Sunday, November 02, 2014

PORTLAND: A FIRST-TIME VISITOR'S TOP TEN


While planning our visit to Portland last month, I googled and searched Pinterest for as much information as possible before tackling the "weird" city.  While most of what I read was very helpful, nothing takes the place of experiencing it first hand.  And nothing takes the place of a first-time visitor's perspective.  I will share things that would have been helpful knowing on the front side, and places that I would consider non-negotiables when planning an itinerary.

Kenzie and I started our trip well rested.  We would not end it that way.  The three-hour time change took a little getting used to--especially around mealtimes.  We spent four days in Portland and the surrounding area in the middle of October.  And contrary to everything I read, people do carry umbrellas in Portland--with good reason.  I wish we had brought ours.  Sheesh, I wish we had brought raincoats and boots, too.


Powell's Books is the largest independent book store in the world.  Its shelves are well stocked with new and used books, and we could have spent all four days there.  I have been to plenty of bookstores, but the atmosphere and organization in this place is phenomenal.  I loved the fact that the used books are right there on the shelves next to the new ones, so you get to decide on the price and quality.


Each floor is color-coded and a map is provided.


Since I buy most of my books online, I sometimes forget how much fun it is to browse through "real" books and how great it feels to see our favorites--especially our family read-alouds-- on the shelves.  Tessa, Kenzie, and I caressed quite a few.  It is also fun to be surrounded by other book lovers.








Helpful Hint:  I may be dopey, but I did not know that when you purchase a parking pass to put in your car window, it is good until the time it expires--no matter where you go.  Unlike the parking meters that I am used to, it is not specific to where you park.  




Another Helpful Hint:  Right across from Powell's Books is Anthropologie.  There are a lot of other nice stores in the area as well.  This is considered the Pearl District.




In keeping with the weird theme, Voodoo Doughnuts does not disappoint.  Whether you love doughnuts or not, this place is a must-experience--from the decor to the crazy doughnut choices to the pink boxes.





Helpful Hint:  If you have a hard time deciding, you should consider their most popular doughnut, the maple and bacon one.  It really is delicious.  And I don't even like doughnuts. 




Another Helpful Hint:  We visited on a Thursday, mid morning, after visiting Powell's Books (very close), and there was no line at all.  On Saturday, the line was down the street. At least there was entertainment on Saturday.  





We loved this place so much that we went twice.  It is in, what I consider, the more upscale Alphabet District.  This section of Portland has a more neighborhood feel with many small restaurants and specialty shops.  



The line was out the door both days, but the service is fast and friendly.  It is quite fascinating to watch the whole process.  The waffle cones are made fresh right behind the counter, and the servers actually come out to the line to greet the next group.


If you don't know what you want, no problem!  Unlimited samples are brought to you on silver spoons.  They are really willing to let you try them all, and they do not rush you.


That is a good thing because the flavors are so unusual.  Some of the ice cream we tried: Honey Basalmic Strawberry with Black Pepper, Honey Lavender, Arbequina Olive Oil, Cinnamon Snickerdoodle, Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache, and Freckled Woodblock Chocolate.  

I just read their November flavors, and I want to go back.  How about some Hazelnut Rosemary Stuffing or Sweet Potato Casserole with Maple Pecans?  All I can say is YUM!


Helpful Hint:  I found it more difficult to park in this section of town.  I would recommend taking the streetcar there and back.  It adds another layer to the experience.   I will talk more about the public transportation below.

Oh, and if you are wanting pizza to die for, go to Pizzacata right down the street from Salt and Straw.



And the shopping between the two is not too bad either!





This was the coolest neighborhood, and I am sorry to say that we only found it on our last afternoon in Portland.  Two locals recommended it, and I wish that we had understood why days earlier!  I am not sure I would have made it to any other attraction if I went there first.

Kenzie and I did attempt a visit there on our public transportation day, and it turned out to be quite frustrating.  The walk across the bridge was fantastic, however, and we were blessed with at least a half hour of no rain.








The first stop when we actually made it to the business area on our last day was to the top Goodwill in the world--according to the man working there.  And I believe it.  It was classy and staged and priced accordingly!  





The Hawthorne Street neighborhood extends from 11th to 55th Street and is jammed packed with shops, restaurants, and all manner of interesting eye candy.  It is a vintage lovers dream street.  Oh, how I wish we had had about a week to just explore.  

Helpful Hint:  If possible, drive to Hawthorne Street.  It is a lot of territory to cover, and you will want to stash your goodies somewhere.  




6. LARDO

Located on Hawthorne Street is one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at.  I'm not talking five star fancy schmancy; I'm talking five star comfort food with an atmosphere that screams Welcome to Portland!  




Their menu is not large, but it is very, very unique.  Tessa and I shared a Philadelphia Flyer which consisted of roasted duck, broccoli rabe, provolone, mama lil's peppers, and mustard aioli.  We also ordered two sides of fries and maple carrots.  oh. my. goodness. Everything was divine.  The fries had rosemary, sage, and parmesan cheese on them. The rosemary and sage were fresh.  Scrumptious.  It was the best $22 I have spent in a long time.  








Helpful Hint:  Make time to go more than once.  You will be craving those fries long after you return home.  I do not lie. 


If you only leave the city for one thing, it should be to see Multnomah Falls.  At 611 feet, the falls is absolutely breathtaking. Of course, we went during a monsoon, so our visit was not nearly long enough, and our photos are not great. 


Complimentary umbrellas are available to borrow.  Too bad they did not have raincoats and boots.  We were drenched from the rain and the spray, but it was so worth it.




Helpful Hint:  Leave enough time--if it is not pouring--to see the other falls in the area.  There is no admission cost.


I am sure that the tour of the mansion is great, but we did not take it because we were pressed for time.  Pittock Mansion sits 1000 feet above downtown Portland and offers a spectacular view of the city.  It does not cost to just visit the grounds.

Helpful Hint:  We visited Multnomah Falls, Hawthorne Street, Pittock Mansion, and Salt and Straw all on our last day--in the rain.  Portland is not a big city, and getting around was pretty easy.









9. PACIFIC COAST

Not sure if we would ever make it to the West Coast again, I considered seeing the Pacific Ocean a must.  It is about a 90-minute to 2-hour drive, depending on if your GPS takes you off the beaten path--which ours did.  

Admittedly, I had a few moments of worry when we were traveling some of the back roads, and I would not necessarily recommend taking our route.  I do not, however, regret the opportunity I had to capture the shot below.



Our first stop on the coast was the town of Astoria.  This was another place that we could have spent an entire day or two. I would highly recommend climbing the 164 steps to the top of the tower because the views are beautiful.  There is no cost to go up to the top of the tower.



For $2, you can buy a glider to fly from the top of the tower--which Kenzie did.  Kenzie's landed in the parking lot, so she was able to retrieve it for a souvenir.  We were told that those gliders are found miles and miles away.





Lewis and Clark enthusiasts will not want to miss Fort Clatsop, a replica of the winter encampment of the Corps of Discovery in 1805-1806.






Heading south from Astoria, the next town is Seaside.  Honestly, I was not impressed. The beach had a lot of trash on it, and the area was a little too touristy for me.  I was, however, smitten with the swings on the beach. It is worth the stop if just to enjoy that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!




And their light posts are cool!



And the statue of Lewis and Clark is cool, too!


Our last stop on the coast was Canon Beach.  The views of the sea stacks from Ecola State Park (in the rain!) were the best!






Helpful Hint:  We saw signs that seem to be specific to Oregon like Sunken Grade and Viewpoint.  In our neck of the woods they would say No Shoulder and Scenic Overlook.


Because we live in a more rural part of the country, we always enjoy taking advantage of the public transit systems in the cities we visit.  I bought an all-day adult pass for $5, and Kenzie's was $2.50.  The pass is good for the light rail, bus, and streetcar.  We rode them all.


We parked our car near where we were staying in Beaverton. Unlike other cities, parking is free at the park and ride station.



The windows are huge on the light rail so you really get to see the city as you travel.  This was the line outside of the Apple store.  Nobody seemed to know why there was such a long line.


Every list of things to see in Portland includes the Saturday Market.  To me, it was just okay.  Maybe it is better in the summer and when it is not raining.  It is not in the best part of town, so we did not stay in that area very long.





We waited for the light rail outside the market in an area popular with Portland's homeless.  


We later took two buses from Hawthorne Street to the Alphabet District (Salt and Straw). Then we took the streetcar back to a light rail station downtown for our trip back to Beaverton.  




Helpful Hint:  Nobody ever checked to see if we had tickets.  I am told that ticket checks are random, and there is a $130 fine if you are caught without one.  

Another Helpful Hint:  Get a map of the city so you can know what direction you are going in!  There apparently is an app that tells you if things are running on time, but that would not have helped me.  I was too confused about exactly where I was and where I was going.  I just listened to the locals to know if things were on time or not.

Final Suggestions: My 11th suggestion would be to experience eating at some of the many food trucks!  And my 12th would be to check out the second-hand shops!  Also, we booked our room through Airbnb and were very pleased with our accommodations and the price.  Staying with a local family allowed us to view Portland through yet another lens.  I will be happy to send you an invitation to Airbnb which gives me some future travel credit and you a discount on your first booking.  Leave your email in the comments if you are interested.

Troy, Stevie, Orion, and Savannah with Kenzie
 Juan Pablo or J.P.

Portland certainly is an interesting city!


And after four days of exploring, I was exhausted.

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