the adventures of a small fruit in a big world

Archive for 2010|Yearly archive page

Beautiful Portland

In Oregon, Portland on September 1, 2010 at 12:32 pm

photo by Anne Jansen

I’ve been wanting to visit Portland for several years now, and I finally got the chance when we went out to Manzanita for my cousin-in-law’s wedding. The city has so much to offer, and in the short time we were there, we just didn’t have the time to see it all. I mean, how can you see it all in a city with so many nicknames? It’s know as beervana, stumptown, Soccer City USA, bridgetown, and (the city’s official nickname) The City of Roses. “Beervana” is certainly apt — I have never seen so many different breweries in one city before…then again, I’ve never seen so many amazing restaurants in such close proximity to each other anywhere else, with the possible exception of San Francisco. Stumptown is more reflective of Portland’s heritage as a lumber town. Soccer City USA is clear enough given the Portland Timbers’ upcoming upgrade to an MLS team, and “bridgetown” is clear to anyone who has drive through the city and seen its many bridges. The City of Roses, well, I don’t know that I saw many roses…but I did manage to visit another very different kind of garden.

photo by Anne Jansen

The Lan Su Chinese Garden is located in the heart of the trendy Pearl District in downtown Portland. It’s a small but impeccably maintained classical Chinese garden, complete with indoor and outdoor spaces, sculptural art, running water, traditional Chinese furniture and architecture, intricate wood carvings, and other beautiful examples of Chinese cultural heritage. The staff was courteous and helpful, and indulged my friend’s interest in trees by giving him a list of all the different trees living in the garden. It was a small space of peaceful quiet set right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of city life, and it was really amazing. Everyone raves about the Japanese gardens just outside of town, but I’m not disappointed I didn’t make it out there because the Lan Su Chinese Garden was worth seeing.

photo by Anne Jansen

Of course, another Portland must-see is Powell’s City of Books (the flagship store located in the Pearl District of downtown Portland). Truth be told, when I opened the post by saying I’d been dreaming of coming to Portland for several years, I really meant I’d been fantasizing about going to Powell’s. When I was hard at work on my teaching credential and my first master’s degree back in 2004, one of my instructors told the eager soon-to-be English teachers all about Powell’s, and I’ve been salivating over it ever since. After six years of build-up, I was concerned that the massive independent bookstore wouldn’t be able to live up to my expectations. My concerns were for naught. Powell’s was amazing! It was HUGE, taking up an entire city block and standing four stories tall, and it was incredible. If I could live there, I think I would.

photo by Anne Jansen

That goes for the rest of Portland as well: if I could live there, I would. It’s just so beautiful. There are mountains and rivers right there in the city, and there are more mountains, more rivers, and the wonderful Pacific Ocean within driving distance. The airport was also a really nice airport, which would make travel easy. It was airy and clean, and (best of all) had two mini-branches of Powell’s right there in the terminals. Who can pass that up?


Seaside Escape: Manzanita, OR

In Manzanita, Oregon on August 24, 2010 at 12:18 pm

photo by Anne Jansen

This little seaside town was adorable! Aside from the fact that it had two amazing independently owned bookstores (the Cloud & Leaf Bookstore, pictured below, and Ekahni Books) — really wonderful little shops — Manzanita had some great restaurants, a good yarn shop, a jam-packed general store, several art galleries, and a beautiful picture-perfect beach. That beach…wow! I grew up in Southern California, so I’ve never seen a beach with so much sand (very fine sand at that — just ask my poor point-and-click camera, which I dropped face-down in the super-fine sand) between the road and the ocean. There’s so much beach to walk on, which is good because the ocean was freezing. Well, okay, not freezing…but really cold for someone wimpy like me. Wetsuit-cold, actually, as evidenced by the large number of wetsuit-clad kite boarders enjoying the waters on what turned out to be ridiculously sunny days.

photo by Anne Jansen

The beach was also windy, but mostly just gorgeous. I was in Manzanita because my cousin-in-law was getting married (hence the final photo, below), and I’m glad I had the opportunity to discover this hidden gem. I’ll admit to being surprised by how much Manzanita has to offer its visitors. I wasn’t expecting much, because I’ve seen some pretty small towns while living in Ohio, but Manzanita was small without being boring. It was a wonderful place to visit, and one that I would certainly return to if I had the chance.

photo by Anne Jansen

camping at the red

In Climbing, Kentucky, Red River Gorge (Slade) on May 31, 2010 at 2:20 am

I recently went on a camping/climbing trip to Kentucky’s beautiful Red River Gorge. When we arrived in Slade, it was already dark and we set up camp and turned in for the night fairly quickly. But when we awoke the next morning, it was one of those mornings that seems like it’s shrouded in mystery and magic. The air was thick with steamy fog, and the trees were reduced to mere shadows of their majestic selves, coming into view only as you waded your way through the thick mist into the forest. When the fog finally did clear, we were left with stunning views like the one above — colorful rock jutting out of the foliage to bask in the sun’s warm liquid shine. Of course, we were there to climb, and the rock was the main attraction. It’s sandstone (often beautiful reddish sandstone, which I’m guessing is where the Red gets its name), and in some areas the sandstone is laced with iron which creates some very unusual and intricate patterns in the rock. As you can see in the picture below, the rock itself is full of pockets — fingerholds and jugs of various size and depth, which makes the Red a good place for climbers of most skill levels (although there’s some great stuff here for those of you who are far more advanced than me).In many areas, we found ourselves blissfully shielded from the midday sun by the dense plant life above and around us. It was a temperate day, even if it was quite humid, which made for good spirits and good climbing. We visited a few different walls that represented some of the Red’s most canonical spots before heading to the most famous spot of all: Miguel’s. That’s right, the most famous place in the Red is Miguel’s Pizza, and their pizza is delicious. The variety of toppings is amazing, and of course you can top off your meal with a healthy dose of Ale81 — the local soda of choice. After Miguel’s, we headed back to our campsite. We were lucky enough to find a deserted and well-maintained campsite (sorry, not divulging the location of that one!) during Memorial Day weekend. It was quiet, close to choice climbing areas, and had a covered picnic table, a recently cleaned/emptied portapotty, and nice areas for setting up your tent. And since it was privately maintained, campfires were allowed (as you can see in the picture below). It was a fantastic weekend, and one that I’ll not soon forget due to the multitude of mosquito bites peppering my limbs.

conference in tuscon

In Arizona, Tuscon on May 27, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Last week, I attended the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) conference in Tuscon, Arizona. This was the view of the sunrise as taken from the balcony of my hotel room at the Westin La Paloma. The hotel was super-posh…I mean, the room was like 400+ square feet, and my first apartment was only 600something square feet. Plus, the bed was really comfortable and the facilities were beautiful. I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked in that comfortable and luxurious room, but if I had I would have taken a nap on that delicious bed with the glass door open to the balcony, letting in the lovely fresh air. You can see from the picture below just how spacious the room was, and how tempting the bed is.

I hit springtime in Tuscon at the perfect time — the cacti were in full bloom, and the temperature hadn’t reached triple digits yet. It was amazing. I went to Tohono Chul park with my friend, who was gracious enough to let me stay with her and her soon-to-be husband for a couple of days after the conference, and that was beautiful as well. We walked among the majestic saguaro cacti and the spines of some angry looking little cacti, and then enjoyed tea in their tea room. The 4th Avenue area is pretty cute, albeit slightly divey, and the university area is very trendy and clean (I’m talking about the area to the immediate west of the gates to UA). It was a great trip, quick as it was, and I was pleasantly surprised since I’ve only ever been to Arizona during July and August when it’s scorching hot.

the california of texas

In Austin, Texas on March 22, 2010 at 9:30 pm

photo by Anne Jansen

Austin, Texas, is a beautiful city. Of course, I went there in an attempt to flee the deepest part of a midwestern winter, so arriving in a city that was experiencing 70-degree weather was enough to make me fall in love with it all on its own. But Austin is not lacking in its charms. With its beautiful rivers and picturesque skyline, this city which has been described to me on numerous occasions as “the California of Texas” captured a little bit of my heart.

photo by Anne Jansen

Of course, any city boasting a capitol building (pictured above) made of pink granite possesses a good deal of character, and when that slightly pink capitol building is located in the Lone Star State — a state that prides itself on being the biggest, the baddest, and the most independent of all — it only adds to the enjoyment. But what else did I like about Austin aside from the architecture? Oh, that’s easy. The music! By the most wonderful of coincidences, I ended up in Austin during one of its biggest musical weekends: SXSW. That is to say, its annual South By Southwest indie music festival. I managed to attend a few free concerts by some amazing musicians, and was lucky enough to wander around the historic downtown area at a time when the roads were closed to vehicles and were instead teeming with excited fans zipping from concert to concert and merry food vendors offering the most delicious of treats.

photo by Anne Jansen

Music festival or no, Austin’s definitely a city with a lot to offer. At the risk of alienating some readers, I’ll admit that I never imagined I’d find anything very appealing in Texas, but I was pleasantly surprised by this eccentric and well-situated city. I think another trip to Austin lies in my future.

remember the…what?

In San Antonio, Texas on March 18, 2010 at 9:41 pm

photo by Anne Jansen

Yes, of course: the Alamo. And while it is certainly a beautiful relic of an ugly and violent past, I didn’t find the Alamo nearly as enjoyable as the San Antonio River Walk with its cute shops, restaurants, and waterways. The River Walk boasts famous restaurants and hotels, as well as a few sculptures with rich pasts. The most fun thing about the River Walk, for me, was the boat tour that I went on. Yes, it’s cheesy. I’m very aware, but I also know I had a lot of fun. The waterways were still green from the recent St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, which added to the picturesque nature of this particular San Antonio tourist trap, and it was nice to enjoy some time in the sun while drifting through the canals.

photo by Anne Jansen

San Antonio was a lot of fun, but I’m not sure this city has much more for me to see if I were to return. It was a positive experience, and one very much enhanced by the presence of two good friends, but I think I can safely say it was a one-time deal. If you find yourself in the area (especially during the mild early-springtime) you should definitely check out the River Walk.