20 May 2013, 10:07
Ah, Portland. I am sad it took me such a long time to visit you. I admit that all I knew of you was what I had learned from episodes of Portlandia, and now I wish I had visited years ago!
Some people say Portland is the Austin of the northwest. They’re right, but they’re wrong. Portland isn’t a clone of Austin; it stands on its own two feet.
Having said that, Portland is very much like my other favourite places in the USA: NYC, Austin, and New Orleans. What they all have in common is an independent spirit, a unique culture and a commitment to fostering the weirdness! Like the other three cities, Portland has not been turned into a wasteland of chain stores and Pinkberry frozen yoghurt shops. Small businesses thrive, and the local economy is booming. The earnestness of it all, of course, makes it easy to make fun of (see: Portlandia). But really, these are things worth encouraging and supporting.
I was overwhelmed by happiness in Portland. It is a great, GREAT city! Here are my top 5 suggestions of things to do in the City of Roses…
Ever since I’ve known her, Shauna has sung the praises of Buffalo Exchange. This uniquely American chain buys your used clothing, and in return, gives you the choice of cash or store credit. Shauna is always telling me that she got this great dress or those crazy shoes at Buffalo, and I kinda thought, ‘Yeah yeah…’
But this year I’ve done a lot of spring cleaning, and what can you do with garbage bags full of clothes, other than sell them or donate them? I started to cart suitcase-loads to Buffalo every month or so. It seemed like the most rational solution to my insane clothes-hoarding problem. In the last few months, I have amassed a fairly sizable store credit… Which made walking into Buffalo Exchange in Portland a dream come true.
I cleaned up in Buffalo Exchange on Hawthorne — scoring, for example, this maxi-dress by Theory (it has pockets!) — and did well at their downtown location, too, snagging this mad dress among other treasures.
What makes Buffalo Exchange in Portland so good?! I don’t know the answer to this mystery, but put simply, those girls in the Northwest have style.
You definitely need to visit the Hawthorne area when you go to Portland. Other than Buffalo, there’s a handful of great vintage clothing and furniture shops along that stretch of road, and on a sunny day, it makes for a wonderful walk, ducking in and out to see what you can see.
P.S. There’s a photobooth at House of Vintage just up the street, which spits out bright, evenly-toned black and white prints. Do it!
I was introduced to this healthy little wonder by some of our blogcadettes, and I am so thankful to them! A quick walk from the Ace Hotel, Prasad is a small but mighty cafe tucked alongside a yoga studio.
The perfect breakfast? Gluten-free toast with avocado, spinach, slow roasted tomatoes and jalapeño cashew cheese. (I have been fantasising about it ever since.) Wash it down with a Rita juice (celery, cucumber, spinach, kale, parsley, mint and lime) or a Witchdoctor (apple, lemon, ginger, wheatgrass and echinacea over ice). I mean!
Don’t get me wrong: Portland is packed to the gills with vegan, gluten-free and slow food options. But if greens and raw food are what you’re hankering for, Prasad is an unbeatable place to get your healthy fix.
I’m obsessed with the place. I can’t wait to go back to Portland, and eating there will be first on my list of priorities!
Since we were in town teaching, and our classes took place at the Ace, a lot of our Portland-ness revolved around their location… And what a location it is!
The Ace is fantastic and fabulous, and I would have absolutely no hesitation in staying there again. From the generous suites to the soft beds and oversized tubs, this is a smart hotel that really does supply every modern convenience you could possibly need.
They’ve actually thought about it: instead of giving you an iPod dock — which is just not compatible with everything — they give you a cable with a headphone plug on the end, which easily snaps into your phone, laptop, iPod or anything else. This, of course, meant we could boogie the night away to Boy George!
It’s the little things like that which add up to a superior experience.
And it’s not just that the rooms are awesome with great amenities. The lobby has a fantastic photobooth which can be used with a simple swipe of your credit card, there’s a Stumptown Coffee right downstairs, and the incredible Clyde Commons restaurant is just next door. (Say it with me now: truffle popcorn. Oh my lord.)
Next time I go back, I know where I’m staying!
On our last morning in Portland, after eating a mammoth breakfast at Paradox, we passed Saint Cupcake.
Now, truthfully, my cupcake mania has died down pretty considerably over the last few years. Just like everyone else, I used to be obsessed with those teeny-tiny cakes, and I took my tasting seriously. But sometimes you have too much of a good thing, and the thrill dissipates.
I looked into the window of Saint Cupcake and since we had some time to kill, we decided to go in. I was really happy to see that they had vegan cupcakes, so I picked a red velvet cake and carried it in a little to-go box.
After carting it around for most of the day, I finally devoured the thing just before my plane to Los Angeles started to descend. What a delight! Damn, that was a good cupcake: moist cake, thick fluffy frosting, and plenty of flavour.
I immediately regretted not having bought a box of 6! Saint Cupcake should definitely be on your list if you’re in town.
Boyd Rice: What’s your favorite bar?
Marilyn Manson: That’s an easy one. Portland Oregon. The Acropolis Steakhouse. Are you familiar with it?
Boyd Rice: Acropolis Steakhouse? I’ve heard about this. People say, “You’ve got to go to this place,” and nobody took me.
Marilyn Manson: Well, it’s the Acropolis Steakhouse and that’s what the song says and that’s all that it leads you to believe, but when you enter it’s an all-nude dance club that serves steak. It’s all nude, not just topless. You can eat steak at the table and people will be dancing all nude in front of you. The steak is only — I think I got a fillet for five dollars.
Boyd Rice: Wow.
Marilyn Manson: And it wasn’t really bad either. It looked like a place out of a John Waters movie. It just didn’t really seem real. But it was great.
When Kat and I arrived in Portland, one of the first things Shauna said to us was, “My cousin and I are taking you on a strip club tour tomorrow night.” At first, we were kind of confused. Why would she want to take us there? But of course, in the name of adventure, we said yes and went along.
That’s when I realised: going to a strip club in Portland is just like going to a bar in any other city.
You may be surprised to hear, for example, that we ate dinner at the Acropolis, while simultaneously being hypnotised by a girl who could gyrate each buttock independently. It’s widely known as the home of the best $6 steak in town. There’s a salad bar and slot machines. The crotchety waitress suggested Shauna’s cousin not order the buffalo burger… And one of the dancers just played TOOL and laid on her back while a guy threw quarters at her?!
After we’d had our fill of onion rings at the Acropolis, we headed to DV8, a huge purple building where the drinks glow under blacklight and the babes climb the pole with gymnastic athleticism. Cheap mixed drinks, multiple stages and a weird but cool audience made it feel just like your average neighbourhood hangout… Just with more boobs.
If you’ve never been to a strip club and you find yourself in Portland, please do yourself a favour and spend a little time in one. The experience is fun, surreal and silly all at the same time, and it’s the very opposite of intimidating. And by the way, if you do go, here’s how to worship at the temple!
Of course, our trip would have been very different without the generous hospitality of Shauna, Joey and Rocky the wonder-pooch. Staying at Wolfgang Manor, with its assortment of taxidermy animals and vases with faces on them, was a total delight. Thank you, babe. One day, when I have my own haunted mansion, I hope to repay your generosity!
The dream of the nineties is alive in Portland,
Photos of lamp-post and Shauna by Made U Look. Saint Cupcake photo from their site. The rest by me.
10 April 2013, 09:02
Los Angeles is a real drag without a car… And even with a car, it can be a nightmare! Constant traffic, impossible parking and insane drivers combine to make getting around the city a real challenge. When I visit this palm tree-festooned metropolis, hiring a car is the last thing on my mind, and I usually end up relying on friends to make my way around the city.
That all changed on this trip, though. I will never have to rely on a friend again, because I discovered Lyft!
It all started when Elvina, the owner of our AirBnB digs, suggested we use one of her drivers to get a pick-up from the airport. Clocking in at only $40, it seemed like a better solution than dealing with some gruff taxi driver.
The guy who picked us up, Stephen, told us that, in addition to driving for Elvina, he also drove for a variety of other ride-sharing programs, including Lyft and SideCar. He was driving a Nissan Leaf (100% electric!) and spoke so highly of the whole system that I was completely intrigued. He was so nice and cool and not-awkward that I downloaded both the Lyft and SideCar apps to my phone immediately.
The next morning, Kat and I used Lyft to go to the Beverly Center… And back again!
Lyft is so easy to use: you open the app on your phone, it pinpoints you on a map, and tells you how far away the closest driver is. Once you request a “lyft”, it will show you a picture of the driver and the car, as well as track where they are on a map. They arrive, you get in, and you go!
Over the course of a week, we met so many new people through Lyft and had so many interesting conversations! We got one of our favourite drivers, Justin, at least four times, and then saw him in Urban Outfitters (what a stalker!). (Bonus: I just listened to his podcast and it is SO FUNNY.) Erin took us to the 99c Only store, waited for us in the parking lot, and then took photos of us with our gigantic, newly-inflated B balloons. (She also laughed when I told her about the Cuchini, which gives her points in my book!)
Kat squished in the back of Erin’s car with a whole lot of B balloons!
Every single driver we had was so friendly and easygoing. They all have unopened bottles of water and gum for passengers, as well as chargers for your Android or iPhone. Oh, and did I mention that every Lyft car is adorned with a big pink fuzzy moustache?!
The best part is that the whole system is donation-based, and it all goes through your phone, so there’s no awkward fumbling with your wallet or frantic tip-calculation. So when you arrive at your destination, you smile, say thank you, and exit the vehicle with grace. Then the app on your phone will prompt you to make a donation. The donation is suggested by the driver, and you can either increase or decrease it. Then you rate the driver out of 5 stars, and hit submit. The money is instantly taken off your credit card.
It couldn’t be easier than that!
We used Lyft for the duration of the trip, and used a taxi service once — and even then, only because Lyft doesn’t open until 9am. Our experience with the taxi was so unfriendly and felt so archaic that it reinforced our desire to keep using ride-sharing services! Ride(share) or die!
The concept of getting in a car with a “stranger” is a little intimidating at first, but all the Lyft drivers get extremely thorough background checks, and we never had a bad experience. Everyone we interacted with left your average taxi driver in the dust!
The whole thing is so genius, I love it. I actually can’t wait to go back to California to use it again! Lyft doesn’t exist in NYC yet, but SideCar does, as well as UBERx. You should definitely check them out. I think they’re ushering in a new age, and I am so excited about where the sharing economy might take us next!
The bad news is that these services have had a lot of clampdowns, all in the name of “safety” and regulation. What a load of hogwash! I believe this is just about the governing bodies wanting to get a big greedy slice of the action. I feel 100% more safe in a car whose driver I can rate, than with some anonymous maniac!
As Nick Allen from SideCar said,
We’re spent more than half a million dollars and countless hours defending our position to regulators and it’s a distraction. Big transportation problems face our nation. Rideshare is a great solution. SideCar has the potential to transform and offer a fundamentally different model for addressing critical environmental, economic and quality of life issues across our nation. We believe the right to share resources is an important principal for the entire sharing economy so we’re pushing on. We’re going to defend the right to share resources to regulators, in court, to SFO and anyone else who stands in the path of innovation.
I drove back to the airport with Stephen yesterday morning, and he was so happy when I told him we’d been using Lyft all week. Lyft’s tagline is “Your friend with a car”, and it really feels like that! Lyft is all about the community, and it makes you realise how much we’ve bought into that concept of “stranger danger”. Most people are just like us. Most people are friendly, helpful and cool. Why not utilise that?
I love ride-sharing. I support it. I think there should be more of it. You should definitely give it a shot!
5 April 2013, 12:59
Photo by Corrie Bond.
You may have guessed by now, but travel is one of my passions. Few things get me more fired up than the idea of a completely new experience!
I’m always thinking about where I want to go next, and part of that is an obsession with looking up hotels and daydreaming about where I might hang my hat. Here are a few of my latest favourites…
Giraffe Manor in East Africa is clearly the place to be if you’d like to share your breakfast with a giraffe. And who wouldn’t want to do that?!
It’s startlingly straight-forward: there is a herd of giraffes who live on the grounds, and at each mealtime, the windows are flung open to invite them in. They simply stretch out their necks and poke their heads inside the manor, where you are welcome to feed them pellets or even give one a kiss. Amazing.
This exquisite hotel was built in the 1930’s, and is also home to the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage, which rehabilitates orphan elephants and rhinos. You can watch them being fed and bathed every morning, as well as take in a game of baby elephant football… All together now, “Awwwwww!”
It’s not a teeny little cave-dwelling, either. The Canyon Suite is 200 feet by 400 feet, an immense space, and you get to it by taking an elevator 22 stories straight down…
The walls of the Canyon Suite are 65 million years old, and you even get to share your bedroom with a mummified bobcat!
I love the idea of the Canyon Suite as the ultimate escape from the rest of the world. I think the only way you could get further from humanity is perhaps by taking a flight on Virgin Galactic... (Ultimate dream!)
Montaña Mágica Lodge — also known as “Magic Mountain” — is a man-made volcano-shaped hotel nestled into a Chilean forest. And it’s an apt name, because it truly looks like something from a fairytale.
Water spews from the top in an imitation of lava, running down the windows, and the property is dotted with huge hot tubs made from dug out tree-trunks.
If you get sick of lying in bed, watching the fish, you can always head out to their waterpark, Aquaventure. They say, “In a one or two person inner-tube you begin spinning down into the blackness of the Ziggurat tower’s mysterious core before emerging through the shark-filled lagoon at a leisurely ‘shark-viewing’ pace.”
Let’s go there. Right now. Okay?
...And now for something completely different. The Shack Up Inn in the Mississippi is a true slice of the spirit of the Delta blues. Stay in an authentic shotgun shack, lean on a dilapidated pick-up truck, listen to the rain beating on the tin roof and bring your guitar…
This is the perfect place to stay if you want to harken back to a simpler time!
It’s not really my cup of tea, but my husband loves the look of this place. It might be your kinda thing, too. And their FAQ is hilarious…
wireless INTERNET — yes
brochures — hell no
discounts — call Priceline for big fat swollen William Shatner
AC and heat — yes, both of them in all units
running water — both hot and cold
indoor BATHROOMS — yes, 1 in each unit
coffee, condiments, fridge and microwave — yes
roof leaks — only if it rains
Room service — call the Peabody in Memphis
Phone & fax service — call a Comfort Inn anywhere
Sheet thread count — NO KIDDING FOLKS, SOME CRAZY LADY ASKED THIS QUESTION...call the Alluvian in Greenwood, they really have the good ones
Wake up call — yea right, automatic one minute after check out time, it consist of a chain saw right outside your bedroom window at 11:01 AM
Beer — We got all you can stand
Ha! It doesn’t get more perfect than that…
So tell me: what’s your dream location? If you could rest your head anywhere, where would it be?
I heart room service,
2 April 2013, 10:38
...Guilty feet have got no rhythm! Ah, what’s better than dancing in the drizzle with your BFF in Paris?
The answer, of course, is not much. We loved these photos by Juliane Berry so much that an animated gif was the only logical response!
Too fun not to share, I’d say…
Spinning in cities all over the world,
26 February 2013, 12:24
It was a rainy morning in Paris, and three overdressed bloggers were floating around in their apartment on the last day of their vacation.
We had woken up, procured trois cafés au lait and trois pains au chocolat to go with ‘em, and were listening to some very French songs to set the mood!
Back in my (very) early twenties, my travelling priorities were simple: cheap trumped all else. I remember booking a holiday for my boyfriend and I to Europe so we could see the Legendary Pink Dots play two dates, one in Amsterdam and one in Paris. I had never been to either city, so I simply chose hotels that were inexpensive and had semi-decent reviews.
We were lucky with our hotel in Holland. To save money, I decided we should stay in Haarlem (a 15 minute train ride to Amsterdam), and the Hotel Amadeus was perfect for our purposes, with a sweet view of the town square. But our hotel in Paris was so scary, with a lobby full of unsavoury characters, that I barely slept a wink! (Somehow I felt like they were going to burst through the door at any moment!)
As I get older, it’s not just about where I hang my hat. It’s about the neighbourhood, the feel of the building, and getting a taste of luxury. Travel may be an essential part of my existence, but that doesn’t mean it should be drab or purely functional.
Owned by an actress and perched at the top of the building’s superb spiral staircase, our two bedroom apartment was the perfect Parisian pad. It was eclectic but chic, with a velvet couch that made me swoon, and a bright red kitchen.
It was the perfect place to lounge, daydream, and listen to the rain falling outside.
While I did a little blogging…
Kat giggled with an oversized flower in the window…
...And Shauna thought about making us lunch. (Just kidding! This girl could burn cereal!)
I wore a custom tutu dress made by Ouma. I’d literally been eyeing her frocks for years, and I finally decided to take the plunge just before Paris! I don’t regret it one bit. My cardigan is from Victoria’s Secret, and not-so-secretly, I’ve worn it all winter long. It’s perfect for bringing a little glamour to your at-home lounging. This particular one isn’t available anymore, but this is similar!
Shauna wore a vintage top covered in crosses (how her!) that she found at Buffalo Exchange in Portland, and a plain black shift dress.
Kat wore an insane sequinned sweater from Manoush (I bought the same one!), an ombre tutu also by Ouma, a t-shirt from Whistles, and a belt from H&M.
Every trip to Paris goes by too quickly. I often dream about visiting in the spring, staying for a month, and really taking my time to soak up the place. After all, that is the French way!
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