Part 1: Portland
Vacation officially kicked Friday night after work. We made a pasta dinner, and figured it couldn’t hurt to split a bottle of wine to go with it, calm us down (it had been a heck of a day at work), and send us into sleepy time since we had to be up very early.
Well, one bottle became two, and early became late, and I had to drag myself to bed around midnight because I was JUST NOT TIRED, which meant I woke up a little hungover and very tired with 3 hours sleep when my alarm went off at 4am (which was actually late, since our flight left at 6).
Our OMG made the flight by literally one minute faces…
Long story short, though everything tried to conspire to keep us off that flight (including a bag coming apart in security, and the scanner breaking down and needing a reset as I was up in line), we got to the gate with one minute to spare. The rest of the flight was uneventful, and just a few (7) short hours later we emerged in Portlandia. That’s what all the locals call it, right? I heard it on a TV show.
Our norm is to take a cab to the hotel, but decided to give public transportation a go, and I’m really glad we did. It was 5 bucks for the whole day and took just a LITTLE longer than I expect a cab would take, but it was great to see the city. We arrived at our destination, and walked two blocks to our hotel, Hotel DeLuxe.
It was just as swanky as advertised. It had a old-movie-star feel and theme to the place, and a playlist with Frank Sinatra crooning greeting us upon entering the room put it over the top in levels of coolness. A brief stop for lunch at Cheryl’s on 12th had to happen. Fish tacos! Prime rib sammich! Free Beignets! Super nice wait staff as well.
Between the cool lunch spot, the walk in the afternoon sun but temperate (read: not feels like strangling death) climate, and the fun touches of the city made me fall a little in love with it already, like I did Seattle (although I know we can’t be together all the time, your winters would depress me).
After a bit of time recharging in the room, we headed off to play on some trails! I had been super excited about this part, and while I was a little worse for wear on 3 hours sleep and fueled by wine and spicy tacos, I was not willing to skip this part of the plan. We took the Max to the zoo, and after getting turned around a bit, we found Wildwood Trail and boy, she was a stunner.
It was hot by Portland standards, 80-something, I believe, but the lack of humidity and the tree cover through most of the run made it not a thing. We went up, and down, and up, and around, and past some places where one wrong step would send us down a steep hill to our doom, and wound around and back.
We stopped at the official Rose Gardens and found it was 9 bucks – so we wound our way back around to the Test Gardens (which were free). I will need to spend the money on the real deal someday, because the test area was super duper gorgeous! Rows upon rows of gorgeous variations. My phone battery took a huge hit there snapping photos.
After the run for the roses, we decided to head back to where we left the Max instead of hoofing it toward the hotel, so we could catch more trail instead of streets. By this point, I had convinced myself I was going to move to Oregon and become an ultra trail runner. Then – reality set in and we had to walk part of the way back because of all the climbing and we’re at the end of offseason which means sloth season. Someday, I want to go run more of that trail, it goes for 30 miles, and I want to see all of it. Our guess was about 5.5-6 miles total in about an hour and ten (~800 or so feet of climb), with a few miles of walking as well.
Feeling energized, we did a quick shower and change, and prepared to grab some drinks and dinner at Trader Vic’s. After a nice long walk North to continue to stretch out our legs, we ended up being able to sneak into a nice, comfy booth at the bar right away. We started with a Mai Tai sampler and a crispy shrimp appetizer, both of which were amazing – Guava was my favorite Mai Tai, and the shrimp had this spicy/sweet sauce that was amazing. Zliten cleared the restaurant for use after getting the info that they did not fry in peanut oil.
The server came by and said the kitchen was slammed, and brought us another appetizer – lavash bread and homemade peanut butter (and then profusely apologized to Zliten and brought him some fruit, he was not offended and pretty full anyway). The pb was heaven, but I tried to exercise some restraint because I had dinner coming.
I did NOT exercise restraint in ordering a second drink though – Navy Grogg. I was kinda full up on sweet, and the mix of ginger and spice cut through the fog of sugar overload. Zliten’s second drink, the Trader Vic’s official Mai Tai, was like a mix of grain alcohol and heroin. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him leave a drink before, but after we both worked on it for 10 minutes, we decided to give up about 2/3rds through it.
Dinner was largely unremarkable. My lunar chicken was kinda undercooked and the coleslaw was a weird addition to chicken and pasta (though that part was divine). Zliten enjoyed his tiki burger alright. I enjoyed the tiki atmosphere and experience, but I’d probably do happy hour and pupus here next time, not dinner.
While I could tell that Zliten really wanted to call it a night, we grabbed one more drink at the Driftwood Lounge (at the hotel). It was a sexy little intimate spot – we got the last table. The bartenders had a snappy and debonaire attitude. It’s the kind of place you pour over your date and look into their eyes and it should have smoke wafting into the air, and you would probably get ostracized for whipping out your iPhone here. I liked it a lot. We had two champagne cocktails (the Elizabeth Taylor and the Springtime in Paris), and an order of fried cauliflower. It came with lemon zest, big bulbs of garlic, and olives. To. Die. For. Lovely spot to end the night, but our tireds caught up with us and we slept soundly.
Sunday, we slept until we woke up. Nine am might not sound like a feat, but considering it was 11am back in Texas, I was pretty proud. We leisurely got up and showered and read and relaxed, and had plans to meet a friend for lunch – let’s call him Celedon, as that was his moniker on EverQuest, where we met him on some snowy hills while he was killing giants. Today, we met him at a library, and we went in search of tasty Indian food.
This was challenging, as so many places were closed until the evening, or for the day. Even Yelp failed us, which was a sad surprise. I love my Yelp. I happened to spy a tasty looking burger place named Joe’s Burgers on our trek, and we chatted over some fine Oregonian beef burgers that tasted fairly similar to In N Out. The fries were good, but unremarkable.
Next, was the quest for beer. Portland + craft brews is like peas + carrots. We started with Virginia Cafe, which was one of Cel’s post work haunts. I had a delicious cider which was not too sweet or strong, a great first day drink, afraid I don’t remember the name. We sat outside on the patio continuing to talk (I believe we had turned to video games at this point) and enjoy Portland’s affinity for NOT BEING BALLS HOT. I’m pretty sure Cel got tired of us saying “let’s sit OUTSIDE” everywhere we went, but the July weather was just so novel.
The afternoon was a haze of beer. Zliten and I split a sampler – and by sampler I mean a taster of all 10 beers PINTS makes. The Rose Cream ale was the standout for me, but I had a sour beer and found I liked those as well. Next, was Bailey’s Tap Room (a spot multiple Austin peeps had said to try), and they had a ginger beer that rocked my world. I took care to write it down somewhere, and now I can’t locate the paper (Edit, took a picture – it was Caldera). That’s about how I felt when we left, that is, after meeting some new friends (and their adorable doggie) who grilled us on Texas slang via an internet quiz and talked about Seattle vs Portland vs Southern California vs Texas.
Beer warriors were weary and in need of food, so we hit up India House for nourishment. Chicken tikka masala, rice, and naan hit the spot, though Portland medium spicy is definitely not Texas medium spicy (I should have said hot, but it was still wonderful). We parted ways with Cel at that point, and we walked around for a bit.
I was intrigued by the Sand Bar, so we went in for a drink. I got some wine, and we chatted with the bartender that was from New Orleans, but didn’t love the spot, so we moved on. Zliten had REALLY wanted to hit up Deschutes Public House earlier, but it was super busy. Not so an hour before closing. We sat at the bar, and enjoyed a yummy spiced table beer.
We met a younger guy who had quit his job in April to travel the US (along with his girlfriend and some friends) – they were currently couch surfing a little north of Portland. They started in Florida, traveled up the East coast, through Chicago and the midwest, and were now making their way down the west coast. Ah, to be young and have that kind of freedom. Why didn’t I do stupid stuff like that in my early 20s? He suggested some great lakes (not THE great lakes, of course) to check out next time. When asked, he said he liked Chicago the best of everywhere they’d been thus far. Being from there, I think he had pretty good taste!
We made one more stop at the Driftwood. I required more of that delicious cauliflower, we got some spicy broccolini as well, which came with shaved parmesan and a great sauce. I mean, come on, can you beat veggies as bar food? We made it to last call (which was early on a Sunday), and took our last drink up to the room and resisted the urge to break into the honor bar. Good us.
Monday morning came quickly, and I had no love for breakfast food that morning. The last thing I wanted was some sweet pancakes, so we set out looking for an alternative that was open. After a few blocks, I looked up, and it’s as if angels sang a choir – a hole in the wall taco shop called Maya’s Taqueria was open. They even were serving the full menu! I got four amazing mini asada chicken tacos, after noshing on some amazing spicy salsa and chips. Perfect for cutting through the next day beer fog.
In a jiffy, we packed up, checked out, walked the two blocks to the Max, and caught a train right away. It was sad to say goodbye to Portland, we had fun stomping all over town for a few days, but it was time to move onto the next adventure.