Portland, Oregon was my first destination in the Pacific Northwest. I had never ventured north beyond I-80 going through Reno, Nevada after leaving San Francisco, and never further west than the eastern border of Idaho where Yellowstone spills over by just a few miles. For someone who considers themselves rather well-traveled, the beauty of Oregon and Washington had always been confined to photos and videos.
I had always imagined my first trip to the PNW would be an adventurous road trip and backpacking escapade - I'd fly into Seattle and rent a cool Jeep, drive down the Washington/Oregon coast, camp in the coniferous forests and hike to Crater Lake. I'd spend a few nights in Eugene and then head back south. And as things in life often work, it did not go quite as planned. Portland may not have been the first plan, but it was by no means lesser in any way.
Flights were cheap, and I had a three-day weekend, so Portland became the destination of choice. I was excited to experience the "weird" city that everyone seemed so bent on keeping that way, and eating my fair share of Voodoo Doughnuts - to which I'm no stranger (I've feasted on the decadent pastries at their Denver location). I was open to anything, and only headstrong on eating and drinking to my heart's content.
We stayed in the coolest hotel called Mcmenamins Crystal Hotel. It's situated in a quirky old building and each room is dedicated to a song - everything from Heart of Glass by Blondie to Sleeping Lessons by The Shins. It's located right in the middle of a great neighborhood, within walking distance of many of Portland's trendiest restaurants, bars and shops. After checking in, we wandered the streets of the city, trudging through snow and shuffling over ice as we went.
We stumbled across a tiny diner so dated it was trendy again, a used bookstore with books stacked near to the ceiling, a mom-and-pop-owned outdoors store and plenty of small-time coffee shops. Later that day we got lost in Powell's Books, the bookstore so large it may as well be a college library. After purchasing a Gloria Steinem autobiography and scanning the rare book room, we had a few local beers and hush puppies at Tasty n Alder. After a short hike across the city, we were ready for dinner at Pine Street Market, where fate steered me towards Marukin Ramen, and I indulged in what may have been the best ramen I've had in my short life.
The drinking and dining only continued after dinner, when we decided to visit the bar in the basement of our hotel called Al's Den, which is both a small stage venue and speakeasy-style bar serving a variety of locally-brewed beers and craft cocktails. A few beers later, and we wound up in the hotel's hot-water salt pool before turning in for the night. The next day we had a late start, but Kenny & Zukes and Stumptown coffee got us going. We found a sports bar and watched the Steelers beat the Chiefs with some friends before getting Salt & Straw ice cream - I will dream about the foie gras oatmeal cream pie flavor forever.
We couldn't leave Portland without getting some Voodoo Doughnuts for the road. We were Portland's most popular couple as we headed to the airport - people on the street, on the train, and in line for airport security all had a comment to make about our square pink box. Later that night when we got home, we ate all of them - and I'm not the slightest bit ashamed.
Portland was a wonderful introduction to the Pacific Northwest. We had a blast visiting with friends, exploring the city, and eating way, way too much. Those mountains and forests may have eluded me for the time being, but I'll be back up north, soon - there's still so much more to see.
See more photos of our Portland trip here!