[travelthursday] Portlandia…food carts, Powell’s, epic surprise and all

So I know this post is WAYYYY overdue, (more than just a day late that’s for sure), so I apologize for that! BUT it is worth the wait. For the last post I wrote on my trip to Portland, go here.

At the end of May a friend and I went to surprise a good friend of ours for her birthday out in Portland, Oregon. Carly (the Portland friend) and I had tried to organize a trip a while ago to celebrate our two May birthdays, but I canceled because I didn’t think I would have time or money. Two weeks before what was supposed to be the big trip, Carly facebook-invited me to her birthday party. I responded ‘yes’ and said I’d go in spirit – which was the truth…until I got to thinking…what if I did go out there for her birthday? I began checking plane tickets and eventually found one for $350 Burlington, VT to Portland, OR on Kayak.com. Before I could think twice, I’d purchased it and sent a message to friend Nick to coerce him into coming along. Two short weeks later and we were on our way to Portland (after many pleas to come to Portland on Carly’s part and many made up excuses from us why we couldn’t).

Nick, I discover during my layover in NYC, has missed his flight (in typical Nick fashion) and won’t be able to make it to Portland until the night after the planned time. So much the better. We decide to make it a double surprise.

I stay the night with another friend, Dave (whose birthday also falls in May), and decide to explore the city while Carly is at work and then surprise her as she’s leaving her office around 5pm. I wander around for a bit, trying to stay dry (but failing for the most part). Seems like nobody here sells umbrellas. I find out later that the locals are so used to the weather they don’t bother protecting themselves from it…at one point some guy on the sidewalk pointed to my umbrella and said, “it’s not raining!” he puts a hand out to test for rain, “actually…I guess it kinda is.” But that’s Portland for you. It rains so much that even the tiniest respite seems like a sunny day. If you don’t take advantage of the sunshine right when it comes out, you won’t get another chance.

While I was waiting for Carly’s work day to come to a close, I headed over to Powell’s books, America’s largest independent bookstore. And it was beautiful. I have never seen anything like it.

I’m pretty sure the 12 year old avid reader in me fainted and then decided never to to leave the place. In addition to all the wares of a regular bookstore, Powell’s accepts used books that are in good condition – so it’s a great place to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Books at Powell's Book in Portland, Oregon

My book choices from Powell's

Somehow I managed to buy only two books for myself: The Woman’s Book of Creativity by C Diane Ealy, and American Gods by Neil Gaimon. I bought also a couple father’s day presents – one for my dad (a book to record wines in) and one for my brother-in-law who is a dad as of today! The book is called Be Prepared: a Practical Handbook for New Dads by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden. Powell’s alone is a good enough reason to visit Portland. You will see what I mean if you check out the pics at the end of this post.

So 4 o’clock rolls around and I decide to head over to Carly’s office. Some bad directions and a wrong address later, I’ve struck up a conversation with the concierge, and it doesn’t seem like Carly’s gonna show. I call her (we had planned to catch up today anyway) and find out that she’s on the bus on the way home. I tell her I call her back and manage to arrange for her boyfriend to come pick me up (he had no idea I was in town either). He manages to convince Carly to wait for him to come home before heading out again, and by the time we arrive she has called him twice and is fuming that he has spoiled her plans. She doesn’t even notice me as I walk through the door, she’s so busy sulking and staring at her phone.

“Sup Carly?” I ask, waving. She looks up and instantly the frown is wiped from her face morphing into one of shock, then disbelief, then she is screaming and jumping up and down. I don’t really remember what was said, just that there was a lot of screaming and jumping and some crying. The whole day, we talked about how Carly’s birthday bash would only be better if Nick were there. (I strategically spurred this conversation as I thought it would increase the incredibility of the full surprise.)

Guy Enjoying food carts in Portland, ORFor dinner, we check out a few food carts (one of Portland’s claims to fame!). It’s like a little food cart village! There are also a ton of them downtown. Another definite must on your travel list.

Later that night we all went out for a drink. Dave had given Nick directions to the bar on the sly since he’d be arriving late to the airport. We were all settled in at the bar (which smelled like barbecue ribs if I remember correctly though it was quite a classy establishment) when Nick just bursts through the front door and races towards the table. Carly took one look at him and stood on her chair, screaming and laughing. Then she grabbed Nick’s wrist and dragged him outside to do a happy dance.

The rest of the week was great fun, and Nick and I were sad to leave! Carly told us both that even after we’d been there for a few days she was having trouble believing it was real. Hopefully we can all see each other again this New Year’s!

[travelthursday] My Montreal Bucket List

Okay, so you may or may not know that I have been living in Montreal for a little under a year now. During my time here, I have gotten to experience a number of things: I have been ice-skating at Parc la Fontaine, I have been to the Biodome, the Insectarium, Parc Mont Royal (a number of times), several art shows, fashion shows, indie shows, electronic shows, bars, pubs, clubs, I’ve checked out the famous places – Schwartz’s, Fairmount Bagels, La Banquise, PatitiPatata, I’ve been rock climbing, biking, jogging, yoga-ing, participated in fashion shows, photoshoots, promo events, I’ve been a dog-walker, a painter, a carni, done reno work, tried to start my own business, helped other people start their own businesses, taken drawing lessons, sewing lessons, guitar lessons (well, starting this week anyway), I’ve marketed my product (jewelry), I’ve marketed other people’s products, and I’ve done just about everything in between. BUT I still have not done and seen everything I’d like to do and see in Montreal.

SO, having been inspired by this post by Kate Going Global, a fellow travel blogger, I’ve decided to write a Montreal Bucket List – basically just a list of things I’d like to do and places I’d like to see in Montreal that I haven’t already done or seen.

So, here goes:

1) Hike the trails in Parc Mont Royal
2) Use my “flying trapeze” class groupon
3) Go to the Botanical Gardens
4) Visit Notre Dame Cathedrale
5) Go to Piknic Electronik
6) Go to La Ronde Amusement Park
7) See the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibit
8) Visit St. Joseph’s Oratory
9) See a concert in the Bell Centre
10) Visit Mont Royal & Notre-dame-des-neiges cemeteries
11) See Cirque du Soleil
12) Spend a day photographing the city
13) Go to the McCord History Museum
14) Check out the Maisonneuve Market
15) Eat at Dagwood’s Subs

Any other suggestions? Leave ‘em in the comments!

Join the Movement

So one of the many things I’ve been doing here in chilly-but-sunny Montreal is acting as promo-girl and photographer for Movement Travel, a nightlife electronic tour company started by my friends Zeina and Michael (pictured at left).

You can see some of the pics taken in the gallery below. These pictures are from Feb 19th, one of our largest tours so far! The company was officially launched late last year (yes, during the winter!) and began collaborating with Montreal Central, providing their guests with weekly Thursday tours. We are now working Saturday nights with the largest hostel in the city – Hosteling International Montreal, with plans to expand to other hotels and guest services in the city. We also are looking at the possibility of daytime themed tours. So, why start a company in the wintertime that depends on tourists for business? Well, Zeina and Michael explained that it is the best time to hone your business and figure out exactly what your clients want and need. By the time summer comes around, we’ll be ready to handle very large groups, and will have the routine down-pat. I know I’m excited about the summer!