Where the young go to retire – and vacation

With Portland practically a straight shot north of Sacramento on the I-5 freeway, there’s no reason not to hit the road for this woodsy metropolis – especially in the summer when you need a break from the heat.

Last month, my boyfriend and I set out for the City of Roses. Despite a good faith effort to research notable sites and stops before our departure, I madly studied the Moon Portland guide, Design*Sponge’s Portland City Guide, and a Cooking Light article during the ride up. Granted, it is about a 10-hour excursion in the car, so I had more than ample time to plan an itinerary.

Overall, I felt at home in Portland where Subarus seem to breed like rabbits. It’s quite similar to Sacramento as a bike friendly community with an affinity for the outdoors. Yet, they’re much more pet friendly than Sac, and I noticed many doggie daycare establishments, including Virginia Woof which I’m sure provides a well-rounded intellectual experience for its boarding pups.

Then there are the numerous food and shopping options. And, with no sales tax in Oregon, it’s hard to resist whipping out that debit card on a purchase that can quickly turn into a shopping spree.

On a sunny day though, there’s no place like Portland. I can’t wait to go back.

Here are my top picks for shopping, eating, and sight-seeing:

Cacao – I can’t stop raving about this place. I walked in with a simple request for locally sourced chocolate and the clerk wowed me with an insightful tour of their stock. One interesting tidbit from my guide: the whimsically packaged Moonstruck Chocolate is not made from scratch in Portland as the company claims. They simply temper chocolate purchased from a prominent Swiss chocolatier. Cacao only recently started to carry this item in an effort to expose this truth.

Also, noteworthy, fans of salted caramel MUST buy a bag of lusciously creamy candies by Bequet. We left Portland with four bags between the both of us and regret not getting more. Luckily, Cacao will open an online shop soon.

Gilt – A truly well-curated boutique with attentive staff. And, while most of the pieces were out of my price-range, the collection of local jewelry on the second floor was certainly more affordable, and the reason I stopped at Gilt in the first place. In the end, I walked away with oval-shaped sterling silver hoop earrings and a stack of (oxidized?) steel rings, one with a pearl affixed to it, for a reasonable $40.

Redux – This place is just as dangerous as Gilt, but differs in that they sell jewelry and accessories made from reclaimed materials. One such item that caught my eye was a charm bracelet made from discarded cuff links. With an inventory from over 300 artists, there’s an overwhelming array of items to pour through. But, this also means you’re likely to find a treasure. Now, Sacramento could use a place like this.

                                                                                                                          photo from Google

Two Tarts Bakery – More like “Two-Bites Bakery,” this teeny patisserie serves silver dollar sized cookies including an addicting salted chocolate chip cookie as well as a miniature take on the Oreo cookie. Ideally located among the many retail shops on NW 23rd Street in the Nob Hill neighborhood, it’s the perfect place to stop and refuel before powering onto the next store. In fact, I’m tempted to sign up for the cookie club just so I can continue to enjoy their baked goods back in Sacramento.

Kettleman Bagels – For an inexpensive breakfast fix, there’s no place better than Kettleman Bagels. For $9, we each had a bagel with cream cheese and our respective orange juice and Stumptown coffee beverages. After spending around $20 on breakfast the first couple of days, Kettleman Bagels was a welcome relief to the pocket book without sacrificing quality. I could have easily scarfed down a second sun dried tomato bagel.

                                                                                                                          photo from Google

Meat Cheese Bread – As much as I love to have lunch or dinner in a fine dining establishment, it can get expensive to eat that way on vacation. Hence down-to-earth eateries like Meat Cheese Bread hit the spot when you need sustenance without having to leave a tip (at least not the standard 20%). They offer a simple menu of classic sandwiches and salads with a slight twist. My pick: the bacon, lettuce, and beet (BLB) sandwich. I only wish I had tried the coconut milk and mango bread pudding for dessert.

                                                                                        from portlandbreakfast.blogspot.com

Screen Door – When asked about favorite places to eat in Portland, one local we met named the Screen Door without hesitation. In addition to the recommendation, the number of waiting diners further indicated its popularity. We snagged some seats at the bar where we observed the line cooks prepping chicken for frying and arranging salads to order. I’m not a fried chicken kind of girl, and the pulled pork sandwich caught my attention. It was a little too spicy for my taste, and I probably would have been more content with the three side dishes option (Screen Door Plate) after eating their macaroni and cheese which lulls you into a dreamy food coma. Plus, it’s the best option for sampling some Southern comfort food that would generously serve two people.

Powell’s – Yea, it’s only a bookstore, but it’s one in a million. I know I’m biased as a bibliophile, but the selection is impressive. I bee-lined for the cookbooks to find that they had four to five rows or so of used and new books in the food genre. Swoon. Now, if only Powell’s would open more locations outside of Oregon. That would be paradise.

Multnomah Falls – With a restaurant and gift shop, Multnomah Falls feels more like a tourist attraction than one of nature’s scenic retreats at first. As the second highest year-round waterfall in the U.S., it’s apparent why it beckons millions of visitors each year. But, if you can manage the 1.2-mile uphill climb to the top of the 620-foot waterfall, you’ll find less crowds as well as stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge. Assuming you have a vehicle, Multnomah Falls is a relatively short drive from Portland.

If you’ve been to Portland, what are your favorites?

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