In honor of the monumental fact that we will NOT be moving this summer (as I mentioned in an earlier post, this is only the 4th summer in over a decade that we’ll actually be staying put), I thought it would be fun to reflect on all of the amazing places I have already lived. The places I’ve called home range across regions, state lines, and even continents, making for quite the variety of locations. Each of my former homes have their own unique personalities–their own quirks and highlights that outsiders may not be attuned to.
As such, I’d like to share with you my highlights reel–the best each city has to offer. As a bonafide insider (or, in most cases, at least a former insider) I have discovered many of the hidden gems in each of these places. Read on to see what my perfect day would be in every city I’ve ever lived in.
Starting, now, at the very beginning…
I was born in Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix. And, although I haven’t lived there since I was a baby, we still have plenty of family in the area and I’ve visited often throughout my life.
My perfect day would be in mid-April when the weather is still mild and the cactus are blooming. I’d wake up decently early and head over to Camelback Mountain for a hike before the day heated up. Once at the top of the mountain, I’d take in the sweeping views of the city and the desert below.
After all of that physical exertion, I’d be good and tired…and hungry. I’d stop for lunch at an authentic taqueria for some queso and tortas before heading back to my hotel (I’m staying at the Royal Palms–go big or go home). Next, I’d check in to the hotel spa for my Quatro de Palma full body massage–after all, I did hike already today. After my massage I’d lounge in the sun by the pool for a bit sipping an ice cold prickly pear margarita.
When dinner time rolled around I’d peel myself off my lounge chair and head over to Malee’s for some out of this world Thai food. I’d order 5 or 6 dishes and then I’d just sit there for as long as it took me to down them all. The food is that good and I know I wouldn’t regret it (ok, I’d definitely regret it, but it would still be worth it).
After dinner I’d head out of the big city to my grandma’s small desert town of Cave Creek for some late-night entertainment: wild west desert-style. Once in Cave Creek I’d head over to the Buffalo Chip Saloon to take in the spectacle that is amateur bull riding while listening to the live bands.
After watching the bull riders get punished in the ring, I’d return to my plush hotel bed– thankful that I still had each and every one of my bones still in tact.
I have spent most of my years living in the greater Seattle Puget Sound area. Although I’ve lived in four different cities in the area, I’ll concentrate my efforts on the larger city for which the region is actually known. After all, nobody probably wants to hear the finer points of the cities that I’ve actually lived in (even though Federal Way has such a nice ring to it…).
My perfect Seattle day is in late August when the days are long and warm and…perfect. I would start with a hearty breakfast at Portage Bay Cafe. I’d order the Oatmeal Cobbler French Toast and then I’d head straight over to the breakfast bar to douse the whole plate in all the fresh berries and whipped cream my plate could bear. Then I’d lick off all the berries and whipped cream and I’d go back for more. On repeat. Until my belly burst or they kicked me out of the restaurant, whichever came first.
Next, I’d roll myself out of the restaurant and head over to Agua Verde on Lake Washington to rent a kayak or a SUP. After paddling through the Montlake Cut, I’d make my way into one of the secluded inlets with leafy tree branches stretching over the water and turtles sunning themselves on logs and lily pads…and I’d take a nap. Just a little snooze to reward myself for all of that grueling paddling through pristine blue waters. After my nap I’d make my way back to Agua Verde and I’d stop by their cafe for some chips and homemade salsa and an ice cold horchata.
Now it’s lunch time, so I’d drive over I-5 to Fremont so I could stand in line at Paseo for approximately infinity minutes. And it would be worth every single one of those infinity minutes because at the end of it I would eat the world’s most glorious Cuban sandwich. Heaven on a bun, slathered in garlic aioli. I’d take my sandwich down to Gasworks Park so I could sunbathe and watch the sailboats on Lake Union while
I ate my lunch licked my fingers clean.
After lunch I’d head downtown to take in the sights and sounds of the city. I’d wander through Pike Place Market and stop for some cheesecake at the The Confectional (P.S. Apparently all of my “perfect day” activities revolve around stuffing my face full of food. Now you now the secret to my perfectly toned post-baby body. You’re welcome.).
Now that it’s late afternoon–and I’m exhausted from my endless eating throughout the city–I need a break. I’d walk back up to Westlake Center and explore some of the shops before booking myself a 60–no, a 90-minute–massage at Ummelina Day Spa.
After my massage I’d catch an Uber over to Canlis for the best dinner in Seattle (Disclaimer: I’ve never actually eaten here because reservations are impossible to secure and the meals cost a bajillion dollars, but it’s on my bucket list and everyone tells me that I must go and I’m a lemming so we’ll just go with it.)
My day would end with a bonfire on Alki Beach in West Seattle surrounded by all of my friends and family–and that would truly be the perfect ending to my perfect day.
San Jose, Costa Rica
Between my Sophomore and Junior years in college I studied abroad in Costa Rica–and even though my time there was short, the country still captured my heart. I found home among the palm trees and the crashing surf and the pura vida, so I’m including it here on my list.
My perfect day would be in late October, during the dry season but before the tourists arrive for their winter holidays in the Caribbean.
I would wake up in a beach bungalow on the Pacific side of the country, maybe Playa Sámara where the sand stretches for miles or Manuel Antonio where the monkeys run rampant. I’d drink jugo fresco de morado (fresh-squeezed blackberry juice) and eat gallo pinto (rice and beans doused in salsa Lizano), grilled sweet plantains, and mangoes plucked from the tree outside my front door.
After breakfast I’d snorkel in the pristine blue waters, take a quick zipline tour through the rainforest, then take a nap in a hammock while sipping a piña colada.
In the afternoon I’d magically transport myself to Volcán Arenal so I wouldn’t have to drive on the narrow, treacherous roads that are the only way to actually cross the country. Once at the volcano I’d check in to my suite at the Tabacón Hot Spring Resort. Then I’d head downstairs to bask in the dozens of earth-heated hot spring pools while watching the red lava flow down the side of the volcano in the distance.
I’d end my day with a moonlit walk on the beaches of Tortugero where I’d witness the hatchlings of giant sea turtles push their way from their sandy nests into the breaking waves.
In 2013, when our boys were just 11 months and 2 years old, we decided to move halfway around the world to Ireland. Sure, why not. Looking back at this time in our lives, I think we were absolutely NUTS-O, but I suppose if you know me then you already knew that anyway. And I wouldn’t trade our time in Ireland for anything, so maybe crazy is good.
We lived in Cork, the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland (Although “largest” is a relative term. People there are still outnumbered by sheep, about 2:1.). The perfect time to visit Cork is late May when the weather is glorious (or at least as glorious as one can hope to find in Ireland) and the tourist crowds are still small.
My perfect day in Cork would begin with breakfast at the Mahon Point Farmer’s Market where I would buy freshly baked almond croissants, rich hot chocolate (made from melted handmade chocolates and milk fresh from the cow over yonder), and local Irish strawberries. I’d eat scones with jam and clotted cream, and sip cup after cup of Barry’s tea. I’d sit at one of the outdoor tables surrounded by daffodils and produce stands, listening to live music and contemplating my next move.
Next, I’d head over to Fota Wildlife Park to visit the free-roaming kangaroos and giraffes, the tigers and the howling monkeys. From there, I’d continue on to Cobh, the quaint seaside village that was the last port of call for the infamous Titanic. In Cobh, I’d go through the interactive Titanic Museum, stop by the little red history museum, and marvel at the gorgeous cathedral on top of the hill.
In the afternoon I would drive out to Bllymaloe House for a late lunch at what is probably–no CERTAINLY–the single best farm-to-table restaurant and culinary school in the world. I would eat whatever they cooked that day (because that’s all there is to eat)–hot-out-of-the-oven breads; meats that, earlier that day, were still wandering in the grassy paddocks behind the manor; fish that were plucked from the sea mere hours ago; vegetables from the on-site Garden of Eden; hand-churned ice creams…you get the picture. And, since everything there is served family style and all-you-can-eat, I’d just keep eating and eating and eating and eating.
After one of the most incredible meals of my life, I’d take the short drive over to the Ballycotton Cliff Walk for one of the most incredible hikes of my life. As I’d wander through the cliffs over the sea I’d marvel at the sheer beauty of the sea and the force of nature.
To end my day, I’d return to the City Centre for dinner and craic at a Local. I’d eat steak with grilled onions and tomatoes. There would be live music with guys sitting around tables in the dark pub strumming their guitars and fiddles and bodhrán drums and we’d sing along between sips of icy Bulmers Cidres. We’d stay until way too late but I wouldn’t care, because this is Ireland. And tomorrow we’d eat a Full Irish and life would go on.
San Francisco Bay Area, California
Our most recent adventure has brought us to the technology capital of the world, Silicon Valley, in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is actually our second stint living in the Bay Area (we lived here for two years pre-children while Jon completed his Master’s degree), and it really is starting to feel like “home”.
Every day–literally every day–is perfect weather in Silicon Valley, so it wouldn’t matter what time of year my perfect day occurred. My day would begin with a run with good friends to the top of The Dish (a looming hill behind Stanford’s campus with giant satellite dishes at the crest). I’d take in the gorgeous view of the campus, San Francisco Bay and the cities beyond before making my way back down for brunch at Cafe Borrone (Acme Pan De Mie French Toast topped with fresh berries and vanilla bean whipped butter. And a mimosa. Or two.).
After breakfast I’d drive over “The Hill” to the beach in Santa Cruz where I would lay out my blanket, pull out my book, and drift away to my happy place. I’d just lay there in the sun, listening to the waves crash at my feet. All. Day. Long.
If I had the energy and motivation I might walk over to The Boardwalk to go for a ride on the historic wooden roller coaster or indulge in a mint-chip waffle cone, and I’d definitely grab a slice of surfer pizza from Pizza My heart.
Once I was thoroughly rested and rejuvenated by the surf, I’d drive back over The Hill for an out-of-this-world dinner at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino (you get to hand-pick your meat and nosh on amuse-bouche while you wait for your meal to be prepared–and they reward your patience with fresh-spun cotton candy at the end of your meal).
I’d end my perfect day with a visit to The Mountain Winery in Saratoga for a concert while we sipped red wine under the moonlight.
Thank you for coming along with me on my perfect days.
Now excuse me while I recover from jet lag and go on a diet.