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: Charming Trastevere, Rome

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week italy rome trastevereI was beyond excited to return to Rome at the end of my Italy trip last week – a city I hadn’t been to in many years but that I had truly loved during my previous visits. Since I didn’t have much time, I decided to spend most of my time in Trastevere, my favorite neighborhood in Rome. Located on the west bank of the river (Trastevere translates to across the Tiber (river) ), it has become a favorite with many Rome fans over the years, yet it doesn’t see as many visitors as the part of town on the east bank. Why is that? Because all of Rome’s famous sights, like the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon… are located on the east bank of the Tiber, and most people don’t make it on the other side of the river during their visit to Rome – except for the obligatory stop in Vatican City, which is also on the west bank.

What I love about Trastevere is that is the neighborhood in Rome where not only can you find typical Italian architecture, charming piazzas (squares), cobble stone streets (many of which are pedestrianized), many outdoor cafes and restaurants, but also plenty of street art, which gives the neighborhood a bit of an edge.

I love to simply wander around the labyrinth of narrow streets while marveling at the ivy-covered facades, the new street art and check out cute cafes. On this visit, I noticed though that there were more tourists than during previous visits – Trastevere is definitely not a hidden gem anymore – but it hasn’t lost any of its charming character. If you are visiting Rome, definitely head over to Trastevere – Lonely Planet has a great 1-day itinerary with all the spots you shouldn’t miss.

My wanderings brought me back to the east bank of the river eventually, because there is one stop that has to happen every time I’m in Rome: The Trevi Fountain. This famous fountain is not only the most spectacular and elaborate fountain in the city, but also plays a significant role in ensuring your next trip to Rome: Legend says that a coin thrown over your shoulder into the fountain will guarantee a return to Rome, a tradition that dates back to the ancient Romans who often threw coins in water to make the gods of water favor their journey or help them get back home safely.

Well, for me it has worked every time, and I am already looking forward to my next visit to Rome 🙂

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Polaroid Of The Week: Hiking The Via Amerina In Italy

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week italy umbria via amerinaWhat a week it has been! My rather spontaneous journey to Italy was such a whirlwind trip that I am still processing everything I’ve experienced during my eight days of walking through Umbria and Lazio into Rome. (For those of you who haven’t read my September round-up: I walked parts of the historic Via Amerina pilgrims path from Assisi to Rome).

I don’t even know where to begin… but let’s just say that this has easily been one of the highlights of my entire year, and when I finally took off my walking shoes (to be precise, my running shoes, in lieu of actual hiking shoes) on the very last day, my emotions were torn between substantial relief about not having to put these shoes back on and the desire to keep walking.

Umbria was a region that I hadn’t known very well prior to this trip, and I was once again amazed by the beauty of this country. Is there any region in Italy that is not absolutely stunning?! I felt the same way about Lombardy last year. The scenery reminded me of Tuscany initially, with rolling hills, olive groves and vineyards, but later on it changed into a much greener, forest-y landscape with gorges and waterfalls. No matter where we were walking – everywhere it felt like a scene straight out of a painting.

One thing we saw over and over again? Picturesque medieval hilltop towns. It seems like every town in Italy is sitting on top of a hill, and every town dates back to medieval times. Whenever we walked through one of the ancient gates into the historic town center, I was mesmerized by the centuries-old stone walls, the cobble stones, the aura of medieval merchants, monks, ladies and lords, thinking to myself repeatedly ‘If walks could talk…’

I would be lying if I said this walking trip was NOT physically challenging – but the rewards it offered made more than up for the blisters and hurting legs. And I haven’t even mentioned the food yet..

Stay tuned for full articles about my trip – for now, head over to Facebook to see more photos of the trip as I keep updating my Via Amerina photo album..

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

Polaroid of the week

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

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

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

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

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

Polaroid of the week

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

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

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

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Polaroid of the week: Outdoor cinema in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city brooklyn bridge park outdoor movie

Click here for the soundtrack to this post 🙂

The past week has been all about work; the most I got to see of New York was during my runs: Brooklyn Bridge Park with its stunning Manhattan views, across the Brooklyn Bridge (with even better views), the lovely Red Hook neighborhood with its pier and great vistas of the Statue Of Liberty, running in Riverside Park alongside Hudson River and in Central Park. I took a break on Thursday to finally enjoy an outdoor movie – one of the 28 things I love about summer in New York City are the free outdoor movies all over the city – and couldn’t have chosen a better time for a break away from my laptop: a beautiful summer night, A League Of Their Own, good company, a lovely picnic and watching the sunset over the Manhattan skyline.

That night was a nice walk down memory lane in three different ways: This Used To Be My Playground, the theme song of the movie, was the first Madonna song that really got me hooked on her music (I liked her 80s stuff, but it was a bit too pop-y for me), and was the song that started her ‘ballad phase’ – over the next couple of years, she would release some of my all-time Madonna songs, like Rain, Secret, I’ll Remember, Take A Bow, and finally You’ll See, which might be my all-time favorite song of hers.

The other way related to the movie that I was strolling down memory lane: Some of the baseball scenes were filmed in Wrigley Field, Chicago’s famous baseball stadium which dates back to 1914 and is one of the oldest baseball parks in the U.S., which is why it was a perfect location for the movie which was set in the 1940s. I was lucky enough to watch a couple of games there during my visits to Chicago and even though I’ve been struggling to understand the game ever since I watched my first one in the suburbs of Chicago nearly ten years ago, I’ve always enjoyed being in the ballpark, taking in the cheery atmosphere of what is for me as a European a quintessential American experience, munching on peanuts and cheap nachos.

And last but not least: A couple of summers ago, I had one of the best dates nights of my life while watching an outdoor movie, and thinking back on it still puts a smile on my face.

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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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