Thursday, April 26, 2012

What we did in the Portland area

We had such a blast in the one week we spent in the Portland area. The weather was very kind to us. It only rained maybe two days on and off and by the end of the week a heat wave hit. It went from 15C to 25C and it stayed there for a few days. It felt like summer and we were overdressed and sweating! We couldn't have been luckier though because we planned our shopping trips during most of the rain and all the things we did during the trip worked out great weather wise.

We drove A LOT. With all the driving that we did, some outings felt a bit like an European tour. We only got to spend maybe one hour tops at each place. I was particularly frantic while we shopped. There were so many great buys and so many great things that we just couldn't get in Vancouver. I would grab something and then have about 2 minutes to decide if I was going to buy it. Power shopping would even be an under statement. We were so productive though and I was sweating from shopping and carrying so much. No kidding! If we had more time, I would have definitely bought more so maybe it's a good thing I had a time limit :)

This trip was a preview of Portland and the surrounding area for us. We would definitely like to go back but next time we'll stay inside the city. After driving what seemed like forever to get there from Vancouver, we were so relieved to find that our resort by Mt. Hood was not covered in snow and that it was really nice! It was a one-bedroom villa with a full kitchen, washer/dryer in the unit, TV in the living room and TV in the bedroom, private patio with BBQ grill, and fireplace in the living room! The resort looked pretty new too so we were thrilled :) It's just too bad it was a 1 hour drive to Portland but we can't complain too much. We didn't use the amenities because we barely spent time at the resort itself but we did take full advantage of the kitchen. We only dined out for three full meals during the week. We shopped at Trader Joe's and made ourselves dinner and breakfast at home. I also prepped us some sandwiches for our road trip to the coast. The resort probably didn't think visitors would use the kitchen so much so we found ourselves complaining how ill equipped the kitchen was with supplies. We're hard to please, I know! No dish rack? We didn't want to use the dishwasher because it was too noisy and it took too long so we just hand washed everything and laid it loosely on the counter to dry. We ended up breaking one of the dishes as a result. Oops.

Grocery Shopping

There are so many local and organic choices for foods down in the Portland area. The Saturday farmer's market in Portland State University is now one of my favorite farmer's markets. There were so many organic stands and the local produce looked so amazing. If I lived there, I would have filled a shopping cart full of mixed lettuce leaves and greens like collards, kale of every kind etc. Of course I would use big reusable shopping bags because that's cooler and I would blend in well with the locals :) There was entertainment and music, food stands, bakery tables, wine, nuts etc. It was so lively down there and we went at such a perfect time. The weather was 25C that day and the morning was pleasantly cool when we got to the market. I bought plenty of local nuts, wine, bread, cookies, leeks, purple carrots, anise, and Jerusalem artichokes! It's so hard to find Jerusalem artichokes here in Vancouver and they are expensive. Here we call them sunchokes and I buy mine at Thrify Foods. They grow them in Portland and they looked so great and were cheap. I was literally doing the happy dance when I saw them:) They were everywhere too.

Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes)

We visited Trader Joe's for the first time and then by the time we left the US to come home, we had visited Trader Joe's five times. I guess you could say we love the place :) In fact, I'm probably going to write a post just about Trader Joe's on my food blog later.


We did about 75% of the things I had planned for us to do. Of course we sort of lost about two days of vacation if you factor in all the driving around. The driving was somewhat hard on us all and we are all super sick of our car now. Lol. Tristan was pretty good but he lacked sleep all week so he acted up in the evenings during dinner time a few times. That wasn't so fun:( Instead of going to bed at 9PM, he slept at 11:30PM and got up at the usual 7:30AM. He normally napped in the car for maybe 30 minutes during the day as well but all of that does not add up. He was just sleep deprived. On top of that, he was sick coughing for the first 3 or 4 days. The weather improved and I fed him lots of soup so he got better quickly. Thank goodness. It was an adventure for him to come with us on such a long road trip and I sort of feel bad for him because we didn't get to play in playgrounds much and we didn't bike at all. We did go snowtubing on Mt. Hood, which he really enjoyed :)

We wanted to spend more time in the city so we only took one coastal trip. We drove to Long Beach and then headed south to Tillamook. We went through Astoria but didn't stop. We did stop by Seaside and Cannon Beach. All the beaches are about the same. They were all long, wide, and white sand beaches. Cannon Beach is particularly stunning because of all the rock formations nearby like the "haystack." Our final destination stop was Tillamook. We got to the cheese factory there just before they closed so we were able to quickly try some cheese, buy cheese, and get ice cream. I was told their ice cream was awesome so I had to try :) We hoarded so much cheese from there, you would think we were Wallace & Gromit. Cheeeeese!

Two days before we left, we took an excursion to the Columbia gorge and river. We drove along the scenic highway from Troutdale along the Columbia gorge and stopped by Vista House and Multnomah Falls. Then we continued on all the way to Dalles, just to see the landscape change into desert and dry land. It wasn't as drastic as I imagined but in Dalles it was 28C. Of course we were already experiencing a hotter than usual day of 25C inside Portland. When we drove back through Hood River and back to our resort, the temperature dropped to 18C. Within an hour we went from a hot desert to snow in the mountains. It is pretty cool when you think about it.


Shopping on NW 23rd Avenue
We went shopping at Woodburn and also in around Portland on 23rd, the Pearl District, and Hawthorne. The biggest outlets are in Woodburn. It's mostly clothes and shoes though. There are tons of good buys and you can definitely break your bank if you are not careful. Consider yourself warned :) NW 23rd Avenue was our first shopping stop inside Portland and even though it rained that day, we really loved that street. The stores were on the ground level of what looked like Victorian style homes. The street actually reminded me a lot of my Fernwood community in Victoria. Williams-Sonoma is on that street, as well as the Kitchen Kaboodle, which I really liked. Two Tarts bakery is there and it's not far from St. Honoré Boulangerie, which was our very first stop inside Portland. The Pearl District is also a great shopping area. The flagship Powell's Books store is there, as well as Anthropologie, Sur la Table etc. Tons of stores that I love are there! Hawthorne is good for vintage clothes, especially "House of Vintage." It's so big so you will need time to sift through everything to find the cool stuff. It took me awhile and I only bought a couple of things. And of course, every neighborhood you go to, there are cafes and bakeries and so many things are organic, gluten-free, or vegan. I think all the coffee shops carry cow milk, almond milk, and soy milk. That was my impression anyway.

Meeting the Locals

On our last day there, we toured the Lan Su Gardens in Chinatown and then met up with one of Jean-Louis' tweeples, who was living in Portland. It's funny because we have only been there for a week and we have seen more places than him. He has been a local for over two years but has barely left the city center. Jean-Louis' friend is Vegan so he took us to a good restaurant called Vita Cafe that had lots of vegan and gluten-free food. It was on Alberta Street and it was his friend's favorite street in Portland. There were tons of great coffee shops, cool vintage type shops, colorful stores, eateries and art galleries. Vita Cafe was great. It was very family-friendly and we ordered a good variety of vegan dishes. Now we have ideas of what to make at home as well :) After lunch, we walked down the street to Barista. This is a popular coffee shop that serves local coffee. The main counter inside reminded me of a pub and bar. The cashier was dressed in a suit with a tie and had designer glasses on. The place just felt very hip. Jean-Louis' friend recommended I buy a bag of "heart" coffee since it's local and would be hard to find outside of Portland. I can't wait to try it! :)

Oh, another great thing we love about Portland is that it's the bike capital of the US and there are so many bikers and bike lanes there. The friends we met are bikers themselves and they were telling us that they practically biked from one end of the city to the other end without ever leaving a designated bike lane. That is awesome! Bike city and vegan paradise? Jean-Louis was happier than me! If you are a hippy, hipster, green type of person, or if you like vintage, Portland is your city, man.

Have you been to Portland, Oregon? Do you love it too? Vancouver, Canada will always be the best place to live for us but I certainly wouldn't mind moving to Portland for the short term :) I heard it could become like Silicon Valley one day so that means there would be great jobs for tech geeks like Jean-Louis and I. That would be something! :)


Unknown said...

We did an Oregon Coast tour in the summer of 2010. We didn't stay in Portland. Instead we spent one night at Great Wolf Lodge, 2 nights in Florence because we really wanted to sand board and do a dune buggy tour and 2 nights in Seaside. We also spent a day in Lincoln City to shop at the outlet there that is excellent. I would love to go to Portland and spend some time there. I have heard great things about Powell Books. Sounds like you had a great trip.

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