Wednesday, May 29, 2013

West Seattle

I'm not a particular fan of "stay-cations" (um, what travel addict is?!), but I do love adventures. Although I wasn't able to go out of town for Memorial Day weekend, I hated the thought of wasting a much-coveted day off from work. Thus, my good friend Raina and I decided to go on a spontaneous journey to West Seattle and explore the surrounding neighborhood. 

We started our day at Cactus, where we brainstormed our day's endeavors over mimosas and chilaquiles. Yum. We then ventured to Lincoln Park, where we explored the sprawling rocky beach and watched the ferry boats pass by. After spending some time at the park, we discovered the many quaint shops along the main avenue where we found Bakery Nouveau, a charismatic French bakery with divine lavender macarons. 

Although not far from the hustle & bustle of the city, West Seattle exudes a certain neighborhood charm that the rest of Seattle seems to lack. It all felt very comfortable and down to earth - a nice change of pace from typical city life. I'm glad I finally took the time to get to know this delightful neighborhood, for now I have a true appreciation for all that West Seattle has to offer.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Take Me Back To: Versailles

The other night as I watched Marie Antoinette for the hundredth time, I was reminded of how I fell madly in love with the Château de Versailles. After visiting Versailles in the summer of 2011 when I lived in Paris, I felt convinced that God had made a serious mistake by not birthing me as French royalty. As an aspiring princess and lover of all things French, this ornate and lavish castle left me awestruck. I was entranced by the elaborate gold decorations, extravagant chandeliers, ornate fountains and flawless gardens. I'll admit that everything in Versailles is completely over the top, but that is exactly what makes it so majestic. Besides, the entire purpose of creating Versailles back in 1682 was to boast France's supreme power and authority. "Modesty" was the last thing on Louis XIII's mind when creating this marvelous castle. From the Hall of Mirrors to the King's Chamber, every little detail about Versailles exudes glamour, luxury and grandiose fabulosity. So really, it's no surprise that I'm completely obsessed.

My favorite part of Versailles was undoubtedly Marie Antoinette's estate outside of the château, the Petit Trianon and the surrounding countryside village. In this quaint, quintessentially French village lies several picturesque cottages, a small farm, and a beautiful lake comfortably situated next to a field of golden sunflowers. It is a haven full of luscious flowers, overflowing nature and timeless charm. Despite being completely exhausted from touring the castle and getting lost in the gardens all day, I did not want to leave this charming escape.

Another magnificent highlight was doing some serious damage at Ladurée within the castle - home of the world's best (and most expensive) macarons. Heaven. Although I toted my large gift bag through the expansive gardens and Marie Antoinette's sprawling domain, the extra baggage was completely worth it when I finally sat down in the middle of the countryside village and enjoyed my decadent rose and blackcurrant violet macarons. What can I say, when in Versailles...

My only complaint is that I wish I didn't have to leave. I could have wandered the castle for hours more, explored the gardens for days, and lounged about Marie Antoinette's estate for the rest of my life. Let them eat (gluten free) cake!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Before & After

I got this mirror/clock/necklace hanger back in middle school from Pottery Barn Teen, and although it's quite functional, I've rather outgrown it. Let's just say that lime green polka dots aren't exactly part of my decorating repertoire these days. The clock ticked obnoxiously loud, and the disheveled pictures were a complete eyesore. That said, I wasn't quite ready to get rid of it - so I decided to utilize my crafting skills to refurbish it.

Voila! I now have a fun accessory for my room - as well as a functional place to hang some of my favorite pieces of jewelry.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Pink Door

Whenever people visiting Seattle ask me for restaurant recommendations, I always refer them to The Pink Door - my absolute favorite restaurant in the world. This is my go-to spot for any occasion to celebrate (some of my favorite Pink Door memories include college graduation, my 21st birthday, Mother's Day, celebrating with friends visiting from out of town, or simply indulging on hors d'oeuvres & libations just because). I've shared so many wonderful memories here with the people I love the most, and for good reason. Not only is the atmosphere whimsical, eclectic and unlike any other restaurant I've experienced, but the food is incredible.

According to their website, "Along the quaint Post Alley of Seattle's Pike Place Market awaits a seductive netherworld fronted by a mysterious rose portal better known as The Pink Door. Enter through it, and the tides of reality wash away into a sea of the sublime."

The Pink Door serves Italian-American cuisine, mostly made with fresh, organic and local ingredients. Dinner inside is accompanied by lively & eccentric entertainment, including trapeze artists, live music, cabaret and even tarot card readings. I also recommend relishing your meal al fresco on the patio and admiring the stunning views of Elliot Bay. Sublime indeed.

My favorite appetizers include the gluten free Fettunta (grilled garlic bread with first pressed olive oil) & the Cheese Board Deluxe - comprised of artisanal Italian cheeses, fig and chianti compote with housemade crackers, walnuts and dark chocolate. For dinner, I almost always opt for the seasonal pasta selections, made with Bionaturae gluten free pasta. (My favorite dish in the past has been the Spirelli Al  Caprese. Fantastic is an understatement.) To drink, try a fruity, floral-inspired cocktail or a bottle of L'Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon from Colombia Valley.

The Pink Door is located in Post Alley in the heart of Pike Place Market. Visit their website to see more whimsical pictures, peruse the divine dishes on their menu, or make a reservation. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Take Me Back To: Buenos Aires

This past October when I traveled through South America, I fell madly in love with Buenos Aires. They say that Buenos Aires is the "Paris of South America", so you can just imagine how head over heels I am for the Latin version of my favorite city in the world. The people are beautiful and the city is just as stunning. The architecture is a unique mix of Parisian, eclectic, classic and colonial. It's half Paris, half Barcelona, and all in all purely awe-inspiring. The city is filled with many different neighborhoods with their own remarkable flavor, each contributing to the city's eccentric charm. There's the vibrant La Boca neighborhood with brightly colored buildings, mesmerizing art walks and tango dancing in the streets, along with the quaint, vintage-inspired barrio of San Telmo. On the opposite side of town lies the gorgeous and upscale neighborhoods of Recoleta and Palermo, filled with sophisticated museums and trendy shopping areas. The city is so vast and intriguing, at times it's hard not to experience sensory overload.
We spent our first day in Buenos Aires driving around the city and venturing through all of the diverse neighborhoods. We stopped at the Recoleta cemetery, where we admired all of the breathtaking mausoleums and visited Eva Perón's grave. After an extensive day of exploring, we indulged on a grand feast at Estilo Campo in Puerto Madero - where I had my first ever Argentinian steak. I have no words. Perhaps it was how perfectly our bife de chorizo was paired with our savory Malbec or the delicious, complimentary champagne at the end of our meal - but I was in culinary heaven the entire night.

We spent our next afternoon in Buenos Aires exploring the chic Palermo SOHO neighborhood, where we stopped for a decadent tortilla española at La Cabrera and shopped at the many trendy boutiques. Between the adorable shops, the too-handsome-for-words Argentine men and the elaborately designed buildings, my eyes struggled to take it all in.


The next morning was spent wandering around Palermo Chico, Buenos Aires' most exclusive and glamorous neighborhood. Large, ivy covered houses comprised of stunning French-inspired architecture line the streets, and the sweet aroma of jasmine and fresh flowers drifts through the breeze. Many of these upscale homes were converted into embassy houses when the economy crashed in the 1930s, but the neighborhood still exudes its chic and elite charm.

After getting a taste of Palermo Chico, we ventured to the MALBA, which was filled with a wonderful collection of modern art. Sometimes I forget how much I adore discovering new art until I go to a museum and am reminded of how much I truly thrive off it. I always leave museums refreshed and inspired, and our trip to the MALBA was no exception. Unfortunately, my "art high" didn't last long since we were soon ripped off by a cab driver and subsequently got lost in a rather sketchy part of town. After diverting a what-could-be-crisis and getting over the fact that we were given fake money by our taxi driver, we went back to the safe and elegant Palermo SOHO where we comforted ourselves with a savory lunch at Cluny and generous portions of wine.

Refueled and recharged, we explored bits of the Recoleta area - including the botanical gardens (which really just consisted of a deserted park with a plethora of cats) and a delicious ice cream shop that is known for its artisan Patagonian flavors. One of the many profound, self-actualizing moments I experienced in Argentina is that I love anything dulce de leche flavored. I mean, way more than chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, or even mint chocolate chip. If I were an ice cream, I would undoubtedly be a scoop of dulce de leche. It's a good thing that dulce de leche is one of Buenos Aires' most famed flavors in a city that is well known for incredible helado, because I fit right in.

Although I could never envision myself living in Buenos Aires, I adored the city immensely. Many familiar aspects were reminiscent of Spain and Paris, yet the unique flavor and culture made the city unlike anything I've ever experienced.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May via Instagram

New floral pants! I've wanted these bad boys for the longest time, and I finally snagged them for a ridiculously good sale price. Thanks, GAP!
Celebrating my acceptance to teach English in Spain :) Cheers to the future!
Hair modeling for my homegirl Jen, followed by a marvelous lunch at my favorite restaurant, Purple Café & Wine Bar.
Celebratory margaritas on Cinco de Mayo! I kid you not, my mom's fiancée Lee makes the best margaritas north of Mexico. (Find the recipe here!)
Sunsets at the Kirkland waterfront. Washington, you're not so bad.
Brunch at Portage Bay Café, also known as HEAVEN ON EARTH. Although I almost always opt for the Vegan Banana Pancakes or the Rancher's Breakfast, this time I branched out and ordered (no, devoured) their delicious prosciutto and vegetable fritatta. I can't even.
Exploring the grounds of DeLille Cellars while mom picked out the linens & china for her wedding. I seriously could not have envisioned a more perfect venue for her.
Peonies are and always will be my favorite flowers. I love enjoying fresh vases of them around the house!

Follow me on Instagram @courtneylikkel - I promise I try to keep the pictures of my cats to a minimum...

Buenas Noticias

Hola mis amigos, I have some exciting news... I'm officially moving to Spain this fall to teach English for 9 months!!

All I know thus far is that I'm assigned to the region of Madrid - but the city, school, and age group of kids I'll be teaching are still unknown. I'm still numb and in shock from the euphoria of it all - it all just feels so surreal. I'm moving to Europe!!!!

There are so many thoughts racing through my mind right now. All of the cities I want to visit, all of the countries I want to travel to, all of the work I need to do in order to obtain my visa, how in the world am I going to find an apartment, what city am I going to end up in, what movie do I want to watch tonight that somehow reminds me of Spain, why don't I remember how to conjugate verbs in the "vosotros" form, etc. All pretty irrelevant things to worry about in the grand scheme of things (except for getting my visa... I guess you could consider that important!) However, all of these anxieties are cancelled out by my sheer excitement for this upcoming adventure.

Although I recognize that this experience will be vastly different than my time spent in the South, I feel better prepared this time around knowing what to expect in regards to living in Spain. (I studied abroad in Cádiz, Andalucía for five months in 2010. Time flies!) When I moved to Cádiz three years ago, I had many romanticized and idealized notions about life in Spain. When reality fell short of my expectations, I felt disappointed and depressed. Combined with two horrible host family experiences and unknowingly having Celiac disease whilst eating loads of gluten, I felt miserable. Despite many fond memories and epic adventures in Cádiz, I wouldn't classify my first Spanish experience as entirely positive.

My first time living in Spain, I rushed into it when my gut told me the timing wasn't right. Now, I can feel that this is my time. It won't be perfect, because adjusting to life abroad is hard. It's difficult, it's exhausting, and it's arguably the best thing you could ever do for yourself. I'm so excited for the adventures to come, and I'm confident that this experience is going to profoundly change my life in many ways. I can't get over it - I'm moving to Spain!!