GUIDE FOR A WEEKEND IN PORTLAND

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To say the city of Portland is “walkable” would be an understatement.  Whether you are walking around downtown, or in the neighborhoods surrounding it, everything feels like few steps away.  The city blocks downtown seem like half blocks compared to most other major cities and they are lined with amazing options for both dining and shopping.  Staying at the Benson Hotel only added to the convenience as it placed us right around the corner from all of our favorite places

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The Benson Hotel was originally founded in 1913 and provided plenty of old school charm and opulence with its crystal chandeliers, dark woods, and marble staircases.  Portland offers so many options for hotels it was a bit difficult to decide on one initially.  We had initially booked somewhere else but took a chance on the Benson just days before we arrived.  We are so glad we did, it made our stay so convenient and hospitable.

With just over 48 hours to spend in Portland, we wanted to hit the ground running upon arrival. If restaurants are the primary focus when we travel, vintage shops are a very close second.  Thanks to some great recommendations from readers on Instagram, Jane had already pinpointed Xtabay Vintage as the first stop.

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Located near a few restaurant options on such as the famed Pok Pok, Broder, and Bollywood Theatre, Xtabay Vintage aligned perfectly with all its recommendations.

While walking around the neighborhood a bit, and taking in all the lush greenery and flowers, we were easily drawn in by Bollywood Theatre’s colorful decor and casual atmosphere. There are plenty of seating options both inside and outside, and a great little shop inside offering dry and canned goods, as well as books and other gift items.  Be sure to look over the daily specials when placing your order at the register.  The fava bean pakoras being featured that day were fantastic!  Also, be sure to try some of their spicy chutney at the self service bar. Made with roasted serranos and jalapeños, it tasted very Texan to us.

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After lunch, the early 5am wakeup time and long flight started to hit us a bit. It was time to find a nice coffee shop to recharge a bit before heading back to the hotel.  Anyone that’s ever research Portland would know they take a supreme level of pride in their love of coffee. Home of Stumptown and Heart, coffee shops are everywhere!  On Division St, we highly recommend Dapper & Wise.

Our evening had already been planned a few weeks in advanced, we had reserved a table at Renata, which was featured on many “Best of” lists from 2015. We’ve been in such an Italian food mood lately and this met all of our expectations.  Per usual, we opted for seats at the bar instead of a table, and enjoyed not only an incredible meal, but well crafted cocktails (including a Negroni flight) and friendly conversation with the staff. Portland, as we were finding out, is extremely friendly. I’m not sure we can stress that enough.  Everyone we encountered was polite, helpful, and genuinely nice. While sitting at the bar, we were provided with a few other places to try and a couple of options for nightcaps, including the Whisk{e}y Library and Clyde Common.

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We ended up at Clyde Common that Friday night.  Located at the Ace Hotel, the bar is managed by the renowned mixologist and author of a modern cocktail staple, The Bar Book. Inside, the crowd is energetic and diverse with locals and travelers coming and going. With seats at the window bar, we enjoyed tasty bar snacks, excellent cocktails, and a good round or two of people watching.

The slight two hour time difference between Portland and Dallas came into play the following morning. We’re fairly early risers thanks to our dogs begging for breakfast around 7am each day. Unfortunately, that means 5am in Portland, and although they were safe and sound back in Dallas, their wake up calls traveled with us.  The other thing we noticed is how daylight seems to last longer in Portland. In comparison to Dallas, the sun shines a bit earlier in the morning and a little longer in the evening. I decided to take advantage of this and get a good walk in around downtown.

We love donuts and it seems that you have two significant choices in Portland.  You can either wait in a long line at Voodoo or choose to stand in another long line at Blue Star. Blue Star tends to align more with our preferences, so I went with the latter and the line is very real. Plan to spend 20-40 minutes waiting to order.

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The next stop was Heart Roasters located at 12th and Alder.  We have a local shop in Dallas that sells Heart and I’ve always enjoyed having it in the house.  It’s nice to have a couple of cups made fresh in its hometown.

In the afternoon, we walked around the same area and decided to do some shopping. Again, there are amazing shops everywhere and most of them have something for everyone.  Alder & Co has an impressive collection of home goods and clothing including local pottery, luxury perfume and candles, and Hilary Horvath’s floral services.

At the end of the block, WM Goods focuses a bit more on clothing with an equally beautiful shop offering home goods and beauty products as well.  They also have a really cool dressing and seating area.

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A few blocks east were two of our favorite shops that we happened to stumble upon while exploring. First was North of West.  We found some great knick knacks for our home and kitchen.  They were so welcoming and provided plenty of conversation and back story on the products. It’s nice to see so many shops focusing on locally sourced items.

The second shop was just around the corner which we found by ignoring the closed sidewalk signs trying to prevent us from getting there.  Maak Lab is one of the most beautiful shops we’ve seen in a long time.  Very small but it featured a truly inspired display of soaps and scents made by the owners.  The fragrance in the shop was hypnotizing!

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The weather in Portland is always changing but mostly overcast switching between misty rains and light flashes of sun.  The wind would breeze through a little here and there to offer just enough chill to our bones that we found a great refuge in Boxer Ramen.  It gave us another welcomed pause and just enough warmth to get us through the rest of the afternoon.

Despite the overcast and teases of rain, we didn’t want to miss a chance at visiting the International Rose Test Garden.  It wasn’t a far ride from the hotel, but you travel upwards long enough to see such beautiful tall trees and lush roadways that you don’t get to see down in Texas.  Life was growing everywhere, and then you end up at Washington Park in the Rose Garden, and the amount of space devoted to the largest and most colorful flowers you’ve ever seen is breathtaking.  Roses the size of basketballs in every color!  It’s quite enthralling to walk amongst the 1000s of varieties.  Definitely take an hour or two to check it out.

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RoseGarden_PhotoGrid02Sunday was our final day, and yet another day of walking and talking with locals.  We had brunch at the Imperial just across the street from the hotel. Down the street a few blocks was Barista for coffee and cookies.  More shopping which led us to Frances May and their wonderful collection of clothes for both men and women. We also took time to have drinks with some old friends at Rontoms for Sunday Sessions, live music provided by local and touring acts.  All of which was leading up to dinner at Le Pigeon.

We’ve read a bit about Le Pigeon over the years and we were so excited to try it all weekend. James Beard award winner Gabriel Rucker’s French inspired dishes did not disappoint and we are so glad we opted for the Tasting Menu.  We went with five over seven courses and that proved to be the wise choice. Word to the wise, it’s very small and the tables are communal.  Make reservations ahead of time.  That being said, we’ll probably try to get there earlier the next time.  You get a front row seat to the kitchen at the bar.

All in all, Portland has to be one of our favorite cities to visit.  There are so many shops and restaurants that we just didn’t have time for on our first round.  Places that we feel that we need to see so a future trip is already in the works.  We were so grateful for everyone’s kindness and friendliness while visiting and we can’t wait to experience it again.

PLACES TO SHOP

Xtabay Vintage
WM Goods
Alder & Co
North of West
Maak Lab
Frances Yes
Everyday Music

PLACES TO EAT

Bollywood Theatre
Renata
Le Pigeon
The Imperial
Boxer Ramen
Pok Pok
Tasty n Alder

PLACES TO DRINK COFFEE

Barista
Heart
Dapper & Wise
Stumptown

PLACES TO DRINK COCKTAILS

Clyde Common
Whisk{e}y Library
Victoria
Rontoms
Expatriate

 

 

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