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Why People Are Speaking About The New York Speakeasies

cocktail-new-york

Although the best cocktail bars in New York City are widely publicized and highly frequented, there are others that are kept under wraps – way under. Hidden bars, or Speakeasies, are increasing in popularity throughout NYC, giving people an exclusive thrill and throwback to Prohibition. But of course no good secret remains a secret, right? So here is a list of some of the best kept “secret” hidden bars in NYC.

Top Secret is Trending

Ever since we saw Leonardo DiCaprio on screen as the dashing Jay Gatsby, everyone has been clamoring to experience the Roaring 20’s, and this includes Speakeasies. This is not only an NYC phenomenon, there is a slew of hidden bars in other prominent American cities, like Chicago, and an increasing interest throughout Asia as well, where Speakeasies can be found in Shanghai and Tokyo, among others.

So how are these bars becoming known about if they are so secret? Well through the wonderful modern day word-of-mouth: social media networks.brooklyn bridge at night 2015

Three Classes of NYC Speakeasies

Private

These Speakeasies are about as private as it gets. They don’t even have a website and yet they are still receiving quite a buzz. People are reviewing these locations on Yelp and mentioning them across social networks, including blogs and online newspapers. They are somehow intelligently gaining all the benefits of social media marketing without actually making themselves officially present online. It is a bit of a wonder, and yet it is exactly this secrecy that is making them so appealing and a thing to be talked about.radisson blu royal cocktails

  • Attaboy – so under wraps that they don’t even have a menu, just tell the bartender what your poison is and they will create a completely original custom-made mix for you. To find the bar, look for the window with the neon “A” on Eldridge Street, Lower East Side.
  • B Flat – wander down Church Street, Tribeca, and look for the black door marked with 277. Head down the stairs and be greeted by the live jazz performances that make this Speakeasy feel like it’s really from the 1920’s.

Semi-private

These semi-private locations do have websites for the bars, usually including some kind of contact info – phone number or email address – through which you can make reservations, and may or may not disclose the address of the establishment. But no more than that do they divulge.hooch cocktail manila

  • Fig 19 – hidden behind the Loge Gallery, on Chrystie Street, Lower East Side. The entrance isn’t glamorous, but once inside, glittering chandeliers make you realize that this is a secret treasure.
  • PDT – an acronym for Please Don’t Tell, located at St. Marks Place, East Village – accessible through the vintage telephone booth in the Crif Dogs restaurant. Simply ring the buzzer and a hostess will open the phone booth and usher you inside.

hooch cocktails philippines

Online, but oozing Speakeasy class

And of course some of these Speakeasies are fully equipped with a website and all of the necessary social media accounts, but are still dedicated to giving that Speakeasy experience. And since their entrances are hidden, they still qualify as a “hidden bar,” even if their location is publicized. Furthermore, it still requires people to stumble upon them – whether in the street or online – so they are still not widely known about.

  • The Back Room – located on Norfolk Street, Lower East Side, this is an original Speakeasy from American Prohibition. It therefore has a historical right, as well as a good atmosphere, to be included on this list. Patrons can visit the bar through the same hidden entrance behind the bookcase that was used by patrons over 85 years ago. Look for Lower East Side Toy Company to find the spot, enter through the gate and head down the flight of steps.
  • Raines Law Room – look for the unmarked stairwell on West 17th Street, and head down and ring the bell. You will be escorted into a cozy room with couches and hear music from the 1920’s lightly playing in the background. Need a refill? Pull the lamp string to turn on your table light and a waiter will come straight over.
  • Beauty and Essex – head through the fully-functional modern day pawn shop front entrance and head towards the back to the circular staircase. Head up towards the bar for a Rat Pack kind of evening.

new york central park drink

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35 Places I Love In Seattle

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I’ve decided to change things up a little bit with my Things I Love About… series. Instead of telling you all the things I love about Seattle, I’ll share 35 places I loved with you (It was supposed to be 33 places, but somehow I ended up with 35!)

These are my personal favorites from a month in Seattle, so this list is pretty biased and focuses on the things that I love: craft beer, parks, speakeasy bars, great views, cool neighborhoods, food, and of course COFFEE.

I feel like I only got a taste of Seattle during my four weeks there, and with so many rained-out days, I also didn’t get around to visiting all the places I had on my to-do-list, so please consider this list by no means complete. These are some of the places I loved, so feel free to use this post for some inspiration for things to check out on a trip to Seattle. For practical information, scroll down to the end.seattle miners landing

1 Golden Gardens

This gorgeous beach in the north of Seattle made me wish I was visiting during the summer months, but even on the chilly October day I visited it made for a nice autumn walk along the beach. There are several hiking trails and two wetlands in the park. I think this is also an amazing spot to watch the sunset.seattle golden gardens

top pots doughnut2 Top Pots Doughnuts

I’ve done thorough research on the topic of doughnuts during my time in Seattle, and can attest that Top Pots have the best doughnuts in town (their Apple Fritter is to die for). If you’re a doughnut lover, I’d recommend skipping the highly praised General Porpoise and heading straight to one of the Top Pots branches instead.

3 Joe Block Park

This little gem of a park is a place I would’ve never found, had a friendly local not pointed me towards it. A little-known park (even for Seattlites!) it is a little tricky to find, but well worth getting lost. It is located in West Seattle, close to the port, and basically on the way to Alki Beach. But since it is closer to Downtown Seattle than Alki, the views here are actually better (Alki is also known for fantastic views over Seattle). There is a walking pier that has an observation deck with benches at the end, offering sweeping views over Downtown Seattle and Puget Sound. I loved this place and would go back for a sunset picnic next time.seattle skyline at sunset

4 Storyville Café

Another place to while away a rainy day? Storyville Café! The coffee is excellent, and the pastries are divine. I’ve only been to their branch in the Queen Anne neighborhood so I don’t know if all of their cafes have fire places, but that definitely added to the coziness factor. There is also a branch right by Pike Place Market.seattle coffee2

5 Seward Park

I loved this little park which occupies the Bailey Peninsula in Lake Washington so much that I dedicated an entire Polaroid Of The Week to it – I loved the paved trail that goes around the entire peninsula along the water, and the dirt trails that lead up the hill through the forest. If you make it here, I recommend combining it with a meal in the cool Raconteur restaurant (inside a bookstore, always worth going in, if you love books as much as I do) or a coffee at Caffe Vita (see below) in the nearby Seward Park neighborhood.Seattle Seward Park1

6 Café Chocolaticafe chocolatti seattle

Luckily for both  my waistline and my wallet, I only discovered this place during my last week in town (and still managed to visit twice). This is seriously some of the best hot chocolate outside of Paris, where I’ve had the thickest, richest hot chocolate in my life. A cup of it is basically a meal in itself. My favorite: the Dark Vader (Raspberry Hot Chocolate). Extra tip: You get a free truffle on your first visit. Yes, they know how to make you addicted. I don’t think there’s a better place to spend a rainy afternoon than at one of the five Chocolati cafés. (The downtown branch is in the Public Library which is also worth a visit).

7 Fremont

This neighborhood in the north of Seattle describes itself as the ‘Center Of The Universe’. While I am not sure how much I agree with that, I loved the artsy vibe in this neighborhood: there are plenty of sculptures, some street art and even a troll who lives under the Aurora Bridge and is cherished by the locals. So yes, Fremont is one of Seattle’s quirkier neighborhoods. If you go, don’t miss the Theo Chocolate Factory Tour – it’s only $10 and includes a chocolate sampling. There’s also a factory shop worth visiting should you not make it on a tour.seattle fremont street art

8 Olympic Sculpture Park

The Olympic Sculpture Park sits right on the shores of Puget Sound and belongs to the Seattle Art Museum. If you’re into art, both are worth a visit. The Art Museum is free on the first Thursday of every month.seattle olympic sculpture park

9 Gas Works Park

I loved this park for its stunning views over Lake Union and since it is sitting on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company, a gasification plant, the rusty remnants of the plants make for awesome photo ops. Every time I went there on a sunny day, the meadows were filled with sun worshippers. Just like Freeway Park, this is a park that’s unlike any other park I’ve been to.Gasworks Park Seattle

10 JhanJay

Even if you’re not a vegetarian, I highly recommend stopping by JhanJay’s, where I had the best vegetarian Thai food outside of Thailand. There are two branches – one in Ballard and one in Wallingford. You’ll thank me later.seattle thai food

11 Frye Art Museum

Another great art museum – and this one is FREE all the time! Located in the First Hill neighborhood, you can walk to the Frye Museum from downtown.

12 Alki Beach

This might be my favorite beach in Seattle – and a great place to run or walk. Alki Beach is 3.1 miles (5k) long and offers sweeping vistas of Downtown Seattle. It’s a little out of the way in West Seattle, but if you have a car, it’s worth going there and you could combine it with Mexican food & drink happy hour at Cactus, or a doughnut breakfast at Top Pots, artisan pizza at Phoenicia or more scrumptious burritos at El Chupacabra (scroll down to #26 for more details).seattle alki beach sunset

13 The Top Of The Smith Tower

Head up to the newly revamped Temperance Café and Bar on the 35th floor observatory deck of the Smith Tower. Not only do you get tasty Prohibition Era-inspired cocktails here, but also amazing views over Seattle. Tickets have to be reserved in advance, and you can choose between tickets for the bar or simply the observation deck.

14 Georgetown

Seattle’s oldest neighborhood is industrial and still feels a little gritty, but it is quickly becoming super hip and makes for a fun afternoon: there are a couple of cool coffee shops (The Conservatory and All City), a superb Mexican restaurant (Fonda La Catrina), Georgetown Liquor Company and a couple of small breweries (Georgetown Brewing Co and Machine House Brewery), all a short walk from one another, and there is also some cool street art to admire.Georgetown Seattle

15 Ballard Locks

The Ballard Locks are a complex of locks in the Lake Washington Ship Canal at the west end of Salmon Bay. Apparently they carry more boat traffic than any other locks in the U.S. which makes it fun to hang around for a while and watch the water being drained or elevated in order to let ships pass through. Don’t miss the salmon viewing station on the south side of the locks – here, you can watch salmon migrate up the fish ladder between June and October.Ballard Locks Seattle

16 Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizza

I am a huge pizza snob, especially after spending so much time in New York City. Domino’s or Papa John’s? Hell no. Never! If I treat myself to a pizza, I want a thin-crust, Neapolitan-style pizza. I spent quite a while researching the best Neapolitan-style pizza in Seattle and finally settled on Tutta Bella, which has five branches in the Seattle area, and hit the spot. On my list to try next time I’m in Seattle: Via Tribunali, Pizza Credo and Veraci.tutta bella pizza seattle

17 Kerry Park

Even though I wouldn’t necessarily call this little lookout a park, I’d definitely recommend visiting it for its amazing views over Seattle’s skyline and Elliott Bay. If you’re lucky and the weather is good, you’ll even see Mount Rainier from here. While you’re there, why not check out Queen Anne Ave just a few blocks north of Kerry Park? The 5 Spot is great for a casual dinner, or further up the road, How To Cook A Wolf is a more upscale Italian restaurant. The aforementioned Storyville coffee shop is also on Queen Anne Ave.seattle kerry park

18 Fremont Sunday market

I’ve already mentioned Fremont, but the Sunday market deserves an extra mention. A mix of flea market, handicraft market and food market, it makes a fantastic Sunday activity and you can easily combine it with a stroll around the rest of the neighborhood. The nearby Milstead & Co has been awarded the title of the best coffee shop in all of Washington several times.seattle fremont market indian street food

19 Rainbow Crosswalks in Capitol Hill

Of course Capitol Hill isn’t only worth a visit for its rainbow crosswalks, but also for its lively bar scene. What used to be Seattle’s gayborhood has branched out a little more over the past few years (some might want to say the neighborhood has gentrified) it is still the city’s prime gay hot spot.seattle capitol hill rainbow crossing

20 Wildrose

Speaking of gayborhood – Wildrose is not only Seattle’s only lesbian bar, but also one of the last remaining lesbian bars on the West Coast, and the longest running lesbian bar in the country. Most fun on Wednesdays for karaoke.

21 Espresso Vivace

Another outstanding coffee shop and coffee roaster in Seattle, Espresso Vivace has been around since 1988 and has three locations in Seattle. I loved the ‘quiet rooms’ in both locations I visited, and it didn’t hurt that their biscotti were mouth-wateringly tasty, too. Vivace was also awarded the title of ‘Washington’s best coffee shop’.seattle coffee4

22 The Gumwall

It’s gross, it’s weird, but it is also something you should definitely see. There’s also some cool street art in Post Alley, where the gum wall is, and since it’s right by Pike Place Market, it’d be silly not to check it out while you’re there.

Gumwall Seattle

23 Pike Place Market

And while we’re at it: Pike Place Market is on every Seattle visitor’s to-do-list, I think, and I expected it to be super touristy. However, I was surprised to see just how many locals do their fresh produce shopping here, especially in the fish section. Another surprise: how many good restaurants there are in Pike Place. I loved Country Dough, Pieroshky Pieroshky, Pike Place Chowder, Three Girls Bakery, and I still have some places on my to-do-list for my next visit, like the Pink Door, as I didn’t make it there during this visit.Pike Place Public Market Seattle

24 Speakeasy Bars

I love speakeasy bars, and so I was excited to find out there were quite a few bars in Seattle where I could splurge on a tasty cocktail in a fancy setting. While I was disappointed that Bathtub Gin doesn’t have any resemblance to its New York counterpart (nope, no bathtub in there!), it’s still a speakeasy-style bar. The Needle & Threat, inside the Tavern Bar, is probably Seattle’s most iconic speakeasy bar, so make sure to reserve a table in advance. Backdoor at Roxy’s in the back of Roxy’s Diner in Fremont is another classic speakeasy, as is The Knee High Stocking Company in Capitol Hill. The above mentioned Temperance Bar on top of the Smith Tower is also a speakeasy.

25 Kubota Garden

This Japanese Garden in the south of Seattle is the perfect urban oasis. I went for some tranquility and self-reflection and couldn’t have chosen a better spot. What makes Kubota Garden special? 20 acre of greenscape that blends Japanese garden concepts with native Northwest plants. And the best thing? It’s FREE!seattle kubota gardens

26 El Chupacabra: Burritos & Tacos

The best burrito I found during my time in Seattle – I loved the atmosphere in their Phinney Ridge branch (self-described ‘Mexican cantina with punk rock roots’ – to give you an idea), but the Alki Beach branch beats it with its waterfront location. No matter which El Chupacabra (the 3rd one is in South Lake Union) you head to, the food and drinks won’t disappoint.

Side note: Another amazing taco place is Tacos Chukis.el chupacabra seattle

27 Green Lake Trail

The 2.8-mile trail that loops around Green Lake was one of my favorites and I bet it is even more gorgeous in the summer. I was told you can even swim in the lake! Reward yourself after a walk around the lake with some no-frills diner fare at Beth’s Café.seattle greenlake park

28 Pie Bar

Pie and liquor – need I say more? A combination that can’t be beat! If you don’t care about a drink with your pie, get a slice to go at the take-out window. And if one pie place isn’t enough, check out: Pie in Fremont, Pie Bar Ballard (owned by the twin sisters who own the original Pie Bar in Capitol Hill) and A La Mode Pies.seattle pie

29 Columbia City

I stumbled upon this neighborhood when somebody recommend Empire Espresso to me, which happens to be in Columbia City. Apparently, it is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the entire country, with European and East African immigrants, Orthodox Jews and other cultural groups. I ended up returning several times to check out other places like Geraldine’s (great breakfasts), Columbia City Bakery and Flying Lion Brewing. I loved the ‘villagy’ feel of Columbia City and how walkable it was.

30 Biscuit Bitch

I didn’t even like biscuits & gravy, but Biscuit Bitch has converted me. After eating breakfast there I wanted to go back every single day. They have three branches in Downtown Seattle, including one right by Pike Place Market (the Belltown branch is usually less busy). Expect Southern-Inspired breakfast dishes with an emphasis on, you’ve guessed it, biscuits and gravy. Vegetarian? Gluten-free? Not a problem!seattle biscuit bitch

31 Caffé Vita

Yes, another coffee shop! Caffe Vita recently opened a branch in Bushwick, one of my favorite Brooklyn neighborhoods, and in L.A.’s hip Silver Lake neighborhood, and that’s an indication of what kind of coffee shop Caffe Vita is: definitely a hipster hangout. The small independent coffee roastery focuses on sustainable farm-to-cup relationships with local coffee farmers in Latin America and their baristas are incredibly knowledgeable about the coffee they offer.

32 Freeway Park

This might not be Seattle’s prettiest park, but it is surely its most unique: it was built on top of a freeway, as the name suggests. It is an interesting park – a series of irregular plazas that are intertwined and mixes concrete walls with planting containers and trees. I’ve never seen a park like this anywhere in the world.seattle freeway park

33 Cowgirl Espressobikini barista seattle

I can’t write about Seattle without mentioning the bikini baristas, which are a unique component of Washington and Oregon (plus one bikini barista coffee shop in Hawaii). They’re basically little roadside shacks in which scantily dressed girls serve caffeinated drinks. Even though they’re called bikini baristas, they don’t always wear a bikini – sometimes, it’s just a tiny string and a couple of strategically placed stickers. These coffee shops – despite serving excellent coffee – aren’t without controversy, as you might expect, and this video has some insights on bikini baristas, if you’d like to learn more about them.

seattle fremont brewery

34 Microbreweries

It was too hard for me to pick only one here, so I’ll just leave you with microbrews in general, and some suggestions. I love that Seattle has a microbrewery in nearly every neighborhood! Ballard seems to have the largest number in a relatively small space (8 breweries in a 2-mile radius!), and I recommend this brewery crawl as suggest by Thrillist. For a complete list of all microbreweries in Seattle, check out Eater’s Essential Guide To Seattle’s Top Breweries.

35 Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room

I can feel you’re rolling your eyes now, but hear me out: I have to admit that I never understood the long lines in front of the original Starbucks, the first ever Starbucks in Pike Place Market which is visited by hordes of tourists every day, rain or shine. And I didn’t even want to go inside the Reserve Roastery, but one day I happened to walk by there and thought: heck why not. And I was impressed! It’s nothing like your regular Starbucks. The 15,000-square-foot space is half coffee roaster, half coffee shop, and has a coffee specialty bar where you can order siphon coffee or an espresso flight – things you don’t get at any other Starbucks.Seattle Starbucks Reserve & Roasting Room

Practical Information

How to get around

I found public transportation in Seattle rather difficult to use (unless you have an unlimited amount of time on your hands) but the Link Light Rail is pretty good for parts of the city and brings you all the way to the airport for only $2.75 (runs every 10 mins and takes about 40 mins from downtown to SEA-TAC).

If you don’t have a car but want to get to some of the further away neighborhoods and attractions, I recommend the Lyft app (cheaper than Uber and they are nicer!).

If you are looking to rent a car, I recommend Rentalcars.com (they are not paying me to say anything nice about them, I just had a great experience with them on my recent trip to LA and got a great rate).seattle lake union Where to stay

Most big hotels are right downtown, which is practical for most sightseeing. Check out Booking.com for the best deals. If you’re on a budget, the Green Tortoise is an excellent hostel right by Pike Place Market. They even offer free tours in Seattle and out-of-town, taco nights and other cool extras.downtown seattle Other resources

  • For food and drink recommendations, check out Thrillist Seattle.
  • Pick up a copy of The Stranger, Seattle’s free alternative culture magazine, which is available in bars around town, or check out their weekly listings online.
  • For things to do and attractions, browse TimeOut Seattle.

seattle mount rainier view

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Polaroid Of The Week: Seattle’s gorgeous Seward Park

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa seattle seward parkEven though I am already on my quick unplanned stopover in Los Angeles as I type this, I wanted to share one of my favorite running & hiking spots in Seattle with you, which I was lucky enough to get to see in the sun again before it started raining for the last couple of days of my stay (thanks for the wet goodbye, Seattle!).

One of my favorite things about Seattle is the fact that you’re never far from water. No matter if it was Puget Sound to the West (which is an inlet of the Pacific Ocean) or Lake Union between northern Downtown and Fremont, or Lake Washington to the East – there’s water everywhere.

I even got to check out Greenlake in northern Seattle during my last week in town, which has a great running trail around the lake, but I missed out on the Burke-Gilman Trail along Lake Washington my friends had recommended to me – I guess I’ll have to return to Seattle at some point (but preferably in the summer).

Two of my favorite running routes: Along Alki Beach in West Seattle, from where you have amazing views over Downtown Seattle, especially during sunset, and Seward Park in the southeastern part of town, which occupies the small forested Bailey peninsula in Lake Washington. This little peninsula is completely covered in a lush rain forest and has not only a trail that runs straight around the peninsula, but also several trail inside the forest, and an amphitheater in a forest clearing on top of the hill. I’d love to come back there in the summer for an outdoors performance and enjoy the long daylight hours in Seattle.

Goodbye for now, Seattle, and I’m sure I’ll see you again one day…

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Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: October 2016 Edition

october-2016

In my monthly round-ups, I am looking back at my travels over the past four weeks, what went well and what didn’t, and what’s next for me. 

Where I’ve been

It’s been a while since I last spent an entire month in only one place but in October, I sat still: I spent the entire month in Seattle! Except for a few visits to Tacoma, I didn’t leave the city limits. That doesn’t mean it was a boring month though: In the past four weeks, I explored as much of Seattle’s many neighborhoods as possible.

Seattle

Life lately

October was interesting, to say the least. From not knowing at all where to go after Seattle, to making awesome travel plans, only to have them fall through two days before my scheduled departure from Seattle. I am going to be honest here: October has been somewhat of a difficult and challenging month – more lowlights than I’m happy about, but I guess that’s all part of the journey. The still (!) ongoing issues with my website caused me tears, grey hair and me almost giving up on this little website, but instead I pushed through and it looks like all web-related issues are finally resolved (I changed to a different hosting plan because the site had outgrown my previous one).Seattle

Luckily, Seattle has been equally as rewarding as challenging – it was my first time here and I had been looking forward to exploring the Pacific Northwest for a while. However, the weather gods weren’t on my side this month. The weather was miserable for most of October. On Friday I heard on the news that it was the wettest October since the beginning of weather recordings. Often, my sightseeing and exploring plans were rained out. I had forgotten how much this can influence my mood – and not in a good way. It reminded me a lot of the dreadful fall weather I’d endured for four years while living in the UK – a good reminder why I left London in 2010.SEATTLEWhenever the sun decided to show itself, I had an amazing time in Seattle, and tried to make the most of it by visiting beaches and parks, explore different neighborhoods around town, and meet up with friends. Let’s look back at the highlights first:Seattle fremont

Highlights

Hanging out with some of my favorite people

One of the reasons why I wanted to come to Seattle? Because I happen to know several people who live here, who I was keen on visiting, including the cutest babies on the planet. And much to my delight I later found out that even more awesome people would be in town during my stay here, including Katie, who already came to see me in Tucson earlier this year, Dalene and Pete (two of my favorite bloggers, and two people who I absolutely adore) and Brock, who I had missed this year several times – he was on his way from Mexico to Colombia when I headed to Mexico from Colombia and I missed him in New York by a mere day. With Brock, I got to go on the awesome Boos and Booze Tour that our friends Chris and Tawny run in Tacoma, (and who took me out to my first ever pumpkin patch, see below) and with Katie I ate as many doughnuts and pies as humanly possible.seattle friends

New friends

Of course I also made some new friends during my stay, and actually met some really interesting people. I have to thank Tarun for taking me to my first ever bikini barista espresso shop (um, apparently that’s a thing here in Washington State!?), Shannon for the lesbian bitch session, Eric for knowing all the best coffee shops and for telling me about Seward Park (which became my favorite running spot in the city), and so many more. Without all these guys I wouldn’t have bar crawled around Capitol Hill, tasted local craft brews in Fremont, explored Kubota Gardens, found the little known Joe Block Park with its great panoramic views over downtown Seattle, or gone out to Snoqualmie Falls, to name just a few things.seattle wa

So much good coffee

The weather might not be the best in Seattle, but luckily there are enough coffee shops to duck into when it rains – 1,692 to be precise. I knew that coffee was big in Seattle, but to be honest, I had no idea just how big. In addition to bigger chains (Starbucks, ahem), there are too many coffee houses to try in four short weeks – I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface! There are 253 coffee shops per 100,000 residents in Seattle, and more coffee is consumed here than in any other U.S. city. Being a huge coffee lover, I was more than happy to try as many coffee shops as possible.seattle coffee love

My first pumpkin patch

I’ve already dedicated a Polaroid Of The Week to this, but I just want to highlight it again: I visited my first pumpkin patch and had such a fun day out at Maris Farms with my friends Tawny and Chris. Roasted corn, a corn maze and apple cider, plus the hilarious goat walk and more bikini baristas on the way there and back (I will probably write a separate post about bikini baristas, so you’ll have to wait to see pictures…) – it was such a fun day!Pumpkin Patch Seattle

Embracing fall

On that note: I don’t know when I started to love fall so much, but pumpkin carving, Halloween, the colorful fall leaves and apple orchards make me so happy! While fall surely isn’t always great, especially in the Pacific Northwest (see lowlights below!), it does have it perks: the colors of the changing leaves are just so beautiful, especially when you’ve got clear blue skies, making for a great contrast to the bright yellow and red leaves. I can’t get enough of the vibrant autumn colors – but I will never be okay with pumpkin spiced-everything. When did we have to eat and drink everything pumpkin-spiced in the fall? That said: I had a really good pumpkin spice IPA beer in Tacoma 🙂Seattle fall vibes

Lowlights

A stupid & pricey mistake

This month was much pricier than I expected it to be: First I had to replace my broken phone (see last month’s roundup), and then an incident happened that I could have done without: I hit a car. I am still beating myself up about it. After driving so much this year (I had a car in Austin, in Tucson, in L.A., in Mexico and in Germany – all incident-free!), one should think I’d had driving in reverse figured out by now.. but apparently I have not.cheer up fuck face

So.much.rain.

One thing I found really difficult this month was dealing with all the rain. I’ve already mentioned it several times, but yes, I admit that I would’ve had a much better time in Seattle had it been less rainy, wet, grey and cold.

Seattle Washington
When the sun shines, Seattle is gorgeous!

Dealing with a short-notice flight cancellation

I was supposed to board a flight from L.A. to Istanbul on 2 November, where I was going to attend a travel conference at the end of the month. I decided to base myself in Istanbul for the entire month and take a couple of trips from there (including a quick trip to Germany to surprise my family). However, the conference was postponed until next spring, which I only found out two days before my scheduled flight. I don’t think in all of my years of traveling I’ve ever felt stranded like this.

Seattle
More time in the Pacific Northwest instead?

Other happenings

Feature in Connextions Magazine

The LGBT Travel & Lifestyle Magazine Connextions featured me and nine other LGBT travel experts in their ‘Travel Heels’ issue – check out the online issue of the magazine here for the interview.Connextions Magazine

Tiny house living

If you’ve read last month’s round-up, you might remember that I briefly mentioned ‘tiny house living’. That’s where I spent my month in Seattle: in a beautiful tiny house. I’ve been fascinated by the tiny house movement for a while now and when the opportunity arose to try tiny house living for a month, I couldn’t pass it up. I am a minimalist, after all, and wanted to know how I’d feel about living in a very small space, because even though I can fit pretty much everything I own in a couple of suitcases, I never lived in a tiny space like that. Because that’s how small it is – tinier even than a New York studio. The verdict? I’d totally live in one again, but I think a month in a tiny house is my limit. While I didn’t miss having a lot of space (although working out in the tiny house was pretty difficult), I missed having a big kitchen and a big oven. The tiny house only had a convection oven and two stove tops, which limited me in my cooking and baking activities, but other than that, I was amazed to see how much you could fit in such a small space, and how cozy it was.

Seattle tiny house
Tiny house cat, tiny house kitchen, and tiny house selfie 🙂

What’s next for me

To be honest, now that my planned month in Istanbul fell through, I haven’t really figured out what to do instead. I have a flight to L.A. on 2 November, from where I was supposed to fly to Istanbul. I’ll be now spending a few days in Los Angeles instead, and hopefully come up with a plan where I want to spend the next four weeks. I can’t tell you where my next round-up will come from, but I have a feeling it’ll be a sunny and warm place 😉

seattle mount rainier view
I never made it to Mount Rainier. Guess I’ll have to return to the Pacific Northwest one day…
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Polaroid Of The Week: Seattle By Night

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa seattle by nightWhat a week it’s been! The sun has shown itself more often than expected (and much more than the previous week), and I used every opportunity to get out and explore as much of the city as possible. I ticked all kinds of things off of my Seattle-to-do-list, like a stroll through the Olympic Sculpture Park and along Alki Beach, a visit to the locks in Ballard and a short hike through Discovery Park. The sunny weather had me check out all kinds of parks this week, from Union Lake Park and Seward Park to Freeway Park and Volunteer Park.

I went out on more neighborhood explorations and, thanks to Katie being in town, I also got to enjoy lots of good food and craft beer. It even stayed dry long enough to check out the Sunday market in Fremont, and we headed to Golden Gardens, which turned out to be a lovely beach instead of a garden, but ended up being one of my favorite finds last week. I think I definitely have to come back to Seattle in the summer, especially after reading 17 Reasons Seattle Summers Dominate All Other Summers – I can only imagine how packed the beaches get and how awesome it must be to be out on the water, be it on a paddle board or in a sailboat, and to enjoy outdoor movies in the park. One of the highlights of the week was going up to Kerry Park, which is known for its splendid views over downtown Seattle, where I took this week’s Polaroid on Katie’s last night in town.

I’ve still got a bunch of places on my Seattle-to-see list for my last full week in Seattle – so fingers crossed the weather stays as nice as it has been the past couple of days!

If you’ve been to Seattle and have recommendations for me, feel free to share them in the comments 🙂

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Polaroid Of The Week: A Rare Sunny Autumn Day In Seattle

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa seattle gas works park viewsOh Seattle… I don’t even know where to start with you.

I wish I would’ve written this on Wednesday morning after my beautiful run through Seward Park with gorgeous views of Lake Washington in almost all directions (since the park sits on a peninsula). Wednesday morning was so nice that I thought to myself: ‘I’ll have to take half a day off and take advantage of this beautiful fall weather!’.

Well, while I was still researching things I could do outdoors that afternoon, the weather suddenly turned and it started pouring. And it hasn’t stopped since. I’ve seen more rain since I got here that I’ve seen in the entire previous nine months of 2016 combined! Those of you who’ve been following me for a while know that I am a summer girl, a sun chaser.

I knew it was risky (weather-wise) to come to Seattle in October, but honestly, I didn’t think it was going to be that bad. A major storm is headed towards the Pacific Northwest now, expected to hit Saturday afternoon, and the dreadful weather is supposed to linger for at least another week.

Since I’ll have a visitor in town over the next few days and lots of outdoorsy activities planned, I can’t say that I’m too happy about all this rain (how is it possible to rain so much?!) but I hope we’ll find some stuff to keep us entertained, and luckily there are plenty of coffee shops to duck into, possibly my favorite thing about Seattle so far.

However, I have to say that every time the sun peeked out I liked what I saw of Seattle as I have been slowly exploring the various neighborhoods. I’ve seen Fremont (artsy and hip), Capitol Hill (Seattle’s gayborhood, but no Capitol to be found there), parts of downtown (pretty much like any North American downtown), Georgetown (Seattle’s oldest neighborhood, former industrial turning into up and coming chic), Columbia City (residential yet diverse, with lots of cute little eateries).

The views over Lake Washington, Puget Sound and Lake Union (pictured) are gorgeous when the sun is out, so I hope I’ll get to see more of these fabulous vistas before I leave Seattle.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Street Art In Silver Lake, Los Angeles

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa california los angeles silver lake

While I admittedly didn’t get around to doing everything I had on my Los Angeles To-Do-List due to my tight work schedule this month, I managed to return to some of my favorite neighborhoods like Santa Monica Venice and West Hollywood,, but there was one neighborhood I really wanted to see before leaving LA: Silver Lake.

This neighborhood had been described to me as the Brooklyn of LA or the Williamsburg of LA, to be more precise And not only that Forbes Magazine even went as far as giving Silver Lake the top spot on its inaugural list of America’s Best Hipster Neighborhoods and CNN Money followed by putting it in the Top Ten of its list of best big city neighborhoods in the U.S.

So of course I had to check this uber hip neighborhood for myself to see what all the fuss was about.

The stretch of Sunset Boulevard that runs though Silver Lake felt indeed very Williamsburg-like, and just like the famous hipster neighborhood in Brooklyn, it is lined with trendy cafes, quirky independent shops and little eateries, and street art fills many a wall stretching into the side streets off of Sunset Blvd.

I couldn’t help but fling in love with silver like within fifteen minutes of getting there – this is definitely my kind of neighborhood! Unpretentious, with inventive yet affordable restaurants but also hole-in-the-wall Mexican street food, funky bars and shops that go beyond your usual chain stores: instead you find spice stores, comic book stores and guitar shops.

There are two basins – the neighborhood’s namesake Silver Lake Reservoir and the Ivanhoe Reservoir, both offering walking and running paths and a natural setting to escape the noise along the busy main streets. Speaking of walking: I found Silver Lake to be walkable and cycleable, something that can’t be said for all neighborhoods in this car traffic-heavy city.

I wish I would’ve had time to check out the bar scene on my visit but I guess it is good to have an excuse to come back to Silver Lake next time I’m in L.A.!

 

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Polaroid Of The Week: L.A. At My Feet

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa california hollywood sign los angeles

This week I finally made it up to the famous Hollywood sign – a hike that I’ve been wanting to do for a while. After two failed attempts (traffic, cloudy skies), I found myself scrambling up the rocks to a small hill above and behind the actual sign, which me and my hiking buddy reached after about an hour’s walk, just in time for a brilliant sunset. You can’t get to the sign by car, the only way to get up, close and personal with these giant white letters that have become an American icon, is on foot or by horse, and you can’t get in front of the letters, only above them.

Funnily enough, the sign didn’t have any association with the movie industry when it was put up in 1923. Instead, it was supposed to promote local real estate during a time when the Hollywood Hills weren’t the prime real estate location that they are today. Back then it still read Hollywoodland. After years of deterioration, Hugh Hefner started a fundraiser to save the sign, and $250,000 were raised to restore the sign that had fallen into disrepair.

It used to be a bit tricky to get up to the sign until a few years ago, unless you were a local and knew your way around. The Trust For Public Land, that is in charge of protecting the sign and the surrounding lands, has made it much easier now to find the right paths and not get lost in the relatively remote and rugged southern side of Mount Lee, on which the sign is located. There are now several hiking routes: the Mt Hollywood Trail (short and moderately difficult), the Canyon Drive Trail (longest route), and the Cahuenga Peak Trail (the shortest, but most challenging). We took a shorter version of the Mt Hollywood Trail, which can be started at the Griffith Observatory (3.5 miles round trip) or at Sunset Ranch at the northern end of N Beachwood Drive. The ranch offers guided horse rides up the sign, by the way.

The hike is pleasant, with sweeping views over parts of L.A., Glendale and The Valley from various viewpoints along the way – but the star of the show, the sign itself, stays out of sight for the most part. We started our hike at Sunset Ranch, but next time I’d start at the Griffith Observatory for a longer hike and better views of the sign itself.

When you get to the sign, the most astonishing thing is seeing how big these letters actually are: each letter is 45 feet tall (14 meters) and all of them next to each other are 350 feet (110 meters) long! My height compared to it: 5.8 feet.

If you’re thinking about climbing the security fences that fence off the sign, be warned: the charges are no joke. Trespassers face a $1000 fine, restitution to the City agencies involved in the trespasser’s arrest, a one-year probation period and 20 days on a Cal Trans highway crew.

You can find more information on the hikes to the Hollywood sign here.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Gregos Street Art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city brooklyn williamsburg gregos street artMy last week in New York (for now) rolled around, and so I decided to take some time off and not hide behind my laptop the whole time, which is what I had done pretty much all month. Instead, I made time to hang out with friends and enjoyed a few more of my favorite summer activities in New York – cycling, sunset picnics, food markets and al fresco dinners (on a rooftop no less!). This year, I also got to kayak on the East River, something I’d been wanting to do for the past two summers. It was just as awesome as I expected it to be, and was a good reminder that I need to get into a kayak more often (the last time I was in a kayak was in May in Austin).

And I went on a street art walk in Williamsburg, hunting down some new graffiti pieces and murals, which I love doing, no matter if I’m in New York or in Bangkok or Buenos Aires. A highlight of that day was stumbling upon a Gregos face – exactly a month after stumbling upon one in Berlin. I was excited when I read in July on Gregos’ Facebook Page that he had just finished a project in NYC during which he plastered his face in 3D 74 times all over the city. I couldn’t wait to see some of them, but it took me nearly a month to spot one (and it should be the only one I got to see)! I’ve seen his faces (actually his very own face, always molded with varying expressions) in Berlin and London, and am hoping to find one in L.A. where I am right now.

The French street artist started his ‘face art’ in Paris, then plastered them all over cities across France, and finally ventured beyond his home country with stints in places like Japan, Malta, Brazil and Greece. Sometimes his faces are smiling, sometimes they’re sticking out their tongue, sometimes they look sad – and they’re always painted in different colors. Some are just glued onto a wall, others incorporate the surrounding wall into the piece, resulting in completely unique artwork. Check out the list of cities where you can find his faces (there are over 1,000 now) – maybe there’s one near you! If you spot one, share a photo of it on my Facebook Page 🙂

For a more detailed look at everything I got up to in August, check out my monthly round-up: Life Lately & Upcoming Travels; August 2016 Edition.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Cheers To Summer In New York City

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city central park sunsetThis past week was all about Central Park! I was staying a couple of blocks away from New York’s largest (and most famous) park, and so I ended up there for one reason or another every single day. There were runs in the park (it was Central Park, by the way, where I became a serious runner and finished my first race in 2010), several writing sessions on a blanket in the sun (those are the times when i love being a freelancer), a picnic and tour of the park which I shared on Snapchat (my ID is mariposa2711) and, pictured above, an epic sunset session with cheese and wine, a game of boule and a catch-up with my fellow travel bloggers Caroline and Kristin.

As much as I love Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park, close to which I’m usually staying, the majestic feel of Central Park is just unrivaled: The views over Manhattan’s skyscrapers from the rocks or from Sheep Meadow (best enjoyed with a cookie from Levain Bakery on 74th and a coffee from Le Pain Quotidienne inside the park, just behind Sheep Meadow), Belvedere Castle and the nearby Shakespeare Garden, the Conservatory Flower Garden, the many lakes and ponds, (including the turtle-filled and aptly named Turtle Pond, my favorite!), hidden waterfalls, the symmetry of the Mall and Bethesda Terrace with its gorgeous tile work. Of course Prospect Park has similar things to offer, the beautiful boathouse for example, the wilderness trails that are not unlike Central Park’s northern forest, an ice rink, but if I had to pick a favorite, Central Park would win!

Have you been to both parks? Which one is your favorite?

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