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Jolene goes to Portland (Oregon)

Note: All food and drink will be reviewed in my "Jolene Eats in Portland" blogs, Part 1 and Part 2!

A number of years ago, I started my love affair with the city of Seattle (Yes, I swear this blog is about my trip to Portland): drinking obscene amounts of coffee, enjoying the waterfront and breathing in that wonderful Pacific Northwest air. There's something about the landscape, the trees, the lifestyle, that has always captured me. Maybe I'm drawn to the the sheer contrast to my smog-filled Southern California life with its palm trees and often shallow population, or maybe the PNW really is magical.

This past weekend however, I may have broken up with Seattle.

A few weeks ago, my fellow blogger and one of my closest friends Jennifer and I were going through some hard times in our day jobs, personal lives, and were in desperate need of a small getaway. We toyed with some fun locations - San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle... but due to logistics, those didn't work out. I suggested Portland, and a couple weeks later we were 30,000 feet up in the air on our way to the City of Roses. Our goal was not to go overboard sightseeing or trying to do everything - we were interested in a relaxing, fun trip that would give us an idea of the city but also give us the break we needed. I'd been to Portland once before, but this would be my first opportunity to really get to know the city and plan my own trip.

We arrived Friday night... late. Jennifer experienced severe flight delays, so our late-night excursion plans were cancelled. The good news is, our Airbnb was absolutely perfect, and the best place to decompress after a flight. We talked late into the night, caught up, and prepared ourselves for the weekend ahead.

If you're looking for an Airbnb in Portland, I highly suggest staying at Stef's place. Not only was Stef a wonderful host, there were plenty of thoughtful details left for us - coffee, local chocolate, water/drinks in the fridge. The home was spacious, modern, well-decorated, full of character, and in a great neighborhood!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

We arrived at the Falls around 10:30AM, early enough to still easily find parking. We perused the shop, grabbed breakfast at the Lodge, and proceeded to view the Falls. Unfortunately, everything (trails, the bridge, etc.) was closed! I'd read that only the very top was closed, but it turns out everything was closed.... all we could do was view the Falls from the lowest viewing area. They were beautiful, but we spent a total of about 15 minutes there. The good news is we decided to head to our Plan B location: Vista House. I'd read about this gem on Local Adventurer and tentatively added it to our itinerary. Luckily we had more than enough time to brave the winding road up to the house, and the views were stunning.

When I pulled up and saw the limited parking, I panicked a little but continued driving the narrow lane that looped around the house. We were lucky enough to find a parking there, despite the short line of cars waiting at the other area.


After Vista House, we stopped at the Corbett View Point off the I-84 and continued our way back to Portland. It was early afternoon at this point, with the sun beating down on us (not what we expected for the infamously rainy PNW). To cool off, we grabbed some ice cream and cold drinks before heading back to our Airbnb to freshen up for dinner and evening activities.

It was around this time that I really felt an affinity for Portland. I'd been driving around all day, but had not encountered speeding. We'd visited many places and only encountered genuinely friendly people. Was this the same trendy, pretentious hipster city that I had envisioned? Actually, it wasn't, but I mean that in the best way. Portland is authentic. It's weird. It doesn't try to be anything or please anyone.

Portland is also full of street art, matching its colorfully and artfully crafted walls to it's figuratively colorful reputation. We were privileged enough to stumble upon some gorgeous murals. For more options and addresses, scroll back up to the Local Adventurers link I posted.

After dinner, we went to the City Fair, which is part of the annual Portland Rose Festival. I'd bought tickets ahead of time (they were a few dollars cheaper, plus I like to do what I can ahead of time to limit hassle), and we carved out a few hours to spend there. Sadly, because we had already eaten dinner, there wasn't much for us to do. We walked the fair, enjoyed seeing the few vendors and wishing we could indulge in fried Oreos and turkey legs. Not too long afterwards, we decided to call it a night, grab drinks and get some good rest.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

We got breakfast early-ish before heading to a church meeting in Clackamas, a city about 20 minutes from our Airbnb. Upon coming back to the Airbnb to change, I'd gotten an email from our Airbnb host, letting me know that raspberries were ripening in the backyard, and we were encouraged to pick them! So here's another opportunity for me to rave about + show off our cute home for the weekend...

We headed out to lunch and went on a mission to visit Washington Park and Pittock Mansion, starting with the International Rose Test Garden. I know what you're thinking - a rose garden? Why take the time to visit that?

The International Rose Test Garden is not your typical rose garden - it boasts around 650 different kinds of roses, and over 10,000 rose bushes. Admission is free, but keep in mind parking is an absolute nightmare.


Even if you're like myself and don't consider yourself a rose-enthusiast, take your time as your make your way through the garden. Take the time to observe the roses, and I can almost guarantee you will see one you've never seen before. The roses are so fragrant that a subtle perfume fills the air, and nature photographers rejoice as they explore endless photo options.

My favorite roses were the "Distant Drums," a species of heirloom rose that reminded me of a faded sunset. The tones were so dynamic - from a warm, near-beige color fading out into a dusty rose pink. Each rose was so beautiful and unique, I was surprised that I was so impressed.

The only major downer of our trip to the garden was the rain. The skies had been massively overcast, but we did our homework and there was 0% precipitation predicted for the day. However, at the tail-end of our garden trip, it started to rain heavily within a few minutes. We decided to cancel the Japanese Garden and Pittock Mansion and agreed we should change into more rain-appropriate clothing and take a break at home.

As we drove home, the rain let up in our area, so we changed and took a chance on a Plan B: Powell's City of Books, but only after a couple photo ops and donuts. Again consulting Local Adventurers, we took an Uber to a spot to get photos with the Portland Oregon White Stag sign. The spot was relatively easy to find (I went based off of the photos on their website), but what we were not prepared for was the large crowd of homeless people.


We learned quickly that this area of town was not the best - please keep this in mind if you are like us, two young female travelers. The upside? We got our photos!

We continued through the mildly sketchy area to grab donuts, then headed to Powell's, the world's largest independent book store. Jennifer is considerably more of a reader than I am, but I was the first one to excitedly grab a book off the shelf and decide to buy it. This says it all about Powell's - there is something for everyone, if you take the time to look. There are plenty of great souvenir options, novelty items, comic books, accessories, and of course, more than plenty of books.

There are several rooms, each designated a different color, but try not to get lost!

We finished off our night with snacks, drinks, and an earlier night in to pack and rest before leaving the next day.

MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2018

It was our last day in Portland, and there were so many things we didn't get to do, but we decided to avoid cramming things in and enjoy our last few hours in this amazing city.

We began with, you guessed it, COFFEE, before driving up to Pittock Mansion, a charming piece of Portland's history with stellar views of the city. The drive up is not the most difficult, but it is not terribly easy - the roads are windy and uphill. Please take that into consideration if you are uncomfortable driving these kinds of roads!

The mansion offers tours and admission is $11, but due to time constraints we decided to save the tour for next time and enjoy the outside instead. After dodging a schoolbus full of children on a field trip, we made our way to the viewing area and admired the city we had grown to love. It wasn't the clearest day, but the view was still something very special.

From there, we did some shopping (did you know Oregon is one of only four states in the US that doesn't have sales tax!?) at a mall before having our last meal, and finally heading to the airport.

While I may have temporarily broken up with Seattle, I've found a new love in the city of Portland. The PNW magic thrives in this quirky city - she is definitely the less frantic cousin of Seattle. There is an ease and an authenticity that is unrivaled here. Tourist traps are scarce, and there is an effortless quality to Portland that is not only inviting, but dangerously persuasive, drawing you into its charm until you don't want to leave.

Until next time,

Happy wandering!


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