Nuremberg in pics

A few days in Nuremberg with the rellies

Nuremberg

First thing you need to know about Nuremberg is they don’t speak German like you learn at school

Nuremberg dialect

And of course although you might look on a map and see Nuremberg is in Bavaria, they really consider themselves to be Frankish, and that’s reflected in all sorts of ways that concern us on this blog…

Frankish cakes

But being near (or officially in) Bavaria means beer is big round here, in more ways than one

Beer in Bavaria

We even found a good old-fashioned oompah band in the main shopping street…though they were playing a ‘Best of Abba’ set, which didn’t quite seem right somehow

Oompah band in Nuremberg

And even more surprising was the number of – especially young – people out and about showing off their dirndls and lederhosen. Apparently it’s the time of year, making OktoberFest rather like prom week in US and UK towns these days.

Lederhosen in fashion this autumn

One typical tourist thing is to turn the ring that has embedded itself somehow into the famous tower that was never put onto the main church in town and now stands in the Haupt Markt. Anita couldn’t resist making a wish…

Ring in the Brunnen in Nuremberg Haupt Markt

Only to be told – by her cousins who live locally – that that ring was for tourists and the REAL ring is hidden round the other side. So back she went for a turn and a further wish.

The real ring in the Brunnen in Nuremberg

Nuremberg’s original town and castle are high up now looking down on the modern city. But some lovely mediaeval homes that are still occupied by families even today.

Nuremberg castle houses

A more modern landmark, apparently disliked by many locally, though it caught my eye, is this depiction of family life down in the High Street.

Modern life in Nuremberg High Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tea matters in France and Germany

I never drank much tea when I first lived in France in the late 1970s, but that was mainly because nobody drank tea in the eastern outpost I was based in out near the German and Swiss borders. My German colleagues at the time introduced me to those fruit teas which are still popular today in Germany, and I even came to like the little pots of tea kept warm by candle light on dark winter evenings.

I had a reminder of those distant days when we changed trains in Metz on our way from Paris to Luxembourg this week.

When I asked for two teas at the Metz Station café, I was offered ‘Verveine’ or ‘ tilleul’, which were precisely the teas everyone drank all those years ago as after dinner alternatives to schnaps or whisky. In fact, those two words were among the earliest things I learnt in French as I began my year abroad.

So, general tea awareness doesn’t seem to have changed much in 35 years. That said, the helpful waitress in Metz tdid scout around in the kitchen and find two tea bags which had a vaguely reassuring ‘thé’ written on them.

But then came the classic problem of wanting milk in our tea.

Health & safety dictates that French cafés are not allowed to unwrap the individual cellophane-wrapped bags (we had found the same in America, to be fair), so when I asked for cold milk, what I ended up with was a take away cup of hot water (at least it was hot), with cold milk added to it and a wrapped tea bag in the other hand…

I couldn’t face taking a photo, knowing that any reduction in milky water temperature would mean an even more disgusting cuppa than it looked like I was getting anyway…

All things considered, and maybe because we were desperate at around 5pm, those teas were not bad. But it just showed how, while tea in Paris might have reached the snobbish classes, eastern France has not yet got the bug.

In both Luxembourg and Germany, it is clearly more usual to have a cup of tea at home than to go out for a pot. There are far more tea shops (in the retail outlet sense) than tea rooms or places where you can sit down for a really good quality cuppa.

Tee Geschwender in Luxembourg is part of a big German chain, but with a fantastic range of teas and very helpful staff, keen to help us find good tea in town.

In Trier we passed a lovely looking tea house (called something like Tea for Two), but this was not only closed still as we walked past at 10am, but it looked like another retail place, with no seats or tables.

Wurzelsepp in Nuremberg

In Nuremberg, we found the fantastic Wurzelsepp, which sells tea and spices, and has been doing so since 1933. It’s certainly seen a lot of changes since then, but it still – on the spice side – sells things from pharmacy-style drawers which are clearly for medicinal purposes, and it has its own blends of tea, but yet again not for consumption on the premises (fortunately they also helped us find a tea room which served them and that will come in the next blog post).

The family and friends we were staying with or visiting were more coffee than tea drinkers so we didn’t get a chance to check this, but I imagine German tea drinking habits may not have changed much since those cosy evenings with a pot of fruit tea bubbling away on a tea light.

What I can confirm is that Kaffee Kuchen at home is as good as ever in Germany, with fantastic home-baked tarts and cheesecakes appearing at every house we entered.

And, as we’ll reveal in the next blog entry, we did find really good quality tea wherever we went. Ironically, given the amount of coffee Germans drink, we struggled to find top quality specialist coffee in either Trier or Nuremberg, and some of the places that looked a bit like boutique coffee joints were closed for summer holidays (like in Paris) till the 2nd week of September! Who said Germans were all about work, work, work?

Trier in pictures

Trier, just over the border from Luxembourg, is right on the Moselle, with its wonderful wine-growing areas. The train station map shows where it is…

Trier Station mural

 

Trier must have been a pretty major place in Roman times

The Porta Nigra Roman gate into Trier

 

And of course all Romans liked a bath. Just wish they were still open for bathing today.

Roman baths in Trier

The Roman amphitheatre evokes thoughts of gladiators and drama seen from on high.

Roman amphitheatre in Trier

 

Karl Marx’s birthplace – and they make sure you know it round Trier. Apparently groups of Chinese tourists come just to see the Marx images and memorials

Karl Marx remembered in Trier

 

I wonder what Marx would have made of a fashion brand in his name…

Marx fashion branding in Trier

Or for that matter these gnome-like sculptures on sale in one shop window…

Marx gnomes in Trier

 

Fancy a cuppa in Luxembourg? A few ideas for tea and coffee in the Grand Duchy

Google searches for tea or coffee in Luxembourg didn’t give us many options. And my memories from working here in the 1980s didn’t leave me with any must-see places for a cuppa.

At Luxembourg Cinematheque

But by the end of our day and a half in the place, we had a handful of recommendations, many of which came just from asking around locally and in one case from us spotting it as we walked past on the street. Just shows, you can’t find everything by internet searches, even today (though this blog will hopefully help future visitors to Luxembourg searching for good coffee, tea or cake…).

Actually our first port of call had come up on google. The Coffee Lounge is very central, right by the main bus station in the centre of town, on rue de la Poste.

This place has been there for some 10 years or so now. Run by friendly German, Peter Range, who moved into coffee from a career in banking, he gets his coffee direct from Italy, and has lot of enthusiastic Italian staff, including Simona who was on duty the morning we turned up.

Breakfast in Luxembourg at The Coffee Lounge

You can have your coffee upstairs (on the 1st or 2nd floor), though don’t make my mistake and run into your own reflection if you turn the wrong way when you reach the next floor (yes, it’s a mirror, not a big wide space up there).

More popular – and the place we sat – is out the front under big umbrellas, which are also popular in winter when heaters keep the cold away. Lots of locals were having a swift coffee here on their way to work, and we thought we’d be back for a second cup later in the morning, having enjoyed our first coffee (with a nice piece of marble cake and freshly squeezed orange juice).

But as we paced the streets of the city centre, we then passed the Golden Bean on rue Chimay. This is actually much more in the speciality coffee shop vein we’d been looking for, with its options for V60, aeropress, filter etc.

The Golden Bean coffee shop in Luxembourg

It’s run by a Colombian who has a  Spanish barista, Vanessa, who made us feel very welcome and was pleased to discuss the week’s options for espresso or cappuccino.

Coffee and cookie at the Golden Bean in Luxembourg

Best coffee in Luxembourg? My vote would probably go to the Golden Bean, but we enjoyed both venues and will include them both in our reviews on the Fancy a Cuppa website later.

Finding tea in Luxembourg was a tougher task.

An internet search had only given us the big German tea retailer Tee Geschwender, so we popped along there to see what they had to say.

Tee Geschwender in Luxembourg

There’s a fantastic selection of teas in Tee Geschwender and you can get them to put the kettle on for brief tastings. This is not a place to sit down for afternoon tea with scones or cake, though.

The extremely friendly ladies serving there did give us samples to take away and very kindly recommended we go for tea in Santos along Grand Rue.

Now, Santos is the local coffee roasting family; it’s been around since 1928, and here you can sit outside with a brew if you want.

Problem was, they only had in stock some mint tea and a green tea/matcha blend in bags – and they didn’t do any cake!

Unlike with our experience in Paris, though, the ladies at Santos were very keen to help out, and actually recommended we try a place round the corner from them that used tea from the same supplier and did an excellent loose leaf Darjeeling (they said!).

That’s how we found Namur, which has been supplier to the Luxembourg Court since the 19th century. It’s more of a bakers than a tea room, but with its décor reminding us of Bettys in Yorkshire, and cakes too, this was the place for us.

Namur bakery for tea in Luxembourg

The frontage and signage looked like it hadn’t changed since about the 1920s, so I can’t believe I didn’t come to this place for tea when I worked here 30 years ago.

The tea was as good as the Santos ladies had said, and the cakes even better. A top tip for afternoon tea in Luxembourg.

Afternoon tea in Luxembourg

This place was busy with locals from all walks of life. And everyone there seemed to know the system, which was about as complicated as it was buy a joint of meat or get vegetables in a Parisian market in the 1980s (it’s surely a system developed in the Soviet era in Moscow?).

If you’re planning a visit to Namur take note:-

You order your cake at the counter, not at your table, and are given a slip with the order written on it.

You choose a table and wait for the waitress, to whom you give your cake slip when you order the tea.

The cake is duly delivered by same waitress; and some minutes later come the pots of tea.

Paying is slightly less complex, though don’t expect to just go to the till or pay as soon as you finish. The waitress will leave your bill and only return some minutes later to deal with payment.

Ah, we wondered why everyone seemed to get those raspberry tarts before us.

And we couldn’t help wondering how we’d have coped if this had been in China, with my very limited linguistic skills. Well, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Meantime, I was surprised how much I enjoyed Luxembourg. Maybe I’d have liked life there more in 1985 if I’d had such good places for a cuppa?

Luxembourg in pictures

The first thing that strikes you in Luxembourg is the language: a strange dialect nearer German than French, although most people seem to speak French too.

Luxembourg My Town

 

Those lucky Luxemburgers like to live in luxury. Even their loo bowls are high end. Our basic hotel had Villeroy & Boch. Says it all…

Villeroy & Boch, even in the loo

Best thing about Luxembourg is surely the view from the many bridges and viaducts. Beautiful down in the Grund, too.

In the Grund in Luxembourg

We took a chance on ‘traditional’ Luxembourg food. Not sure about my choice (lard dumplings with lumps of fat from bacon) – no wonder everyone stared as my order came…

'Traditional' Luxembourgish food

Anita’s looked a little more orthodox, if a bit Germanic.

Traditional Luxembourg food

One of my joys 30s years ago was the Cafe des Artistes – and it’s still going

The Cafe des Artistes in Luxembourg

And they still have all night piano sessions there twice a week! Shame it was closed for summer

Cafe des Artistes in Luxembourg

The cinematheque has a fantastic archive of 25,000+ films and was one of my fave haunts in the 1980s. Still a magical place, and where else in Europe could you get two cinema seats for £5?

Luxembourg Cinematheque

Last bit of nostalgia. My office 30 years ago was on the 4th floor…

Schuman Building in Luxembourg

 

Tea in Paris: From scones and cream to snobbery

Walk around much of central Paris – especially near Notre Dame – and you’ll see so-called ‘Salons de Thé’ everywhere. Most of these are basically just bars like any other in Paris – very nice they may be, but they hardly constitute what we would know as a ‘tea room’, and I’m sure they are labelled as such mainly to draw in desperate British tourists gasping for a cuppa after the long wait to get into Paris’s most iconic church.

At the other end of the scale, Paris does have its fair share of tea merchants, often in the posher parts of town, mostly retail outlets where stopping for a cuppa might set you back 9 Euros a pot – hardly the average place we normally frequent, even for a bit of High Tea in England.

The Tea Caddy tea room in Paris

So we were delighted to find The Tea Caddy, which fits somewhere between these two, where you can actually have a pretty British cream tea, and it’s perfectly placed just round the corner from Shakespear & Co and within spitting distance of Notre Dame, but not on the island itself.

The Tea Caddy was established in 1928 by a wealthy English couple whose name I forget but who apparently retired to Paris to set up this tea room, which is still going today. The timing makes you wonder how many of the literary celebs may have had a cuppa here in the 1920s and 30s. Was Hemingway or Fitzgerald into tea? I’d guess Sartre and de Beauvoir were mixing in a more left wing set that might have found the world of tea a tad too conservative for their taste, which leant more to coffee and ciggies.

They say this is the oldest tea room in Paris. Amazingly it still has much of the décor of the original shop (oak beams in the ceiling and dark wood panelling in the walls) and has had just three owners in its 86 years of existence.

The present owner is French, though we didn’t get to meet her as she was out the back preparing the food for the room full of people taking lunch or afternoon tea.

Loose leaf Darjeeling at The Tea Caddy in Paris

There’s a great selection of loose leaf teas here and, yes, there are still ‘devon scones’ on the menu. These were pretty good given the baker is no longer from Devon, though they come ready creamed and jammed, so don’t start expecting a debate over what comes first. Our only gripe was that there was a little less cream than I’d normally dollop on my scones, though we were told that when they used to serve them separately, customers would regularly leave lots of cream behind and they didn’t like to waste…

Cream tea in Paris

We were joined for this session at the Tea Caddy by Gloria from La Caféotheque (which happens to be just over the river on the right bank). She clearly shares our taste for quality and, amazingly, guessed immediately where we were heading when we told her we had somewhere planned for tea over lunch!

What’s nice about this place is the warm welcome and its open approach to all sorts. There were elegant ladies out for a refined luncheon, but also – as we left – two backpackers from England drenched to the skin with rucksacks bashing against the door, but drawn in by the board advertising scones and tea. Good call on their part. And this is our top tip for tea in Paris if you’re anywhere near Notre Dame.

We had less success with the rest of our search for tea in Paris (though I should say that Loustic – one of our coffee places – did do excellent tea, too).

We had set our hearts on Oisive Thé, down in the 13th arrondissement. With its fairly unique combination of tea and yarn, it was exactly the kind of place we’d love to have blogged about. Sadly, here, we were the victim of that very French (or is it Parisian?) phenomenon: the August holiday closure. Yes Oisive Thé would be re-opening after its summer break the day AFTER we had to leave for Luxembourg, so we didn’t get more than a look through the front window outside.

Oisive Thé for tea and yarn in Paris

Then came our encounter with what I think of as the darker side of Parisian society, a reminder of why I actually disliked living there 30 years ago: the arrogance and snobbery of the upper middle classes there.

We walked into one tea room not so far from Oisive Thé (though I shan’t name names) and within a minute we had walked out again.

Was it the fact that I wanted black tea (with milk, heaven forbid) rather than some speciality Chinese or Japanese high end brew? Was it the fact that we wanted a sandwich with our tea, when this place only did sandwiches at the weekend (at 17 euros a go, I might add)? Or was it more that we didn’t have the right look? Or the right accent in spite of my pretty fluent and courteous French?

I wonder even now what it was I said that made the owner so unwelcoming. And I’m sure they have great quality tea there, but there is no way I will tolerate such a reaction when I walk into a tea room. Quality is important but if you’re running a tea or coffee business – in my view – you need to be open to all sorts of people and welcome anyone with open arms. After all, she would have had no idea that I write about tea and coffee shops.

Still, we saved ourselves quite a few pennies by not staying there for lunch and her attitude was a nice reminder of my time in Paris all those years ago. So on that level, I’m glad we went there, even for 60 seconds.

 

Pictures from Paris

 

The Seine – always a romantic scene

Seine

There were tanks on the street as we arrived in town – celebrating 70 years since the Liberation of Paris

70 years since the Liberation

Lots of eccentric shops dotted around Paris – this one just behind our hotel

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Sarah Bernhardt – remembered forever by us as the best cafe to get steak and chips in the centre

Sarah Bernhardt

Love the original white and blue tiling in some Paris metro stations still

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All for one – One for all. Wasn’t it the French who called the Brits a nation of shopkeepers?

 French Guild of Grocers