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48 Hours In Austin, Texas

austin sunset1

When I visited Austin for the very first time last year, I didn’t really know what to expect. My plan was to spend a month in the capital of Texas, hoping this would give me a good amount of time to explore the city whose slogan is ‘Keep Austin Weird’. Even though this slogan had me suspect that I’d love the city, I had no idea just how much I’d fall for Austin.

With dozens of live music venues, excellent craft beer, countless food trucks, plenty of outdoors activities, especially along the river, and an overall laid-back attitude, the city won me over during my month there.

Because I had the advantage of being able to spend four full weeks there, I took my time to explore every nook and cranny of the city, but I know that most people come to Austin for a quick weekend getaway. And while I’ve already shared 33 Things I Love About Austin, I wanted to give you a more structured overview of how to spend a weekend in Austin.AustinHere is my perfect weekend in Austin for you – including places to eat and drink, what to do and what to see on a first-time visit:

Friday, 2pm: Welcome to Austin

Luckily, nearly all Austin hotels are conveniently located downtown, which makes it easy to explore the city on foot. If you’re not hugely into walking, I recommend you take advantage of Austin’s easy-to-use bike sharing system. The shared bikes, called B-Cycle, have a great ‘Weekender Pass’, which gives you three full days access to the bikes for only $15 and includes an unlimited number of free rides up to 60 minutes (a 24-hour pass is $12).

The best way to use the B-cycles is to download the free app – that way you have an overview of all available stations around town.

Start with a ride around Downtown to get your bearings: 6th Avenue is the main drag, especially at night, lined with cool (and some cheesy) bars and restaurants. Congress Avenue runs from the State Capitol all the way down to the Colorado River. Once you get to the river, follow the bike path alongside it.

If you turn left, you can ride all the way to Ladybird Lake and beyond (go either until Frontage Road Bridge or Pleasant Valley Road Bridge, cross the bridge and circle back to Congress Avenue Bridge). If you turn right, you will get to Zilker Park and get superb views over the Downtown skyline. Stop at Doug Sahm Hill in Butler Park (on the other side of the river) for the best skyline views.austin texasIf you don’t want to rent a bike, you can easily walk the same route, it will just take you a little longer. A good walk would be across the Congress Avenue Bridge, turning left on Roy and Ann Butler Hike & Bike Trail, walking through Butler Park, crossing the river via the Lamar Street Pedestrian Bridge, and walking back to where you started on the north side of the river.

Food trucks

Reward yourself for your walk or cycle tour with your first taste of Austin’s famous food truck scene. I recommend Valentina’s TexMex BBQ (11500 Manchaca Road), Tommy Want Wingy (94 Rainey St), and Chi’lantro (Asian-fusion comfort food; 823 Congress Ave).

If you have a B-cycle or a car, venture a little further and try one of the tasty food trucks on Austin’s East Side, for example East Side King Thai Kun (1816 E 6th St), Micklewait Craft Meats (BBQ meats; 1309 Rosewood Av), or The Peached Tortilla (banh mi tacos & other Asian-fusion fare; 5520 Burnet Rd #100). Alternatively, head to the food truck park on S 1st Street and W Live Oak Street, where you find Venezuelan, Indian, Baja Mexican & Japanese Fusion, and desserts. Vegans will love Arlo’s (900 Red River Street).austin food truck

5pm: A Stroll along South Congress

It is almost time to go out and explore Austin’s nightlife – start with a stroll over S Congress Ave Bridge, which connects Downtown with SoCo, short for South Congress, where you will find a number of independent shops, restaurants and bars, and some fantastic old-fashioned neon signs.

SoCo is the neighborhood to find some of Austin’s most eclectic shops, like Uncommon Things, Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, Allens Boots (with over 4,000 boots, definitely peek inside!), Monkey See Monkey Do, and the Yard Dog gallery. If you have a sweet tooth, treat yourself to a cupcake at the Hey Cupcake food truck, to some ice cream at the famous Amy’s Ice Cream shop or stock up on candy at the epic Big Top Candy Shop.

There are some great murals down here as well – look out for the Willie Nelson mural and the I Love You So Much graffiti. Güero’s Taco Bar is a good place for a sundowner margarita, and June’s is a wine bar with a nice patio.austin congress ave bridgeMake sure to walk back towards Congress Bridge in time for sunset, because that’s when – between March and October – Austin’s most unique and free show begins: the flight of the bats.

7 – 8pm: The Flight of the Bats

Since 1980, Mexican free-tailed bats have made their homes in the concrete crevasses of the bridge, and over 1 million bats fly out of there at sunset every night. It’s a rare spectacle to see, especially considering you’re right in the heart of a big city. In fact, this bat colony is the largest urban bat colony in the world! You can either watch the flight of the bats from the top of the bridge or from a big grassy spot near the river below. Be warned: This space fills up quickly.austin flight of the bats

9pm: Bar-hopping along Historic Rainey Street

Just north of Congress Ave Bridge is Rainey Street, a street lined with historic bungalows that are now home to some of Austin’s trendiest bars.

You can either opt for a food truck dinner – there are several on Rainey Street, for example: Art of Tacos, or the tasty Via 313 Pizza Truck behind Craft Pride, Boca inside the Container Bar, or Big Fat Greek Gyros – or you could do a fancy dinner just around the corner from Rainey Street, at what is one of the hottest tickets in town these days: Geraldine’s, a contemporary gourmet restaurant inside the fabulous new Hotel Van Zandt. If you want to treat yourself to a fancy dinner at Geraldine’s, make sure to reserve well in advance.

End your first night in Austin by bar hopping until you can’t keep your eyes open anymore. Places worth stopping at are Blackheart, Banger’s Beer Garden (with over 100 beers on tap), Craft Pride and the Container Bar, which is made out of shipping containers.Austin Rainey Street

Saturday, 9am: Brunch

There are several excellent brunch spots in Austin, but my favorite is 24 Diner (600 N Lamar) which serves solid portions of all your brunch favorites and special treats like their sweet potato hash, or a waffle sandwich. Mimosas are only $3.95 and brunch cocktails start at $7.austin 24 dinerIf you have to wait in line (which you most likely will, since it is the weekend), head to Waterloo Records a couple of doors down to check out some new releases. Waterloo is a great old fashioned vinyl store, which are hard to find these days (but don’t be surprised to see CDs here, too).

If you’re a Whole Foods fanatic, you have to check out the Whole Foods flagship store after breakfast, which is located just across the street from 24 Diner. The 80,000 sq. ft market is more than just your regular Whole Foods – there’s a bar, a wine bar, an eatery, even a makeup counter. Plus a bunch of products that you can only get here.umlauf sculpture garden

11am: Street Art Heaven

Hope Outdoor Gallery is just a couple of blocks from 24 Diner and is a vast outdoor graffiti park – a must-see for street art lovers! The colorful walls are the remainder of an abandoned building, and street artists are allowed to leave their mark here. It is basically an ever-changing outdoor gallery, and you’ll probably be able to see some artists at work during your visit. If you climb all the way up to the top of the hill (the building ruins sit on the side of a hill) you also get some nice views over Austin.

If you’re not into street art, head to the small, yet beautiful Umlauf Sculpture Park ($5 admission) near Zilker Park instead.Austin Hope Outdoor Gallery

1pm: Food Truck Lunch

After your filling brunch, you probably won’t be all that hungry yet, but there’s always room for a small snack from a food truck or for a couple of Torchy’s Tacos. I’ve already given you some food truck recommendations, but for more ideas check out 20 Essential Austin Food Trucks and The Best New Food Trucks In Austin in 2016.tacos austin

3pm: Time for Culture

Austin has a number of places to get your culture nerd on: there are several top-notch museums (Blanton Museum Of Art, Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, The Contemporary Austin, Mexic-Arte Museum) – pick the one that best fits your personal interests. The Guardian has a great overview of the 10 best museums in Austin, my personal favorites were the art museums.

And then there’s also the Texas State Capitol, an imposing red granite building that is only second in total size to the National Capitol in DC (it is even 15 feet taller than the one in DC!), which can be visited in a free half-hour guided tour (note that the last tours on Saturdays start at 3.30pm).Austin Culture

6pm: BBQ Dinner

Austin is famous for its BBQ scene and you have to try at least one barbecue joint on a visit to Austin. Franklin’s (900 E 11th St) is the most famous one, but the notoriously long lines there can make it difficult to fit it into a short visit, so here are some alternatives: Kerlin BBQ (1700 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin ); La Barbecue (1906 E Cesar Chavez St), Freedmen’s (2402 San Gabriel St); Terry Black’s BBQ (1003 Barton Springs Rd); Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew (6610 N Lamar Blvd) and Lambert’s Barbeque (2nd Street District).austin bangers beer garden

8pm: Sunset Drinks

For sunset drinks, head up to one of the rooftops. For great views and al-fresco cocktails, head to The Hangar Lounge (318 Colorado St), The Market & Tap Room (319 Colorado St, Austin) or The Handle Bar (121 E 5th St).austin hangar lounge

9pm: Live Music

You can’t visit Austin without getting a taste of its wonderful live music scene. Austin has something for everyone – country, rock, jazz or blues – whatever you’re into, pick up a TimeOut (https://www.timeout.com/austin/things-to-do/things-to-do-in-austin-this-week) and see who is playing where on the weekend you are in town. The Continental Club on South Congress is one of the most popular and oldest venues, Antone’s is best for blues, and The Broken Spoke is great for two-step, The White Horse for country and then there’s the Red River Music District with venues like Stubb’s, Mohawk and Cheap Charlie’s.

Note: If you want to take a free Texas two-step dance class at the Broken Spoke, skip the sunset drinks and head to the Broken Spoke around 8pm. Lessons take place Wednesdays to Saturdays from 8.30pm to 9.30pm.

11pm: Drinks at a Speakeasy

If you aren’t tired yet, hit up one of Austin’s excellent speakeasy bars. The Midnight Cowboy, right on 6th Street, is probably the most popular one, and getting inside without a reservation is impossible (reserve a table online http://midnightcowboymodeling.com/). A solid and less crowded alternative is Garage which is located in a parking garage and has a large selection of delectable cocktails.drinks

Sunday, 9am: Texas-style Breakfast

Austin is known for its Tex-Mex cuisine and breakfast tacos. For the latter, head to El Primo (2011 S 1st St); Veracruz All Natural (1704 E Cesar Chavez St), Juan in a million (2300 E Cesar Chavez St), Pueblo Viejo (1606 E 6th St) or Taqueria Mi Trailita (5301 Manor Rd).

If you’re more in the mood for a full-on Tex-Mex breakfast, head to Curra’s Grill (614 E Oltorf St, Austin) for Huevos Curras (eggs over carne asada), chorizo con huevo and other scrumptious Mexican-inspired breakfasts, plus a number of creative Tex-Mex style cocktails. Trudy’s Texas Star (various locations) is another solid option for migas, chilaquiles, huevos motulenos or other Tex-Mex breakfasts. Drinks are only $2.50 until noon and $4.50 after that (until 4pm).

Bouldin Creek Café (1900 S 1st St) is the best vegetarian restaurant for breakfast.tex mex breakfast

11am: Kayaking on the Colorado River

After your brunch feast, it is time to burn some calories. If you’ve opted for a B-Cycle bike pass, take a bike and head to the river, where you can rent kayaks at Congress Kayaks ($15 per hour). It is now time to get out on the river, and an hour kayaking can bring you all the way to Lady Bird Lake (west) or to Zilker Park (east).

If kayaking is not cool enough for you, rent a stand-up paddle board at Live, Love, Paddle and paddle around Ladybird Lake ($20 per hour).

Going out on the river was one of my favorite activities in Austin, and the views over Downtown from the river were wonderful. If you head to Ladybird Lake, moving away from the Downtown buildings, you’ll notice how green Austin really is.Austin Kayaking

12pm: A Walk in the Park/Pool Time!

Finish your visit with a walk through Zilker Park, which, at 351-acres, is one of the biggest green spaces in Austin. If you are a fan of Botanical Gardens, it is well worth checking out the Zilker Botanical Gardens ($3). If you’re visiting during the summer months, pack your bathing suit and stop for a swim at the gorgeous Barton Springs pool, over three times longer than a football field and fed by the Barton Spring, the fourth largest natural spring in Texas. ($8 for non-residents, $3 for residents).Austin parks

2pm: Food Truck Time

After your swim or walk in the park, treat yourself to one last food truck meal before heading to the airport. Within walking distance from Zilker Park are the amazing sandwich truck Hey!…You Gonna Eat or What?, The Mighty Cone (fried meats & veggies in tortilla cones), and Kebabalicious (all three are located in 1720 Barton Springs Rd).food truck austin gourdoughs

Practical Information

  • Austin doesn’t have Lyft or Uber, but there are several similar rideshare options – here is an overview of the best Lyft and Uber alternatives in Austin.
  • If you’re on a budget, take advantage of bus No 100 which brings you Downtown from the airport in less than half an hour for only $1.75 (you’ll need exact change). A taxi, in comparison, is around $30.
  • The best way to get around if you don’t have a car and don’t want to rely on car sharing services is the B-cycle bike sharing program.
  • Austin’s public transportation system is pretty decent though, and a 24-hour bus pass is only $2.50 (a single ride is $1.25).
  • GoogleMaps directions worked well to show me bus routes and schedules, but you can also download the CapMetro app for the most accurate information and to buy tickets via the app.

Austin Texas1

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Polaroid Of The Week: Snowy New York City

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week USA New York City Brooklyn Bridge Park WinterAfter returning from Israel, I only had a few short days in Germany before I boarded a flight back to New York – just enough time to pack up my clothes and a few other belongings I wanted to bring to New York with me and hug my friends and family goodbye.

When I arrived in New York, I learned that I’d been lucky – had I flown a day later, I wouldn’t have made it to New York, because a massive blizzard hit the city, causing over 1,700 flights across all three airports to get canceled. That blizzard was the first real snowstorm I’ve ever witnessed! Yes, of course we get snow in Germany, but not like this. Seeing the city get covered in 10 inches (30 centimeters) of snow in the span of a few short hours was an incredible experience for me – I was amazed to see how quickly New York transformed into a winter wonderland. I watched the spectacle from the inside of a warm coffee shop while I was working and couldn’t resist taking a couple of walks through the snow, even though I decided NOT to bring my winter jacket with me to New York (I brought a vest because I figured it’d be enough for my last few days of winter). The novelty of the experience made me forget how cold it was and I adored the quietness of Manhattan in the snow – I don’t think I’ve ever seen New York that silent.

Yesterday, I woke up to bright blue skies and lots of sun, which made the winter storm the day before almost seem like a dream. Even though I am not the biggest fan of running in the snow I put my running clothes on and went for a jog along the East River. It was just too perfect of a winter day to not enjoy the views over Manhattan – another first for me, a winter run in New York.

This will be as much as I am getting of winter in New York – I am escaping the cold weather and won’t be returning until the spring! My next Polaroid will be coming to you from Ecuador, my first new country of 2017.

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Twelve Essential Restaurants You Need To Visit In San Francisco

In Situ The Forest_Mauro Colagreco_Mirazur

San Francisco is one of the most popular cities to visit in the U.S. – and not only because of the Golden Gate Bridge or its iconic Cable Cars, but also for its diverse food scene. From Mexican and Central American food to Chinese restaurants and authentic Italian cuisine – there is nothing you can’t get in San Francisco. Since there are literally hundreds of restaurants you could go to, I’ve selected ten restaurants you shouldn’t miss on a visit to San Francisco. Of course there are dozens of others that are also worth visiting – so don’t see this as an ultimate guide, but rather as an ‘appetizer guide’ to get you started. This is the 2017 edition – 12 restaurants that are worth including in your San Francisco itinerary. Some of these restaurants have risen to fame in recent months or are brand new and buzz-worthy, others are all-time San Francisco classics, and then there are a couple of fine dining gems.

Chicory, dickory, dock. It’s pizza o’clock.

A photo posted by Pizzeria Delfina, est. 1998 (@pizzeriadelfina) on

Without further ado: Twelve essential restaurants you need to visit in San Francisco:

1 Best Burritos: La Taqueria

The Mission District is a mecca for foodies – thanks to its large Latino population, you find a myriad of Mexican, Latin American and Central American eateries here, and to choose a place for a burrito can be overwhelming. I suggest La Taqueria, which was recently awarded the title America’s Best Burrito. Head there to find out if they deserve this recognition, but the continuously great reviews and long lines speak for themselves. What makes the burritos here special is the fact that they don’t have rice. Instead, the flour tortillas are filled with pinto beans, meat, and toppings that include salsa, guacamole and hot sauce.

Tip: Order your burrito dorado and it will be seared on the plancha until it is crispy on both sides.

Address: 2889 Mission District Street

Voted best burrito in America, or something like that. #lataqueria #missionburrito #burrito #corona #sanfrancisco

A photo posted by Lyndsey Kaplan (@kappiekap) on

Honorary mention: El Castillito (136 Church Street, Castro). What’s special about them is that they melt the cheese inside of the tortilla.

2 Best tacos: Taqueria Cancun

Taqueria Cancun is one of San Francisco’s most popular taco places and has now three locations (in the Mission, SoMa and Bernal Heights) for a reason. It is famous for its tacos al pastor and carnitas. The tacos are loaded with meat, fresh avocado, salsa and sour cream. If you’re in the mood for a burrito, you’re at the right place too. Their Al Pastor Super Burrito is super yummy and super filling.

Address: 3211 Mission Street between Valencia Street and Fair Avenue, 1003 Market Street between Golden Gate Avenue and Taylor Street, 2288 Mission Street between 18th and 19th Streets

Honorable mentions: The Carne Asada Super Taco Dorado at La Taqueria (see above); the  carne asada and al pastor taco at Taqueria Vallarta (3039 24th St)

3 Best Pizza: Delfina’s

Delfina’s has been going strong for 17 years and has so many loyal local fans that it has now two locations in the city: in the Mission and in Pacific Heights. If you try one of their pizzas, you’ll understand why. The intention of the owners, Annie and Craig Stoll, was to bring Neapolitan-style pizza to the Bay area, and that’s exactly what they did. The pizzas are thin and delectable, chewy and crisp, and the crust is absolute perfection!

Tip: If you’re not too keen on pizza, try their signature spaghetti or their fresh burata. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Address: 3621 18th Street (Mission), 2406 California Street (Pacific Heights)

 

4 Best Burgers: 4505 Burgers & BBQ

4505 is known for its quarter-pound grass-fed beef pattys, which come from a California farm near the Oregon border. Especially the cheeseburger gets a lot of praise (topped with Gruyère cheese and served on a buttery, crisp sesame- and scallion-topped bun with a secret sauce) – it was voted as one of the 33 best burgers in all of America and the best burger in California.

Tip: As the name indicates, 4505 does not only serve burgers, but also BBQ fare: the brisket and the pulled pork are well worth trying, too. Another beloved item on the menu is the Frankaroni (a fried mac-and-cheese-and-frankfurter patty).

Address: 705 Divisadero Street (at Grove Street)
4505

Honorary mention: Super Duper Burger (six locations in San Francisco), Gott’s Roadside in the Ferry Building, and the grass-fed burger at Nopa (see #6)

5 Best Ice Cream: Bi-Rite Creamery

In the summer months, the long line outside Bi-Rite Creamery can be intimidating, but trust me, the ice cream is worth the wait. You’ll notice that it is much creamier than other ice creams, and that’s because they use a higher ratio of cream to other ingredients than other ice cream parlors.

Flavors range from tasty creations such as Salted Caramel, Crème Brulee, Blue Bottle Coffee, Black sesame with Sonoma honey, Orange Cardamom, Turmeric & Ginger with Candied Lemon Zest, Earl Grey, Birthday Cake with Chocolate Cake and Rainbow Sprinkles. But the true show stoppers are the Sundaes. My pick: The Afternoon Snack which has roasted banana ice cream, home-made graham crackers, caramel sauce and whipped cream.

Address: 3692 18th Street, Mission District and 550 Divisadero Street

@pp_amanda112 ^^

A photo posted by Karthik Ramgopal (@karthikrgbits) on

 

6 Best For A Decadent Brunch: Nopa

Nopa is one of the Top 20 restaurants in San Francisco, and in a city with well over 4,000 restaurants, that’s saying something! Most people come here for the wood-grilled burgers (see #4) and the pork chop, but I recommend coming for a decadent brunch. It’s not the cheapest place for brunch (or dinner), but it is money well spent. Whatever you order, make sure that you also get an order of the Custard French Toast (they also have half orders) – you’ll thank me later. You can’t go wrong with any of the other dishes either – they are all finger licking good. Try the Butter Basted Eggs with Tasso Spiced Ham, Soft Polenta, Brussels Sprouts, Romesco and Parmesan Reggiano for example, or the Green Chorizo with Pinto Beans, Red Rice, Braised Greens, Feta and a Poached Egg. Definitely order a brunch cocktail with your dish – they are amazing.

Honorary mention: Zuni Café, see #8

Address: 560 Divisadero Street

A closeup of a fundamental brunch item from @thewongway. Indeed it is hard to go wrong with this French toast.

A photo posted by nopa restaurant (@nopa_sf) on

 

7 Best Fine Dining: Aster

Aster is currently one of the – if not THE best place for an exquisite dining experience in San Francisco. Rewarded with 1 Michelin star, chef Brett Cooper cooks up his artful, inventive creations in a quiet corner of the Mission District, combining ingredients you wouldn’t normal think go together but that end up complementing each other extraordinarily well. I recommend ordering the tasting menu which is at $65 (additional wine pairing $36) very reasonably priced. With four options for each course, you still get to personalize your dinner, or you can order a la carte (main dishes start at $27.)

Address: 1001 Guerrero St., Mission District

Brassicas, citrus, lemongrass sabayon, espelette #astersf

A photo posted by @brettmichaelcooper on

 

8 Best New Restaurant: In Situ

In Situ is a new fine dining venue inside the recently re-opened San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, SFMOMA, and chef Corey Lee, who received three Michelin stars, has curated a menu of dishes to which over 80 chefs from all over the world contributed. Since opening in June 2016, the restaurant has already received a ton of praise, including a huge praise from the New York Times who declared it the best new restaurant in the country. There couldn’t be a better spot for In Situ than inside an art museum, because the restaurant itself can be seen as an art installation. The flavors of the (currently) 15 dishes on the menu are as spread out across the globe as the chefs are who contributed to the remarkable menu. Sophisticated eaters will appreciated being taken on a culinary journey that includes dishes from famous international chefs such as Virgilio Martínez of Lima’s Central, David Chang of Momofuku in New York, or René Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma.

Address: Inside the SFMOMA, 151 3rd Street

In Situ Carrot, Sour Curd, Pickled Pine_Matt Orlando_Amass

9 Best For A Date Night: Zuni Cafe

The popular Market Street bistro is perfect not only for a date night, but for pretty much any occasion. The space is just as charming as the food is tasty. If you’re planning to come here, make sure to book a table in advance. The roast chicken is the dish that stands out here, but the burger is also regularly named as one of the best burgers in the city (served on grilled rosemary focaccia). Still, the chicken for two roasted in the brick oven, served with a warm bread salad, is unforgettable. If you’re not in the mood for a big meal, it’s also worth popping in here for some oysters and a cocktail at the bar.

Address: 1658 Market Street

 

10 Best Breakfast Sandwich: Devil’s Teeth Baking Company

First of all, Don’t expect a proper sit-down place when you head to Devil’s Teeth Baking Company. Do expect long lines, especially on weekend mornings. Come hungry and bring patience and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best breakfast sandwiches of your life. The biscuit-topped breakfast sandwiches are super filling, and you can choose between the classic bacon-egg-and-cheese ($5.50) and the more extravagant version with scrambled eggs, thick applewood smoked bacon, pepper jack cheese, avocado, and lemon-garlic aioli ($6.75).

Tip: If you come on a Sunday, you’ll get to enjoy the delectable $1 beignets.

Address: 3876 Noriega Street, (near Ocean Beach)

 

11 Best For Something Different: State Bird Provisions

State Bird Provisions made headlines around the country when it opened in 2012 and was promptly rewarded the title ‘Best New Restaurant in America in 2012’ – and that’s because of its very own take on the concept of dim sum. Self-described as ‘a restaurant without any programmed elements’, State Bird Provisioins serves dim sum-style ‘provisions’, or bite-sized portions of California fare with a Japanese touch. Don’t expect dumplings here – instead, you’ll get specialties like smoked trout-pickled onion ‘chip & dip’; or sourdough, sauerkraut, pecorino & ricotta pancakes; or curry roasted cauliflower with smoked date purée and pistachio. The ‘provisions’ are served dim sum–style on rolling carts, but there are also ‘Pancakes’ and ‘Commandables’ – the latter two served as à la carte items.

The Michelin star is well-deserved, but made it nearly impossible to snatch up a reservation on short notice. One thing you need to know if you’re planning to eat here: make your reservation well in advance, or you’ll be in line for up to two to three hours, especially on weekends (not kidding). But on the upside, the fabulous seats at the chef’s counter are set aside for walk-ins.

Address: 1529 Fillmore Street

Black butter roasted figs with Wagon Wheel cheese fondue and balsamic. @cowgirlcreamery #getfigged #lucious

A photo posted by state bird provisions (@statebirdprovisions) on

 

12 Best Oysters: Leo’s Oyster Bar

Leo’s Oyster Bar is worth a visit for its retro 70s atmosphere alone – resembling a Golden Era oyster bar that is split up in a ‘Dining Room’ and a ‘Champagne Room’. In addition to a large variety of oysters, you can get clams, lobster rolls, crab legs, crab cakes, mussels and a selection of divine cocktails. The oysters carbonara and the deviled egg with fried oyster on top come highly recommended, and Mr Nicholas’ Liquid Lunch – a vodka or gin martini served with pickled vegetables and olives – gives you the perfect excuse for a midday drink. And since the bar is located in the Financial District, close to many San Francisco hotels, you’re likely to walk by Leo’s Oyster Bar at some point anyway – so make sure to check it out, the decor alone is worth a cheeky drink and some oysters. Tip: There’s not just one bar at the back, but two, so don’t stop at the first door.

Address: 568 Sacramento Street (between Montgomery and Sansome), FiDi

Leo's Oyster Bar

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Polaroid Of The Week: The Insane Christmas Lights In Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa new york city brooklyn dyker heights christmas lightsI couldn’t go home to Germany for Christmas without stopping in New York en route to Europe! I hadn’t been in my adopted home in months, was eager to catch up with friends, and, most importantly: enjoy the Holiday Season in New York, because everybody knows that Christmas in the Big Apple is magical. Last year, when I spent the entire month of December in New York, I had so many plans for my 1st NYC Holiday Season: go ice skating, visit the Christmas markets around the city, see the Christmas window displays on 5th Avenue, marvel at the legendary Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and see the famous Dyker Heights Christmas lights. Well, somehow I didn’t manage to fit in everything on my list last year – I never went ice skating and I never made it down to Dyker Heights in the south of Brooklyn, which isn’t the easiest place to get to.

Even though I had less time than last year during my brief visit this month I was determined to make up for it, and not only did I go ice skating in Bryant Park (which was fabulous!), but I also went all the way to Dyker Heights to take in the elaborate Christmas lights there. I am not sure how it started, but there are a few blocks in a residential neighborhood there whose residents go completely bonkers with their Christmas light decorations. Now it has become so famous that bus loads of people arrive there every day (really, you can take a Dyker Heights Christmas lights bus tour!) to see this spectacle for themselves – apparently, more than 100,000 (!) people make their way to Dyker Heights every December! The lights been featured on the news, and every year, all sorts of publications run stories about these Christmas light displays.

Apparently, the residents who are participating in the Christmas light craze aim to make people feel the spirit of Christmas and have been doing so since the 1980s. Over the past few years though, since international media began reporting on this ‘phenomenon’, the lights have become crazier and crazier. As I was slowly walking up and down the streets that have the most intricate decorations, I couldn’t believe the extent of this annual tradition – the extravaganza was beyond my expectations and even though I think they are a little over-the-top, the Dyker Heights Christmas lights put a smile on my face and I know I’ll be back to see them again – hopefully next year.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

 

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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

seattle-gas-works-park4

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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