Walking towards the central train station in Bonnevoie on 26 July 2017
Photo: Audrey Davis
I make my way down the three flights of creaky, wooden stairs from my bedroom to the front door, careful to not wake my host-mother as I pass by her room.
When I step outside, a chill runs through me. I sigh, turn around, make my way back up to my room, grab a sweater and try again.
It’s a chilly, July morning--one that feels more like autumn than summer. I turn toward the bakery near my house in Bonnevoie that I stop at just about every morning. It’s the one place where I feel comfortable ordering in my pathetic excuse for French.
Bonjour. Un pain au chocolat et un cappuccino à emporter s’il vous plaît.
With coffee in hand, I stick my headphones in my ears and press play on my Spotify playlist aptly titled “totally stress free.” It’s my last week in the grand duchy, and being the nostalgic person that I am, I want to take one last journey around the place that now feels like a second home.
I came to Luxembourg six months ago at the end of January to study at Miami University Dolibois European Center in Differdange, but every weekend in my planner was filled with grandiose plans that I’d been picturing in my head for as long as I could remember: hiking through the Alps, drinking wine under the Eiffel Tower, tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain and indulging myself in every city’s local cuisine.
When my semester ended, I felt invincible. I’d been to 15 countries and over 30 cities in less than four months. I could figure out any metro system in any language and getting lost had turned into a welcomed adventure.
At the end of the semester, instead of heading back to the US with my friends, I packed up my things and moved from Bettembourg to Luxembourg City for a summer internship.
After my first day, I came home feeling lost and dejected. For the first time in months, I felt homesick. All of my friends were gone. Everyone in the office spoke at least two languages, and I felt like I couldn’t possibly succeed. Luxembourg felt like a foreign country to me all over again.
But, here I am almost three months later walking around the city without even having to check the map on my phone every 15 seconds.
Demolition work at the gare centrale in Luxembourg City on 26 July 2017
I make my way up the winding stairs to the bridge over the train tracks. I cringe at the sound of metal being torn apart. The old CFL workshop to my left is nothing but a broken shell of a building now. A few people line the bridge, intently watching the demolition crew.
As I head down the stairs, a man bumps into me, nearly spilling beer down the front of my shirt. He stifles an apology and hurries to the top. I look at my watch: 9:30.
In front of the central train station
I cross the street and pause for a moment as I stand across from the gare. Before I moved to the city, I came here every weekend to catch a bus or a train. I was always in such a hurry to leave.
When I reach the point where the street splits, I head down Avenue de la Liberté toward Pont Adolphe.
I smell it before I feel it, but I’m too late. Soapy water seeps in through the holes in my worn-down flats. A woman throws another bucket of the stuff onto the sidewalk, and I jump out of the way just in time.
Place des Martyrs
Soon, the smell of soap is replaced with the overwhelming smell of freshly cut grass in Place des Martyrs. I’m not used to it after living in a city for so long.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I’m 17 and on the riding lawnmower in my backyard. My dad and brother are tossing a football in the pool. It’s the simplest memory, but I can’t shake it. I want to call my dad to tell him I’m thinking of him, but it’s three in the morning back home, so it’ll have to wait.
The pond at Edith Klein park
I cross Pont Adolphe, enter the Edith Klein park and make my way toward the pond.
I spent quite a few hours here on Sunday afternoons or around other parks in the city, buried in a Hemingway or some other classic. It made me feel less touristy when I spent time in the parks. Even after three months of living and working in the city, I still feel like a tourist most days.
I’m alone in the park. I take my headphones out and listen, really listen. Pigeons coo and wind whistles through the trees. I pull my sweater tight, wishing I hadn’t already finished my coffee.
I pass the pirate ship park and long to be a child again, or at least to act like one. I was a summer camp counsellor last year, but I gave that up to travel the world and get ahead in my future career. I missed days spent chasing after my campers, having shaving cream wars and marshmallow gun fights and forgetting that I was two short years away from entering the infamous real world.
Flowers in the Parc Municipal photographed on 26 July 2017
I wrapped around the city through the parks, stopping only to take photos of flowers to show my cell phone- and computer-less grandmother when I get home.
I exit the park when I reach the Pfaffenthal Lift and walk to the glass platform. A group of tourists stand away from the glass, not daring to getting any closer. I walk past them and look down at my feet, but the glass is so scratched and dirty that I can’t make out anything below me. The surrounding view, however, makes me smile. Luxembourg really is a beautiful place.
Luxembourg City’s Grand-Rue
As I make my way back toward the city centre, “Never Grow Up” by Taylor Swift starts playing and unwanted tears form in my eyes. How did six months go by so quickly? I shake it off and walk down the vacant Grand-Rue and watch as workers in the shops prepare to open for the day--some are taking inventory or folding clothes while the women in Sephora are expertly doing each other’s makeup.
A view of the Grund
I circle around Place d’Armes then walk toward the Casemates. I peer over the old city wall and spot Scott’s Pub in the Grund in the distance. I think about all of the late Friday nights that turned into Saturday mornings spent with people who I hadn’t known just six months ago and who I now call some of my best friends.
I remember taking my mom here back in April after we’d been to London and Paris. She liked Luxembourg most, I think.
Luxembourg City is seen from the old town area facing Kirchberg on 26 July 2017
I follow the old city wall for a while, before cutting through a small tunnel that opens to the Cité Judiciaire. I head back toward the gare but I’m held up on the bridge behind a couple with giant hiking backpacks. The man has a Canadian maple leaf patch sewn on the outside. I wonder if they spoke English or French…
When I reach the gare, I realise that I’ve come full-circle. I check the fitness app on my phone: 6.4 km. I still have no sense of what that means, so I Google the conversion: 4 miles, not a bad morning.
The offices of Maison Moderne, which publishes Delano, where Audrey Davis completed her journalism internship this year
I cross the bridge once more and head toward Maison Moderne.
I open my phone and find a screenshot of a tweet of mine from exactly two years ago:
“I seriously can not wait to become a journalist and travel the world and get the opportunity to share people’s stories.”
As I enter my office, I think about the stories I’ve told this summer and the people I’ve talked to: the mayor, ambassadors, students… The 18-year-old dreamer wouldn’t believe it.
Audrey Davis is a journalism student at Miami University who completed an internship with Delano magazine on 28 July 2017