kayaking alki

 

I belong in the ocean

and I worship the sun

 

volunteer park conservatory

 

but the Caribbean jungle

is not where I’m from.

 

oddfellows seattle

 

In a neighborhood café

on this gloomy September day

 

Seattle - 006

 

I’m writing from the city

that was once was my home.

 

alki ferry dock

 

Our rain lasts for days

 

center for wooden boats

 

weeks, maybe months

 

Myrtle edwards park

 

but when the sun does shine

 

Seattle Sculpture Park

 

there is no happier place on earth.

 

volunteer park conservatory

 

There may not be jungle, palm trees or white sand

 

Mount Rainer sculpture park

 

but we’re protected by snow covered mountains

 

Lincoln Park sunset

 

purple islands and an ice cold sea.

 

Gasworks park

 

Parks are our playgrounds

 

lake washington

 

lakes our landmarks

 

north capitol hill

 

neighborhoods our enclaves

 

lake union mohai

 

boats our floating homes.

 

golden gardens sailboat

 

Sailors live in Ballard

with their flannel and their lox

 

fremont

 

bohemians flock to Fremont

forming families in Wallingford

 

eastlake

 

Eastlake is for the rastas

who never leave their dock.

 

seattle park

 

The University District houses homeless

and bright eyed college kids

 

view lake washington

 

Madrona and Madison Park are chic

with designer cupcakes and diaper bags.

 

Cal Anderson Park

 

The cool kids hang on Capitol Hill

 

seattle street art

 

but the Central District, Madison Valley, and Georgetown

stand a fighting chance.

 

pride flag capitol hill

 

No matter their coordinates

all our ‘hoods have pride.

 

pike place market fish

 

We worship our food

 

marination makai

 

carnivorous, vegan, or gluten free

 

pike place market fish

 

chefs are our gods

 

ballard farmer's market

 

produce is prized

 

melrose market meat

 

meat can’t be beat

 

pike place market fish

 

salmon is king.

 

pike place market

 

Markets sell anything

 

pike place market

 

from tallow to tempeh

 

pike place market flowers

 

Chinatown has dim sum

 

suyama space

 

karaoke bars and tea.

 

bauhaus capitol hill

 

Our coffee is as strong

 

victrola capitol hill

 

as our men are skinny

 

voxx eastlake

 

cafes are a serious business

 

bauhaus capitol hill

 

and there sure are many.

 

eastlake

 

Our culture may be quirky

 

space needle south lake union

 

it’s hard to distinguish

 

seattle piers

 

the homeless from the famous

 

Seattle Sculpture Park

 

we can be as snobby as the New York elite

 

west seattle car

 

or think we’re as cool as street kids in LA.

 

capitol hill records

 

Music comes on vinyl

 

the comet

 

or from the inside of a dark bar

 

neumos seattle

 

of a band so cool

no one even knows their name.

 

SAM sculpture park

 

Our aesthetic is modern and stark

 

SAM sculpture park

 

inspired by the Northwest and wabi sabi

 

Great Jones' Home

 

architects and designers

 

Seattle Asian Art Museum

 

are the only fashionable ones in this city.

 

The Kingfish Cafe

 

On weekends restaurants form lines

 

Sitka and Spruce Seattle

 

as long as breaks on a perfectly combed sea

 

Smith Seattle

 

hipsters haunt dives

 

Big Mario's Seattle

 

or sneak into a secret speakeasy.

 

Shilshole marina

 

We find our serenity

 

Myrtle Edwards Beach

 

in nature and at brunch

 

alki SUP

 

floating on water

 

mount baker park

 

standing on mountains

 

Seattle freeway park

 

and hibernating in cozy caves.

 

seattle sunset

 

Our sunsets inspire

 

Lincoln Park Sunset

 

a religious conviction

 

lake union boats

 

keeping us devoted

 

lake union boats

 

and praying

 

aurora bridge sunset

 

that next year brings us

 

night on lake union

 

another Indian summer.

 

 

My Favorite Places in Seattle to Spend a Sunny Day

 

When the sun is shining in Seattle the entire city comes to life. Here are some of my favorite places to soak up the sun and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

 

Golden Gardens

Shilshole Bay, Ballard

Few days could be better than admiring the gorgeous boats in the marina and lounging on the beach at Golden Gardens. Play a game of volleyball, cook a beach barbecue, dip your toes in the frigid water, watch a gorgeous sunset, then sit around a blazing bonfire. If you don’t want to cook some of Seattle’s best food is in walking distance in a little pink shack called Paseo (more below). Nearby Ray’s Boathouse has an amazing happy hour with gorgeous views of the sound.

 

Alki Beach

West Seattle

Across the bridge from the big city is Alki with its epic views, boardwalk, and sandy beach. Coming here often feels like going on vacation. Tourists rent rollerblades or surrey’s, suntan on the beach, and explore the sound on stand up paddleboards. If you have a bicycle try avoiding traffic and difficult parking by starting under the West Seattle bridge and biking along the flat path towards Alki beach. Stop along the way at Marination Ma Kai for Hawaiian inspired tacos.

 

The Arboretum

Madison Valley

Wander the Japanese gardens then explore the stunning wetlands by canoe, stand up paddle board, or kayak. Paddling under the freeway bridges among ducks and geese is one of the best ways to enjoy the sunshine in Seattle. You can rent boats at the University of Washington’s Water Activity Center.

 

SAM Sculpture Park 

Belltown/Downtown

The Seattle Art Museum’s Sculpture Park melds the natural Northwest beauty with contemporary Northwest art. I love wandering through the sculptures, especially the waves, then walking or jogging along the path through Myrtle Edwards park. It’s a great place to come daily to watch the sunset, have a picnic, or go for a run. In the summer months there is free yoga in the park provided by 8 Limbs every Saturday morning. This park has always been my favorite place in Seattle for solitude and contemplation.

 

Kerry Park

Queen Anne

The best place in Seattle for city views. It’s also a nice launch point for exploring Queen Anne on foot or stopping to watch the sunset.

 

Discovery Park

Magnolia

I instantly feel like I’ve departed the city when I arrive at Discovery Park. Walking through the woods, standing at the lighthouse, and sinking my feet into the sand on the expansive pebbly beach I might as well be on the Olympic Peninsula. The beauty here is Pacific Northwest at its finest.

 

Lincoln Park

West Seattle

This park on the South end of West Seattle is a bit out of the way, but it has the best sunset views in all of Seattle and is rarely crowded.

 

On Summer Dog with My Best Friends

Two of my dearest friends in Seattle own a pontoon boat that floats around Lake Washington and Lake Union selling hot dogs. I’m lucky enough to always snag a spot aboard. Find them on the lake for the most delicious hot dog of your life (be sure to get it with Sriracha and cream cheese). They’ll probably become your best friends too.

 

Elliot Bay Books

 

My Favorite Places in Seattle to Spend a Rainy Day

 

The unfortunate reality in Seattle is that it does rain… a lot. Particularly from October until June. I’ve spent many rainy days in this city. This is where I go:

 

Oddfellows

Capitol Hill

I used to hang out at Oddfellows so often I started calling it “the office”. Atmosphere is very important to me and the high ceilings, open space, and large windows keep me from getting claustrophobic. In the day it is a great spot to read a book, work on your laptop, or hang out with a friend. The pastries are delish and they have an excellent tea selection. It can be difficult to leave when the candles are lit and the happy hour menus come out. At night it’s great for cocktails with big groups.

 

Henry Art Gallery

University District

My favorite way to spend a rainy day in any city is tucked away in an inspiring art museum. The Henry has some of the most interesting exhibits I’ve seen in Seattle and the large space has several large shows happening at once. Once a year they throw a gala with food, drinks, art previews, live music, and dancing. They also have events happening every month including a guided meditation on the second Thursday.

 

Pacific Galleries

Sodo

Vintage shopping was a favorite past time for me when I lived in Seattle. There are loads of vintage and antique stores all over Seattle, but the best is the Pacific Galleries antique mall. There are rows of dealer stalls with everything from mid century modern furniture to antique entomology prints. Even if you aren’t coming to buy, it’s fun to see the absurd collections of eighties artwork and taxidermy. Come to the antique auction for the real deals.

 

The Volunteer Park Conservatory

Capitol Hill

I can almost pretend I’m in the tropics from inside of the Volunteer Park Conservatory. Stunning tropical plants, orchids, and cacti are artfully curated and the warm temperature is heaven on a gloomy day.

 

Haute Yoga Queen Anne

Queen Anne

There’s nothing better than sweating… I mean really sweating… in 105 degrees on a rainy day. Haute Yoga Queen Anne offers Hatha, Bikrum, and Vinyasa yoga in a heated space with exceptional instructors.

 

marigold and mint

 

My Favorite Shops in Seattle

 

Ok, really I don’t buy anything anymore. My dirty backpack just can’t fit another item. In fact when I’m in Seattle I spend weeks simply getting rid of more and more things from my past. But I still window shop from time to time at my favorite local spots.

 

Elliot Bay Books

Capitol Hill, Books

Get lost in a sea of words, sip a strong espresso, and find a date for the weekend at Seattle’s most beloved bookstore. Their collection is extensive and thoughtfully arranged. I particularly enjoying perusing the staff picks and sitting in the lovely cafe to devour my latest purchase.

 

Maison Luxe 

Madison Park, Home Decor

Shop owner Keli Grosso combines high end pieces from manufacturers like Oly Studio with amazing antique and vintage finds from her travels. Throw pillows have a story wrapped in suzani fabric she sourced on a recent trip to Turkey, the floor is covered with handmade Beni Ourain rugs she snagged in Morocco, and darling paintings from the flea markets in Paris decorate the walls. Keli is also a seriously talented designer who has been featured in magazines like House Beautiful for her work.

 

Vintage Angel

Fremont, Shoes and Accessories

I pinched myself the first time I descended into Vintage Angel. A large selection of vintage leather boots from all over the world… for under $50?!!! Back when I actually wore shoes I rocked a gorgeous pair of vintage maroon leather boots from Spain, genuine snakeskin pumps, and plenty of other rad kicks from this shop. They also have a small selection of clothing and accessories for men and women. Check out their shop in Ballard, Boot Girl, with tons more vintage boots.

 

Watson Kennedy

Downtown, Gifts

Watson Kennedy is the gift shop of my dreams. The owner seems to have a real knack for only carrying the absolute most beautiful objects in the world. Heavenly handmade soaps wrapped in rice paper, graphic linocuts from local artists, and perfect chocolate dipped caramels sprinkled with sea salt are among honey onyx paperweights and inspired coffee table books.

 

Peter Miller Books

Downtown, Books and Gifts

Designers, architects, and artists will geek out in this small but extensive book store. It’s also a great place to buy gifts from stationary to smart watches. Peter himself is an absolute delight.

 

Essenza

Fremont, Perfume and Jewelry

Essenza is a place to go when you want to feel luxuriously pampered. The perfumes, the oils, the soaps are works of art in themselves, and sit among stunning locally made gemstone jewelry. Step in, take a deep inhale, find yourself florally fueled, and if you’ve got the pocket change indulge.

 

Great Jones’ Home

Belltown, Home Decor

I will never forget the first time I went to Great Jones’ Home. I was having a bad day, showed up at work, and my boss (now ex boyfriend, ahem) took me for a walk. We ended it here. Hand blown milk glass chandeliers hung over my head, plush velvet tufted sofas were piled with textiles, and trays made of malachite contained endless treasures. My mood was instantly transformed. Have I ever actually bought something here? It’s far too rich for my blood. But coming to Great Jones’ Home surges me with inspiration and allows me to be a material girl in a perfect, beautiful, material world… until I’m back to being barefoot in the jungle.

 

Farmer’s Markets

Ballard, Melrose Market, Pike Place Market

Other than travel, I feel most justified allocating my funds towards food. It’s one of the few things that costs money and brings me bliss. Seattle has some of the most incredible food in the country and the best way to experience it is at one of the exceptional Farmer’s Markets. Ballard has the largest and most extensive, but most neighborhoods have one at least once a week in the summer. Melrose Market on Capitol Hill is open seven days a week with a lovely flower shop, cheese shop, butcher, and wine. The famous Pike Place Market downtown has plenty of farm produce and Northwest seafood all year.

 

oddfellows cafe

 

Simply the Most Delicious Food in Seattle

 

Seattle has plenty of awesome restaurants and more and more seem to open every time I return. Some have atmosphere that fools me into thinking I’m cool while others have great concepts and delicious cocktails. This list is in no way definitive, but it includes the restaurants I feel consistently serve simply the best tasting food in town.

 

Paseo

Ballard and Fremont, $9 for a sandwich

Few Seattleites will disagree that Paseo is hands down the best spot for lunch. Cuban style sandwiches come on chewy baguette with marinated meat cooked slow on the grill topped with caramelized onions, garlic aioli, pickled jalapenos, crisp lettuce, and lots of cilantro. They also have Caribbean bowls with tender meat, rice, and a tangy salad with beets. I prefer the Ballard location because it has outdoor seating and sits across from the beach. Expect to wait in line and bring cash.

 

La Carta de Oaxaca

Ballard and Queen Anne, $10 for a small plate

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I didn’t even find Mexican food this good when I was in Mexico. The food is some of my favorite in the world and the margaritas are perfectly tangy and strong. Start with a classic margarita with chips and guacamole. Order the halibut tacos dressed in chipotle mayo and pico de gallo, the pork tamales with dark complex mole sauce, and the entomatadas with extra thin carne asada bright tomatillo sauce and queso fresco. Mouth = watering.

 

Buddha Ruksa

West Seattle, $10-12 for entrees

It’s worth the trip across the bridge for the best Thai food in Seattle. Thai Tom’s in the University District and Marlai in Sandpoint are other favorites of mine, but nothing seems to trump Buddha Ruksa. The best dishes are the crispy garlic chicken covered in fried basil, yellow curry, and the prik king green beans.

 

Monsoon

Capitol Hill, $15-25 for entrees

This darling Vietnamese fusion restaurant in East Capitol Hill has been my favorite brunch spot for years. Perhaps it’s because real dim sum scares me a little bit? Well, there are no chicken feet on the menu here. Gee I wonder how I’ll fare next month in Southeast Asia??? Come with a group and share the crispy prawn wontons and the daikon cakes to start. The vermicelli bowls are my favorite anywhere with lots of herbs and fried shallots. Some other delicious brunch dishes are dungeness crab benedict and fried eggs over rice with garlic chili bok choy.

 

Revel

Fremont, $15 for share plates 

Revel is Asian fusion at its best. Start with a craft cocktail from the adjoining bar Quoin and the pork belly kimchi pancake. The albacore tuna rice bowl with fennel kimchi and escarole topped with a soy marinated egg yolk is one of the most nourishing restaurant meals I’ve ever had. If you go in the summer they have exceptional grilled meats cooked outside on an open flame. In the winter the hot pots are flavorful and great for sharing.

 

Serious Pie

Belltown and South Lake Union, $17 for a small pizza

Famous Seattle restauranteur Tom Douglas has plenty of restaurants scattered around Seattle but his pizza haunt is the true gem. The crust is perfectly chewy, crispy, and salty. My favorite pies are the clam with pancetta and the fennel sausage with peppers. A kale caesar to start with a glass of prosecco and you’re in business. If you don’t mind the wait the original Belltown location is much more intimate.

 

Bakery Nouveau

West Seattle and Capitol Hill, $3-5 for a treat

I don’t normally frequent bakeries, my mom makes the best cookies, crisp, and waffles known to man, but with Bakery Nouveau I make an exception. The almond croissant is sheer heaven with its hundreds of buttery flaky layers coated in almonds and powdered sugar. A few weeks ago I ordered a chocolate layer cake here for a friend’s birthday. I don’t like cake at all and I couldn’t put my fork down.

 

How to Cook a Wolf

Queen Anne, $15-25 for share plates 

I fell in love with How to Cook a Wolf the moment I stepped inside. The illuminated hammered copper wall installation, cork tables, and curved wood panels make me feel like I’m dining inside of a cave… in the best possible way. Spinasse and La Spiga seem to get the most press for being the best Italian, but I stand behind HTCAW. You can taste the love and care put into each dish, likely because of the tiny size of the restaurant. The menu changes daily but if there are scallops, get them. Trust me. Obviously order a pasta, which might be the best you’ve ever feasted on.

 

Café Juanita

Kirkland, $30-40 for entrees

Cafe Juanita is technically outside of Seattle, but the food is so good it’s worth mentioning. In fact it might be the best restaurant I’ve ever dined in. This is not a place to budget so eat like an Italian and order appetizers, salads, pastas, meat, and sides. Every dish is perfect. Really. It’s that good. I swear.

 

Sushi Kappo Tamura

Eastlake, $60 for a tasting menu

The best sushi in Seattle comes at a price. Sit at the bar and let the chef choose his freshest combinations.

 

A Friend’s House

Seattle has some of the best fish, meat, and produce in the world. My favorite meals are often cooked at friend’s houses out on the grill from fresh ingredients picked up from the farmer’s market. In the summer the king salmon, halibut, peaches, tomatoes, berries, and greens are exceptional.

 

Oddfellows Seattle

 

My Favorite Cafes in Seattle

 

You could probably blindfold yourself, spin around in circles, and hurl yourself into an amazing coffee shop in Seattle. But why would you ever do that? Here are my favorite places to enjoy coffee shop culture when I’m in town, but excellent coffee is everywhere so you need not ever go out of your way.

 

Victrola

Capitol Hill

When I lived over on East Capitol Hill, Victrola on 15th was my spot. The coffee is exceptional and is possibly the most famous roaster in Seattle, but I always get one of the inspired tea offerings.

 

Café Vita

All over town

If you go to one coffee shop in Seattle, make it a Cafe Vita. They epitomize what Seattle coffee culture is all about: sustainability, quality, and cool. The location on Pike on Capitol Hill has a large roastery you can peek into and dark nooks and crannies to hide in on a rainy day.

 

Voxx

Eastlake and Downtown

Voxx is my latest fling, we’ll see if we can sustain a longer term relationship. I’ve been spending a lot of time on Eastlake and I love how cozy, bright and clean the space is. Curl up in a corner seat on the velvet booth with a copy of the Stranger, a chocolate chip cookie, and a cappuccino or a cup of organic mint tea.

 

Liberty

Capitol Hill

I have absolutely no idea how good the coffee is here, I’ve never tasted it, but I love hanging out and getting work done in this neighborhood bar and cafe. They have plush leather sofas and coffee tables which make me feel right at home and an interesting crowd to mingle with. Stick around until 4pm when they start their sushi happy hour with yummy rolls for $4 and cocktails for $3.50.

 

Café Fiore

Queen Anne and Ballard

You really can’t beat the fact that this coffee is 100% organically grown. Both the Queen Anne and Ballard locations are lovely with distressed brick walls and outdoor seating between rainstorms.

 

liberty-bar

 

My Favorite Bars in Seattle

 

Seattle might take its craft cocktails as seriously as its coffee. Pony up to one of these bars for an amazing drink and an inspired atmosphere.

 

Sun Liquor

Capitol Hill

Nothing says tropical like a big ‘ol mai tai with a pineapple wedge. My favorite bar in town to lounge with a group of friends or catch up one on one over a moscow mule. I’m so into it.

 

611 Supreme

Capitol Hill

Is 611 Supreme still cool? I have no idea, but really who cares? I remember many a Saturday night when I lived in Seattle fluttering like a social butterfly in its dark Parisian lounge. The bartenders will make you anything you want, even if you don’t know what that is. Shout out a liquor and let them get creative. It will always be delicious.

 

Tavern Law

Capitol Hill

Tavern Law started the speakeasy craze in Seattle. With a dark loungey interior and a secret space upstairs accessed by an invitation only elevator it’s the epitome of cool. The drinks are unique and insanely good. My favorites are the flips made frothy with egg white and lavender bitters and the class mint julep in a silver cup to keep it ice cold. Private parties can reserve the french chic upstairs.

 

Smith

Capitol Hill

My favorite weeknight neighborhood watering hole. The owner, Linda, is a Seattle legend and owns bars all over town. Her style is distinct with lots of black and taxidermy and you’ll always meet someone interesting in one of her bars.

 

Hazelwood

Ballard

Finally a bar that’s not in Capitol Hill right??! Sorry guys, clearly there is some bias going on here. Hazelwood is a tiny, lively bar in Ballard with artfully crafted cocktails. They have live music on weekends and specialty cocktails with exotic ingredients like squid ink.

 

Ocho

Ballard

When I’m in the mood for something light I love hanging out at Ocho, sharing a couple of tapas, and having a dark and stormy in their intimate little space.

 

The Butterfly Room

Capitol Hill

Upstairs from the ultra popular weekend spot Grimm’s, the Butterfly Room is a special place for intimate gatherings. I’d reserve it for dates, whether with your latest crush or your best friend. Sit on the plush bench surrounded by illuminated taxidermy butterflies.

 

Rhino Room

Capitol Hill

My super cool lovely and oh so handsome friends Emma Schwartzman and Chris Rice, soon to be overlanders and proud owners of Summer Dog, are opening a bar on Capitol Hill on the corner of 11th and Pine with former Tavolata and HTCAW owner Patric Gabre-Kidan. It’s probably going to be the coolest bar you’ve ever seen. I almost want to return from Thailand just to check it out. Almost.

(Update 11 June 2014: The bar has opened and it is called Rhino Room. You’ll be able to find it from the line that wraps around the entire block! It’s a novelty in Seattle with a big open beautiful space perfect for mingling with a DJ and dancing.) 

 

seattle moonlight

 

My Favorite Nightlife in Seattle

 

These days I spend most nights hanging out with my mom in yoga pants on my visits to Seattle, but once upon a time I was a lady about town. Seriously, I swear, I did some cool things. And they were…

 

Suyama Space Artist Reception

Belltown

One of the best ways to begin a weekend is with a free (ahem cheap) glass of wine at the latest art opening at Suyama Space. Seattle architects, designers, and belltown freeloaders pile in to peek at the architecture firm’s installation, peruse the shop, and mingle with other people in black framed glasses.

 

Soul Night at the Lo Fi 

South Lake Union 

I love to shake my booty. It’s true. I do. The Lo Fi may be in no man’s land but step inside for some live funk and soul to move your hips to. Come after midnight when the place fills up and everyone gets moving.

 

Central Cinema

The Central District

This movie theater slash bar slash restaurant hosts some very fun parties. They show throwbacks like Ghostbusters and Clueless while serving you yummy pizza and vodka sodas. Yes please! Check out their calendar for events like sing alongs and trivia. If you go to see Heathers and they give you a cap gun, seriously don’t shoot it off. It’s annoying.

 

The Woods

Capitol Hill

Dance to DJ beats in an open space overlooking the madness on Capitol Hill. It gets hot and sweaty and the floor shakes. My kinda place.

 

The Crocodile

Belltown

Seattle hosts shows all over town, every night of the week, but my favorite venue is The Crocodile in Belltown. Grab a pizza at the adjoining bar and head up to the stage for some hip hop, folk rock, or even a burlesque show.

 

SAM Remix Party

Downtown 

Each quarter the Seattle Art Museum throws a massive party and gives patrons a preview of the newest exhibits. Music, drinks, performances, artist talks, and more are just part of the fun. The best remix party takes place in the summer at the Sculpture Park with DJ booths and dancing in the grass overlooking the Puget Sound. Be one of the first fifty in line the day of and get in for free.

 

The Artificial Limb Company

Capitol Hill

Seattle’s real speak easy has drinks and dancing far past the 2am city curfew. Live music, DJs, dancing, and lots of mingling goes on until the wee hours. It’s adopted the name of the next door prosthetics firm but sadly inside you will find no artificial limbs.

 

 

Additional Resources: 

thestranger.com

myamericaholiday.co.uk

visitseattle.org

 

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Hello beautiful soul,
In August 2018 I stopped blogging as This American Girl. You can now find me at my new website camillewillemain.com! Hope to see you there xx
Love, Camille