south lake union

I need to mention a couple of retailers (here in Seattle) 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

jack and lola…and sophie

Yesterday we took a trip over to North Vancouver (shown below in the distance), mainly to meet our fabulous Canadian agent, Sophie, of In Bloom Kids.

We met Sophie – along with her seven-year-old (very well behaved) daughter, Portia – at Lonsdale Quay for coffee. It was an absolute pleasure to put a face to the name.

Once we were done, Sophie pointed us in the direction of Jack & Lola, a store she’d got us into. We paid a visit and met owner Leanne, manager Mark and the team.

They’ve done such an amazing job with the store – which apparently used to be a nightclub (of all things!) – filling the vast space with the most engaging displays.

They are currently stocking our Billie range, displaying it so prominently that we clocked it as soon as we walked in the store. We’re really happy; it looks great.

As if that wasn’t enough, they’ve also brought the range to life by creating a wonderful nursery room set. It was very satisfying to see our products shown-off this well.

They were so welcoming, generous with their time and full of advice. We agreed to catch up again when we cross paths at the ABC show in Vegas this October.

kid-friendly kitsilano

We’re in Kitsilano –a family-focused area, with a few kids stores, including Hip Baby, who already stock O&L.

And just up the road is Crocodile Baby, home to a fantastic array of cribs and bedding.

This city is so picturesque, I’m snapping away constantly. I’ll do my best to show some restraint, to keep this blog from becoming a holiday diary.

canada calling

Thanks to two of our fabulous agents, Sophie covering Western Canada and Anna focusing on Quebec, we’ve managed to gain some great new Canadian retail partners.

We’ve added three Montreal stores, Pinky Blue, Z’AXE and Bebe Plus, even creating unique French product labels in the process. Hopefully more Quebec stores to come.

New too, Vancouver’s Jack & Lola, “North Shore’s ‘one-stop’ style destination for new & expectant parents searching for natural, modern, and inspired brands.” We like.

A perfectly timed round-up as we’re Vancouver-bound on Thursday. Our first time in Canada and what a place to start?! VERY exciting. More to come on all that soon.