A long weekend in Canada (Victoria day) + my 27th birthday + the insatiable need to get out of Vancouver = a birthday weekend wander down across the border and into Portland, Oregon! The ride down from Vancouver isn't terribly long (about 6 hours via BoltBus) & I found a great deal (80.00$ return) so it only made sense to pack my bags and get gone! There are a few services from Vancouver, but to get the most out of my weekend I opted for an extra day off from work & headed off Friday morning at 6:30 (yawwwnnnnn) and returning Monday morning around the same time. With BoltBus you're in for a standard bus journey, though with more legroom & wifi (that works better than you'd think), with the first stop being the USA/Canada border, then Bellingham, WA, Seattle & finally Portland around 1:30pm. From there I was headed to check in at HI-Portland Northwest Hostel, which I could not recommend enough to anyone travelling down to Portland! Within a few blocks of the infamous 21st &23rd ave neighborhood's, close enough to walk right downtown, but with all the charm of a cozy residential home. In New Zealand I lived & worked at a hostel that reminded me so much of Portland NW that I instantly felt at home, not to mention the incredible staff there & the facilities which were top notch (heck the bathroom was nicer than my bathroom at home, how often can you say that about a hostel?!).
From there I met up with another Laura (two is always better than one) who I had worked with at the hostel in NZ last year & who is a Portland native & offered to show me some gems outside the city! What came next had to be the highlight of the weekend. Anyone who has seen my instagram knows that I will chase any and all waterfalls no matter where I travel, so it would only make sense to find one here too!
Just a 30 minute drive from downtown Portland along the sweeping view of the Columbia River Gorge, sits Multnomah Falls. This magnificent 600 + foot waterfall can be heard from the parking lot, and once out of the car can be seen with in minutes of the info center there. As legend has it, the falls were created to win the heart of a native american princess because she wanted a secret place to bathe (come on who wouldst want this place as their personal bath?). The main viewing platform is at the base of the falls, but you can walk a little ways upwards to a secondary viewing bridge that sits about midway up the falls themselves. I was happy enough to stand at the base and take it all in, the sound of the rushing water, the spray of the falls- nothing was better than that moment. Definitely a great way to kick off the weekend!
The rest of the afternoon was spent driving through the forest and back into the city where I was introduced to The HUB (Hopworks Urban Brewery) in Eat Portland. Boasting a kick ass selection of craft beers (one major thing the city is known for) and a cool bike rack bar we settled in with some drinks & then decided to get a bit adventurous and try something we dubbed "Beer Roulette" which is a tester fleet of about 15 beers they have on tap. They bring it out on a tray that's base is made to look like a roulette wheel and is numbered, the numbers go with a sheet they bring out to you telling you what beer is what, alcohol content, ect. The roulette bit of it is once you start to taste a few "less savory" brews (maybe my beer drinking palette isn't up to par) and you get rid of the list taking chances on different ones in the hopes you'll remember which ones weren't your favorite tasting beers. Impressively we managed to finish most of them (about 11/15 ) before we called it a night.
Day 2 of the weekend had be exploring the city getting my fill of what downtown Portland has to offer. Everything from the infamous Saturday Markets down by the Naito Parkway in Old Town, to treating myself to simply the best coffee at Stumptown I have ever put in my body and a top notch breakfast sandwich at BrunchBox . Walking around the city is always something I love when I get to a new place, although I'll be the first to admit that while traveling I tend to avoid cities for the sheer amount of people, noise, chaos ect, however Portland on a Saturday morning was pretty laid back & quiet (the rain clouds coming in off Mt.Hood may have had something to do with that) so I strolled and strolled grabbing one more Stumptown for the road before meeting back up with Laura to adventure out to the Japanese Gardens & International Rose Gardens . You can drive up or take the MAX (public transit) out to the Zoo and the same stop lets you off at the gorgeous Japanese Gardens. At the moment there are serious renos going on as they are revamping their entrance area but still didn't take away from the lush gardens & waterfalls in the park. During out visit there was a Bonsai tree exhibit which had me flabberghasted when I saw, not the tiny desk sized adorable bonsai trees we're used to seeing, but fairly large (2-4 ft tall) ones. Turns out these guys can grow off of other larger trees and although the tiny versions exist these larger versions are much older and can be found deep in forests in remote areas or even on mountain sides (thanks Mr. Guideman for teaching me something new). Down from there is the International Rose Test Garden, where Portland grows international roses not native to the area to see if they will hack in in the Pacific North West. I'm a sucker for flowers, and these beauties absolutely did not disappoint. Colours that I had never seen, rivaled closely by roses that were taller than I am (and I'm 5'6), we spent the remainder of the afternoon here before heading back into the city for a happy hour experience at Portland City Grill.
Quite the tourist attraction this restaurant/lounge is well sought after by tourists & locals alike because of the city views it offers of Portland and out to Mt.Hood. We arrive just after 3:30pm and already there was a short queue of people waiting for the elevators to unlock and let us up (the restaurant keeps the elevators locked to avoid mass lineups up at the lobby). Located up on the 30th floor of "Big Pink" as the locals call it (the office building is a slightly unattractive shade of pink you can see from most street corners downtown) the biggest draw is to be able to sit along the walls of windows in order to get the best views. Sadly the weather during my weekend in Portland was very classic Pacific North West in which the rain did not stay away, but the views were still great, and we managed to escape a slightly scary rain storm that afternoon while indulging in pre-birthday cocktails. Once the rain subsided we offered up out seats to another table and continued our wanders around the city checking out some parks and little shops.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! That's right Sunday not only marked my 3rd day of touring around Portland but also my 27th day of life. With a flush of birthday love from home in Montreal all the way New Zealand & Australia & The UK I started my day off in a foreign city feeling very loved. The morning started off with even more coffee from Stumptown (seriously guys it was AMAZING and I've missed it every morning since being back) and a trip to Portland BagelWorks where I treated my Montreal bagel deprived heart to some equally as scrumptious bagels. I was starting things off right, and was so sold on these bagels I bought a half dozen to bring home with me after the weekend! I wandered my way back downtown from The Pearl District and found myself face to face with my nerdy heaven -Powell's City of Books. The largest independent retailer of new & used books in the world, this place is UNREAL. I mean seriously I didn't believe what people told me about the sheer size of the place, but after getting lost several times in a 15 minute period I started to believe it. This place is a mecca for book lovers, divided up in different sections by colour, Powells has more books than I have ever seen in any library before and a fair amount of book related trinkets and the like for anyone to enjoy. I perused all the sections before realizing the sun was out (this wouldn't last) and the fact I'd been in there nearly 2 hours so I made my way back into the city down to Chinatown and the Chinese Gardens. No nearly as impressive as the Japanese Gardens from Saturday these are still lovely for a stroll through, but once I felt the rain start I got myself out of there and to dry ground-AKA lunch time! With only a short time left in Portland to consume food I decided to check out a city hot spot -BoxerRamen conveniently across from the Powells on Burnside and indulged in some excellent Ramen while the rain did it's thing outside.
Yet, sadly the rain decided not to stop, and I got myself caught in a torrential downpour making my way back to the hostel which left me totally waterlogged for the afternoon. So what do you do when it's raining & it's your birthday? Well you dry off, and go get a manicure! I very rarely spend money on something I can do myself and enjoy doing but figure what the hell? Every girl deserves to pamper herself on her birthday. Post manicure it was time to get dressed, and stare in amazement that the rain had stopped & the sun was out for the first time since Friday, and meet up with Laura for a birthday dinner downtown. Dressed and starving we headed to a fantastic Italian restaurant where my Italian nana would have been proud at the amount of pasta I consumed with great wine. From there we headed off to my final culinary stop in Portland and no better way to close off a birthday- ICE CREAM! Salt &Straw is another Portland fave boasting unique flavours and another line up which I gladly waited in. "Was it worth it?" I'm sure a lot of you are asking...well YES! Absolutely positively worth the wait, the most difficult and disappointing part of it all? Not being able to eat all of the ice cream in the joint. I opted for a Cinnamon Snickerdoodle scoop in a waffle cone that pretty much left me the happiest birthday girl ever. Don't believe me? check out this face? This is the face of a girl in ice cream heaven...
And then it was over, the weekend came around quickly and it disappeared even quicker. With a happy stomach (the last of my bagels) tired feet from all the exploring & feeling quite content with the amount of awesomeness that I was able to fit into the long weekend I was back en route across the border and back to Vancouver. In the last 3 years I have spent my birthday's abroad- 25 had be zip lining in a Costa Rican jungle & dancing until 4am at a salsa bar, 26 had be on an epic road trip in NZ with my amazing friend Jo & this year had me in Portland..I wonder where I'll celebrate my 28th? Thinking I'll keep the birthday abroad theme going strong for years to come!