Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bastille Day 2017


In case you didn't know, the day before yesterday was la fête de la Bastille! Bastille Day is the French Independence day, which falls on le quatorze de julliet every year, marking the day during the French Revolution when the Bastille was stormed in 1789.

When I went to Paris last summer I actually stayed in the area near where the Bastille used to stand- it's strange knowing I walked in places where history was made!

Besides the history, for Francophile Seattlites like me, Bastille Day is really just an excuse to do something that makes us feel a little more français.

Seattle has a few good places to satisfy your craving for all things French...

I'm sure I've mentoioned La Parisienne before. Smack in the middle of Belltown, it's surrounded by other coffee shops and eateries in a seriously gorgeous little neighborhood. There are tables outside next to leafy green trees, and the staff are kind and gregarious. Their pastries and sandwiches are délicieux as well.

Le Pichet is my favorite place in Seattle for a luxurious evening. They have absolutely amazing food, always serve you une assiette à pain et au beurre before you eat, and supply a few caramels with the check.

Le Panier is, admittedly, where all the tourists go, but the have the best tasting and best-priced pastries, macaroons and baguettes in town!

The Belle Epicurean on 4th ave downtown is another favorite because of it's classic French feel, plus you can sit outside and people-watch on account of all the hotels and business offices nearby.

Out of all these wonderful options, it was to Cafe Campagne, a French restaurant tucked into Pike Place, that my boyfriend and I headed this Bastille Day, mainly because it would be easiest to get to after work. I was also intrigued by their promise of live music and burlesque...

It was a beautiful, sunny day for a celebration.

We were gifted with stunning blue swathes of sky, warm but not too-warm weather, and the mellowest of afternoon breezes.

La fête took place beginning inside the cafe and spilling out and over the patio, filling the alleyway with throngs of people. It did feel very French with all of us cramped into this little cobblestoned space.

As promised, we were treated to live music, a small group of older gentlemen playing string instruments. They played the type of music you'd expect to hear in a French film, and one song that I assume from the reaction of the crowd was the French national anthem.

I loved that everyone was dressed up- some people with an over the top costume with stripes and berets, some just influenced by the simplicity and classic timelessness of French style. Everyone, some ladies I waited in the bathroom line with pointed out, had beautiful shoes (except yours truly, who was wearing the same shoes pictured in the With Sparkling Eyes heading- parts of the soles are beginning to peel off, but I wore them in Paris!).

There was also, of course, French food. We headed inside the cafe and ordered some pain au fromage et confiture de tomate, vin rouge, et des macarons chocolat! 

As with any good French restaurant, the inside was low ceiling-ed and had seating around the edges of the room, encouraging interaction between patrons. Dusty bottles of red wine lined the shelves and the menu was written in French.

I'm addicted to chocolate macarons!

After sitting inside beside a guy shucking oysters and enjoying our little meal, we returned to alley in time to catch an accordionist before the burlesque show.

He looked the part, with that cigarette oh-so-casually dangling from his lips. After he had been paying a while, Shanghai Pearl, Seattle burlesque artist, came out and performed a cheeky little bit to some classic French songs. 


Finally, we headed home, but first stopped for a cup of coffee (I'd gotten up for work at 5am and was beginning to feel it).

But isn't that a pretty French way to end an evening?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Lupine Lady

When I was young, my grandparents read to me. 

I recall certain stories time and again in the nuances of their voices, the personas they would take on for each new character. I had to ask my grandfather what he meant when Brer Rabbit threatened to give the Tar Baby "a lickin'" in one of Uncle Remus' stories, but never tired of the racous Southern accent he only aqcuired during those bedtime readings.

My grandmother read gentler stories to me, Blueberries for Sal and old folktales- I remember a story about a girl who rode wild horses, another about a Chinese woman who followed a rice dumpling into great caverns beneath the earth.

Most of all, I remember a story that I always referred to as "the lupine lady", though it's true title is "Miss Rumphius."

Miss Alice Rumphius, the star of this tale, grew up wanting to be like her grandfather, travelling the world and living by the sea.

Her grandfather told her to do that, as long as she remembered to do one other thing.

She must find a way to make the world more beautiful.

She ends up doing as she desires, travelling and exploring the world, until she hurts her back and finds a home by the sea.

She grows ill and is stuck inside, but her mood is brightened by the lupines she sees from her window.

When she heals she spreads lupine seeds around the countryside and watches them grow over the years for the enjoyment of all, delighting in fulfilling her grandfather's wish.

I remember wandering around tossing my very own lupine seeds throughout my childhood, enchanted by the idea of them popping up all over the place as soon as I looked away. It became common in my family to point out lupines every time we saw them on a walk, or peering from car windows on a road trip.

As a child, though, I missed the greater meaning of the story- that we should all make it a point to give the world something beautiful. To leave a legacy that isn't related to money or fame, just something that makes this world more pleasant to live in.

It doesn't have to be something great. It doesn't have to be something powerful or expensive.

It just has to be something beautiful, and it can be as simple as a handful of lupines.

Thank you so much to Lilly of Colibri Blooms, who invited me to a prance around in a massive field of lupines with one of her devastatingly beautiful bouquets, and Seattle Urban Farm Company's Hilary Dahl, who was the photographer for our impromptu lupine-filled morning.

Check out Lilly's Instagram @colibri.blooms for more breathtaking flower arrangements and @seatleurbanfarmco for more of Hilary's photography.

How will you make the world more beautiful?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

An Afternoon at Woodland Park's Rose Garden

Woodland Park's Rose Garden is one of Seattle's best hidden gems. Perhaps because Portland's much larger rose garden is the real draw for floral enthusiasts, this small plot of land next to the Woodland Park Zoo is always quiet and often sparsely populated. 

Tourists in Hawaiian shirts with loud voices and selfie sticks tend to stay away, creating the perfect secluded spot for a relaxing weekend retreat.

The garden is arranged beautifully, in a manner that reminds me of Le Jardin des Tuileries in Paris. There's a small fountain in the middle with a walkway around it, circled by styled shrubbery and with paths leading off around the roses. You can sit in a gazebo, underneath some rose-covered trellises or on one of plenty of benches in the shade.

In an effort to soak up the late afternoon sun, my boyfriend and I spread out a blanket on the grass surrounded by bushes of flowers. We'd stopped at PCC beforehand and brought with us a spread of treats: strawberries, figs, smoked ham and jalepeno crackers, baby carrots, snap peas, and a bar of my favorite Dick & Taylor chocolate.

We relaxed enjoying the scent of trees and flowers, him playing guitar and me reading. It really is astonishing how quiet and serene this little garden is, considering it's proximity to a zoo and several high-traffic roads. While we were there a handful of children passed us, playing hide and seek or riding bikes, and another group of people appeared to be meditating in the opposite corner of the garden. I was surprised not to see more people out enjoying the beauty of the late afternoon, the luxury of sunshine in Seattle and the absolute tranquility of the park. 

It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.

 To me, anywhere you can spend an afternoon with your shoes off, toes dirtied from frolicking between flowerbeds, shoulders tanned from laying in the sun with a good book (in this case, Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth) and lips sticky with summer-ripe strawberries is a place worth adventuring to. When you live in a city it's all the more crucial that you seek out these moments to connect with nature, to relax from the rushed, hectic pace of the workweek. 

This week, find your oasis. Spend time outside. Get your feet dirty.