travel

{seattle, washington photo journal}

I initially drafted this post on February 20, 2016. A year later, I'm finally putting the finishing touches on it to be published. For reference, this trip was back in October of 2015. Better late than never, right?

Oddfellows Cafe & Bar.

Oddfellows Cafe & Bar.

Meat market.

Meat market.

French onion soup.

French onion soup.

Ploughman's lunch.

Ploughman's lunch.

I have this thing for beautiful, floor-to-ceiling windowed restaurants. Thank you, Oddfellows.

Christina & ice cream make me happy!

Christina & ice cream make me happy!

Wild Honey & Balsamic Strawberry.

Wild Honey & Balsamic Strawberry.

Fresh waffle cones in the making.

Fresh waffle cones in the making.

Nothing makes me happier than an ice cream shop with a French Bulldog as its little mascot. Fun fact: I purchased a bulldog pin for my camera, but lost the camera later. No big deal, just means I need to head back to Seattle and pick up another one. I'll be back for you, Molly Moon's.

Gum Wall before they power-washed it.

Gum Wall before they power-washed it.

Presenting my contribution.

Presenting my contribution.

The Gum Wall was honestly one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen, with cigarette butts and business cards galore. I still had to contribute to the faint minty smell of the alleyway. Though it was powerwashed shortly after our visit, it didn't stop people from re-christening the wall.

Pike Place Market!

Pike Place Market!

Fresh fruits.

Fresh fruits.

Some of the sweetest mango I've ever had.

Some of the sweetest mango I've ever had.

See some seafood s'here.

See some seafood s'here.

Pike Place Market: loud and crazy, like me. I loved getting lost in the hustle of the market, hopping from vendor to vendor and seeing what they had to offer. Christina bought the most delicious hazelnuts from PPM, and I have dreams about them sometimes.

OG Starbucks.

OG Starbucks.

2 Earl Grey lattes, please.

2 Earl Grey lattes, please.

Basiqué or not, for tourism sake, we had to come to the original Starbucks. A friend from my freshman year in college said the only Starbucks that makes a good Earl Grey Latte is the original location, so heeding his advice, that's exactly what we got. It did not disappoint.

Seattle Public Library.

Seattle Public Library.

CenturyLink field for Seattle Sounders game!

CenturyLink field for Seattle Sounders game!

Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge.

Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge.

From the Space Needle.

From the Space Needle.

IMG_1677.JPG

This juxtaposition makes me insanely happy.

Chihuly Garden & Glass.

Chihuly Garden & Glass.

A lot of things have changed since this trip, specifically my outlook on holding onto grudges and resentment. It's easy to let trivial things shadow the bigger picture, but I'm learning to take a step back to really assess what's really important when it matters. In order to move forward, letting go is the hardest, which makes it that much more liberating when you muster up the courage to take that step. As a result, I'm happier, and I feel like a great burden has been brushed off my shoulders. What's the point when your energy is better spent on things other, more important things?

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

{mount rainier national park}

{This one's a long one—I tried to keep the writing short because I wanted this post to contain mostly photos, but I couldn't help myself, heh. Click the smaller photos to enlarge for a fuller view of the photo.}

One of my favorite parts about vacationing is experiencing the marvelous wonders of nature, from lounging by a beach with the clearest water to hiking up to a breathtaking view. While I do love walking through the streets of unknown cities and meandering into cute shops or devouring the local cuisine, I've begun to cultivate a love for the outdoors. Spending weeks during previous summers camping out by Seven Lakes in Upstate New York don't do any of the sights any justice whatsoever.

Before embarking on our journey to Mount Rainier, we stopped by The Bair Bistro in the tiny, beautiful town of Steilacoom. The living museum and restaurant does a fantastic job of preserving the 1900s, with antique items ranging from old milkshake mixers to ancient medicines lining their shelves. Peering at the shelves was a great way to pass the time as we waited for our food, which was also quite delicious. Highly recommend the biscuits and gravy if you ever find yourself in Steilacoom.

The drive to the national park was a beauty in itself—the winding roads, magnificent trees, crisp air, and the peeks of Mount Rainier took my breath away. I couldn't shut up about the trees. When you're in the presence of these mighty trees after spending most of your life surrounded by skyscrapers and stumpy East Coast trees, you can't help but stick your head out of the window in pure amazement at these wonders. 

If I were to pick a favorite part of my week-long excursion in Washington, it would be this day we spent hiking Mount Rainier. I'm already itching to go back so I can explore the park even further for those breathtaking views of fog and the mountain itself. Unfortunately, we arrived after the fog rolled through the park, so all views of grand Mount Rainier were already hidden away.

However, this was hardly a problem; the fogged up views were exactly what I had hoped for. Watching the wisps of fog slipping through the tall trees and rolling through the hills and valleys of the trail felt surreal, as if I was partaking in one of nature's own private shows. An eerie but beautiful stillness started to envelop the areas around us while the fog seemed to dance around us, appearing as quickly as it disappeared.

{Photo by  Christina .}

{Photo by Christina.}

Let me also add that this hike was not a walk in the park. The inclines were incredibly difficult for someone who does relatively little to no exercise. I could feel the blood rushing to my face as my heart raced and legs screamed in pain. Lawd, my legs just spazzed just thinking about the pain.

At one point of the hike, we were met with what seemed like a giant wall of white nothingness on the left side of the trail. I almost felt like I was in one of those completely white rooms from the movies that seem to go on forever with all but one or two other things in them. The most amazing part of this was being able to hear the wind howling somewhere behind this white wall of nothingness, this thick, thick accumulation of fog. Coupled with the howling wind, you could almost see the fog moving (or maybe my eyes were deceiving me). It was one of the most incredible moments during the hike, probably the highlight of the trip for me. Mind you, it wasn't a gradual foggy lead into the white abyss of nothing; it was simply a solid white wall of fog. The feeling was similar to when I watched Interstellar in IMAX 3-D, that feeling of insignificance and feeling like such a minuscule dot in this big world.

We continued onward with the hopes of maybe, just maybe, if we climbed a little ways further, we would be able to see some blue skies and the top of the hidden Mount Rainier. Several strenuous hills and countless "leg breaks" later, we gave up and started our trek down.

Walking down was also an incredible experience. It was as if we were emerging from a cloud and slowly floating down to normal altitudes. The transition from thick fog to seeing pockets of blue skies and sunlight on the trees had us stopping every few steps in attempts to capture the picturesque landscapes.

Also a little fun science thing: I had a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos (surprise, surprise) in the car. Because we were at a much higher altitude, the bag had puffed up like a balloon. I took a moment to enjoy the science tidbit before I ripped the bag open and devoured the contents.

Tips for your trip to Mount Rainier National Park:

  • Go earlier in the day to see the peak before the fog rolls in. But also be prepared to not see the peak because weather permitting, you may or may not be able to see anything but fog, fog, and more fog.
  • Bring pleeeeeenty of water (and some snacks) because if you're in as bad shape as I am, it will be the nectar of the hiking gods for you during your climb up.
  • Hiking shoes are not mandatory because the trails are pretty flat (photos for reference above). Regular ol' running shoes would do the trick.

I seriously cannot wait to go back to see more of this park. Looking at geotags from the park now shows people hitting the slopes and walking through a snowy park. I definitely want to see the park in all this wintery, snowy glory. Now taking donations for a return trip to Washington. Anyone?

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{places to see, eat, & play in portland, oregon}

{Warning: this post is still massive, ha.}

In lieu of a massive post about my entire week in Washington/Oregon with Christina, John, Edwin, and Kevin, I've decided to break it up into different parts of the trip because otherwise, there would be no post about my trip until next year. My week in the Pacific Northwest was nothing short of FREAKIN' AMAZING, so I can't wait to dish all the details.

To start off this long series of posts, here's my "list" of places to hit while you're in Portland! I don't really want to just give a list of places and a short description, so I'm just going full story-mode with our short Portland itinerary. Feel free to scroll and skim through my painfully long blurbs. If you want more thorough descriptions or more info, I've included links to all the spots for easy access!

Due to last minute planning, we decided to opt for a four-person hotel room during our stay. For about $50 per person, we were able to book a sweet room at the Courtyard Marriott in Portland Downtown/Convention Center. Everything was a short drive away, and it felt nice to sleep on an actual bed for a night.

{Bloody Mary.}

{Bloody Mary.}

{Slicin' it up.}

{Slicin' it up.}

{Everyone going for the magical hash brown.}

{Everyone going for the magical hash brown.}

Our first stop was, of course, food. After a long drive from Steilacoom, we were all hungry and decided to stop by Pine State Biscuits for a hearty brunch. Our meal here was one of the best that I've had. You can never go wrong with fried chicken, biscuits, and a huge dollop of sausage gravy. I was in love, and the enormous hash brown pancake was soft and crisp (yaknow, the perfect combination for a really great hash brown). John got the shrimp and grits, and I highly recommend this dish—the grits were topped with perfectly cooked shrimp with the perfect amount of garlic kick.

{Shrimp & grits // McIsley.}

{Shrimp & grits // McIsley.}

{Biscuits & gravy with fried chicken.}

{Biscuits & gravy with fried chicken.}

{The best sign ever. And mini Ed, John, and Christina in the back.}

{The best sign ever. And mini Ed, John, and Christina in the back.}

When in Portland, you get coffee. We unfortunately didn't have time to visit Stumptown Coffee Roasters (sidenote: if you didn't know, Stumptown originated in Portland and made its way to NYC, LA, and Seattle. Their flagship cafe is on SE 45th and Division). We instead visited Good Coffee, a coffee shop with more than just good coffee. The shop aims to impact the lives of others through coffee growers, drinkers, and their communities. If you're a New Yorker, your instant reaction to this shop would most likely involve the word hipster because of the shop's curious similarity to what you would probably see in Williamsburg. That about summed up the entire trip to Portland for us—a larger Williamsburg with more coffee shops and strip clubs. Oh yea, we'll get to that later. We enjoyed our coffees outside in the gorgeous weather while counting the amount of bearded folk passing us by.

{Love.}

{Love.}

{John's chai // Ed's latte.}

{John's chai // Ed's latte.}

{Coffee remnants.}

{Coffee remnants.}

{The nicest barista!}

{The nicest barista!}

{Gorgeous interior decor.}

{Gorgeous interior decor.}

{Hello pretty!}

{Hello pretty!}

{Sharing laughs over coffee.}

{Sharing laughs over coffee.}

With my growing affinity for beers, I make it a priority to check out the local breweries on most of my trips. Deschutes Brewery was on the top of that list, but I mistakenly didn't check the location of the actual brewery, Bend, OR, a three hour drive from where we were. Nope. Instead, we went to the Portland alternative, which was the brewery & public house, where they served food, all the beers and more. If you take a walk to the bathroom, you can see the enormous vats they use to create their delicious beers as well as aging barrels of beer on their way to achieving perfection. Beer flights are always the way to go, so we opted for different flights to try as many beers as we could. The crowd favorite was the Pacific Wunderland, only available at the Portland pub. I love my IPAs, but my appreciation for dark beers hit a peak with the Obsidian Nitro Stout and the Black Butte Porter.

{BEER FLIGHTS!}

{BEER FLIGHTS!}

{Where there's alcohol, there are nuts. Beer nuts.}

{Where there's alcohol, there are nuts. Beer nuts.}

{Award winning brews well deserved.}

{Award winning brews well deserved.}

We wandered into Porch Light, an delightful antique shop filled with goodies that ranged from beautiful postcards to shelves and shelves of glass goods. The displays alone would make any old soul swoon. Definitely worth a visit if you're looking to kill some time looking at a beautifully curated store of goods.

{Venus fly traps!}

{Venus fly traps!}

{Cutest little sign.}

{Cutest little sign.}

{Loveliest postcards and vases.}

{Loveliest postcards and vases.}

When in Portland, you visit Powell's Books for one of the largest collections of used, new, and out of print books. When I say large, I say four-floors-and-the-span-of-an-entire-block large. Wander all around the store and explore the different categories of books and don't forget to check out the rare books room on the top floor. In addition to all the books, they sell goodies with their name emblazoned on mugs, shirts, and tumblers along with other Portland-branded knick knacks.

{Banned books. Loved this little section.}

{Banned books. Loved this little section.}

{Colorful steps indicating which section you were in.}

{Colorful steps indicating which section you were in.}

We headed into Grassa for some quality Italian food for dinner. It was nice enough to sit outdoors, so we grabbed our own table to enjoy our meal in the brisk night air. The menu changes, with a large, chalkboard menu-board from which you order your food and cocktails. I highly recommend the Italian Greyhound, a mixture of vodka, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, and Campari, as well as the cauliflower side dish. Simple is always the best, and Christina's dish of the Pomodoro was the winner with Ed's braised oxtail agnolotti as a close second.

{Grassa! And its sister restaurant, Lardo. More on that below!}

{Grassa! And its sister restaurant, Lardo. More on that below!}

While deciding whether or not we should visit a strip club for the sake of visiting one, we ended up at Bailey's Taproom. Beer on tap and the availability were all displayed on an electric screen behind the bar. It also let you know when the beers were freshly tapped. Kind of gimmicky in my opinion because you don't really need a screen to tell you which beer to get, but still a fun way to engage visitors because of the enormous variety of beers they had.

{Links may be NSFW} Speaking of strip clubs, did you know Portland had the most strip clubs per capita? From vegan strip clubs to steakhouses, the possibilities seem endless (ha ha). We ended up at a hole in the wall strip club called Kit Kat Club, nestled in an alley and right next to the famous VooDoo Donuts. This was my first strip club experience, and I'll just end my blurb here to keep this post PG. Definitely an experience though, and if you're in the right company, a Portland strip club worth a visit! No photos for obvious reasons.

In an attempt to detox from all the food we loaded into our bodies, we found KURE Juice Bar along the same block as Lardo, our next destination. Detox to eat more, right? I can never resist a delicious looking acai bowl, so I had to get the Sunnyside, which was a blended base of acai berries, banana, strawberries, vanilla protein, and apple juice, topped with banana, strawberries, chopped hazelnuts, goji berries, hemp seed granola, shredded coconut, cinnamon, and agave. Any acai bowl that doesn't have teeth-shattering granola is a win in my book.

{Cactus and acai bowl. Am I a hipster yet?}

{Cactus and acai bowl. Am I a hipster yet?}

{BLUE MAJIK!}

{BLUE MAJIK!}

{Sunnyside acai bowl.}

{Sunnyside acai bowl.}

{JUICE HERE NOW.}

{JUICE HERE NOW.}

If you know me, you know how much I love pho. Create a twist on a french dip sandwich with all the elements of pho, and I'll be yours forever. Lardo is hands-down one of the best sandwich restaurants that I have ever been to. Another post coming up on just Lardo with more photos in the near future. Yes, it was that good. The Chefwich features a local chef's sandwich creation and is available for one month, and more often than not, you probably can't go wrong with it. However, the Pho'Rench Dip sandwich was hands down the winner of the entire trip.

{Best sign ever.}

{Best sign ever.}

Faced with the difficult decision of going to Blue Star Donuts vs. Voodoo Donuts, we decided to go with Blue Star Donuts because the donuts here apparently taste better than Voodoo. Because I can't compare the two without trying Voodoo, I can't be objective, but Blue Star's were delicious. I grabbed a Valrhona Chocolate Crunch doughnut, which had rich dark chocolate with a delicious cream filling.

{Doughnuts on display.}

{Doughnuts on display.}

{Don't mind if I do.}

{Don't mind if I do.}

{Best combination.}

{Best combination.}

We wandered around Downtown Portland to where all the food trucks were lined up to grab some more food (hello triple chin). With our food in hand, we all sat on a bench at Tom McCall Waterfront Park and enjoyed the waterfront views as people whizzed by on their bikes and segways.

{Instax portrait courtesy of  Christina .}

{Instax portrait courtesy of Christina.}

{Boat/museum.}

{Boat/museum.}

At Christina's suggestion, we went to Steven Smith Teamaker and ended up choosing a tea tasting flight. We went with Bai Mu Dan, Jasmine Pearls, Honeybush, and Big Hibiscus. The crowd favorite was the Honeybush, to which Christina and I snagged some loose leaf tea for ourselves and John, and the Jasmine Pearls. On the other hand, we didn't enjoy Big Hibiscus as much—Ed described it as Kool-Aid, and it was spot on because it was way to sweet for my liking. We learned how to properly taste the teas from the sweetest woman behind the counter.

{Exterior to die for.}

{Exterior to die for.}

{Our tea flight.}

{Our tea flight.}

{Expertly brewing our tea.}

{Expertly brewing our tea.}

{Full descriptions of the teas we tasted.}

{Full descriptions of the teas we tasted.}

Our final stop in Portland was Salt & Straw for some ice cream! I initially got the pear with blue cheese flavor because of the delicious bites of pear, but the blue cheese began to make me feel queasy. Absolutely not a blue cheese gal (Brie anyone?). After seeing Christina's reaction to the Potion of Malicious Delight, one of their limited edition flavors for Halloween, I knew I had to get a scoop. And boy was it worth it. The poprocks were the perfect little hidden kick inside of the grapefruit and mango ice cream.

{Potion of Malicious Delight.}

{Potion of Malicious Delight.}

{Not shown: silent judge-y guy on the side.}

{Not shown: silent judge-y guy on the side.}

In the two days we spent in Portland, I don't think I even scratched the surface of what the city has to offer in terms of coffee, food, and sights. I still have so many places that I want to visit in Oregon, but I was happy to finally visit one of the cities on the top of my bucketlist. I've learned a lot about myself through traveling with my friends, which I'll reserve for another post. Super excited to head back to Oregon sometime in the near future in order to fully explore this beautiful state. Pacific Northwest, you have captured my heart.

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