By Mike McQuaide
I’ll come right out and say it: I'm a muffin man. Donuts don’t thrill me so much, but muffins? J’adore muffins! As they’d say in Lëtzebuergesh: Ech hu muffins ganz, ganz gär! My love is diverse too--poppyseed, almond poppyseed, blueberry, raspberry crumble, maybe something with a sort of cream cheesy thing going on, or with nuts or chocolate or whatevs--it don’t matter, it’s all good. Just line ‘em up and I’ll knock ‘em back. No problem.
Thing is, I rarely see muffins in Luxembourg. Bakery offerings here are more of the croissant-ish or flakey pocket, turnover-type variety. Or of the downright strange. I’m thinking, in particular, of the Pâté Riesling, an upsetting capsule-shaped thingy that sports what looks like a gelatinous human eyeball staring right up at you.
So it was a pleasant surprise the other morning when, on the way to the train station, I spied some sort of chocolatey-Nutella-filled muffin for sale at the corner Brioche Dorée. Quickly coughing up a couple euros, I took ownership of said muffin and basked in its wondrous glory: its heartiness and heaviness, its creamy chocolatey gooey goodness, and just sheer all-around, muffin-ness. This was a big muffin, this one--nearly as big as my head! 'I’ll not need lunch or dinner', I thought to myself as I headed to the train station where I needed to purchase tickets for an upcoming mountain-bike adventure in Switzerland.
Inside at the train station’s International counter, I commenced my chatty ways with the super-helpful, super patient young man behind the Plexiglas. Finishing the final morsels of my tasty, if a bit, messy muffin, I explained what I needed—fare for myself and a bike to Davos—and told him about how excited I was to see the Alps for the first time! I shared also my concerns about having to switch trains twice, and of never having travelled so far by train with a bike.
“Is it safe? I mean, do I need to lock my bike?” I asked, leaning close to the Plexiglas so that he could not only hear me but also read my visage.
“No, all is OK,” he assured me. Showing me my ticket, he pointed to the seat number. “See, I put you right next to your bike. Everything will be fine.”
I immediately felt as ease. As the young man continued printing out the rest of my tickets, I leaned sideways against the counter so as to eye the dozen or so people waiting to purchase their tickets in the adjacent lines. 'Look at us', I thought to myself, 'we’re all one--sophisticated world travelers, hopping trains here and there to visit the vast, far reaches of Europe!' Is that the coolest thing in the world or what?!!
After paying for my tickets, I said good-bye to my personal CFL representative (as I referred to him in my mind), and headed home on the bus. I felt that nice buzz of excitement for my upcoming trip and as I sat there, I ruminated about how travel really does expand one’s horizons, and gives one a better understanding of the world and the people in it. I travel much more than I used to, and so I definitely feel that I have a better understanding of and empathy for, my fellow man and woman.
I remembered too about how when I back at the train station and observing the folks in the adjacent lines, I noticed that a couple people did double-takes when our eyes met. They probably recognize me from my An American in Luxembourg Facebook page, I reasoned. I wanted to show that I understood them and so I nodded to them as if to say, ‘Yes, I am him, but see, I’m not stuck up; I’m just like you and you’re just like me.’
Then again, maybe not. My guess is that other people are not as sloppy as I am when eating big, giant gooey muffins.
For when I got home and took off my coat, I caught a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror and was stopped dead in my tracks. I had chocolaty-Nutella goodness smeared over two-thirds of my face. From my chin to my bottom lip and across my right cheek. There was even some on my forehead and in my left eyebrow (?!) I looked like a Maori warrior tattooed up and ready for battle.
Maybe the dearth of muffins in Luxembourg isn’t a bad thing after all.
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