Local exploration, Travel, Uncategorized

A Weekend in Portland

As much as I love long periods of international travel, there’s something to be said about spending a weekend in a nearby city.

Last weekend my boyfriend, Landon and I headed down to Portland, a 4 hour bus ride from Seattle. We only had to be there for a few days, for an RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) coaching course I was taking, but chose to tack on a few days for exploration. We spent some time Googling, asked my old cross country camp cabin mate for some ideas (she’s spent a good chunk of time in Portland- check out her blog at isabellanais.com and Instagram: @isabellanais), and hit the road.

Here are our tips for a weekend in Portland!

DSC03313.JPG

DSC03315

DSC03321

For coffee:

Obviously, you have to hit up Stumptown. There is no coffee I have ever tasted that beats this Oregon-based company, and being in one of their actual shops was a no-frills, high quality experience. As we we staying near the Woodlawn area, we also stopped by Woodlawn Coffee & Pastry a few times. They even had French gluten free pastries!

After a cold walk through the city one night, we stopped at Barista, another cafe focusing on quality over decor. Opting not to sit in the handful of high, austere chairs scattered near the window, we grabbed some delicious Americanos and enjoyed their heat as we continued to meander along the waterfront.

I wish I could recommend more coffee shops, but as my classes over the weekend began at 8am, I ended up drinking a lot of Starbucks, as it was open and close to the class location.

For food:

We are health nuts, so we did what we could to stay healthy outside of my coaching class, where I was inhaling hot, greasy pizza. Because really, who can resist free pizza? (If you can, seriously- teach me your ways!)

But other than that we were pretty good. We stocked20171119_195124.jpg up on healthy staples at Whole Foods for most of our snacks/meals (budget travel, anyone?). Bulk nuts, Lara bars, carrots and celery with this delicious local hummus, opal apples, mandarin oranges, boiled eggs…

But of course, we also wanted to eat out. Portland is known for having some delicious and healthy fare, so we stopped by vegan restaurant Blossoming Lotus and were in awe. The whole menu was incredibly creative, all vegan and with plenty of gluten free options. My boyfriend had this amazing curry with tempeh, and I had “live nachos” with cashew cheese. For dessert we split an apple pie and some truffles. The whole thing was divine and we felt wonderful after, which was the best part.

Finally, we hit up Kure, a juice/smoothie/acai bowl type of place a few times. The first time I ordered an AMAZING turmeric latte with ashwagandha and reishi- delicious and so healthy. I tried a green detox drink, but it was a little too lemony and sour for me. It’s probably very effective as a detox juice if that’s what you are looking for, though!

The acai bowl we tried was Kure’s “Bowl of the Gods”, which was not only delicious and filling but also looked pretty.

20171120_114717.jpg

For outdoor adventuring:

My boyfriend got to do a bit more exploring outdoors than I did, as I was inside drawing up marathon training plans and differentiating between lactate threshold and tempo workouts. Still, we both were able to spend some time hiking through the arboretum at Washington Park– that’s in the photos you’ll see below. Landon was able to explore Macleay and Mt Tabor as well, which sound beautiful and soul-filling. Beautiful places in nature just do that to you…

DSC03279

DSC03280DSC03285DSC03286DSC03288DSC03296

All in all, we were able to make a great weekend out of it. The draw of Portland for me, other than all things running-related, is the abundance of healthy eateries and the spirit of outdoor adventuring.

Have you ever been to Portland? Where would you recommend? Leave your ideas below!

Local exploration, Uncategorized

how growing up in a family of outdoorsy camping nerds fostered my love of international travel

In retrospect, the realization that my parents were travelers at heart should not have surprised me… my siblings and I were all named after beautiful places (Kenai is an Alaskan peninsula).

image (5)

I grew up in a family that loved anything related to the outdoors. I have many memories of sliding down a giant plastic fish at REI, or messing with bike horns while my dad shopped for gear and talked shop with the guys at the store. Many a childhood weekend was spent either bringing my mom coffee and playing at a park after she finished her long run, or spending hours “geocaching” (google it) in odd places.

Of course, as any good outdoor family is known to do, we also spend a large amount of our family free time going on camping trips.

image (17)

We camped all over the Pacific Northwest, from the sand dunes of coastal Oregon as far inland as Wyoming. The names of many of the places we visited blur together in my memory, as do the places themselves. When I was little all I was really aware of was the climate of the places we were heading towards. For mountains I knew it was going to be cold and wet and we’d go hiking a lot, and I knew the beach meant lots of sunscreen and seaweed (salt water taffy, too, if I got lucky and we stayed somewhere small and vaguely touristy).

In addition to our frequent camping trips, we traveled a bit for my parents’ athletic endeavors (San Diego for the Rock n Roll marathon, a tiny town in Idaho for a marathon with so few participants they hand-made the medals, Canada for the Ironman triathlon), and headed to the Methow Valley several times every year.

By the time I reached middle school, my younger siblings and I had seen an astonishing amount of nature in the US. We had gone on walks on Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker and probably some other mountains I can’t remember. We had visited the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, accidentally got stuck in a herd of bison at Yellowstone National Park, stayed in a yurt, a million tents and eventually a tent trailer when my little brother was born.

Basically, I grew up travelling constantly.

Here’s the funny thing: until recently, I didn’t even realize it.

image (10).png

When I hit a certain age (ahem, puberty) I became a complete pain-in-the-butt whenever I “had” to go camping. I complained all the time about how much I hated staying in tents, why couldn’t we stay in a hotel for once? and how I really wish we would actually go somewhere exciting, instead of just looking at more “stupid” trees.

My parents tried to accommodate my desires by doing things like tacking a day in San Francisco onto our trip through the Redwoods, but the truth was we didn’t have the kind of money that would enable them to fly us to Paris or Milan, the places I really wanted to be.

It didn’t help that at the time I was beginning to harbor dreams of becoming a fashion magazine editor in New York City, and was aspiring to the jet-setting lifestyle of my idols. Camping definitely didn’t fit into the image I was trying to adopt.

This was my usual camping expression at this point…

image (14)

As much as I may have outwardly seemed miserable, part of me was always able to appreciate the places we went, the fun we had, the things we saw. In retrospect, what an amazing way to grow up. I can’t believe my parents were willing to spend years doing this for so many years with three young kids, and eventually three pre-teens and a newborn.

image (16)

As I’ve grown older and toppled into this wanderlust-filled lifestyle (my travel plans for 2018 are super exciting, stay tuned!), I’ve begun to think more about how I came to be this way. I was actually on a walk and smelled something that reminded me of campfire smoke while I was thinking about this, which is when a whole load of memories came flooding back to me, things I’d never considered because I had decided I was the kind of person who “didn’t like camping”.

I remembered making s’mores in a million different places, under dusky grey skies and in chilly forested campgrounds where I would have to inch from the warmth of my sleeping back out into the cold with a flashlight, clenching my mother’s hand, just to pee.

I remembered looking up and seeing so many stars it seemed impossible, tucking my flashlight away for a moment so I could see every last one as they blanketed the pitch-dark sky.

I remembered the morning sounds of my parents frying sausage on the camp stove, pushing open the tent flaps or crashing through the rickety door of our tent-trailer into the dewy morning to receive a cup of hot chocolate in a bright yellow plastic mug.

I could still feel the trails beneath my feet, hear the wind in my ears as my mom and I ran across the bluff trails in Humboldt, California, which led me down a long path of similar memories… that one run in the middle of nowhere that led us onto some old and sketchy train tracks, when some guy hollered at us from a truck… those endless hills that led to a beautiful lighthouse. Running barefoot along the edge of the ocean, running through forests and alongside scenic roads…

I started remembering other, arbitrary things- the sounds of jets from air shows we hit up on the road, the time my sisters and I thought it would be fun to jump in the ocean at Haystack Rock, get soaking wet, then roll around so sand stuck to every inch of our bodies. I can still recall my parents’ looks as we ran up to them, screaming “sand monster!” while they tried not to think about how much sand we were about to track into the tent (we were still finding sand in odd places three days later).

I could go on and on about the memories I have of growing up hugging trees, naming rocks and giving them names before bringing them along on hikes as “pets”, piling in the car at the end of the day just to speed off towards a better view of the sunset…

But the point is that it made me realize how much my parents actually set me up with my love of traveling and exploring.

image (18)

Every instance of frustration with dirt, lack of hygiene, limited food availability, being tired or hungry or I don’t even know what else I found to complain about… All of it gave me the skills and personality to benefit my travel adventures today.

Because of my lifetime of camping and road trips, I am able to adapt to new situations, roll with the flow, whatever happens.

Because it’s how I grew up, I prefer to spend my time exploring, seeking new experiences, looking out at the world and then jumping into it.

I still prefer to hang out in bigger cities, but I’m comfortable roughing it. I know how to travel and enjoy it on a budget, which has enabled me to get out and go more places than if I had to spend half my monthly salary on one week in a hotel room.

It may seem obvious to some, but this was a revelation for me.

I had made myself into the person who hated camping.

Who knew it would have the greatest hand in shaping the person- the traveler, the explorer, the adventuress- I would become?

unnamed.png

Just some things to think about, and some beautiful memories I wanted to share.

How did you become a traveler?

Local exploration, Uncategorized

the best 7 coffee shops in downtown Seattle

Seattle is known for its abundance of coffee houses. Whether you’re into small businesses, organic coffee or brand name giants, there’s something here for you.

So with such an embarrassment of riches, where is one to head for the best coffee experience in downtown Seattle?

Hint: it’s not Starbucks.

Here are some wonderful options for you to duck into if you find yourself in this coffee-obsessed part of the world.

ANCHORHEAD

This cozy little hideaway is tucked into the main floor of an office building next to Westlake Center. It’s always warm and clean, the coffee is delicious and their pastries and snacks are made in-house (gluten free granola with house-made almond milk, anyone?).

Best for: getting a spot of work done on your laptop, quiet conversation with a friend, refuge from a stormy day

Spotlight drink: whatever new thing they’ve got on the menu, whether it’s a seasonal pumpkin spiced drink or a pistachio matcha latte.

20170325_112410.jpg

WHEELHOUSE

Though it doesn’t look like much from the sidewalk, Wheelhouse boasts some delicious coffee. If you can make your way past the all the construction in this part of the South Lake Union area, this place is worth a stop.

Best for: chatting away, visiting on your lunch break, grabbing a coffee for your walk around South Lake Union

Spotlight drink: lattes on the weekends- one of the employees can make latte art shaped like a CAT and it is amazing.

20170318_113841

CAFE LADRO

This is the best cafe near the waterfront because tourists can’t find it. Do your local grocery shopping at the market and then duck away from the crowds into this gem around the corner on Pine.

Best for: working in silence, avoiding tourists, people watching

Spotlight drink: order a cappuccino- it will be served to you properly, in a small cup on a wooden tray with a tiny spoon and bite-sized sugar cookie. It will be delicious.

STORYVILLE 

However, if you’re okay with a crowd, sneak past the flower shops and bookstores at the entrance to Pike Place and head upstairs to Storyville. Avoid peak hours to ensure you get a seat in one of the couches by the window overlooking the water. Hang out long enough and you might get served a free slice of fresh chocolate cake, a wonderful ritual at this location.

Best for: views over the water, conversation with strangers, comfortable couches, real food- not just cafe snacks

Spotlight drink: a simple Americano with a few of their house-made salted caramels.

ESPRESSO VIVACE 

The closest coffee shop to REI, this bike-filled spot situated right between downtown and Capitol Hill serves great Italian coffee. They’ve even posted instructions on the counter so you know how to consume your espresso.

Best for: after-dinner espressos, working when your deadline is coming up, pretending you’re Italian, in-depth coffee knowledge

Spotlight drink: espresso, in a ceramic cup, drunk in two quick sips

UPTOWN ESPRESSO 

Whenever I’m in Belltown, I stop into this spacious cafe. In the summer the floor-to-ceiling windows become open doors, and in the winter you can stay warm and dry inside. They’re open late, serve delicious coffee, and have free Wi-Fi- always a plus.

Best for: late night cafe, delicious espresso drinks, feeling like you’re at home

Spotlight drink: the Generra, a mocha with orange zest. If you think oranges and coffee can’t go together… try this.

CAFÉ SUISSE

One of the only (maybe the only) true Swiss places downtown, the owners of this shop work the espresso machine, serve gluten-free pastries and croissants imported from Europe, and also run a European goods shop connected to the building. Don’t expect the quickest service from here- but go if you want to step out of Seattle for a minute.

Best for: gluten free pastries, kind baristas, laid-back vibes and European goods

Spotlight drink: authentic Swiss mocha

DSC03218 (1)

***BONUS ROUND: Coffee AND Chocolate?!***

Kakaoanother South Lake Union spot, and Indi Chocolate, which recently moved from the underbelly of Pike Place into a new waterfront space, are two wonderful chocolate shops with espresso machines and seating. You can’t go wrong with either. You’re welcome.

Which one are you headed to next? 🙂

Local exploration, Uncategorized

Breakfast at The Edgewater

My grandmother and I are both early risers.

The other day we met up for breakfast and were rudely reminded that the rest of the world doesn’t get up as early as we do… none of the eateries we could think of were open until 11 or 11:30.

After a bit of driving, we decided to head to Six Seven at The Edgewater, a hotel on Seattle’s famous waterfront.

The view from our table was stunning. Despite the fact that I grew up here and often run along routes with similar views, I was reminded of why we attract so many tourists up here in the Pacific Northwest.

Being situated in a pretty luxurious hotel, I expected Six Seven to be pretty nice. And wow, were we blown away.

From the service to the food, the coffee (Zoka) and presentation, we were pampered. Everything was beautifully done and DELICIOUS.

It was also great to be able to dine out at a nice place without worrying about my allergies- I had fruit and an avocado/bacon/caramelized onion omelette with basil and goat cheese, and it was phenomenal. I’d had to talk myself out of the (glutinous) pancake stack and didn’t regret it for a second.

Perhaps the best moment of the whole thing was this seagull who watched us for most of our meal, probably hoping we’d share.

What a beautiful place. Thanks to my grandmother for taking me out. 🙂

What’s your favorite local breakfast spot? Comment below!

Local exploration, Uncategorized

Bastille Day 2017

Bonjour!

In case you didn’t know, the day before yesterday was la fête de la Bastille! Bastille Day is the French Independence day, which falls on le quatorze de julliet every year, marking the day during the French Revolution when the Bastille was stormed in 1789.

When I went to Paris last summer I actually stayed in the area near where the Bastille used to stand- it’s strange knowing I walked in places where history was made!

Besides the history, for Francophile Seattlites like me, Bastille Day is really just an excuse to do something that makes us feel a little more français.

Seattle has a few good places to satisfy your craving for all things French…

I’m sure I’ve mentoioned La Parisienne before. Smack in the middle of Belltown, it’s surrounded by other coffee shops and eateries in a seriously gorgeous little neighborhood. There are tables outside next to leafy green trees, and the staff are kind and gregarious. Their pastries and sandwiches are délicieux as well.

Le Pichet is my favorite place in Seattle for a luxurious evening. They have absolutely amazing food, always serve you une assiette à pain et au beurre before you eat, and supply a few caramels with the check.

Le Panier is, admittedly, where all the tourists go, but the have the best tasting and best-priced pastries, macaroons and baguettes in town!

The Belle Epicurean on 4th ave downtown is another favorite because of it’s classic French feel, plus you can sit outside and people-watch on account of all the hotels and business offices nearby.

Out of all these wonderful options, it was to Cafe Campagne, a French restaurant tucked into Pike Place, that my boyfriend and I headed this Bastille Day, mainly because it would be easiest to get to after work. I was also intrigued by their promise of live music and burlesque…

It was a beautiful, sunny day for a celebration.

We were gifted with stunning blue swathes of sky, warm but not too-warm weather, and the mellowest of afternoon breezes.

La fête took place beginning inside the cafe and spilling out and over the patio, filling the alleyway with throngs of people. It did feel very French with all of us cramped into this little cobblestoned space.

As promised, we were treated to live music, a small group of older gentlemen playing string instruments. They played the type of music you’d expect to hear in a French film, and one song that I assume from the reaction of the crowd was the French national anthem.

I loved that everyone was dressed up- some people with an over the top costume with stripes and berets, some just influenced by the simplicity and classic timelessness of French style. Everyone, some ladies I waited in the bathroom line with pointed out, had beautiful shoes (except yours truly, who was wearing the same shoes pictured in the With Sparkling Eyes heading- parts of the soles are beginning to peel off, but I wore them in Paris!).

There was also, of course, French food. We headed inside the cafe and ordered some pain au fromage et confiture de tomate, vin rouge, et des macarons chocolat! 

As with any good French restaurant, the inside was low ceiling-ed and had seating around the edges of the room, encouraging interaction between patrons. Dusty bottles of red wine lined the shelves and the menu was written in French.

I’m addicted to chocolate macarons!

After sitting inside beside a guy shucking oysters and enjoying our little meal, we returned to alley in time to catch an accordionist before the burlesque show.

He looked the part, with that cigarette oh-so-casually dangling from his lips. After he had been paying a while, Shanghai Pearl, Seattle burlesque artist, came out and performed a cheeky little bit to some classic French songs.

 

Finally, we headed home, but first stopped for a cup of coffee (I’d gotten up for work at 5am and was beginning to feel it).

But isn’t that a pretty French way to end an evening?

Local exploration, Uncategorized

The Lupine Lady

When I was young, my grandparents read to me. 

I recall certain stories time and again in the nuances of their voices, the personas they would take on for each new character. I had to ask my grandfather what he meant when Brer Rabbit threatened to give the Tar Baby “a lickin'” in one of Uncle Remus’ stories, but never tired of the racous Southern accent he only aqcuired during those bedtime readings.

My grandmother read gentler stories to me, Blueberries for Sal and old folktales- I remember a story about a girl who rode wild horses, another about a Chinese woman who followed a rice dumpling into great caverns beneath the earth.

Most of all, I remember a story that I always referred to as “the lupine lady”, though it’s actual title is “Miss Rumphius.”

Miss Alice Rumphius, the star of this tale, grew up wanting to be like her grandfather, travelling the world and living by the sea. Her grandfather told her she should do just that, as long as she remembered to do one other thing.


She must find a way to make the world more beautiful.

 

She ends up doing as she desires, travelling and exploring the world, until she hurts her back and finds a home by the sea. She grows ill and is stuck inside, but her mood is brightened by the lupines she sees from her window. When she heals she spreads lupine seeds around the countryside and watches them grow over the years for the enjoyment of all, delighting in fulfilling her grandfather’s wish.

 

I remember wandering around tossing my very own lupine seeds throughout my childhood, enchanted by the idea of them popping up all over the place as soon as I looked away. It became common in my family to point out lupines every time we saw them on a walk, or peering from car windows on a road trip.

As a child, though, I missed the greater meaning of the story- that we should all make it a point to give the world something beautiful. To leave a legacy that isn’t related to money or fame, just something that makes this world more pleasant to live in.

It doesn’t have to be something great. It doesn’t have to be something powerful or expensive.

It just has to be something beautiful, and it can be as simple as a handful of lupines.

 

Thank you so much to Lilly of Colibri Blooms, who invited me to a prance around in a massive field of lupines with one of her devastatingly beautiful bouquets, and Seattle Urban Farm Company‘s Hilary Dahl, who was the photographer for our impromptu lupine-filled morning. Check out Lilly’s Instagram @colibri.blooms for more breathtaking flower arrangements and @seatleurbanfarmco for more of Hilary’s photography.

How will you make the world more beautiful?

Local exploration, Uncategorized

An Afternoon at Woodland Park’s Rose Garden

Woodland Park’s Rose Garden is one of Seattle’s best hidden gems.

Perhaps because Portland’s much larger rose garden is the real draw for floral enthusiasts, this small plot of land next to the Woodland Park Zoo is always quiet and often sparsely populated.

Tourists in Hawaiian shirts with loud voices and selfie sticks tend to stay away, creating the perfect secluded spot for a relaxing weekend retreat.

 

The garden is arranged beautifully, in a manner that reminds me of Le Jardin des Tuileries in Paris. There’s a small fountain in the middle with a walkway around it, circled by styled shrubbery and with paths leading off around the roses. You can sit in a gazebo, underneath some rose-covered trellises or on one of plenty of benches in the shade.

In an effort to soak up the late afternoon sun, my boyfriend and I spread out a blanket on the grass surrounded by bushes of flowers. We’d stopped at PCC beforehand and brought with us a spread of treats: strawberries, figs, smoked ham and jalepeno crackers, baby carrots, snap peas, and a bar of my favorite Dick & Taylor chocolate.

We relaxed enjoying the scent of trees and flowers, him playing guitar and me reading. It really is astonishing how quiet and serene this little garden is, considering it’s proximity to a zoo and several high-traffic roads. While we were there a handful of children passed us, playing hide and seek or riding bikes, and another group of people appeared to be meditating in the opposite corner of the garden. I was surprised not to see more people out enjoying the beauty of the late afternoon, the luxury of sunshine in Seattle and the absolute tranquility of the park.

It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.

 To me, anywhere you can spend an afternoon with your shoes off, toes dirtied from frolicking between flowerbeds, shoulders tanned from laying in the sun with a good book (in this case, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth) and lips sticky with summer-ripe strawberries is a place worth adventuring to. When you live in a city it’s all the more crucial that you seek out these moments to connect with nature, to relax from the rushed, hectic pace of the workweek.

This week, find your oasis. Spend time outside. Get your feet dirty.

 

Breathe.