Shopping in Lisbon!

While Lisbon is so impossibly picturesque that you feel compelled to take pictures of everything, it is also heaven for shopping.  Not even in London did I find so many unique items for gifts and myself, of course. 

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Where to begin?  Well, there is the LX Factory under the bridge that looks like the Golden Gate.  Filled with shops and cafes, it also houses the coolest bookstore I have seen and I LOVE bookstores.  Obolodamarta not only had multiple levels filled with books, it also had a temporary exhibit of Kinetic Art.  The inventor himself walked us around and told us stories about each of his creations.  From a miniature printing press to a Charlie Chaplin story machine, it was so fun and interesting.  I love just stumbling into these experiences as we often do as we wander.

Thom was tempted to get a tattoo at the local artist shop at LX Factory but I veered him away and took some great pics of street art instead.  Who knows if he will leave Portugal with new ink but maybe another day.  Tattoos are not a decision to be made in the moment but after careful reflection.

The next day we left our Alfama district and meandered up and down the cobblestone streets.  Definitely need to have sturdy shoes with grip to hike these streets in Lisbon especially as they get slippery in the rain that was off and on all day.  Finding a store that made bags out of recycled signs and garbage as well as bicycle tires, I was tempted but held off buying.  Pricey but worthy. 

Ducking out of the rain into the Cork Store by the fort proved to be an expensive interlude as we bought multiple gifts for folks who read this blog so I will say no more.  Let’s just say I bought so much I asked for a quantity discount and got it.  Always the bargainer I am!  Just expect Christmas present from Portugal my family and friends.  Thom is obsessed with man jewelry and got yet another bracelet for his already full wrist.  Seriously, that man wears way more bangles than I do. 

Thom also loves shoes so when we found a store with the unique concept of buy a pair of awesome shoes, get a bottle of wine, we both considered it but wisely remembered how full our closets are back home.  We also passed on the sardine shop knowing that while they look cute, they aren’t our cup of tea.

At Typographia, we could have gone wild but restrained ourselves to buy only 2 t-shirts. Very similar to our favorite store in Shanghai that had original creative designs on quality t’s, this little shop had so many cool t’s to choose from that it was hard to narrow it down but the one we choose for James was the best.  In chatting with the shop clerk as she rang us out, she asked if I had really read the words spelled out on the typewriter keys.  I had and it was hilarious but irreverent, just like our son, who will be the recipient.  We laughed and then the conversation somehow turned to weed.  In Portugal, the legal limit of pot is one gram but it’s still not legal though they won’t arrest you with that amount or less we were told. Sharing that we didn’t smell it all the time like we did in Seattle walking the streets, she said we just weren’t walking the right streets.  Point taken.  Shirts bought.

When visiting Portugal, I would suggest packing an empty suitcase and LOTS of Euros.  Whether you go for cork or sardines (they are obsessed with this salty little feller) or Port wine, etc. you will enjoy engaging with the locals as you find treasures to bring home.  Here’s hoping our luggage isn’t over the weight limit going home!

 

 

 

London Shopping-Vintage to Vinyl

Eleven miles and 25,000 steps later, we had walked ALL over London.  Literally.  We embraced “shop till you drop” and had fun doing it.  Starting at our historic boutique hotel, St. Ermin’s, at noon after sleeping in (jet lag sucks) we walked to Notting Hill.  Yes, that Notting Hill but, alas, we didn’t run into Hugh Grant.  Buggers!BC655D29-FC10-4252-920C-07883DB7450F

This terribly charming area has shops galore including Portobello Market, a street filled with stalls featuring furs, teapots and more.  But first, it was National Record Store Day and we were looking for vinyl and lucky enough to stumble upon the Music & Goods Exchange.  Searching for treasures among the used vinyl, I found “Stompin’ at the Savoy”, a compilation of 19 classic cuts from the archives of the Savoy featuring pioneer jazz, be-bop, rhythm and blues.  Dedicated to and featuring Charlie Parker, the tracks are from 1940-1960.  Thom picked up singles from Elvis Costello as much for the covers, which we will frame, as for the music. Can’t wait to spin some tunes when we get home!

I love bookstores second to none so imagine my excitement to not only find the original bookstore featured in the movie, Notting Hill, but we also found a great sale at another bookstore.  Picking up a “Royal Snap” very British card game, I now have a plan to play cards with Mia next time we go to Boise.  “Albie and the Space Rocket” was another purchase.  “It seems like just another ordinary night to Albie until he wakes up to find…penguins stealing the furniture, moose tangoing in the toilet and zebras asleep in the kitchen cupboard.  But who has left a trail of baked beans?”  Can’t wait to read this silly tale of adventure to Mia!  Of course, I’ll have to explain what a “bloke” is and so on.  Love those British terms especially “cheeky”.   I got Thom “From Churchill’s War Rooms” as he plans to visit the actual war rooms while I am working this week.  Booorrring! He knows that would not be at the top of my “go do” list so off he goes by himself.   Yet another bookstore we stumbled on wasn’t open but we read the sign by the door which shared that this shop was the inspiration for the travel bookshop featured in the movie.WP_20170422_19_16_40_Pro

Finally reaching Portobello Market, we navigated the crowds to find Mary’s Living and Giving, a thrift store that benefits Save The Children.  I had read about this amazing shop and it did not disappoint.  From Kate Spade to DVF, there were bargains galore and a friendly clerk to assist.  I’ve decided to start a new tradition and get Hannah vintage fashion wherever I travel and this time she’ll be gaining a black sheath with fringe and zipper treatment.  Super cheeky and all proceeds to a worthy cause!

Around the corner, we found another vinyl store, Rough Trade, where we browsed until we were informed that closing time was upon us so basically, “GET OUT!” Now dark, we started our long journey home.  Walking in front of a group of millennials at one point, we chuckled at their conversation discussing a game they like to play in the pubs called, “Daddy or Sugar Daddy?” asking women with older companions to share the truth.  Wonder how many cocktails they get thrown in their faces while playing this cute game.  I’m betting quite a few.

At one point along a lonely, creepy stretch of road, I was ready to try to hail a cab.  My back hurt, my feet ached and I was a little bit scared.  “Princess Snowflake get your ass moving” was my compassionate husband’s response to that idea.  Hitting 11 miles on my overworked Fitbit, we finally arrived back at St. Ermin’s.  Time for an adult beverage.  Cheers!

Creating Indian Bracelets

In the basement of my hotel outside one of the many restaurants, a turbaned gent sits cross-legged in front of a small charcoal fire taking requests to make bracelets.  If you dine in the restaurant, you get a complimentary bracelet.  Of course, I’m not eating in India so I was told to just tip the craftsman a few dollars and he will make some for me.  I decided to tip him with all my remaining rupees.

Picking out the colors I wanted from the blocks on sticks, he melts each color, smearing them onto his tool one at a time .  After sizing up the two thin pieces of copper onto my wrist which he will curl the melted colors around to form a circle, he expertly rolls out the colors somehow manipulating the swirls of black, gold and silver to form a gorgeous and unique piece of art.  After some banging and more sizing, the bracelet is finished and hot.  Literally.  Allowing it to cool off, I proceeded to get others made for Mia and co-workers.  When I proudly wear mine, I will always remember my incredible adventure in India.

Holiday Shopping that makes a difference!

In an effort to put our holiday $’s to good use, we visited the Giving Marketplace at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today.  From handmade jewelry to cranberry-orange chocolate bars to coconut body lotions, various non-profits highlighted their good work and offered their products to purchase, all with proceeds going towards making a difference around the world.

First stop for us was, of course, Theo Chocolate with free samples and an interesting story to be shared.  I have seen their large chocolate bars in the local stores for purchase but had no idea that they were made locally in Fremont (free factory tours!) and that they also support the growers in East Congo enabling a better life.  Win-win!  Theo Chocolate

Alaffia was founded in 2004 to alleviate poverty and empower communities in Togo, West Africa.  Their creamy and fragrant body washes and moisturizing locations were amazing-I took advantages of samples so Thom and I could experience the shea and coconut-based products that are handcrafted to nourish the body and spirit.  Sold!  Someone’s getting an Alaffia gift in their stocking for Christmas.  Shhhh…..  Alaffia

Thom stopped by the Bike Works table to discuss how they promote bicycles as a vehicle for change to empower youth and build resilient communities.  Launched in 1996 by a local Seattle group, volunteers provide services for over 2,000 adults and youth each year.  If you think about it, lack of reliable transportation can have a huge effect on our lives.  By providing a bicycle to someone in need, you can change a life.  Bike Works

If you haven’t checked out the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation yet, go.  There are exhibits that interest adults AND children.  Very interactive and thought-provoking.  In this crazy time where all we can talk about is hate and unrest, it is refreshing to go and see all the good work that this foundation provides to the world.  Taking on the real problems that affect lives, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is tackling the big issues of water, poo, natural disaster response, etc.  Wouldn’t it be cool if our government cared about this as much?  Bill or Melinda Gates for President!!!

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As I’ve decided this year to make a difference with my holiday shopping, our annual Christmas PJ’s will come from Sudara, founded in 2005 to assist women in India trying to escape the sex slave trade.  Hundreds of women are trained and provided with a safe work environment to heal and prosper.  I can’t wait to wear my punjammies with pride on Christmas morning.  Sudara

I also want to support small businesses at home.  Instead of driving to the mall and shopping at the big box stores, I’ll be seeking out those little independent stores in Seattle and Boise to fill out my shopping list this year.  Yes, it may cost a bit more but it’s worth it.  Happy shopping and happy holidays to all!

 

 

The shopping is good in Galway

Today we ventured down the cow path and into town.  As we started to exit the hobbit hole, we paused as two very large black cows stormed down the “road” with their humans herding them into the adjacent field.  So, exactly what do we do if we encounter this type of situation again but we are driving?  Scream and brace for impact probably.  Luckily, we swerved around any oncoming traffic and made it safely into the town of Galway, very photogenic and historic. 

After maneuvering into the always tiny parking spaces in the garage (our Audi is larger than most cars here), we wandered the streets where pubs and shops welcomed us.   First stop was for an Americano as there is only a hot water pot for tea in our cottage and no coffee except instant Nescafe available.  Caffeine headache averted, we found the shops to be charming and loaded with nice things for presents to others and ourselves. 

The best by far was the “My Shop…granny likes it” (www.myshopgranny.com) that had a curated assortment of all things Irish and cool, not touristy crap.  I immediately was drawn to an amazing chunky necklace made with blue and yellow stones.  Had. To. Have. It.  After chatting with the shop owner and her adorable schnauzer, Purdy, the shop dog, we also got a great pillow cover, which I collect from our travels and tea towels featuring an abstract print of the charming Galway row houses and another boldly proclaims an old Irish saying,  “FECK IT…sure IT’S GRAND”   Okay. 

Always ask the locals where they eat to get the best places.  Rona O’Reilly recommended a funky place just down the lane called Bite Club which had free WiFi, played disco tunes and had great food.  Ryan and Paddy took care of us and we chatted.  Ryan was mad at Paddy because he had saved his money and was off to America to visit any and all relatives he could find from coast to coast.  Paddy mixed me up a mean craft cocktail, Elderberry Bourbon Fizz, served in a crystal punch cup.  Delightful!  After singing along with Donna Summers and posting some blogs on the internet (the hobbit hole is without tv/internet), we were off for more browsing and shopping before braving the drive home via cow path.  If the driving over here wasn’t so nuts, we’d be back at the Bite Club in the evening when it turns into a 1980’s discotheque.  Groovy.

Finally made it to Granville Island, Vancouver, BC!

As many times as I’ve been to Vancouver, I’ve just never made time to visit Granville Island, one of the top tourist attractions here.  Yesterday, I finally made it!  After researching the water taxi situation, we made our way to Yaletown and caught the water taxi, a cute little boat that holds about 10 people comfortably.  After a quick 10 minute ride across the water, we hopped off ($7.50 each round trip) and immediately immersed ourselves into the market.  WOW-what amazing fruit including a long dark purple grape thing I had never seen before.

Granville Market had lovely fruit including kinds I had never seen
Granville Market had lovely fruit including kinds I had never seen

We meandered around looking at exotic spices, breads, meats, pasta, etc.  If I lived in Vancouver, I would shop here all the time!  While there are a lot of touristy shops, we were able to get away from the main drag and enjoyed looking through the handmade broom store.  Whether you’re riding one (no, not ME, Thom!) or sweeping away the cobwebs, they make a broom for every need and they were just beautiful.

Handmade brooms for every need!
Handmade brooms for every need!

Next stop was the glassblowing shop where we enjoyed seeing the young gent blowing a colorful glass cup that unfortunately slipped off.  To say he uttered a few bad words under his breath is an understatement but he was resolute and announced to those watching, “It happens.”  DAMN that glass is expensive in the shop but when you see how long it takes to make it, you do understand the pricing.

Glassblowing to make lovely treasures
Glassblowing to make lovely treasures

After that, we were tired and needed a drink but the distillery was packed so we decided to find the diner I had seen on Yelp with it’s magnificent milkshakes and burgers.  Unfortunately, we found out that the diner was on Granville STREET not Granville Island so we took the ferry, walked awhile and finally found it in the gritty part of downtown Vancouver–right next to the TripleXXX Peep show.  We only take our friends Patti and Larry to the best places!  Actually, the Templeton diner had good food and we were able to introduce Larry to poutine.  YUM!  Of course, when Larry thought we said another word similar to poutine, we almost spit out our drinks.  Correcting him and cautioning him to NOT use that word again in public, we proceeded to enjoy those fries covered in white cheese and thick rich gravy along with our eclectic mix of salads, hamburgers, coconut chicken strips with chili sauce, and Portobello mushroom sandwich plus, of course, candy appletinis for Patti and I and milkshakes for the boys.  WP_20151002_18_15_39_Pro

Interestingly, they make their appletinis with vodka, peach schnapps and apple juice and they were delicious, served to us in wine glasses because all their martini glasses were broken.  Enjoying the jukebox and good company, we had an excellent first day in Vancouver!  Today we are taking a walking tour of Gastown and tomorrow we will explore Chinatown.  Looking forward to a relaxing foot massage if we can find a place!

Amsterdam Shopping-Boutiques and Books and Vinyl, oh my!

Amsterdam is filled with quaint specialty boutiques in all the alleys and cobblestone streets…a shoppers paradise!  We love to wander in and out and soak up the quirkiness of it all.  So different from the grand, oversized stores in the US, these teeny tiny storefronts are hardly over 100-200 sq. feet–a closet really-but a closet filled with very specialized and focused wares to tempt and delight shoppers. From bead shops to teeth shops to bow ties, they have it all for you in Amsterdam.

The “all things teeth” shop featured every kind of toothbrush, floss, etc. you could imagine with a ferris wheel display in the window.   How cool is that???  Next door, a gorgeous house cat calmly watched over the huge assortment of bow ties in every color and pattern, all tied up and ready to be worn.

Boutiques specialize-bow ties, of course, with a house cat guarding at the shop.
Boutiques specialize-bow ties, of course, with a house cat guarding at the shop.
Toothbrush boutique with a ferris wheel in the window to showcase the goods.
Toothbrush boutique with a ferris wheel in the window to showcase the goods.

Moving on to the Toms Store, which was slightly larger and featured a coffee bar as well, I saw a few items for my Christmas list and Thom’s.  We love their shoes and can feel good buying from them as they give a pair of shoes for every one that is bought.  Great story if you haven’t already read the book that the Toms creator has written about his idea to give back and still run a successful retail business.  Wouldn’t it be great if everyone did this?

American Bookstore had multiple floors and an author signing going on when we visited
American Bookstore had multiple floors and an author signing going on when we visited
Toms...love them and their retail concept.  Give back and provide quality goods.  Sold!
Toms…love them and their retail concept. Give back and provide quality goods. Sold!

Along with the many boutiques, I have never seen so many bookstores–little and big ones–some Dutch only and others, like the American Bookstore, featuring English titles.  Rarely have I seen such an immense and impressive collection of books other than perhaps the Strand in NYC.  Multiple levels with deep stock in each topic, we were lucky enough to happen upon (as we always seem to do) an author event with a writer by the name of Charles Stross, a British writer of science fiction, Lovecraftian (?) horror and fantasy.  He was very articulate and funny–hoping he swings by Elliot Bay Books in Seattle soon!  Alas, the luggage will not accommodate one more item so no books were bought unfortunately.

Books galore at the American Bookstore!
Books galore at the American Bookstore!

Today we visited the vinyl stores in our neighborhood of Jordaan.  There are many in Amsterdam-such a variety that a local magazine had a double spread article detailing the music havens where you can buy vinyl, new and used for $3 to $40 euros.  Quite the large assortment to pick from at places like Second Life Music across from our hotel and VelvetMusic and InDeep’n’Dance both on Rozengracht.  It hurt to watch Thom thumb through the vast crates of music and know he couldn’t buy any to bring home.  Oh well-he has quite collection already so he will live. Harsh but true!

Just make sure you leave enough room in your luggage when you come to Amsterdam so that you can buy some cool jazz or soul vinyl or a stack of books to bring back with you.  Of course, if you are needing a unique toothbrush or bow tie, that doesn’t take up quite as much room so shop away I say!  There is something for everyone here in Amsterdam.