Friday, May 31, 2019

Rediscovering Seattle - Days 2 + 3

Known as a coffee mecca, I had to check out as many local coffee shops as possible. On my second day in Seattle, I headed to Anchorhead Coffee for a tasty latte (and a blueberry scone, which disappeared too fast for photos). The latte was delicious, but the decor and vibe of the shop was my favorite part - I do love anchors, rustic rope, and narwhals!
I'm in Seattle for the GEO Funders Learning Conference (focused on measurement and evaluation of philanthropic investments). Between sessions I walked by something called the "Healing Room" and heard some music and a maraca coming from inside. I ducked in and found a beautiful oasis of calm that included coloring books, meditation stations, and this make-your-own scent sachet. I thought it was so nice and feels like something every conference needs. You can reach out to the organizer at Centered Spaces here to book for your next event/conference that could use a little calm.
After lunch, I needed a little fresh air between sessions - and the sun was OUT (it doesn't always rain)! I walked around the block to Top Pot Doughnuts for a little treat.
I had this tasty raspberry glazed chocolate cake donut - yum!
After the conference reception, I headed to see some friends I met in St. Thomas a year and a half ago when we were all volunteering after the hurricanes. Pamela and Andrew live in a beautiful house they built that overlooks the Seattle skyline.
A better view, without our smiling faces in the way.
Pamela made us this amazing spread of vegetarian delights - which we ate on the roof before chatting and warming ourselves with wine and a fire. It's so fun to get to travel to places and catch up with friends, I definitely don't take that privilege for granted.
Keeping in the spirit of trying as many coffee shops as possible, on my last morning, I headed to Monorail Espresso for an iced latte. As I was paying I spotted their most delicious looking chocolate chip cookies, which I skipped, but if you're ever in town, have one for me!
On my walk for doughnuts, er I mean, fresh air yesterday - I came across the Seattle Spheres by Amazon. Since Andrew works for the real estate arm of Amazon, he offered to give me a tour before I headed to the airport.
The spheres are home to "more than 40,000 plants from the cloud forest regions of over 30 countries." It's quite impressive.
The space is primarily for Amazon employees (it's part of Amazon's 40-50 building downtown campus) to co-work and relax. They have tours open to the public on the weekends - definitely worth checking out if you're in town.
Although the trip was way too short, and I missed my travel partner in crime, it was a lovely couple of days getting back in the know of what's going on in Seattle. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Rediscovering Seattle

I haven't been to Seattle for quite a few years. The city has changed immensely since I was last in town, maybe ten years ago (I don't even have any blog posts tagged with Seattle) - lots of high-rise buildings and so many new restaurants! One thing that hasn't changed is Pike Place Market, so I made a point to stop by on my early morning walk after landing at 8:30am (I was up way too early for my time traveling). I envy the locals who can shop from vendors like this one with fresh fish for days, yum!
Since I had woken up at 3:30am, boarded a plane, and taken a shared Lyft downtown to my hotel, I was STARVING when I finally caught my breath. I had looked for highly rated restaurants near my hotel and came up with Biscuit Bitch (aggressive name but surprisingly sweet staff who peppered customers with "honey cakes" and "lovey" on the regular as they ordered and were served). I had this delicious combo of a "Bitchwich" with egg, cheddar, veggie sausage, and yummy sauce, along with a side of amazing grits. 
During my post-biscuit morning walk, I stumbled across this series of downspouts. As a lover of functional design, I wanted to figure out why this was configured this way. I think it's a rainwater catchment system of sorts, according to a quick Google image search.
After working from my hotel room and attending the "early bird" reception, I ventured out for some dinner at Shaker + Spear. I started off with this delicious salmon tartar, avocado, and everything crackers and a Corpse Reviver #2 - Edinburgh seaside gin, lillet blanc, triple sec, lemon, and absinthe rinse (background).
And then, I had the Chèvre, beets, butter lettuce, and walnut dressing salad...
...along with the MOST amazing gingered brussel sprouts - they were so good, I ruined my appetite for dessert.
Afterwards, I took another walk around downtown in search of Bathtub Gin & Co., which I had just read about recently.
I finished off a pretty nice day with a "Silent Treatment" - gin, Ancho Reyes Verde, grandeza, lime, agave, and tiki bitters. It was smooth and spicy with a slight smokey hint. The bartender also gave me a few local gin recommendations - if only I had time to tour some distilleries on this trip, but I am excited to take part in a learning and evaluation in grant-making conference starting today!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Exploring Barcelona - Part II

After a solid week, I had Friday to myself to explore the city (it was cheaper to fly home on Saturday, and I always take that option if I can!). I walked about 15 miles checking out sites in the city, starting with Casa Milà. Designed by famed architect, Antoni Gaudi, this UNESCO World Heritage Site and former private residence was built between 1906-1912. I really wanted to go inside but I had a goal of seeing everything I could by foot.
Since I had grabbed a salad for lunch earlier (not that blog-worthy), I treated myself to this amazing ice cream creation at Rocambolesc of chocolate ice cream, toasted sesame seeds, honey rocks, and Italian meringue (that was lightly torched before serving up). It was amazing!
If you've been to Barcelona, you already know that it is a design and architectural dream come true. Around every corner, courtyard, and square is another delightful church, balcony-lined building, or fancy wall. The weather was perfect for walking and looking at everything.
I find a lot of my travel tips for new places on other people's blogs, but I read about Casa Gispert in a magazine interview between Samin Nosrat (of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat fame) and a Money magazine editor (I'm a nerd, I know). Anyway, this food store is one of the oldest in the city and is filled with an amazing array of food, coffee, tea, and spice products. I just looked around, mostly because I never check a bag and also fail to fully understand what Customs will seize from me.
This is Barcelona's Arc de Triomf - roughly half the size of the one in Paris, and built 80 years later in 1888 - which served as the entrance to Spain's first international World's Fair. I liked that in addition to the beautiful structure, there was a chalk artist drawing something Picasso would have loved (in the foreground).
No walking tour of Barcelona is complete without a visit to La Sagrada Família. Another of Guadi's masterpieces, you may have heard the story of how this basilica has been under construction (still yet to be completed) for the past 137 years (its expected completion date is 2026, so start saving up!). It's a bit difficult to get a great representation of all that is going on in the structure - it's across the street from a park and nestled next to buildings in the city - but it's pretty spectacular.
After a satisfyingly long day of walking, I headed up to the fifth-floor rooftop deck of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for one of the most delicious and refreshing cocktails I've ever had - it was the special of the week (so I couldn't copy down the ingredients) but it had a local gin, mint, lime, and cucumber. Alongside an incredible 360 view of the city, it was the perfect end to my walking tour.
If you've spoken to me this year, you might have heard me mention my "no buying year" (I have a journal and everything). Meant to bring more mindfulness to my purchasing habits, and an overabundance of everything I already need, I am cutting way back to only buying necessities. Since I always like to mark travels with art or clothing purchases that will remind me of my travels long after, I was conflicted about whether or not to buy these Spanish espadrilles. As you might guess, I did buy them (my journal does allow me a monthly treat option), and I feel good about it. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Exploring Barcelona - Part I

Last week was a whirlwind! After Atlanta, I flew to Barcelona for our annual festival - MozFest - planning retreat - aptly named, MozRetreat (we're so clever, aren't we?). After arriving super late on Monday night, and two solid days of planning on Tuesday and Wednesday (so many sticky notes!), we headed to a group cooking class. Along the way, we came across this church - I know, Europe and a church?, shocking! However, I thought the Cathedral of Barcelona was extra pretty - love the Gothic style architecture.
We all met at Cook & Taste Barcelona to prepare a four-course meal for each other (about 40 of us in total). All the stations were laid out and I quickly figured out that dessert would be the most fun - although I couldn't have known by glancing at this table that we would be hand-squeezing 6 liters of fresh almond milk, but I digress. It was fun, and a lot of work, but everyone loves dessert!
Here's the vegan version of the meal - there was also a chicken and bacon dish for the meat eaters. I think we did pretty well considering most people were jet-lagged and we'd had a long day of brainstorming and strategizing right before.
The next morning - we all had the chance to sign up for a creative option to continue to get to know our colleagues who will be working on this year's festival - it's a mix of community members, partners, and staff. I signed up for the graffiti workshop where we learned how to make stencils, practiced free-hand painting, and made this fox together as a group of twelve. (For those of you not familiar, Mozilla makes Firefox, the web browser, so foxes have a way of showing up on everything.)
After our creative morning, we headed back to SokoTech, where we were working for the week. The woman who runs the organization, Mariona, also lives there with her family. Her mother lives near the water and hosted us all on her amazing rooftop deck for dinner. This photo captures about a quarter of it. It was so lush and filled with amazing flowers and the views - see my IG for more on the views! The weather was perfect for our last night together.
Mariona's family made us two incredible batches of paella - one with prawns and one veggie.
Authentic Spanish paella - so good!
After dinner, people headed off to fly home or get rest before their flights the next morning. Since I wasn't going home until Saturday (and had Friday to explore the city solo - more on that tomorrow), I stayed out with some of my co-workers and new festival teammates. We stopped in at Bacano for a cocktail. I had their delicious pisco sour.
We stopped by a couple more places, including this place - Madame Jasmine's - which boasted fur-lined walls and glitter. The lighting was perfect to make Sarah, Sarah, Mariona, and Marc look like an album cover. We had a lot of laughs and fun as we danced the night away at a club full of people young enough to be our children, but age is just a state of mind, right? Catch you tomorrow with more!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

A Little Festival Fun in Atlanta - Day 2

Day two of the festival was a little rainy at first but then it cleared up and we found a nice spot in the grass (after listening to Jade Bird at another stage - she's AMAZING) where we enjoyed listening to Mipso (if you like bluegrass, check them out). I had a cup of rosé -- so fancy.
After seeing a few more bands, we escaped again for dinner - this time at Ticonderoga Club (located inside the Krog Street Market). I had this delicious cocktail - "Death is Not the End" - gin, lime, lime cordial, Cloosterbitter, Herbsaint, and salt. It was like a gimlet with a nice kick of licorice.
I couldn't pass up the Ipswich Clam Roll topped with tartar royale - just like summers in New England.
Brian (who's birthday we are celebrating early) with his "Ticonderoga Cup" - Plantation Grand Reserve Rum, cognac, sherry, pineapple, lemon, and mint. Brian said he mostly liked the cup.
The rain literally dampened our Saturday night plans, as they shifted and shortened the sets left after dinner. By the time we got back, the band we wanted to see was ending so we headed back to the hotel. In the morning we got ready for brunch (my fav!) only to find that I had booked us a nice Houston, TX. Not sure how that happened! But we quickly found a Plan B and headed back to the Krog Street Market for brunch at Superica (and it's Cinqo de Mayo - so we were on trend!). We both started off with the Black and White - cold brew and horchata - so yummy!
I had these yummy (and very spicy, for me anyway) chilaquiles with crispy tortilla strips, red chile sauce, 2 eggs sunny-side up, queso fresco, and avocado.
Today is the final day of our first multi-day music festival. It's been fun - the location is really nice (lots of shade, places to sit, good food and drinks available, and great bands). Brian is finishing out the night solo, as I am flying to Barcelona for work (via Istanbul). See you on the other side of the pond!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

A Little Festival Fun in Atlanta - Day 1

This weekend we headed to Atlanta for the Shaky Knees Festival to watch roughly 60 bands do there thing on four stages across a couple of combined parks in the downtown area. Since Brian loves live music, this weekend was a combo Christmas/birthday present. And, as cheesy as brand activations are (collecting emails in exchange for koozies and fake nose rings - see next photo), this shell phone was too cute.
Okay, hot pink is probably not the best fake nose ring color but I liked this photo of us - taking a seat in the shade to watch Wilderado.
After seven hours of festival going, we snuck away to a quiet dinner (and running water - clean hands, ahhhh) at Empire State South. We sat outside and started with the house-made chips with white BBQ dip and the cheese plate.
And a round of delicious cocktails (of course). I had the one on the left - the Solar Flare (blanco tequila, kina, star anise, elderflower, ginger, pineapple, and lime) - and Brian had the Bisou Bisou (vodka, genever, strawberry, crème de menthe, green chartreuse, lime and soda). 
For dinner I had the Farm Egg with crispy rice, spring onion, asparagus, and mushrooms. YUM!
We couldn't pass up the strawberry shortcake to end off a delicious meal.
Then we headed back in time to see Tears for Fears and Beck. In all, it was a pretty good day. We enjoyed seeing bands old and new and being outside, enjoying the parks.
The next morning, we headed to Murphy's for brunch with my dear colleague and friends, Lindsey and Doug. We had a lovely brunch dining on the porch behind us. The perfect start to Day 2 of the festival. Catch you later!