Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wanderlusting 2015

Yesterday was the first Saturday, in over a month, that I was able to sit at home, in my bed, and marathon watch Criminal Minds. This is what I typically do every Saturday morning. But for the past month, I haven't been living my typical life. I have been traveling. And as much as I love to travel, it is nice every once and a while to wake up on a Saturday morning and realizing that you can lay in bed as long as you want. After about hour 3 of criminal minds, I thought I would make myself useful and start blogging about all the great experiences I've had the past month.

My travels started on August 25th. I was in Palo Alto, California for a week of work. I went to help with an XXUX event at the Groupon PA Office. I love visiting the PA office. I have so many great friends there. It is alway reenergizing to see these amazing people. There is such a difference in the office culture there, even though we all work on the same team for the same company.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to our VP of Design, Elissa Darnell, for the week. I have always respected her but during this week I really came to understand how amazing this woman is. Let me be clear that sitting next to the VP isn't all fun and games. About 3 hours before the event, Elissa turned to me and asked if I would live tweet the event for that evening. Our design team's twitter account hasn't been active since 2012... and no one even knows the password. So I was tasked with starting a new account. Somehow I am now responsible for tweeting for our team. Please follow us so I can look super twitter savvy. @Groupon_Design

In addition to hanging out with co-workers, walking around Palo Alto, and schmoozing with some pretty cool Bay Area women, I was able to catch up with a high school friend, Leah. Leah is recently married and it was so cool to catch up with her and try one of the best burgers I've ever had at Refuge. I also got to play Exploding Kittens with Leah and her husband Pearce.

An evening stroll through Stanford's Campus

I mean, people go to college here!

The amazing Elissa Darnell

Jay teaches us how to design for the Apple Watch

Sebastian gives some pointers on mobile design
Jamie, Janet, and I pose at the photo booth
(a picture of a picture of a picture. so meta)

My business trip to PA actually came at the perfect time. Loren and I had planned a trip to The Pacific Northwest for the following week so instead of flying back to Chicago, I flew straight to Portland!!

I was able to spend the night with my friend Rachael. Rachael is the founder of The Paraders. She was the first person to give me an internship. She is such an inspiring person and it was so cool to catch up with her and see Portland through her eyes.

The next day, I picked up some doughnuts from Blue Star then got Loren from the airport. We got lunch at Pok Pok and some ice cream at Salt & Straw. We headed to our Airbnb on Mississippi Ave. The first day we walked around then watched Jurassic Park at a drive in underneath The Ross Island Bridge! 

Flying into Portland 
Jurassic Park Drive In

Day three we hopped in our rental car and drove to the coast. Loren downloaded an app that showed all the Goonies film locations. We started at the Haystacks then drove up the coast to Astoria. When we got back to Portland we went to a Ducktails show at Mississippi Studios. The opener was The Parson Redheads, which if I'm being honest, was much better than the headliner.

Outside the County Jail and Oregon Film Museum

Inside the jail where they filmed The Goonies

Astoria! That bridge goes to Washington!

Day four we explored Portland. We hit up Voodoo Doughnuts, Powell's Books, and Laurelhurst Park. Later we went and saw Straight Outta Compton at the Hollywood Theater. Which I will say, I got some creepy vibes in the bathroom. That theater has got to be haunted. 

The pond at Laurelhurst Park.

The next day we packed up our stuff and returned the key to our Airbnb. Before we left, I had to throw my gray Keds away because while we were at The Haystacks a big wave attacked us and since then, my shoes had let off an offensive odor. We left them at the corner of Mississippi and Shaver. I know if sounds irresponsible and borderline littering, but there are shoes all over the sidewalks of Portland. So we wanted to contribute. 

We hopped in the car and drove to Over Easy Bar and Breakfast, a bar featured on Bar Rescue! It was ok. I mean I could see why they needed to be rescued. You go their because it was on tv, not because the food is actually good, but those biscuits were great!! However, the bathroom was not great. In hindsight, I should have walked across the street to use the gas station bathroom. After a breakfast we hopped in the car and drove to Seattle!!

We drove into Seattle, dropped off our stuff at the Airbnb and returned the rental car. We grabbed dinner at Spinasse in Capitol Hill. We walked around, stopped in to a record store and a few other shops. We grabbed some ice cream at Molly Moon's then stopped by Capitol Cider where we tried a ginger flight! On our way home we stopped by a Trader Joes to grab some groceries to make some meals for the next few days.

Seattle! We have arrived.

The next day we learned that only tourists use umbrellas when it's raining. Luckily it only lasted for about 10 min. We met a crotchety old bus driver (who knew math— 2x2.5 is $5!!) as we headed to Pike's Market. After walking around the market, we saw the aquarium and took a boat tour. Then we headed to Gas Works Park to watch the sunset. Once it was dark we headed up to the observation deck at the Space Needle. We took a Lyft home and of course, our Lyft driver was Mormon who had spent his college years in Utah where he "had some friends from Logan." 

No trip to Seattle would be complete without a trip to Pike's.

Hanging out with the Octopus

I love these little guys!

And I love this little guy!

View from a boat.

Playing at Gas Works

Sunset from Gas Works

Sunset reflecting on the city.

View from the Space Needle

The next day we started at The Space Needle. We bought a city pass that included two trips to the Space Needle, a boat tour, the aquarium, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, and the zoo. Since this was our last full day in Seattle, we decided to visit the rest of the sights on the pass. After The Space Needle, we checked out the Chihuly Museum. Then we went to this amazing Caribbean sandwich place called Paseo. We then walked up to the zoo where we fell in love with the Japanese River Otters. We then went back to Capitol Hill where we check out Montana Bar and then got some pie at Pie Bar. We headed back home to pack for our departure to Vancouver!

View from the Space Needle during the day

The Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum

View of the Space Needle from Chihuly

Best sandwich I've ever had!

Ginger monkeys grooming each other

Japanese River Otters

I am so happy it's apple pie season.

The next day we headed to the Amtrak station for our train to Vancouver. When we arrived, an employee at the station said that our train was actually a bus. After a 2.5 hour bus ride we arrived at the border where we went through customs. About a half hour later we arrived in Vancouver where Loren's uncle met us at the train station. He took us to the Olympic Village where we looked at the bay and some of the art and parks in that area. We then went with Loren's uncle, aunt, and cousin to Jericho Beach to watch the sunset.

View of the Bay from Olympic Village

Steps into the harbor at Olympic Village

Loren on a rooftop at Olympic Village

Drift wood at Jericho Beach

View of the mountains from Jericho Beach

View of downtown Vancouver from Jericho Beach

Jericho Beach Sunset

Loren taking a time lapse of the sunset

The next day we borrowed Loren's uncle's car and drove up highway 99 to get to Whistler Mountain. On our way, we stopped at Shannon Falls. Then we took a short walk to the Sea to Sky Gondola. (Kudos to their branding and great user experience, both online and in real life). We took the Gondola to the top of the mountain for some great views of the sea! We took the gondola back to our car then continued our journey to Whistler. after searching for parking for about an hour, we took the Gondola to the top of Whistler, checked out the views, then headed back down the mountain via Gondola. We went back home and hung out with Loren's awesome family.

Shannon Falls

Loren and I checking out the sea

Great views from the sky

Loren snapping pics from the Gondola

Gondola ride up to Whistler

Me posing for a pano on Whistler

On top of Whistler

The next day we started by going up to the Capilano River Hatchery. This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen. This is a place where salmon swim upstream every year to lay their eggs. The eggs hatch at the hatchery and then the fish swim downstream to the ocean. After about 4-7 years the fish return to the same hatchery to lay their eggs. I got a video of the salmon swimming up stream. It is one of the most inspiring acts of perseverance I have ever witnessed. Check out the video below, some of those fish are literally flying!

After the hatchery, we went to the Capilano Suspension bridge. They charged like $40 to go to the bridge but after we entered the park it was more like an educational Disneyland. They had people dressed up in period clothing, tour guides telling stories about the family who built and own the bridge, and you got to go on the suspension bridge and a cliff walk. The cliff walk was a small walkway suspended from a cliff. I do not like heights. I did not think this was fun. After Capilano, we went to Granville Island. The island is underneath the Granville bridge and is full of art galleries, food markets, local shops, and large seagulls. We had dinner along the bay and walked around the shops. We got a bay tour on one of the water taxis from the Island. After Granville Island, we went back to Jericho Beach to watch the sunset for our last night of vacation.

Totem exhibit at Capilano

I am pretending this is fun.

Loren didn't even need to hold the railing

View from the restaurant patio on Granville Island 
View of the water homes from our water taxi

Jericho Beach at dusk

The next day we flew back to Chicago. I loved Vancouver and I would absolutely live there. (Depending on how next year's election goes, that may be sooner than later...) 

Two days after I arrived home, my sister Hollie, sister-in-law Ashley, and my nieces Haili and June came to visit me in Chicago!! I love having visitors because I get to see my city as a tourist. We mostly just had really good food and checked out the local parks, rode the water taxi, and walked around the neighborhoods. I really enjoyed my vacation but being able to tour my city the same week I got back made me realize how lucky I am to live in such an amazing place!

Haili's first subway ride

June's first subway ride

Haili enjoying some Lillies Q

June stealing some Jeni's ice cream

Haili playing at Groupon HQ

The girls on State Street (Chicago Theater in back)

Hollie getting some cupcakes from the Sprinkles ATM

June patiently waiting for Loren to come over

Walking past Sears Tower

Toddler cone from Scooters Frozen Custard


Playing at the new playground at Millennium Park

Buckingham Fountain with Baby June

At the fountain with Haili

The Signature Room! It looks like June is the only one who had something to drink...

Ashley + June at the Chicago Mural

Me + My babe at the Chicago Mural

June loves Wasabi's miso ramen