After a quick flight from San Francisco we hopped on the train from the airport and arrived in downtown Portland. After dropping off our stuff at the Ace Hotel (affectionately known as the Deuce Hotel in the series Portlandia) we headed over to Portland’s #1 tourist attraction, Powell’s Books.
When a city’s main attraction is an independent bookstore you are in for a pretty hip and unusual visit, which is exactly what we had. After wandering around Powell’s for an hour or so and stealthily copying down the information for where we were going to hike the next day, we headed out to explore the rest of the city. We met up with a friend for a few beers at Bridgeport Brewery and ended up staying for dinner and just enjoying the scene.
The next morning we walked to pick up our rental car and check out the infamous Voodoo Doughnuts. EVERYONE said we had to try Voodoo and so when we walked by with no line, we popped right in and ordered two of the most cholesterol clogging, blood pressure skyrocketing, lard heavy pastries on the menu and perhaps the planet.
Yup, that is a bacon maple doughnut. I wanted to like it, but honestly it was disgusting. Don’t get me wrong I love doughnuts and devoured the plain glazed one we ordered, but the bacon doughnut was too much. (Which is ironic since two of my favorite foods in college were bacon and doughnuts. Seriously, I would regularly make at least half a pack of bacon for myself and then scarf down powdered doughnuts. It was a weird phase.) After consuming enough calories to wipe out a famine, we hopped in our rental car and headed out to hike Lookout Mountain along the Columbia River Gorge.
Lookout Mountain gained its moniker because you can see all the other major mountains in the area including Mt. Ranier and Mt. Hood from its peak. The drive out to our hike was beautiful and once we got 10 minutes outside of the city we were driving along the Columbia River Gorge deep in a valley of evergreen trees. Getting to Lookout Mountain was not easy – we drove along a paved, gravel and then dirt road and several times thought we were lost. Fortunately we reached our destination after two hours of picturesque driving and embarked on our hike. The trip was well worth it.
After our hike we drove back to Portland, stopping at Multnomah Falls to checkout the waterfall. Once in Portland we decompressed from our hike and then headed to Pok Pok, a Thai restaurant that is not to be missed. Pok Pok serves traditional Thai dishes that are lovingly executed by James Beard award winning chef Andy Ricker. The restaurant does not take reservations but luckily you can put your name down and then walk across the street to sister establishment Whiskey Soda Lounge and try some of their signature cocktails laced with drinking vinegars. After about a half an hour, we were called to the restaurant and enjoyed the most amazing chicken wings and curry I have ever tasted. Days later I am still thinking about those wings.
The next day we drove south to Oregon wine country in the Willamette Valley. We stopped for lunch in the quaint little town of McMinnville at Sage Restaurant, and then made our way to a few wineries. The Willamette Valley is known for their Pinot Noirs and we got to taste a few at the first winery ever built in the area, Eyrie Vineyards. If you stop by make sure you request a tour from Jacques the French proprietor who taught us a lot about barrel types and wine mold. Good times!
From Eyrie Vineyards we made our way to Stoller Vineyards, a LEED certified family run winery with incredible views. We tried a few Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, then took a walk around the property. You better believe I tested out that tire swing!
On our way back from wine country I became famished (surprise, surprise) and suggested we stopped by Apizza Scholls, a fanatical pizzeria with a notoriously long wait that mixes their dough by hand. Apizza Scholls is in the Hawthorne neighborhood which is definitely the hippiest area of Portland. We had an early dinner at 5 and then walked around afterwards to find many of the shops closed. One sign said that they opened at “12ish” which I came to realize was a pretty classic Portland attitude. Do a little work, hang out at a microbrewery, go kayaking – folks out there certainly enjoy their lifestyle.
As the sun began to set we finished our final night in Portland at the International Rose Test Garden.
The garden is filled with hundreds of varieties of roses, each one more exquisite than the next. We went in the evening and there were and handful of people there, I would definitely recommend going later in the day since I hear that crowds can be overwhelming. I have never been a huge rose fan, usually because I associate the flower as being a generic Valentine’s Day gift, but the many different kinds of tea roses and heritage flowers were eyeopening.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Portland. I was least excited about this leg of the trip and I was blown away by the beauty of the area, the friendliness of the people and the yumminess of the food…I loved it!
Stay tuned for the final leg of our journey – Seattle