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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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Polaroid Of The Week: Pumpkin Fun In Buckley, Washington

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa washington buckley pumpkin patchOctober was a very special month for me. Why? Because I visited my first ever pumpkin patch! Despite having spent several autumns in the U.S. over the past few years, somehow I never made it to a pumpkin patch. But this year, thanks to my friends Tawny and Chris, I finally got to finally tick this quintessential fall experience off of my bucket list!

The pumpkin patch we went to turned out to be so much more than just a field filled with pumpkins (although, that alone was pretty awesome, seeing hundreds of bright orange pumpkin in different shapes and sizes on a massive field) – there was a corn maze, and a bunch of family-friendly activities like pig races, tractor-pulled hay rides, pony rides, a goat walk and some ducks running around. I had a blast, especially trying to find our way through the corn maze with the help of quizzes (note to self: I really have to improve my knowledge on American history, ahem).

Then it was time to pick out a pumpkin. While I didn’t carve one this year, Tawny and Chris went home with a pumpkin right from the field. Our last activity before leaving the farm? Food, of course! We enjoyed farm-fresh roasted corn cobs, before getting some Legendary Doughnuts for dessert to finish off this amazing day.

My only regret? Not being able to enjoy the ‘haunted woods’, where you follow a 35-minute creepy quest through the corn which for me, someone who loves everything scary, sounds awesome! But I guess now I have the perfect excuse to come back one year…

Happy Halloween, everyone!

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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: Huntington Beach, California

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa california huntington beachI don’t know why, but I always seem to forget just how much I like California. My last visit wasn’t even that long ago – I spent a few days in Santa Monica last spring – but I’d forgotten again that every time I am here, I have an amazing time.

While I despise driving in L.A. (the massive highways and the traffic are just too much for me), I love driving along the coast. And so it was easy to pick the highlight of my time here (so far): a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway into Orange County. I drove the entire length of the PCH in 2010, starting in San Francisco, all the way down to San Diego, and to this day it is one of my favorite drives in the U.S.. I was stoked that I got to drive a stretch of it again last week.

When I drove the PCH the first time, I had just started blogging, and didn’t travel with a ‘blogger mind’ yet, meaning I wasn’t looking for scenic spots to stop at to take pictures, cute shops and cafes to recommend to my readers, or take the ridiculous amount of photos I am taking these days (because, you never know what you might need fifty different shots of seagulls for).

And the worst part: I put my SD card when it was full in the pocket of my jacket without storing the photos on it on my laptop or an external hard drive first. Of course I lost the damn card, and with it, hundreds of photos from our time in L.A. and along the PCH. Which is why the article in which we shared our Top Five Stops Along The Pacific Coast Highway From L.A. To Laguna Beach doesn’t have any photos, except for a mediocre iPhone shot of Venice Beach.

I was happy to be able to retake some of the photos I lost back in 2010, and – score! – with a much better camera than I had six years ago (check out these photos from our drive on the PCH and you’ll see what I mean – looking at these photos makes me cringe now!). Maybe I can finally fill that article with some pictures and update the information – and add some gems to it, like Huntington Beach, which was among my favorite stops on my road trip last week.. I am not sure how we completely ignored it the first time around.

While some things in the towns along the way changed – new coffee shops, new breweries, new restaurants – what hasn’t changed is the incredible natural beauty of Southern California. Driving along the Pacific reminded me once again just how much I like it here.

Have you been to California? What’s your favorite place?

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Gulf County, Florida: The perfect vacation spot for adventurers and water sports enthusiasts (+giveaway!)

7 july kemptville ontario sunset

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Gulf County Florida for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

Everybody talks about the nightlife in Miami, Disneyworld in Orlando, the natural beauty of the Keys. What about Florida’s gulf coast though? That’s a side of the sunshine state that falls mainly under the radar, despite offering just as many exciting adventures as Florida’s Atlantic coastline has. And Gulf County isn’t just a summer destination: the prime season here is September through March. So if you’re thinking about taking a trip to Florida, why not consider the Gulf Coast?

Here are four things that make Florida’s Gulf County awesome:

244 miles of coastline

I bet you didn’t know that Gulf County has 244 miles of glorious coastline along the Florida panhandle. What’s different from other parts of Florida’s coast? Gulf County has remained its nature – there, you don’t find an aggressive invasion of nature like in Miami for example, where barely any nature is left. Instead of man-made, artificial beaches, you can still experience true nature, tranquility and the unspoiled ocean. The stunningly beautiful Cape San Blas is home to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, which was named the best beach in America a few years ago.

Water of all kinds

One thing that makes Gulf County special is that it has access to several bodies of water: the Gulf of Mexico of course, the saltwater of St Joseph Bay, the Gulf County Canal, Apalachicola Bay and river basin, Indian Pass Lagoon, and the freshwater of Chipola River and the Dead Lakes. These waters are all connected and give nature lovers access to untouched nature and wildlife – bird watching, fishing, hiking the nature trails and ecotouring is possible in all of those places. If you are more adventurous, then you’ll like:

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Adventure activities

No matter what water sports you’re into, you can enjoy it in Gulf County: boating, snorkeling, paddle-boarding, diving, kayaking.. you name it! And the best part? In Gulf County, you’re never further away than 15 minutes from any of those activities. How cool is that?! Another big plus: since all of the activities are nature based, they’re never the same. Take stand up paddling for example: one day you might see herons on the shore, the next day you go out on a stand up paddle board, you might see sea turtles!

Amazing wildlife

Not only is Gulf County home to 40% of the sea turtle population of Florida’s Gulf Coast, but it is also a paradise for bird watchers, and if you’re lucky you can spot alligators, Florida panthers, tortoises, bobcats and eagles. You can even see rare Red Wolves (an endangered species) on St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge, which is a 12,300 acre undeveloped barrier island – wildlife lovers have to visit this unspoiled little island.

Which adventures I’d love to try in Gulf County

After looking through the Adventure Guide on the Gulf County website, my interest was piqued the most by these activities:

1) Stand-up paddling

I’ve only tried it on a river, and I am keen on trying it out in the open water. I think the Gulf Of Mexico would be perfect with calmer waters than the Atlantic, for example. Added bonus: the stunning surrounding scenery!

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2) Snorkeling

I love snorkeling and I have gone on snorkeling trips all over the world – never in the U.S., however! This needs to be changed as soon as possible, and the clear waters of Gulf County wouldn’t only allow me to marvel at colorful fish but also at sea turtles! The best!

3) Sailing

I’ve always wanted to go on a sailing trip, maybe even sail around the world – but of course I have to try it out first and see if I like it! Sailing into the sunset off the coast of Florida seems magical to me, and I could sail to the St. Vincent Island with its famous Wildlife Refuge.

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Plan a vacation in Gulf County

If you’re looking to visit Gulf County, it is super easy to plan your vacation – check out the Gulf County Adventure Guide to get an idea for all the activities you can do there!  With the personalized Gulf County Concierge Program you can even pick three adventures you have never tried!  

Giveaway: Win a $50 AMEX gift card

All you need to do to enter this giveaway: Tell me what you’d like to do in Gulf County! Kayak? Hike? Bird watch? Simply enjoy the beaches?

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NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. 

One winner, chosen at random from all eligible entries received, will receive a $50 AmEx gift card, and will be announced on or about 10 days after end of entry period. Entrants may enter within 21 days of this post going live. Must be a resident of one of the 48 contiguous United States (excl. PR, HI, AK) the age of majority in his or her jurisdiction at time of entry. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Sweepstakes is sponsored by Gulf County. 

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Polaroid Of The Week: Feelin’ beachy in New York

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york riis beachThis week was all about beaches – simply because it is too hot to do anything else! New York is suffering from / enjoying a heatwave – the perspective depends on who you ask, I guess, but I might be the only one who’d say this is enjoyable, and admittedly, it has been a little too hot even for my taste.

Working two jobs at the moment means I didn’t have much time to explore this week, but I managed to visit three different beaches: the small beach in Red Hook, just a short drive from where I’m staying, which is the perfect place to let my pup cool off in the water for a while, and Riis Beach in the Rockaways, where I’d been wanting to go for a long time (I’ve been to the Rockaways before, but only to another part of the beach there).

And my beachy highlight this week: Fire Island! This 32-mile-long, ¼-mile wide  strip of sand (the longest of four barrier islands that protect the South Shore of Long Island from the Atlantic Ocean) had been on my travel wish list for the past two summers, but somehow I never made it out there (it takes about 2.5 hours incl car & ferry ride to get there from NYC). But this week, there was the perfect opportunity to finally get my a** over to the island when a friend celebrated her birthday there. It was just a quick teaser and I didn’t get to experience any of the gay night life that Fire Island is famous for, which means I have to return soon, I guess! But the quick visit did definitely whet my appetite for more  – it was the perfect city break, and I didn’t even bring my laptop over there, which means it almost felt like a vacation to me.

If New York stays as sweltering hot as it’s been these past few days, I might need to plan another beach getaway for next week…

Newsletter subscribers: I sent out the summer edition of my Beyond the Blog newsletter last week – if you haven’t seen it in your inbox, make sure to check your spam folder. I’ve got some exclusive giveaways for newsletter subscribers which you can still enter. (If you’d like to subscribe, you can do that here)

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