I love weddings. The anticipation, the gown, the food, the party, I love it all. Just over a month ago, I had the privilege of being the Matron of Honor in my cousin’s wedding in Vancouver, WA. After a three-day wedding extravaganza, Ryan and I took advantage of our proximity to a city that we’ve been dying to visit together and extended our trip by a few nights in the ever so eccentric, Portland, OR.
Before I dive into the highlights of our stay in Oregon, I have to take a moment to stress on the true perfection that was the Diaz-King wedding weekend. From the rehearsal luncheon at LUXE in downtown Vancouver where we dined on fried chicken and waffle sandwiches, adorned with golden animal kingdom name holders, to the Hawaiian BBQ dinner party at the bride and groom’s abode, to the gorgeous ceremony. Congrats, New Kings on the Block, thanks for such a fantastic time.
Monday morning, with minimal rest and post-wedding exhaustion, we moved into the Hotel deLuxe in Portland. The glamour of the hotel lobby was intoxicating. Mirrored walls, gold trim, old Hollywood flare, beautifully executed from lobby to guest room. The decor was so magnificent, it required a brief time out. The walk-in closet was the first distraction, followed by the adorable chandelier pendant hanging in the subway-tiled bathroom. Our floor-to-ceiling drapery framed both the custom headboard and crystal lamps. Light green, soft yellow and robins egg blue palette with white-washed espresso finishes and a ton of glass, we were home.
Our neighborhood was so peaceful and quiet it was hard to immediately gauge our distance from downtown. So, as usual, we headed out blindly in what we hoped would be the right direction. Just a block or so from our accommodations we found ourselves at the gates of The Old Church, Calvary Presbyterian, built in 1882. Historical landmark box immediately checked. We would soon learn that the attractiveness of the grounds and gardens would never get old but would be seen numerous times in the next few days.
Portland, more so than any other place I have visited in my life, seems overly fixated on food. Food trucks lined up for blocks make outdoor food courts, offering a concentrated assortment of worldly flavors. “All natural”, “organic”, “locally sourced” seems to be stamped on everything. Trendy, youthful eateries, blooming out of century-old buildings are intertwined with old local establishments. It didn’t take us long to randomly select somewhere for brunch. McMenamins Zeus Cafe at Crystal Hotel seemed like just as good a choice as any. Two seasonal bellinis, an order of the spinach, shiitake & tomato benedict with chipotle hollandaise and a side of creamy polenta later, brunch had been had. I loved how fresh everything tasted.
Portland beats to it’s own drum. There is an all-encompassing atmosphere like no other, an atmosphere where nothing is shocking, everything seems out of place and yet, it all totally belongs. Much like San Francisco, you can sit in one spot on a busy afternoon and feel like a piece from everywhere on earth has passed by. All walks of life walking together. Novelty and sustainability are big trends. Every place seems like the only one like it in the world. Our first day there we covered numerous districts. We went to Powell’s Bookstore, Pioneer Courthouse Square, the mall, a giant Nike store and scouted adjacent neighborhoods for our Tuesday agenda. By late afternoon we felt like we had been almost everywhere. Sunset, from the banks of the river, was the last destination we had committed to for the day. Getting ourselves acquainted with our soon to be favorite resource, Radio Cab, we taxi’d over the Hawthorne Bridge and set up along the waterfront. To the right of us was a dock popular for lovebirds, impromptu selfies and, at one point, an E-cig promotion shoot. Although sunset was slightly lackluster, Portland’s distinctive skyline still held its captivation.
We opted for walking back to experience one of the city’s numerous bridges up close and personal. Hawthorne Bridge, suspended over the river, offered a perfect view of the city as it began to turn its lights on. The reflection in the water glowed like glitter, full of vibrant color. Something about the bright lights and flashes of color made me want to celebrate. It was a good walk.
Somewhere between mid-bridge and end-of-bridge we turned our self-guided river tour into a quest for pizza. Traditionally, we end long days of hiking and photography with beer and pizza. Something about the dirtiness of the riverbank and pounding concrete all day felt worthy of a giant slice of pepperoni and a cold one. Randomly selected from a quick Google search, Sizzle Pie became our destination. It was a bus-your-own-table, dark and dingy sort of hole-in-the-wall, pizza joint. My favorite kind of pizza joints. Funny enough, we had walked passed Sizzle Pie much earlier in the day and mistakenly thought it was a hip, new-age bar that served pizza. We thought that was a brilliant concept and wanted to go back for dinner but had no recollection of its name. We only vaguely remembered a mural on the side of the building of a “pie chart”. After devouring some of their house classics; Ace of Spades (pepperoni), The Ol’ Dirty (salami, ricotta, olive oil and pepperoncini) and Bad Lieutenant (sausage and onion), we walked out extremely content and reminiscing about the place we had passed by earlier. As we rounded the corner, low and behold, there was the “pie chart”. Sizzle Pie, not a bar, just really good pizza.
Our feet were sore from walking miles. Our cameras were dying. Night had fully settled in around us. With only a few hours left in the day there was only one thing left to do, Voodoo Doughnut. We had been fair warned of the formality that is Voodoo Doughnut. The line, the revolving doughnut cases, the crazy busy decor on the walls and the get-in, get-out experience. We arrived prepared. We had a list. Luck on our side, we got through the red ropes with only half a dozen people ahead of us and were calling a cab, curbside, notorious pink doughnut box in hand, in less than ten minutes.
Back at our hotel we pulled out our methodically made selections and had one of the most satisfying tasting parties ever. Lemon Chiffon, Bacon Maple Bar, Diablos Rex chocolate on chocolate and the grand finale, Captain my Captain with vanilla frosting and Captain Crunch cereal. Each one was better than the last. They were all so good it’s almost unfair to pick a winner but if we had to, the Captain would take the trophy.
The next morning felt like a new life. Being so overdue for a solid night of sleep, we slept in our peaceful room of glam like babies. Our sense of adventure had been rejuvenated and we eagerly dressed and called for a cab to explore an area that Ryan had visited days before with my family, while I was tending to wedding duties, Mississippi Avenue. The best way to describe Mississippi Ave., the heart and soul of the historic Mississippi District, is a strip of independent retailers, running through an old neighborhood that has had a recent, fresh coat of paint and young, hipster-like business owners move in. Trendy restaurants with phenomenal menus are mixed among an eclectic assortment of fashion and gift boutiques. Just my kind of avenue.
Anytime you see a line outside a restaurant you know the food is going to be good. Gravy pretty much always has a line and we were willing to wait. Long before we were seated, I already knew what I wanted. How could I not have the biscuits and gravy? The wall behind Ryan’s head was lined with gravy boats for the love of goodness. Hot, fluffy biscuits and out of this world country-style sausage gravy with a side of fruit for the lady and the same with a side of scrambled eggs for the gent. Oh, and of course, giant mimosas for the both of us. The only way to explain how delicious our breakfast was is to strongly advise you to go there. Please, just go and eat there. Order whatever you want as long as its covered in gravy. You’re welcome.
We walked off the biscuits up and down both sides of the street and ventured off. I couldn’t stop taking photos, striving to preserve the charm and uniqueness stuffed in every corner. Hopping in and out of shops, I ended up making my favorite purchase of the entire trip at the adorable Sloan boutique. Hello new black leather fringe backpack, with gold accents. Welcome to your new family.
The best part of Mississippi Avenue was the neighborhood surrounding it. The food and the shopping is great but the houses and odds and ends of the area’s naturally-unnatural style are fantastic. No home looks the same yet they all have a common theme, colorful and very vintage. Turn-of-the-century Victorian architecture, painted in every shade that you can imagine. Yards overgrown, with mixtures of flowers and trees, decorated with obscure items like a giant disco ball and 2 of the 3 wise men, patiently waiting for their season to come back around.
After moseying around all morning it was time to head back and begin our mission. Ryan had named his Portland unicorn the day prior. He decided his trip wouldn’t feel complete without photographing the forty-story Wells Fargo Center. With the amount of ground we had covered up until this point there were only a few areas left that it could be hiding. Headed towards a cluster of commercial buildings towering high above the tree tops, sure enough, blocks from the Multnomah County Courthouse and Lownsdale Park, his unicorn was found. The perfectly symetrical grid of windows stood so tall that we had to photograph it in sections.
Feeling triumphant, it was time for a rest. Sitting on the steps of “Portland’s Living Room”, we took that rest with camera to eye and Starbucks in hand, all set for people watching on an entirely new level, a secret bonus level that we didn’t even know existed. It was a melting pot of blue-toothed workaholics going to and from the office, tourists taking selfies with the bronzed art installations, children chasing birds, locals tweeting, texting, oblivious or perhaps just accustomed to the diversity swimming by. I got a kick out of the fellow visitors, pointing and smiling at some of the square’s adornments. In this particular setting, my favorite people to watch were the ride-or-dies, the people that truly are Portland. They become fixtures just as much as the monuments and structures. It’s hard to decipher the difference at times, between the transients and the people grown from the soil of the city. It’s a difference in confidence and comfort, detected only after hours of observation.
Another day of walking for miles, our trip coming to a close, we had just enough time for a foot soak and pre-dinner beverage before the newly wedded bride and groom were swooping us up for beer and burgers, one last au revoir. Fat Head’s Brewery gets a huge shout-out for amazing burgers and beer, however, they do not get any foodie visuals because I was so hungry that I completely neglected to snap a single photo. It wasn’t until we were headed out the door and a poster struck my fancy that I even remembered I had a camera. Sorry, Fat Head’s.
The after dinner encore had full documentation. For the closing hooray we headed to the chic shopping pocket, NW 23rd Ave., to the ice cream holy grail, Salt & Straw. The absurdly fresh ingredients and ingenious flavors with seasonal specials, is overwhelming for a first-timer. Upon arrival, we found ourselves at the end of a very long line. When avoidable, I prefer not to do lines. I have no patience and nothing is ever really worth wasted time on a sidewalk staring at the back of the same head for who knows how long. Yet, something about the Jay-Z blasting from the front door, undeniable crowd excitement, and being in proverbial Rome, I gladly stood. As soon as we got close enough for the ice cream attendant to greet us we were offered samples. Samples seemed to be sort of a thing there so we tried a handful of flavors, each one delectable, and settled on salted carmel in a cup for her and snickerdoodle in a freshly made waffle cone for him. Should you ever be presented with an opportunity to stand in one of these lines, I suggest you take it.
A trip so good it was hard to pack up to leave. Homeward-bound felt almost like a punishment for enjoying ourselves so much. Our beloved hotel room that we tried to justify an economical approach to taking up residency in, the city that seems to be constantly smiling, feeling like you’re walking around in a giant hug, and the food, the food, the food. To think about leaving was to miss it already. Thank goodness, with family so close, we have every excuse to come back however often we see fit.