Portland, the perfect city?

What’s to say about Portland, Oregon? It might just be my perfect city. A city that’s not too big, not too small. A city that’s filled with insanely quirky and interesting people. A city filled with endless moments that are indescribable, like where else can you see an annual naked bike ride that attracts thousands of participants? Or perhaps a mini Marilyn Manson act? Only in the PDX baby.

Portland stealing it's twin sister city's Austin's motto

Portland stealing it’s twin sister city’s Austin’s motto

Architecture in Old Town

Architecture in Old Town

Old Town Portland

Old Town Portland near Skidmore Fountain

Portland was my first visit to the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve been enchanted. The weather is unlike the northeastern USA with harsh, and cold winters. This winter in Portland it didn’t even snow once! The Pacific Northwest gets temperate winters, with just an abundant amount of rainfall (which contributes to Portland’s amazing greenery in close proximity to the city center). Sure, it may snow in the mountains of Washington and Oregon, but I’ll take a Portland winter over a New York City one any day. One of my favorite spots on my visit was the Pittock Mansion on the inner outskirts of Portland. The drive is beautiful, swerving through steep roads up a mountain, with which you are rewarded with a gorgeous hilltop mansion where you’re able to picnic (we had a delicious vegan picnic with groceries from New Seasons Market) with some views of Portland’s greenery.

Vegan picnic at Pittock Mansion

Vegan picnic at Pittock Mansion

Not to mention there is an incredible variety of food trucks all around the city (dangerous for someone like me). I mean come on…. I had the privilege of trying MAURITIAN food. Who would’ve ever seen that coming? Its cuisine is a mix of Creole, French, Indian, and Chinese. Can you say yum? Be sure to check it out when you come, it’s called Chez Dodo. Portland also has an intimidating amount of organic, farm to table, and vegan/vegetarian foods (of insanely creative varieties). Don’t even get me started on Voodoo Donut! It completely lives up to the hype, luckily I was able to go twice without any insane line. But this place literally has everything, I tried the maple glazed donut, the oreo donut, and the classic voodoo donut which is a voodoo doll complete with a little pretzel which you press into the donut and it bleeds with jelly. They’re also famous for the cock and balls donut, popularized by bachelorette parties in Portland. The aesthetic of the store and the friendly staff, along with the incredible product make this place a classic and just unbeatable. You definitely won’t go hungry in Portland.

Chez Dodo - Mauritian food truck!

Chez Dodo – Mauritian food truck!

Menu at Chez Dodo

Menu at Chez Dodo

Poori on the top, Pulao on the bottom, Delicious all around

Voodoo Donuts!!!!

Voodoo Donuts!!!!


Voodoo’s interior decor

Creative menu

Creative menu

The selection

The selection



Other spots to check out are the N Mississippi Ave and NE Alberta Ave districts, which are filled with quirky shops, tantalizing food carts, outdoor seating restaurants, and much more Portland vibes. Downtown Portland also has Pioneer Square, which is worth a view. Additionally, there’s the Portlandia statue, which is hidden on top of a roof of a building behind some trees, but worth seeking out because it’s much bigger than you’d imagine. It’s also the second largest cast-iron statue in the country after the Statue of Liberty. There’s something almost threatening or menacing about this iron beauty, adding to the charm of Portland.

N Mississippi Avenue

N Mississippi Avenue

N Mississippi Ave

N Mississippi Ave

Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square

Portlandia Statue

Portlandia Statue

Transport in Portland is very easy to navigate with buses, light rail, and ample amount of Car2Go. This was my first experience driving a Car2Go and it was 3 of us, so it was quite humorous all of us squeezing into a smartcar –  felt more like a clown car.

Portland may be in one of the newer states, but it doesn’t mean it’s without its interesting history. Portland was once a den of all types of illegal activity, I learned a lot on a walking tour explaining about underground business and lifestyles in Portland. What’s funny to me is that it seems rather unexpected since the contemporary culture of Portland is very socially conscious, aware, relaxed, and almost wholesome. To see that it was born from a place with a rather sinister history makes it that much cooler to me. The tour was just under 2 hours, you learn a lot about the racist policies that governed Portland and affected its early Chinese, Japanese, and African-American communities. Additionally you learn about the somewhat legal practice of Shanghaiing and how ship captains got away with it, and made profits from it.

One of Portland's many bridges over the Willamette River

One of Portland’s many bridges over the Willamette River

Portland is a prime example of why I’ve been drawn to the culture and the attitudes of the western states. Their ancestors were the opportunists of the time. They rolled with the punches and made their own way in the Wild West. Their laid-back vibe just screams freedom, a healthy antidote to the overworked and sarcastic northeastern culture. I can’t wait to explore the area more.

Have you ever been to Portland? What were your impressions? Recommendations for my next visit?

Washington, D.C.: Capital paradise

In the last few months I returned to one of my favorite cities in the entire world, Washington, D.C. after 3 years of not visiting.

Washington, D.C. is so much more than politics and business. Sure, they bring an interesting and unique dynamic to the city, but that’s not all there is. My best friend lived there for 5 years, so I had the pleasure of visiting a bunch of times. It’s the type of city that every time you visit, you love it more. It’s a myriad of cultures mixed together. Outdoorsy like the Pacific Northwest, somewhat Southern, extremely European elegance, residents from multiple states, and nationalities from all over the globe. It really is a fair representation of the USA, since it has a little bit of everything.

The preferred mode of transport for many DC residents is bike. Cycling is an easy means of commuting, and a favorite activity for the many outdoor enthusiasts. Everywhere you go you see people cycling and jogging, it’s a city filled with fitness. Nearby hiking trails in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland are favorites to the city residents.


Biking in Georgetown

My husband and I were visiting a friend of ours in DC, and we braved out the rain and decided to bike through Georgetown and the National Mall to see the monuments. It’s much bigger than people imagine, so walking it can possibly take more than half of a day. So we decided biking was more convenient, especially when wanting to cross the winding Tidal Basin to get to the Jefferson Memorial.


Drizzly day at the Washington Monument


Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial


On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking at the Washington Memorial

What’s also nice about DC is that you can meet people from any state there. I’ve met people from Arkansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Alaska just to name a few. Some being the only people I’ve met from those  states. You really get a sense that it is the capital of the country. At the same time you get glimpses of southernness, even though it doesn’t look or feel southern (other than its crazy summer heat). But then you notice the slower pace, friendly locals, Chesapeake seafood, humid weather, jazz, southern BBQ and many residents from the southern states and you start to think otherwise… And of course, it’s got immigrants from all over. Most notable are the residents from El Salvador, Korea, India, Mexico, and Vietnam, which constitute the 5 largest. For a curveball, there’s an increasing amount of immigrants from the UK arriving, and there’s a good amount of Ethiopians as well.

In fact, DC is supposed to have some of the best Ethiopian food in the country, and I believe it. Little Ethiopia is concentrated on 9th street between U & T street. My favorite spot is Zenebech Injera for no-frills hearty and authentic Ethiopian cuisine. My favorite being the vegetarian combo which contains tomatoes, red lentils, collard greens, chickpea stew, cabbage, yellow split peas with the unique injera bread. For those who haven’t had Ethiopian food before, you eat everything with your hands. You wrap up the rest of the food by scooping it into the injera bread. It’s very flavorful, blending spices and tastes from East Africa and India.

Ethiopian food

My favorite part about DC is just how lovely and stroll worthy it is. It’s one of the best cities to just take a relaxing walk through, especially in the summer in the evening.

Have you been to Washington DC? What’s your favorite part about it?

Happy wanderings,

Wanderlust Guru

Saint Patrick’s Day in Savannah

Wow what a blast! Hailing from New York and attending Saint Patrick’s Day in Rockaway, NY (a very very Irish neighborhood) almost every year, I thought I knew all about the wonders of Irish-American shenanigans. But boy was my mind expanded. Savannah Saint Patrick’s Day was in a complete league of its own. Unfortunately I attended during a road trip and wasn’t able to get there in time for the parade, so that was a miss. But the party was still going really strong at 4pm when I arrived, and throughout the whole night.

Getting ready for Savannah Saint Patrick's Day

Getting ready for Savannah Saint Patrick’s Day

There’s music everywhere, people wandering the streets making new friends, and just general good fun going on. The activity was revolving around the street right along the river and also in Savannah’s plethora of squares (I’ve never seen so many squares outside of a European city). The city is absolutely beautiful and everyone is having a great time, and the best part is you can drink openly on the streets legally just as long as it’s not in a glass bottle and it’s contained to a 16 oz cup (but that doesn’t mean you can’t have more supplies in a small knapsack as well).

Monument in one of Savannah's squares

Monument in one of Savannah’s squares

River street in Savannah

River street in Savannah

The festival has a lot of great dancing, people-watching, and food (the shrimp gumbo!!) but above all the people were really friendly and fantastic to meet. None of the bars had covers, and I found that the drinks were pretty cheap also. It definitely lives up to the hype, and I would dare to say that it’s more fun than the ones here in New York City.

Keeping it classy in a kilt

Keeping it classy in a kilt

Has anyone ever been to Savannah for Saint Patrick’s Day before? I would highly recommend keeping it in mind for next year.

Why I want to be a blogger

Hey guys I’m going underway with this blogging101 course and I wanted to tell you more about myself and my blog’s purpose.

I’m completely obsessed with travel. I’m constantly researching destinations that range from domestic to international, exotic to plain, cities to nature. And I love spreading the positivity with others who love travel or want to travel more. I’m blogging publicly to gain that sort of contact. I would love to connect with others blogging about travel or those who need advice and tips about how to travel more efficiently.

At the MOMA in New York City

I hope to accomplish a lot with this blog.  I want to bring that extra piece of inspiration for the curious person to choose a more obscure destination. I want to get and give recommendations and discuss them. And perhaps most of all I want to be able to blog full time and build a meaningful connection with an audience. And after completely today’s assignment of looking through other blogs it’s interesting to see everyone else beginning their creations as well and I understand the importance of reaching out to others so that you can participate in the community in a better way. Feel free to leave me any comments or questions and do follow! I’ll check out your blog as well.

Happy wanderings!

Long Island Gold Coast Part 2

Sticking to the Gold Coast theme, I also had the pleasure of visiting Oheka Castle about a month ago in Huntington, NY. It is the second largest private residency in the United States at an impressive 115,000 square footage. It is no longer a residency, and is now converted into an upscale hotel and as a site to host special events such as weddings (Kevin Jonas and Joey Fatone both had their weddings here). Scandalously enough, I learned after my visit that the owner of the castle, Gary Melius, was shot 3 times in the parking lot a mere 3 days before my visit.

I have lived on Long Island for the majority of my life, and have been around the area of these 2 estates several times, but never made it. Now I’m glad that I was able to put aside some time to explore my area more, which enriches my understanding of the history of Long Island and how it forms such a unique culture. Long Island is in the shadow of New York City, yet life remains very suburban and simple despite its proximity to the city. The island is massively overcrowded and traffic is an accepted reality of everyday life. The population is steadily on the rise, and in a place so starved for space it’s interesting to see the wide open acreage of estates such as this.  


Long Island Gold Coast

We all want to be able to travel more, but what to do when we’re in the stages of saving money to travel again? Well I like to look for adventure locally in the meanwhile. I’m blessed to be from the New York City area, so there’s are plenty of options in such a small area. Many may not be as fortunate. However, adventures are what you make it and there’s always a place that you have overlooked for years or just postponed going to. On your days off when you don’t have anything to do, try and do one of those things! I made a list of places that I’ve been putting off for years and have been slowly checking them off.

So yesterday I did one of those things and I drove a whopping 17 minutes from my house and went to the Old Westbury Gardens here in Long Island, New York. I even went for free thanks to a pass from my local library. The OW Gardens houses a rather large mansion known as the Westbury Mansion which is a legacy of the Gold Coast era that developed in the late 1800s and peaked during the 1920s on the 16 mile stretch on the north shore of Long Island from Great Neck to Huntington. You may be familiar with this era through the classic book, The Great Gatsby. It is also the filming location of many famous films such as North by Northwest and Cruel Intentions.

The mansion was gorgeous, filled many lavish pieces from the time period. What struck me as something peculiar was in this mansion-turned-museum they had mannequins in every room dressed as the previous owners would have, adding a more visual dimension to how these people lived in their wealth. The estate is a vast 160 acres and it has its very own lake and also many beautiful, expansive gardens. It boggles my mind that I was born and raised only 17 minutes from this opulence, but at the same time I could drive 17 minutes and be in the worst neighborhood in the South Bronx. Only in NYC my friends. 

Traveling for cheaper – how to save on accommodation

It really flabbergasts me every time when people are so amazed at what I do when I travel. There’s nothing new about budget travel. It’s not innovative, it’s not up-and-coming, and it’s just plain practical to me. As with many industries in this world, marketing is created to have us perceive travel in a certain way. Do you really think that in far off destinations like the islands in southern Thailand, Bali, Barbados etc. that the only way to travel is by a 5-star all-inclusive luxury resorts? Is that what the locals do when they’re traveling within their own country? The sky is the limit in terms of options for the way you can travel. You have the ability to make your own decisions while you travel. If you decide that’s through a hotel, so be it. But there are plenty of other options that can save you money and allow you to travel for longer periods of time, or more frequently. I’ll take the latter choice, every time. Here are a few of the basic options that could save you a buck and help you travel better. 

  1. Hostels – Of course there’s the classic option of hostels – to which I always get the responses “OH MY GOD, haven’t you seen the movie hostel?? I would never stay in one of those places, I could get killed!” Well…first off how do you think those places stay in business if all their customers are getting killed off? I’ll get into this further in another post. But, hostels are a great value option. Most cost around $25 a night in a shared dorm (depending on the country some can be way cheaper). Most people who are staying in hostels are looking for the exact same thing as you – just to have fun and make memories while traveling. Your setting already proves that you’re like-minded in this way, and through my experiences I’ve met amazing individuals in hostels whom I had great nights out with, great days exploring the city together, and have even kept in contact down the line and hosted/been hosted by them later on. Hostels are a great way to meet lifelong friends on the road!
  2. AirBnB – another great budget option if you want to have a little bit more privacy and you wanted to just make a trip with your friends. It is a very reputable website which allows you rent out someone’s apartment or a room in their apartment for a much cheaper price than a hotel. You read through people’s profiles and access whether they are a good match based on the location of their apartments, the pictures of their apartment, and you have access to previous reviews that they have from customers who have rented out their apartment before. (Other rental sites include wimdu & roomorama).
  3. CouchSurfing – my personal favorite. Another aura of negativity surrounds the idea of CouchSurfing to the untrained eye. “Stay at someone’s place with them? What if you stay with a crazy ax murderer?” Another silly fear that I find humorous because I’ve made amazing connections with my time using CouchSurfing. Just like AirBnb, you scout out people’s personal profiles so you already have an idea whether your host is a good match for you based on their interests, you get to read about their past experiences in previous reviews, and of course any good profile has pictures of the individual (many include them traveling to different locations so you can see they’re looking for the same things as you) . And obviously you will already be communicating back and forth with your potential host to explain the details of your trip and you’ll get a sense of who they are before you even meet them. I’ll include a separate post about the great connections I’ve made through CouchSurfing in another post. 

I am the Wanderlust Guru

Welcome to the Wanderlust Guru blog. My name is Nicholas Dragone and my life has been completely shaped by travel. Nothing fulfills and exhilarates me more than discovering new places, meeting new people and making connections, learning about new cultures, and having adventures grand or small. If these are things that you are interested in as well, you’ve found a new home in this blog.

I’ve been urged for years to create a travel blog; most recently was this past Easter Sunday by a distant relative to document my travels better. So I will discuss my overall impressions, give recommendations, and just generally hope to inspire people to travel more such as I have with my friends, relatives, and acquaintances. 

Happy travels! 

Get lost,

The Wanderlust Guru