Sunday, December 27, 2015

There's No Place like Home for the Holidays

Sonndeg, 27 Dezember.

I had a wonderful December in Luxembourg. From exploring Luxembourg City and watching the Luxembourg Light Nights spectacle with my roommates to visiting Christmas markets in Metz, Trier, and Brussels, it was truly an amazing month. However, I am so thankful that I was able to head back home for Christmas. I got to see family and some of my best friends, go to Target (more times than I'm proud to admit), and eat as much chips and queso as my stomach could handle.

I guess they're right -- there's no place like home for the holidays!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"That's So Luxembourg!" at Luxembourg Light Nights

Samschdeg, 19 Dezember.

This weekend, Luxembourg held its first ever holiday light show. The spectacle son et lumière (doesn't everything sound ten times more dramatic in French?) was hosted in the Cité Judiciaire on Friday and Saturday night.

Equal parts circus, holiday party, and display of national pride, the light show was certainly ... well ... something!


Want to get a better sense of what it was really like? Check this out!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Enjoying "Les Plaisirs d'Hiver" in Brussels

Sonndeg, 13 Dezember.

Just got back from a truly whirlwind trip to Brussels! I left my house at 8:00 a.m. and was back in Esch-sur-Alzette by 11:00 p.m. In between? Seven hours of sitting on a train, four hours of exploring Brussels, and two hours of a Fulbright "Cookies & Carols" event (aka the primary reason for the trip).

As you can imagine, American-sized amounts of caffeine were necessary.

I hadn't been to Brussels since my last visit in October and I was really looking forward to seeing the city decorated for Christmas. I popped in to mass at the Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudula and then met up with a fellow Fulbrighter to explore the "Plaisirs d'Hiver."

Ultimately, I didn't take too many photos. It was cold and rainy and I spent most of my time trying to avoid puddles rather than taking pictures! But I hope that you enjoy these snapshots of Christmas in Brussels.

Just your average gothic cathedral!

Apparently this building is lit up year-round. How festive!

I enjoyed seeing Brussels at Christmas and was so glad to see my fellow Fulbrighters one last time before the holidays ... but BOY OH BOY was I happy to get back to Luxembourg at the end of it all. It's strange that although Luxembourg can at times feel foreign and overwhelming, it also has begun to feel a whole lot like home. After a long day of chitchatting and dodging crowds in Brussels, nothing could have felt better than walking into the quiet familiarity of the Gare de Luxembourg. Well, nothing except for crawling into bed ... which is next on the agenda!

Monday, December 7, 2015

"Frohe Weihnachten!" from Trier

Méindeg, 7 Dezember.

As promised yesterday, some snapshots from our afternoon at the Trierer Weihnachtsmarkt!

The entire city was decorated for the holidays, but we spent most of our time at the markets located in the Hauptmarkt (the Main Market, featured above) and the Domfreihof (Cathedral Square, depicted below). Although shops were closed and the majority of the city seemed to be enjoying a quiet afternoon in, the Christmas markets were full to bursting with people.

Recognize the Trierer Dom from yesterday's post?

Of course, what's a Christmas market without food?! I snacked on gebrannte mandeln, my all-time favorite weihnachtsmärkte treat of sugar-roasted almonds, and we warmed up with hot chocolate in souvenir mugs. (Because when it comes down to it, do you REALLY want glühwein when you could be drinking hot chocolate covered in whipped cream?)


For lunch, we stopped for flammkuchen, a traditional dish from Alsace that I had only tried once before while exploring the marchés de Noël in Strasbourg during my semester abroad. Unlike Alsatian flammekueche, made with a pizza-thin crust and a (surely unhealthy) dose of crème fraîche, this was made with thick, doughy bread covered in potatoes, cheese, and little bits of ham and ... oh, what's that? Sorry, I was daydreaming about eating flammkuchen for the rest of my life.

Until next time, Trier! In the meantime, wishing you all an early Frohe Weihnachten from the oldest city in Germany.

An Afternoon in Germany's Oldest City

Sonndeg, 6 Dezember.

Today I went to Trier! Or, if you are Luxembourgish, to Tréier. Or, if you are French, to Trèves. Or, if you are an ancient Roman living in the first century BCE, Augusta Treverorum. Do you get the feeling that maybe, just maybe, this city has an interesting history?!

One of the most interesting things about Trier for this temporary Luxembourger is how easy -- and inexpensive -- it is to go there! Trains run frequently between Luxembourg City and Trier and the entire trip takes about an hour. If you have a transport pass or have already bought a ticket for in-country travel, you can buy a round-trip ticket from Wasserbillig (the last stop in Luxembourg) and get to Trier for around eight euros. So when you have a free Sunday afternoon and a handful of enthusiastic housemates ... why not go?!

Fun fact: the red house is called "Rotes Haus" (three guesses what that means) and was built in 1684.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Day Trip to Metz

Samschdeg, 5 Dezember.

One of the great things about being a Fulbright E.T.A. is having a relatively flexible schedule. After having to work on my birthday (#grownupproblems), I decided to take advantage of a free day on Wednesday and hopped across the border to check out my neighbor, Metz!

Closer to the Luxembourg border than Strasbourg or Brussels but not quiiite as close as Trier, Metz is an ancient French city with a fascinating history. The city is stunning (check out this YouTube video for proof) -- full of everything from Roman ruins to modern art museums, from classically French cathedrals to undeniably German houses. And a seriously fancy train station.

A shot of the Moselle River, which flows through Metz.

The Porte Serpenoise in downtown Metz.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hiking in the Our Valley: Exploring Vianden

Sonndeg, 29 November.

I've spent a solid portion of the last two months talking about how much I love hiking in Luxembourg. And it finally come back to bite me in the butt, when a Fulbright friend and her boyfriend came to visit and told me they didn't care what we did "as long as we went hiking." Hiking. On a weekend with a high of 39 degrees. Riiiight.

But on Saturday morning, we decided to brave the cold! We bundled up as we had never bundled before, hopped in the car (or, more accurately, walked to the train, took the train, walked to the bus, took the bus, and only THEN hopped in the car #publictransportation), and headed to the northeast of Luxembourg. We decided to visit the town of Vianden, the home of one of Luxembourg's most popular tourist attractions. I had visited the Vianden Castle when travelling through Luxembourg in November 2013, but hadn't been back since! The area was just as beautiful -- if not more so -- as I had remembered.

It wound up being a chilly but wonderful day ... and hey, the cold never really bothered me anyway! (LOL.)

Friday, November 27, 2015

The First Thanksgiving!

Donneschdeg, 26 November.

I imagine that the First Thanksgiving was a stressful time for everyone involved. Sure, it was a celebration of a successful harvest and sure, the Pilgrims were probably delighted to have (barely) survived their first year in the New World ... but I find it hard to believe that they didn't spend most of the holiday fretting that their guests wouldn't like the cooking. ("Dost thee like the gravy? I brought the recipe with me on the Mayflower.") And you just know that the Wampanoag were arguing in the car on the way to the celebration. ("I told you, bringing five deer makes it look like we're trying too hard!")

But as stressful as this very first celebration must have been, it pales in comparison to November 26, 2015 because ... it was my first ever time cooking Thanksgiving dinner!! And, like any wise beginner, I took things slow by signing up to make a full traditional American Thanksgiving dinner for my entire house of international housemates.

The stakes were high for my roommates' first ever American Thanksgiving!!

Unfortunately, sacrifices had to be made. Pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce were removed from the menu when the requisite canned goods proved too difficult to acquire. Cornbread stuffing was replaced with a baguette-based side of dressing. And -- as the very thought of cooking an entire turkey in my tiny oven had been causing me to break out into a cold sweat -- the traditional fowl was substituted for two of its less intimidating brethren. (In other words, I bought two rotisserie chickens and called it a day.) We ate on paper plates, drank cheap wine from plastic cups, and cut our food with mismatched silverware.

And at times, things were a little touch and go.

Like when we totally misjudged how long it would take for stuffing and candied yams to finish cooking. Or when my housemates realized that being asked to mash a kilogram of slightly under-cooked potatoes is code for cruel and unusual punishment. Or when I revealed my total lack of spacial awareness and dumped a whole bag of frozen haricots verts into a tiny, tiny pot.

But you know what? It turned out perfectly.

The green beans cooked, and so did the stuffing. The rotisserie chickens were devoured with as much enthusiasm as any turkey and the potatoes, once mashed, were doled out and eaten. Roommates and guests from Italy, Germany, and France discovered a previously-untapped love for stuffing and fascination with candied yams. And even though we ate until we couldn't eat anymore, everyone found a little bit of extra room for apple pie and cookie brownies.

Of course, it wasn't really about the food. (Well, it wasn't *ENTIRELY* about the food.) It was about the fact that I got to spend an important holiday, one that I would usually spend surrounded by family and friends in America, surrounded instead by some of my favorite new friends in Luxembourg.

Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving from Luxembourg!