Oregon. Wild, weird and wonderful.

We just spent about a week in Oregon visiting Doug’s brother Tim and his daughter. Our trip was mainly in the Portland area but we also were able to venture out to the coast and to the border of Oregon and Washington. I love how Oregon treasures it’s land. The forests, waterfalls and jagged coastlines were beautiful and respected. While they were accessible, it is remarkable how much people here realize what a gift they have and fiercely protect it. I wish this was the case in more parts of the world.

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A few favorites from the trip:

  1. Tillamook State Forest and Coastline – this was one of the most beautiful drives I have ever taken. It rivaled California’s Highway 1 and the Hana Highway in Maui for me. Epic trees, gorges, rivers, waterfalls and cliffs leading down to the ocean. My favorite coastlines have a wild quality to them and this stretch of coastline had cliffs rising from the ocean floor (Haystack Rock). And beyond the beauty, it was an incredible family day. Mags walked a little too far out and ended up getting soaked, but she loved it. I hope she can always keep her sense of adventure and love for the ocean.
  2. Downtown Portland – I wish I had more time to explore this weird and wonderful place. It reminded me of Detroit because of it’s gritty and authentic spirit (once you get past the line of hipsters). They have an incredible sense of style, food and culture appreciation and dedication to local craft. A few highlights were Powell Books, Cascade Brewing and Salt and Straw.
  3. Willamette Valley Wine Tasting – Tim (Doug’s brother) owns a wine sales business and created an incredible day for us of wine tasting. I would say an Oregon Pinot Noir stands up to France any day of the week. The vineyards are breathtaking with views of the mountains and quaint towns with main streets and food cultures that would rival any leading city in the U.S.
  4. Mcmenamins of Edgeville – This historic poor house turned restaurant/winery/brewery/hotel/entertainment complex was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. On almost every surface, 19 local artists painted the story of the building dating back to the early 1900s. The complex was created as a poor house and has transformed many times over the years, serving as a tuberculosis hospital, nursing home and children’s mental hospital. The murals were some of the most interesting, vibrant, detailed and diverse that I have ever seen. It is a true Oregonian experience.
  5. Multnomah Falls – Another awe-inspiring landscape. This 620ft. waterfall is only minutes outside of Portland but feels like another world. We went along the Columbia River Highway (another top 10 drive of all time) and saw many waterfalls, forests, and the entire Columbia River valley. (It was a bit crowded with tourists, but still worth the crowds to see something so beautiful).

It was an incredible family trip (really some of the best food, laughter and ofcourse, vino!). We had the chance to get to know our incredible and kind niece and Maggie had the chance to even jam on the harmonica a little with her uncle Tim. We can’t wait to get back to Portland and enjoy the wilds of Oregon.


12 Things to Remember for Paris

I wrote these tips for a friend who was starting her Paris trip right after mine. I can’t say enough how much we enjoyed our trip and Paris is now one of my favorite cities. And here are a few tips and things to remember if you embark on a trip of your own.

  1. The metro is really easy to use. Everything is clearly marked, it is everywhere and goes to just about every part of the city. I think it is as easy to use as Chicago’s. You can buy 10 tickets for 10% off. (Doug and I used about 4-6 per day depending on what we wanted to see).
  2. Eat as many croissants as you can. (they are ah-mazing)
  3. Go to a cheese shop (fromaugerie) and make sure to also get some of their salted butter. It is one of the best things I have ever tasted. I swear that when Kate Moss said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” she had never had french butter.ParisTip2
  4. Check out a local market if you can (there is one in the city almost every day of the week). Doug and I grabbed bread, wine, cheese, meat and went by the Seine and had a picnic.
  5. Bring some portable wine glasses and a bottle opener. Always be ready to crack some vino!
  6. ParisTip1Tourists are terrible. And everywhere. So, be prepared the eiffel tower will feel a lot like times square (especially during the day). It’s still great to see but also be careful of pickpockets and people walking up to you. Doug and I saw someone getting robbed and then the police started chasing them. Craziness. We went during the day and then at night. At night (which the sun doesn’t set till almost 10:30) it is really lovely. Grab a park bench, vino (again) and wait until midnight (or on the hour after the sun goes down). The tower will light up for about 5 minutes. It is also really pretty to watch from a bridge over the seine (right behind the eiffel tower).
  7. ParisTip4Art. If you want to buy some art, some of the cheapest and best place is along the seine by the musee dorsay. There are also places in the Montmarte area but tend to be more expensive.
  8. If you want to go to a museum, buy the tickets in advance. The Louvre had an over 2 hour wait the day we went.
  9. Take time to forget about everything else and just enjoy.
  10. The people are incredibly nice. I think this rudeness stereotype is a thing of the past. They are kind, gracious and willing to help.
  11. Yelp is really helpful to find great places to eat. Some reviews are in English but we often went for the highest stars with the majority of reviews in French and found some pretty fantastic local spots that way.
  12. ParisTip3Google Maps (load maps in your phone over wifi at your hotel before you head out and you can navigate yourself to the city). They will also help tell you what metro lines and transfers you may need to make. We ended up turning on a data plan so that we could get maps out and about because our Belgium leg of the trip was more difficult to navigate than France.

ParisTip5“I guess it goes to show that you just never know where life will take you. You search for answers. You wonder what it all means. You stumble, and you soar. And, if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for a while.”
Amy Thomas, Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light


A glimpse of Paris – Part 1

IMG_2433We loved our France and Belgium adventure. Here are a few snaps from the trip. I will post more soon but we found the key to Paris, Brussels and Beaune was to embrace the experience. Choose to not be a tourist and wander off the beaten path. Our best stories came from meeting new people and discovering places that weren’t in any guidebook. So remember to take every day as an opportunity to Live fully. Love deeply. Travel often.


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The Newbie Guide to Airbnb

A few things to learn from our experience here: it needs to be the right place to be worth it. Don’t get me wrong, every place we stayed was nice but we felt most comfortable in locations that were clearly vacation properties or made to be guesthouses. While staying in Boston, we stayed in someone’s home that felt a little too much like we were staying in a stranger’s home. When I woke up in the morning and saw a picture of her family member on the nightstand, it just felt like I was trespassing, I struggled to feel comfortable in her home. She was very welcoming and hospitable, it was just a learning curve for us with AirBnB.

AirBNB Newbie Checklist:

1. Set up clear expectations on arrival times and how to access the property. (make a plan B for if you need a late or early arrival, especially if the host does not live near the property).
2. Provide a description of your party when booking (if you have a child, if they need childproofing, how many are traveling, etc). Make the post personable.
3. Ask some questions. (Do they live there? If you plan on preparing any meals, is the kitchen stocked with any basics?)
4. Learn about the local area. (Ask the host if there is public transportation near by. Ask for take-out or local restaurant suggestions. Ask about the exterior of the property if it is in a hard to find location).
5. Treat the property as if it were your own and remember the basics you learned in kindergarten: Be respectful, be kind and clean up after yourself.

Our Newbie Experiences: (we recommend every place we visited with 5 stars!)

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Burlington, VT (our favorite of the bunch)
I think we had an outstanding first experience in Vermont at the Carriage House in Burlington. Mary Ann left a chilled bottle of wine on the table to welcome us. Provided access to the property through a keyless code entry (that she sent ahead of our arrival). She stocked the pantry with spices and some Vermont products (coffee, cream, jam, peanut butter, soaps) and made sure we had laundry detergent. She checked in on us, but it never felt overbearing. The suite was beautifully designed and was clearly a guest house (with no personal belongings). It felt like renting a furnished condo with a fantastic welcome.

Wells Beach, ME
Our second experience was a vacation rental property steps from the beach. It wasn’t fancy, but it was good for what we needed. The kitchen was furnished but they didn’t provide any welcoming basics like Mary Ann in Vermont. They had a lobster pot which was perfect, but we did learn that we need to ask before we go to see if we need to bring a condo kit (spices, cooking stuff, cleaners, etc). There wasn’t a view but we knew that going in to it.

Boston, MA
Our third property of the trip was in Boston. When we drove into an industrial looking area I was a little nervous. Casey’s place was on the third level and I wish we would have talked a little more, there was a dangerous stair case and it stressed me out with Maggie, but Doug figured out a solution and we kept a close eye on her. Like I said earlier, it was a very cool space, but Casey clearly lived there and we couldn’t get over how it felt like we were living in a stranger’s house.

So our personal guidelines for AirBnB:
1. Vacation Rentals – Yes
2. Guesthouses – Yes
3. Personal homes – not for us.

So will we use AirBnB again? Absolutely. You can’t beat the unique vacation experiences. However, our suggestion is to overly communicate with the hosts to have clear expectations and enjoy to the fullest.


Roadtrip Adventures

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Every Christmas we visit my family, and that means a roadtrip down South. Either Mobile, Alabama or Tampa, Florida. This year we went through Kentucky and stopped at Mammoth Caves, one of my favorite national parks. We scheduled a tour and had about an hour to spare before it started so we took a family hike down to the river. It was a crisp day but we enjoyed every minute. Didn’t get too many great shots of the cave, but Maggie would say the highlight was the bus ride to the entrance. Gotta love a 3-year-old’s perspective on the world.

If you ever get a chance, don’t pass up one of God’s greatest wonders of the world.