Put Me In the Zoo

When I was a child one of my favorite books was “Put Me in the Zoo!” By Dr. Seuss. Or as I called it “I in da Zoo!”, (yes I have always struggled with grammar, thank you for noticing). I know many travel bloggers allege that their favorite book was “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” However I was not that prophetic at the age of 3.

I LOVED animals, mostly of the furry variety. If it was fluffy I aspired to own it, snuggle it and in most cases be it. I probably acted like a pony, puppy or tiger more than I acted like a little girl. My awesome grandma also loves animals and because we lived so close to San Francisco I got to go to the San Francisco Zoo ALOT as a kid. Looking back I definitely have a deeper understanding of how much my grandparents love me. They took me there quite often and let me tell you…. driving in SF and parking anywhere is a BITCH!

As an adult while my love for animals evolved from wanting to be one to just being around them I got a dog and visited some of the coolest Zoo’s/ theme parks in the states. From the Bronks to the Rocky Mountains of Denver to the mysteries of Blackfish (#sorrynotsorry) I’ve seen some pretty amazing Zoo’s. So when I moved to Portland and was told that the Oregon Zoo was “AMAZING” I was kiiiindof skeptical. I sort of felt like the Oregon Zoo would be like a meme of a puppy falling down stairs, cute but kind of sad.

One day we finally bit the bullet and went to the Zoo. We drove, only to discover we TOTALLY could have Maxed there as the train stops right by the entrance. However parking was cheap like $10 for the day and Admission was only $11 per adult. Which was awesome considering the SF Zoo is a whopping $20 for grown ups! Don’t even get me started on Seaworld #SMH.  While I kept my expectations low I resolved that I wouldn’t be too upset about it if it totally sucked because we were not out a lot of money.

We entered through the giant iron gates where to the left was a gift shop and to the right a VERY overpriced safari themed cafe and dead center was their opening animal, a Rocky Mountain Goat. That was it! My suspicions had been confirmed.  This animal was very hard to look at… He was raggedy because it was shedding season and sort of resembled a slightly saner looking Gary Bussey. While he appeared to be enjoying sunning himself on a rock I was immediately expecting things to go down hill from this point…. Boy was I wrong! THANK GOD!

We walked around Gary Busseys habitat and grabbed a map from the lovely employees at the front gate arriving at a crossroads. Left was “The Great North West” and the right was “Pacific Shores.” The Zoo is cleverly laid out in what can be likened to a giant woobly circle. The sections are broken up based on the region the animals come from with some exceptions. The next animals we saw were the black bears! And WOW they were fun! I have never been to a zoo where animals are so active and interactive within their exhibits.

 

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Larry Mo and Curly the Black Bears playing “king of the hill”

I was used to them mostly just laying around looking majestic in the sun FAAAAAAAR away from the metal fences and motes that separate them from the humans.  Most Zoo’s have largely industrial grade plastic environments designed to “imitate” the animals “natural Habitats,” but the Oregon Zoo knows what’s up! The bear Habbitat was great! They effectively took a large chunk of forest and built the walls around it rather than building walls and putting a Habbitat in.  ALSO, the walking path doesn’t go around the bear Habbitat it goes OVER it (pictured above), so you can actually see the Bears!   It’s incredible!

We moved on after being thoroughly blown away through the rest of the Pacific Northwest to Pacific Shores where we met some polar bears, an otter or two and some adorable penguins.

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The Polar Bear feeding is a must see!!!!

They schedule many of the animal feedings during the day and feed the animals inside their Habbitat where people can observe. While the animals happily enjoy their meal the people enjoy watching and learning about the animals from their handlers. We went to the 1 o’clock Penguin feeding and it ended up being Matthews favorite part! It was a great experience overall. Other highlights included but are not limited to the Orangoutangs and the Elephants.

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Not pictured: Gentlman holding a subway sandwich, the female Orangoutang is trying to offer him some salad in exchange. She kept pointing to the sandwich then holding up her greens, it was adorable!

In fact they just opened a brand New “Elephant Lands” Habbitat which features like a 6 acre park and GIANT swimming pool for the Elephants. Its spectacular! Every time we go I feel like I am Tarzan swimming with Tantor.  We also really enjoyed the cinnamon Elephant Ear pastries served at a little food cart near the center of the Zoo.

Things we did not  try but that may be of interest to families are :

*The education hours, they are listed in the Zoo Brochures which you can grab for free at the entrance, they have one in each segment of the Zoo, so one for Africa, one for Asia, one for Insects, one for the rainforest etc. My understanding is these are interactive classes taught by handlers geared toward engaging children in learning about animals and conservation.

*Petting Zoo, self explanatory.

*Zoo summer camp for kids- mom dad, why did you not sign me up for one of these?! And no, there’s not an adult version, I asked.

*Zoo Key, they are only a couple dollars but they are interactive key shaped toys that children can plug in at each animal habitat. It will produce a little recording often with interactive games for them to learn about conservation!

*Zoo Lights- Christmas light show, only during Holidays

*Concerts and music festivals- they have a big amphitheatre with a stage where they hold concerts.

Our experience first experience at  the Oregon Zoo was  incredible and we’ve been back several times with friends and family to enjoy it.     Some tips that I wish I would have known the first time we went.

1. Sunscreen, while Oregon is overcast the Zoo is in an area that gets a lot of sun exposure there is no lack of shade for those who seek it but I got sunburned the first time we went.

2. MAX! Parking is cheap and plentiful but the Max is faster and cheaper. $5 per person for the whole day, and it gets you anywhere in the city!

3. Bring your own water bottles and food. We remembered the food but forgot water bottles. While the overall experience was  affordable I wish we didn’t pay $5 for a water bottle that we could have brought for FREE!

4. Skip the Zoo train, it’s extra money and you don’t see any animals really, it’s just a train ride. 😦

5. Bring your Camera! You will get soooo many great photo ops! The Animals come right up to the Windows on most exibits and they are largely not camera shy, my phone died and I forgot my camera the first time we went. The pics shown are from more recent trips.

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So for anyone who was like me and wondering if the Oregon Zoo is worth the trip the answer is a resounding YES!

I was glad to be proven wrong about the Zoo and would gladly return again and again. In conclusion I say “Put me in the Oregon Zoo!”

 

 

 

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Nomad In the Attic: A welcome

My Uncle Keith is possibly the coolest grown up I know.  (I say grown up because he’s is an adultier adult than I am, despite the fact that he still calls my dad “Dog Breath” though to be fair my dad calls him “Poo Brain”… Maybe he’s not so adultie… But he’s definitely cool.)  When I was 6 my Uncle Keith returned from a trip with a wooden box filled with foreign currency from his and my aunts many travels. He gifted it to me as a souvenir.

In 1st grade coins, marbles, and gel pens were all the rage, so I was pretty stoked on my new treasure chest!  I am not sure if he was trying to inspire me to become a neumismatist, or if he even meant for it to be a special gift…. Whatever his reasons, I loved it. I vividly remember sitting next to him on the floor in awe of that box of coins while he told me where each was from and shared snippets of the various cultures of each country. It was the first time I truly remember being aware of a world outside of my own; the first time I really understood there was more to life than my hometown and my grandparents house and the Zoo (I really loved the Zoo).  That day that my love of travel was born.

I vowed to myself that I would visit every country I had a coin for. I had established my first travel list…. It has since become considerably larger.

As a teen and young adult I had the privilege of parents who supported my desire to see the world and experience other cultures. I was afforded a lot of opportunities to travel in my youth. I went to the UK , the Middle East, Mexico, Canada; saw and lived in great cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. I was effectively a Nomad. In fact the reason I chose to name this blog Nomad in the Attic is because my first real “job” was a paid internship in San Francisco. I lived in a big Victorian Mansion with 10 other people on Haight and Octavia. My bedroom was on the very top floor in the Attic. Thus, “Nomad in the attic.”
When I got married I told my husband that I wouldn’t marry him unless he was willing to travel with me. He agreed, having never even been out of the State of CA before meeting me. This poor man had no idea what he was getting into. For our honeymoon we went to the UK and spent two beautiful weeks traveling and seeing England and Scotland. (Airfare gifted to us by my Uncle Keith and Aunty Eve) It was seriously epic. After returning home to newlywedom I did not mind the crippling reality of how poor we were….. Except that it occurred to me we had no money to travel! Eating off of paper plates and using paper towels to dry ourselves when we got out of the shower was a non-issue, the fact that we mostly ate taco’s because taco’s were cheap was fine too…but no travel!? I thought I would die.  I became legitimately depressed…..

THANKFULLY we ended up getting higher paying jobs in Portland OR and moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Pacific North West!

The move breathed new life into my nomad heart! Not only were our jobs better here but we were in a new city with lots of new things to explore… it was like traveling, except we lived here!  We decided that we were going to embrace our new city and soak up all it had to offer!  I learned the value of exploring your own back yard, and my husband and I make a point now to get out almost every weekend and experience something new. As a result I became an inadvertent expert at work and amongst my friends both local and from the Bay Area on Portland and local travel in the Pacific Northwest and was encouraged to start a blog. So I am finally doing it.

My hope for this blog is to; find kindred nomad spirits and discuss the wonders of the world with them, become a better writer (because let’s be honest, I could use some work), keep a digital record of my adventures in the Pacific North West and elsewhere, hold me accountable to my “Coinbox List”, and finally, to share information about travel so others can learn from my triumphs and errors in order to make their Nomadic dreams come true.

So welcome one and all…. Or possibly none, (I don’t totally expect anyone to read this) to my blog! And in quoting someone more eloquent than I

“May the road rise to meet you,

May the winds be always at your back,

The sun shine warm upon your face,

the rains fall soft upon you fields

And until we meet again may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

(Old Irish Blessing)