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Un Petit Picnic Parisien

Thursday, September 26, 2013

While I was in Paris, my friend Mila came to visit and we rented the cutest apartment in the 15th arrondissement through Airbnb. On Mila's first day in Paris, it was pouring down rain. (Okay, so, it pretty much rained the whole week, but this day was especially bad.) We spent a good half of our day drenched and spiteful of the Seattle-esque weather. 

As we settled into our apartment, it became increasingly evident that wine was much needed. And since it's Paris, you can't have wine without cheese. And if you're going to buy cheese, you might as well try three different kinds of delicious French cheese. And if you're going to get that much cheese, you should probably also get proscuitto, caprese and sun dried tomatoes...

You see where I'm going here? 

So, we had the most delightful, mouthwatering, perfect little picnic on the charming balcony of our darling French apartment. Living like locals really isn't so bad.

Not Homeless

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
I think it's fair to say that apartment hunting in Spain is one of the most difficult and stressful things that I've ever done. But all that anxiety can finally subside - because I finally found an awesome apartment in one of the cutest neighborhoods of Madrid!

The outside of the building is charming and quintessentially Spanish, but the inside is recently remodeled and sparkling clean. Although my room is quite small, the apartment has all of the amenities that I was looking for: furnished, central heating, wifi, a clean kitchen, an oven (strangely a luxury here in Spain), a washing machine, and a window with lots of light. And not to mention, my roommates are awesome.

The room came furnished with modern Ikea accents (in other words, I would have never chosen red lamps or a red bookcase for myself), but I figured - hey, I'm only here for a year, I might as well embrace it. Insert red + leopard print pillows from Zara Home and a few mod frames & decorative accessories, and boom! I just created a "look" for my room. Kind of. The hardest part about being in Spain for only one year is trying to restrain myself from excessively shopping for home goods. I mean, can you blame me? I used to work at Pottery Barn for goodness sakes. Sorry I'm not sorry that I'm obsessed with interior decorating. 

Being a minimalist is hard. 

Yes, my new red Longchamp bag that I bought in Paris coincidentally matches my room. I promise I didn't plan that.
My window looks out onto a pink building! How perfect.

I know. It's really small, and it's certainly no Pottery Barn, but for a darling space in my favorite neighborhood of Madrid, it'll do just fine.

In Love with London

Monday, September 23, 2013

Despite starting off my trip as a hot mess of jet lag and scrapes & bruises from hauling ~150 pounds of luggage around with me, my week in London truly felt like a dream. Suffice it to say, I have fallen madly in love with London. I will even go as far as to say that it is in my Top 5 favorite cities in Europe. Perhaps I'm just nostalgic for a city where everyone speaks English, but I'm already dying to go back.

Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace

The city itself is stunning. Every corner you turn is filled with incredible architecture and beautiful sights. The enthralling history emanates from the people and culture, enriching one's experience of the city. One cannot cross the Westminster Bridge and not be profoundly moved by the breathtaking view of Big Ben & Parliament asserting a regal presence over the bustling city. From the red coat pageantry of the changing of the guards to tea time at Harrods, soaring up the London Eye and delving into medieval times at the Tower of London, this city embraces an elegant juxtaposition between a glorious past and a colorful present.

Picadilly Circus
Tower Bridge, often confused as "London Bridge"

The people are passionate about their history, their queen and their traditions. This makes for an even more fulfilling experience as a foreigner, for the people's love for Britain is contagious. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that so many important historical events happened in the exact spots that I stood in. Time certainly hasn't stood still here either. London pulses to the rhythm of a vibrant energy, intoxicating all who are lucky enough to pass through this magnificent metropolis.

St. Paul's Cathedral
Tower of London
Massive crowds watching the changing of the guards

Before I even left, I was thinking to myself about how excited I am to come back someday. It may be in a few years, it may be in a few months. Either way, I feel an inexplicable pull towards this city - an insatiable hunger to keep coming back and experience all that London has to offer.

St. Paul's and the Millennium Bridge
View of the city from the London Eye

London: My Week As a Vegetarian

Sunday, September 22, 2013
A delicious quinoa and veggie dish from Le Pain Quotidien

It only took one pub meal and one English breakfast for me to realize that the meat in the UK really, really freaks me out. I've always flirted with the idea of becoming a vegetarian - I'm no passionate carnivore, but I'm certainly no ardent animal rights activist either. Meat is something I can easily limit to one serving a day, but let's be honest, homegirl still loves her bacon.

That said, British mystery meat terrifies me. (I'm getting grossed out just writing about it.) The taste, the texture, the subsequent stomach ache... it's all disgusting if you ask me (and certainly a far cry from my beloved organic/hormone free/happy/free range chicken and beef from Whole Foods). I had such high hopes for bangers & mash at authentic English pubs... but all I got was disappointment.

Nevertheless, I decided to be a vegetarian during my week in London to further avoid these strange substances that the British call "meat". Thankfully, London is incredibly veg-friendly and has a plethora of delicious health food options. As much as I usually like to "sightsee with my tastebuds" and eat like the locals do, this time around I stuck to places I knew I wouldn't get sick from gluten or bombarded by mystery meat. Some of my favorite places to get affordable healthy meals were Le Pain Quotidien, Pret a Manger and Food for Thought.

The Pros of Being a Vegetarian in London:
- Everything I ate was healthy and delicious
- It was much easier to get my daily serving of vegetables (and then some)
- It's fairly easy to find quinoa, eggs and other sources of protein
- I was always full after meals, but never once did I have a food baby
- Common sense: eating less meat is a lot better for you!!

The Cons of Being a Vegetarian in London:
- I didn't have as much energy (but then again, that was probably the jet lag)
- It was hard to find tasty, affordable breakfast food
- At times I had a guilty conscious that I wasn't eating just like the Brits do and was thus having a less authentic London experience (I call this "food FOMO")

With all that said, for me being a vegetarian certainly isn't sustainable in places where it's harder to find gluten free food, which will probably be the case as I travel to different places around Europe. But overall it was a positive experience, so we'll see if I try it again!

Until then, I'll be indulging on delicious jamón ibérico and chicken paella in Madrid. And a major shout out to all my Celiac/gluten intolerant vegetarian friends... I really don't know how you do it all the time.

¡Hola Madrid!

Thursday, September 19, 2013
Hola todos! I know it's been a while... but I thought I should check in to let you all know that I'm alive and finally made it to Madrid! And suffice it to say, I absolutely love it here.

Since arriving on Sunday, my first several days here in Spain have been a whirlwind of apartment hunting, setting up private English classes, signing up for Spanish classes, eating as much tapas as possible and drinking lots of sangria to ease the stress of finding a place to live. (Seriously, as if apartment hunting in itself wasn't bad enough, having to do it in a foreign language is downright impossible.)

To be honest, I haven't had much time to sightsee or explore much - naturally, avoiding homelessness has been my priority. Once I find an apartment and move in, I'm hoping to play tourist for several days before I start my job and get to know my new home much better. But from what I've seen thus far, Madrid is ridiculously gorgeous. I'm already quite infatuated with this city.

Here's a glimpse of what I've been up to besides apartment hunting:

First lunch in Spain: paella and sangria (an obvious choice). I'm a happy girl.
Plaza Mayor
Literally, every single building I pass by is insanely beautiful.
Catedral de Santa María la Real de Almudena

I can already feel that this city is a good fit for me. Thus far I've done a really great job of acclimating to the culture (and by culture I actually mean drinking tinto de verano/sangria/Rioja wine, eating jamón ibérico, dancing until the sun rises and taking siestas every day).

I'm hoping to come back with more updates once I find the apartment of my dreams (please, send good vibes into the universe for me) and have explored more of Madrid! Until then, hasta pronto, mis amigos.

Touchdown in London

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Cheerio lovelies! I've finally arrived in London, and thus far it is smashing. I'm pretty knackered from my flight but I'm trying my best to fight this bloody jet lag. (How's my British accent coming along? I just really want to impress the Royal Baby.)

I apologize in advance for not blogging much in the next week or so. I may be a little busy making best friends with Kate, drinking tea and searching for Diagon Alley. Stay tuned for more updates coming soon, and feel free to follow me on Instagram @courtneylikkel as I venture through London & Paris before moving to Madrid. Cheers!

photo via

A New Chapter

Monday, September 2, 2013

I can't believe the time has come for me to say goodbye to Seattle. As much as I complain about this city (and it's god forsaken weather), I really, truly love this place with my entire heart and soul.

Yet, it's time for me to move on. A new adventure in Spain awaits. (Which daresay, will most likely followed by a permanent move to Southern California for grad school.) As hard as it is to admit to myself, I'll probably never live here again.

Seattle, I am so blessed to have called you home for 20 years now. Thank you for all of your good memories - you will always have a place in my heart. So on that note...

Hola España!