Though this summer looks a lot different than years past, there are still things I’m looking forward to: more sunshine, outdoor adventures, and wearing some of my favorite sundresses.
As states have slowly opened up and eased restrictions, many of us are planning local summer getaways and outdoor pursuits. In this post, I’m highlighting two historic gardens in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Both of these gardens I visited myself last week and are absolutely stunning this time of year. Keep in mind that there are some changes and safety precautions that have been made because of the current pandemic.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. See my full disclosure here.
Note that if an exact item is no longer available for purchase online, then I link similar styles.
Portland International Rose Test Garden
Up first is the Portland International Rose Test Garden, which opened over a century ago in 1917. It’s the oldest public rose test garden in the US and a lovely example of why Portland is often called the “City of Roses.” While it’s open year round, the best months to visit are May through September.
This garden has free admission, though keep in mind it can get quite crowded on sunny weekends. I visited on a weekday afternoon, and while there were other visitors there of course, it wasn’t hard to maintain social distance and keep at least six feet away from others.
Portland Japanese Garden
Just across the street from the Rose Test Garden is the Portland Japanese Garden. This majestic space, with its lush greenery and Japanese aesthetics, was designed back in 1963.
It re-opened a few weeks ago, and they’ve done a wonderful job with extra precautions and social distancing. To limit lines and capacity, they only allow a certain number of tickets for each time slot (which you can purchase in advance online).
Their website requests visitors to wear face coverings (we chose to wear our masks throughout the garden). However keep in mind that in accordance with the Governor of Oregon’s orders, face coverings are required in all indoor spaces. While the majority of the garden is outdoors, they do have some indoor areas.
We visited on an overcast, mild Sunday afternoon, and I was glad I wore jeans and a long-sleeved blouse. Though Oregon summers can be very warm and pleasant, we still have plenty of summer days that are cloudy and/or rainy.
2020 has been a difficult time in so many ways, yet visiting these gardens provided a much-needed dose of tranquility and splendor. And like The Secret Garden quote says at the beginning of this post, magic is “all around us. In this garden – in all the places.” We just have to remember to look for it.
Have a great weekend, loves! Stay safe and stay well ❤️
Our world has changed so much the past few months. To slow the spread of the coronavirus, we’ve been at home for over a month (the stay home order began here in Oregon on March 23rd). Depending what country you live in, perhaps you’ve been at home even longer than that.
I’m so grateful to all the healthcare professionals and essential workers here in the US and around the globe, as they work tirelessly to serve and protect others. It’s undoubtedly a difficult time for everyone, in ways we may not even realize. I’m truly thankful to be safe at home with my family.
Books have been an escape for me since I was a kid. No matter what was going on in my life, I could always get lost in a story. I majored in English in college and then went on to an MFA in Writing, so it’s safe to say I’ve read a lot over the years.
When I first started thinking about what to put on this list, I was unsure where to start. Do I choose something from every genre? Do I share only contemporary books or mix in a few classics? That led me down an endless rabbit hole, so then I simply asked myself: what have I been reading lately?
In this time of uncertainty, I’ve found myself primarily reaching for beloved books or favorite writers, the ones I knew I could count on—the ones who’d been there for me, in other times of turmoil throughout my life. In this time of much-needed escapism, these books transport me to other times and other places, and make me feel inspired even in the face of adversity.
Almost all of these are works of fiction—all but one. But that one feels so perfectly timed for the current state of our world that I simply had to add it.
On a slightly different note, I wanted to provide a link to our local independent bookstore here in Portland, Powell’s Books. I’m not sponsored by them or anything like that, I’ve just honestly been a customer of theirs since I was a kid. Their locations have been closed during this time, but their online store remains open for orders. This is such a tough season for local shops and small businesses, and, if you’re able, I encourage you to support local businesses in your communities.
Without further ado, “What to Read While in Quarantine: Hope, Love, Loss, and a Bit of Time Travel.”
There are two historical fiction novels on this list: The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See. Both are beautifully written stories set in World War II, so if you enjoy that era, I couldn’t recommend these two more.
Both novels have strong female protagonists and have overarching themes of love and loss. They do an incredible job with descriptive, elegant language that paints such vivid imagery. I particularly admire the way both novels discuss familial relationships, abandonment, and complex family dynamics during times of great hardship.
Allthe Light We Cannot See is also an exceptional example of finding light in times of darkness, something that feels especially relevant this year.
Up next is the only work of nonfiction on this list, Everything is F*cked: a Book About Hope. (I paired it with a bottle of whiskey as a quarantine-worthy gift for my best friend’s birthday). This book is from Mark Manson, the bestselling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and is written in the same candid, witty style.
Though I’ve just started reading this, I knew it had to make the list because of our current world crisis with the coronavirus. Manson does such a great job of questioning the anxieties and hopelessness we often feel in our modern world, with his signature curse words and straightforward manner. He’s one of those writers that literally makes me laugh out loud, and these days we all could use a little extra humor.
If you want to dip your toes back into some classics without committing to a giant tome, these two novels are on the shorter side (at least when compared to a lot of classic lit).
The Great Gatsby is something a lot of people only read once in a high school English class, and this great American novel is well worth revisiting as an adult. I try to re-read it every few years, and I honestly gain something new with each read through. This tale is such an iconic portrayal of disillusionment and longing that is just as relevant now as it was almost a century ago.
Pride and Prejudice is arguably Jane Austen’s most famous novel and is equal parts charm, wit, and poignancy. Even though the 19th century customs of the English social hierarchy might feel very foreign to a modern reader, the complex portrayal of relationships (both familial and romantic) feels ageless.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (AKA Sorcerer’s Stone here in the US) is, of course, the book that started the international phenomenon. I included it on this list because Harry Potter got me through some very dark days in my childhood and no matter how old I get, the Wizarding World has never lost its wonder or appeal.
The photo above is when we visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Warner Bros. in London, back in 2017. I’m standing in the Great Hall, where every single movie was filmed. I might be pushing 30 now, but my love for all things Harry Potter will never cease!
It’s been so fun to revisit the Harry Potter books and movies during this past month at home. After all, if there was ever a time for a bit of escapism and magic, then this would be it.
The final two books on the listare The Time Traveler’s Wife and Outlander. Though both of these novels have time travel as a pivotal element, they’re quite different in most other regards.
I’ve mentioned The TimeTraveler’s Wife on the blog before, as it’s one of my all-time favorite novels. I’ve read it many times and, though I do love the star-crossed lovers Henry and Clare, something I’ve long admired is the novel’s structure.
Back in college when I was studying literature, my professors talked a lot about “form contributing to content.” This novel is a prime example of such a notion, as it doesn’t follow a typical chronological timeline. Instead, each section is labeled by its date and point-of-view because the story is told in first person from Henry and Clare’s unique perspectives.
Much in the same way that Henry skips around in time and has no control over what day or year he suddenly finds himself in, we the reader also bounce around in time. One section Clare may be a little girl, and in the next she might be in college or getting married. In this novel, the way that the story is told mirrors the concept of time travel.
As for Outlander, I’m the first to admit that I’m late to the party on this one, but after binging season one of the hit TV show on Stars, I knew I had to read the sensational novel that it’s based on.
Though this novel is quite long at over 800 pages, Diana Gabaldon’s writing is so elegant and descriptive that the page number becomes irrelevant. I love how this story defies genres, since it really has a bit of everything in it—historical fiction, romance, sci-fi, fantasy.
I also find the protagonist Claire Randall to be such a strong and compelling female lead (yes, another main character named Claire, though with a different spelling!). Though some might dismiss this book as “airport fiction,” I truly enjoy the genre-defying storyline, beautiful writing, and historic detail. (And who doesn’t like reading a good love triangle from time to time? 😉)
This list, of course, is personal—I wanted to share books that have been a source of comfort and inspiration to me recently and over the course of my life. If there are books or films that you love, that hold a special place in your heart or bring back happy memories, then that’s what I encourage you to enjoy during these weeks at home. On days when I’m feeling blue or unlike myself, these books have brought encouragement and joy.
And isn’t that part of why we as humans love stories? To find meaning, to connect, to be uplifted?
I’ve always been a bookworm, but I honestly haven’t read this much since grad school. I’ve revisited old “friends” like Elizabeth Bennett, Jay Gatsby, and Harry Potter and discovered a few new ones. I hope these stories provide some escape for you, as they have for me, along with some gems of wisdom and inspiration that—even in times of great darkness—there is always hope and light.
Perhaps Dumbledore said it best in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
My thoughts and prayers are with you all. Stay safe and stay well ❤️
“One moment they breathed pink, the next they faded. Cherry blossoms were as much an inspiration for beautiful verse as they were a reminder of life’s fickleness…” –Alice Poon, author
We’ve had quite the rainy April here in Oregon! But on a rare dry day, we managed to visit the lovely cherry blossoms at the Portland Waterfront before the delicate pink flowers disappeared for the season.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. See my full disclosure here.
Not gonna lie: I specifically chose to wear this Band of Gypsies dress for a reason! The floral print has soft pink blossoms very similar to the real life ones, and I knew the light fabric would flutter gently with the breeze (sometimes we just #DoItForTheGram! 😉).
I’m also a big fan of wrap dresses–since they tie at the waist and are usually adjustable, I think they’re such a flattering silhouette. Honestly, I think wrap dresses are the dress style I have most in my closet!
This dress is a couple years old, so unfortunately this exact one is no longer available, but I linked a bunch of similar styles in the LIKEtoKNOW.it app! They would be wonderful options for Easter, bridal showers, or Mother’s Day.
Because it had been so rainy and the ground was still damp, I paired this dress with my go-to ankle boots by Blondo Waterproof. When heels aren’t appropriate for the weather, I always think ankle boots can be a great alternative to wear with floral dresses!
I also brought my Levi’s denim jacket to throw over my dress when the wind picked up. As I’ve said in a previous post, classic denim jackets are wonderful layering options for unpredictable spring weather.
On a different note, I wanted to provide an update on one of my New Years goals! Writing and journaling have been big parts of my life since I was a kid; at the beginning of 2019, I started working my way through Moorea Seal’s 52 Lists for Happiness, and I’ve been LOVING it.
Each week has a different writing prompt that helps you identify the things in your life that bring you happiness and fulfillment (and the things that don’t!). I’ve found the variety of prompts to be very insightful, and they’ve helped me re-evaluate situations in my own life.
One of my favorites so far has been: “List the things in your life you are actually able to control.” That one was pretty eye-opening for me because I’ve always been a worrier, and as I was putting together my list, I realized how many things are truly beyond my control. So why am I bothering to worry about such things?
In short, I highly recommend this journal (especially if you’re like me and enjoy making lists!). I really like that it’s just one list per week, and that each list includes a practical action plan on how to incorporate what you learned into your life.
One of my other favorites from 52 Lists for Happiness: “List all the little things that happened today that brought you joy.”
For my list, I wrote: snuggles with my hubs and our sweet little dog, spring flowers in bloom, planning for upcoming trips, and a great cup of tea.
Today, what would that be for you? I’d love to hear in the comments below! ❤️
P.S. A big thanks to my best friend Aundria for coming with me on a busy Saturday afternoon to see the cherry blossoms and being my photographer! 🌸
One of the amazing things about living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest is that you can go from snowcapped mountains to the Pacific Ocean in just a few hours’ drive. In last week’s post, I shared a glimpse of Mt. Hood, and this week–you guessed it–I’m sharing one of my favorite spots on the Oregon Coast.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. See my full disclosure here.
Recently, my best friend and I took a day trip to Cannon Beach, which is only about 90 minutes from Portland by car.
We got so lucky with the weather! If you’ve ever been to the Oregon Coast, you’ll know it’s usually quite windy and chilly (even for summer visits, I always wear layers). But on this particular day, it was sunny and in the mid 50’s, with almost no wind! Considering we were there in the middle of winter, it was an absolutely perfect day.
If you visit Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock is a must-see landmark (shown above). It’s also within walking distance of a great local restaurant, Mo’s, whose famous clam chowder is one of my personal faves!
I wore casual layers for our day trip, with an olive green utility coat and my beloved high-waist jeans (both from Topshop). The coat is from a previous year, but I linked similar options above.
As for shoes and accessories:
My faux fur beanie is by Kyi Kyi, and I adore the fun, oversized pom pom and the overall quality and durability. My Blondo boots are such a go-to in my closet, and–as you can see demonstrated above–the waterproof leather makes them safe to wear even on the wet beach as the tide came in.
My nylon crossbody bag I’ve had for several years (from Marc by Marc Jacobs), and I found a super similar Marc Jacobs style on the Nordstrom Rack site (linked above and currently on sale for under $100!). My scarf is an old TJ Maxx find, but I found some similar black and white options. And of course, my classic Ray-ban Clubmaster sunglasses kept my eyes both safe and stylish.
Last year I read Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize winner All the Light We Cannot See, and his precision of language and beautiful imagery were things I truly admired (for my more detailed review of this novel, click here). This passage from All the Light We Cannot See felt fitting for this week’s post:
“I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.
It is my favorite thing, I think, that I have ever seen. Sometimes I catch myself staring at it and forget my duties. It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.”
Doerr paints such a vivid image of the sea in this quote, from its various colors that change with the time of day to the more abstract idea that its sheer size could hold anything you could possibly feel. I love standing in the ocean as the tide comes in because it makes me feel like a kid again, and I think sometimes it’s good to feel that way. It keeps things in perspective when you stand next to something so vast and powerful, something that seems to go on forever.
What do you think? Do you prefer the mountains or the ocean?
Hope you all have a wonderful week! Thank you for stopping by ❤️
In last week’s post, I had yet to choose a short story collection for my 2019 booklist. Turns out, I had the answer on my bookshelf the whole time! Great American Short Stories: from Hawthorne to Hemingwaycontains a range of renowned authors and stories. Some I’ve read before (“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a personal fave), but most are brand new to me.
Though I generally gravitate towards novels, one of the convenient things about short stories is that they’re not a huge time commitment. In this particular collection’s introduction, English professor Corinne Demas discusses advantages of the short story. She quotes the poignant words of Edgar Allen Poe: “In the brief tale, however, the author is enabled to carry out the fullness of his intention, be it what it may. During the hour of perusal the soul of the reader is at the writer’s control. There are no external or extrinsic influences–resulting from weariness or interruption.”
I love that notion of staying with a story and it’s characters from beginning to end. We remain fully immersed in the world the author has created and perhaps get as close as we can to the author’s true vision and intent.
I’m excited to share my thoughts on several of these short stories in upcoming posts!
Today I’m sharing how to layer this long wool vest, which was a fabulous find from the Zara sale (still going on in stores and online!). If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know I enjoy versatile pieces that can be styled for a variety of settings and occasions. In this post, I’ll be showing two different ways to style this vest.
Up first is a more relaxed weekend vibe, as I paired the vest with distressed denim and a classic white button-up. This look was perfect for a casual family lunch.
Gray wool vest: Zara (similar here and here) White button-up: GapDistressed denim: Vigoss (similar) Black sock boots: Mia (similar here and here)
It’s been very windy here the last few days, and I’m not going to lie–I was pretty darn cold when we were taking these photos!
Black turtleneck:J. CrewFaux leather leggings:SpanxBlack sock boots: Mia (similar here and here) Patent leather purse: Louis Vuitton (similar patent leather styles here and here)
For a more polished look, I layered the vest over J. Crew’s tissue turtleneck (I’ve had mine for years, and it’s held up so well!) and the faux leather leggings by Spanx that everyone raves about.
Sleek black sock boots and a patent leather purse complete this neutral outfit. I think it’s cool that when the vest is zipped up, it looks like a dress!
Hope you’re having a great week! Thanks so much for stopping by ❤️
“By all these lovely tokens, September days are here. With summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.” —from the poem “September” by Helen Hunt Jackson
We’re over a week into September and, though it’s not officially autumn quite yet, the nights have grown cooler, the colors of some trees are beginning to change, and the obsession for pumpkin-flavored things has once again returned. 😉
When it comes to fall fashion, transitioning your wardrobe from summer to fall means adding in versatile layers.
I love olive tones in the fall and winter, and this faux suede vest from Bebe is perfect for those temperate September days. I purchased it last year, but linked similar silhouettes above. I’ll definitely be showing more ways to style this and other great vests in the coming weeks! I’m so excited because we are heading into my birthday week! This Chanel classic was last year’s birthday splurge when we were in Paris. Every time I carry it, I am reminded of that special trip.
We have lots of birthday festivities planned that I’ll be sharing in my next few posts. Hope you all have a wonderful week! ❤️
“When summer opens, I see how fast it matures, and fear it will be short; but after the heats of July and August, I am reconciled, like one who has had his swing, to the cool of autumn.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
We’ve had a lot of hot weather the last month here in Portland, and this past week the air was hazy from all the wildfires out in eastern Oregon and southwest Washington. As such, many are dreaming of autumn rain and cooler temperatures, though thankfully the air quality has improved the last couple days.
This quote from Emerson seemed fitting this week, and it also reminded me of the fall fashion trends that are everywhere, despite that a lot of us are still experiencing summer temps in the 80’s and 90’s.
This time of year, when we have hot days and cool nights and are inching closer to fall, I love pieces that transition well from one season to the next.
This floral wrap dress from Billabong is a recent purchase from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and will transition with ease from summer to fall. It’s still available on their website, though unfortunately is no longer on sale.
I wore this in downtown Portland and am pictured above in local landmark Pioneer Courthouse Square. I paired it with ankle booties from TJ Maxx, and the peep-toe style is perfect for summer days out on the town.
The Chanel Medallion Tote I’ve had for a long time and is a beloved piece of mine. It’s a smaller tote that still carries everything I need for day-to-day. I love the shape, the iconic quilting, and the gold medallion zipper. When it comes to handbags, like a lot of bloggers and fashion editors, I’m more willing to invest in a classic style from a high-end brand because I know it will withstand the test of time. And it’s no secret that Chanel bags are my favorite!
I linked two similarly-sized quilted totes (since Chanel stopped producing the Medallion Tote around 2012, you would nowadays only be able to find it on eBay or in vintage/consignment shops).
The dark floral pattern of this dress will still be stylish for the earthy tones of fall. The long sleeves will be perfect for those cooler days and pairing it with over-the-knee boots will keep your legs nice and warm. I personally love tall boots paired with midi length dresses and skirts, as there’s something very chic about it.
My boots are by Blondo are an amazing waterproof suede (and currently on sale on Nordstrom’s website, linked above!). I’ve mentioned their shoes in several posts because they are so perfect for rainy climates like Oregon. They look great, but they’re practical too!
This is what it looks like when your doggy REALLY wants to be in the pic. He’s a master of the photobomb! 😉
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” –from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Something about summer is always rejuvenating–from the sunny days outside by the water, barbecues with family and friends, to tropical vacations in exotic places. It’s busy and relaxing all at once.
I re-read Gatsby every few years. Like thousands of American students, I first read it in high school and was blown away by this classic tale of lost love and broken dreams. I studied it again in college and grad school, and it’s truly one of my favorite novels about disillusionment, the American Dream, and that futile attempt to recapture the past.
I’ll do a more in-depth post on this novel soon, but this summer quote seemed perfect for this week’s post. 4th of July always feels like the real kick-off of summer, and the weather in Oregon starts to get consistently sunny.
I’ve been in the pool every chance I get and thought this would be the perfect time to talk swimwear and pool accessories (how adorable are these little drink floaties by Blush? They look so sweet floating in the water 😍 As a kid, I definitely would’ve commandeered these for my Barbie dolls).
We also have an upcoming trip to Miami and the Caribbean, so I’m starting to put together outfits and swim attire.
I’m obsessed with all the pineapple prints and accessories that have been rampant the last couple years–from bikinis to home decor, this trend is truly everywhere.
How many pineapples can I squeeze into one picture? 😉
This pineapple floaty I purchased at Nordstrom last year, and my pineapple swimsuit was an Amazon find by the brand Cupshe. I love Cupshe’s swimwear–adorable prints and styles at affordable price points.
I also love neon colors for swimwear. I tend to wear a lot of neutrals in my day-to-day life, so one area I reach for bright colors is with swimwear. This classic string bikini is by OP, and I linked similar styles. My husband and I were at Tao Beach Club in Vegas in the above picture (located at the Venetian, which is one of our favorite places to stay!)
This was on another Vegas trip when we were staying at Caesar’s Palace (their pool is by far my favorite on The Strip). I love this swimsuit from Cupshe, and I purchased the set on Amazon for under $20! I love the crisscross detailing of the top and the fun leaf print.
This black number is one of my go-to swimsuits right now. It’s a one-piece by Billabong and is still available on Amazon in multiple sizes and colors. My Panama hat is from J Crew and is a timeless classic.
I love how one-piece swimsuits are back in style, and they’re so great to pair with denim shorts for an effortless summer look.
Give me some sun and a good book, and I call that a perfect Saturday! ☀️ Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” –from On the Road by Jack Kerouac
This oft-quoted passage from American novelist Jack Kerouac seemed fitting to discuss for this post as we head into 4th of July weekend. Obviously he mentions roman candles, the longtime firework favorite that is practically synonymous with this American holiday.
But the reason I love this quote is for what the roman candle represents: what kind of people do we want in our lives? He wants the passionate ones, the “mad ones”–those rare individuals who have a fire in their hearts for life and want to share it with everyone they meet.
This beautiful quote never fails to inspire me–to find your passions and pursue them and to treasure those who are the roman candles in your own life.
Though the 4th isn’t ’til Wednesday, we’re headed into 4th of July weekend, and a variety of festivities. Whether you’re hosting a BBQ, attending a pool party, or camping in the great outdoors, I’m sharing style inspo in red, white, and blue! I’ll also be sharing a few 4th of July events here in the Portland area for those of you who are local.
I’m starting off with this fabulous jumpsuit that was a TJ Maxx find! I adore jumpsuits– they’re almost like comfy pajamas but with a certain cool factor. Vertical striped jumpsuits also tend to make me look taller than I actually am, and I love how this particular one ties at the waist. This would be perfect for a 4th of July picnic or an evening barbecue, and I’ve linked great striped options in similar colors above.
Swim Shorts: O’NeillRed Bikini Top: Sweaty Rocks (available on Amazon in a variety of colors) Striped Bottoms: Xhilaration (similar here and here) American Flag Bandana: Target (similar)
Next up: stars and stripes swim attire if you’ll be spending the 4th by the water, whether at a beach, lake, or pool party! My husband’s swim shorts are O’Neill and have been a favorite of his for the last few summers (still available online). I mixed and matched for my ensemble–the red top is from a bikini set from Amazon, and the striped navy/white bottoms are by Xhilaration from Target (I’m a longtime fan of Target’s swimwear!).
I’m so happy that hair accessories are back in style again (bandanas, scrunchies, bedazzled clips, etc.), and my American flag themed bandana is also from Target (similar option linked above!).
Last but certainly not least, I’m sharing a casual, yet classic look. I love a great striped shirt, and this one from Mailey Rose is so soft and sweet with its little cherry detail. Mailey Rose is a fabulous online boutique based out of St. Louis, and I was thrilled when they contacted me to brand rep for them. This adorable shirt (named the Shirley Top, after the beloved childhood drink garnished with maraschino cherries) was made here in the USA.
My high-waisted jeans are by Topshop and are super stretchy and comfortable. I love how flattering they are–even though they’re high-waisted, I definitely wouldn’t call them the 90’s-inspired “mom jeans” that have been trending for awhile now because these are more fitted. Honestly, I’m not really a fan of “mom jeans,” but that’s just me.
This festive, casual look would be great for outdoor activities (though let’s be real–I would leave the red lipstick at home for a camping trip! Maybe unless you’re “glamping,” but that’s a different thing entirely 😉).
4th of July Events in the Portland Area
For those of you who are local or visiting Portland, Fort Vancouver does an annual “Fireworks Spectacular” across the Columbia River in nearby Vancouver, Washington. It’s one of the largest firework shows in the Portland metro area and starts at 10:05pm on the 4th. You can watch these fireworks at Fort Vancouver, and this year entry is free (though there won’t be any food vendors or beer garden).
My favorite spot to watch this show in years past was on Hayden Island, which is still within the Portland city limits on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. However, the Fort Vancouver Fireworks’ website claims that the fireworks won’t be visible from the Columbia River or Portland this year (good to know!). For more info and restrictions, visit their website here.
If you’re a fan of blues, from July 4-7 the Waterfront Blues Festival will be taking place at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which is located next to the Willamette River in the heart of downtown Portland. Visit their website here for info on tickets and passes.
Oaks Park, a historic theme park (opened way back in 1905!) that I frequented often growing up, also will have a fireworks show. The park will stay open until midnight on the 4th (admission prices range from $3 to $6, depending on your age).
Whatever your plans may be, wishing you all a wonderful holiday weekend and a safe 4th of July!
“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo.” Mark Twain
In the beautiful land of Italy, there is SO MUCH to see and do–and, of course, eat! Each region has its unique charm, with its own impressive history, culture, and landscape. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that. For the purposes of this post and the next one, I’m going to share several memorable highlights and recommendations.
Part 1: Venice, Florence, Pisa, and Lucca.
Part 2: Rome, Vatican City, and Pompeii (and also my usual “what to pack” feature)
Like my previous travel posts on London and Paris, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. Italy is truly a gorgeous country with such a rich, varied history, and this would be a HUGE post if I tried to include every city or site that I’ve visited there.
I’m starting with my favorite Italian city, which novelist Thomas Mann once called “half fairy tale and half tourist trap” (but don’t let the latter description dissuade you from visiting). There’s something inherently romantic about Venice, with its winding streets, narrow waterways, and complete lack of cars. My husband and I were newlyweds when we strolled through these ancient streets and floated in a gondola down the Grand Canal, so I will admit that it’s possible I’m a bit partial!
We were so taken by the city’s irresistible charm, and our private gondola ride at sunset was worth every euro. The pastel buildings lining the canal matched the soft pinks and blues of the Venice sky, and the air was warm, with a comfortable breeze… Some would argue it’s not worth the steep price, as it’s around €100 for 50 minutes if you go in the evening after 7pm (which, in my opinion, is the perfect time to go, particularly in the summer months when it can get quite hot during the daytime). However, I couldn’t disagree more, as it was an iconic experience that we will never forget.
We also very much enjoyed the sites at Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). From the opulence of the Doge’s Palace, to the intricate golden mosaics inside St. Mark’s Basilica, and the hustle and bustle of the Piazza itself, the grandeur and magnitude of this historic area is truly a sight to behold.
We loved the view of the Piazza from the Basilica’s balcony–the stairs are steep but I definitely recommend! The horses on the balcony are replicas of the Roman originals, which were first placed on the balcony in 1204 but are now on display inside the church to preserve the bronze material. The lion statue I’m sitting beside is located next to the Basilica, as the lion is a symbol of St. Mark.
This giant canvas painting is Il Paradiso, and is one of the many exquisite works inside the Doge’s Palace. This particular oil painting is the largest of its kind in the world.
The above picture is the view through the tiny openings in the limestone windows on the Bridge of Sighs. This infamous bridge connects the Doge’s Palace and the prison. The idea behind the name is that the prisoners would breathe a sad sigh as they glimpsed their last views of Venice before being sentenced or imprisoned. Lord Byron, the English romantic poet, once wrote about this very site: “I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; a palace and a prison on each hand.”
On a less somber note, we enjoyed lunch nearby in the Piazza at the famous Caffè Florian, which is Italy’s oldest cafe at nearly 300 years old. Casanova, Lord Byron, Dickens, and other noteworthy individuals all frequented here once upon a time, so you’re in historic company! The live music and view of the square is an idyllic locale for a nice lunch and people watching.
I adored the charming hotel we stayed at, Hotel Antiche Figure, whose building dates back to the 15th century. The lovely suite we were in was decorated in an elegant Venetian style. It had a balcony overlooking the Grand Canal, and one of the hotel’s employees told us the balcony itself was over 400 years old!
People often refer to Venice as a maze, and indeed its narrow, winding streets and alleys certainly give it that feel and make it very easy to get lost! Give yourself ample time if you have to be somewhere by a particular hour.
For our guided tour of the Doge’s Palace first thing one morning, we left early (and we did indeed get turned around a couple times! Pictured above is my husband with his trusty map). Yet we were rewarded with the site of Piazza San Marco in the early morning light, nearly devoid of tourists. Losing yourself in this city and exploring its streets can truly be one of the most enjoyable and romantic things about it.
Michelangelo’s David is probably Florence’s most famous “resident,” and this seventeen-foot statue did not disappoint. From the exquisite detail of his face and body to his towering height, I completely understand why he’s one of Michelangelo’s most famous masterpieces.
Florence’s Duomo is, of course, one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. This Gothic cathedral was completed in 1436, over a hundred years after construction first began. Its giant dome glows a vibrant orange when the sunlight hits it at dusk.
Nearby is the San Lorenzo Market, which gave us a great taste of the Italian market scene (Somehow I didn’t take any pictures! Too busy shopping!). Florence is known for its leather goods, so at the market I purchased a brown leather jacket that is extremely soft and comfortable. There were SO many to choose from that it was honestly a bit overwhelming.
Pictured above is one of the oldest copies in existence of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Being an English major who also studied medieval lit in college, this was a really cool experience to visit Dante’s home and see this centuries-old text.
We also visited the Gucci Museo, as the Italian fashion house Gucci was founded in Florence in 1921. I love fashion history almost as much as I love seeing early editions of classic literature, so perusing this museum was a real treat (pictured above: a set of classic Gucci trunks and an old Gucci Cadillac!).
However, earlier this year the Gucci Museo was reopened as the Gucci Garden, after being renovated and transformed. They still have a museum and shop, but they also added the Gucci Osteria, a brand new restaurant run by a three-Michelin-starred chef. Next time I’m in Florence I definitely plan on stopping by to see what they’ve done to the place!
Visiting the iconic Leaning Tower was bucket list for me. It was particularly special because when I was a little girl my grandfather would tell me that a favorite memory of his travels with my grandma was when they ate pizza across from the Leaning Tower of Pisa (notice the alliteration there? 😉). The opportunity to do that was truly special, especially since it’s been about a decade since my grandparents both passed away.
The Leaning Tower was originally built as the bell tower for the nearby cathedral, but because of flaws in the original architecture, its infamous tilt made it become the world-renowned landmark that it is today. There are roughly 300 stairs to get to the top, and it’s definitely a bit disorienting, as the tilt is quite noticeable as you climb. However, just look at that panoramic view!
I didn’t know much about the Tuscan city of Lucca before our visit, but it came highly recommended by our travel agent to do as a day trip while we were staying in nearby Pisa. And truth be told, our afternoon here remains among my favorite memories of Italy.
Lucca is noteworthy because of its large, intact walls that date back to the Renaissance (though its earliest walls were first built by the Romans, and then rebuilt and fortified multiple times in the many centuries since then). It’s unique that their walls still remain, since most cities in Tuscany removed their old fortifications long ago as the cities and populations grew over time.
We rented bikes at a local shop and rode them on the picturesque street that sits atop the wide walls. The view of the old town inside the walls and the beautiful greenery that lines the promenade makes this city feel like something out of a dream. If you’re staying in Pisa and have a spare day or afternoon, I encourage you to visit this lovely place.
I’m continuing my Travel Series with Part 2 of La Bella Italia on Sunday. I’ll be sharing Rome, Vatican City, Pompeii, and what to pack!
I would love to hear your favorite sites in Italy in the comments, or places there that you dream of visiting (our next Italy trip we hope to see the Cinque Terre and Capri!).
Happy Friday! I’ll leave you with two photos of my favorite Italian foods to take you into the holiday weekend (Gelato and spaghetti! YUM). Thank you for stopping by!