Getaway to Portland

Getaway to Portland: An Insider’s Guide to the City


Portland, Oregon figured out how to offer travelers the best of each city rolled into one.

A reliable light rail system, responsible urban planning featuring parks and walking/biking trails, an eclectic art scene and an evolving food market makes this Northwest city a travelers haven.

Its bustling culture positioned between the Tualatin Mountains, Oregon Coast Range and the actively volcanic Cascade Range, while located at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers makes Portland the perfect stop while traveling the Oregon Trail.

Its natural beauty and landscaped scenery offers travelers a rejuvenating and progressive experience.

Portland is divided by the Willamette River, which runs north and south, and Burnside Street, which runs east and west. Organized and managable, the city is organized as a grid with numerous bridges to cross the river and intercepting streets to make it east to navigate.

From historic Old Town in the northwest part of the city to the swanky, vivacious Pearl District, upscale Nob Hill and the rich culture of central downtown, Portland’s many different neighborhoods offer an array of entertainment, sightseeing, nightlife and outdoor activities.

No matter the season, Portland is a highlight year-round. The city is known for it’s skiing in the outlining mountains during through the spring, Rose Festival in the summer, International Film Festival in the winter and many breweries to visit any time of year. Not only does Portland deserve to be top on the travel list, it has become the most progressive destination to visit in the Pacific Northwest.

Here are a few must-see and must-dos while visiting the city:

Where to Stay?

Hotel Rose is a boutique hotel located in downtown Portland across from the riverbank of the Willamette River. The fun, energetic vibe inside the hotel mirrors that of the city’s. Not only is Hotel Rose located steps from the iconic river, it is a short walk to many shops, restaurants, food carts, coffee shops and the famous Powell’s City of Books. The boutique hotel is also located across the street from a light rail stop, which makes getting around Portland convenient and easy.

Not only does Hotel Rose offer an array of ammenities, including complimentary bike rentals with your stay, it has a full-service bar on site. H50 Bistro and Bar, which was named Portland’s Diner’s Choice Winner for Best American Food and Best Scenic View, serves dinner and drinks daily in its bar area while the dining room gets an overhaul. The bar also offers a delicious happy hour with an ever-changing menu. Not only is the hotel in prime location, but the views of Portland it offers from some of the rooms makes this boutique hotel worth the stay.

What to See?

Powell’s City of Books is a major attraction and rightfully so with it encompassing a 68,000 square foot area in the heart of downtown Portland. The bookstore is a like a small city within itself. For bibliophiles, a complete day might not be enough time to get through the many color-coded aisles and floors of this bookstore. The Classical Chinese Gardens is also a popular sight in Portland. It is the largetst Ming-Style Chinese Garden outside of China. It occupies a full city block and is filled with a variety of flora, waterfalls, a pond and beautiful architecture.

Tasting some of Oregon’s famous microbrews is a worthwhile activity for beer lovers, or travelers who are looking to expand their varietal of beer. Well-known for their microbreweries, Portland is home to more than 60 of them spread throughout the city. A full day can be spend roaming around the city, enjoying some suds. Hair of the Dog Brewing Company offers great beer, good food and lots of Porland culture.

Another fun option when in Portland, but depending on the time of year, is to attend a Portland Timbers’ soccer game. The city revolves around the sport when it’s in season and watching the team play and experiencing the energy from the crowd first-hand at a home game is an unforgettable experience. This MLS powerhouse is worth rooting for when visiting their city.

Where to Eat?

Portland has a blooming restaurant scene. Offering a wide variety of styles and flavors, from ethnic food to American pub fare, the city is a foodie mecca. Each restaurant has its own vibe, while most are laid-back, there are also some upscale eateries located in downtown Portland and within the other sections of the city, such as Knob Hill and the Pearl District.

But for a quality meal that is the most economic, convenient and cultural, eating at the city’s food carts is a must-do when visiting Portland. From vegetarian to even greater eclectic varieties, the food cart craze is at the heart of Portland. The food carts, which are referred to as “pods,” are a big part of Portland’s food scene. With more than 600 to choose from, their locations differ throughout the city. For a map and more information on where to find the pods along with a list of the different cuisines, visit Food Carts Portland.

So the next time you are up for a road trip, or just looking for a new place to explore, Portland is the way to go.

Travel Tip Shared by Ashley


Natural History of Trinidad and Tobago

Discovering the Natural History of Trinidad and Tobago


It seemed all too predictable as I geared up for my travels to the Caribbean.

Vibrant turquoise water to swim in, white sandy beaches to stroll along and fruity cocktails to accompany my adventure was what initially came to mind.

But as I stepped foot in Trinidad and Tobago, the predictable thoughts I had of the islands quickly changed.

While the surrounding ocean took on many shades of turquoise and hues of blue and the beaches definitely resembled paradise, Trinidad and Tobago’s eco-system came to the forefront of my travels.

Trinidad and Tobagolocated seven miles from the coast of Venezuela, boasts some of the richest natural communities of plants and animals in all of the Caribbean. While most of the country’s ecology comes from South America, which makes the islands very unique, Trinidad and Tobago aren’t as endemic as the rest of the Caribbean islands. Since Trinidad and Tobago share many of the same flora and fauna as South America’s mainland, it creates a very rich eco-systems and provides some of the best eco-tourism adventures.

Plant Life

With both rainforests and dry forests covering Trinidad and Tobago, there are many different plant communities, which create very natural vegetation in dominant trees. The most visited forest to explore the classification of flora is the Main Ridge Rainforest located in Tobago. It is the oldest protected reserve founded in 1765 by the French and managed under the direction of the Tobago House Assembly. While the country protects the mainly Evergreen trees from destructions, which grow ramped in the Main Ridge Rainforest, the reserve is now a watershed that provides 99.9 percent of all the water used in Tobago. The Main Ridge Rainforest is home to various endemic species of flora and fauna and a protected recreational spot by UNESCO—a must see when visiting Tobago.

Animal Life

From crab-eating raccoons to nine-banded armadillos and neo-tropical otters, Trinidad and Tobago have a large community of mammals living in forests and swamps all along the island. Some of the 108 types of mammals sound bizarre, but a tour through Caroni Swamp located on the west coast of Trinidad, just south of Port of Spain, might bring you face-to-face with one of these creatures. The Main Ridge Rainforest in Tobago is also a place to seek out wild boars and agouti (similar to, but larger than a guinea pig). Monkeys can also be spotted in forests along the sides of roads throughout Trinidad so stop along your travels and look in the trees.

There are more than 450 species of birds recorded and seen in Trinidad and Tobago. While most are typical birds from South America, Trinidad and Tobago are known as one of the few places in the world to have such a large bird sighting in such a small area—Tobago has more than 200 species of birds on a 116 square miles of land. Many of the birds are very unique and rare to the islands and the best place to watch birds, besides the Main Ridge Rainforest, is at Asa Wright Nature Center. Located in the Arima Valley of the Northern Mountain Range in Trinidad, this nature resort is a world-renowned hotel and birding site in the Caribbean. From various hummingbirds to honeycreepers, there have been more than 150 species spotted in the forests at Asa Wright Nature Center. Caroni Swamp is another great placefor birding. Here you will get a good look at the Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad’s national bird, flocking to a sand flat around sunset and feasting on their food of choice—shrimp. They are also joined by gulls and many other birds within the Caroni Bird Santuary.

Reptiles and amphibians can be seen all over Trinidad and Tobago. From bright green iguanas climbing trees to lizards camouflaged in the bush, there are more than 55 reptiles and 25 amphibians ranging in size and within differing habitats. Snakes are also a popular sighting along with turtles and the possible caiman, which scare people half to death. Caroni Swamp is a popular destination to see large boas coiled in trees or frogs hopping along the path of your tour. You might even get a peak of some of the reptiles and amphibians living in Trinidad and Tobago in forests such as Main Ridge Rainforest.

There are several invertebrates such as the leaf cutter ant, which is easily spotted on the islands eating their way through leaves of plants. But Trinidad and Tobago is home more than 620 species of butterflies. Located in more tropical dry forests such as Little Tobago, an island off the coast of Tobago, the bright blue Emperor Butterfly can be spotted there. The Royal Botanical Garden in the outskirts of Port of Spain is also an area where you will see many of the islands’ butterfly species flying alone or in swarms above your head.

Sea Life

The islands are known to be a recreational destination for sport fishing. Some of the fish that might be caught off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago include huge grouper, red snapper, kingfish and carite along with marlin, dolphin-fish and barracuda. Many of these fish are served fresh in local restaurants and cooked in many natives’ homes for families to feast on. There are also many fishing tournaments throughout the year. Diving among the fish is also a very popular activity and can be done in many parts of the country, but Speyside, located in northern-eastern Tobago, is the most popular and accessilbe spot. From Speyside, you will jump on a boat and taken to Little Tobago, an island off its coast, to dive among the most colorful of fish.

Marine turtles are also swimming in the oceans surrounding Trinidad and Tobago. There are three types—giant leatherback, hawksbill and green—local to the islands. While swimming with the marine turtles is a popular activity when visiting Trinidad and Tobago, there is also the opportunity to watch the nesting. If you happen to be visiting (or want to plan a trip) anytime between March and August is the mammals’ mating season. There are tours to sign up for or sustainable trips to take part in, which will give you the opportunity to actually watch the nesting process of the female giant leatherback turtles and possibly take part in the conservation of these mammals.

At Matura Sea Turtle Nesting Site, an important nesting beach located in the small town of Matura on the north-eastern coast of Trinidad, is where most of the giant leatherback nesting takes place each year—natural history of Trinidad and Tobago at its finest.

Trinidad and Tobago’s eco-system is full of some of the richest natural communities to set it apart from the rest of the Caribbean.

To dive in and become one with nature is an understatement when visiting these islands—Trinidad and Tobago provide activities or tours to suit the adventurer in all of us.

Travel tip shared for Travel Dudes by Ashley

Disclaimer: Thanks to the Go Trinidad and Tobago for inviting Travel Dudes to Trinidad and Tobago. The photos, words and opinions remain our own.