A while ago my husband and I decided we are not going to take pictures on our vacations. Don’t get me wrong, we do take a camera with us, but rather than spending our vacation behind a machine and figuring out what is the best filter, best angle for something, we’d rather see the sights, live through every moment. Last spring I remember seeing a woman focusing her camera on the flower of a tree. She was taking one macro picture after another, deleting and taking the next. As she was walking away she was still looking at the display on her digital camera, trying to figure out if the picture came out well or not. All I could think about was, did she really see the tree?

This was the same mentality that I adopted for my trip to Luxembourg. I just wanted to casually stroll around the city and look around and have the chance to absorb everything around me.  For my excursions I took with me a small backpack and in it all I had was my sketchbook, some graphite pencils and a bottle of water.

notre dame adolphe bridge
Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Adolphe bridge under reconstruction

It is so different to look at a sight and sketch it then take a photo. A picture might say a thousand words, but all it takes is a second to record and then you move on. While I was sketching I absorbed all the sounds, smells that surrounded me. I looked and saw my subject, but all other elements are now also recorded in my memory. I see the Cathedral in the distance, but also hear the rustling of the trees that were around me. I can still smell the damp leaves that were under my foot and feel the cold of the rail I was leaning against while sketching.

Notre Dame Luxembourg
Notre-Dame Cathedral from among the trees

I remember how it felt to walk in the Pétrusse valley: to be surrounded by complete serenity in the middle of a busy city, to see ancient trees reach up to the sky and sometimes among them discover a beautiful sight.

house adn bridge sketch
House with Viaduct in the background

I remember standing a good while just looking at this strange house. From the front it had distinct French elements, was the perfect chateau for a romantic movie. However, attached to it was a tower that was as German as anything I had ever seen. And to add to this sight right in the background there stood the Viaduct.

notre dame back sketch
Notre-Dame Cathedral

When I first saw the steeples of the Notre-Dame among the trees I knew I wanted to look at it more closely. And to be honest, no matter from where I looked at it, it was majestic and was calling me to capture her once more.

notre dame altar sketch
Main altar of the Notre-Dame Cathedral

When I went inside the half gloom was welcoming. It was strange yet so right to see everything in darkness, the only illumination coming from the stained glass windows. Specific parts of the altar, however were illuminated. The otherwise quite puritan altar sparkled with the lights and was more beautiful than anything I have seen before.

St Jean church sketch
Saint-Jean Baptiste church and the viaduct on the Alzette river

By the time I spied St. John’s church from the top of the gorge overlooking the valley carved out by the Alzette river I was quite cold. After walking long hours in the rain and 6°C/42°F weather my fingers were numb. But I just could not stop drawing! And my perseverance paid off and I discovered something new. For when the little droplets of water landed on my sketchbook and mixed with the graphite, they gave some of the drawings a quite interesting wash. Something I was not expecting, but that was quite welcome.

pirate ship playground
Pirate ship on a playground

I remember sitting in one of the churches when a guy entered. He went over to the altar with camera in hand and click, went over to one of the statues, click, to one of the paintings, click then to one of the tapestries and click. He was in and out of the church quicker than it would have taken him to go through the McDonald’s Drive-thru. I looked deep in my heart, smiled and knew I’ve made the right decision. Especially when I was sitting on a bench in one of the parks where there was this amazing playground. It had this enormous pirate ship and all sorts of gadgets including THE slide of slides that I – and this is time for my confession – sooo wanted to try out. As I was drawing several kids spied me cautiously from far away. One of them finally approached me and looked at what I was doing. He smiled at me and ran away, but I knew we made a connection. Now that would have never happened with the click of a camera!