Seattle, WA / Vancouver, BC
This city is magic. The busyness of downtown and the simplicity of the countryside promises you excitement and rejuvenation equally. What other city does that? I do not know.
An afternoon trip over the border into Vancouver, BC was well worth the drive. From the snow dusted neighborhood streets to the stunning downtown city life, you're bound to find a little something of everything you love.
A few months back I decided it had been far too long since I had seen the inside of an airplane. How is it that we become so routined? Ugh. Something deep inside me rejects that from time to time. So, I booked a flight with my mom and made non-plan-plans for a few days. In the wee hours of the morning of December 26th, we boarded our plane and braced ourselves for the bone chilling (yet, soul-warming) air of Seattle, Washington. My family lived in Vancouver, Washington until I was eleven years old. We used to frequent Seattle in those years, but it has been a few since I've been back, and never have I had the freedom to explore the city as an adult. It was always holiday gatherings and family dinners that brought us north. This time it was about more than family. Yes, family is inevitably a cornerstone of my travels. But this time I had my eyes on the spontaneous, "figure it out as we go" nature of this particular trip.
Nowhere to be at any particular time.
It really is all that it is cracked up to be, friends. I promise you that.
Pikes Public Market - Seattle, WA
This local and tourist favorite is a must, rain, snow, or shine. The reason is simple: it embodies so much of what Seattle is about - good food, local vendors, incredible coffee, and a varied culture.
I still have memories of walking through this market as a kid when my family would come up north. I remember it being a lot bigger --- kinda like how I used to view the world, I guess. But this time it seemed to be a brief pit stop in the city, not big enough to fill up an entire day. So much so that I was able to explore a little more into the unadvertised and unknown spots like Storyville Coffee (see below).
Storyville Coffee - Seattle, WA
Located off to the right on Pine St. as you approach Pikes Place Market, there is a bookstore called "Left Banks Books". Unassumingly nestled to the left of that bookstore is a staircase that will lead you off the main hustle and bustle of touristy comers, and up onto the second floor of the building. Tucked away down that hallway you will find Storyville Coffee. This little corner of the city has a modern flare, garnished with a warm fireplace and windowed walls that over look the rest of the market. Their menu is nothing complicated, they cover all the basics of coffee: Latte, Mocha, Espresso, Americano, Cappuccino, Macchiato, French Press, and Hot Chocolate. Notice there aren't any signature drinks offered --- something I appreciated about their style. They keep the main thing, the main thing. I ordered a regular latte, per the usual when visiting new shops. Not only did it fill my stomach and make my tastebuds happy, but it warmed my hands as we ventured back out into the cold to explore a little more.
Family Time - Seattle, WA
My third day in Seattle I met up with two of my cousins and their girlfriends/wives. It had been years since I had seen either of them, so this little reunion was so necessary. We ate at Nordstrom cafe (because, when in doubt, Nordys) downtown and caught up on the details about what our lives entail now as much as possible. The thing I love most about my family is that, no matter how far we live from each other, how little time we've spent, or how different our lives might be, when we get together it's instant fun! & it's always way too short.
I managed to catch a quick photo with one of them before we said our "see ya later"s again. This is Josiah. He lives about an hour away from Seattle in a town called Tacoma and gives his life as a youth pastor at Life Center Downtown. The dude is killin' it out there --- I'm so encouraged by everything he is doing with the Lord and his heart for young people. How amazing is it that we're not just connected by blood, but also by our love for God and ministry too? I love it! Plus, hello --- peep that style. It must be genetic or something.
Can I say that? Well, I just did.
En Route To Vancouver -
The drive through North Washington into Canada is mainly countryside sprinkled with local residences along the way. Separated by acres and acres of land, the homes are mostly custom, craftsmen-style built---not one is like the other. The trees that fill the surrounding scenery ascend into the mountains, blanketed in fog, as the occasional mist greets your windshield. Plenty to capture in a photo, but my personal suggestion: put the phone and camera away and enjoy the pure, unfiltered view.
Elysian Coffee - Vancouver, BC
Minimalist coffee shops like this should exist in every city. Located on the corner of Broadway and Ash, it's the perfect recharge-stop before venturing into the rest of the city. There is rarely a time that I enter a new city and my first thought is not, "So, where's the coffee?" Before our visit, I found this little corner coffee shop here and made it our first stop as we entered Vancouver. Not all recommendations on that list are still in business, so make sure to double check your destination before making the drive.
I ordered a latte, my auntie ordered the mocha, and my mom ordered the basic black coffee. All were exactly what we needed to continue on our journey.
The open windowed face of the shop is lined inside with counter space and seating on which to perch yourself. Sip coffee, people watch...sip coffee, people watch...and repeat. It was a perfect little spot to hit the pause button and capture a few photos.
Downtown Vancouver Shops - Vancouver, BC
Finishing our day in Vancouver, we pit-stopped in the Downtown for some quick shopping. Walking the streets of downtown Vancouver felt a bit like it might to walk the streets of NYC. People were everywhere, the smell of food trucks and smoke simultaneously invaded your senses, and the buildings were lit up like it was the fourth of July. Not to mention the sheer speed of all pedestrians --- we were crashing a speed-walking race that evening, I was convinced. I didn't mind, though -- the quick pace kept me warm in that 30 degree weather. Stopping only for Urban Outfitters and Zara, I walked away with two pairs of perfectly fitting pants for half the price I would have in the US. Thank you, foreign exchange rate!
RO Sushi - Vancouver, BC
In walking distance from Elysian coffee you will find this little sushi kitchen. We stumbled upon it as we wandered down Broadway looking for something to fill our bellies. Hungry and cold, we decided to settled on RO Sushi. What a great little find! The pricing was better than expected and the service was exceptional.
Another reminder to not be afraid to leave as much unplanned as possible when traveling. You never know what kind of gems you'll find! If and when I return toVancouver, RO Sushi will most definitely be on my list for re-visits.
We ordered a variety of rolls to share and, of course, the miso soup to start. Our rolls of choice:
- The Vancouver - Smoked salmon over crab, avocado, cucumber
- Spicy Dynamite Roll
- California Roll
- Kappa Roll Cucumber
- Veggie Roll
Bright Lights Christmas Train in Stanley Park - Vancouver, BC
A friend of mine had recommended Stanley Park as a must see in Vancouver. But by the time we made our way over there, it was already dark. Major bummer since the park is said to be a beautiful walk and so picturesque. We decided to drive through anyway, and what do you know? A fun community event was being held that evening called "Bright Lights Christmas Train". Three million twinkling lights, iconic Christmas displays, live performers along the train ride route, and as much hot cocoa as your heart desires! It's a perfect holiday winter event for anyone.
The best part? The event is hosted by the BC Professional Fire Fighters' Burn Fund. Its a free event, which means all are welcome to come and enjoy! However, a $4 donation to the fund is recommended. $1.4 million has been raised to help burn survivors and their families since 1998.
Don't you just love fun that gives to a good cause?
Au revoir, PNW!
Cafe Campagne - Pikes Place Market, Seattle
Our final moments in the PNW were spent back at Pike's Place Market. Is there any other way to end your PNW adventure? I truly do not know if there is another city I love more than Seattle Washington. The culture is rich, food and coffee -- incredible, scenery is beyond picture worthy...
As you explore deeper into Pikes Place, you will inevitably find Post Alley. At the very end of that cobblestone paved, fresh produce counter-lined alley resides a cozy French eatery called Cafe Campagne. This tiny eatery was the perfect way to end our Seattle escape. We indulged with the Fromage board, a three cheese combination served with a bagette and house-made confiture. A perfect size for two. For the main course, my mom enjoyed the Soupe Du Jour, pureed seasoned apple and celery soup. I, however, got a little ambitious and dove into a juicy Lamb Burger served with a side of pommes frites. No ketchup needed, friends. The flavor was beyond. And no---not one bite was left behind. Finishing our moment at Cafe Campagne with an espresso, we ran back out to the city streets to make our final purchases to bring home to family.
The cup of my soul is overflowing with joy, guys! Time spent with my mom & catch-ups with my auntie and cousins, in one of the best cities in the world, was the perfect way to end 2016.
Until next time, Seattle...
Alexa | Joy