Portland: Part II

On our way to Powell’s bookstore we stopped in at some of the shops in Union Way, I was struck by the continuity of the architecture and decor of the arcade. Union had a cool obviously thought out design aesthetic and the stores had a collective manliness to them, maybe assisted by the Danner Store, you could definitely deck out your man cave or your hipster lumberjack cabin. On the other side of the arcade was The Buffalo Exchange, not really an op shop or thrift shop but more of a dedicated vintage store.

Powell’s Bookstore deserves a paragraph of its own just as it occupies a whole city block. The block and the 5 stories are full of wonders from the huge range (which didn’t cover some more modern psychology techniques unfortunately for Laura) to the rare books section which had original editions some of which were worth up to $5000 (possibly more but they were probably hidden further away).
Portland’s food was amazing, (I’ve already mentioned the donuts so I’ll leave those but I will revisit the food carts). Throughout the city there are over 700 and on one city block there were 56 food carts. You could get Eqgyptian, Georgian, German, Indonesian, and everything in between. Some food carts are more famous than others, including Grilled Cheese Grill which featured the mega cheeses, a redevelopment of the traditional hamburger-replacing buns with grilled cheese sandwiches (it also comes in a double…or if you want to be healthy, the baby cheeses). The pinnacle of success for a food cart is opening a brick and mortar restaurant and so far, only 5 food carts have done this.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai is one such food cart success story. The story goes, Nong moved to the U.S. with very little money and a recipe. Her recipe was chicken and rice-turns out to be some of the best chicken and rice you’ll taste. We were able to visit her restaurant in East Burnside and the chicken and rice certainly lived up to expectations. When your chicken and rice is that good you don’t need anything else on the menu except a larger size. Another food cart which has made it big is Lardo Sandwiches, they also started out life as a food cart. We visited their restaurant on SW Washington St, West Portland and Laura is still trying-so far unsuccessfully-to recreate their pulled pork salad. I had to try one of the burgers they were known for; the double burger and man, it was amazing.
On our way back from Nong’s Khao Man Gai we stopped in at Sizzle Pie Pizza for happy hour drinks. After eating our chicken and rice-and seeing the size of Sizzle Pies pizzas we decided to just stick with drinks because there was no way we’d get through a small serve. Our bar tender was pretty cool and he agreed to let me take a few photos as he was working (he also gave us a free drink), being Australian we hoped we’d tipped well enough when we left. Sizzle Pie had pizza paddles (if anyone knows the technical term please let me know) illustrated by well known artists for sale hanging on their walls.

More evidence of Portland’s excellent culture is its music, and sadly we felt like we were lacking. We don’t own a record player and it was clear that real music connoisseurs don’t buy CDs, oh well. The best thing about music in Portland was getting tickets to see Wye Oak play in the Doug Fir Lounge for $16 each. Astounding and certainly not something you’d find in Australia. Wye Oak’s support act Pattern is Movement were quite good, (think a white Barry White, a lot of the ladies in the room certainly seemed to). We were so impressed by the ingenuity of their merchandise that we took pillow cases with their faces with us.

Not only does Portland have all of that, but it also has a huge park in the city. You could spend 3 days hiking from one end to the other without seeing the city (alternatively you could come back out of the park to grab coffee if you want). Outside the city we drove to Multnomah Falls, although Multnomah Falls was lovely it was not as cool as Oneonta Gorge but that will have to be another post involving wading through glacial waters with a camera bag above my head.


Portland aka Stumptown aka Bridgetown…and almost Boston: Part I

We stumbled upon Saraveza on our first night in Portland. It was perfect after the drive from Eureka, I tried one of their pasties (pronounced pass-tea as the menu explains), pasties are pretty common in Australia, although I’m guessing not so common in the U.S. from the above explanation, Laura had the mac and cheese, both our meals were amazing and we washed them down with grapefruit cider. Picking our meals was definitely easier than choosing drinks because they had a huge range of amazing drinks, IPAs and craft beers and ciders (seriously have a look at the beer section on their website, it tells you what they’ve just tapped).

I forgot to mention that yes, our first night in Portland was Independence Day, we ended up in a local park for the fireworks. The photo above was my attempt at getting a photo of the city’s fireworks (I didn’t quite get the geographical scale of Portland by the way). You can just see fireworks though.

We made our way into the city for a free walking tour, with Secrets of Portlandia‘s founder and creator Eric. Interestingly, creating this was one of the first things Eric explained about Portland and it continued as a theme throughout the tour. Eric had to create the tour as a job for himself and initially he used to stand in Pioneer square waiting for people to come before the tours really took off. Although Portland has a lot of people moving to the city, there just aren’t the jobs to match, hence why Portland’s unemployment rate is higher than Detroit’s, not only were unemployment rates high but Portland like a lot of the U.S. cities we experienced had a large homeless population (more on that when we get to Canada).
We would definitely recommend Eric’s tour, he had great knowledge of the city and the personality to pull it off, what would you expect from an American guy who worked for 2 years doing tours in Spanish, in Spain. He also branches out to a Spanish language cooking show which he films in Mexico, getting cooking secrets from grandmothers. Eric’s knowledge of the city even extended to the location of the Portlandia statue, made famous by Portlandia, the location of this statue is unknown to the general Portland population. We were hoping that we would just bump into Fred and Carrie while we were in Portland, alas, it was not to be and we will not be featured in the next Portlandia series (at least not wittingly).

Keep Portland Weird is the city’s motto, kindly borrowed from Austin, TX, and we certainly saw evidence of this weirdness. I’m not exactly sure that weirdness is exactly the right word but Keep Portland Forward Thinking doesn’t have the same ring to it. The city was full of cyclists, zero emission buses and a great train/light rail system and it also had solar powered bins which crush waste and reduce the number of trips needed by garbage trucks. All of these environmental initiatives stemmed from Portland becoming the first local government in the U.S. to adopt a plan to address global warming in 1993. By contrast, in 2014 Australia’s Prime Minister calls himself an intelligent skeptic when it comes to climate change. I will say no more on the issue.
Portland’s food culture was awesome, we started with some great coffee from Stumptown Coffee. Stumptown derives its name from a bit of Portland’s history which we learned about on Eric’s tour. When Portland’s original settlers; William Overton and Asa Lovejoy (possibly related) founded the city and cleared the forest to start selling it to settlers, they decided to leave the stumps because they were obviously pretty hard to get out and there were 2 of them. That, and they didn’t think anyone would notice. Turns out they were wrong and thus began the continuing battle between Seattle and Portland, 1 point to Seattle, which initially had more settlers. This was also when Portland was almost named Boston, Oregon. After Overton sold his share to another settler, Francis Pettygrove, the decision was made to name the city, Pettygrove and Lovejoy both wished to name the city after their hometowns, Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. The matter was eventually decided with a coin toss.
It seems a universal rule for the standard of good coffee stores is how many cyclists a cafe attracts and the Division Street store was no exception. It had its share of cyclists, they probably all knew Spike. The coffee was great and although most people got takeaway cups, the shop had a very cool vibe, well lit with exposed brick walls and sturdy timber trim. I think it made for some pretty good photos (let me know what you think in comments).

The city is known for its food carts, and its donuts. One store in particular is quite famous; Voodoo Doughnuts started out making bad tasting donuts in novelty shapes (which I won’t outline here) eventually they realised that they actually needed to learn how to make donuts and the rest is history. The Voodoo Doughnut store had a 2 hour wait and a line which zig zagged out onto the street. Unbeknownst to those waiting there is another Voodoo Doughnut store which they could walk to, buy donuts and return before they could even order at this one (that was where we went when we finally got Voodoo Doughnuts). We had done our research, and we knew that although Voodoo Doughnuts is the popular tourists’ choice for donuts, there was another store, the one the locals go to; Blue Star Donuts. Their donuts added a certain touch of class to those you could get at Voodoo Doughnuts. Their flavours included the basil, bourbon, and blueberry, the jelly (jam) and powdered peanut butter donut (see below for these 2) as well as some other amazing flavours, unfortunately we didn’t have the time or the appetites to try them all, needless to say when we got back to Australia, we flat out refused an offer of Krispy Kreme donuts at Sydney Airport but these weren’t even the best donuts we had (more to follow on amazing donuts).

Another of Portland’s monikers is Bridgetown, and of course the city had some lovely bridges. While it didn’t have the scale of the Golden Gate Bridge, St John’s had these beautiful architectural features reminiscent of the arches of a cathedral, both in the concrete under structure and the metal pylons.

We found this piece of street art very close to the Blue Star Donut store, the portrait reminded Laura of Piper, of Orange is the New Black fame, and we learned later that the artist; Rone is actually Australian.

Among Portland’s many parks was the Japanese Gardens, unfortunately we visited it at the wrong time of year, the lack of fall/autumn colours combined with the $5 charge for taking a tripod in conspired to disappoint us. Overall the garden was quite beautiful though I’m not sure I can recommend it with its exorbitant entry fees.

There will be further adventures from Portland, meanwhile more of my photos are here

Society Tried To Keep Up With Pop Culture. What Happened Next Will Melt Your Brain.

Once you start reading this you will not be able to stop a la Pringles.

Ashish Shakya

(Note: This was part of the HT Brunch cover story for 3rd August 2014. You can read the shorter print version here.)

“I cried because my 3G was down, until I met a man who had no smartphone.” – Rumi

The internet is arguably the greatest invention of the 21st century, second only to the polio vaccine and the cyborg that assumed the form of Mick Jagger many years ago. Like the best drugs in the world, it offers escape in enslavement and we’re only too happy to roll up our sleeves for the friendly neighbourhood wi-fi dealer. The sensory overload it offers is eclectic, to say the least. On the one hand, it allows us to obsess over a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who joins an ad agency in the ‘60s so that he can drink Scotch all day and bide his time, before marching through an expanse of undulating…

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Ever feel alone in a crowded place? This artist gets you

Amazing photographic technique give it a second to pick up on the movement


Adam Magyar struggles with the speed of time. (Who can blame him?) In response, the Hungarian artist and photographer captures densely populated urban areas at extremely high speeds — then slows each moment down so you can experience every breath and blink. The result: hypnotic videos that reveal the hidden depths of everyday experiences. One conceptual series, Stainless, turns a mundane subway commute into a meditation on mortality and human perception. In Stainless, Magyar creates both videos and still photographs, the latter using a line-scan camera (the same kind of camera used in a scanner) to turn a speeding train into “a frozen image of impossible clarity and stillness, a reality imperceptible to both passengers speeding into the station and bystanders waiting to board,” writes Joshua Hammer in Matter. “The individuals in his trains ride together yet apart, lost in their own thoughts, often transfixed by their hand-held devices.”

Below, see five haunting gifs…

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San Francisco: Part II

We made our way to the Golden Gate Promenade, to our surprise the weather was foggy and didn’t afford the best views of the bridge. If you’re fortunate enough to get a view of the bridge in the small window between the morning fog and the afternoon fog, well done.  We continued on our way to the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, not overly impressed by the Roman architecture but I would like to know what the statues were looking down on. If you’ve been there you’ll know what I mean but for everyone else the statues topping the walls all look down into a central column. One might assume that is where the naked statues are hiding for modesty’s sake.

At my wife’s request we visited a couple of Andy Goldsworthy’s installation art pieces in Presidio Park. My wife studied Andy Goldsworthy at school, he is a British artist who specialises in environmental installation art using natural materials. His pieces in San Francisco include the Spire and the Woodline. I was quite impressed by my wife’s description of the woodline; ‘a wave made of logs’, but the reality didn’t quite live up to the anticipation, instead of a cresting wave constructed of logs it looked like an oversized path boundary. The Spire was more impressive, I could easily imagine a civilization of miniature sentient beings taking up residence in it. Bordering the park were some amazing examples of San Francisco’s architecture, as far as I could work out (from a quick google search) these were most likely built from the 1870s to 1890s.

While we were in the neighbourhood, my wife indulged me and we briefly stopped in at Lucasfilm, got a couple of selfies with Darth Vader and Boba Fett in the foyer and sat at Yoda’s feet (got a quick photo of the Yoda fountain). I imagine that this is where the animators come when they are out of inspiration or need lessons in lifting heavy stuff.  The best thing about Lucasfilm by far was a cute little toddler who was visiting her dad, she knew more about Star Wars than my wife did…but she couldn’t pronounce Chewbacca (the cuteness more than made up for it though).

After some of the less prominent spots, it must now be time to turn to the tourist destinations of San Francisco. So we headed over to Ghirardelli’s nice chocolate, enjoyed a milkshake, not much more to say on their chocolate. The Embarcadero was next, the place was packed. Given our earlier tour and our newly minted local knowledge of San Francisco, we actually had to stop ourselves from judging all of the tourists. My advice, avoid it and go straight to the Ferry Building Market. We could have spent a lot of money on food there, too easily, but we were restrained and once again had some excellent coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee Company.

We headed to Lush located near Union Square, you can always tell where a Lush is by the smell, usually from about a block away. We have literally jumped off a tram (trolleycar) in Melbourne because we smelled one. If you’ve never been you need to, and I’m saying that as a man. On our way into the city, I also indulged a particular passion of mine in photography, street photography. For those of you who have tried this, there is definitely something easier about street photography when you’re on holidays. Below is one of my favourite photos from the trip. I hope you appreciate it as much I do.

We finished our last evening in San Francisco with our Airbnb hosts, John and Alexis. John is a professional chef and he made us dinner which was amazing. He is also a pretty keen photographer so we did a final whirlwind tour of some photo spots of the city. Again we struggled with San Francisco’s fog but we did get to see American Bison at the Golden Gate Park. They were awesome.

Watch this spot…next post is Portland which I can say was probably our favourite city.

Best Local Wedding Photographers

San Francisco and how good is Airbnb…unless you’re in California trying to get rid of a squatter: Part I

After two flights and approximately 15 hours from Sydney to San Francisco, we arrived on an uncharacteristic warm, humid day and caught the shuttle to Richmond, San Francisco. Thus began our three week adventure along the West Coast. Our first day didn’t involve much activity-blame jet lag-but we did walk down to Baker Beach to check out the view (slightly overcast but that didn’t stop the locals getting out for a swim or sunbake) and we had our first much anticipated maple bacon donut (it was as good as we thought it would be, but not as good as the best donut we will ever have…more on that later). We were staying a few nights with our lovely Airbnb hosts John and Alexis, we were staying within walking distance of some great food on Clement Street and longer walking distance of Baker Beach. This was our first experience with Airbnb, and we have already recommended it to our friends (some of whom have just starting hosting their first guest). If you want a real experience of a city try it! Our hosts generally gave us great tips for visiting local spots and we had some great conversations even dinners and city tours. We booked a bike tour of the city with Streets of San Francisco, starting in Hayes Valley. We checked in early and while we were waiting we went to one of San Francisco’s best coffee roasters: Blue Bottle Coffee Company. To explain the coffee thing; for the Australians, American coffee is not drinkable and even the stronger roasts are not strong by Australian standards. For the Americans reading, sorry for insulting your coffee, but honestly we couldn’t even stand the smell of a pot of Folger’s. Thankfully, espresso coffee is on the rise in the U.S. and we researched some of the best spots in each of the cities we visited.

The tour itself was excellent, Josh our guide (in the hat) was so knowledgeable and although my wife was worried by the size of the hills on the bus on the way in, the route was definitely manageable. He gave us a great idea of San Francisco’s history turns out it has a bit more in common with Australia than we thought. San Francisco’s gold digging past features a famous criminal known as Shanghai Kelly, no doubt a distant relative of our own famous criminal Kelly, Ned the Bushranger. Perhaps Shanghai inspired our Ned, in the 1870s (Ned still a tender 16), he’d already Shanghaied 100 people. Josh shared all sorts of gems with us, such as the 19th century bar which also featured a urinal trough at your feet so you never had to stop drinking. The other thing we had in common were the gum trees, I was almost expecting koalas and drop bears. Although the gum is one of Australia’s icons, it is a noxious weed in California, a weed which loves the sandy, beach climes from which it came.

We did the classic tour, which covered Alamo square where we learned about San Francisco’s fascination with fire and burning bacon. Thankfully the fires don’t happen as often anymore and they have the bacon cooking down pat (the donuts are a testament to that). Josh knew great spots for street art including murals in The Mission and some international street art from German duo Herakut. One of our stops was the De Young Musuem in Golden Gate Park, which among other things has a great observatory with free access which has great views of the park and the city (when it’s not foggy that is-so not that often). The exterior of the De Young Museum is constructed of copper which is embossed with indents which create some very cool patterns as the walls oxidize, particularly where the sprinklers hit it.

We stopped for lunch at Civic Center Plaza while the FIFA world cup was showing (while the US were still in the running). The patriotism was out in force to say the least.

The entire tour also covers, Nopa, the Panhandle, Haight-Ashbury, Lower Haight, the Castro, SoMa, Haight Ashbury.

The plan for our trip was to visit San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Crater Lake, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, with a stop in Eureka and a second stop in Portland because we liked it so much the first time round. I hope you enjoy the photos.

This Is What the Same Woman Looks Like Photoshopped in Different Countries

This journalist sent a photo of herself to designers around the world with one request; ‘make me beautiful’ the results are very interesting


We’ve become accustomed to seeing photoshopped images in media. But journalist Esther Honig decided to do something a little different. She wanted to conduct a little experiment in beauty ideals so she sent the same picture of herself to Photoshop artists in 25 different countries with a simple request: make me beautiful. What she got back was 25 different versions of herself: The artists changed everything from her eye color to her makeup to her skin tone.

The recently released “My project, Before & After,” examines how these standards vary across cultures on a global level,” Honig wrote on her website.

It should be noted, however, that the results of her experiment don’t necessarily embody the typical attractiveness standards for an entire culture or country. The images reflect the tastes and skill level of each of the photoshop artists Honig commissioned. The U.S. example, for instance, does not look…

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