Chasing Fall

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I may or may not have had two pumpkin spice lattes

Sweaters, boots, bright colored leaves, cold air, Halloween, the promise of a new school year, and pumpkin everything.  I love it all.  Fall has always been my favorite season, for so many reasons.  Unfortunately, few places seem to be able to match the cheery vibrancy that an American fall captures so well.

When I first moved here last year, I kept waiting for the leaves to change and the fall spirit to soar.  It didn’t.  What I found instead were grey skies, lots of rain, and a lot of mopey people.  No Halloween, no pumpkin patches, no cider mills.  It’s really just not the same.  Honestly, this is the time of year that homesickness hits me the hardest.  Oh, what I wouldn’t give for my long break to be in October and November instead of July and August.

I don’t want to fall into a rut the way I did last fall.  This year, I’m determined to get into the spirit, even if the weather doesn’t exactly match.

Here are a few things I’d love to do to make this season a little more snazzy:

Make some home-y fall recipes.  I’m thinking pumpkin pie and lots of chili.

Decorate.  My husband and I plan to get crafty this weekend and make some Halloween decorations and watch scary movies.  I can’t wait!

Play with yarn.  Nothing says fall like cozying up with my crochet needle and making some cool scarves.

Find some foliage.  I need colorful trees in my life!  Turkey is mostly pine, but we’re thinking of heading to the Belgrad Forest once it cools down a bit more around here.  Also, I’m strongly considering a weekend trip out of the country before the season is over…I’d love to go to England or Scotland!

Make a playlist.  My music taste definitely changes with the seasons.

Any other American expats out there who miss this time of year?  I feel like it just isn’t the same anywhere else.

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Apple picking, back in the college days

 

Istanbul Coffee Festival

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Anyone who knows me well knows of my love for coffee…especially good coffee.  My husband and I were just casually looking around for things to do over the weekend and when the Istanbul Coffee Festival came under our radar, it was a no-brainer.

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The Istanbul Coffee Festival, otherwise known as paradise, is an annual event that brings together all things coffee.  There were TONS of local coffee shop owners, as well as several international coffee brands.  There were also many workshops, snack vendors, and fun activities at the event.  Obviously, the best part was the coffee.  I did my best to visit every stand to taste what they had to offer, determined to find a few favorites to take home with me.

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It can be hard to escape the usual Turkish coffee in Turkey, but Istanbul has a fairly vibrant coffee culture if you’re willing to seek it out.  There were several great vendors who were offering fabulous filtered coffee, from pour-over to drip to cold brew.  You name it, they had it!

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After four hours of non-stop complimentary coffee samples, I don’t even want to talk about how caffeinated I was.  If not for the lingering cold, I doubt I even would have slept. It was totally worth it though, because not only did we get to drink amazing coffee all day, but we also discovered plenty of new coffee hangouts in Istanbul for future weekends.

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We left with some pretty good loot.  We got some delicious new coffee beans, some tasty granola, and a new coffee grinder (so we don’t have to rely on our food processor all the time.)  We also got some cool t-shirts and a tote bag.

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Pretty much all of the coffee we had was good, but my personal favorite was Deal.  Their Burundi beans were fabulous and you can order them online, so if you’re looking for some great filtered coffee in Turkey, check it out!

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I’m feeling much more prepared for the colder days ahead.  I will definitely be back at the festival next year!

A Village Stroll

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Both my husband and I are on duty this weekend, which means it will be a relatively quiet one full of cleaning, laundry, junk food, binge-watching, and…work.  Honestly, I don’t even mind because we’ve been on the go quite a bit recently.

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The place where we live and work is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, which can be both good and bad.  I love the peace and quiet because it allows me to concentrate on my work during the week and you can’t beat a sea view (Seriously.  I can see the sea from my bedroom.  It’s unreal).  On the other hand, since we don’t have a car here, I find myself missing the convenience of walking down to the grocery store or hopping in the car to go to a drive-thru like we did back in Kansas.  It’s not a big deal, since we can call a cab and get to the nearest mall (where we do our grocery shopping) in about 15 minutes, but it can definitely be a bit of a hassle after a long day at work, which usually means eating canned tuna for the third day in a row.

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I love, love, love long walks, especially in beautiful weather…and we are lucky enough to only have half days on Friday, so I was pretty eager to get outside after school.  We weren’t really up for the whole Istanbul thing since we both had duties, but we didn’t particularly feel like staying on campus either.  Also, it was a liver for lunch kind of day, which is definitely not my thing, so I was starving.  We were tired of the mall, having just gone a couple of days before, so we decided to hit up the sprawling village of Muallimköy, a ten minute walk from the campus.  The word in the office was that they’d opened a new Çiğ Köfteci over the summer, so it was a date.

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The whole chilly weather/new school year vibe had me feeling nostalgic for my student days.  Everything just feels so new and exciting and full of potential.  I’m still waiting for some pretty red leaves, although they don’t seem to get as vibrant here in autumn as they do back in the States.  Still, the weather was seriously awesome.

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Sooooooo good!

Çiğ Köfte is seriously the best…and now only ten minutes away!  I’m so stoked.  I will definitely be a regular customer.  Afterward, we stopped by the bakkal for some Magnum ice cream bars for dessert and then stocked up on some snacks for our subsequent binge of Orange is the New Black.  A perfect Friday afternoon if you ask me.

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An Evening in Milano

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After a lovely few days in Cinque Terre, we spent one day in Milan before catching our flight back to Turkey.  The visit was quite short, so we didn’t do too much, but we had a great time walking around the main squares and getting our last few bites of Italian food.

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The architecture in Milan is stunning and it’s crowning jewel is the Duomo Cathedral.  It was enormous and beautiful, as was the whole of Piazza Duomo!

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I absolutely loved listening to this man play music on the bottles!  He was brilliant!

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We were both starving after the long stint on the train, but we were having trouble finding something that wasn’t ridiculously overpriced in the main square.  We stumbled upon a little cart selling gelato popsicles and the rest is history.  This almond was superb.

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Our “Last Supper” involved two very large and very delicious pizzas.  Speaking of which…

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…we missed out on seeing the original Last Supper, which is housed in Milan.  It was a bummer because I find Leonardo da Vinci very fascinating and would have loved to see some of his work while we were there.  We did, however, manage to see this statue of him.  I guess that just  means we’ll have to go back to Milan to do it properly…

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We loved you, Italy!  Italy is one of those places I know in my heart that I’ll see again.  I went into it with a mix of expectations based on differing opinions and was pleasantly surprised by how laid back, relaxing, and beautiful it was.  Until next time!

Le Cinque Terre

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**WARNING**  This post  may contain picture overload.

My husband and I just returned from spending a few days in the beautiful, colorful string of villages on the Italian Riviera known as Cinque Terre.  We decided we wanted to do something relaxing before school started and this place fit the bill:  beautiful geography, lovely architecture, fantastic food, hiking, beaches, and great wine.  My dad visited Cinque Terre a few years back and still talks about it, so we had to see what it was all about.

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We based ourselves out of the southernmost village of the five, Riomaggiore.  When we stepped off the train from Milan, we were instantly greeted with the stacks of colorful houses, blue water, boats, and the prettiest sunset.  I knew then we were in for a treat.

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The first order of business was to get our  hands on some FOOD!  I tried out this Riomaggiore pizza with shrimp, artichokes, spicy oil, and basil.  My husband ordered gnocchi Bolognese.

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Italian food is FLAWLESS.  I mean it.  I have never been somewhere that has so consistently exceeded my foodie expectations.  EVERYTHING I ate there was good.  Every.  Single.  Thing.  Also, it was surprisingly affordable.  5 Euro pizzas and pastas were abundant and no less delicious than any of the more expensive meals.

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After stuffing ourselves beyond capacity, we settled in for a good night’s rest before a long day of hiking the five villages.

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We decided to hike from North to South since the trails from Riomaggiore to Corniglia are currently closed.  We purchased all day hike and train passes for 16 Euro each and took the train up to Monterosso al Mare, about a 15 minute ride.

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Since you can’t start a hike without a good breakfast, we stopped for espresso and bruschetta after a walk on the beach.  Who says you can’t have anchovies and pesto for breakfast?

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The weather could not have been more perfect, albeit a little hot, and the views along the trail were stunning.  It was reminiscent of our hike on the Fira Trail, but more lush and colorful (and way more uphill!)

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How awesome is this?  This guy set up a little lemon/orange juice stand right on the trail between Monterosso and Vernazza.  Yes, please!

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The second village, Vernazza, ultimately ended up being my favorite!  It was so charming and colorful and the food there was fabulous, especially the gelato!  We were hot and sweaty after hiking for two hours (again, mostly uphill), so we were thrilled to see the little beach down below!

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Some food and a dip in the water was exactly what we needed before our next leg of the journey!

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The walk to Corniglia was much easier than the walk to Vernazza had been.  It was also a bit shorter.  We were surprised to see quite a few cars in this village as many of the villages have strict restrictions on vehicles.  We stopped for a fantastic dinner of grilled focacia sandwiches (prosciutto and pesto!) and I indulged in a glass of prosecco.  Seriously, why is Italy so delicious?

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Since the walking routes were closed, we took the train over to Manarola, where a whole bunch of kids were celebrating a birthday on the marina and playing soccer.  What a birthday party!

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I discovered this lovely thing called a marocchino and my life will never be the same.  Espresso and chocolate are a match made in heaven.  One place even added nutella!

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Also, panna cotta and strawberries.

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Exhausted, full, and sunburnt, we made it back to Riomaggiore in time for another spectacular sunset!

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We went back to Monterosso for a relaxing beach day the next morning.  The water was perfect!

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After swimming and lunch, we wandered the the village and picked up a few souvenirs to take back with us, mostly food-related!  Also, because my husband loves the song Postcards from Italy by Beirut, he bought a post card from every village!

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We also stopped on a different beach for a little bit of reading in the sunshine!

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It was so hard to leave!  As the sun was going down, we rode back to Riomaggiore, stopped for some take away pasta (think Chipotle, except with pasta!), a last glass of wine, and then turned in to pack our things for our early train ride out.

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It was a lovely, lovely, lovely way to kick off our travels for this year!  Bring it on, 2016-17!

Wedding Weekend Indulgence

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One of our friends and colleagues got married last Sunday and we were super excited to attend our first Turkish wedding!  We made a whole weekend of it and made the trek into Istanbul via minibus on Saturday morning.  I’m ready for the school shuttle service to start up again!

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Luckily it wasn’t too crowded

We chose to stay in our favorite neighborhood:  Moda.  Seriously…the Asian side of Istanbul is so underrated.  I find it to have much more of a local city feel than the tourist traps of Sultanahmet and the food is spectacular.

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Epic vegan plate!

We stopped for lunch at one of our favorites, Tahin.  They have a whole page on their menu dedicated to different kinds of hummus (the olive one is the best!) and everything they serve is fresh and fabulous.

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Nane limonata!

After stuffing our faces, we did a little good old fashioned wandering.  Moda is a bit of a- for lack of a better term- hipster haven.  There are a ton of unique and amazing shops, restaurants, and cafes that you simply wouldn’t find anywhere else in Istanbul.  We did a good bit of shopping, which I regretted the next day when I had to walk with it all in heels.

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We scored a really nice hotel on the water and got upgraded to a suite, where we had easy access to a roof terrace and sea view.  Also, I wanted to take the bed home with me.

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I loved this skylight!

It was the perfect spot to sip on wine under the stars.  So relaxing!

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The next morning, we discovered our new favorite breakfast joint, Böcek, and feasted like crazy.  Dakota went for the English breakfast, which included REAL bacon and sausage and I went for the classic kahvalti plate.  I had no idea what we were in for.  The plates were HUGE, but so, so good.

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See that jar to the right?  Yeah, that’s peanut butter.

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All the fruit!

After breakfast (more like brunch), it was time to get into wedding mode!!  We went through lots of metro stops (in heels…with luggage…), but we finally made it to Boğaziçi University, where they were having the celebration.  I wish I’d taken more photos of the campus because it was so beautiful, but we were running late and our hands were full, so we’ll have to visit again!

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The weather was absolutely perfect, as was the setting.  It was a very elegant ceremony and I was surprised at how similar it was to an American wedding!

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The happy couple! (my phone didn’t take the best photos)

It was a great night full of fun, friends, dancing, laughing, and a little too much wine.

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How is Turkey so beautiful?

Our brunch meeting for work the next day came a little too soon, but it was totally worth it because you can’t beat free food by the sea…especially breakfast food.  It was a crazy, busy, and awesome weekend.  I’m soaking it up before school starts and the real work begins!