Dear readers, I need your assistance…

Sasieology is all about visiting new places and trying new experiences. When I first started this blog, I challenged myself to visit at least one new place and try at least one new experience or activity every year. I have certainly achieved that target in 2015.

In January, I went skiing in Andorra

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I managed to squeeze in a camping weekend to Watchet in Somerset…

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My big adventure of the year started in Sacramento, CA…

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Before a whirlwind tour of the Northwest coast of the USA, stopping in Portland

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… and Seattle

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Then I chilled out on the deck of an Alaska Marine Highway ferry for three nights…

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When I arrived in Alaska, I visited so many amazing places like KetchikanHaines, Skagway, Anchorage, Homer, Seward, Whittier, Valdez, McCarthy, Kennecott, Tangle Lakes and Denali. I also got to try glacier walking, and I took a flightseeing tour over Wrangell St Elias National Park…

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Back in Cardiff, I used my detective skills to give a murder mystery a try…

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And I also chilled out in a massage workshop with my friend Alicia…

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Now that 2015 is almost over, it’s time to think about next year. Call me crazy, but I have decided to try and do even more next year. My plan is to visit 12 new places and try 12 new experiences, one for each month of the year.

So, I need your help to generate some ideas. I already have some trips planned, and some ideas of activities that I’d like to try. But, what do you think should be on my list for 2016? I will only consider ideas that are vegan-friendly, and I will probably be staying within Europe, but I would love to hear what you all think. 🙂

 

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The Architecture of Portland

Just like the street art of Sacramento had stood out for me, so too did the architecture of Portland. The city has many neighbourhoods that are hugely different from each other, and the designs of the buildings really reflect that.

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The Long Night to Portland

Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.

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As I was pushed for time to get up to Anchorage by 20th June (when I would pick up my G Adventures tour), I had the genius idea of catching the Greyhound overnight from Sacramento to Portland, OR. It was due to leave Sacramento at 7pm and arrive into Portland 9am the following day, giving me a whole day in each destination. Brilliant. Unfortunately, the gods of bus maintenance had other ideas. Due to previous problems before it even got to us, the bus didn’t leave Sacramento until gone 8pm. Then, as soon as we left the flat land of northern California and began to encounter hills, the bus began to struggle again. One of my fellow passengers did explain to me what had happened, but in all honesty all I understood was that there was a snapped belt lying on the floor outside the bus door and without it we couldn’t go anywhere. So, just after midnight, we found ourselves stranded in a place called Reading with a water fountain and a broken vending machine. Oh, and about a thousand cockroaches, mosquitoes and a few homeless people asking for money. It didn’t help that the driver kept getting our hopes up only to dash them again. I kid you not, this was her announcement to a bus full of tired, sweaty travellers stuck in the middle of nowhere with no air conditioning:

‘In a few minutes a really nice, new Greyhound bus will stop here. It will say Portland on the front.’

Good so far, right?

‘That is not our bus.’

‘In another hour, a really old, white box bus will pull up. That is our bus.’

Was she kidding us?

Despite its age, however, and sounding like it too might pack in every time we hit an incline, Old Faithful did not let us down.

The delay also allowed us to bond with our fellow passengers on the bus. Greyhound buses are much roomier than other similar transport, which leads to a more relaxed atmosphere where you don’t feel you want to commit mass murder by the time you get off. We all swapped stories of why we were there. Some people were making their way home, some to visit family. A few, like me, were travelling (although no-one else to Alaska). One guy looked like even he wasn’t sure why he was on his way north. All in all, though, I couldn’t have wished for a nicer group of people to be stranded with.

We didn’t reach Portland until 1pm, four hours behind schedule. I considered staying on the bus with the others and continuing straight on to Seattle, but changed my mind when I heard they’d have to wait until 5pm for yet another bus to pick them up. They weren’t going to get to Seattle until 9pm.

Another person due into Portland the same day was James Lawrence, also known as the Iron Cowboy. He’d challenged himself to complete 50 triathlons, in 50 states in 50 days. I had no right to complain about 17 hours on a bus and having to walk from the Greyhound station with swollen ankles.

After checking in at HI Portland, my first stop was food. One amazing superfood-filled Bali bowl from Veggie Grill later, I was (slightly more) full of energy and ready to explore.

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By this time it was already gone 3pm. I needed to find a way to see as much of Portland as possible in a short time. I wandered down to Pioneer Square (Portland’s ‘living room’) to find the Visitors Centre. On the way, I’d passed children playing in the water fountains. In this heat they probably had the best idea, and I considered joining them.

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In the Visitors Centre, a bright pink leaflet caught my eye. The Big Pink Sightseeing Trolley is a hop-on, hop-off service that stops off at 12 Portland highlights. I scanned the schedule – the last trolley didn’t leave until 4pm! I wouldn’t have time to hop-off anywhere, but at least I’d get to see some of Portland. The lady at the ticket booth even gave me a discount because it was the end of the day.

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Although the commentary could barely be heard above the noise of the trolley, our driver was really nice and happily answered questions that he probably gets asked a thousand times a day.

I definitely made the right decision by taking the trolley tour. It took 90 minutes to go around the whole of Portland, and the driver wasn’t holding off the gas, believe me. There’s no way my swollen, blistered feet would have carried me up to Washington Park, the International Rose Test Garden or the Oregon Zoo. And it was worth it for the panorama. We had a clear view of Mount Hood, with it’s snow cap teasing us as we sweltered in the city heat.

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Due to its unusual number of breweries, Portland has many nicknames that revolve around beer. What I noticed was not so much the breweries, but the number of bridges that cross the river. Our driver explained to us that, before the bridges, there were 3 ferry services. Before the ferries, a local businessman taught his horse to swim and would charge people to be dragged along behind it.

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One of Portland’s famous sons is Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons. Apparently, there are still teachers at Lincoln High School who turned into characters in the show, and you can see road signs and landmarks around the city that obviously inspired the young cartoonist.

I’ve always wanted to shop in Whole Foods, and it particular try one of their to-go boxes. Portland gave me that opportunity at long last. My take-out dinner of quinoa, beans, salad and veggies with a bottle of Kombucha (my new obsession) was the perfect way to relax after my dizzying tour of Portland. It was sobering to think that while I’d been touring Portland and eating two whole meals, by the time I was back at my hostel some of my bus companions from the previous night would not have even reached Seattle yet. Hopefully, my bus journey the next day would not prove as eventful.

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Useful Info:

Greyhound Sacramento to Portland: from $75

The Big Pink Sightseeing Trolley day ticket: $32

HI Portland: from approx. $30 per night

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My plan to travel through the night and get a full day in Portland, OR backfired when our bus broke down. More about that at a later date.

By the time I made it to Portland, I only had a few hours to see as much as possible. So what did I do? I jumped on a bright pink trolley of course. Apologies for some of these photos being a bit blurry and wonky (a word I taught to some Americans on Sunday), it was a whistlestop 90 minute tour and the trolley driver really put his foot down. He almost left one old man behind because he couldn’t run along the side of the vehicle and jump on. We weren’t stopping!

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Off to Seattle in the morning, keep your fingers crossed for me that the bus doesn’t break down again. Otherwise, this could end up being a blog about Greyhound stations and rest stops around the USA 🙂