Grand Rapids, MI Best Little City in the Midwest

by Robyn Porteen
( March 24th, 2015 )

Grand Rapids SkylineGrand Rapids, Michigan is located on the Grand River in western Michigan. This little city has been getting a lot of attention lately with several “best of” nominations and awards. Nestled inland about 35 miles East of Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids is evolving into a creative hotspot with a revitalized urban downtown.


Full of festivals and events, there is always something to do here especially in the warmer months.

Voted 4th out of 10 Best Cities for Finding Employment by Forbes

Voted Best City For Raising a Family

Number One Travel Destination in 2014 by Lonely Planet

Top 10 Emerging Cities in the US by Global Trade

Best Beer Town by USA Today

Best Place to Retire by AARP

..and the list goes on and on! Grand Rapids even broke a World Record for most people doing a 5000 person lip dub to Don McLean’s American Pie!

Art Prize

The city hosts Art Prize in the fall and for 19 days the city turns into a huge art gallery! The first year we had a giant sized dining table on one of the bridges crossing the river. It’s definitely worth visiting the city for!

Pantlind Hotel

Grand Rapids is rich in history and culture and I am happy to say this is my hometown. Planning a visit here would definitely be a great experience!

For more information and a list of upcoming events, visit ExperienceGR or Pure Michigan.



All Photography by Robyn Porteen

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No Snakes in Ireland! The Story of St. Patrick

by Robyn Porteen
( March 15th, 2015 )

Irish Coast

St. Patrick banished all the snakes in Ireland, and that’s is why it’s one of my favorite places to hike! It’s also a great country of stories and myths. There are entire books on Irish fairies and story tellers used to roam the lands. In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, I will share the story of St. Patrick and the snakes.

The story goes:

On a cold, windy March day in 5th century Ireland, St. Patrick awoke early, drank a cup of hot coffee, ate a buttered biscuit, grabbed his favorite wooden staff and headed out the door of the church.

St Patrick

He was a man with a mission. His mission—to rid the beautiful, green Irish countryside of those slithering, slimy, evil-eyed snakes.

Having spread Christianity throughout Ireland, St. Patrick now felt it was his duty to drive all the snakes into the sea. Snakes and serpents were symbols of paganism, false idolatry and unholy rituals once practiced by the Druids. He remembered with pride how he once used three-leafed shamrocks to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to pagans, who he later baptized in holy wells.


In the Confessio, St. Patrick wrote that he was a “most humble-minded man” and “thankful to his Maker for choosing him to show the multitudes the way to God”. Wanting to show his pagan converts how intent he was on banishing all things pagan in Ireland, he began herding all the snakes in Ireland towards the rough, windswept sea, forcing them into the foamy water where he knew a gruesome eternity awaited them.



It was no easy task. Once he got all the snakes to the edge of sea, St. Patrick had to keep running back and forth along the seaside, constantly herding them back towards the roiling waters because they knew what was up and kept trying to return inland.


“Ireland will be snakeless if it takes all day!” he shouted at the snakes, flinging them into the sea as fast as he could with his trusty staff.

A truly powerful and stubborn man, St. Patrick fulfilled his goal by sunset, walked back to his church with a smile on his face and told everyone they wouldn’t have to worry about finding a snake in their beds ever again.

Now Wait a Minute…

Although snakes exist just about everywhere in the world, they have never in Earth’s history existed in few areas, such as Antarctica, New Zealand, Greenland, Iceland and—Ireland.

Glacier Lakes

That’s right. Snakes have never flicked their tails in Ireland and probably never will. When snakes were evolving in the Cretaceous period over 100 million years ago, Ireland was underwater—completely. Also, anytime sea levels fell low enough to create land bridges between Ireland and “snake” countries, Ireland would have been gripped by a deep freeze. Since cold-blooded snakes need warmth to survive, they would have avoided ice age Ireland like the plague.

Today, tourists can hike in the beautiful county of Antrim around the Slemish Mountain where St. Patrick is thought to have found God while working as an enslaved shepherd. The Slemish Mountain is what’s left of an extinct volcano and now exists with an area considered “environmentally sensitive” due to the fragility of the plant and animal ecosystems inhabiting its slopes.

Irish Hike


Irish Coast: copyright – Robyn Porteen
St. Patrick Carving: copyright - Matt Ragen  
Green Pit Viper: copyright – Pichaya Hengsomboon
Glacial Lakes: copyright – Robyn Porteen
Hiking Trail – copyright – Robyn Porteen


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5 Best Cities to Shop Vintage Around the World

by Robyn Porteen
( March 8th, 2015 )

Retro Goods

Going prop shopping for photo shoots can be fun! If you’re looking for thrifty treasures and vintage value, you can’t beat these five cities for the best vintage shops. I’ve chosen them for the pretty, quirky, can’t-find-it-anywhere-else nature of the shopping in that city. Whether you live in one of these cultural hubs or are just visiting, pack extra room in your bag to pick up these fun finds for your next photo shoot or latest prop collection.



One of the premiere fashion cities in the world, London is a fabulous place for vintage finds. Whether you’re looking for old wares or gorgeous duds, you’ll find them among its vast array of shops. Want to get all fancy? Check out The Dresser, with a huge collection of designer brands. In need of props to set the scene? Head to Northcote Road Antiques Market to stock up on old furniture, vintage china, mirrors and lighting, and jewelry to dress your models in high style.



Because the concept of giving away still-useful items is one that only arises in developed countries, Asia is new to the secondhand scene, but Singapore is riding the tide like a pro. Check out the New2U Thrift Shop, which is run entirely by volunteers and contains a wide range of clothing, furniture, books and more. Next head to the Salvation Army for a cheap array of items for your next Far East-themed shoot.



Another fashion hub, Prague is a good place to find ritzy accessories and clothing for a photography shoot. Try Prague Thrift Store, with rows upon rows of clothes, books, shoes and more, or Textile House, which opened its doors in 2010 and now has 11 shops across the city.

Vintage Finds

Rio de Janeiro

This notorious party city is so closed-fisted with its old-timey wares that the best shopping locations change from day to day, and you can never tell what you’re going to get until you actually step foot inside its borders. Fun, right? According to the Rio Times, the best places to look are in Centro (downtown), the Feira do Rio Antigo, which takes place the first Saturday of every month, and Totolinha-Moda Alternativa, a famous alternative destination.

turquoise jewelry

San Francisco

Okay, okay, this one’s kind of a gimme. But San Francisco is a wonderful place to stock up on amazing vintage, and I love two shops in particular. The first is Pretty Penny, which focuses on chic girly style. The second, and possibly one of the most amazing stores on the planet, is Reliquary, which sources vintage pieces with Southwestern flair. Think turquoise, gold and other pieces with a desert feel. Can’t go wrong.

Next time you plan a trip to collect props for your photo shoots, stop by these shops and check out their offerings. When you come back with beautiful pieces you couldn’t find right at home, you’ll be glad you did.

Vintage Travel




Retro Shopping: Copyright – Kho
London: Copyright - Alex Loban
Singapore: Copyright - Panithan Fakseemuang
Prague: Copyright - Rostislav Glinsky
Vintage Travel: Vladimir Nikulin

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