gems and getting away from the crowds.

The chapel at Binġemma – amazing views behind it, too.

Find a wayside chapel in the countryside, and take lots of photos of your favourite views.

Fomm ir-Riħ. These parts are great for hikes and picnics.

The Evening

Grab that sunset, whether it’s in Gozo (pictured) or at Dingli Cliffs (the classic).

Later, head to some event that’s on that evening – a play at the theatre, a music gig, some exhibition opening or a festa/festival (the Għanafest used to be my absolute favourite festival of the year, but I haven’t been in way too long).

Dinner

Cacio e pepe at Zero Sei, Valletta. Drool.

Wrap up that glorious day with a delicious dinner. A top-notch suggestion would be Zero Sei in Valletta, on Old Theatre Street. IT’S SO GOOD. Have the cacio e pepe pasta and a tiramisù. And lots of wine.

Nighttime

Much merriment at The Pub.

Finally, head over to The Pub in Valletta for a well-deserved drink in the best and most friendly atmosphere in Malta. I’d recommend a nice, crisp Hendrick’s gin and tonic.

And that’s it. How to have the perfect day in my beloved Malta. Is there anything you think I left out?

Life in Luxembourg after a Year and a Half

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My stay in Luxembourg has now reached its year-and-a-half point. Life has changed considerably for me over the past few months (I’ve been a stagiaire at the European Commission as a trainee translator), and this past winter has been long and dreary and very, very rainy. We also got a car a few weeks ago, which has flipped our lives upside down. (Having a car is great.) This country is still very expensive in my eyes, and I still have no idea where my life is heading here (or anywhere), but… life is pretty good.

Let’s talk about a few key points (the good, the bad, the ugly).

The weather

It’s unbearable. How. Why. It’s been raining forever. There have been about two and a half days of sunshine this year prior to the middle of July. I hate it. I really despise it. Ugh.

Driving

I come from a country which drives on the left, so driving on the right did not go well at the beginning. Now, I feel fine. Driving is great. But at the beginning it was anxiety all over. I still get a little nervous, but I’ve even graduated to driving in the city centre without any GPS help.

The traineeship at the European Commission

This was such a busy period – I did so many things, learnt so many things, felt so many things. I should probably write about the traineeship in more length another time, but let’s just say that it was quite a special experience, and I’m so glad I could do it in Luxembourg at the Commission.

Harassment

I had several awful experiences of harassment over the past 6 months – including a man chasing me down a street after waiting for me at a bus stop. It’s sad, it makes me feel unsafe, etc.

Hiking

Luxembourg is so good for hiking. Even (especially!) for a novice like me.

“There’s nothing to do in Luxembourg”

Still untrue (at least from my point of view!).

French

I’m still not fluent. BUT I am sometimes understandable. Progress.

Plant update

Most of my plants are still alive!

A pet cat

I still want one.

The EU in the Cliffs

Dingli Cliffs sun set

No, you’re in luck: I’m not about to talk about Brexit. I’ve just returned from yet another little trip back home to my most beautiful country of Malta. Recently, I’ve been spotting a pattern when it comes to the places I usually visit every time I’m back – a swim at Wied iż-Żurrieq, lunch in Valletta, a drink with friends at The Pub, and a drive/walk in the countryside.

When it comes to the countryside, Dingli Cliffs is one of my favourite ports of call whenever I’m in Malta. When I was at University, I often drove there to sit on some rocks to study and stare out at the vastness of the sea. One of my first dates with my boyfriend (almost seven years ago!) was to see the sun set on the horizon at Dingli Cliffs (we had later also gone to see a shooting star shower in the middle of the night). It’s a special place, and its majestic views and natural beauty have always impressed me. That first sight of the sudden vast sea below you as you drive across the road on top of the cliffs? It gets me every time.

It doesn’t seem like many Maltese people visit the cliffs often – perhaps because of the thoughts of death and tragedy that lurk around these parts. However, this should not deter anyone from enjoying the absolute beauty of the area, particularly because of the natural treasures that one can find… There are all sorts of Malta-specific flora and fauna (which I might be more open to appreciating recently due to being away from Malta…), such as Mediterranean thyme (sagħtar) (which evokes the most wonderful nostalgia due to its sharp smell), Maltese everlasting, common hawthorn (żagħrun) (which, as I’ve read on the latest Air Malta Bizzilla, is said to possibly help with chronic heart failure), the blue rock thrush (merill), the chameleon, and the ocellated skink (xaħmet l-art).

Some of my most favourite things about the Dingli Cliffs, however, are the peace and quiet, the view of Filfla (another island in the Maltese archipelago, which is a natural reserve), and the annual Agricultural Fest that takes place in spring. The latter is such a treat: sheep shearing! donkey rides! fried ravioli! traditional Maltese everything! I haven’t been to this festival these past few years, so next year, I’m going to have to be sure to pencil it into my calendar to try to be in Malta on that blessed May Sunday.

EU Funding plaque

Last Sunday, as I walked around the area, I found this plaque at a corner, telling me that this area is Natura 2000 site, meaning that it’s a protected area (as it should be!). No sign in Malta is capable of surviving the harsh sun, so I’m not surprised that this one is a little bit worse for wear. I can make out that EU funding was given as part of the Rural Development Programme for Malta 2007-2013 to improve the quality of life in rural areas and encourage tourism activities in these parts. As regards the latter, there have been some questionable decisions taking place, but the improvement of the promenade, for example, has been a welcome addition to the area. Nevertheless, when I compare this type of natural environment with similar places in Luxembourg (I say “similar”, but there are no cliffs by the sea in Luxembourg – I can assure you that; what I mean is natural habitats), I’m often very impressed by how many natural spots in Luxembourg can be enjoyed without harsh railings and bright angular pavements. Then again, to enable ease of access (and safety!) for people and cars in a place like Dingli Cliffs, there are few other options, so I can’t say I’m displeased.

Ultimately, this post is an ode to a place I love. This area is perfect for nature lovers, for a walk, for a first date(!) (or any date, really), and for an outing with friends. Whenever it’s warm (and not too windy), a late evening walk along the promenade as the sun is setting will cure any ailment you might have, whether it’s of the body or of the soul.

Sunset Dingli Cliffs

If you’re Maltese or have been to Malta, what are your favourite spots on Malta/Gozo/Comino? Do you think more can be done at Dingli Cliffs? What should the EU be spending its money on when it comes to natural treasures like this one? Is there enough transparency when it comes to how much money is spent and how it is spent?

Links for further reading: Ħad-Dingli Local Council, interesting facts about the cliffs/flora/fauna, a pdf about the Rural Development Programme for Malta 2007-2013.

ONE YEAR IN LUXEMBOURG

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Earlier this month, I hit the big fat milestone of living in Luxembourg for one whole year.

It’s been very different to what I imagined, but it’s also been quite wonderful, and I’m a very big fan of this country. There are people from all over the world, but it’s still a very small, contained country, with its own ways of doing things, which means that I’ve encountered a lot of smiling and empathetic people. It’s still a city, even if it’s nothing like bustling London/Rome/Paris, so that brings about some “negatives”, since I’m not much of a city-person. However, being in the middle of a city (albeit in an unbelievably quiet area) has its advantages – lots of shops, restaurants, and more options for things to do. I’m close to everything, but after a mere 10-minute train ride or a 15-minute walk, I’m out in the countryside or by a river in the forest. It’s a real treasure of a country.

Since it’s been a year, I’ve compiled a few of my most noteworthy thoughts regarding Luxembourg under a variety of headings:

FURNISHING AN EMPTY APARTMENT

Most apartments in Luxembourg are rented as unfurnished properties. Ours was no exception, and we spent months living in a mostly-empty apartment, until we painfully purchased around a fifth of the IKEA-Arlon showroom, and now our apartment is as cosy as ever. Our kitchen still needs a lot of work (it’s a little too big to be a kitchen but too small to be a fully-fledged living room – we’re working on it), particularly because the kitchen counter, drawers, and cupboards are awful shades of deep blue/awkward red. Why.

BONNEVOIE

Our apartment is nestled in the heart of Bonnevoie, which is clearly (no bias, obviously) the best region in Luxembourg City. It’s got the best panzerotti, the best sushi, and it’s (mostly) quiet and very charming. Lots of restaurants, lots of people walking their dogs – it’s great.

THE WEATHER

The weather in Luxembourg is Not Good. It’s grey most of the time (very depressing), and rains more often than not (hate it hate it hate it), although last spring/summer were quite beautiful. When it was particularly hot, though, it felt like torture, and ALL FANS WERE SOLD OUT EVERYWHERE. It was tragic. And this country is landlocked, which is a very huge shame (especially for island-dwellers like us). We did manage to go swimming in a lake once in the summer, though, and it was GLORIOUS. Super clean, super refreshing, super beautiful.

Also: it snows here in winter, and that’s beautiful (although it can get really, really cold), and the autumn was also incredible – the seasons are so clear-cut, and they really connect you to the living and breathing world around you.

GENERAL NIGHTLIFE/LIVELINESS

Luxembourg is notoriously known as being “boring”. I can understand where this might be coming from, especially if you’re interested in a particular type of nightlife or a lot of new/different places to try out. Luxembourg doesn’t offer everything, BUT I still can’t understand how so many people are so quick to label Luxembourg as this boring, nothing-happens-here country. It’s such a popular stop for musicians, for example, so we got to see SO MANY great concerts last year, and there are so many beautiful restaurants to choose from… It’s not as busy or “buzzing” as somewhere like London, but that would – quite frankly – be a bit too stressful for me.

THE LANGUAGES

O mon DIEU. The language situation in Luxembourg took me by surprise. I thought I’d strengthen my French in a few months, and off I’ll go, happily ever after. This has not been the case. While French is the general lingua franca in Luxembourg (at least, in Luxembourg City), it’s not something you’re going to hear being spoken everywhere. I hear and read a lot of French in my day-to-day life, yes, but there’s also a huge amount of Portuguese, Luxembourgish, German, Italian, Spanish, English… It’s been quite confusing and has caused me a fair amount of anxiety. My French, however, is moving along nicely, and while I won’t be participating in full-blown conversations anytime soon, my comprehension has improved dramatically (phew). Then again, as soon as I venture out of the capital city, to somewhere close to the German border, for example, it’s tough to find people who can speak any English or French, which has led to some… annoying situations.

IT’S EXPENSIVE

Luxembourg.is.expensive. It’s not the most expensive in every single way, but it’s been very expensive for me. The biggest things are: travelling to and from the country (no direct flights to Malta), food (most meals out are double or almost double to what I’d pay back home, and supermarket trips are quite expensive too), and general services (hairdressers, doctors… everything). Also, obviously, rent is very, very high here as well.

SHOPPING

Luxembourg has quite a good array of shops that get me excited. LUSH! H&M! HEMA! Sephora! Grocery shopping has been a bit of a problem (mostly due to the next heading), but I’ve gotten used to labels in strange languages, so it no longer takes me an hour to grab a handful of items.

NO CAR

We haven’t gotten a car yet. We don’t need one urgently, but it would be infinitely handy (especially for grocery shopping and for trips around the general region).

FRIENDS

I haven’t made a huge amount of friends here, but I’ve gathered a handful of super-special people who I get to call my friends, and I’m eternally grateful to Luxembourg for allowing these beautiful people enter my life.

JOB PROSPECTS

Not great at all, but at least I’ve had a very successful year with regard to my side hustle (which has been my main hustle in Luxembourg), which is my proofreading business. I’ve also given a few English lessons and written some articles here and there. In March, however, I should be starting a traineeship at the European Commission (très exciting), and there are still a few other hopeful possibilities in the pipeline.

A PET CAT

I have been unsuccessful on this front, and we have no pet cat. I understand that it’s not very responsible to get a pet though, since we might move to a place which doesn’t allow pets, or we might not be at home due to travelling for long periods of time… (I still dream of having a pet cat daily, however).

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

It’s great. I love taking the train, especially. The only downfall is that buses and trains become scarce in the evenings and on weekends, which can mean a long chilly wait (or a long walk home).

VISITORS

It’s been lovely to host a few visitors at our place last year, and we’ve even gotten a giant sofa bed now. Not many people that I know would opt for Luxembourg as a travel destination, so it’s been great to show some people around this pretty part of the world (and discover more of it myself).

TRAVELLING FROM LUXEMBOURG

It’s both a blessing and a pain. It’s wonderful to be so close to so many European countries, especially Belgium, France and Germany, but at the same time, it’s quite an expensive endeavour to travel back home to Malta, since return flights are usually around the 200-300 EUR mark, and it takes most of a day to get there. That being said, it’s not that bad, and it’s been amazing to visit cities such as Trier, Metz, Antwerp, Riga, Aachen, and so on, apart from the wonders of travelling in Luxembourg itself – my favourite spots are Mullerthal, Mersch, Clervaux, Vianden, the Upper-Sûre lake, and the whole Luxembourgish Moselle region.

BEING A PLANT MUMMY

I’m terrible at taking care of plants. I’ve killed several cactuses this past year, and I’m quite ashamed of it. However, I still have a couple which seem to have survived my treacherous care (or lack thereof)…

THE POSTAL SERVICE (internationally-speaking)

It suuuucks. Things take ages to arrive to/from Malta, as well as from favourite sites like the Book Depository.

CRÉMANT IS THE BEST

It’s the Luxembourgish version of champagne. It’s delicious, and not as expensive as sparkling wine that’s designated as actual Champagne.

TRADITIONS

This little country has some wonderful traditions, which means that no period of the year is without an “occasion”. Eating a Galette des Rois in January, burning a giant cross with the rest of the neighbourhood in February, the Luxembourg City Film Festival in February/Marchbuying a pretzel for the one you love in March, celebrating the National Day in June, Rock-a-Field in Julygoing to the massive funfair in summer, THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN DECEMBER – there’s always some fun to be had.

THE COUNTRYSIDE, THE PARKS, THE GREENERY

They blow me away every day. There aren’t any grand mountains or harsh, contrasting landscapes, but the subtle beauty of the Luxembourgish “wild” gives me so much peace in my soul. There are plenty of places for walks and hikes, and it’s still a HUGE country to me, considering that I come from a tiny, densely-populated island in the middle of the Mediterranean.

In short, I can’t wait to see what Luxembourg has to offer in Year 2… :)

PS: the photo above was taken by me in Clervaux, Luxembourg in October.

I’ve been in Luxembourg for 6 months

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I’ve been in Luxembourg for exactly 6 months. Half a year. I’m writing this sitting in my lovingly furnished office in our Bonnevoie apartment, in sweltering heat (it’s a freakish 35 degrees right now, and we have no air conditioning, and all fans within a 100-mile radius seem to be sold out).

This morning, I had my last B1.1 French lesson, where I found that I did very well in our end-of-semester tests. While waiting for the bus this afternoon, a woman spoke to me in French and asked me for details about how to catch a bus to a certain bus stop, and I replied (in French!) with the correct information.

The past 6 months have been nothing like what I expected. I didn’t expect much, to be honest – but I did initially expect that I would quickly get sucked into a 9am-6pm job, at least by March/April. That did not happen, but other things did. My proofreading business flourished beautifully over the last few months, and I’m very proud of my work, my productivity, and the amount of work I attract. However, Luxembourg is very expensive, and I still don’t make enough money to live comfortably in a city like this. I’m hopeful about a number of avenues opening up before me over the next few weeks/months, however, so I’m very aware that my situation may change very soon (hopefully for the better!).

I’m loving Luxembourg. My visits to places like Belgium (while it’s also a gorgeous country), solidify my love for Luxembourg as my country-on-the-continent of choice. The weather is very strange – I never imagined it could be so warm after such a cold winter. But that’s what happens when you come from a country with such a mild climate, and after living in a very cold city (Durham) for a year, where I was wearing my winter coat all through summer.

My impressions of Luxembourg are ultimately married with my impressions of living alone with my boyfriend for the first time. It’s all going very well, and the benefits of living alone totally outweigh the annoying bits (i.e. having to do eeeeeverything yourself, and having to live with a particularly messy person – although he does do most of the cooking <3).

Luxembourg itself has been pleasant and opulent and kind, even if the language barrier does get frustrating at times. I wouldn’t mind spending some more time here. I wonder how long that will be.

Luxembourg: Two-month update

Yesterday marked my two-monthiversary in Luxembourg. February was a quiet month, but I still had plenty of first impressions of Luxembourg to get under my belt.

  1. Being sick in such a cold country: I spent about a week of February feeling really unwell, and while I didn’t need to go to a doctor (thankfully), it really sucked to have to go outdoors (sometimes it was a necessity) and it being so cold. It really felt like the cold was exacerbating my sickly feelings x100000.
  2. Renting a van is super easy: we rented a van to drive to IKEA in Belgium and back (with all our purchases which fit in perfectly – if we had bought anything else, it wouldn’t have fit), and it was a really easy and pleasant process.
  3. French language lessons: I FINALLY enrolled myself in language lessons, and I’ve had two lessons already. It’s been a lovely experience (I was terrified), and even though I’m a little below the level of what I probably should be for my class (B1.1 – I’m more of an A2.2 right now), the person who assigned me to the level said it would be better for me, and I am finding it quite a challenge, which is good.
  4. Daily life: While I’ve been finding it difficult sometimes to get some structure in my days, I’m loving the proofreading work that I’ve been doing, particularly since I’ve been doing some really varied work (including websites, text in both Maltese and English, job applications, and legal translations).
  5. The Luxembourg City Film Festival: It has been an amazing few days – watching a film or two every evening at the Luxembourg City film festival. It’s been really nice to go out and watch such beautiful films (mostly), and most of them have been in English or else have English subtitles, which is great. We did have to watch one film in Norwegian with French subtitles… but we seemed to have understood most of it anyway.
  6. Spring: I’m so excited for Spring here! It’s also my birthday just before Spring kicks off, so hopefully there will be a few more beautiful days.
  7. Travel: For my boyfriend’s birthday, we caught a bus and visited a little village on the German-Luxembourgish border, just along the Moselle river. It was so picturesque and lovely – even though it was an awfully rainy day. It’s quite amazing that with a small bus ride, you can find yourself in the midst of beautiful countryside.
  8. Post: I thought that coming to live in the middle of Europe will do wonders for my experience with the postal service. Quite the contrary… Mail has been sooooo slowwwww. I can’t understand why things are taking so long to arrive at our address.
  9. Expensive: It’s still quite shocking every day to see how expensive things are in Luxembourg. Restaurants and even general groceries… I think I might go crazy when I’m back in Malta over the next few months – I’m going to want to buy everything!
  10. Night life: Yes, Luxembourg is quite a quiet little city, but I don’t understand the impression that people have incessantly told me that it is boring and nothing happens. There are so many restaurants, and so many events going on! Maybe my interests align with what Luxembourg City has to offer, but I’m loving it. Exit07 has been a particularly favourite discovery this month.

I’m beyond excited about Spring, and also applying for a couple of internships – hoping to perhaps spend a few months being mentored and developing a few skills… I’m loving working for myself, but I do hope to explore other avenues too. It’s both scary and exciting to have so many possibilities before me. Stay tuned. ;)

One Month in Luxembourg

Last night marked my first month in Luxembourg. It’s amazing to be living here – my entire life and being feel so much more open and free. I truly love living alone (well, with my boyfriend, but he doesn’t count :P) and being “in charge” of my little life, even if that means a tonne of anxiety on difficult days. But that can always be solved with a short (chilly) walk or by burning a calming candle.

Even though I’ve done some pretty heavy-duty job-hunting this past month, I’ve also devoted myself hugely to my proofreading business, and my income didn’t even take a dip. The new environment and the new structure to my working-day have also made me feel so much calmer and more productive (even if I still don’t have any proper office furniture yet – a massive trip to IKEA is planned for this weekend though!).

The fact that I’ve been meeting a few more people over the past couple of weeks (mostly due to the super-lovely and super-awesome blogging community over here) has made life so much brighter, and I hope to meet lots more people from all around the world as the weeks roll on.

The language(s) barrier has seen me struggle a bit over the month, and I still haven’t started formal language lessons (hoping to do so by the end of this month though!). The worst is the utter feeling of frustration when a kind (or not so kind) employee at a shop or bus driver or another person speaks to me in French/Luxembourgish and I would have no clue (or only a small idea) of what they would be saying. Most of the time, it would be very simple to ask them to speak slower or to switch to English, but the initial pang of frustration with myself for not understanding the language being directed towards me makes me want to just give up. I was in Zara about a week ago, and a lovely man at the changing rooms spoke to me – I’m not sure what he said – but as soon as I realised that I would need to go the extra mile to try and understand (or to ask him to speak slower or to speak in English), I didn’t have the energy to even attempt anything. So I smiled and just left. I shouldn’t have done that, but in the moment, I was too tired and frustrated with everything. I definitely need to work on this (both my patience and my French language skills).

My innate sense of direction thankfully kicked in almost immediately upon arriving in Luxembourg, and I have a good idea of a lot of places in the city centre (and in the area where we live, particularly on the bus route). This (and a reliable bus service) has helped a lot with my ability to explore and get around.

One thing about Luxembourg which disappoints me (it’s not that big of a deal though), is their (seemingly large) lack of cider, which is my alcoholic beverage of choice. They don’t really seem to drink it here, and even the biggest supermarkets will only have a couple of the most popular brands (Bulmers and Strongbow), and maybe a local version that’s in a wine bottle with a cork. I even went to a pub last Monday where I would have thought they’d definitely have some form of cider, even if it’s just Bulmers in a bottle, but they didn’t even have that! Disappoint. I guess my year in Durham must have spoiled me (oh, to have a pint of organic cider at the Swan and Three!) – well, I’ll just have to find some beers I really like (of which I can stomach more than half a pint), or explore my options a bit more.

What else? The snow has been fantastic, even if we did get stranded a mile away from home last time in a snowstorm, because our bus just wouldn’t stop skidding and riding up pavements. It was fine though, I had my sense of direction to (roughly) guide us home.

I’m very excited about what the next month has to offer. Hopefully some more exploring of this beautiful country, and making our apartment a more homely place. I can’t wait.