Seattle City Guide

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It’s been over six months since my family’s vacation to Seattle and Vancouver, but, in typical Nnenna fashion, I’m just getting around to recapping the trip now. You know, I edited the pictures and wrote a couple posts months ago, but I never actually put them together until now. I was going to do several recap posts, but in the end, I decided to streamline everything into one post for Seattle and another for Vancouver. We spent five days in Seattle last summer, so there’s a lot of ground to cover in this post. Grab your beverage of choice and get cozy, because this is going to be a long one!

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Stay

Since we were planning such a long trip and since five of us were going, I knew right away that I wanted to find an Airbnb. Last summer was my first time using Airbnb and I had a really good experience. We chose a home in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle and we loved it. The hosts were friendly and communicative and the house was cozy and well-equipped. Also, Ballard is a great neighborhood. There’s lots to see and do in that area alone, and then it’s only about a 15-minute drive to downtown. We rented a car for our trip to make it easier to get around Seattle and because we intended to drive to Vancouver (things didn’t go quite as planned for the Vancouver portion, but I’ll save that story for tomorrow!).

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Eat

My parents are not big on eating out, even when we’re traveling. It’s certainly a good way to save money! This means that I didn’t get to try many Seattle restaurants on this trip, but I do have a few food/beverage recommendations:

Daily Dozen Doughnuts: There are lots of good places to eat in and around Pike Place, but you know I’m going to head straight to the donut shop first. These were hot, fresh, and yummy, and there were even some donuts topped with maple and bacon bits (!!!).

Rachel’s Ginger Beer: This place was recommended to me by a friend who lived in Seattle. There are lots of good flavor choices and a refreshing drink was just what I needed after walking around Pike Place for a few hours.

The Monkey Bridge: On our first night in Seattle, we were tired from traveling and wanted to grab food from somewhere in the neighborhood, which is how we ended up at The Monkey Bridge. We picked up a variety of Vietnamese dishes to go and everything we ate was great.

Cupcake Royale: This cupcake shop was freakin’ adorable- I wanted to move right in. The cupcakes were pretty tasty too and next time I want to try their ice cream.

Mighty-O Donuts: You’ve probably noticed by now that my food recs are heavy on the sweets, but what can I say?? I have a major sweet tooth and I’m pretty much always craving some type of sweet treat. Plus, I had to do a sample of Seattle’s donut offerings so I could report back, right? There was a Mighty-O location in Ballard, so we walked over from our Airbnb one morning. If I’m remembering correctly, they had fairly classic flavor combinations. I tried a couple of their cake donuts and gave them a thumbs up.

Top Pot Doughnuts: This is the last donut shop on the list, I swear! But since we’re on the subject, what’s your preferred spelling- donut or doughnut? I prefer the former! Anyway, I think Top Pot is Seattle’s most famous donut shop, so I had to give it a try. We were able to go once, but it was kind of late in the day, so they only had glazed donuts left. Although the glazed donut was very tasty, I would have picked something a bit more exciting if I had the choice, so I feel like I can’t give my final verdict yet. I guess this means that I have to make another trip to Seattle for research purposes…

Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream: I met my friend one night in Capitol Hill and this place had a line down the block when I spotted it. Still, I wanted to give it a try and I didn’t mind waiting a bit. The line actually moved pretty quickly and soon I was walking out the door with a massive two-scoop cone. I picked the Stumptown Coffee and Salted Caramel flavors- both of these were A++.

Canon: After ice cream, my friend took me to this cocktail bar. The whole place had very cool vibes and they have an impressive bar. The coolest part is that they do cocktail roulette: you tell the bartender what liquor you want and some notes about what you want it to taste like, and they surprise you with a drink. I think my drink had whiskey and some orange element- I can’t quite remember all the ingredients, but I do remember that it was delicious.

Oddfellow’s Cafe: Oddfellow’s was on my list of coffee shops to visit, but I actually stumbled on to the offshoot inside Elliott Bay Book Company, which I didn’t know about beforehand. First of all, having a café inside a bookstore is the best and secondly, it was the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee and catch up with my friend. I loved the decor, the coffee was good, and I had an excellent pastry with my coffee. If I lived in the area, I could see it becoming my go-to coffee spot.

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Shop

– Elliott Bay Book Company: I will go to a bookstore any chance I get and I especially love visiting ones in other cities. Elliott Bay is awesome. There was a great couch section in the middle where you could get nice and cozy with a good book and as I mentioned above, there’s a café in the back. I also flipped through their program of upcoming events and they had some pretty great authors on the list.

Moorea Seal: I’ve followed Moorea’s blog for years. It was pretty exciting when I heard about her plans to open a store, and even more exciting to be able to visit that store years later. They had so many cute products in stock, including clothes, shoes, jewelry, and more. The jewelry caught my eye the most and I purchased a dainty silver necklace for myself while I was there.

Paper Hammer: I love stationery and was glad that we were able to drop by this paper store. I believe most of their goods are made locally, which is pretty awesome.

Kinokuniya: A bookstore that specializes in Japanese books and also carries English and Chinese books. In addition to books, they had a lot of Japanese stationery products, so as you can imagine, I was in heaven.

Olympic Sculpture Park

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Ballard Locks

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Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens

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Space Needle

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Chihuly Garden and Glass

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Bainbridge Island

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Gasworks Park

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Explore

I asked around quite a bit for recommendations and the one place on everybody’s list was Pike Place Market. I wrote all about our first visit in this post and after Pike Place, we did quite a few more activities:

– Olympic Sculpture Park: It’s 100% free and was a nice low-key activity to do after the market. The weather was perfect that day and my mom, brother, and I just strolled around for a bit. We saw the famous red sculpture and there were gorgeous views of the water. It was pretty peaceful and would be a nice spot to unwind with a book for a couple hours.

– Ballard Locks: I don’t think I really understood what the locks were for until we got there. The water changes from freshwater to saltwater (or vice versa depending on which way you’re headed) and the locks help guide boats through the changing water levels. We did get to see a few boats pass through the locks and it was pretty interesting to see how the process works. One regret, though, is that we didn’t get to see the salmon jumping. I wanted to walk over the locks to the other side to see the fish ladder and Commodore Park, but by that time, the family was pretty tired and wanted to take it easy. Next time I’m back there, I’m going to make a point of seeing the salmon.

– Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens: The gardens adjacent to the locks were lovely, as gardens tend to be, and we saw an old timey folk band playing in one area. I was chuckling a bit at the music, and then my mom started to do this funny jig, and it was hilarious (my mom is a lot of fun, in case you didn’t know!). On our way back from the locks, we spotted a rose garden section and strolled over there to have a look. There were several varieties of roses and my dad was in heaven because he loves to garden and learn about plants.

– Space Needle: I was a bit wary about going up in the Space Needle. Years ago, when I visited Paris for the first time, we did the Eiffel Tower. We waited in line for hours, it was so crowded, we couldn’t go all the way to the top, and we couldn’t see that much when we actually got up there. I think the Eiffel Tower is lovely and very pretty, but the experience of climbing inside it was not the best. I don’t think I’d do it again and I was a bit worried that the Space Needle would be similar. Happily, it wasn’t! We bought joint tickets for the Space Needle and Chihuly Museum online the day before, and you’re allowed to selected a designated time. You’re supposed to arrive 30 minutes early, which didn’t quite happen for us, but we were still ushered right in with our tickets. Then, we did have to wait in line for about 30-40 minutes to ride the elevator to the top, but it didn’t feel like a long time (and I was glad that we didn’t have to wait in the long ticket line, and then wait in a second line). There were fun facts and interactive pieces about the construction of the Space Needle on the walls of the waiting section and you also get a family photo right before you go up. The ride to the top is brief, and because the top of the needle is circular, you really do get a great view from any side. On one side, you have city views, and on the other, there are bodies of water, islands, and mountains, and it’s all pretty grand. We walked around the top of the needle, snapped a bunch of family photos, and then headed back down. It’s nice to experience that kind of bird’s-eye view every once in a while!

– Chihuly Garden and Glass: The Chihuly museum is just a short walk away from the Space Needle. I’d seen some Chihuly pieces before in Vegas, so I was excited to see whole rooms dedicated to his work. I thought the exhibits were so interesting and loved the bright, colorful, and whimsical glass sculptures. I can’t decide if my favorite part was the greenhouse structure with one large installation hanging from the ceiling, or the actual gardens themselves where the sculptures were sprinkled throughout the gardens and integrated with the flora and fauna. All of it was eye-catching and beautiful and the rest of my family really enjoyed it too.

Bainbridge Island: I used to work with a woman who was from Bainbridge Island, which is how it first came onto my radar. Since we had several days in Seattle, I really wanted to ride the ferry over. I like ferries and it was an easy trip to make, plus you get great views of Seattle as the ferry pulls away from the pier. It only rained one day while we were in Seattle, which was the morning we took the ferry. By the time we returned in the afternoon though, the clouds had completely cleared and the sun was out. While on Bainbridge, we had excellent ice cream at Mora Iced Creamery, I picked up some tea from Churchmouse Yarns & Teas, which is just a delightful shop, bought several pastries at Blackbird Bakery, and some fudge from Bon Bon Confections to take home with me. Basically, I ate my way around the downtown portion of Bainbridge Island and it was wonderful.

Gasworks Park: This is a cool park that was built on the site of a former gas plant. Some of the machinery is still in place and it’s an interesting juxtaposition with the surrounding greenery and lake. If you walk to the top of one of the hills, there’s a very nice view of Lake Union. I remember the weather being absolutely perfect this day and there is something so pleasant about being in a park on a beautiful, summer day.

Well, well, well, you made it to the end! Thank you so much for reading this lengthy post and I hope it gives you a few ideas if you’re planning a trip to Seattle anytime soon!

A London Holiday

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Our second trip into London involved books, a museum, and ice skating, so it was pretty perfect. There were several bookstores on my London to-do list, but perhaps the store I was most excited to visit was Persephone Books.

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Persephone is a small, independent press that focuses on works by female authors that have gone out of print or been forgotten. We visited on a quiet Thursday afternoon and the shop was just as nice as I expected it to be. Each of the titles on the shelves was accompanied by a brief, handwritten note describing the book. Checking out the staff picks is one of my favorite things to do in a bookstore, so I love that this personal touch was used at Persephone.

The books are beautifully published as well and I took my time selecting a book to take home with me. You also get a free bookmark with each purchase. Their bookmarks feature patterns that match the different endpapers in each book, so then I had another hard decision to make about which pattern to choose. The book I picked up was The Making of a Marchioness, which is written by the same author that wrote A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Although this was my first visit to Persephone, I certainly hope it won’t be my last.

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After Persephone Books, we popped by The British Library (and caught a glimpse of the stunning St. Pancras Hotel as we were walking over to The British Library). I particularly wanted to see their free permanent exhibit titled Treasures of the British Library. There are amazing artifacts in this collection, including books from the Middle Ages and manuscripts by Jane Austen. I love history and the fact that this exhibit has a literary focus made me even more excited. Best of all, that exhibit is completely free to visit.

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We couldn’t linger for too long at The British Library because we’d booked tickets to go ice skating at a rink outside The Natural History Museum. I’ve only been ice skating a handful of times, but every time I go, I throughly enjoy it. I thought that this rink was particularly picturesque, with the beautiful architecture of The National History Museum serving as a backdrop and trees covered in twinkle lights. We skated for around an hour, but that was a decent amount of time, because boy, ice skating is a workout! As an hour came to a close, the sun began to set, and it was a lovely moment.

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We had time for one more bookstore before we had to hop on the train back home and it was a good one- we visited Foyles on Charing Cross Road. This store is beautiful and massive. We were there for about 30-40 minutes, but it did not feel like enough time. There are just books everywhere- so much to see and explore. We only made it about halfway through the fiction section before we had to leave, but I’ve decided that I simply must go back. I did manage to purchase two more books in that time though. I bought Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (one of my favorite books, but I didn’t own a copy because I borrowed it from the library when I read it) and The Mothers by Brit Bennett.

That’s all I have to report from my trip to London! I had a great time and I’m so glad that I was able to spend time with my family. If all goes according to plan, I’ll hopefully be able to have more London adventures later this year!

Tomorrow, we’re throwing it back to warmer days and talking about Seattle in the next installment of travel week!

London at Night

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Welcome to the first post of travel week! We’re going to work our way backwards in time, so I’m starting with my trip to London a few months ago.

Ahhh, London, you magical city, you. I was so excited to visit London over the holidays and it did not disappoint. My family lives in the suburbs of London and we managed to make it into the city twice during my visit. The first time, we spent an evening browsing the shops in some of London’s busiest areas- Oxford Street, Carnaby Street, and Covent Garden.

I loved walking around these streets and didn’t even mind the crowds. There’s just something about being a tourist in another city, you know? We were able to see the festive lights and decorations everywhere and it was wonderful, simply wonderful.

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Where We Shopped

– Liberty London: This department store was at the top of my must-see list and it was lovely. There was a whole section for haberdashery (isn’t that an excellent word?) and fabrics, where I was able to browse through some of the beautiful fabrics that I’d only seen online. They have home goods, clothes, shoes, beauty, craft supplies, and more. There was another section just filled with Christmas supplies and I was so tempted. If we’d gone even a day or two before Christmas, I’m sure I would have bought something. Basically, it’s a store full of all the things that I like and I wanted everything. I’m really glad we were able to visit and I’m making it a point to go back there on my next trip. I’d love to see it in the daytime as well!

kikki.K: I was thrilled that we were able to make it to this stationery store. Really though, my cousin actually snapped a picture of me in the store because I was clearly overjoyed, like a kid in a candy store. I’ve coveted many kikki.K products online, but last time I checked, the shipping expenses were rather high, so I’d never bought anything. I knew I had to take advantage while I was in London since they don’t have any stores in the US yet. To top it all off, they were having a sale while we there! I managed to restrain myself somewhat and picked up some pretty gold binder clips, a notebook, a birthday card for a friend, and a beautiful copper pen.

South Kensington Books: We stumbled onto this bookstore. It wasn’t on my original list, but of course I am happy to drop into any bookstore. It’s a small shop, but they have a good selection. I’ve now started my collection of Penguin Little Black Classics, beginning with the two titles I bought at this shop: The Tinder Box by Hans Christian Andersen and Femme Fatale by Guy de Maupassant. I also bought The Muse by Jessie Burton, which has the loveliest book cover.

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What We Ate

Ben’s Cookies: My cousins asked if we wanted to stop for warm, gooey cookies and I said, “Lead the way!” As promised, the cookies were warm and fresh, and the chocolatey chunks that they use are massive. I went with my favorite, white chocolate chip macadamia nut, and it was rich and delicious.

Mod Pizza: This place is a choose your own toppings pizza bar and it’s a great deal. After a few hours of tramping around, my cousins and brother wanted some proper food. I was still rather full from my cookies and other snacks I’d eaten earlier, so I didn’t get my own pizza. I did watch as everyone built their pizzas (you can add as many toppings as you want for the same price) and sampled a couple slices. We were there later in the evening, so the place wasn’t crowded at all. It’s a relaxed, casual place and it was the perfect spot for us to rest and set down our bags before we headed back home.

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Check back tomorrow for another postcard from London!

Currently 05.

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I don’t know exactly why (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the recent bout of beautiful weather had something to do with it), but I’ve felt more motivated recently. I’ve noticed a pep in my step these last few days and I’ve been bitten by the blogging bug again. I want to roll along with this feeling while it lasts and take advantage of the motivation.

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while and now I’m finally getting it together- I’m going to have a travel week on the blog. Starting tomorrow, I’ll recap and share recommendations from my last two trips (one in July 2016 to Seattle and Vancouver and the second to London in December 2016). I think we could all use a getaway right about now. Since I can’t jet off right this second, I’m doing the next best thing and reliving my last trips.

Before that kicks off though, I wanted to check in and give a bit of a life update. 2016 has been rough for a lot of people and so far, 2017 seems to be following in 2016’s footsteps. At the beginning of this year, I had to take a step back because everything just felt wrong wrong wrong. I stopped checking Instagram, Snapchat, and most of my usual social media haunts, except Twitter. I’d get home from work and trepidatiously open up Twitter to see what fresh horrors had happened during the day, because I wanted to stay informed. Believe me, staying informed and being aware was not one of my strong suits until last year. But now I have to pay attention, I don’t have a choice anymore. There are things going on that affect all of us as a nation, women, black women, and on the most personal level, people in my life that I care about.

It all felt extremely surreal and it continues to feel that way. I didn’t know what to say or think that I had anything important to say. I didn’t know what to do or how I could help. At the same time, I can’t ignore any of this, or pretend it’s not happening. As much as I want to curl up and hide sometimes, I can’t do that.

I’m not sure if I’m making any sense and I certainly don’t have any answers, but it’s always helped me to write about what I’m feeling. In the meantime, I’m continuing to pay attention, working on educating myself, making an effort, and trying to help in the small ways that I can. I don’t know that it’s enough, but at least it’s a start.

Now that you have a sense of how I’m currently feeling, let’s talk about some other things that have recently caught my attention. I’m currently:

Listening to Lemonade and A Seat at the Table a lot recently because they give me something hold on to when everything seems too overwhelming. At the moment though, as I type this, I’m listening to Tom Misch. His music is a great combination of upbeat and relaxed, perfect for background listening when you’re working on other things.

Watching Buffy. A few years ago, my roomie and I started to watch Buffy all the way through (I’d never watched it before), but then we trailed off somewhere around the end of season 2 or beginning of season 3. Fast forward to a month or so ago and I decided to start watching again. I couldn’t remember where we left off, so I started from the very beginning again. I’m in the middle of Season 4 now and so much is happening!

Reading The Sellout. I’ve been focusing on books by black authors for Black History Month and this is one that I’ve been meaning to read since it was first published in 2015. This book is wacky and funny and bananas, but not really that bananas in this current political and social climate.

Eating at home more often. This month, I’ve been trying not to eat out at all (except for last weekend when I was in Philly. I gave myself a pass for that weekend since I knew I’d be out and about with my friends). I’ve been pretty good about making my lunches for the last couple of years, but this month, I’ve been cooking more often so that I could eat better, home-cooked meals for lunch and dinner, and to cut back on spending. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve been getting groceries every week now, instead of every two weeks, and I like trying new recipes. I think I’ve also cut down my food expenses, which was the main goal, but I still have to check exactly what the difference is.

I think that’s it from me for now (until tomorrow)! In the meantime, let’s chat in the comments below- what’s going on in your life at the moment?

(image via Death to Stock Photo)