I wanted to escape San Francisco for a bit.
It was a sunny Friday afternoon in March and I was getting my post-lunch coffee thinking that I should fly somewhere for the weekend. I pondered reasonable destinations for a short trip. NYC would be fun but a lot of flying for a weekend getaway. Portland and Los Angeles came to mind next — Portland won. I had never visited and it seemed like I could see a good chunk of Portland in just two days.
I woke up at the Westin Portland and was out the door by 8:30a. Even though this was a last-minute trip, I asked some friends and had some spare time to Google things to do. Day 1 was to be mostly inside Portland and day 2 was to be outside the city.
Pioneer Courthouse Square
Just a few blocks from my hotel, this 40,000-square-foot city block sized public space is ranked as the 4th best in the nation.
I put my name down for brunch at Tasty n Alder and went across the street to Heart Coffee to grab a cappuccino while I waited. It's a cozy and quiet coffee shop with great natural light; loosely filled with folks catching up on work and life on this Saturday morning.
My wait for brunch continued and I went across the street to a modern furniture and goods store I had heard about.
Tasty n Alder
The time had come and brunch was to be served. I'm a sucker for any place that has a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit sandwich. I was overjoyed to see it on the menu and did not hesitate to order it the moment I sat down.
After brunch I continued walking through the neighborhood and passed by the Ace Hotel. I was originally going to visit Stumptown Coffee next to the Ace but I was sufficiently caffeinated.
Powell's City of Books
“The largest independent new and used bookstore in the world.”
I continued walking through the Pearl — a slice of Portland loosely defined as between the Fremont Bridge along the 405 and the Broadway Bridge. I walked on the beautiful "international orange" Broadway Bridge, just one of the eleven bridges crossing the Willamette River.
The adjacent tied-arch Fremont Bridge was named after John C. Frémont who surveyed the Oregon Trail in the 1840s.
I continued strolling aimlessly through the Pearl District — running into Tanner Springs Park and Jamison Square.
By this point I had been walking for a several miles and decided to stop for a water and cappuccino when I found Barista, a self-proclaimed “tiny, unpretentious coffeehouse.” It was situated on a somewhat quiet street in an area that seemed half residential and half industrial with lots of little shops and restaurants strewn along.
My stroll continued west on NW Glisan St and across the 405 on my way to explore the Nob Hill neighborhood. It had now warmed up a few degrees and was perfect.
Now I was near the action. While attractions in the Pearl were pretty spaced out and in an industrial area, Nob Hill felt immensely more walkable and populous with much more to see and eat.
I ended up finding an Arc'teryx store and got a light windbreaker — I love Arc'teryx jackets and they only have a few retail locations in the US.
Southland Whiskey Kitchen
I couldn't sit down at a whiskey kitchen and not savor some liquor on this perfect afternoon. I ordered a bourbon smash along with a spicy pulled pork sandwich while I gave my legs a rest.
After a satisfying late lunch, I began walking two miles back to the hotel where I had booked a nearby Zipcar for the rest of the afternoon.
St. John's Bridge & Park
This bridge had come up a few times in my searches for things to see in Portland and it was immediately apparent when I arrived. It's quite the majestic bridge. I had timed this visit to be later in the day so there would be more interesting light to capture around the bridge. I think it paid off!
Afterwards I drove to Pittock Mansion as quickly as I could to watch the sun set over the Portland skyline.
A journey to the East.
Tasty n Sons
For breakfast I tried the other "Tasty" location. Mike Davidson, who's quickly becoming my new restaurant guide for all things Pacific Northwest, mentioned this one was larger and had a better menu.
I was greeted with a formidable line of folks waiting to get a seat when I walked in. Fortunately, I had a secret weapon up my sleeve; I was traveling solo and was instantly seated.
Bonneville Lock & Dam
Forty-five minutes later I saw an interesting sign on Route 30 for this dam and decided to take the exit.
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
I later arrived at my original planned destination, Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge. Someone had told me about a coffee shop I had to try. Noticing a theme here? I
like need my coffee.
Stoked Roasters + Coffeehouse
Of course I had to take another random exit to see what I could find.
An ode to the BMW X1
I'm a car guy and I'll be the first to admit that an SUV, much less a lowly 240HP base model 2.0-liter turbo I4 BMW X1, is not my traditional cup of tea. I've rented BMW X1 SUVs on just about every daytrip I take and have spent tens of hours spanning a thousand miles in them. They're nimble and not too large — great for urban and rural adventures alike.
However, the cup holder is too small to fit my Nexus 6... annoying when trying to keep Google Maps open.
I had originally entered Guy W. Talbot State Park to see the neighboring Multnomah Falls but quickly realized that it was a hugely packed tourist attraction. I kept driving. Fortunately, Latourell Falls was just a few miles down the road.
While not quite as grand as Multnomah, Latourell Falls are unique in that water falls straight down off of a protruding igneous rock cliff.
I hiked a trail going to the top of the falls first and then down to the base, where I went a bit off-trail to get closer.
I had two more destinations along the Columbia River planned just in time for the late afternoon sun. Vista House, an observatory and memorial to Oregon pioneers, was the first.
The route leading to Vista House is twisty and scenic — lots of fun. As such there were many motorcyclists and car enthusiasts hanging around.
Before heading back to the city I wanted to get a shot of Vista House from the adjacent Chanticleer Point.
By this time I was starving. I had received several recommendations for restaurants in this area so I decided to park nearby and walk around.
Everyone suggested I try a Thai restaurant called Pok Pok, but I just couldn't get myself to wait in their long line. I'm glad I passed on Pok Pok and went to Bollywood Theater instead. The spicy chicken kati roll I ordered — made with fresh, soft paratha — was absolutely delicious.
After I got back into downtown Portland I spent at least an hour trying to find a good place to photograph the famous Portland "White Stag" sign from across the Willamette River. I wanted to shoot from the Eastbank Esplanade walkway but the closest parking was a mile away and the area didn't seem particularly safe to walk alone at night with camera gear.
I settled for a shot right under the sign.