November 8, 2012

"It's Not About the Destination, It's About the Journey"

These past two weeks have been a bit hectic with the hurricane, election and now snow! Therefore, today, we’d like to lighten the mood and help you escape on a trip around the world. As we've mentioned plenty of times before, in order to connect the dots, you have to experience the world around you. People always ask "how do we get inspired" and to be honest, a lot of that comes directly from our travels and being exposed to different cultures, both locally and internationally. Combined, we've been all over, so come away with us to our top favorite hotspots around the world. First stop, the west coast! 

1. Seattle, Washington

Seattle is a great place to get the ultimate blend of music culture, eco-friendly attitudes, art, and of course delicious cuisines! While we want to point out some hidden gems the city has to offer, we can’t talk about Seattle without mentioning, Pike Place Market. Established in 1907, this local farmers market and shopping area is a great year round bazaar for organic produce, specialty grocers, fish, flowers and artisan crafts. Be sure to stick around the fish section to catch a glimpse of a live fish throw and you may even see one as big as a 3-foot salmon get tossed in the air.

All this talk of food, brings us to our next spot, Oddfellows Cafe, a rustic eatery that serves both local and organic dishes. With a menu that changes seasonally and includes everything from mussels to steak with potatoes aligot, this dining space is decorated with wood picnic tables and 90% of its furnishings and fixtures are salvaged, recycled, or repurposed.

Seattle also has some of the best antiquing to offer, with merchandise from a variety of different eras and super reasonable prices, you'll find yourself in thrifting heaven. If you are looking for jewelry or vintage suitcases, Antiques by Pike Place Market is perfect. We also love Red Light which is a large space merchandised entirely by era.

If you're in need of a break from the city, escape to Bainbridge Island for a much needed dose of nature. A lovely ferry ride gets you across the bay in 35 minutes and includes a fabulous view of Seattle and Mount Rainier. Fort War Park is a hiking haven full of abandoned military bunkers that have been transformed into a local hangout by graffiti artists so you can get your fix of nature and art all at once.

2. Costa de la Luz

A long-kept secret amongst natives, Costa de la Luz is part of the Andalucía coast in Spain on the Atlantic side – a wonderful unspoiled stretch of coastline running from Tarifa to Cadiz. Considered one of Spain's "breadbaskets," there's something for everyone here whether it be wind surfing, horseback riding, sherry sipping, fine dining, church/cathedral-hopping, or sun bathing (although remember to check when the winds are blowing from Levante or Oriente).

One can drive hours on end through the beautiful undulating landscapes that appear uninhabited. There's a divine selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, some of it available for purchase at road-side stands. The Andalusian horse farms are definitely a fun activity not to be missed and bring you back to a simpler time of man, horse, and dog.  Also, take some time and pass through the town of Vejer de la Frontera, a classic "pueblo blanco" full of Christian culture with Moorish overtones. The only unappealing attribute along this scenic ride are the windmill farms, which although remain a great source of sustainable energy, can be quite an eye sore to the otherwise radiant setting.

Ok so let's talk beaches! Our personal favorite is "El Palmar" and is approximately 15 minutes from Vejer. This "wild" beach is populated with sand dunes and is 100% undeveloped. Here, spend a few hours with friends in the sun and you'll really understand it's charm. Getting hungry? Walk back to the main road and grab lunch at one of the local beach restaurants. While the food may be simple, it is superb with a selection of jamon, sambas, and varying dishes of Spain's famous paella.

Make sure you spend a day and explore the beautiful Moorish city and port, Cadiz. One of Europe's oldest cities and home of where Christopher Columbus sailed off to discover the Americas, is filled with spectacular architecture of cathedrals, churches and castles. From here, grab a ferry to Puerto Santa Maria to visit the grounds of La Bodega Osborne and get an inside look (and taste) of the world renowned sherries, which are typical for this region of Spain and absolutely delicious! Finish your time here with lunch at the Mariscada, a port where the hot dry winds from Africa are sure to be felt.

3. Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is a magnificent city full of history, stunning architecture and of course a great pub culture. The city is divided into two towns both old, dominated by medieval design, and new, full of European influences. The Edinburgh Festival is typically held throughout August, so we suggest going in the early fall when it's not as touristy but crisp and lively with locals. While walking down the Royal Mile and visiting the Holyroodhouse Palace (where the royal family visits) are great must dos, stay in the Grassmarket, at the heart of the liveliness of the city. And while you are in the area, if you are looking for some real Scottish culture and feeling adventurous we might add, grab some haggis at The Fidler's Arm, followed by some live music and dancing with some friendly Scots at Biddy Mulligan's.

The city's most know landmark is Edinburgh Castle and seen practically city-wide. However, it is a bit disappointing so take pictures and walk up to the castle for a great scenic overlook of the city, but don't go in! If you are looking for an authentic experience, take an hour trip into the Scottish countryside to Stirling Castle, full of Renaissance architecture, beautiful grounds and a fabulous tapestry exhibit.

What would a trip to Scotland be without trying some whiskey of course? The Whiskey Experience takes you on a tour of a replica distillery and makes you part of the process as you test different flavors. For the real thing, Glengoyne Distillery in the Southern highlands is our pick. Here the staff is super knowledgeable, proud of their heritage and creates an exceptional single malt scotch whiskey.

Also, whatever you do, make sure you take a trip up to the highlands in Glencoe. You will not only experience multiple types of weather all in one day, but the skies open up and the mountains are absolutely breathtaking. The scenery is magical and you may even catch a rainbow!

Edinburgh is a city like anywhere else so much of the beauty is found just in walking around. You'll find men in kilts busking and playing bagpipes, independent art shops like The Red Door Gallery, vintage finds at Godiva Boutique, candy inspired cocktails at Candy Kitchen & Bar, historic museums like The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, tons of little shops full of Scottish tartans and memorabilia and even Camera Obscura, an interactive museum that gives you an optical view of the skyline of the entire city.

Stay tuned for part 2...

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