Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island

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Miyajima Island has long been a draw for tourists and locals alike for its serenity, nature, and shrines.  Visitors are consistent in voting Miyajima Island one of the top scenic spots in Japan. A quick look on a map and you’ll find that Miyajima’s actual name is Itsukushima.  In Japanese Miyajima means Shrine Island, and the nickname has stuck. With easy access by boat, Miyajima Island makes for a perfect day trip when visiting nearby Hiroshima.

Sunset on Miyajima Island - Itsukushima, Japan

Sunset on Miyajima Island

Traveling to Miyajima Island

You’ll find Miyajima Island in Hiroshima Bay.  Travelers visiting Hiroshima can add an extra day in the region to visit Miyajima Island.  It is easy to reach Miyajima Island from Hiroshima.  The trip is less than an hour and makes for a perfect day trip.  Visitors will reach Miyajima Island from Hiroshima by train and boat.

To reach Miyajima Island most visitors in Hiroshima will board the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station.  The JR Line is the fastest way to reach Miyajimaguchi Station.  The popular Japan Rail Pass that many tourists use to travel around Japan covers the JR Sanyo Line.  Those that did not buy a Japan Rail Pass have two options to reach Miyajimaguchi Station.  The fastest route is to buy a round trip ticket for the aforementioned JR Sanyo Line.  The cheaper, and slower, alternative is to take the Number 2 Tram Line from central Hiroshima bound for Miyajimaguchi.

Upon reaching Miyajimaguchi Station follow the signs to the Miyajimaguchi/Miyajima Ferry Port.  This short walk leads you to the boats sailing to Miyajima Island.  At the Port, Japan Rail Pass holders may use the entrance marked JR and board the next available boat bound for Miyajima Island.  Those without a Japan Rail Pass will need to buy tickets at the nearby kiosk for the next available sailing.

Travelers without a Japan Rail Pass can reach Miyajima Island without boarding a train.  Two other docks, at Hiroshima Peace Park and Hiroshima Port, offer direct boat rides between Hiroshima and Miyajima Island.

Arriving at Miyajima Island

Regardless of which boat you take to reach Miyajima Island you will disembark at Miyajima Pier.  From the Pier turn right and walk along the path next to the waterfront.  As you walk along the path, and throughout Miyajima Island, you may come upon deer roaming free.  These deer appear tame and comfortable around humans, as long you do not bother them.  Visitors enjoy taking photos with the deer, but be sure to treat the animals with care.  Remember, the deer are wildlife.  Approach the deer with caution, stay at a safe distance, and do not touch or feed the deer.  The deer will eat paper tourists are holding in their hands.  Be mindful if you are holding maps or brochures near the deer.

To the left of the waterfront pathway you will find local owned businesses on the streets of Omotesando and Machiya.  Miyajima artisans are fond of using wood to create everything from trays to containers.  You can even find pieces of woodwork with etchings of various Miyajima sights.  Rice scoopers are one popular item the wood makers craft.  As you walk among the stores keep an eye out for a display featuring the largest rice scooper in the world.

Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

At the end of the streets with stores and restaurants you will come upon Itsukushima Shinto Shrine.  The Shrine’s buildings, along with the nearby Five-Storied Pagoda and O-Torii, have the honorable designation of being a UNESCO World Cultural Site.  Most visitors are familiar with Miyajima Island because of the O-Torii, or Grand Torii Gate.  The O-Torii is first visible from the boat one takes to reach Miyajima Island.

Viewing the O-Torii is a different experience depending on whether you visit during low tide or during high tide.  Upon disembarking from the boat that brought you to Miyajima Island visit the nearby Information Booth for a posted sign with times for low and high tide.  Pre-planners can find tide times posted online if you need to know the times before your visit.  High tide is the perfect time for photos as the O-Torii sits surrounded by water.  Low tide offers visitors the chance to see the O-Torii up close as you may walk up to the Gate.  The ground is wet, muddy, and slippery, so wear proper shoes for the walk to the O-Torii during low tide.

Mt. Misen (the Sacred Mountain) and Observatory

Included in the World Heritage designation is Mt. Misen, known as the Sacred Mountain.  The landscape of the Island has drawn many spiritual beings to Miyajima.  As you hike Mt. Misen, you will find large rocks and trees amidst temples and religious statues.  To hike any part of Mt. Misen requires being in good physical health.  It is possible to hike from the base of Mt. Misen to the top.  Most visitors will ride the Miyajima Ropeway, which will allow you to bypass a large part of Mt. Misen.  From the waterfront follow the signs to the Momijidani Station and use the Ropeway to reach either Kayatani or Shishiiwa Station.

Even taking the Ropeway to the furthest point, Shishiiwa, still leaves hikers with a strenuous trail to the top most observation deck.  The reward in reaching the observation deck is stunning views of Seto Inland Sea and the surrounding Islands.

 

Daishoin Temple

With its deep connection between nature and spirituality, Miyajima is home to many temples.  One in particular, Daishoin Temple, is one of the grandest on Miyajima Island.  The grounds for Daishoin Temple makes it one of the larger temples to explore on Miyajima Island.  The easiest way to locate Daishoin is if you position yourself with the Miyajima Ropeway behind you, and the O-Torii Gate in front of you.  At that point turn left to reach Daishoin.  Take your time walking and admiring the serene grounds, various halls, and thousands of religious statues.

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Miyajima Island

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Miyajima Pier: 34.302092, 132.322270
Omotesando Street: 34.299070, 132.321860
Machiya Street: 34.298441, 132.322490
Itsukushima Shinto Shrine: 34.296083, 132.319915
Five-Storied Pagoda : 34.297129, 132.320752
O-Torii Gate: 34.297253, 132.318134
Miyajima Ropeway: Momijidani Station: 34.293247, 132.326782
Mt. Misen Observatory: 34.279436, 132.319529
Daishoin Temple: 34.291864, 132.318628
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Miyajima Pier
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Omotesando Street
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Machiya Street
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Itsukushima Shinto Shrine
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Itsukushima Island 広島県, Japan
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Five-Storied Pagoda
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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O-Torii Gate
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Miyajima Ropeway: Momijidani Station
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Mt. Misen Observatory
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan
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Daishoin Temple
Visiting Picturesque Miyajima Island
Miyajima, Japan

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Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan

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Osaka is the city often overlooked by visitors to the country of Japan. The flashier Tokyo or the temples of Kyoto draw millions of tourists, yet those that stay away from Osaka are missing out. Walk around Osaka and you will find yourself in a beautifully understated city.  Morning-to-night locals and tourists alike enjoy every corner of Osaka. As with any other top-notch city you will find plenty of shopping, great eats, wondrous sights, and an active nightlife.

With easy access from Kansai International Airport, Osaka is a great starting point for your trip. This is especially so if you are primarily focusing your trip on the Kansai region of Japan. If you have just arrived in Japan, Osaka is a great city to sync up into the rhythm of Japan and help you get over your jet lag. From Kansai International Airport take the Kansai Airport Express JR Haruka and you will reach Osaka within an hour.

Numbers of Days to Spend in Osaka

Although Osaka is not nearly as overwhelming in size and scope as Tokyo, you will still need at least three full days to capture the essence of the city. Two days are only enough if your focus is on sightseeing, as Osaka has fewer sights than Tokyo or Kyoto. If you enjoy eating and shopping, two days will go by in the blink of an eye. To truly experience Osaka you will be happy you added a third or even a fourth day in this relaxed and laid back big city. Osaka has multiple districts and you might miss a couple of districts if you are trying to cram everything of import into just two days.

Those that enjoy the nightlife will want to schedule their trip to Osaka to coincide with the weekends. Fridays and Saturdays are popular nights with people enjoying the city late into the evening and into the next morning. Partygoers will find plenty of bars and clubs in the city. Even late at night, popular restaurants have long lines of foodies and partygoers looking to fuel up on good food. Or if the evening air is warm enjoy walking the streets and the water-lined walkways of Dotonbori canal while soaking in the atmosphere that is Osaka.

Osaka Castle Park

The top sight in Osaka is Osaka Castle Park. The grounds of the Park are free to visitors. From the grounds you can get great photos of the various buildings on the grounds, including the main Castle itself. Entry into the Castle will cost an admission fee. Osaka Castle Park is a great place to visit during the spring or fall time. At those times of the year the grounds come alive with cherry blossoms or the autumn colors of the turning of the tree leaves.

Umeda Sky Building

Visit the Umeda Sky Building for amazing views of the city. This architectural astonishment, in the shape of an upside-down U, has a viewing platform on the very top floor. Ride an elevator, followed by a short escalator ride, to the 173rd floor and the Floating Garden Observatory. Take in views of the city by sitting inside on the various seating available or by heading outside to stand on the viewing platform. Whether inside or outside, you will be in for a treat, with stunning panoramic views of the city of Osaka.

After you’ve enjoyed the views of the city, ride the elevator to the bottom of the Umeda Sky Building. Under the Umeda Sky Building you will find Takimi Koji Alley. This floor is a recreation of an old Japanese town, with “streets” that house various restaurants and izakaya. Enjoy this peaceful section of Osaka as you stroll the “streets” and unwind while eating fantastically good food.

Dotonbori Walk

Dotonbori, or Dotombori, is one of the main districts of Osaka. This popular part of town runs along the Dotonbori canal, making this a picturesque part of the city to walk. Dotonbori is close to a section of the city known as Amerika-Mura. Here you will find a hip youthful vibe with stores selling new and used/vintage clothes. For neon lights, restaurants with big signs made to appear as food, and more shops visit the parts of Ebisu-bashi and Dotonbori Arcade. For even more stores you can stop by Shinsaibashi Station. If you need a break from the active buzz of the city, be sure to visit Hozen-ji Temple, a serene spot in the city.

Namba Yasaka shrine - Osaka, Japan

Namba Yasaka shrine

Osaka Shrines

The shrines of Osaka are peaceful oases in the bustling city. If you visit only one shrine, be sure to visit Namba Yasaka. The grounds for this Shinto shrine are small but the massive lion head makes the trip worthwhile. Use the time at the shrine for peaceful contemplation before heading back into the city.

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Osaka Sights

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Osaka Castle Park: 34.687315, 135.526201
Umeda Sky Building: 34.705384, 135.489614
Dotonbori: 34.668515, 135.502552
Ebisu-bashi: 34.669054, 135.501296
Shinsaibashi Station: 34.674413, 135.500310
Hozen-ji Temple: 34.667877, 135.502613
Namba Yasaka Shrine: 34.661625, 135.496691
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Osaka Castle Park
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Osaka Castle Park, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Umeda Sky Building
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Umeda Sky Building, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Dotonbori
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Dotonbori, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Ebisu-bashi
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Ebisubashi, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Shinsaibashi Station
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Shinsaibashi Station, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Hozen-ji Temple
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Hōzen-ji Temple, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Namba Yasaka Shrine
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Nanbayasaka Shrine, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan

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Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada

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Canada’s city of Victoria makes for a wonderful day trip with multiple daily sailings by ferry from Vancouver and Seattle, Washington. Tourists can board a ferry in the morning, enjoy the majority of the day exploring Victoria, and sail back in the evening. Spend your day wandering the streets of Victoria, taking in sights such as the Fairmont Empress, Chinatown, and BC Legislature. Visit Victoria for yet another slice of what British Columbia has to offer visitors.

The Start of Your Day in Victoria

A good spot to begin your day at in Victoria is at the British Columbia Legislature. These impressive buildings house the Parliament for this region of Canada. The buildings are open to the public during the weekday. Walk into the building to admire the ornate stained glass windows and colorful murals adorning the inner lining of the rotunda. Inside the building you will see artifacts such as the Coat of Arms of British Columbia and a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Once back outside walk around the grounds in front of the BC Legislature for various statues and a Totem Pole.

From the BC Legislature, museum and history buffs will want to visit the Royal BC Museum. This museum is known for its extensive collection of artifacts from the First People of Canada. Behind the main building for the Royal BC Museum you will find a grove of Totem Poles. Near the Totem Poles are the historic sites of Helmcken House and St. Ann’s Schoolhouse, both managed by the Royal BC Museum. Helmcken House was home to a prominent politician in Canadian history, Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken. Within the Helmcken House you’ll see colonial age furniture. Next-door to Helmcken House is St. Ann’s Schoolhouse, one of the oldest log cabins in western Canada.

After visiting BC Legislature, the Royal BC Museum, and the other historical sites nearby, walk three minutes on Government Street to the Fairmont Empress. Ever since opening in 1908 this fancy hotel has welcomed guests to stay in their ornate rooms or spend time enjoying afternoon tea. Across from the Fairmont Empress you will find the official tourism office for Victoria. The Victoria Visitor Centre is a good place to pick up maps and specific information on sights found in Victoria.

Downtown Victoria

The Fairmont Empress is next to the Downtown district of Victoria. You’ll reach the main section of Downtown by staying on Government Street. Around Government Street and the surrounding streets you will find different types of artwork, statues, and historical buildings such as St. Andrew’s Cathedral. Besides the sights Downtown is home to many restaurants and shops and is a great place for souvenir shopping. Among the shops and restaurants you’ll find Canadian specific brands, such as the clothing store Roots and the fast food restaurant Tim Hortons.

When you’re ready for a food break if you are by the water head to Red Fish Blue Fish. Fans of seafood will find this shack off Wharf Street a great place to eat. Order from a menu that includes fish and chips, fish sandwiches, and tacones. For the uninitiated tacones are hand rolled tacos made with fresh tortilla and your choice of seafood such as salmon or tuna. The fish sandwiches center around a bread roll reminiscent of a hot dog bun, filled with your choice of salmon, fried oysters, tempura cod, or tempura salmon. While you eat your scrumptious meal enjoy the view of the water, boats, and wharf.

Chinatown

Stretching back as far as 1858, Victoria is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown. Located north of the Fairmont Empress, Chinatown centers on Fisgard Street. Here you will find more shops and restaurants to explore. A popular tourist sight in Chinatown is Fan Tan Alley. Between Fisgard Street and Pandora Avenue, Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest street in Canada. Tourists enjoy walking through Fan Tan Alley and taking photos of themselves and others touching both sides of the Alley’s walls. Besides shops and restaurants you’ll find many coffee and tea houses to choose from if you’re ready for a drink and a break.

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Victoria - Canada

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BC Legislature: 48.419617, -123.370285
Royal BC Museum: 48.419811, -123.367450
Helmcken House: 48.419630, -123.367024
St. Ann’s Schoolhouse: 48.419952, -123.366691
Fairmont Empress: 48.421667, -123.367847
Victoria Visitor Centre: 48.422834, -123.368810
St. Andrew’s Cathedral: 48.425384, -123.363310
Red Fish Blue Fish: 48.424363, -123.370325
Fan Tan Alley: 48.428543, -123.367918
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BC Legislature
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
British Columbia Legislature, Belleville Street, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
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Royal BC Museum
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Royal BC Museum, Belleville Street, Victoria, BC, Canada
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Helmcken House
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Helmcken House Pioneer Doctor's Residence, Victoria, BC, Canada
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St. Ann’s Schoolhouse
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Helmcken House Pioneer Doctor's Residence, Victoria, BC, Canada
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Fairmont Empress
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Fairmont Empress, Government Street, Victoria, BC, Canada
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Victoria Visitor Centre
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Visitor Centre - Tourism Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
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St. Andrew’s Cathedral
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
St. Andrew's Cathedral, View Street, Victoria, BC, Canada
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Red Fish Blue Fish
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Red Fish Blue Fish, Wharf Street, Victoria, BC, Canada
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Fan Tan Alley
Spending the Day in Victoria, Canada
Fan-Tan Alley, Victoria, BC, Canada
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Vancouver’s Granville Island

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Granville Island in Vancouver is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Set along the waters of False Creek, Granville Island offers visitors scenic views. Spend the day shopping or eating at the various stalls within the Public Market or in the surrounding buildings. Unwind while perusing galleries or drinking beer at the Granville Island Brewery. Enjoy the waterfront while strolling along nearby Island Park Walk. Granville Island has so much to offer that tourists will find it one of the top highlights of their trip.

Getting to Granville Island

Tourists planning to visit Granville Island will arrive either by car, bus, or boat. Granville Island is accessible by car but you will be fighting with other drivers for the few parking spots available. The better plan is to arrive at Granville Island by bus or by boat. To get from Downtown to Granville Island you will board the #50 bus. The route for bus #50 runs through various Vancouver districts. Visitors staying in and around Gastown, Chinatown, Downtown, or Yaletown will take bus #50 southbound. Hop on the #50 bus labeled False Creek via Granville Island and exit at the W 2 Ave at Anderson Street stop. From the bus stop it will be a four-minute stroll to Granville Island via Old Bridge Walk.

A unique way to reach Granville Island is via boat on the waters of False Creek. Two boat companies sail along False Creek, Aquabus and False Creek Ferry. Both boat companies have eight docking locations along the waters of False Creek. You can catch one of the boats in popular tourist locations such as Yaletown or near BC Place at the Plaza of Nations. Boats land at each of the docks every 15 minutes so you won’t have to wait very long to catch the next boat. The simplest thing to do is arrive at the dock and hop on to whichever boat company arrives first.

Once on board you’ll pay the driver the fare to ride the boat. The boats hold between twelve and twenty passengers at a time. Passengers sit on benches next to windows so everyone has a view during the ride. The boats sail quietly along the waters of False Creek and offer a relaxing journey while sailing past the buildings of Vancouver. Exit the boat at the Granville Island dock. From the dock you are steps away from the main building for the Granville Island Public Market.

Granville Island Public Market

The most popular place to visit on Granville Island is the Public Market. Inside this building you will find a vast array of vendors. You can buy baskets of various fruits or bouquets of flowers. Other vendors sell pastries and bread still warm from the oven. Locals decide between fresh pasta and ravioli to bring home to cook later. It’s easy to check off your grocery list at the Public Market.

A few vendors at the Public Market sell food products you can eat on site. Lee’s Donuts is a must for those with an inclination towards fried dough. The Honey Dip Donut is a popular choice and tastes delicious. Enjoy your food with a cup of coffee from either JJ Bean or Petit Ami. If you are in the mood for more pastries and heartier fare stop at Laurelle’s Fine Foods. Laurelle’s is a bakery deli that sells meat pies and muffins. The dough on the meat pies flake right off and melt in your mouth.

Next to the Public Market are more buildings full of shops, galleries, and other food options. Those who wish to sample a local beer will want to swing by Granville Island Brewing. To maximize your tasting opportunity order a flight which allows you to sample up to four different beers. The Island Lager is their original beer and a fan favorite. For a true Canadian experience be sure to sample the Maple Shack Cream Ale. In addition to beer Granville Island Brewing offers a food menu with dishes such as poutine.

Island Park Walk

After you’re finished with Granville Island head to nearby Island Park Walk. This path just on the other side of Granville Island offers views of Granville Island plus residential homes and boats docked at the harbor. The path is especially stunning in the fall time when the leaves have changed colors. Here along the path visitors can dream of living next to Granville Island. Imagine waking up on a weekend morning and heading over to pick up items for brunch at the Public Market.

If daydreaming leaves you famished, at the end of Island Park Walk you will find Go Fish. This popular eatery sells quality seafood dishes from a simple shack. For fried golden perfection order the classic fish and chips. Or try the fish sandwich with either seared ahi tuna or salmon. Afterwards take Island Park Walk back the way you came towards either the #50 bus or to the Ferry Creek docks to catch the next boat home.

 

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Granville Island

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Granville Island 49.270622, -123.134741 Overview of Vancouver, Canada and Vancouver’s Granville Island

 

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Overview of Vancouver, Canada

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Ask ten different people what their favorite thing to do in the Canadian city of Vancouver is and you are likely to get ten different answers. The reason you get varied responses stems from the fact that few places in the world compare to Vancouver. To the casual observer Vancouver is just another metropolitan city. Yet Vancouver differs from other major cities because it embodies diversity. In one day visitors can hike Stanley Park in the morning and then shop Downtown among the masses in the afternoon. Foodies buy produce at Granville Island one moment and enjoy fine dining in Yaletown the next. Convention goers attend meetings at Canada Place and then lounge waterside at English Bay Beach. Tourists walk historic Gastown before slurping noodles in Chinatown. These dichotomies exist in harmony with the diverse people of Vancouver.

With something for everyone Vancouver as a tourist destination appeals to even the most discerning of travelers. First time travelers looking at a map of Vancouver might notice that the city looks like an oyster shell. As anyone who loves oysters knows, you’ll want to crack that shell open and dig into what Vancouver offers. Vancouver isn’t a difficult city to navigate but the easiest way to get oriented is to begin somewhat in the middle of the city in the Downtown district. Downtown is home to the financial and business districts of the city. Among the skyscrapers you will find the Vancouver Central Library. This stunning building is an architectural contrast to the stark skyscrapers. In Downtown you’ll want to make your way to Robson Street. This is one of the main thoroughfares in Vancouver and stretches the length of the city.

On one end of Robson Street is BC Place, a stadium where one can catch either a sporting or musical event. Continuing on and around Robson Street you’ll find a variety of shops. A number of the stores are global brands but a few, such as Roots, are Canadian brands. Few tourists will walk the entirety of Robson Street, but those that do wind up at Stanley Park. If you don’t wish to walk, or don’t have a car, you will reach Stanley Park by bus. Stanley Park is a massive public space with paved paths for bicyclists, roller bladders, and walkers. Here visitors enjoy trees, totem poles, and the waters of the Vancouver Harbour.

To the east of Downtown you will find Canada Place. If you arrived by cruise ship, you will have most likely disembarked at this spot. Besides being a cruise ship terminal, Canada Place is home to a convention center and hotel. Near Canada Place is the oldest neighborhood in the city, the historic Gastown. First time tourists visit Gastown at least once, to see the Steam Clock and a chance to shop for souvenirs. Next to Gastown is Canada’s largest Chinatown. Vancouver’s Chinatown traces its history back to 1885 and to this day is full of shops and restaurants. While in Chinatown you will want to visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. This tranquil spot is a wonderful place to recharge and center oneself.

West of Downtown, in simplest terms, is synonymous with food. The regions of the West End and Yaletown are quintessential foodie neighborhoods. Here you will find well-established diners among up and coming restaurants. Further west, across the waters of False Creek, is Granville Island. Here at the Granville Island Public Market are vendors galore. Visitors can buy fresh produce, straight out of the oven breads and pastries, and a plethora of other food products.

Regardless of how you spend your time in Vancouver you will find navigating the city easy. Those who enjoy walking will find wide avenues and flat surfaces. Bus routes traverse throughout the entire city. Ferries sail to Granville Island or further afield to places such as the city of Victoria. Vancouver’s rapid transit system, SkyTrain, runs through parts of Downtown. The SkyTrain connects Vancouver to the cities of Burnaby, New Westminister, Surrey, and Richmond. For those arriving in Vancouver by airplane, the SkyTrain’s Canada Line will get you from Vancouver International Airport to your destination in no time.

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Vancouver

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Vancouver Central Library: 49.279754, -123.115679
Robson Street: 49.284605, -123.124824
BC Place: 49.276750, -123.111999
Stanley Park: 49.298319, -123.137684
Canada Place: 49.289124, -123.116498
Gastown: 49.282808, -123.106688
Chinatown: 49.280600, -123.100553
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden: 49.279649, -123.103913
West End: 49.285646, -123.130621
Yaletown: 49.275702, -123.119907
Granville Island: 49.270622, -123.134741
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Vancouver Central Library
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver Public Library- Central Branch, West Georgia Street, Central, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Robson Street
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Robson Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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BC Place
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BC Place, Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Stanley Park
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
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Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Urban Park

Stanley Park Drive, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Canada Place
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Vancouver Convention Centre West Building, Canada Place, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Gastown
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Gastown, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Chinatown
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Chinatown, East Pender Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Overview of Vancouver, Canada
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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West End
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West End, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Yaletown
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Yaletown, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Granville Island

Overview of Vancouver, Canada
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Vancouver’s Granville Island


Granville Island, Vancouver, BC, Canada

 

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Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii

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Locals and visitors to the state of Hawaii can attest that Hawaii encapsulates tropical serenity. The views of paradise stretch from lush green hills to white sandy beaches and warm ocean waters. Hawaii’s main islands for tourists are Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Island of Hawaii. The Island of Hawaii, referred to as the Big Island, is the largest of the islands. Visitors to the Big Island will be in for a topographical shock. Other Hawaiian islands are awash in swaths of greenery. Upon landing on the Big Island you will notice lava rock stretching for miles. The lava rock throughout the island reminds you of the surface of the moon. Yet the entire island is not just visible lava rock. There are lush hills and green trees aplenty. The Island of Hawaii is diverse not only in its topography but in its climate. One could start their day at the top of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, and on this the tallest peak on the Big Island see snow. In the afternoon you can warm up by flying over an active volcano or sunbathe at a black sand beach with turtles. Regardless how one spends their time on the Big Island the best way to end the day is by watching a sunset at one of the soft white sand beaches.

The Big Island: Hilo and Kona

To reach this island paradise visitors will arrive at either of the two main cities, Hilo on the eastern side of the island and Kona on the west. The fastest way between the two cities cuts through the island and is a 77-mile drive taking an hour and forty minutes. Another route includes more time by the coast but is over 90-miles and takes closer to two hours to drive. As the two cities aren’t close most visitors will choose to stay in one city their entire time. Others will decide to begin their trip in one city and then end up in the other. Hilo and Kona have their own airports. If you wish to see both cities the most time economical approach is to fly into one city and fly out from the other city. Hilo leans more towards the local scene with bed and breakfasts. It is the city to stay in for those wishing to explore the Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park. The Volcanoes National Park is an hour away from Hilo versus two and a half hours from Kona. Kona has big hotel resorts and is within driving distance of many coffee farms. Most tourists stay on the Kona side of the island. With a rental car staying in Kona affords you the luxury to visit coffee farms, beaches, scenic overlooks, and petroglyphs. Not to mention go shopping and explore the historic districts of Kailua Village and Kainaliu.

Kona International Airport - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Kona International Airport

Kona International Airport

Kona International Airport is a tiny outdoor airport. Exiting your plane and feeling the warm island breeze is a great Hawaiian welcome. It’s not a perfect greeting when it’s raining so whether you are landing or waiting to leave keep an umbrella handy just in case. If you are renting a car follow the signs to the rental car van pick up location. You’ll be on your way to the rental car agency in no time. The airport has minimal shopping or dining options. When flying out if you plan on arriving early and want to eat at the airport consider bringing a lunch plate with you from a local restaurant.

Kiholo Bay Scenic Overlook - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Kiholo Bay Scenic Overlook

Kona Scenic Overlooks

Routes 19 and 11 will be your primary highway arteries as you navigate the Kona coast. Each route has a scenic overlook worth the stop. On Route 19 the Kiholo Bay Scenic Overlook Point is a great place to view Kiholo Bay and the surrounding lava fields. On Route 11 is the Kona Coast Scenic Overlook. Besides the ocean view you will find the Ohi’a Lava Tube Caves. This historic preserve of lava tubes run underneath the ground from the spot of the overlook to the ocean. Although access to the tubes is off-limits the lava rock and ocean in the distance make for striking photos.

Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve

Kona Sights and Shopping

Close to the Waikoloa Beach Resorts is part of the Ala Loa Trail, or Kings Trail. This trail, once used for horse travel, leads travelers to the Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve. At the Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve you will find ancient rock carvings on sacred land. Visitors must stay on the well-marked trails, as tourists may not walk or climb on the sacred rocks. The trails are not paved so wear comfortable and sturdy shoes. Besides petroglyphs you will see cave shelters and rock shelters. For those staying at the Waikoloa Beach Resorts you will access the Kings Trail and Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve by foot. Visitors from other hotels may park at the nearby Queens’ Market Place or Kings’ Shops. Shoppers will want to spend time exploring the stores and restaurants offered at both the Queens’ Market Place and Kings’ Shops.

Mokuaikaua Church - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Mokuaikaua Church

Kona Historic Districts

The historic district of Kailua Village Kona is off Ali’I Drive. Ali’I Drive is where the Ironman Triathlon competition starts and finishes.   Kailua Village and Ali’I Drive have two historical buildings. Visitors will pass by the Huliheʻe Palace, a museum that was once a vacation home for Hawaiian royalty. Close by is Hawaii’s first church on the islands, Mokuaikaua Church. Visitors stroll along Ali’I Drive while enjoying the waterfront and exploring the various stores and restaurants. Kona’s Farmers Market is a favorite tourist stop with over forty vendors selling souvenirs, flowers, and fresh fruits.

Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store, Dirty Balls - Milk Chocolate Covered Mac Nuts - Kealakekua, Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store, Dirty Balls – Milk Chocolate Covered Mac Nuts

Another nearby historic district is Kainaliu off Route 11. Kainaliu is an old plantation town that is now home to specialty stores and restaurants. A popular store is the Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store. The store sells packets of various chocolate covered macadamia nuts named by using puns. You’ll find the labels on the packaging either hilarious or offensive. Puns aside the chocolate covered macadamia nuts inside the packages are delicious morsels that make for great souvenirs. Besides sweets The Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store sells a variety of BBQ rubs, packaged in the same witty style as the macadamia nuts.

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Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii

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Mauna Kea: 19.820611, -155.468094
Hilo Airport: 19.718834, -155.041687
Kona International Airport: 19.736916, -156.042925
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 19.419370, -155.288497
Kiholo Bay Scenic Overlook Point: 19.841805, -155.921574
Kona Coast Scenic Overlook and Ohi\'a Lava Tube Caves: 19.574186, -155.958996
Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve: 19.916992, -155.880135
Queens\' Market Place: 19.913617, -155.880590
Kings\' Shops: 19.916323, -155.882090
Kailua Village Kona: 19.637090, -155.990203
Huliheʻe Palace: 19.639334, -155.994352
Mokuaikaua Church: 19.639574, -155.993832
Kona Farmers Market: 19.637065, -155.991840
Kainaliu: 19.533105, -155.926751
Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store: 19.531545, -155.925824
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Mauna Kea
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Mauna Kea, Hawaii County, HI, United States
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Hilo Airport
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Hilo Airport, Kekuanaoa Street, Hilo, HI, United States
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Kona International Airport
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Kona International Airport, Kupipi Street, Kona, HI, United States
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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI, United States
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Kiholo Bay Scenic Overlook Point
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Kīholo Bay, North Kona, HI, United States
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Kona Coast Scenic Overlook and Ohi'a Lava Tube Caves
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Keauhou, Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
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Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Waikoloa Petroglyph Reserve, Waikoloa Village, HI, United States
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Queens' Market Place
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Queens' MarketPlace, Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa Village, HI, United States
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Kings' Shops
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Kings' Shops, Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa Village, HI, United States
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Kailua Village Kona
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Kailua Village, Kuakini Highway, Kona, HI, United States
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Huliheʻe Palace
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Hulihe‘e Palace, Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
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Mokuaikaua Church
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Mokuaikaua Church, Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
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Kona Farmers Market
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Kona Farmers Market, Ali'i Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
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Kainaliu
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Kainaliu Union, Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, HI, United States
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Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store
Introduction to the Big Island of Hawaii
Original Donkey Balls Factory and Store., Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, HI, United States

 

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Buying a Suit in Hong Kong: Sam’s Tailor

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Discovering Sam’s Tailor

In November of 2004 I found myself flipping through an issue of the magazine GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly). Within that month’s issue I saw an article titled “The Quest: Find the Perfect Suit… in Hong Kong”. The author, Greg Emmanuel, was retelling his experience of flying from New York to Hong Kong. His entire reason for the trip was to buy a suit at Sam’s Tailor. To me it sounded insane that someone flew sixteen hours to buy a suit when they could just visit a tailor in New York where they lived. Except then the author detailed the cost of the trip versus buying a high-end tailored suit in New York. It was at this point I realized Greg Emmanuel wasn’t crazy but a brilliant fellow. In the article he wrote, “I found an $850 round-trip flight and a $100-a-night hotel. Factoring in a three-night stay and a reasonable budget for food and drink, I planned to spend only $1,500 on the entire trip – in other words, about half the cost of a custom suit back home” (GQ: Gentlemen’s Quarterly; Nov 2004, Vol. 74 Issue 11, p106). Flying to Hong Kong to have a tailored suit custom-made fascinated me. After reading the article I ripped it from the magazine and sequestered it in a safe place. I figured it be best to hold on to as reference just in case I ever wound up traveling to Hong Kong.

Signs on Nathan Road directing you to Sam's Tailor - Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, China

Signs on Nathan Road directing you to Sam’s Tailor

Visiting Sam’s Tailor

I’m not as adventurous as Greg Emmanuel, I never traveled to Hong Kong just to buy a suit. Yet two years after reading the article, in 2006, I found myself in Hong Kong on vacation. As I prepared for my trip I re-read Greg’s article. I knew that during my time in Hong Kong I was going to get myself a tailored suit. After I arrived in Hong Kong I made way to Kowloon. As I walked along Nathan Road a slew of shopkeepers bombarded me and asked me if I wanted to get a tailored suit. I realized how fortunate it was that I found and read that article in GQ. Without Greg’s recommendation I do not know how I could have selected which tailor to visit. Yet there I stood in front of the door to Sam’s Tailor, just as Greg Emmanuel had two years prior. Before visiting Sam’s Tailor I’d never owned a piece of custom-made clothing. I admit I was nervous but excited that my dream of owning a custom-made tailored suit was going to come true.

Two things struck me the moment I entered Sam’s Tailor, how small the shop was and how many types and colors of fabric lined the walls. As I gazed upon the various fabrics I noticed photos hanging on parts of the walls. I moved closer to the photos and realized that these were not random photos, but photos of celebrities from around the world. There were politicians, musicians, actors, and athletes getting measured for a suit at Sam’s Tailor. When I saw these famous faces I realized that I was at the right tailor shop. It was my lucky day because behind the counter there was Sam himself. In an instance I recognized him from the photo in the GQ article. I came to find out that Sam’s real name is Manu Melwani, who took on the business from his father. Manu welcomed me and even asked if I wanted a beer while I perused the various color and fabric samples. The beer helped calm my nerves, and I narrowed my fabric and color selections. Manu and his colleagues answered my questions and after a while I’d settled on a black pinstripe suite. In addition to the suit I ordered two custom-made dress shirts, one white and one light blue. With my color and style of suit decided upon it was time for my measurements. Another tailor took my measurements and told me to return in two days for another fitting.

I was fortunate on this trip to Hong Kong in that I was in town for over a week. This allowed me the luxury of being able to return to Sam’s Tailor for a fitting during the sewing of the suit. If you aren’t in town that long Sam’s Tailor claims they can make a suit for you within 24 hours. Even if you won’t be in town that long you can have the suit shipped to your home. Best-case scenario though is to return to Sam’s Tailor over the course of a week to make sure that the suit being made will fit. At the fitting the suit still appeared rough, with a missing sleeve, and inner lining bare for the world to see. What this fitting ensured was that the length of the jacket sleeves and pants was correct. The tailor checked the size of the waistband and if the jacket closed without issues. After the fitting the tailor told me to return in two days.

On my next visit the tailor handed me my completed suit to try on one final time inside Sam’s Tailor. It was amazing how well the suit fit. Every part of the suit lay upon me in perfect proportion to my body. Unlike an off the rack suit there were no unseemly bulges or bulky shoulder pads. The suit just fit. I felt as if I was James Bond and I couldn’t ever again imagine owning a non-tailored suit. When I left Sam’s Tailor I felt happier than I’d ever had leaving a department store with one of their suits.

I’d heard horror stories of suits from Hong Kong disintegrating once tourists arrived back home. The pinstripe suit I bought still hangs in my closet and to this day not one seam has ever come undone. I wore the suit on many occasions, and it has withstood the test of time. The only issue I ran into was that I’d outgrown the suit. Since 2006 I’d lost over forty pounds through diet and exercise. I didn’t believe it was worth having the suit altered considering my waist size had decreased six inches. Truth is it saddened me to not have a suit that fit me so well anymore. Then in 2015 an opportunity arose for me to once again visit Hong Kong. Without hesitation I knew a return trip to Sam’s Tailor was in store for me.

Entrance to Sam's Tailor - Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, China

Entrance to Sam’s Tailor

Returning to Sam’s Tailor

On this trip to Hong Kong after I landed and checked into my hotel I wasted no time and went straight to Sam’s Tailor. Although nine years had passed since my last visit the shop had not drastically changed. Sam’s Tailor is still in the same location on Nathan Road and still run by the Melwani family. In fact Manu’s son, Roshan, is following in the family’s footsteps and these days is running things at the shop along with his father. In the nine years since my last visit the shop had become more popular, with more shoppers and more staff to accommodate them. Even with the extra people a controlled chaos emanated throughout the store and I received the same great customer service as on my first visit years ago. A woman who worked there helped me pick out a color and fabric and asked me what style I wanted for both my suit and shirt. This time around I went with a slim fit dark gray suit and a traditional white dress shirt. I was in town for a week and able to return for the fitting and to pick up my new suit. Once again Sam’s Tailor created the suit of my dreams. A year later and the suit and shirt are still in perfect condition.

Twice in my life now Sam’s Tailor has made me a happy customer. To this day I have no buyer’s remorse with the two suits I bought at Sam’s Tailor. Over the years I’ve received countless of compliments on both of the suits. When asked where I bought the suits I grin and say “oh from my tailor in Hong Kong”. If I’m fortunate enough to visit Hong Kong again I will for sure go back to Sam’s Tailor. There is something satisfying in flipping through fabric samples in person. If I’m not able to go back to Hong Kong I can contact them on-line to have a brand new suit sent to my home. Either way I will always look forward to the times I wear a custom-made Sam’s Tailor suit.

Inside Sam's Tailor - Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, China

Inside Sam’s Tailor

Tips for Visiting Sam’s Tailor

Your first visit to Sam’s Tailor is overwhelming, especially if you have never bought a custom tailor-made suit. Before you go, I recommend you skim through magazines and clip out the photos of any suits you fancy. Take those clipped photos with you and show them to the employees at Sam’s Tailor so they know what style of suit you want made. Besides the style of the suit it’s a good idea to have decided on what color suit you want. It’s hard enough deciding on color at the shop when every color has a wide spectrum ranging from light to dark. For example if you’ve narrowed your color to gray you’ll still have tons of color swatches to browse through at the shop. Along with color you will want to think ahead of time what fabric you want, for example wool or linen. This decision-making beforehand will make things easier on yourself once you are at Sam’s Tailor. If you have questions while there don’t be afraid to ask as the workers at Sam’s Tailor are knowledgeable and will help you.

One perk of being a customer at Sam’s Tailor is that each person is given a unique number. That number is kept on record at Sam’s Tailor and includes what you bought and your measurements. With that information on file you can contact them via their website, e-mail, or by phone and order another suit. In 2015 Sam’s Tailor could ship a new suit to the United States for a shipping cost of only twenty-five U.S. dollars. Even with the added shipping the final cost of the suit is still a bargain compared to having a custom-made suit made in the United States.

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Sam's Tailor

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Sam\'s Tailor 22.299237, 114.172290 Buying a Suit in Hong Kong: Sam’s Tailor

 

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Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia

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English-speaking travelers will find Hong Kong an accessible gateway to future travel through out Asia. Hong Kong was once a British colony and many who live in Hong Kong today speak English. With the language barrier removed Hong Kong is a perfect city for English-speaking travelers to acclimate to life in Asia. You will find signs and menus written in both English and Chinese. First time travelers will stick to the two main sections of Hong Kong, Kowloon in the north and to the south Hong Kong Island. Victoria Harbour separates Kowloon and Hong Kong Island and to sail across Victoria Harbour you will board the Star Ferry. Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is another way to travel between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. MTR is the fastest way to reach the parts of Hong Kong you will want to visit for sights, food, and shopping. The top two sights for Hong Kong are Victoria Harbour and Victoria Peak. Those who wish to shop can find stores in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui district and on the streets around and on Hennessy Road on Hong Kong Island.

View overlooking Convention Centre, Victoria Harbour, and Kowloon - Hong Kong, China

View overlooking Convention Centre, Victoria Harbour, and Kowloon

Victoria Harbour

You will enjoy iconic views of Hong Kong while sailing across Victoria Harbour. As you sail through the harbor you’ll be able to take fantastic photos of the buildings on both the Kowloon side and the Hong Kong Island side. If you’re lucky a junk boat will pass by just as you’re snapping your photo to enhance the image. The easiest form of transportation across Victoria Harbour is on the Star Ferry. It is possible to traverse Victoria Harbour underground using the MTR but you won’t see the scenery traveling that way. The Star Ferry operates every 8-20 minutes depending on the time of day. So if you miss the ferry you know another one will be along soon. At the time of writing this article a one-way adult ticket was $2.50 Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) on weekdays and $3.40 HKD on weekends and public holidays. Converted into US currency that translates to 32 cents and 44 cents. This low fare makes the Star Ferry one of the cheapest modes of transportation in Hong Kong, and the cheapest way to get between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

Sailing over Victoria Harbour towards Hong Kong Island - Hong Kong, China

Sailing over Victoria Harbour towards Hong Kong Island

Victoria Peak

Besides Victoria Harbour the other place in Hong Kong to take postcard worthy photos is atop Victoria Peak. The journey to the top of Victoria Peak is part of the sightseeing. From the MTR Central Station you take the J2 exit, which places you in the middle of Chater Garden, a garden surrounded by striking skyscrapers. From Chater Garden you will continue ahead up Garden Road. As you walk Garden Road you will pass St. John’s Cathedral. The Anglican cathedral may appear out-of-place in the middle of the financial district yet this simple cathedral is an oasis of peace. The cathedral is open to the public during the day unless a religious service is taking place. Continue on Garden Road from St. John’s Cathedral and follow the signs to the Peak Tram Terminus.

Exterior of St. John's Cathedral - Hong Kong, China

Exterior of St. John’s Cathedral

Doorway into St. John's Cathedral - Hong Kong, China

Doorway into St. John’s Cathedral

At the Peak Tram Terminus you will buy tickets to board the Peak Tram. The best ticket to buy is the round-trip Peak Tram Sky Pass, which allows you passage on the tram and access to the Sky Terrace 428. The Sky Terrace 428, located atop the Peak Tower, offers stunning panoramic views of Hong Kong. At the time of writing this article the round-trip Peak Tram Sky Pass for adults is HKD $83 (US $10.64). The Peak Tram operates everyday from 7am to 12-midnight and departs every 10-15 minutes. Both the Peak Tower and Sky Terrace 428 are open from 10am to 11pm (Monday through Friday) and 8am to 11pm (Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays).

Peak Tower on Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

Peak Tower on Victoria Peak

The Peak Tram can get full of tourists so the earlier you can arrive at the Terminus the more peaceful your journey will be. As you exit the Peak Tram you will find yourself right inside the Peak Tower. From here you will go either to the top of the building or outside to the ground level of Victoria Peak. There are shops and restaurants within the Peak Tower and nearby at the Peak Galleria. Within Peak Tower you will ascend multiple escalators to reach Sky Terrace 428. Once there you will see a magnificent view of Hong Kong. Included in the view is the financial and downtown district of Hong Kong Island you walked through to get to the Terminus. You will see a multitude of office buildings, housing, and in the distance Victoria Harbour and Kowloon. Once you’ve soaked in the scenery return to the Peak Tram and retrace your steps back to the MTR.

View From Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

View From Victoria Peak

View From Sky Terrace 428 on top of Peak Tower on Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, China

View From Sky Terrace 428 on top of Peak Tower

Shopping

In Kowloon shopping is king. Whether you arrive by ferry or subway the moment you disembark your form of transportation you will find yourself in front of a store. Begin either at the shopping centers of iSquare and Tsim Sha Tsui Centre & Empire Centre or by walking Nathan Road with its many stores. In the evening the Temple Street Night Market comes alive in the streets on and surrounding Jordan and Yau Ma Tei.

The entirety of this shopping goodness is in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Kowloon. This is a mecca for shoppers looking to buy tailored suits or watches. If you are traveling to Hong Kong with the express intention of purchasing tailored clothing or jewelry you must do your research before your visit. Tourists are easy prey for con artists selling inferior products. Prior to your trip use the Internet to find reputable businesses to make sure the products you buy are of high quality and will last you a lifetime. As for the pushy sales people on the streets just smile and say “no thank you” as you walk by them.

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of Tsim Sha Tsui is too much to handle. For a reprieve and a chance to escape the crowds duck into Kowloon Park, located just off of Nathan Road. This large public park has trees, a garden, and a playground for children. On Sunday enjoy a free demonstration of Kung Fu or a lion dance. Decompress in this sanctuary of serenity before reentering the throng of people on Nathan Road.

Times Square shopping center in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island - Hong Kong, China

Times Square shopping center in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island

On the other side of Victoria Harbour, concentrated in the eastern part of Hennessy Road, is the shopping on Hong Kong Island. This section of shopping is accessible from the Causeway Bay MTR Station. Here you will find the Times Square shopping center and stores throughout the many streets leading off of Hennessy Road. Farther south on Hong Kong Island is the outdoor Stanley Market. Stanley Market is a tourist trap but even so it makes for a great place to find souvenirs for your loved ones.

 

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Hong Kong Sights

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Victoria Harbour: 22.287826, 114.174385
St. John\'s Cathedral: 22.278691, 114.159750
Peak Tram Lower Terminus: 22.278069, 114.159554
Victoria Peak / Victoria Tower / Sky Terrace 428: 22.275883, 114.145532
Nathan Road (Kowloon Shopping): 22.310549, 114.171156
Kowloon Park: 22.298716, 114.171936
Hennessy Road (Hong Kong Island Shopping): 22.279765, 114.182689
Stanley Market: 22.219052, 114.212853
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Victoria Harbour
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong
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St. John's Cathedral
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
St. John's Cathedral, Hong Kong
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Peak Tram Lower Terminus
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Garden Road Peak Tram Lower Terminus, Hong Kong
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Victoria Peak / Victoria Tower / Sky Terrace 428
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Victoria Peak, The Peak, Hong Kong
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Nathan Road (Kowloon Shopping)
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Nathan Road, Hong Kong
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Kowloon Park
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Kowloon Park, Hong Kong
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Hennessy Road (Hong Kong Island Shopping)
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Times Square, Hong Kong
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Stanley Market
Hong Kong: A Gateway To Asia
Stanley Market, Hong Kong

 

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Travel As A Local

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When we travel sometimes it’s as if we never left home, what with the buildings being different but the corporate logos being the same. Crave a hamburger and you need only find the golden arches of McDonald’s. Need caffeine and Starbucks can fulfill your wish. Forgot to pack your favorite top and you can buy the same shirt at the Gap. This familiarity makes it easy to avoid the local scene. Yet why spend your hard-earned money traveling to another state or country just to buy what you could at home. By using the Internet and talking to people you meet along the way you can escape globalization and travel as a local.

Local Lodging

Hotel Monaco - Portland, Oregon

Hotel Monaco is a boutique hotel in Portland, Oregon

The easiest route in booking a hotel is to stay with a brand you’re familiar with, such as Hilton or Sheraton. The downside to this approach is that these well-known hotels carry a hefty price tag. Unless you’re willing to stay in out-of-the-way locations such as near the airport. The name brand hotels often lack charm and regardless which part of the world you have traveled to each location is the same.

There are other alternatives and sites such as Hotels.com can help you discover local hotels or boutique hotels, such as Hotel Monaco in Portland. Other websites such as VRBO and Airbnb have listings for vacation rentals such as bed & breakfasts or apartments. By staying at these places you can imitate a local’s way of life. Be sure to cross-reference any lodgings you are thinking of staying at with websites such as TripAdvisor. You can read reviews by past occupants to make sure the lodging is up to your standards and is in a safe location of the city.

Local Meals

Aside from sightseeing the biggest thing for tourists to do is eat the local cuisine.   Still, fears of eating something you’re not familiar with can lead you to slipping back to your default and eating at restaurant franchises you can find at home. This can happen if you’re tired and don’t want to figure out where to eat. If you do this then you’ll be missing out on amazing new food experiences. The best thing to do is to research places to eat before you even leave on your trip. With a list of places to eat throughout the city you will have a restaurant choice no matter where you are in the city during the day. When hunger strikes you can eat at one of the many restaurants you’ve pre-selected.

The easiest way to avoid fast food chains is by using websites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and similar region specific ratings websites. These websites will include both tourist and local reviews. You’ll know which restaurants serve good food, based on reviews from other travelers and people who live in those cities and eat at those restaurants regularly. Don’t be afraid to use a search engine such as Google to find websites and blogs of travelers and use their suggestions on where to dine. Another suggestion is when you check into your hotel ask the staff for recommendations. The hotel workers live in the city and will have recommendations for the best restaurants on any budget.

Food purchased at local market - Nice, France

Food purchased at local market in Nice, France

An alternative is to skip the restaurant and visit a local farmer’s market or grocery store for a meal you can bring back to your hotel. A sampling of local bread, cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, and candies can turn into one of your most memorable meals. If you are traveling with checked luggage bring a bottle opener with you to use on an alcoholic beverage. A local beer or wine from the market will enhance your hotel picnic even more. Cities such as Nice in France are perfect for such meals. You can dine in the comfort of your hotel room on local delicacies such as foie gras, comté, and salami. Pair your food with a slice of fresh baguette and a glass of French wine for a delicious meal.

Local Shopping

Pedestrian zone with stores and restaurants - Bern, Switzerland

Pedestrian zone with stores and restaurants in Bern, Switzerland

Chances are you packed more clothes than you’ll ever need for your trip in your suitcase. It’s human nature to over pack. What’s unfortunate is that the heavy suitcase you’re now lugging over town and over cobblestones has made you crazy. The next time you travel, consider not filling up your entire suitcase. Pack enough clothes to begin your journey and buy the rest of your clothes.

Pedestrian only zones, such as those found in Bern (Switzerland), are great places to find local brands of clothing. Shopping while on vacation is an adventure and it will help freshen up your wardrobe. Plus the clothing you wear will resemble the clothes the local population wears. If you wear local attire it allows you to blend in and trick the locals into thinking you aren’t a tourist. In addition clothes make a great personal souvenir and when your friend asks you where you bought that article of clothing you’ll be happy to tell them where.

When using your credit card if the store, or restaurant, asks if you wish to pay in your home currency versus the local currency always select the local currency. If you choose to pay in your home currency you may find your credit card company will charge you additional service fees. The service fees will be on top of getting the worst currency exchange rate possible for that day. Save yourself money and pay in local currency every chance you get.

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Portland: Keeping it Normal

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"Put a Bird on It" (from the IFC show Portlandia) - Bird wallpaper found in a Portland hotel - Portland, Oregon

“Put a Bird on It” (quote from the IFC show Portlandia) – Bird wallpaper found in a Portland hotel

 

In the Pacific Northwest region of the United States is the city of Portland, in the state of Oregon. If your only experience of Portland is the IFC show Portlandia you may have a skewed perception of the city. The city’s unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird” and Portlandia does a good job of depicting Portland as a weird city. Portlandia’s characters in various sketches range from cultist organic farmers to cranky feminist bookstore owners to those who put a bird on everything. Tourists who’ve watched the show Portlandia before heading to Portland for the first time may think they will enter a land of misfits once they arrive.

Pioneer Square - Portland, Oregon

Buildings surrounding Pioneer Square

The truth is first time visitors will find Portland quirky, charming, and nuanced. The city itself is clean with air that is refreshing, albeit sometimes breezy. Portland exudes scenery everywhere being surrounded by the best nature offers in this part of the world. Besides nature the city is a foodie paradise. Restaurants offer top-notch cuisine and a plethora of food trucks stationed throughout the city will make sure you will always have a sumptuous bite to eat. For lovers of food and nature Portland will find a special place in your heart.

Portlandia statue on the Portland Building - Portland, Oregon

Portlandia statue on the Portland Building

Beyond the food and nature Portland’s city itself does not boast many sights. This works for the city because travelers can just enjoy being in the city and not rushing off trying to knock of a laundry list of sights. Of the sights within the city tourists will want to visit the Portland Building. The statue in front of the Portland Building is named Portlandia. It is this statue’s name from which the Portlandia show borrows its name and the statue is seen in the show’s opening credits. Besides the Portland Building visitors can spend the day in trendy shopping areas such as those found in the Pearl District and Downtown. The streets in these areas are not bustling with crowds, and the wide avenues make for a nice stroll. While in Downtown visit Pioneer Courthouse Square. This urban park holds a variety of events and is a perfect place to people watch.

Pioneer Courthouse - Portland, Oregon

Pioneer Courthouse

To stay at a hotel in the Downtown district of Portland means walking access to the shopping areas around Pioneer Courthouse Square. You will be able to walk to various food truck stands within the city limits. Besides shopping and food within walking distance is Portland’s Chinatown and Washington Park. Within Washington Park you will find the International Rose Test Garden and the Portland Japanese Garden.

Chinatown Gates - Portland, Oregon

Chinatown Gates

To experience more of Portland and the surrounding landscape you will need to rent a car. A rental car will expand the number of restaurants available for you to try as many great restaurants are in the districts outside of Downtown. Having a rental car will allow you the freedom to explore nature spots accessible by car. Within driving distance are two waterfalls, Multnomah Falls and Wahkeena Falls. You can drive to the Vista House on Crown Point for scenic views of the Columbia River. Fans of wine will want to use that rental car to visit the various near by wineries.

Whatever you plan to do on your trip to Portland just remember, you are in the Pacific Northwest. If you travel to this region during the wintertime the weather will be low with a chance for snow. Even during the spring and summer times the weather may be brisk. Check the weather reports before you travel so your clothing choices won’t impede you enjoying your trip.

 

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Portland, Oregon

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Portland Building: 45.515663, -122.678500
Pearl District: 45.530209, -122.681204
Downtown, Portland: 45.513454, -122.680134
Pioneer Courthouse Square: 45.518300, -122.678905
Chinatown Gates: 45.523512, -122.674157
Washington Park: 45.512640, -122.712736
International Rose Garden: 45.518951, -122.705273
Portland Japanese Garden: 45.519136, -122.706780
Multnomah Falls: 45.576160, -122.115776
Wahkeena Falls: 45.574181, -122.127430
Vista House on Crown Point: 45.539579, -122.244446
Voodoo Doughnut ONE (original location): 45.522621, -122.673111
Caffe Vita: 45.522447, -122.672914
Pine State Biscuits: 45.558886, -122.642744
Gaufre Gourmet: 45.521057, -122.680316
KOi Fusion: 45.450419, -122.781197
Lardo: 45.522021, -122.683540
Toro Bravo: 45.540813, -122.663611
Pok Pok: 45.504565, -122.632159
Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB): 45.496893, -122.634884
De Ponte Cellars: 45.262715, -123.058269
Domaine Drouhin: 45.265540, -123.055634
WillaKenzie Estate: 45.360877, -123.137926
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Portland Building
Portland: Keeping it Normal
Portland Building, Portland, OR, United States
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Pearl District
Portland: Keeping it Normal
Pearl District, Portland, OR, United States
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Downtown, Portland
Portland: Keeping it Normal
Downtown, Portland, OR, United States
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Pioneer Courthouse Square
Portland: Keeping it Normal
Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland, OR, United States
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Chinatown Gates
Portland: Keeping it Normal
Chinatown Gates Portland, Northwest 4th Avenue, Portland, OR, United States
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Washington Park
Portland: Keeping it Normal
Natural Portland

Washington Park, Portland, OR, United States
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International Rose Garden
Portland: Keeping it Normal
Natural Portland

International Rose Test Garden, Southwest Kingston Avenue, Portland, OR, United States
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Portland Japanese Garden
Portland: Keeping it Normal
Natural Portland

Portland Japanese Garden, Southwest Kingston Avenue, Portland, OR, United States
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Multnomah Falls
Portland: Keeping it Normal
Natural Portland

Multnomah Falls, Multnomah County, OR, United States
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Wahkeena Falls
Portland: Keeping it Normal
Natural Portland

Wahkeena Falls, Multnomah County, OR, United States
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Vista House on Crown Point
Portland: Keeping it Normal
Natural Portland

Vista House, Historic Columbia River Highway, Corbett, OR, United States
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Voodoo Doughnut ONE (original location)
Eat Your Way Through Portland
Voodoo Doughnut, Southwest 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR, United States
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Caffe Vita
Eat Your Way Through Portland
Caffe Vita, Southwest 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR, United States
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Pine State Biscuits
Eat Your Way Through Portland
Pine State Biscuits Alberta, Northeast Alberta Street, Portland, OR, United States
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Gaufre Gourmet
Eat Your Way Through Portland
Gaufre Gourmet, Southwest 9th Avenue, Portland, OR, United States
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KOi Fusion
Eat Your Way Through Portland
Washington Square, Southwest Washington Square Road, Portland, OR, United States
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Lardo
Eat Your Way Through Portland
Lardo, Southwest Washington Street, Portland, OR, United States
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Toro Bravo
Eat Your Way Through Portland
Toro Bravo, Northeast Russell Street, Portland, OR, United States
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Pok Pok
Eat Your Way Through Portland
Pok Pok, Southeast Division Street, Portland, OR, United States
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Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB)
Eat Your Way Through Portland
Hopworks Urban Brewery, Southeast Powell Boulevard, Portland, OR, United States
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De Ponte Cellars
Eat Your Way Through Portland
De Ponte Cellars, Northeast Archery Summit Road, Dayton, OR, United States
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Domaine Drouhin
Eat Your Way Through Portland
Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Dayton, OR, United States
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WillaKenzie Estate
Eat Your Way Through Portland
WillaKenzie Estate, Northeast Laughlin Road, Yamhill, OR, United States

 

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