meet morris and morris

Just a very short post to introduce two new members of the Olli & Lime team. Meet mini donkeys Morris and Morris, “the memo’s best friend[s]“, recruited in Portland…

Designed by Yaacov Kaufman for MB, and bought from our favourite stationers, Paper Source, who’ve an impressive (growing) list of locations, some of which we’ve visited.

These beautiful, yet functional, charcoal-coloured memo holders will resdide on our new glass office desks. Oh, one last travel post on the way, then back to reality.

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south lake union

When visiting a new city, we imagine living there. Where would we eat? Where would we shop? And, most importantly, where would we live? We applied these tests to SLU. But before getting into that, I need to mention a couple of retailers there that sell O&L…

Tottini is based in South Lake Union, and the main reason we took the short trip from downtown. We popped in to say ‘hello’ and enjoyed a very warm welcome.

And Velocity Art & Design (above) are just a couple of doors up. They stock some of our non-baby products online and in store. A very cool shop, well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Downtown Seattle condos are pricey but you can get a bargain just a few blocks out. The South Lake Union neighbourhood, just north of downtown, is a prime example.

At the forefront of recent development is Microsoft’s ‘other’ big player, multi-billionaire investor, Paul Allen, owner of the Seahawks, Sounders and (Portland) Trail Blazers.

Allen has reportedly invested over $200 million of his own money in the area (as at 2005). Whether motivated by philanthropy, capitalism or megalomania, who cares?

The area is certainly on the up. South Lake Union Discovery Center is the best place to check out what’s happening. If you’re in the area, I recommend paying a visit…

…if only for the interactive replica of downtown Seattle (above) and other scale models. I love this kinda stuff. Hope the condos are designed with equal attention to detail.

Back to the neighbourhood. It’s clearly not quite finished yet but a dedicated Streetcar is running, there are further development plans and a lake-side park is well under way.

So, would we live in South Lake Union? Um, maybe. Though it’s not quite there yet, I’m convinced, with the investment that’s already taken place, that it will happen. And now seems a good time to buy. It’s a possible.

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tourist trail

We’re definitely not ones for following the tourist path but, as time is short, we decided to take in some of Seattle’s more obvious attractions. Here’s a quick action replay…

I tackled the Space Needle solo due to Karen’s vertigo issues. Not cheap but one of the better viewing decks. Lots of gadgets and info, plus great views of a great city.

Though we could have walked from our hotel, we took the monorail over to the Space Needle, both built for the 1962 Century 21 Exposition, AKA the Seattle World’s Fair.

100+ year-old Pike Place Market is home to an eclectic mix of traders, most bizarrely (I thought) a fish market where staff routinely hurl three-foot fish across the counter!

It was also home to the original Starbucks store, before they relocated, a block away. Check out the visual branding, which is presumably more akin to the original look.

We also took the Duck Tour, which initially felt like a mistake but turned out to be fun, if not hugely informative, and we did see parts of the city we otherwise wouldn’t have.

We watched our beloved Red Sox beat the Mariners. Great ballpark, with way more comfortable seats than we’re used to! Good timing, as the Sox lost the next game.

We haven’t just been doing ‘touristy’ things! Much more to come on everything else we’ve checked out. First though, we’re off to explore this fine city some more.

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seattle differences

As we hop from city to city, we can’t help comparing. Thought I’d go through some things immediately apparent about Seattle. First though, here’s where we’re staying.

Right, it’s a big city. The population is almost identical to Portland and Vancouver; it just has more of a big city feel. Bigger buildings, more traffic, more of a buzz about it.

The shopping is better. More big-brand names, more independents too. There’s just more of everything. I’m sure if we were in Portland, we’d probably come here to shop!

It’s edgier. I guess coming from Vancouver and Portland it’s unfair to say it’s dirty; it’s no dirtier than most large cities, but it does have that dusty, big city, alive, edgy feel.

There’s more water. An obvious one, but the implications are what’s important; an overt connection, influencing industry, attitude, getting around; all aspects of life here.

Overall initial reaction; an impressive, cool, vibrant city. And we’ve only dipped our toes in. Hmmm…we need two more weeks, rather than the few days we have left.

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the pearl

Whether we return to the city or not, and I’m almost 100% certain we will, one area will leave a lasting impression on us, Portland’s capital of cool; The Pearl District.

Like most cities, Portland has experienced an economic slump. But ‘The Pearl’ is thriving. Bustling cafes, bars and restaurants, flanked by well-planned park spaces.

This district, northwest of downtown, is home to much of Portland’s creative arts community. Converted warehouses neighbour ultra-modern glass and steel towers.

Industrial warehouses were built from the late 1800s to store goods transported to Portland by rail. Evidence of this former function has been thoughtfully preserved.

These buildings now house Portland’s priciest condos/apartments and it’s easy to see why. The condo we viewed on the top floor of this R-H building had 26ft ceilings!

The upshot is, if we come back we’ll stay in the Pearl. There’s even a chance that it may be for longer than just a holiday. Plenty to consider before then so we’ll see.

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jamison square

Public parks are plentiful in Portland. One of our favourites so far is Jamison Square, an oasis for young families, perfectly placed in the heart of The Pearl District.

Just a quick retail diversion; there are two baby stores in close proximity, on NW 10th and 11th Ave, either side of the square. Both are well placed for passing trade from parents frequenting the park.

Little Urbanites is a cool place for kids clothes, toys and gifts. Posh Boutique is a well-established Portland entity, with a big selection of modern bedding and décor.

Back to the park itself. Central to Jamison Square is a wading pool, which fills via water jets, then recedes in a timed cycle. This provides endless amusement for tiny tots and parents. And us, actually.

The park is flanked by expensive condos, plus some great cafes and restaurants. We’ve been to this place a couple of times. It has a really cool feel inside and out.

They serve great fresh food, local brews, traditional cola and lattes with a creative twist. Oh, and an impressive range of delicious cakes, freshly baked every day.

And Jamison Square isn’t just for humans. This guy brought his, seemingly unfazed, cat along to enjoy the sunshine, and watch the fun unfold.

All in all, I’d call Jamison Square the perfect place to be on a warm summer’s day.

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transport land

Of all the US cities we’ve visited, Portland arguably has the best public transport; Max light rail, streetcar, commuter rail and bus, all under the TriMet banner.

So what makes it so great? First, it’s free within the centre. In fact, nobody seems to pay a fare outside the free zone, perhaps why the tickets say “Welcome to Portland”.

It’s on time. Clear digital displays tell you when the next Streetcar is on its way and sure enough, it arrives when they say it will, thanks mostly to a lack of city traffic.

It’s all above ground. This means you get to see where you’re going and where you’re coming from, which is great when you’re trying to get your bearings in a new place.

Even further above ground is the Portland Aerial Tram – or cable car to you and me – which gives some incredible views of the city…and Mount Hood, the closest peak.

This modern, efficient and clean service runs specially for OHSU staff to get to and from the Waterfront…many of them residing in recent condo developments below.

One negative is that the streetcar, which we have used the most as it fits our route, doesn’t run very late. Though with a bit of planning this isn’t much of a problem.

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olli and lime and kate

A diversion from our ‘travel diary’, courtesy of Olli & Lime customer Elizabeth, of Burlington Township, NJ, who’s just finished kitting-out a nursery for daughter, Kate.

Elizabeth sent in these great pics of her beautiful baby girl and an Olli & Lime nursery featuring our George design bedding, alphabet wall mural and George/Billie wall art.

Elizabeth kindly says “I have been so happy with your products. I have had so many compliments on them.” That’s what we like to hear! Thanks so much for sharing.

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clean and green

Portland isn’t the biggest US city. It doesn’t have the tallest buildings, the best shops, the coolest clubs or the greatest restaurants. But I really love it. And here’s why…

It’s green. I’m not talking about the commitment to sustainable design, or public transport, or urban planning (though all very commendable) No, it’s green. Literally.

It’s clean. Really clean. Walking through the downtown area, it struck us right away. The sidewalks, the buildings, the bus stops. It all feels clean and tidy. Which is nice.

It’s friendly. The people have been so welcoming. And not just the concierge, service staff or realtors. In bars, on transport, in the street. People are helpful, polite, friendly.

It’s logical. It usually takes me ages to get my bearings. But here, I instantly get it. The streets run numerically east to west and alphabetically (most of) south to north.

Incidentally, some Simpsons characters were named after streets in the Alphabet District (also the Pearl). (Mayor) Quimby, (Reverend) Lovejoy and (Ned) Flanders! It’s also rumored that the series’ Springfield is the one in Oregon.

It’s cheap. No sales tax. A large ‘Fare Free Zone’ and everything just seems to cost less. We’ve spent very little money since we arrived, on day-to-day stuff at least.

It’s pretty old. Not English old but definitely US old. I didn’t expect to see so many old buildings. In addition to the warehouses of the Pearl District, the downtown area is filled with stunning historic architecture.

There are negatives, sure. The city’s evident homeless problem. The high level of unemployment etc etc. Also, a summer visit clearly puts Portland in the best light…literally.

However, I still think it’s an incredible city. I only wish we had longer here to enjoy it. Oh well, I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll be back in Portland again pretty soon…

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long way down

Before I get into the whole Portland thing, I must mention our journey down; an eight hour (plus) train ride from Vancouver to Portland. Good job the seats were comfy.

We thought it’d be a good way to see the countryside and how the landscape changed from beautiful British Columbia, through Washington State, and into northern Oregon.

Water, beaches, mountains, hills, trees. Miles and miles of simply breathtaking views. But you know what? You almost take it for granted by the end of the journey. Almost.

We even previewed our next stop, Seattle. We’ll be visiting Safeco Field, home to the Mariners, next week when – happy coincidence and not planned at all – the Boston Red Sox are in town.

Having (eventually) got to Portland, there’s a whole lot more to admire. Predictably, I’ve already captured a fair bit, so expect my full analysis over the days that follow.

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