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Madrid in 3 [Easygoing] Days


I don’t believe in “once in a lifetime” trips.

First, “once in a lifetime” suggests you’re not traveling again. That’s 100% un-fun. Second, it sets ridiculous expectations of perfection. Travel can be tiring and silly, and confusing, but so amazing. Yes, that quote about travel being “the journey not the destination…” applies quite nicely. Third, every moment is “once in a lifetime” is it not? And we’ve come full circle…

One of things taking a round the world trip taught me about myself is that while I love playing tourist and seeing the major sights (hey, they’re sights for a reason!), I prefer to go at a slower pace.  Trying to see one big “sight” in the morning and one in the afternoon is a nice strategy. And if I don’t end up there, that’s fine too. Can you see most of the major sites in many cities in three days? Yes. It’s possible to whip through many of them. Instead, I like to say “I’ll see it next time!”. If you think about what you really want to see, experience, eat etc., it makes travel more easy going. If you have time for more, great. If not, even better, see it next time!

With 3 days in Madrid, our goal was to do a lot of wandering, eating, with a bit of museums and sights thrown in.

sunset in Madrid

Day 1: Europe from the west coast can be a long trip. After a 4 hour layover in NYC, (yay for a United Club pass!), and then an overnight flight, we arrived in Madrid in the late morning. By the time we got to the metro, transfers, to Sol, and then walked to our hotel, there was no worry about being able to check-in early. We often stay our first night of a longer trip at a hotel. It’s nice to not having check-in issues be a worry, and to be able to get in, nap, shower, and feel a little refreshed. Then, the move to an Airbnb etc the next day is a quick adventure, and not at all stressful.

After a quick nap, we headed to Plaza Mayor for a cafe con leche and people watching. On my first visit to Madrid in 2008, I did a free walking tour (“free”, but you tip), and really enjoyed the opportunity to just follow and listen vs navigating. This time, I played tour guide and we did a less structured walk, reading about specific places (parks/squares/history) in the guide book . I ended up bringing the same little Lonely Planet Madrid Encounter guide I used last time I was here, that I bought in a used bookstore here in Madrid! I enjoy have a tiny tangible book with a few maps. It’s especially nice when I’m traveling sans-Internet and when my phone battery is low. These days, I don’t use guidebooks for restaurant/bar recommendations anyway, but places like the Prado and barrios aren’t going anywhere, so a book from 2007 still felt acceptably current.

Madrid-San Miguel market and wandering

It was the first day of spring and perfect to be wandering the streets of Madrid in a cardigan. Some trees were already blooming, while others with little buds just ready to pop. We stumbled across Mercado de San Miguel, and popped in for a wander and ended up getting some tapas, a dessert, cervezas and then a mandarin orange for the road. We went through Plaza Isabella II and then headed toward Plaza de Oriente by the Royal Palace (Palacio Real) where the sun was beginning to set, and up to the hill by the Templo de Debod.

It got cool pretty quickly after the sun set, so we walked through Plaza de Espana, grabbed a bocadillo (cheap and tasty sandwich, my favorite are with spanish tortilla inside) and back to our hotel in Plaza de San Martin. Later we went out for asian fusion tapas at StreetXO. It’s on the roof of the El Corte Ingles, as part of their “Gourmet Experience” area. We didn’t have the highest expectations, since it seemed kind of “food court”-ish, but it ended up being one of my favorite meals in Madrid.

Chocolate con churros in Madrid

Day 2: We started the day out right with cafe con leches y chocolate con churros at Chocolatería San Ginés near our hotel. If you have a sweet tooth, this is can’t miss. We followed up breakfast with a tiny bit of window shopping at a few bookstores and Lots of Colors, which appears to be Decathlon’s colorful small shop concept. Super fun.

Then it was time to check out of our hotel and head over to our Airbnb. I’d been looking forward to this place, based on the pictures, and it didn’t disappoint! So much has changed in the last few years, in the travel space, when it comes to lodging. I’m still amazed sometimes when I think about how cool it is that you can stay in a flat like this in center of Madrid. Something you couldn’t have done 5 years ago unless you were renting for much longer, or had a friend with the space! After checking in, I really could have just stayed in the flat the rest of the day. ;) But come on, we were in Madrid, so that would be silly.

After a little downtime we headed out towards the museum area (Prado, Reina Sofia, Thyssen are all out near Park Retiro). We stopped in at a coffee shop for a lunch/snack. The place was super cute, but we had one of those funny experiences of “this is totally not what I thought I was ordering” when the patatas bravas were a potato chip version. Random!

El Retiro park in Madrid

It was so fun to revisit the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. I like museums. I like art (yes, I did just say that), but I’m not the kind of person who wants to spend six hours in a museum. So I had a good second wander through the museum. If anything, Picasso’s Guernica will make you want to learn more Spanish history and about their civil war. After we’d had our fill of aaaaht, we grabbed a coffee at the museum cafe before heading towards the Parque del Buen Retiro and stumbled across the Cuesta de Moyano bookstalls (on the south side of the botanical garden) something I missed on my first trip to Madrid. We did a lot of wandering and people watching before staking out a spot in front of the pond area for a bocadillo. After a bit more wandering, we hit up the supermercado by our place for some cheese, bread, wine, and fruit. Dinner!

Madrid IPA day

Day 3: We started off day 3 in Hipsterville – Malasaña - at La Bicicleta Café for breakfast. Then we spent some time shopping and wandering in Malasaña and Chueca. In the afternoon we checked out a brewery Fábrica Maravillas (IPA in Madrid?!) did a lot more wandering around, before having tapas for dinner near our flat. After a few days in Spain, I was beginning to adjust to Spanish time. Our third day in Madrid was one of those days where you think “where did the time go?”. We didn’t really hit any big sights or museums, just a fun day filled with wandering and snacking and drinking!

Our Airbnb was just between Sol and Huertas, so we mainly wandered through Huertas during the day (and Barrio de las Letras). On my next visit, I’d like to explore that neighborhood’s nightlife a bit more. Also on my “list” for next time is wandering around the upscale Salamanca barrio.

Although this was my second [short] trip to Madrid, it still felt like a new city, in a way, since I was experiencing it with someone else.

Have you been to Madrid? What are some of your favorites? Let me know and I’ll add them to my Foursquare list.

1 Week: 7 Places to Visit in Portugal


There’s something about first arriving in a new country and falling in love with the first city you visit. Rookie mistake? It still happens to me. It’s also mentionable that the first city you visit is often a big one just by virtue that it’s also a transit hub. From my round the world trip in 2008, it wasn’t always the case: Beijing – not my favorite. Some of my lifetime favorites though are Busan (Korea), Marseille (France), and Osaka (Japan).

Something else they all have in common? Port cities! Which brings us to Porto, Portugal. Previously, I had only visited the Azores briefly, which has a completely different vibe than mainland Portugal. Exploring Portugal has been on my “list” for a while. I snagged a ridiculous flight deal in November for $437 roundtrip from Portland to Madrid. That sealed the deal on spending a week exploring, before settling down in Valencia, Spain for a month.

1 Week Portugal Itinerary:

Porto, Portugal

I fell in love with Porto immediately. I was so glad we didn’t bypass the city like so many travel sites and books had inadvertently “recommended” (by saying to only add it as Day 14 if you have 2 weeks etc.) Porto has the kind of windy streets that you could wander for hours (or years). Our lovely Airbnb host recommended her favorite port lodge across the river (Taylor’s), and away we went for the rest of the day – meandering the hilly streets of the city, trying port wine from the Douro Valley, and taking in our first truly sunny spring day.

Coimbra, Portugal
On our second day in the country we set off for Coimbra – by car. As you can imagine, driving in Portugal is an adventure. We decided to skip the the new-fangled GPS in favor of the old fashioned way of navigating (stars and maps!). Portugal is kind of the birthplace of navigators (well by sea anyway). We made a few wrong turns along the way, but with nowhere to be it added to the adventure. I can imagine this would be a terrible strategy during the height of travel season in the summer though. Coimbra is one of Europe’s oldest college towns and definitely worth a day of your time if you have a week in Portugal.

Nazare Obidos Portugal

One of the reasons we decided to rent a car in Portugal was to have the option to see some of the little towns between the big city sights of Lisbon and Porto. You can reach most place by train or bus, but it was fun to be a bit more spontaneous about where to stop. We ended up not making as many stops from our idea list, and settled on Nazare – home of big waves, epic wind, and a quaint market where we found picnic supplies. Our second stop was Óbidos - a walled castle town that has seen the Romans, Moors, and finally Portugal as its occupiers.

After visiting the smaller towns in central Portugal, it felt quite different rolling into Cascais. What was once an old fishing village is most certainly a resort town, even if the Algarve gets more attention these days. In shoulder-season, it was a great budget place to spend the night and not hard to imagine the beaches covered with people come August.

Mouth of Hell Portugal

We started the morning at Boca do Inferno (Portuguese for “Mouth of Hell”). Then we drove the coastal loop up to Cabo da Roca, the most western mainland point in Europe. We continued the loop into Sintra to visit the Pena palace and walk the garden grounds. This place is like Disneyland for castle buffs, and I’m glad we decided to just focus on one main sight. We ended the day with a short, but suspenseful drive into Lisbon to return our rental car at the airport. After navigating the metro back into Lisbon, we settled in at our Airbnb flat and went out for a celebratory beer and sunset (yay! We didn’t crash the rental car!)

Lisbon Portugal

Our first full day in Lisbon, we spent walking up and down the streets of our neighborhood in Bairro Alto, around Chiado and down to Baixa. Don’t worry, we stopped at least every two hours for a cafe and pastel de nata (a custard tart pastry).

Lisbon pastries

We continued our pastry and coffee routine the following day. Strolling the Alfama neighborhood in the afternoon, then doing a bit of shopping and having a deliciously expensive fresh seafood dinner up the street at Sea Me.

Belem, Portugal

The last day in Portugal, we visited the seafaring part of Lisbon – Belem and spent a deal of time reading and learning more about Portugal’s history. Don’t worry, we took breaks for coffee, pastries, and sampling Portugal’s wine.

Our week in Portugal sped by, and we by no means did it justice with enough time. On my next visit, I want to explore the southern coast of Portugal, spend more time in Porto, and see more of the central region. One thing we did right within our short timeline was having the one night stays at the beginning of the trip, as it was nice to be able to “relax” at the end with three nights in Lisbon. I would recommend two nights in Porto though.

Have you been to Portugal? What were your favorite places?

This spring, I’m testing my annual “Live + Work Remotely” goal with an international experiment. Stay tuned for more updates about my time in Portugal and living in Valencia, Spain.

Shamrock Run 15k – Hills, Hills, Hills!


When I signed up for this race in January, I registered for the 8k. Friends ended up registering for the 15k and since it was free to change distances later – and peer pressure of training with friends is more fun – I opted for the 15k version!

Shamrock Run 15k RouteUnlike my first half marathon, in the weeks leading up to the race I was a lot more nervous about my training – or lack there of. I felt like I’d not put in enough distance in my long runs. Most of the weekends that I should have been doing some longer runs were spent hiking, snowshoeing, and then it actually snowed here in Portland. What made me most nervous about this race was that it was hilly. I don’t spend a lot of time running hills, beyond the tiny “hills” in Laurelhurst Park. With 550 feet elevation gain – most of that over a couple of miles up to OHSU and Terwilliger – I was feeling a little intimidated! The course was 2 miles flat, 2 miles slight uphill, 2 miles super upperhill, and then 3 miles downhill.

Race day ended up being perfect weather for March. We got there just in time to use the porta-potties and hop the fence into our pace group. Most of us split up into different pace groups, but my friend Julie and I stuck together. This was also my first race running with someone that I knew, and while we stuck together for about the first mile and a half, I dropped back because I knew the pace was a little too ambitious for me pre-hill! The hill ended up being uncomfortable and tough, but a bit more manageable than I’d built it up to be in my head. I felt like I did a really good job of moderating my pace up front, so by the time I got to the top of the hill, I sped up quite a bit. And now I know for the future that I can push myself a bit more on the hills.

My Shamrock Run Pace – 1:35 (10:13 pace)

  • Mile 1 – 10:03
  • Mile 2 – 9:59
  • Mile 3 – 10:29
  • Mile 4 – 11:07
  • Mile 5 – 11:28
  • Mile 6 – 10:14
  • Mile 7 – 9:27
  • Mile 8 – 9:12
  • Mile 9 – 9:06
  • Mile 9.5 – 

I also did a bit better at running the course more efficiently than I did with my half. Nike+ ended at 9.5 (15k is 9.32 miles) so a 10:03 pace unofficially.

What are you looking at?Shamrock Race Swag/Perks:

  • lime green Adidas t-shirt – these shirts were ridiculously small. Since I had to go swap out my 8k bib for the 15k, I exchanged my shirt for a large, (and it’s still tiny!)
  • 15k Finisher bottle opener medal – how fun!
  • 1 Widmer Brothers beer at the finish
  • Free race photos! Many events charge for photos, while others don’t even offer them, so it was great being able to see a few photos of the race without the giant watermark across your face. :) My eyes are actually open in most of the pics, and I’ve been laughing at my “What are you looking at” face in this one. >>

What: Adidas Shamrock Run 15k
When: Sunday, March 16, 2014
Where: Waterfront Park to Terwilliger – Portland, Oregon
Price: $36.87

Overall, I really enjoyed the Shamrock Run. It was a really well done event, and a fun way to kick off the new year to have something to train for. And for the price, it was also a good value. I can see myself running this one again.

Shamrock Run also coincided with my one year running anniversary. I’m amazed at how much I’ve improved in the last year. I went from run/walking 12 minute miles to cutting about 2 minutes/mile off my pace for this hilly 15k. What a difference a year makes, when you’re a beginner!

Check out my Running page for more info on races and how I started running.

Tampa Breweries: 28 Reasons to Visit


Florida’s Tampa Bay area is having their own microbrewery explosion. It’s Portland, circa 2011.

Cycle BrewingI made my first visit to Tampa in 2011. With a free Sunday afternoon, I suggested we go visit a local brewery. We found two options within Tampa city limits – Cigar City Brewing and Tampa Bay Brewing (looking back now, Cold Storage Brewing had quietly opened a year earlier as well). Three year later, the Tampa Bay area has 28 breweries. 28!

Now, before the Floridians get on their geography high horses, I want to clarify that I’m including as far south as Sarasota and as far north as Odessa. That’s 65 miles from north to south and about 40 miles east west. Compare that to the Portland area, where the bulk of breweries are in a 10 x 10 mile radius. For those about to do the math, most of the Portland area’s breweries can be found in 100 square miles vs Tampa Bay’s 2,600 square miles. (More population data below if you want to read rambly style).

I was curious to take a look at how the breweries opened over time. After not finding any data all in one spot, I created a spreadsheet and then designed the following chart:

Tampa Bay brewery openings

Over the last two years, Tampa’s brewery count has grown by over 50%. And since 2014 has just started, I’m guessing the brewery opening rate won’t peak until 2014 or 2015 (Comparatively, it looks like Portland peaked in 2012, but 2014 might be another record year). Getting back to the beer numbers: Tampa Bay has roughly one brewery for every 100,000 people vs the Portland metro area’s one brewery for every 30,000. If you’re talking purely city limits, Portland has one brewery for every 11,000 people.

So when you look at it from that perspective, the Tampa Bay area, as a whole, has room for 66 more breweries before it would be pegged evenly with the Portland metro area for brewery to population density. St Petersburg, Florida is probably the best candidate for matching Portland some day. Talking purely city limits breweries to population numbers, their five current breweries puts them at a 1:49,000 ratio). That’s only 17 more breweries to go, which is pretty likely since the current ones all opened since 2013!

I had the privilege of visiting eight of the new breweries on my last visit, but here’s the full list.

Tampa Bay Area Breweries:

St Petersburg Area:
including Gulfport, Treasure Island, and Seminole

  1. Peg’s Cantina & Brew Pub
  2. Cycle Brewery
  3. Green Bench Brewery
  4. 3 Daughters Brewery
  5. Brewers’ Tasting Room
  6. R-Bar Brewing
  7. St Pete Brewing Company
  8. Rapp Brewing Co

including Odessa, Plant City, and TPA

  1. Tampa Bay Brewing Company
  2. Yuengling Brewery (national)
  3. Cigar City Brewing
  4. Florida Avenue Brewing (was Cold Storage)
  5. Southern Brewing (supply too)
  6. Three Palms Brewing
  7. Zeke’s Brewing
  8. Two Henrys Brewing Company
  9. Big Storm Brewery
  10. Cigar City Brewing TPA outpost

Clearwater area:
including Largo, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, and Tarpon Springs

  1. Dunedin Brewery
  2. Lagerhaus Brewery & Grill
  3. Saint Somewhere Brewing Company (by appointment only)
  4. Barley Mow Brewing Company
  5. 7venth Sun Brewery
  6. Sea Dog Brewing (National chain)
  7. Pair O’ Dice Brewing


  1. Sarasota Brewing Company
  2. Darwin’s on 4th
  3. Big Top Brewing Co

And instead of including a bunch of info on each which will likely be out of date next week, here’s my epic Foursquare list of all 28 Tampa Bay area breweries. And a map below:

Portland vs Tampa population and area data:

Just to compare the Portland area and Tampa area a bit more… the Tampa Bay metro area has more people than the Portland metro area (on the US list of metro areas, Tampa metro is #18 and Portland metro is #24). However, when it gets down to within city limits, Portland has a higher population than Tampa (584,000 vs 348,000). While part of this can be attributed to Portland’s urban growth boundary that limits sprawl, I’d say the fact that Tampa is 30% water and Portland is only 8% water has a pretty big impact on population density stats as well. If you exclude the water from population density, Portland has about 4,400 people per square mile of land, while Tampa has 3,100. The main difference is probably that while the Portland metro area includes places like Vancouver, WA, Gresham, and all the way to Beaverton, we’re mainly just a bunch of land when you look at it at such a zoomed out level. Compared to Tampa, who’s neighbors are all pretty big cities on their own.

Portland city limits: 133 square miles (145), 583,776 pop (4,389 people per sq mi on land) Portland is 8% water
Tampa city limits: 112 square miles (170 sq), 347,645 pop (3,103 people per sq mi) Tampa is 30% water
Compared to San Francisco which is 47 square miles of land and 80% water.
Tampa city limits is a larger area than Portland city limits, but it’s 30% water (vs Portland’s 8% water).

Portland metro area (#24 in US) has 2.29 million people in 6,684 sq mi (that’s 333 people / square mile)
Tampa metro area: (#18 in US) has 2.84 million people in 2,554 sq mi (that’s 1112 people / square mile)

How many more breweries do you think will open in the Tampa area this year?

And if I listed anything incorrectly, let me know!

Hosford Abernethy – SE Portland City Guide


What defines a neighborhood? What makes a place feel “lived in”?

Hosford-AbernethyI love maps, data, Portland, research, design, real estate, and numbers. A month or so ago, I fell down a rabbit hole of research. I was thinking about Portland neighborhoods and what makes a neighborhood feel lived in, what defines a neighborhood both from a just a “feel” and from a more tangible perspective.

Turns out there are 95 neighborhoods in Portland. There are also different areas that we think of as neighborhoods that are actually districts,  business alliances or tourist-friendly “districts”, that often overlap sections of several neighborhoods. One of the only neighborhoods that fits neatly within both a tourist district and real neighborhood association is the Pearl District downtown. Other neighborhoods like Hawthorne and Central Eastside etc overlap. Hawthorne intersects in parts of Hosford-Abernethy, Richmond, Sunnyside, and Buckman. While Central Eastside Industrial District overlaps the western ends of Kerns, Buckman, and Hosford Abernethy.

Portland Neighborhood Maps:

I’m kicking off a new series here on the blog featuring a mapped guide to my favorite places. I’m still not totally clear on what my personal definition of a neighborhood is. However, I feel like to be a good neighborhood, it needs to be walkable (Walkscore is still great for this). Local businesses – like coffee shops, restaurants, breweries, shops – also make a neighborhood feel “lived in”, transportation options like sidewalks, bike boulevards, public transit, and parks, places to get groceries etc. So without further ado, here’s the first guide…

Hosford Abernethy / Ladd’s Addition Neighborhood:

At about one and quarter square miles, Hosford-Abernethy is super walkable. While you probably wont hit all these places in one day (there are tons of food and drink options in this neighborhood) here’s a map of some of my favorite places in inner SE.


Drink, Eat, Shop, Explore:

Oui Presse - Oui Presse is an adorable coffee shop, bakery and magazine store. You have to buy a magazine if you’re going to read it, but a cute shop, with reliable wifi nonetheless.
1740 SE Hawthorne [Hours: Monday - Saturday 7am - 6pm, Sunday 8am - 5pm]

Ford Food + Drink - One of the few open-late coffee shops in the city. They also serve beer, so you can get your happy hour on while still computing.
2505 SE 11th [Hours: Weekdays 7am - 10pm, Saturday 9am - 10pm, Sunday 9am - 7pm]

The Commons Brewery - One of Portland’s newer small craft breweries. The Commons brews up European-inspired beers – many Belgian and some German. They always have some seasonal offerings, and their Urban Farmhouse Ale should please anyone. Order: Urban Farmhouse Ale $3, seasonals are $4-5
1810 SE 10th [Hours: Thursday - Friday 5pm - 9pm-ish, Saturday 2pm - 9pm-ish, Sunday 2pm - 6pm] No kids.

APEX & Los Gorditos - What APEX lacks in interior atmosphere, they make up for with 50 beers on tap, and what feels like an acre of picnic tables out front and a huge bike parking area (all of which will be packed to the gils in the summer time). Los Gorditos is the friendly neighbor to the west, where you can place your order and then pick it up at the fence and eat at APEX.
1216 SE Division [Hours: APEX 11:30am - 2:30am; Los Goriditos Monday - Saturday 8am - 9pm, Sunday 9am - 6pm] APEX – No kids!

Nuestra Cocina - One of Portland’s best happy hour house margaritas (margarita de la casa!). When they’re actually open, it’s some of my favorite Mexican food in town. On the pricier end of Portland dining ($17-19 plates), but worth it. Order: fish of the day $18, margarita de la casa: $6.
2135 SE Division [Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 5pm - 10pm]

broder - Portland’s only place to get your Swedish breakfast fix. Worth the wait. Order: seasonal baked egg skillet $11, Stumptown coffee $2.50, & aebleskivers to share)
2508 SE Clinton [Hours: 9am - 3pm]

Little T American Baker - Little T has some amazing bread and lunch options. Great for an afternoon latte stop as well, just be sure to grab a baguette for later!
2600 SE Division [Hours: Monday - Saturday 7am - 5pm, Sunday 8am - 2pm

Cartopia - 12th/Hawthorne carts: Home to Pyro Pizza (some of the tastiest wood-fired pizza in town), Potato Champion, Perierra Crêperie and more tasty carts.
SE 12th & Hawthorne [Hours: Tuesday - Wednesday Sunday 12pm - 1am, Friday - Saturday 12pm - 3am]

St Jack - St Jack is both a patisserie and restaurant. At $22-37 a plate, I’d call it high-end “rustic French cuisine”. If you’re not feeling the price tag, just stop for pastries!
2039 SE Clinton [Hours: Patisserie 8am - 3pm, Restaurant 5pm - 9:30/10:30]

Vintage Pink - While there are loads more shops on Hawthorne, this one is fun for all kinds of mid-century modern, kitschy, vintage and mod stuff. It’s very curated and quite organized, which makes for a fun walk-through. And you can actually find some great prices in here too.
2500 SE Hawthorne [Hours: 10am - 7pm]

Ladd’s Addition – Ladd’s Addition is one of those “neighborhood within a neighborhood” situations as it’s a historic district on its own. The wagon wheel design is one of the oldest planned residential developments, with most of the homes built from 1905-1930. Ladd’s is a great place to bike through, lose your sense of direction, and check out the roses.

OMSI – While Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is often packed with kids, it can be a fun place for grownups too with special exhibits like Sherlock and the monthly “OMSI After Dark” event.
1945 SE Water Ave [Hours: 9:30am - 5:30pm, Saturdays to 9pm] 

Hawthorne Bridge – One of my favorite bridges in the city. Walk, run, or bike the bridge loop around the waterfront and over both the Steel and Hawthorne bridges or head south past OMSI to the Springwater Trail to Sellwood.

Springwater Trail – The Springwater Trail connects the Eastbank Esplanade to Sellwood and beyond to east Portland.

Any other favorites in Hosford-Abernethy?

Olivia Raymer
Things I ♥: travel, food (I'm a pescatarian), the Pacific Northwest, bikes (I ride an orange mixte), beer (IPAs), summer, coffee, lists, and kitties. Travel enthusiast, former product manager, dabbler, and currently helping small businesses with digital strategy at Early Bird Strategy.

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