Travel Journal: Portland, Oregon
Stop & Smell the Roses
Since moving to Los Angeles, Portland has been on my “weekend getaway” travel list. It’s a short 2 hour and 15 minute flight from LA, which makes it quick enough to visit for a Friday-Sunday or Saturday-Monday adventure. I enjoy quick trips just as much as the longer ones because it forces you to buckle down and not waste any time getting up and out. Once I saw a pretty good deal for the flight come into my inbox (thanks airfarewatchdog!), I hopped on the opportunity, shared the deal with a friend who I knew would be down to come along, and booked! The timing was perfect.
The Pacific Northwest region is known for its clean non-polluted air and fresh lush greenery, and that was evident from the moment the plane made its descent into Portland International Airport. The large full trees were glowing in a pretty emerald color and fresh air filled my lungs once we stepped outside. A noticeable but welcomed difference from LA. We requested a Lyft, who drove us to our hotel, Courtyard Portland Downtown/Convention Center, which was reasonably priced thanks to an awesome app called Hotel Tonight. We requested and received an early check-in where we were able to drop off our belongings and head out to explore. One of my favorite things about Portland that I noticed right away is how simple it is to navigate throughout the city. It’s broken down into four subsections: NE, NW, SE, and SW. So if an address is in 123 NW Main St., you can easily and quickly figure out which area or subsection you need to head towards. Super simple and very tourist friendly, and the streetcar made it easy to get around without a car. Kudos Portland!
First stop was for food at Pine State Biscuits where we indulged in some delicious eats. On our short 10 minute walk to Pine State we spotted several rose bushes, understandably so considering Portland is the ‘City of Roses’. It made for such a calming, peaceful, and relaxing walk. I discovered Pine State through a simple Yelp search, and the taste lived up to the hype. I wanted to eat their buttery fluffy biscuits everyday while I was there. During my Yelp browsing, I read that the lines could get really long, but luckily for us there are several locations, and for a Saturday late morning, the wait was only a few minutes. The only downfall was the dining space was shared with a pizzeria, however, by the time we received our food a few seats opened up. Sadly, I imagine when it’s more crowded it might be a different story. We ordered The Reggie Deluxe, The Chatfield, and Shrimp-N-Grits, because why not! Oh and two Arnold Palmers. Heaven on a plate and in a glass. They also have “make your own” where you pick and choose what items to have on your biscuit. You can’t go wrong either way! Southern style treats in the Pacific NW at a price range of only $6-$9. Cheap in comparison to if this meal was ordered in LA (I compare everything to LA when I travel, lol..I’m that girl).
Once we left Pine State, we decided to venture to the Portland Aerial Tram, which takes you from the SW part of the city to Oregon State hospital, offering the most amazing views of the city and of course a dope photo op. And remember those beautiful lush emerald green trees I mentioned earlier? Spectacular! All of this for a measly $4 tram fare.
Because I like to keep it cute and grown, I’m always on the lookout for a nice wine bar to relax and enjoy an adult beverage. Thanks to Yelp, I found a spot that offered exactly what I was looking for. Enso Winery, in the SE part of the city, was a cute indoor/outdoor space, with a plethora of wines to choose from. We choose their tasting flights to get a feel for what they had to offer. At the low price of $10, our options where the new releases, reds, and, whites. We choose the new releases because it offered a mix of the reds and whites. Our flight included Reisling, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc, Counoise, and L’American. Knowing what I know now, next time I would go for the reds, since I'm a red wine drinker anyway. Enso has a cute urban feel, which made you want to relax, kick your feet up, and enjoy. We didn’t try any of their food because we were still stuffed from Pine Street earlier, but looking at the food orders for other customers it looked promising. Yelp came through, Enso Winery is highly recommended!
Of course brunch was on the list. We searched Yelp for some recommended bottomless brunch options with outdoor seating since the weather Gods came through and Brix Tavern was the winner! We made a reservation and set out the next day for some good eats and most importantly some good drank. Mimosas on deck! We hopped on the streetcar a block from our hotel and headed out for the day. Brix Tavern is set in the NW part of Portland in a beautiful neighborhood that reminded me of Fells Point in Baltimore. The lush full green trees, restaurants and bars lined the streets. We arrived at the restaurant and was promptly seated outside along the brick side wall. Hmmm guess that's where the name comes from. Our waitress, who felt like my homegirl because she was so nice and chill, came and took our order of the rock shrimp and Dungeness crab omelet and started us going with the $9 'bubbles with every bite' mimosas (they aren't allowed to call them bottomless in Portland). Yes. Only $9! They even give out complimentary sugary donuts to get you started. Our waitress made sure our glasses were never empty. My kinda brunch.
Once the mimosas kicked in and brunch was over, we headed over to the Tikilum Crossing Bridge to get our photography on! Fun fact: Tikilum, known as the bridge of the people, does not allow cars, and is designed only for pedestrians, bikes, streetcars, and buses. Cool right?! We walked around a bit and were a little in awe over the people in the Willamette River on jet skis. Who would’ve thought you could go jet-skiing in Portland, Oregon?! This is definitely on the list for next time.
Prior to visiting Portland, I used one of my “things to do” hacks and checked out Living Social for any discounts on awesome activities throughout the city. Besides being known for their foliage, Portland is also known for its distilleries. I came across a deal for 2 for 1 tastings at the House Spirits Distillery and I was sold! They specialize in gin so we hopped right into some tastings which are usually very inexpensive, but I’m all for a great deal and even deeper discounts. We caught the streetcar to the SE part of town and with some simple navigation, found the location on Distillery Row in an industrial area right past the train tracks and a beautiful golden colored wall which I immediately scoped out for a quick photo shoot. That golden yellow against my melanin? Yes please!
Once we entered House Spirits we were greeted by the host who impressively knew about the liquors they offered, and provided some background information on each product. We browsed around, sipped, chatted, sipped some more, and took some cute photos in the photo booth they provided for fun. Since the temperature that day was in the 80s, we ordered more drinks and sat outside in their patio area. Such a perfect moment!
My last day in Portland was spent on a solo adventure. But you know I was perfectly fine with it! My friend headed out for an early flight back to LA, and I ventured out to explore more of the city until my flight later that night. I hopped on the streetcar to Screen Door, for more southern style eats. I arrived at about 10:30am and it was already poppin’. I take that as a good sign that the food is pretty darn good. And I was not disappointed. A po-boy shrimp sandwich and a side of mac-and-cheese, hit the spot and had me ready to take a nap, not conquer the day. My only wish was that my friend was still with me so I could taste some of her food too.
Next, I ventured out to Lan Su Chinese Garden in Chinatown, the NW part of the city. After paying a $9.50 entry fee, I grabbed a map of the grounds and a guide of the different types of flowers found in the garden. They offered a tour which was starting just as I had arrived, but I wanted to explore on my own time. I roamed around in a bit of amazement of how authentic the sites seemed, and how well they offered the authenticity of the culture and history of China. The one downfall was the view of the tall buildings in the background which quickly reminds of you where you really are.
One of the highlights of the garden is the tea house, The Tao of Tea, that offers Asian tea tastings and treats. I opted not to do the tastings but instead indulged in some peppermint tea and Chinese Daikon salad, which was a chilled radish, carrot, and cucumber salad in vinaigrette dressing. Delicious! According to Tao, Daikon is “said to cleanse the blood and promote circulation”. Tasty and promotes good health.
After leaving the garden, I roamed around downtown and found the infamous ‘Portlandia’ statue, before heading back to the hotel and LA.
Portland is such an amazing city, and I’m so thrilled that we were able to visit on a weekend where the weather was phenomenal. I’m convinced there is no bad food in this city and I’m ready to visit again simply for a foodie adventure. Add this city to your travel list if you haven’t already. I promise you will enjoy it as much as I did and hopefully the weather gods will be looking out for you too!