American Fall

There’s a lot that’s hard about right now. It’s hard putting our lives completely on pause and having to rely so much on others. That being said, one thing I am so grateful for is the chance to be back home for fall. This is my favorite time of year in America and the first time I have gotten to be here in autumn in six years. In spite of the pandemic, it has been so nice to enjoy long walks outside among the vibrant trees, indoor festivities with family, and the Halloween spirit. We even got to see snow for the first time since we were in Ukraine two years ago!

It can be easy to dwell on all the things I wish I was doing instead right now. 2020 is a year I think most of us would rather just forget. But I’m trying to remind myself that among the chaos are little moments of beauty that are worth remembering.

Bruges: A Magical Gingerbread Village

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After a seemingly interminable term, the fall break finally came and we took off to Belgium to catch some fall foliage and binge on waffles and chocolate.  I had seen many a magical photo of Bruges before arriving, but the photos really don’t do it justice.

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As if the charming alleyways, canals, and bright red trees weren’t enough, the whole town was also preparing for the holiday season with lights and Christmas displays.  It was so refreshing to be surrounded by holiday spirit!

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Bruges is a fairly small town, but it’s bigger than it looks and there is certainly no shortage of things to do!  We signed up for a free walking tour through Legends of Bruges and were not disappointed.  It’s one thing to wander through a city, but it is so much more meaningful when you can learn about its history and culture.  We had also considered doing the foodie tour because it sounded awesome, but unfortunately, I came down with a nasty cold while we were there and simply didn’t have the energy to do more than one tour.

20171121_123428 (2).jpgOf course, it wouldn’t be a proper trip without sampling some of the local cuisine.  We tasted chocolate in every city we visited in Belgium, but this particular shop was our favorite.

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We also did a little pub hopping to taste some of the many excellent beers Belgium has to offer.  My personal favorite was the cherry-flavored beer that they only serve around Christmas.

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Another highlight of Bruges was the Frietmuseum, a museum dedicated to the history of fries (but don’t call them French fries while you’re there!).  It was such a fun and interesting museum.

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I had hoped to accomplish a bit more in Bruges, including climbing the Belfry (Belfort) to get a better view of the city, but my illness really slowed me down.  Still, I managed to squeeze in one last canal tour before we left.

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In spite of feeling terrible for most of our time there, I really enjoyed Bruges – and I couldn’t imagine being there any other time of year.  The colorful leaves and Christmas lights definitely set the tone for the rest of our trip and made me feel excited for Christmas in a way that I haven’t since becoming an expat.

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Autumn in Oslo

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My soul has finally been fed with the kind of fall beauty I’ve been missing.  I knew I wanted to take at least one trip into Europe for some lovely fall foliage this year, so we consulted Skyscanner to see what we could find and scored some cheap to tickets to Oslo for a weekend.  What a beautiful city!

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We couldn’t have picked a better time or place for colorful leaves.  Oslo is absolutely bursting with trees!  Everywhere!  I loved being in a city that was so intertwined with nature and managed to feel both full of life and cozy at the same time.

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We knew we would only be there for a short time, so rather than try to plan a packed itinerary, we decided to wing it and simply get a taste for the city.  This was honestly the way to go because Oslo can be hella expensive!

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I was so grateful for all of the big, beautiful parks they had everywhere!  We walked around playing in the leaves like kids for hours and it was wonderful!  The colors, the smell, the crunch under our feet…it was all so perfect.

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I got a kick out of this nose-less FDR.  Also, we witnessed that couple behind him get engaged a few minutes after this photo was taken!  It made me feel all warm and fuzzy remembering the day my husband proposed (feels like a lifetime ago already!).  Also, what a place for a proposal!

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Pretty much every nook and cranny of the city was gorgeous.

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Oh, and I definitely wasn’t kidding about everything being expensive.  On top of that, we had a really hard time finding a place to exchange our cash and got down to the last bit of our NOK after paying for our hotel.  We had to do a college throwback and scrape together our last few coins to see how we could get the most bang for our buck for our last meal there.

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Besides the little cash mishap, Oslo restored me in the best way possible.  It was such a friendly and relaxing place.  I’d love to return to Norway, although next time, I’ve got my eyes on exploring the fjords!

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