Monday, September 7, 2009

The End of Year 1 in NYC and A Look at One of My Favorite U.S. Cities

Hi guys! It's been awhile since I've posted, but I'm still here! This past week marked my one year anniversary of moving to NYC from northern California. I'm still not quite sure how I feel about NYC -- I guess it's kind of a love-hate relationship. There's a lot I love, but I never imagined I'd miss California and the west coast as much as I do. In fact, I thought for sure I'd like NYC better just because it would be closer to Chicago, where my family is and where I grew up, but I find myself feeling far more homesick for my life in California than in Chicago. I guess I'm just lucky I have somewhere I know I'd like to be.

While I was living in California, I was able to travel all up and down the west coast -- hitting just about every major town from San Diego to Seattle. One of my favorites is Portland, Oregon, and I took several "quick" trips there. I wanted to commemorate my year one in NYC with a look back at my trip to Portland in August 2008, taken a week before I packed everything up and shipped it to the east coast.

Portland is the U.S. vegan mecca, it seems. There were so many vegan options -- amazing restaurants, food carts, tattoo artists, and vegan-dedicated stores (Food Fight Grocery!). They even have a vegan mini-mall that houses Food Fight, Scapegoat Tattoo (I'm getting another tattoo here the next time I have a chance!), and Sweet Pea bakery. They also have a well-developed indie music scene, with amazing record stores and great music venues. I got to see the Dandy Warhols while I was there -- I wasn't familiar with them before I went, but they put on a great show and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. For all my Portland trips I stayed at the Hosteling International Northwest Portland location. They had all the necessary amenities and kept the place clean and quiet. From first glance, the hostel seems like it'd be located too far from the center of action, but Portland's train system gets you around quite easily and the hostel is located a few blocks from a train stop (it's also a block away from a cupcakery with vegan options!).

Portland has the Columbia River to it's north and it cut in half by the Willamette River. This picture of the downtown was take from the east side of the Willamette River. The downtown, and the city itself, are pretty small, especially in comparison to places like Chicago or NYC, but that makes the city very easy to navigate and enjoy.

One of the main downtown hang-out points is Pioneer Square, shown below. I think the city puts on concerts and movies for the public here, though nothing was going on whenever I was there. I loved taking a break to read and eat a snack here. On the topic of reading, no trip to Portland is complete without a trip to Powell's Books! I love that store -- it's massive, has every book you could ever want, and is an independent shop! NYC's Strand Bookstore comes close, but you really can't top Powell's.

Here's another view of Pioneer Square. Most of the streets in this area were amazingly green.

I love farmer's markets. I flew in early on a Saturday morning, just in time to grab lunch at the PSU farmer's market. The pacific northwest grows some amazing blackberries, which happened to be in season during my trip, so of course I had to buy a pint. So good!

Here's a view of about half of the market. There was an open area surrounded by all the sellers where people were sitting to enjoy their food and listen to musicians.

On to some food! There's plenty of vegan options to choose from in Portland. My first experience with vegan soft-serve was at Blossoming Lotus, where I ordered the banana soft-serve. I remember it being a hot day and after lots of walking around this was the perfect treat! NYC has some amazing ice cream options -- Lula's and Stogo's as well as Eskimix, which is a fro-yo type place that offers a soy-based dairy-free option.

Another favorite was Sweet Pea bakery, where I got two cupcakes -- raspberry chocolate and chocolate mint. A year later and I still remember exactly what I got. They were that good!

I also managed to fit in some hiking during my trip. I took the train to Washington Park for an afternoon of hiking. I actually didn't have any idea what the hiking would be like, but it turned out great. Lots of evergreens and a view of Mt. Rainer, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens! (Coming from the flat midwest, I absolutely love mountains!) This sign was at a look-out point to give hikers an idea of what they were seeing.

And here's the picture of what I could see from the look-out spot. The picture just doesn't do it justice -- I was so disappointed that the mountains turned out to be barely visible here. But beauty none the less.

I loved my time in Portland and hope to make more trips back. Though, next time I'd really like to bring a few travel buddies with me! Writing this post has made me realize that NYC has just as much to offer as Portland, and really anywhere else. So in the next year, my goal is to make the best of my new home and find all the things that I love about it!


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