Happy Friday

flower

And happy spring! I have welcomed spring with open arms and filled our house with tulips and ranunculus. Happy indeed.

What are you up to this weekend? It’s Portland Dining Month (that’s right, we get a full month), so the husband and I are going to try a new-to-us restaurant tonight and maybe tomorrow as well. Other than that, I have an intensive yoga workshop (eek) and plan to spend as much time as possible in the sunny, 60 degree weather.

In other less happy news, I want to share this article today about elephant riding and the abuse they are put through to become human entertainment. When Jaro and I were in Thailand recently (I promise to share photos and stories of that soon), we knew that would not be one of our activities for the very reasons stated in the article. I only wish we had time to go to the park they mention near Chiang Mai.

As I age, I am becoming a stronger animal activist and believe more and more firmly that wild animals should not be subjected to abuse simply for our enjoyment. While I reveled in my family’s trips to Sea World when I was young, I think we were all naive as to the torture that those animals endure to make a buck. Have you seen the movie Blackfish? And the tiny, dark tanks that the creatures inhabit while training for shows? I don’t care how much the trainers love the “Shamus” out there or what the organizations say in defense of their practices; wild animals should not be in captivity.

Which leads me to another example. Jaro recently had the opportunity to travel to Kenya and go on safari. Maybe he’ll share some photos of that incredible experience here if he finds the time. After seeing lions, elephants, giraffes and all the other members of Simba’s kingdom roaming the plains like nature intended, he (and I!) are now both saddened by the thought of their long lost relatives sitting in penned areas of zoos across the world. While zoos can be wonderfully educating for young people, I don’t know that I’ll want my kids to partake. Fortunately, I have some time to decide that for sure.

Anyway, stay educated, friends. It’s good to be informed and have opinions.

Have a great weekend.

xxx

{iPhone photo from a walk in my neighborhood this week. Spring is here!}

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Happy Friday

Kiev, Ukraine

How is it Friday already? I swear, March hit and suddenly the weekends are sneaking up on me. Do you have any fun plans? We’re having friends over for dinner tonight (gotta show off our new kitchen while it’s still new!) and tomorrow, my sister is coming to visit! I can’t wait to show her around Portland and just hang out with her in real life. We’re so lucky to have technology like Skype and texts to keep us connected, but nothing beats a real hug. I might not let go.

xxx

{photo from happier times in Kiev’s Maidan. thinking about our friends in Ukraine. P.S. It’s not The Ukraine.}

Camping in a Lookout Tower part 2

You can read part 1 here

Hello everyone. The tale of our lookout tower camping continues (with lots of photos this time). I last left you with the fact that we survived the first night. That in itself was an achievement. The next day was equally nerve-wrecking due to the gale force winds that constantly shook our little cage. Let’s just say if I was standing outside I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had an arm anymore much less the umbrella I’d be holding.

In all honesty, we had heard rumblings about a winter storm warning but, psh, brushed them off because, really? It’s the very beginning of the season. Sitting in the whiteout through the morning hours, however, we agreed that if it was still coming down at 3pm, we’d head home. We were so remote that getting stranded would have been disastrous.

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

As we whiled away the hours playing Risk and drinking hot toddies, I got used to the constant rocking and was having genuine fun. Flinck was cozied up in front of the stove and life was good.

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

It was during this fun that we noticed a small poster on the wall, which was basically a tribute to the original tower that had fallen 10 years earlier in a storm. Umm. It couldn’t have been all that different from what we were experiencing, but I comforted myself with the notion that this new structure must have been built with proper reinforcement…

Lo and behold, the snow stopped right at 3 and didn’t appear to have accumulated much at all. With determination in our eyes, we all agreed to stay another night. Unfortunately, it was still so windy and cold that we decided not to go hiking, which had been our plan. Sad face. More Risk and more whiskey helped pass the time.

Jaro did brave the wind for these cool shots of the tower:

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Because we weren’t tortured enough from getting lost and struggling with terrible weather, there was one more element of disquiet that I want to share. While we played our games and had our PG fun, random hunters would drive up to the tower and all climb out of their enormous vehicles for a peek around (for tracks?) throughout the day. They would stare up at us and we would stare back, attempting to smile and wave. It was never reciprocated. Creepy! And rude. We were all a little rattled by our surprise visitors and just hoping they wouldn’t come back and try to murder us in the night. These are the thoughts of rational adults, I swear…

As dusk shrouded us in its shadows, the winds picked up even more. We were in for another rough night. As we all attempted sleep, the tower shook so violently I thought we were going to get pulled right off the ground into a tornado. Wizard of Oz style. It was intense. But maybe worth it? The next morning, we awoke before sunrise and caught these incredible views:

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

On our last morning, I finally understood the appeal. The panorama was simply stunning. Just incredible landscapes in every direction. We relished the views for a few hours before starting our trek home. Because of the thick snowfall overnight (oops), we couldn’t see the treacherous potholes, and took turns walking in front of the car again. But at least this time, it was sunny. And beautiful.

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

All in all, it was so worth it. We all survived. We all had fun. Even Flinck! If you’d like to find lookout towers available in your area, click here. In the search, choose “lookouts.” We stayed at the one listed, Flag Point.

xxx

Camping in a Lookout Tower part 1

Are you adventurous? I like to think I am. I’ve traveled alone. Gone paragliding. Road-tripped around Europe with no itinerary. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but I have challenged myself in different ways. Stepped outside of my comfort zone.

None of that prepared me for this.

Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but this was a seriously scary experience. You may remember that I booked this little getaway six months in advance to secure the first weekend of the rental season. November 1st. How bad could it be? We had barely begun to see the rains come down in Portland, there was no way the weather could be that bad already. Right? Wrong. So let’s take a trip down memory lane and I’ll tell you the story…

It started out innocently enough. We piled in the car (pup included!), grabbed our two friends that were joining us, blasted some jams and headed out to Mt. Hood. The sky was clear as can be. Mt. Hood loomed in the distance. I smiled to myself.

My only goal was to make it to the tower before nightfall. As we approached the mountain, we realized we would have to rely on the park service directions as our phones would lose reception. Let’s just say that writing out detailed directions for unmarked roads is not the park service’s strong suit. We were lost (embarrassingly) for hours. A wrong turn here, a muddy misstep there and it was nightfall. Great.

After trudging along on a pothole infested road and losing all hope of finding the tower, we saw a light in the distance. So we drove up to it and realized it was a camp. Help! Yay! Almost immediately, a flashlight starts walking toward us from one of the cabins. Help? I was convinced it was a crazy mountain hermit/murderer. As he shined the light in our eyes, we could barely make him out aside from a long, scraggly gray beard. He peered at us suspiciously.

“You folks lost or somethin’?” 

Then we four city kids proceeded to explain our plight and plead for help. After informing us that we were quite far off and giving us very helpful, detailed directions, we got ready to pull away.

“Don’t get snowed in.” 

We laughed because… ridiculous. There was no snow, no wind, no weather of any kind. It wasn’t even that cold. Yet he just stared at us. Serious. Somber. ..Hmm.

Now that it was 8pm, we were finally heading in the right direction. Making our last turn onto the dirt service road that would lead us to our destination, we started to second guess ourselves. The potholes were asteroid craters and we kept scraping the bottom of our car. To lighten the load, the four of us passengers (yes, including Flinck) had to get out and walk to prevent the car from bouncing into the pits. It was… the pits. Our 4-wheel drive could barely manage it. So after stumbling into the pitch black darkness for over an hour, we decided to stop the car and two of us ran ahead with flashlights (much faster than the car could move) to see if the tower was just around the riverbend. As their tiny streams of light faded into the wilderness, the other two of us and Flinck hung back by the car. And waited. And waited. Finally, they re-emerged saying we should turn around. We must have missed the spur.

Tower Camping

Walking into the abyss. (sorry for the terrible photo quality)

Turning around, we still walked in front of the car, staying in the headlight beams. Because, you know, bears. And boogeymen. At least we decided to start calming my nerves enjoying our beers. Arriving back at the turnoff (another hour later), we saw a small spur leading up a hill. Was that it all along? Was it right there? Piling back in the car, we started up this hill… which turned out to be nearly vertical. Impossible to climb even with our trusty Subaru. So again, we all pile out and start climbing on foot, with nothing but little headlamps and two flashlights to guide us.

One empty field. No tower. By some miracle, being up on this plateau afforded us cell service and we were able to see that we had been correct on that other road and it was just another mile further.

<Insert string of profanity here>

Some time after 10pm, we pulled up to this lookout tower. In pitch black darkness. From what I could make out, it looked like a melancholy perch sitting about 50 feet up on some toothpick stilts. Lots of stairs. And to add to our problems adventure, the wind had picked up tremendously. Gathering all of our stuff, we trekked to the top. The wind was so strong, we could barely keep our eyes open. With Flinck wedged between myself and a pillow, I climbed the rickety stairs with honest to god fear. Not being able to see more than an arm’s length in front of my face, I stared out at the endless darkness between the slatted stairs.

Finally! We had made it. All of us and all our things were now safely inside this crow’s nest. It was one tiny room, with 360 degree windows, a wood-burning stove, a propane stove, and some other meager furniture. As the temps had dipped to 30 degrees, we got a fire started for warmth first. Priorities, people. As there was no electricity, we made and devoured our dinner under the glow of a few candles and promptly drank most of our booze.

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Falling asleep eventually, I wasn’t even bothered I was gently being rocked back and forth as the tower swayed in the wind. Waking up in the middle of the night with a start, it bothered me enormously. It was no longer gentle, more like violent rocking. Not only that, but our fire had gone out and the space was freezing. The wind continued to howl outside. One of the dudes woke up and groggily tried to restart our fire. This is… fun?

After an infinite night of worrying we were going to plummet to our deaths (well, maybe that was just me), we woke up to this:

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Yep. We were in the clouds, quite literally. More on this adventure coming soon, including photos of how we passed the time and the (insanely gorgeous) view once we eventually saw it.

Thanks for reading.

xxx

Happy Friday

Hi friends. It’s been a minute. I could fill the page with all my excuses for not writing, but I’ll leave it simply at this: I miss you and I’m back. It’s a new day…

Tower Camping

What are you up to this weekend? Whatever it is, I hope you stay cozy and warm as we finally enter the month of March. (Is it just me or is this winter never-ending?) We are having new kitchen countertops installed and as you other homeowners know, I am just beside myself with glee. I’m even excited for the months of ramen and PBR we’re going to have to suffer through enjoy to pay for them. ;) Other than that, it’s more house projects (talk about never-ending…) and maybe we’ll sneak out to our favorite neighborhood bar for some non-PBR brews.

Here are two quick links to kick off your weekend:

- Think you know everything about Portland? I was surprised by a number of these. Especially #2!

- Laughed out loud at the Williamsburg of Portland. Agree 100%.

Looking forward to sharing some travel stories with you in the coming weeks. Europe! Kauai! Asia! And that’s just a few. Let’s just say that 2013 went out with a bang.

xxx

{photo from our adventures in lookout tower camping – more on that soon!}

On the National Park Closures

In light of the recent tantrums being thrown in Washington, I thought I’d share my thoughts on how the behavior of our government is affecting travel, something I am obviously very passionate about. This is not a political post and I’m not opening a debate about whether or not this shutdown is right or wrong. That’s not the point of my writing. I am simply speaking to one of the results of this mess.

As you probably know, all U.S. National Parks are CLOSED until this government shutdown shuts up. I’m very disappointed that one of the consequences of all the squabbling is taking something away, not only from the American people, but also other visitors who may have planned for years to come and see an extraordinary piece of the world that the United States is fortunate enough to possess.

Think about it. School kids have been forced to cancel their field trips. Excited campers that reserved all the gear, researched the trails, bought plane tickets, have been forced to cancel their plans. This makes me sad. A great experience is being revoked, or at the very least, put on hold.

One of my many bucket list items (I don’t really have a bucket list because I find that even an infinite list is limiting), is to visit all 59 National Parks. Today, I feel so lucky to have crossed off as many as I have, which is only eight. The National Parks are special places. Treasures. Here are some of my favorite pictures from over the years….

Redwoods National Park

Redwood National Park

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

I also have been to Haleakala in Hawaii, but no digital pictures back in 1999!

What do you think? Can I make it to all 59? Do you share the same goal to visit them all? I’m especially gung ho for American Samoa out in the South Pacific. Maybe we should have gone there instead of Fiji for our honeymoon. …Nah. Our honeymoon was perfect.

Here’s hoping that they’ll reopen soon.

xxx

P.S. My post about Acadia. And Redwood. And Everglades.

 

A Visitor’s Guide to Chicago

Chicago, IL

I recently gave some advice to a foreign friend visiting Chicago. And I’m visiting there soon! I thought it would be fun to turn it into a blog post because I’m so proud of my hometown and would love to share my two cents about what to do there. In order to keep this from getting too out of control, I limited each category to my top 10 recommendations. It was so hard. Chicago has so much to offer! Here we go…

Sights Chicago is a world class city filled to the brim with cultural experiences for every visitor. I’m the type of person who isn’t bothered doing “touristy” things in their own town. Therefore, this list is quite touristy. Take it or leave it.

  1. Visit a museum. The Chicago History Museum to dig into the city-named-after-a-wild-onion’s turbulent past. The Field Museum for its famous dinosaur skeletons. Adler Planetarium to learn more about the sun, its planets and everything else under the stars. Museum of Science and Industry for inventions that will blow your mind. And finally, the Shedd Aquarium, provided the fascinating jellyfish exhibit is still ongoing.
  2. Ponder some art. The Art Institute of Chicago has major clout. How else do you explain why they’ve had Seurat’s famous Sunday Afternoon for all these years? Try the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago for ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics. I used to visit it often during my art history obsession in college. As a counterbalance, go to the Museum of Contemporary Art for art that makes you wonder what the heck art is. I saw an impressive Jeff Koons exhibit there a few years back.
  3. See a show. Chicago’s theater scene varies widely. Goodman and Chicago have great shows come through. Or check out Broadway in Chicago for all the places that host, you know, Broadway shows. But then, there’s the smaller gems like Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, and the Shakespeare theaters that all have incredible, intimate performances.
  4. Have a laugh. In the mood for something light? The Second City is where Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Jon Belushi, Mike Meyers, Steve Colbert, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and many others performed before they made it big. Or try the Blue Man Group if you don’t mind getting sprayed with mushed banana. (They provide ponchos.)
  5. Listen to music. From the symphony at Lyric Opera House to the small time rock band at Schuba’s to jazz at Kingston Mines to big time festivals (ever heard of Lollapalooza?), there is something for every… ear. And if you are still not satisfied, take the train up to Highland Park’s Ravinia, where you can choose either lawn or pavillion seats, while listening to the many artists that come through. Sprawling on the lawn as the sun goes down and candles light up, drinking wine, munching on cheese, sharing pasta salad… Those concerts used to be one of my favorite summer activities.
  6. Attend a sports event. Da Bulls (or the Blackhawks) at United Center. Da Bears at Soldier Field. The Cubs at Wrigley Field. Even the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. There is something really powerful about the Chicago sports community. The pride and the devotion of its fans are unmatched.
  7. Enjoy the outdoors. There are parks galore in this planned city, thanks to Daniel Burnham and his comrades. Lincoln Park is topped only by Central Park in NYC for the number of visitors it draws each year (according to Wikipedia anyway). Millennium Park (home of the Cloud Gate) and Grant Park (Buckingham Fountain) are other popular parks which, in my opinion, offer solid photo ops for locals and visitors alike. Case in point:

    J+J at the cloud gate

    J+J at the cloud gate

  8. Take a tour. The Architectural Boat Tour is probably the most popular and it’s easy to see why. As you cruise the Chicago River, knowledgeable guides explain all about the rather incredible history of Chicago’s buildings. Or try a Segway Tour, which doesn’t need any explanation.

    segwaying

    segwaying

  9. Walk or bike the lakefront. Just in general. It’s pretty in all seasons, but best in summer. There is a lakefront path that stretches the entire city, north to south. Now that there is Divvy, the sweet, new shared bike program, it’s easier than ever to glide through the whole darn thing. Enjoy the rollerbladers, bicyclists, joggers, volleyball-ers and, oh yeah, some really beautiful skyline views.
  10. Take in the view. Speaking of views, head to the Sears Tower Skydeck. Okay, actually I have never done this (but I plan to on my upcoming visit). I hear it is quite astounding and on a clear day, you can see Wisconsin and Indiana. Also, there is a glass ledge you can step into, suspended over 100 stories up, for the thrill-seekers out there.

Eats Food is a very important, I’d even say critical, part of Chicago culture. Just see this Chicago Food Glossary and you’ll understand. You just can’t experience this city without exploring some of the fabulous restaurants. While trying to think like a visitor, I also added some of my personal favorites.

  1. Deep dish pizzaLou Malnati’s. Best Chicago-style pizza, hands down. Seriously. Giordano’s, Uno’s and Gino’s East are all “fine”, but they don’t compare to the glory that is Lou’s butter crust.
  2. Hot dogPortillo’s. No visit to Chicago is complete without a classic, Chicago-style hot dog or a sweaty Italian beef. This is the place to get it. I actually detest the downtown location, but bite the bullet hot dog here. And don’t ask for ketchup. Never ketchup. They’ll slap your face (or should). If you really want to get fancy with your dog, scramble over Hot Doug‘s as they open. Don’t let the line around the block discourage you.

    hot doug's

    hot doug’s insanity

  3. TacoBig Star. Very trendy and you may have to wait in a (sometimes very long) line, but there is no better way to spend a sunny afternoon than by sipping margaritas and chowing down on inventive (& cheap) tacos at this hipster hangout. Note: lime juice + your skin + the sun don’t mix well. Want the cheap late night stuff? Picante.
  4. Pig face. In the mood to, you know, eat a pig’s face? How about a cod cheek? Solution: Girl and the Goat. Opened a few years ago by Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, this creative American hotspot is completely, positively, absolutely worth the hype. (I heard her new eatery, Little Goat, is superb as well.)
  5. Seafood. GT Fish and Oyster. One of our favorite date locales. The best nights were spent sitting at the bar, downing raw oysters and dirty martinis. Another great choice is Le Colonial on Rush. 
  6. Steak. David Burke’s Primehouse. You can’t visit Chicago and not have a steak. That’s just blasphemous. I’m not really a red meat person, but David does it right. Avoid the chains. 
  7. ItalianVia Carducci. There are a million Italian restaurants in the city. What I love about this one is its neighborhood charm (now that our beloved Terragusto closed its doors). We spent many casual date nights and family birthday dinners here. The one on Division is teeny tiny, reasonably-priced and there’s never a wait. Don’t mind waiting? Rosebud on Taylor. 
  8. Sushi/Thai. Butterfly Thai. There is nothing fancy about this place, let’s get that straight. It’s a hole in the wall. But, it had to make the list, if only because they got so much of my business while I was living in Ukrainian Village (I told you this would be biased). My favorite sushi and Pad Thai, and it’s BYOB, c’mon.
  9. Sandwich. As any Chicagoan will tell you, sometimes you just need a gigantic sandwich. At Jerry’s. If you don’t get the Mindy F with peanut butter… I don’t know what to tell you.
  10. Brunch. If brunch was a sport, I’m a gold medalist. I can’t choose just one place. Milk & Honey for their huevos rancheros casserole. Toast for that pancake orgy. Nookies for any of their weekly specials. Orange for the fru-shi (fruit sushi, duh). Feast for the benedict. Rockit for the Bloody Mary bar… The list goes on.
  11. Bonus! Some places that I have never tried, but will from all the rave reviews I hear: RPM for Italian, Frontera Grill for Mexican, Sunda for sushi, Kuma’s for his famous burgers and Ruxbin for creative American.

Drinks We more or less stuck to our usual hangouts (Ola’s being one of them), but here is a variety of places depending on your mood.

  1. Beer. Head over to Goose Island Brewery (or almost any bar in the city) and get a Green Line. Really want to impress the bartender? Order the vintage Sophie or Matilda and they’ll think you’re a local. Or just someone that appreciates really good beer.
  2. Wine. Sono became a popular place for friends and I to have wine nights; it was the perfect stop after shopping binges on North Ave. They also have tasty pizzas. 404 Wine Bar (nestled in the Southport Corridor) and DOC Wine Bar (in my old stomping grounds, Lincoln Park) are also very good.
  3. ChampagneRM Champagne Salon is swanky, tiny, with French-inspired details and beautiful chandeliers. Great for dates.
  4. With a view. Duh, the Signature Lounge. Okay, I will warn you right away that this is very touristy. But, it’s on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower and there are beautiful sweeping views of the city.
  5. Pre-dinner. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Hunt Club because we headed there on our very first date before a meal of epic proportions at nearby Carmine’s.
  6. Post-dinnerTrump Hotel‘s Rebar or Terrace. As the name suggests, it’s a bit on the upscale side. Such great views of the river that you almost forget you paid $18 for that cocktail.
  7. Secret. Is the light on? That means Violet Hour is open. A disguised facade with a “hidden” entrance, VH has the best cocktails in the city.
  8. Sports Bar. Try Old Town Social for a sports bar that doesn’t feel like a junky college hangout. If you want a junky college hangout, go anywhere in Wrigleyville. There’s my bias again!
  9. Mobster-style. The Bedford. People around the world still remember Chicago as Al Capone’s territory, filled with mobsters, and basically a corrupt city (which it is…). This old school real bank vault turned trendy bar/restaurant celebrates that image in the best way. With stiff drinks.
  10. Late night. Innjoy. The late night dance parties can’t be beat. Although maybe I only liked this place because I could stumble home afterward. Of course, there’s also dive bar Ola’s, which hands out $1 mystery shots and has an ancient jukebox from which you can blast LaBouche. Not that I ever did that…
  11. Bonus! Need to try Maude’s Liquor Bar on Randolph (maybe before dinner at Girl and the Goat?), Hopleaf up north with it’s massive beer selection, and the Whistler because it just looks cool.

Shops Organized this category by street since there is no easy way to do this.

  1. Michigan Ave (Magnificent Mile). This is where you’ll find all the major department stores and designer boutiques. Prepare to get sucked up in the current and just go with it.
  2. Damen. Between Armitage and North are a ton of little boutiques. Old favorites include Apartment number 9 for menswear, Stitch for beautiful home goods, Riley for clothes and jewelry, etc, etc. Goddess & Grocer is a wonderful place for lunch.
  3. Armitage. Great boutique shopping (try Art Effect), with a lot of beauty stores thrown in like Kiehl’s, Benefit, MAC, and more.
  4. Southport. My Anthropologie was/still is over here, but now I’d love to also browse through Krista K and Perchance. Southport Grocery is a great place to refuel, but if you are there in the evening, Tango Sur is a dynamite Argentinian steakhouse.
  5. Division. Itty bitty boutiques abound. I loved Penelope’s for the clothing and Paperdoll for stationery.
  6. Milwaukee. The heart of what-used-to-be-hipstervile-and-now-is-yuppieville. That’s okay though. Find your Levi’s, Free People, Urban Outfitters and some interesting vintage stores here.
  7. North. I used to do some real damage on this street. With power labels like J.Crew and housewares mecca Crate & Barrel (and it’s trendy baby C2), I’d gather my necessities here. (Then grab wine at Sono.)
  8. Grand. Some of my favorite antique/junk stores are over here and they are amazzzzing. Salvage One is the best and it’s also an event venue (we considered having our wedding here, but went with this incredible space…which made this awesome list at #3)
  9. Montrose. Admittedly, I never made it up here myself. But I hear Neighborly is rad.
  10. Just trust me. The Walgreens on North & Damen. This isn’t your average drug store.

And there we have it. Now that I don’t live there anymore, I realize two things 1) how massive that city is (2.7 million residents! 234 square miles!) and 2) how little I really knew of it (I didn’t even touch on cool neighborhoods like Logan Square, Andersonville, or Pilsen). It’s amazing how you can find your little niche wherever you live and once you find that comfort, you kinda stick with it.

I know a city this large has way way wayyyy more to offer. Have something to add? Please leave a note in the comments!

xxx

{first image is from a boat tour I took with my dad back in 2010.)

P.S. My guide to visiting Amsterdam.

Labor Day in Maine

Happy Tuesday ya’ll. Over the weekend, autumn arrived here in Portland right on cue. Mornings are now dark; the days overcast; the rain sporadic. At night there is a new chill in the air that was blissfully absent last week.

Luckily, we bid adieu to summer 2013 in the best way possible. Over an extended Labor Day weekend, we flew coast to coast (Portland to Portland to be exact) to celebrate the nuptials of two very dear friends. A wedding is as good a reason as any to travel to places that you otherwise might not prioritize. It was a no brainer to share the best day of our friends’ lives with them, but seeing as we live on the opposite side of the country, we also knew we had to make the most it. Who knows when we’ll have the opportunity to go to Maine again? Especially with 10 of our close friends?

As I mentioned before, this was my first trip to Maine and I had all sorts of ideas as to what it would be like. Quaint. Charming. Rustic. Woodsy. These words were all buzzing in my head as we prepared for our visit.

Turns out, they’re all spot on. Yet, I was surprised at just how very secluded and remote Maine felt. Maybe that was because we had to drive for hours and hours to get from one place to another, or maybe it was because we didn’t have decent cell reception ever. Outside of Portland, the small towns that speckled the landscape were few and far between.

For part of the trip, we were at a resort up in the mountains and for the rest, we rented a log cabin near the coast and Acadia National Park. We spent one day in the park and Bar Harbor, but otherwise were relaxing at the cabin, eating lobster, swigging PBRs, and laughing more than anyone should. I was all over Instagram this trip, while Jaro manned the DSLR. The pictures tell the story better than I could, so here are my Instagrams…

Holy Donut doughnuts

Holy Donut doughnuts

the good stuff

the good stuff

pier beer

pier beer

covered bridge

covered bridge

Newry, ME

morning jog in Newry, ME

Newry, ME

Newry, ME

Newry, ME

Newry, ME

Newry, ME

Newry, ME

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

our log cabin

our log cabin

view from our log cabin

view out the back door

So… Maine is perfection. And just what we needed to welcome fall.

xxx

Daydreaming about… San Sebastian, Spain

Yep. Again.

Those of you that have been following along for awhile know I have shared my excitement about this destination before, but now that my trip is approaching, I’m starting to freak out! Can’t wait to visit my little sister in this literal slice of paradise. Even though I’m visiting during their rainy season, I’m so looking forward to exploring the Basque region. Rain or shine, don’t matter NONE. It’s going to be a blast.

Much of my enjoyment during my travels revolves around food and this trip will be no different. I can’t wait to visit some of the places I’ve heard about, like Bar Zeruko and El Quinto Pino (below). Need to try the local pinxtos (I was already warned not to call them tapas) and of course, as much sangria as I can stomach.

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

And now, some links…

Hey Nike, can I do this next?

40 maps to help you understand the world (12! 17?!).

My friends and I are being vegan for a month (a day is child’s play).

The cutest tiny house on Sauvie Island right outside of Portland.

Tried this place recently and loved it! Trying to eat more whole foods.

This diary of a Whole Foods visit is hilarious and true.

Have a great weekend.

xxx

(images via Pinterest)

Easy day trip: Oneonta Gorge

Having spent my childhood in the great plains of the Midwest, my world was flat. Flat cornfields, flat roads, flat everything made distant rolling hills and far off craggy mountaintops all the more majestic. There was something magical and mysterious about them; they were out of reach. To this day, I am still captivated by landscape that is not perfectly horizontal.

Midwesterner or not, the Oneonta Gorge is a delight for thrill seekers of all ages. A tall, narrow ravine only accessible by climbing slippery logjams and plunging chest deep into icy water, this gorge is a riveting experience. And just 40 minutes outside of Portland, it is well worth the drive for those wishing to actively participate in a slice of Oregon magic.

So, how do we get there? It’s actually quite straightforward and for those of you that have been out on the scenic route 30 have probably passed right by it. Just east of Multnomah Falls, there are signs for the Oneonta Gorge Trail. Go ahead and park in that designated area. To follow the trail, there is a bridge leading into a tunnel. But rather than go through the tunnel, you’ll want to take the overgrown stairs just before the bridge in the southwest corner.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

This is where our adventure began. These steps led us down to the bottom of the ravine, rather than the marked trail. Initially, the trickle of water is not even ankle-deep and easily avoidable by the wide riverbanks. We walked along the bank until we got to this:

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Yep. It’s a huge logjam with dozens of enormous, slick trees. It doesn’t look that treacherous, but trust. It’s taller and wider than it lseems. Climbing across it is somewhat dangerous. I mean, this area is unmaintained and there are no handrails. But we did see small nimble children, fit older folks, and even brave dogs making their way across. Know your own limits. It is NOT safe.

being a nerd.

being a nerd on top of the log jam

Once we successfully crossed, we understood the reason why so many people do it. Ahead of us was a deep cut in the mountains that looked like they were split apart with a jagged knife. Walking through it, we stared up in amazement.  It was otherworldly. We were not be the only ones murmuring, this is awesome. It is awesome. It invokes awe.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

As we walked along, we realized our legs were tingling. Looking down, we saw that the earth dipped and the water slowly crept up and was hugging our calves. And the riverbanks had disappeared. The water was so clear we could barely tell. But, not wanting to be wimps, we forged on. (You can’t forge a river though.) Surprisingly, our legs numbed got used to it quickly.

The water receded just as fast as it rose, and we thought we were out of the danger zone. That wasn’t so bad! But a few steps ahead then the ground sank again. The stones on which we were walking kept dipping lower, and lower and lower beneath the surface of the water. This time, it wasn’t just to our knees. The water was now chest deep. And ice cold. Since we knew there was more ahead, we kept going, the cool water wrapping around our skin like a snake with a deathlike grip. It. Was. Freezing. But after a few minutes of torture, we were released and back on dry land.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

deep!

Walking a few more paces into the canyon, we came to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Before us was a massive waterfall. We reached the end! After a few obligatory jumping photos, we traversed back out.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

That entire adventure took us about 90 minutes. Well worth the drive from Portland to visit this natural treasure.

xxx