Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
I know I’ve shared this before in the past few weeks, but it needs to be repeated that after last summer’s epic trip to France, this year is all about the small things – smaller trips, smaller impact, and certainly, smaller expenses. We haven’t the means to travel like we did last summer all the time, and it is precisely for this reason why we enjoyed it all the more while we were there (in France that is). But alas, this post is not about how often I daydream about our time in France (and oh, I do), but about what we are up to now: so on to one of the easiest, quirkiest cities out there. Yup, Portland. What a gem.
Over the past few months, I’ve been treated to blog posts and Instie shots of conferences (all you sweet bloggy ladies who attended the vegan conference a few months back), dinner gatherings, and in general, stories of folks jumping in their cars, or taking the train to visit this place known for all the things we love: food, farmer’s markets, coffee, more food, beer, bikes, books, you name it. It’s hard at times not to let the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) rage, as tales are told of epic meals and shots of espresso that change lives.
Like usual, we keep things mellow when away, and no to-do list ever gets fully completed, or even really heeded to all that well in the first place, as I kind of like surprises when away and the feeling of discovering something no one else has. I headed down with a nice list of coffee shops, and a small handful of ‘things that would be nice to do’. Time away is all about a break from stress, and there’s only so many stops for food and coffee and beer we can really make. So the pressure to do it all was off. And it was great. Here’s the city from our brief little stay, which dare I say was marvelous.
Culture & Feel:
First of all, this city has nothing if it doesn’t have personality. In the beauty of the sunny summer weather, we had a blast roaming the streets and taking in the local scene. A bit of everything, and not too much of one thing (we here in Vancouver are used to the legendary moustached men with big sideburns and in fact, I feel like we may have more here rocking that look, but that’s debatable I am sure). I’ve always loved Oregon for its slightly hippie vibe and find Portland to be friendly, relaxed and fun.
Plus, where else would I run across a blue Krishna truck reminiscent of my childhood hippie days? As a young family, we once spent about 6 months living in a commune in Oregon (I was three and have some of my first memories from there). We drove an old blue truck (my folks called it the Krishna truck after my dad painted Krishna on the doors), just like the one pictured below. Nostalgia win number one (thanks Portland).
Of course being in the coffee business, and being a coffee lover, means if you go to Portland, there are a few places you simply do have to go. We hit the ones on our list: Barista Cafe & Heart Roasters. Stumptown at The Ace. Millstead in Seattle on the drive down. We didn’t make it to Coava, which was sad, but hey, there’s always a next time!
Turns out our fave shop of all was the one right in our own neighbourhood, serving Sterling Coffee Roasters, and it spent the evening as a wine bar and the day as a coffee bar – we also hit their other location as well and dug it. The wine bar/espresso concept is one I’d never seen actually pulled off, and it was awesome, plus the staff wear awesome white collars and black aprons. Nice touch and great friendly service. Plus: macaroons.
Powell’s. Enough said, right? No disappointment here. Worth the trip just for this. With something for everyone, I picked up some gems in the cooking section and the girls both walked away with their finds inspired and stoked to read. So much win to be had in the legendary City Of Books.
Traveling with kids anywhere is always a tricky scene in itself, and while we are happy to eat on the go during the day, dinner is the one thing we do well on the road, and usually, it is these nights that stay with me for long after we get home ~ and I know they will with the rest of the brood as well.
Dinners away are tricky, as we’ve got 4 mouths to please and our youngest is a little picky. We wanted to explore, but also wanted to enjoy a drink or two, which on this weekend meant walking to dinner. After a few well intended plans to seek adventure across town, (I really would have liked to eat at Pok Pok) both dinners we had were right around the corner from our hotel, in the heart of beautiful Northwest Portland (we ate at Serrato’s and Caffe Mingo). Good quality Italian always wins for the wine, food, and the few hours of uninterrupted conversation with the girls hanging on every word.
Family stories are meant to be passed on, and while I am tempted to hit the hot spots, I know no matter where we are it’s right where we need to be, sitting across from each other and sharing openly. Every time.
City’s are fun to explore, and it’s fun to imagine where you would live if you lived there. The great thing about Portland is its size, and the very fact that you can likely see a good lot of it in a few short days. Of all of the areas we explored, I walked away loving the area we stayed in: the Northwest Corner of the city is a gorgeous and clean oasis of green trees, heritage apartments, and two great high streets with some really good retail and a fantastic selection of bars and restaurants.
On Saturday I explored the hood with a scenic run up to Leif Erikson Park, passing another park on the way, and taking in the sights & feel of the residential hoods as I went. Perfect way to start the holiday!
Food, Farming & Line-ups:
Ever since I was a young adult, I have always been inspired and excited by the fantastic health food scene in the US. Before Whole Foods was everywhere, I would travel to California with my husband on his work trips JUST to marvel at the stacks of organic lemons, and the giant bowls of freshly piled pre-washed salad mix (then referred to as Spring Mix, remember that?). He was always bored out of his mind, but I was always in my (uber-nerdy) element.
So of course, the legendary Portland Farmer’s Market at PSU was a must, and it did not disappoint. We lunched on goodies at the market and chilled on the grass to the sights and sounds of the celebration of good food. I may have bought some fresh raw broccoli florets and eaten them as is. My kind of morning.
I was equally as excited to visit Canteen, where we had a family round of smoothies, and I plotted how I could go back before the end of the trip. Lovely spot at the recommendation of a friend, with a great selection of juices, smoothies and bowls.
With VooDoo Doughnuts on the list of things the kids wanted to do, we weren’t really prepared for one thing: people’s willingness to line up for long periods of time to get a doughnut. Or an ice cream. Or anything at a great food truck for that matter! Friday night after dinner we hit Salt & Straw, at the recommendation of our server, which turns out is a very popular artisan ice cream shop with a massive following that is truly impressive. It was a super fun scene, and of course the ice cream was tasty. Just not 40 minutes of lining up tasty 😉
There’s always another time to hit VooDoo, but we got the doughnut fix done when we left the city for the Coast the next day. Fresh, fantastic, and bought at the local cafe in a line up just a few relaxed vacationers deep. My kind of doughnut (every 5 years or so when I have one), and our kind of wait time too!
Given the proximity of Portland to most of us on the West Coast, I’d go back to visit again in a heartbeat. I’ve surely made it known that I am a huge fan of road trips and we will be back. It surely is a city with a whole lot to offer!