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Take Me Back To: Iguazú

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Crickets peacefully harmonized with the melodious jungle birds, creating a quiet symphony celebrating the end of the forest's storm. Lush, emerald green trees and vines surrounded my cabin and the nearby lodge, and the scent of fresh rain and damp foliage wafted through the air. As I sat in my treehouse-like cabana at La Aldea de la Selva, my own jungle retreat in Iguazú, I couldn't help but fall in love with this paradise. As if being in Argentina wasn't magnificent enough, we were lucky enough to explore the wondrous jungle as well. Even on my walks to the pool I saw exotic creatures like agoutis and giant lizards the size of cats. The sun blazed brightly, emanating warm amber rays during the day - while the nights were filled with exhilarating thunder storms and torrential downpours that were sometimes more frightening than they were amusing. Yet once the storms calmed down, the sun regained its power and illuminated the beautiful town of Puerto Iguazú.

But we didn't just come here to lounge by the pool and soak up the South American sun; we came to see the famed Iguazú Falls. When we ventured to these marvelous waterfalls, their beauty left me speechless. We trekked through the forest by foot and by truck, exploring different views of the falls and admiring the many birds and butterflies adorning the jungle, from which we hopped a boat that took us along the Iguazú River and up close to the falls. Our boat provided us with the most incredible view of La Garganta del Diablo, or the Devil's Throat, the most impressive and massive part of the falls. We went underneath several of the falls, rendering us drenched and filled with adrenaline for the rest of our adventure.

After our boat ride we continued hiking and exploring the falls. The many falls were all beautiful, but once we were atop the Devil's Throat, Iguazú truly took my breath away. I have never seen anything so astounding. I stood in complete awe as these massive falls plunged to the ground, spraying mist and creating rainbows against the gleaming waters. I was floored by the beauty and inspiration found in these stunning waterfalls. 

Following our visit to Iguazú Falls, we enjoyed life in the jungle while laying out and sipping caipirinhas by the pool, leisurely reading our books, taking a long road trip to the San Ignacio Jesuit ruins, and eating lots of succulent Argentinian steak. I'm no ardent meat lover, but these steaks were incredible. And paired with a bottle of Santa Julia cabernet sauvignon, it was as near to perfection as gluten free gourmet can get. 

After several days in the rainforest, we headed back to Buenos Aires. As much as I loved the bustling city life in Buenos Aires, I missed my jungle oasis and the enthralling waterfalls in Iguazú. I fell in love with the lush feats of nature around me, the combination of chaos and peace in the jungle, the character and comfort of my treehouse cabin, the strong drinks and even stronger sun at the pool, and falling asleep to the exotic symphony of the rainforest every night. Saying goodbye tugged on my heart, although I was filled with an incredible amount of joy for being able to see the marvelous wonders of Iguazú that I had always dreamed of.

Take Me Back To: Amsterdam

Monday, August 12, 2013
Two summers ago I spent a short weekend in Amsterdam, and it didn't take long for me to absolutely fall in love with this cozy city. The Netherlands will always feel special to me because my heritage is mostly Dutch. (Yes, in case you've wondered where a strange last name like "Likkel" comes from, I blame Holland entirely.) I would love to make another trip here once I move across the pond, because one weekend simply wasn't long enough to discover my Dutch roots and explore all of what Amsterdam has to offer. Here's a little flashback to one of my journal entries about my trip to Amsterdam, almost exactly two years ago:

As I strolled down the streets of Amsterdam, I admired the strange beauty in front of me. The rain poured down violently, creating spectacular sapphire ripples cascading down the winding canals. Charming brick buildings with intricate facades lined these quaint waterways, coloring the streets with rustic reds, browns and navy blues. The fervent raindrops bounced off of the many bicycles adorning the sidewalks, which lined up against every inch of free space along the canal railings. Locals and tourists streamed in and out of enticing cafes, while others trudged on through the storm - dodging the puddles and hurried bikers.

I looked upon the city in awe. After years of listening to my family talk about the beauty of Holland - the homeland of us Likkel's - I finally made it here. Something about Amsterdam felt strangely nostalgic and familiar, as if I had already been there before. The small restaurants reminded me of my grandparents' house, filled with authentic Dutch antiques and Delft porcelain. The quaint Dutch restaurants even emanated a similar scent as my grandparents' kitchen, like warm peach pie, freshly steamed vegetables and buttery Dutch Babies (a savory baked pancake dish that my mom used to frequently make me when I was a kid. Delicious!)

We spent the weekend roaming the curving cobblestone streets and mesmerizing canals, lounging in coffee shops, and wandering through the Van Gogh museum. While strolling through the streets of Amsterdam, I could hardly stop gazing at the charming canals and intriguing houses. I wished I could go in and visit whoever lived there, just so I could see if the buildings were just as fascinating inside as they were outside. Their unusual shapes and colors of vibrant simplicity left me awestruck.

As soon as I left the city, I was overwhelmed with a heart-wrenching feeling of homesickness. I had only just begun to discover my heritage, and it was already time to say goodbye. My flight was delayed several hours, and I sulked through the airport desperately wishing I could stay longer and explore more of the country. I want to stay for weeks and learn more about my roots, meet distant family in Hardenburg, and experience more of the welcoming Dutch culture. Amsterdam, I am counting down the days until I get to see you next.

Wednesday Words

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
photo via

These past few days have been spent researching hostels, buying flights, canceling flights in the middle of the night, booking hostels, and researching cities/neighborhoods/airports/public transportation to no end. My brain is fried. And yet, I am so insanely excited for this adventure. 

In a little less than one month, I'll be jet setting to London, hopping over to Paris, and then settling down in Madrid for my new life as an expat. Whoa.

Am I ready? Questionable. Terrified? Sufficiently. Happy? Undoubtedly.

There's so much to do before I leave - so many friends to be seen, favorite restaurants to be visited and goodbyes to be had. Parting ways with my Seattle life will no doubt be bittersweet, but I can say with confidence that I'm ready for the next chapter. And I think it will be a good one.

LA Shenanigans

Friday, August 2, 2013
On Saturday night we headed to downtown Los Angeles for Birthday Celebrations Part II. Our evening consisted of a gourmet Chipotle dinner, poppin' champagne, cuddling with the cutest rescue kitten ever, and eating delicious pink ombré cake (coconut flavored and allergy friendly! My friends are awesome). Afterwards we headed to Perch - an amazing rooftop bar downtown - for more celebratory cocktails and incredible views of the city.

Cats, cake and cocktails?! It doesn't get much better than that, my friends. I had so much fun! I never considered myself an "LA girl", but the more I spend time there, the more I love it. (Although by now I'm thoroughly convinced that I belong in Orange County.)

That One Time I Met Aiden from "Sex & The City"

Thursday, August 1, 2013
Or should I say, that one time I met John Corbett and immediately tripped and almost fell as soon as I said hello. Which was yesterday. It was really embarrassing. But also kind of awesome.

His first words to me were "Don't fall!", which is kind of a pointless thing to say to someone who is irreversibly clumsy, but I let it slide because I mean, it's John Corbett. Then he put his arm around me and I kind of forgot how to speak English.

I wanted to proclaim, "Aiden! I would never break your heart like Carrie Bradshaw did!" Yet somehow, all I could muster was a breathless, "I'm a big fan!" because I'm awkward and unoriginal.

Next, he told me that he liked my bun. I said, "It's my diva bun! I wear it because it keeps me sassy!" because clearly my subconscious was like, "Yeah, you go Courtney! Flirting is overrated, seduce him with more awkwardness!"

But then he told me that my hair was cute, so now I'm tempted to wear a sock bun every day.

How in the world did I meet my long time "Sex & The City" crush on an average Wednesday at work? I was slaving away at the Barn, folding towels and peddling overpriced linens, when an enthusiastic customer rushed through the doors and proceeded to tell me that Kiehl's was having a charity event with celebrities and their motorcycles. She then showed me a picture of herself and none other than John Corbett. And guess what? He was only going to be there for another half hour before he raced off on his motorcycle to somewhere fabulous and undoubtedly sexy.

I almost chickened out, but lately I've been buying into that whole cliché of "do one thing a day that scares you". I thought to myself, "What scares me more than meeting hot celebrities? Nothing! BOOM." So I asked my manager for a 10 minute break, wandered over to Kiehl's, and tried not to be creepy as I searched for him. And then we met, and now we're like, totally soulmates. Right? ...No? Oh, okay.

His final words to me were "Don't trip again!" Awesome. Nailed it.