What I Saw in Seattle

Our family's travel style has evolved significantly in recent years. After living abroad for many years, hitting up a city's most notable and famous sights has become less and less important to us. My husband and I joke that we suffer from museum fatigue (a very privileged thing to suffer from, I know), which essentially means that after a while, the churches and museums and famous monuments all start to run together and become indistinguishable from one to the next. Now when we visit a new location, we try to seek out the less touristy places and spaces in an effort to get to know the character of the town better. In other words, we try to live like a local might for a few days.

Our trip to Seattle this August was a good example of this travel philosophy, so I wanted to share the highlights from our visit with you. You'll see that we ate quite a lot (my favorite travel activity), frequented beautiful shops (should have brought another suitcase), and found a few dream homes along the way. If those kind of things appeal to you (and if you want your Instagram to reflect that), consider this your cheat sheet on how to see the best of Seattle.

Restaurants

Oddfellows Cafe

This Instagram darling is more than just a pretty face. The food is wonderful, but you'll be so distracted by all the photogenic corners that you might not even notice. Just a warning that you'll be waiting for brunch on the weekend, but weekday mornings are sleepy and wonderfully empty.

The London Plane

Part restaurant, part shop, all beauty. The London Plane has it all, including their delicious, signature Plane bread (order whatever toast is on special - you won't regret it - and then pick up some flowers on your way out).

Molly Moon Ice Cream

You can smell the waffle cones baking in this Capitol Hill icon from blocks away - and chances are you can see the line out the door, too. But have no fear, the line moves fast and the ice cream is worth the wait. We had it three times in three days. Thanks for the holiday weight gain Molly Moon - it was worth it.

Bar Melusine

There's little I love more in a restaurant's design than a clean, striking aesthetic, and Bar Melusine excels in this area. But it also excels in delicious cocktails, fresh oysters, and the friendliest staff. Ask for a shucking lesson - they know what they are doing here!

Shops

Glasswing

Glasswing is a wonderfully curated shop, featuring plants and flowers and clean beauty products and beautiful clothes and accessories for men & women. I didn't want to leave, especially without some items from the new Ace+Jig collection that I spied on the racks. Everything here is absolutely swoon-worthy.

Totokaelo

Stepping into the Seattle branch of Totokaelo is like stepping into a modern art museum. The ceramic and glassware display made my heart skip a beat, and their clothing options are what my designer dreams are made of. I felt a bit like a child, hearing my mom's voice saying "look but don't touch," but honestly, I touched ALL the clothes.

Plant Shop Seattle

I know that I'm officially a plant lady when I go out of my way to visit a plant shop on my holiday. I did need to pick up a hostess gift, though, and I'm so glad that I decided to pop in Plant Shop Seattle to find it. I nabbed a perfect little pilea while not-so-secretly wishing that I could transport the entire store to my house in San Diego.

Neighborhood Highlights

Volunteer Park Conservatory

Tucked away in the beautiful Volunteer Park at the north end of Capitol Hill is a stunning historic conservatory. The rooms feature not only lush displays of all the humidity-loving plant friends but also a beautiful expanse of cactus and succulents. It was the last stop of our visit to Seattle and it made me insanely happy. Go - I promise it will do the same for you.

The Homes of Queen Anne

It's no secret that I love residential architecture, and the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle is full of beautiful homes, mostly of the craftsman variety (despite its name). I took a million house portraits, but will share just this one with you. Go out of your way if you must to see this beauty; the upkeep and care the owners put into it is worth your visit.

The Sunflower House in the Queen Anne neighborhood (on Nob Hill near Crockett).

Pioneer Square

Think pedestrian-only streets, beautiful facades, smart shops and colorful characters - this downtown spot is a can't miss Seattle highlight. Hit it up during the summer to see the lovely flower displays; they reminded me a bit of London, and I loved it for that.

Have you been to any of these spots? What did I miss that would make me a true Seattle local? Leave a comment below because I'm dying to make a trip back!

Traveling the Pacific Coast Highway - Part II

Well, crap, I didn't mean for a month to go by before writing the second post (in a series of three) about our journey along the Pacific Coast Highway. Let's just say that June was a MONTH. So, without further ado, part deux: The Central (or Cowboy) Coast, featuring Santa Barbara, Ojai, San Luis Obispo, Hearst Castle, and Cayucos (whew - that's a lot, but stick with me).

It could be debated as to whether Santa Barbara and Ojai are part of the central coast or not, but just go with it for the blog's sake, okay? Both of these towns have a great California vibe - SB emanating that coastal chic and Ojai, that mountain village cool.

While my daughter and husband spent their entire time in Santa Barbara in the pool (her favorite thing about traveling these days), I went for a wander around town. I expected the beautiful coastline but was pleasantly surprised by the cute downtown - loads of stylish restaurants, shops, and AN URBAN WINE TRAIL. Need I say more?

But my favorite thing about Santa Barbara? Hands down, the courthouse. They don't make civic spaces like they used to, do they?

Taking in the views over Santa Barbara from the gorgeous clock tower.

The courthouse was built in 1929 in the Spanish-Colonial style, with ornate tiles, beautiful staircases, and lovely views from the clock tower. If I could visit just one thing in Santa Barbara, it would be the Courthouse. 

Santa Barbara coastal sunsets.

Ojai is a short drive east of Santa Barbara (and a favorite escape for Los Angelinas), and it exudes California charm. We spent just a brief afternoon there - enough to enjoy a perfect lunch and little shopping stroll ... basically my perfect day. My top recommendations: Azu Restaurant & Bar for delicious tapas, deKor&Co. for gorgeous home goods and Ojai Valley Inn if only to borrow those cute bikes with baskets attached.

As we move north from Santa Barbara towards San Luis Obispo (SLO), you start to reach the true cowboy coast. There are wide open fields and cattle ranchers, and while you still have the gorgeous coastline, there's this sense of the more wilder west that you don't necessarily associate with California.

When you reach SLO, you notice such a distinct change of pace from Southern California. It's slower (no pun intended). It has a small town feel with big city amenities (think great coffee shops, restaurants, and shops). And it has amazing sunsets.

Sunsets in SLO.jpg

The other thing it has is ... The Madonna Inn. I wish I had a good explanation for WHY this place is the way it is, but it truly is one of those places you have to see to believe. (Please forgive the momentary blip in this post's image aesthetic. It's worth it, I promise.)

There is nothing quite like the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.

Since we're on the topic of over-the-top opulence, shall we just jump to the Hearst Castle? Why not - it is just a short drive north of SLO.

The Pool House at Hearst Castle.

I had heard loads about Hearst Castle and always wondered why the hell it was in the middle-of-virtually-nowhere-California (no offense San Simeon), so I was interested to learn that this was family land that William Randolph Hearst grew up on, ranching and camping with his family. The of-the-earth beginnings are certainly in stark contrast to the over-the-top final vision. The design, envisioned by Hearst and his architect, Julia Morgan, derives heavily from centuries of European design history - think a mix of Medieval/Gothic/Renaissance. Bottom line - the decor and architecture are intense, but stunning, particularly if you have an appreciation for art and architectural history. Even if you don't, go to Hearst Castle for the grandeur and the slice of American celebrity/royalty history. We took the 'Grand Rooms Tour', mostly for time and kid-restraints, but it gave us a great taste of the extravagance of the home.

The only disappointing part of the tour was that the iconic Neptune Pool was still under renovation, but luckily the pool house made up for it.

So one last stop along the Cowboy Coast - Cayucos. This place was recommended to me on Instagram, and I'm so glad it was. It was a bit rough around the edges - typical Central Coast, but still so sweet. Case in point, the Brown Butter Cookie Company, which might have the best cookies I have ever tasted.

But what I loved the most about the area? The boardwalk along the coastline at sunset. What an unbelievable treat.

Part III - coming soon!