I grew up in the foothills of Los Angeles and at the time I didn’t really appreciate the calming qualities that an arbor-like neighborhood could give. I wanted to be downtown among the buildings and what I thought were the more exciting places to be. It wasn’t until I got older and experienced the joys of living in the thick of the city that I really began to appreciate my home town. I love my current neighborhood near Hollywood and have no plans of leaving any time soon, but I do find excuses now and then to venture north of the city for a little break from the busy streets. The first time I went to Portland I felt that exact same calm. The Oregon area is of course the quintessential northwest setting, with the lush surroundings, gorgeous mountain views, and welcoming locals (LA can be a little harsh if you aren’t careful), but the shops and cafes in the city still hold onto that outdoor life mentality.
Last time I visited the area it was just for the weekend and while I only saw a tiny part of what the city can offer, the two day trip was the perfect excursion. The first day began at the picture perfect Multnomah Falls. The tiny bridge is nestled between two mountains which gives an almost surreal view of the waterfall in front and canyon to the back. Small winding paths allow for a great afternoon walk, but I preferred to visit in the morning, leaving the rest of the day for lunch and shopping. A quick drive into the city leads to the downtown area. I like seeking out the smaller shops and eateries similar to the neighborhoods I frequent at home, so a suggestion from a family member led me to the little pocket of streets in the heart of downtown which borders the Pearl District and its loading docks. Artisan bakeries like Saint Honore and sandwich delis like Kenny and Zukes were great representations of the fresh food in the area, plus the deli had a huge amount of ice cream flavors to choose from so I was quickly hooked. SW 13th street leads to a number of small owned shops like Reveille. This clothing store is like walking into your stylishly eclectic friend’s home. The entrance is adorned with a tattered American flag, while the back walls reveal Civil War jackets lined next to flowery frocks, accompanied by a large taxidermy animal head just to watch over the entire scene. Everything is carefully curated and speaks to the craftsmanship of well-made vintage clothes, while their new pieces are sourced from small production designers from all over the world.
After exploring the downtown area, try taking a quick trip further west to the Nob Hill area to wander the tree lined streets and old Victorian homes. I enjoyed the small stores and the energy of the area near NW 23rd, but still found that same calm that I get each time I go home. Pretty much everyone was walking or on a bike so this is a great place to unwind after the day and do some people watching. I felt that I hadn’t had enough sugar so a stop into Two Tarts Bakery gave me my macaron and ice coffee fix. The bakery is intimate and small so you can see the owners baking everything that is coming fresh from the oven that day. The store is also right up the street from Salt and Straw which has consistently been voted the best ice cream of the west. With flavors like balsamic strawberry with cracked pepper and sea salt with caramel I think that is plenty of an excuse to visit Portland again!