I rounded the month of January out with a trip to Portland, Oregon. Here is what I got up to.
The last time I had been to Portland was three years ago with my mom. She was in Portland for a conference and I flew up from Sacramento to meet her for a mother-daughter’s weekend once her meetings concluded. We had a blast and I couldn’t wait to go back!
I have two friends that have somewhat recently left California for Oregon. Brittany has been one of my best friends since second grade. After joining the Coast Guard, she was based at her top pick in Portland. Janet, a college roommate and good friend of mine moved back to Portland after graduating from UCDavis. As her birthday was coming up, I knew the timing was perfect to visit my friends and one of my favorite cities. Here is the day-by-day break down.
I flew out of LAX at 11am and landed in PDX at 1:30pm. I wore hiking clothes on the plane because I knew the first thing I wanted to do was go on a gorgeous Oregon hike. Brittany picked me up at the airport and we made two quick stops on our way to Wahclella Falls, our hiking destination. We first stopped at Jamba Juice near the airport so I could get some food in my system. At Brittany’s recommendation, I got an Acai Peanut Butter Bowl. It was pretty filling, but really tasty. We then stopped to fill up our gas tank before heading out to the hike. I was really surprised to see a man come over and fill the tank up for us. It must be nice when it is cold and rainy in Oregon to be able to stay in your car while a service man fills the tank up for you! And it creates jobs. Plus one point Oregon.
With our gas tank and bellies full, Brittany and I made our way to the Colombia River Gorge. There are tons to waterfalls and hikes in this area, but Brittany wanted to take me to one of her favorites, the Wahclella Falls Trail. This was a great little loop trail, with a waterfall signaling the turn around. It is a mile each way and not strenuous at all. Leave your water bottle in the car, but bring your camera. Also, make sure to bring $5 cash to pay for parking!
While hiking, I found a cave and wanted to explore it. With a little persuasion, Brittany joined me. It ended up going about 25 yards deep! It was a fun surprise exploration.
At the end, we took some awesome shots with Wahclella!
We kept the waterfall theme going by stopping at Multnomah Falls. This is a beautiful waterfall and the architecture of the bridge makes it a pretty romantic spot (except for the fact that it is crawling with tourists).
We then left Portland for the two-hour trip to Eugene, Oregon. Despite the distance, I wanted to visit the University of Oregon, as it is one of the graduate schools I am applying to. Coincidentally, Brittany’s brother Matt lives in Eugene and offered to host us for a night!
We were in Eugene by 7pm and went straight for a dinner at Pure Sushi. The food was really good, but the Rainbow Roll stole the show.
After dinner, we all went to The Sweet Life Pasterie for dessert. They have lots of vegan and gluten-free options here should you need it.
After all that food, we called it a night! What an amazing first day. I got to do some of my favorite things in the world: travel, hike, explore, eat sushi, eat cookies, and spend time with friends. I could not have asked for a better day.
Brittany and I got up around 8am and got ready for our day. We started by taking a walk around Matt’s neighborhood in Eugene. It is a very fit community so we blended right in with all of the locals.
After our walk, we all went to breakfast at the Humble Bagel. Brittany and I both got scrambles, which were delicious.
Brittany and I then went to explore the University for a few hours. This campus is beautiful. The greenery and old brick buildings transport this Cali girl to a whole new place.
Despite the students walking and biking by, it was very peaceful and calm. As someone who tends to be easily stressed, this tranquil setting seems perfect for learning and studying.
It is a total hippie town too, which I don’t mind at all!
Brittany and I then took off for more hiking!
I love that Brittany shares my passion for hiking and Oregon has the most beautiful trails. Of course we played around a little.
We climbed about 2,000 feet up the Spencer Buttes. We chose to take the steep incline up (about 0.7 miles) rather than the longer, more leveled path (over a mile hike).
If you choose to take the steeper path too, be ready to do a little rock climbing! Neither was difficult though.
At the top you find a cluster of rocks that leads to the most amazing view of Eugene. It is absolutely stunning.
This trail tends to get pretty crowded on weekends, so if you can, go on a weekday.
We then freshened up and met Matt for dinner. We went to a place Matt and Brittany love called Café Yumm. We all got the Jazzy Bowl with slightly different variations. Next time, I’ll skip the Yumm sauce, which has a very strong yeast flavor. Don’t take my preference as law though because they sell the Yumm sauce by the bottle at their restaurants. The food is inexpensive and hearty, and worth trying it for yourself.
We then drove back to Brittany’s apartment in Milwaukie, OR, about thirty minutes south east of Portland. We got settled in and wrapped up another awesome day!
Brittany left at 6am for her base with the Coast Guard. She would be gone all day Wednesday and Thursday. I have really come to love some time alone while traveling. It gives me the complete freedom to spend my day as I choose.
I decided to check out The Grotto, a place of Catholic Worship in Portland. Although I am not religious, this “place of solitude, peace, and prayer” really spoke to me, and as I had not visited it before, was on my must-see list.
Since I didn’t have a car, I gave public transportation a try. Portland and its surrounding cities have an amazing public transportation system. For $5 a day you can ride on any of the TriMet buses, trolls, and light rails. If you know me, you know that I am horrible with directions. Despite the fact that an Uber from Brittany’s to Downtown Portland would only cost about $15 and is a 30-minute ride, I decided to challenge myself and try out the TriMet system. From Brittany’s apartment, it would take me at least an hour to get to Downtown Portland and I would be transferring between bus lines and MAX light rail. Well, I did it. The TriMet system is really easy to use and understand, especially if you download their apps: Transit PDX and TriMet Tickets.
Once I made it to The Grotto, I purchased my $5 ticket and went in. This place was really cool. I am by no means religious, but I loved it. You take an elevator 200 feet above the city streets to your own private place for peace. The sound of the city below is lost to the birds chirping in the trees around you. When you first enter, there is a meditation room, which was absolutely breathtaking. The floor to ceiling windows lets the light that just seems to transcend you.
You then walk the grounds, following a path. During your walk, you will find many marble plaques and statues telling the stories of Jesus.
You will pass the Peace Pond, a Monastery, and St. Anne’s Chapel on your way to the Labyrinth.
The Grotto Labyrinth is a replica of the medieval labyrinth in the Chartres Cathedral in France. As you follow the path to the middle, you are meant to discover peace, tranquility, and purpose as you open yourself to God.
Being that I am searching for a greater sense of purpose in my life right now, I was quiet excited for this exercise. Did I find peace, tranquility, or purpose in the middle? No, I found a frog. A real, live frog, and the damn thing didn’t even turn into my prince when I bent down for a kiss.
Aside from my lack of enlightenment, The Grotto is a beautiful and unique way to pass a free hour or two while in Portland. Although a little off the beaten path, it is worth the trip.
I then bused it to the city center. My first destination was Powell’s Books, or as I like to call it: Mecca. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am an avid reader (currently reading Lee Child’s “The Enemy” and Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”), so a stop at Powell’s was necessary. I have been to Powell’s before, but its grander never ceases to amaze. This three-story new and used bookstore takes up almost a full city block and it is very possible that you could get lost in it. Although I didn’t purchase anything, I found so many books to add to my must-read list.
Exploring Powell’s definitely worked up an appetite, so I cross the street to Sizzle Pie. Yum. This place had really unique pizza flavors. I opted for a vegetarian option in Return of the Wu (Ricotta, White Onion, Dollops of Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Pepita Spread, Olive Oil and Fresh Basil). Yes, it was a good as it sounds.
I then decided to walk about the Pearl District. I popped into lots of stores looking for deas (no sales tax in Oregon!). Despite the nicely laid out stores, little peaked my interest.
I then decided to check out Deschutes’ Brewery. Although I am not a beer drinker, I love touring breweries. The brewing process is really cool and I love the smell of hops. Unfortunately, Deschutes does not offer tours, but you can enjoy a pint in the taproom while looking through the glass walls into the brewery. And I am happy to report that the smell of the hops does come through.
I needed something to curb my sweet tooth, so of course donuts came to mind. If you know a little about Portland, than you probably know about VooDoo Doughnuts. These epic donuts are pretty famously over the top. Although you can get unique toppings and shapes, you will have to wait in line for anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours guaranteed. And let me tell you from personal experience, no donut tastes that good after a two-hour wait. Instead, try Blue Star Donuts.
They are advertised as ‘Donuts for Adults’ and truer words have never been spoken. I got the Hard Apple Cider Fritter. Yes, it is an apple fritter baked with alcoholic hard cider. Genius. It was really good.
I also picked up a cinnamon sugar cake donut for a homeless man I had passed a few blocks early. I almost never give ‘handouts’ to the homeless, but he stood out to me. As I was passing by him earlier, he didn’t ask me for money, he instead asked me for a sandwich. To me, this proved that he was hungry, not jonesing for a cigarette or booze. Although it wasn’t the sandwich he requested, he seemed grateful for the donut.
I continued to pop into shops and my luck changed. I ventured into Aesop for a new moisturizer (I stupidly did not pack one and my skin needs the moisture in this cold climate). I left with the B + Tea Toner and the Fabulous Facial Oil.
I then walked through the rest of Pearl District toward The Park Blocks. The Park Blocks have a similar feel to New York’s Central Park but on a much, much smaller scale. The blocks are broken up into two segments, North and South. I found that there wasn’t much to see in the North Park Blocks, aside from some pick-up basketball games. The South Park Blocks, I later discovered, offered much more to see. I am sure these parks are absolutely packed in the warmer months!
From the North Park Blocks, I crossed over to Chinatown. Once again, I was disappointed. Maybe it is that I am spoiled having grown up with LA and San Francisco’s awesome Chinatowns, but this was pretty lame. From my research, the highlight is the Lan Su Chinese Gardens, but they were closed for renovation until the Chinese New Year (February 8th).
I left Chinatown and made my way to Pioneer Place, the major shopping area in Downtown Portland. I first went to Nike. Founded in Oregon, it is a must-visit in my book. The flagship is three-stories tall and has an awesome staff and lots of Oregon-specific products (like U of O gear!). I purchased a headband for $15. I had been eying it for a while, but decided to wait for this trip so I could save a buck in sales tax. I then went to Nordstrom Rack. Here I bought two more athletic things: a Nike drawstring bag (the one I had previously was eaten by squirrels, but that is a story for another time) for $8 and a pack of socks for $12. #gome for purchasing only the things I need.
After walking around lots of other stores, I was feeling ready to rest my feet but not ready to go back to Brittany’s apartment. I decided the best way to relax for a little and rest up would be to see a movie. I walked to the Pioneer Place Mall, grabbed some food at the foot court, and bought tickets to the next movie showing, “13 Hours.” I must be living under a rock because I had not heard of it, but it was great. I mean, really, really good. It is a little long though, so be prepared.
Once the movie was over, I started the journey back to Brittany’s and ended my night with a little “Bossypants.”
My first excursion for the day was the Portland Art Museum. Admission will run you $17 for a student, so it is pretty pricey. This museum is really manageable in size and can easily be covered in two hours or so. The museum starts out with some amazing Asian Art.
While looking at the permanent installments, I was approached by a Portland State University student Patrick.
He asked me about some of my art preferences and told me about the contemporary art exhibit that was currently in a different wing. Patrick led me that area and we enjoyed all of the fun takes of art. I really love that with contemporary and modern styles, anything can be viewed as art.
After the museum I went on the hunt for lunch. I chose a place called Picnic House. The interior was really cute and the food was delicious.
I then walked around Pioneer Court House. It was such a beautiful day out (although it was absolutely pouring earlier in the day) and I had a great time just walking about.
I stopped into more really cute shops, like Boy’s Fort. I love how so many of the stores are filling with products made by local artisans.
I then walked up to a pastry shop called Petunia’s.
I didn’t know this when I walked in, but the entire place is vegan. Having been a vegan for over a year when I was in my late teens, I welcomed the healthy treats.
I had a salted caramel cookie bar. It was made mainly with bananas and was so good. Really, if you are in Portland, give this place a try. There was a constant stream of costumers coming in, and you can check Yelp to see what other desserts are popular if you are feeling unsure.
I then walked around a little more, ending up back at Powell’s Bookstore. I spent another hour plus here reading the backs of the books on displays. Here are some of the books I want to read. If you have read these, let me know if they are any good below!
Once I had worked up enough of an appetite, I ordered some sushi at Bamboo. I also took advantage of their happy hour and ordered some shiitake mushrooms along with my roll. The sushi was pretty good, not the best I have ever had. I do love, however, that all of their fish is sustainably sourced. This place was really busy, so maybe the Rainbow Roll isn’t the one to try. A quick search on Yelp would probably tell you which rolls are the most popular.
With that, I was ready to call it a day! I started the journey back to Brittany’s and decompressed with a few episodes of New Girl. One thing that I am realizing while traveling is that I really have to listen to my body and my desires. If I am feeling like I need a break or I am ready to be done exploring for the day, then so it goes.
Brittany came back from her base in the morning and she and I took off for the Portland Japanese Gardens and the International Rose Test Gardens. After making the drive out there and paying the $4 for all day parking, we found that the Portland Japanese Gardens was close for winter construction! Damn, I had felt so proud of myself for researching the Lan Su Gardens in Chinatown ahead of time, but didn’t think to do the same for the Portland Japanese Gardens. Brittany and I then went across the street to the Rose Gardens. It became extremely evident that she and I were born and raised in California and accustomed to our nice, gentle winters. All of the rose bushes were dead.
Well, we were both disappointed, but we have both visited these gardens before, so it was not a complete shame. And I fully believe that the best way to learn a lesson is through a mistake. I will be sure to check websites ahead of time and will keep in mind that winter is not the best time to visit gardens. Live and learn. I did play around with some of the sculptures though.
With a much more free afternoon, she and I decided to do some exploring. We stopped for Italian food at Nostrana. This place is delicious. Everything, even the bread and mozzarella, is made fresh daily. She and I both ordered the same pizza, the Fungi Verde, and it was amazing, although we easily could have split it.
Brittany and I then went to a store called Next Adventure. This place has a little of everything you could need for any outdoor adventure (skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, backpacking, etc). If you read my New Year’s Resolutions, you know that a backpacking trip is on the list. I wanted to check out some hiking boots while in Oregon to save on the sales tax. In the end, I did not purchase any boots. I think I need to do a little more research first and find out exactly how supportive my boots need to be (above or below the ankle?) and what type of hiking I want to do. Currently, I want to backpack for only a weekend. I’m not trying to hike the PCT yet. If you have any suggestions, please let me know below!
We then took the Portland Aerial Tram, as we heard it offered great views of the city. Lucky for us, it wasn’t raining or too cloudy. The tram cost $4 round trip and is a 5-minute ride each way with trams departing every 6 minutes. Brittany and I were very surprised to find a university hospital at the top, the Oregon Health and Science University. We walked around a little, but as it is a hospital, there wasn’t much to see. We then took the tram back and drove to Downtown Portland.
We walked around the Pioneer District before heading up to the Pearl District. Since Brittany is only ever in Portland for work, I was surprised to find that I knew the area better than she did. I showed her all of my favorite shops and navigated our way through the streets. We stopped for boba from a street vendor (it was amazing! Definitely try the street food in Portland) and found a place for Brittany to get a haircut (why is it when you have known someone for 17 years doing things like this together while on vacation aren’t weird?).
Brittany then dropped me off with Janet, my good friend and old college roommate. Janet and I stayed up late together catching up on life and then called it a night!
Today was Janet’s birthday! I treated her to breakfast at a restaurant of her choice, La Provence. They serve French food and the pastries are amazing. Janet ending up liking my Benedict better than her omelet so we switched. We also were treated to a fruit tart, one of my favorites.
We then killed some time by shopping for a birthday outfit for Janet (she didn’t feel like wearing her birthday suit). I didn’t purchase anything, but Janet scored some exercise apparel. We then went back to her apartment and got ready to go to the Escape Rooms at Escapism Portland.
This was awesome. You and your group are basically locked in a room and told that you have an hour to find an object needed to escape (a key, token, etc, depending on your room theme). Janet booked us the jungle room theme ($90 for 1 hour for a group of up to 5) and we were searching for a totem. In order to escape, you must solve puzzles and complete tasks to unlock a multitude of boxes. If you get stuck, you can radio for a clue (we did this multiple times…). We were able to escape from two rooms in 58 minutes, just 2 minutes to spare!
It was a ton of fun and I would definitely love to go again and complete another theme.
We then went to dinner at Mee-Sen Thai on Mississippi Street. This place was bomb. Truly some of the best Thai food I have every had. I ordered the Pad See Ew and it was so good.
We then spent some time bar hopping with Janet’s friends. We started our night at The Rambler. This was a pretty cool bar with decently priced drinks. There is a small dining room with a full kitchen and then a room full of couches and an upstairs with more couches. For a bar, it gives off a slightly intimate feel. They also have a patio in back with space heaters and seats out front around a fire pit.
We then went to Bar Bar. It is connected to Mississippi Studios, so they often project old time-y movies only the walls outside. Kind of cool! They do serve food here, but I want to say the kitchen closes early. This place has a massive amounts of tables, and is a really good place to go with a big group or if you are trying to meet others.
We then went to Dig A Pony for some dancing. This place was pretty packed on a Saturday night, but I was able to dance in peace, so I definitely approve. You can check their website out ahead of time to see what the DJ will be spinning.
With that, we called it a night! Pretty fun night out in Portland! If you are in the North part of Portland, definitely check out Mississippi Street. Lots of local bars and eateries.
My flight back to LAX was in the early afternoon, so Janet took me to the airport in the morning. I passed the time reading “Bossypants” and soon was back in LA. The highlight of the flight was the view once we cleared the clouds. It was so beautiful and if you look closely, you can see the snow-covered Oregon mountains poking through.
I loved Oregon and all of the delicious food, awesome people, and great hiking it had to offer. I can definitely see myself living in Oregon and attending U of O. If not, I definitely will be going back up for another visit soon!
Have you been to Oregon? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Let me know below.