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Polaroid of the Week

Polaroid Of The Week: Agave Fields In Tequila, Mexico

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week mexico tequila jaliscoWhen I mapped out my Mexico trip and tried to decide which city to fly into, it basically came down to one decision: Flying straight to the coast or visit a new city first. And as much as I was ready for some beach time, my curiosity to explore another Mexican city won. And Guadalajara won for three reasons: It is known to be cultural and artsy, it is relatively close to the Pacific coast, and it is only 70 kilometers from Tequila. A travel writer I follow on Snapchat had just gone there and her snaps from Tequila looked so gorgeous that I wanted to see the agave fields for myself, and visit a couple of tequila distilleries – even though I am not a big tequila fan (I have a margarita every now and again, but straight up tequila wouldn’t necessarily be my drink of choice).

And so I found myself on a bus to Tequila on my very last day in Guadalajara, excited for agave fields and for an education about Mexico’s national spirit, one that, admittedly, I knew very little about. While the day trip didn’t exactly turn on the way I was hoping for (rain instead of blue skies, too many hours spent on a bus, bad planning), I immediately fell in love with the little village of Tequila. I could feel that we weren’t far anymore when agave fields started to line the street on both sides, with their distinctive green-bluish leaves.

The village itself is one of Mexico’s fifty or so Pueblos Magicos, Magic Villages – a title that Tequila well deserves. Colorful colonial houses, cobble stone streets, colonial churches, and tree-lined plazas where street vendors try to tempt you with fresh roasted corn or with ice cream. I instantly wished I would have come for longer than a few hours on a day trip. The highlight was, of course, visiting a tequila distillery, where we were shown the entire process of tequila making. Starting with the big piles of the piñas, the agaves’ round centers, which are thrown on a conveyor belt – the first step of the actual tequila production. We got to see the milling and fermentation, the distillation and finally the bottling. And of course we were not leaving before everyone had tasted the different kinds of tequila produced here: Blanco (bottled immediately upon distillation), Reposado (aged for at least two months), Añejo (aged for at least a year, but less than three) and Extra Añejo (over-aged).

As I said: the day trip to Tequila could’ve been planned better, but yet: I am so glad I went. In fact, it made me add a road trip following Jalisco’s entire Tequila Trail to my travel wish list.

P.S. You can follow my journey in real time on Snapchat: mariposa2711

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Polaroid Of The Week: Guadalajara, Mexico’s Second City

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week mexico guadalajaraWhen it rains, it pours, they say, and that couldn’t hold truer for the past couple of weeks. And I don’t only mean that because it is pouring as I type this – I haven’t seen that much rain since leaving Seattle, but Guadalajara got so much rain today that the streets were flooding – but, as so many of us, I’ve been struggling with the events of this week. That combined with a string of bad news since the beginning of the month has put me in a slump which I’m trying to get out of.

Coming to Mexico was certainly a good decision and is helping me getting my mojo back: As soon as I walked out of the terminal building last week and saw the familiar OXXO convenience store across the street, I felt like I was coming home. And there aren’t many places that make me feel this way. The familiarity of Mexico has also helped me ease into solo travel again, which I haven’t done in a while now, and the weather has been perfect for most of the week – after my depressingly wet and cold October this was much needed.

Guadalajara, which I picked as the starting point for my current Mexico trip, was an excellent choice. I’d never been to Mexico’s second largest city, and it was time to fix that. The city reminds me a lot of Mexico City, which I love, has plenty of awesome street art, beautiful colonial buildings and tree-lined plazas that invite to linger. There is a fantastic art scene here, and I’ve been trying to take as much of it in as possible. The highlight was the Art Museum of the University with a giant, stunning Orozco wall mural and mural covering the interior of the auditorium dome. I felt like it was just yesterday that I marveled at his murals in Mexico City and visited Frida’s Casa Azul for the second time.

I apologize for the lack of content here, but I’ll get back to regular posting as soon as I’m back at 100%. I’ve got a bunch of posts from all over the place for you: Seattle, Mexico, Colombia and Italy!

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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: 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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