Friday, September 19, 2014
I had to catch a flight in the early afternoon so I knew I only had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport. Someone in my hostel recommended that I visit Pittock Mansion and the Portland Japanese Garden which were relatively close to each other. As the budget friendly traveller I am, I chose to take a bus then hike all the way up to hill to Pittock Mansion. Stupid idea. Should have taken a cab. It is really steep and a super long trek.
P I T T O C K M A N S I O N
Once I arrived at Pittock Mansion, I was happy. Mr. Henry Lewis Pittock arrived in Portland in 1853 barefoot and penniless. He got a job at the local newspaper, worked his way up to owning the Weekly Oregonian in 1860. Being the smart business he was, he built an empire incorporating real estate, banking, railroad, steamboats and the pulp and paper industry.
After the home was passed down through the generations, it was bought by the city of Portland in 1964 for $225,000 . . . that wouldn't even buy you a half decent condo in Toronto today! After all the renovations and upkeep maintenance was complete in 1965, it has been a city landmark ever since!
I've said it time and time again, it's so very important to have supportive footwear at all times and especially when you're travelling. Vionic has been a life-saver to me and my pronated feet. Plus, they are super cute right? You can't even tell that there is a built-in orthotic right into the sandal!
Buy these babies online at www.vionicshoes.ca
P O R T L A N D J A P A N E S E G A R D E N
If you're looking for some peace and quiet, the Portland Japanese Garden is the place for you. They don't allow music or talking on cell phones or eating in the gardens. It is encourage that you to take the time you spend here to reflect, meditate and be peaceful. Enjoy the silent, stone and wood paths and trickling water features all around you.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Portland has always been a place I've wanted to visit. The people are supposed to be great and there are lots of interesting places to visit. There was never a dull moment for me in portland from start to finish. I began my trip arriving at the train station at night time, stayed at a couchsurfers place (I'll get back to that at the end of this post) met up with some friends of friends, stayed in a hostel then flew off to Vegas. Needless to say, I had a great time.
One morning when I was having breakfast on a patio, the woman next to me had such a cute puppy! I nearly took him home with me.
S A L T & S T R A W
Never have I ever tried ice cream as delicious as ice cream from Salt & Straw. First off, you can smell the place from far away which is a key indicator that it will be delicious and they had such a unique selection of flavours. I picked two - Pear & Blue Cheese and Honey Lavender. All of their ingredients come from farms in Oregon. Check out their flavours page but I do warn you, the deceptions of each ice cream will make your mouth water!
P O K P O K
If you only have time to go to one restaurant in Portland, go to Pok Pok! Giving you fair warning, the wait for this place is horrendous to say the least because it's so popular (and freaking delicious). To accommodate everyone, they have strategically placed another one of their restaurants called Whiskey Soda Lounge right across the street. How you plan you evening out is:
1 - Make a reservation at Pok Pok
2 - Go to Whiskey Soda Lounge
3 - Tell Whiskey Soda Lounge that you are on the weight list for Pok Pok (they will tell you when your table is ready)
4 - Order drinks and an appetizer at Whiskey Soda Lounge
5 - When your table is ready, pay your bill and head on over to Pok Pok
The entire menu is supposed to be incredible but it was highly recommended to me to get the Khao Soi which is Northern Thai mild curry noodle soup made with their secret curry paste recipe and house-pressed fresh coconut milk. Served with house pickled mustard greens, shallots, crispy yellow noodle and roasted chili paste. I got the vegetarian option which was unlike anything I have ever had before. Total taste sensation!
V O O D O O D O U G H N U T
This was another tourist spot I was told to go to. Even though I might not be a huge doughnut fan, they were delicious. They have toppings that are irregular to be on a yummy treat such as cereal and bacon so ordering was a bit tough. The names are also pretty funny like the Marshal Mathers Doughnut (covered in M&S's).
Be warned, the line-up for the original Old Town shop is really long.
Above I'm wearing my Vionic sandals - if it weren't for these bad boys, I would be aching and cranky all day long. Even though they might look like a basic flip flop, they actually have arch support to keep you comfortable on your feet.
P O W E L L ' S B O O K S
There is something so breathtaking about the smell of a fresh book and the quiet atmosphere of a bookstore. I was told to visit Powell's Books in the Pearl District because it was the largest bookstore ever. It literally covered an entire city block! The inside felt cozy enough yet as you walked around, the bookshelves went on for days! Other than visiting the original Harry Potter bookstore in Portugal last summer, this is one of the coolest bookstores I have ever been to.
1 S T T I M E C O U C H S U R F I N G
I spent way too much money staying in a hotel while I was in Seattle. They bumped up the prices because the Blue Jays were in town for a 3 game series with Seattle so it was almost $400 Canadian a night. All in all, I wasn't going to be spending that again! So I had to research other options.
Since money was tight, I looked into staying in a hostel while in Portland. They were all sold out for the first 2 nights I would be there so I looked into doing an airbnb which was also pricey. I've heard of some friends couchsurfing which is literally what is sounds like - you sleep on a strangers couch for free. I set up a profile with a photo and short bio and messaged about 20 females in Portland (you can narrow down your search to be age/gender/area specific). A large amount responded pretty quickly but were all already full. Finally, a girl said I could stay with her! Like the 'responsible' adult I am, I checked out her profile which had about 20 good reviews and 0 bad. And just like that, it was booked!
This all happened so quickly but seemed like a good idea. I arrived via train from Seattle to Portland at night time which was a bad idea. For starters I was alone, a female and unfamiliar with the city. The Portland train station is not a comfy cozy place to be as a young girl late at night. The girl who I was staying with gave me really great directions to get to her place so I felt comfortable about that. Once I got off the bus to her place, I had to walk through a kind of scary neighbourhood. All of my senses were on high alert. Once I arrived at her house, I was welcomed with open arms. She lived with a few other people in a co-op style home. They had a backyard filled with vegetables and a chicken coop. Everyone was super friendly and they had a few fury cats roaming around the house.
Once daytime hit and I was able to walk around, I realized I was far away from the city. It took about 30 minutes to get downtown via bus then I had to walk over a massive bridge.
Below is a picture of where I stayed
H O S T E L
Although I was so thankful that the couchsurfer welcomed me into her home, I only stayed for 2 nights and spent the last of my stay in a hostel downtown. I stayed at Northwest Portland Hostel which I would recommend. It's in an old house with tall ceilings and really clean rooms. The staff are really friendly and knowledgable about the city. The neighbourhood was gorgeous and I felt safe walking around.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
This was my very first time travelling completely alone. I booked all transpiration, accommodations and activities myself and did everything solo. I've heard that travelling alone has its advantages such as you literally can do whatever you want, whenever you want which can be great if time is an issue. I honestly don't know what I was so scared about, it was great!
S P A C E N E E D L E
Have you ever seen the romantic movie Sleepless in Seattle with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? It's a classic and a must-see. After watching that movie, I've always wanted to go to Seattle and visit the Space Needle.
B A S E B A L L G A M E
When I was checking into the hotel for the first night in Seattle, the gentleman behind the counter saw I was from Toronto and asked if I was going to the baseball game that night. I did not plan on it but when I then found out the the Jays were playing, how could I say no!
I quickly checked into my room and went back down to the lobby in search of a group of Jays fans to go to the game with. I was a little hesitant at first since I was alone but I managed to find a friendly group of Torontonians who adopted me for the evening.
The game was unreal and the amount of Blue Jay fans was insane. Since British Columbia doesn't have a baseball team, a pile of people drive down to Seattle every summer for the 3 game series.
E M P M U S E U M
The EMP Museum has many exhibits showcasing some of the world's largest selections of rare artifacts, hand-written lyrics, personal photographs and interments belonging to Seattle's own, Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix. Even though the building is massive, their personal displays make you feel right at home with comfortable seating, eye-catching photographs and headsets to listen to music.
Frank O. Gehry who designed the EMP Museum wanted it to scream rock n' roll with a Hendrix flare. He bought a handful of electric guitars, pieced them all together and made those the building blocks of his design for the building.
P I K E P L A C E M A R K E T
Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operated farmers' markets in the United States. This is one of Seattle's biggest tourist destinations as it is right beside the original Starbucks and the famous 'gum wall'. While walking around the market, there were loads of craft merchants, butchers, florists and farmers. Each and every display looked lush and full as if it was first thing in the morning.
If you plan on visiting here, be sure to bring cash!
I was told by a handful of people that I HAD to go see the world famous salmon toss and I would know when I was there. Sounds weird right? Well, it was exactly what it sounded like - people ordering salmon and it would be tossed a handful of yards from one guy to the next.
This is a fully functioning drainpipe - pretty neat eh?
O R I G I N A L S T A R B U C K S
Well, you know what they say, when in Rome! I waited in the enormous lineup for the first ever Starbucks outside of the Public Market along with a handful of other people. Even though the line-up was huge, it went pretty quickly. They certainly have ordering and making the drinks down to an art in there!
G U M W A L L
I don't know what else to say other than this literally is a wall of gum located in an alley under Pike Place Market. This started in 1993 when patrons of Unexpected Productions' Seattle Theatresports would stick their chewed gum to the walls. After the theatre workers scrapped their gum away twice, they gave up and around 1999 called this spot a tourist attractions. In 2009, the gum wall was named one of the top 5 germiest tourist attractions.
Even though this place has a potent smell of spit and mint, it is an interesting spot to visit!
When I was crossing the boarder from Vancouver Canada to Seattle USA, my luggage burst open in the bus terminal. The only tape the boarder security had was this neon green 'examined by customs and boarder patection' tape. Well, beggars can't be choosers so I took what I could get!
If you are looking for a quick and easy way to travel from Vancouver to Seattle, check out www.quickcoach.com. I used them and they were awesome but be sure you book over 24 hours in advance.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
When I was planning my trip to Seattle, I knew I had to go to the Dale Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum! His pieces are iconic and mesmerizing. It is absolutely incredible how much time and dedication goes into each and every one of his creations. Be sure to visit the website - the pictures are surreal (but nothing beats the real thing!).
If you purchase tickets ahead of time, you can save a few bucks. I purchased the package that let me visit the museum as much as I wanted during the day and evening and gave me a discounted rate on visiting the Space Needle.
The ceiling during the day:
The ceiling at night:
The Space Needle is literally right next to the museum!
As usual, I've been wearing my favourite Vionic sandals! These have been keeping my feet comfortable and supported the whole trip. This company has an incredible selection of fashionable footwear that have an orthotic built right into the footbed. I highly recommend getting a pair if you walk a lot!
In the museum there was a projector playing a film of Chihuly that showcased his art installations all around the world.
There are photographers walking around the museum available to take pictures of you. They give you a card that you can scan on the way out where you insert your email and the pictures will then be sent to you.
Last summer, my friend Susie and I visited London England where we went to the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum. This was the first time both of us saw a Dale Chihuly piece! Read more about our London visit here.