A week in Oregon: Portland in 24 hours

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This is quite belated (by almost a month), but I wanted to share experiences from my wonderful trip in Portland! In early July, I took an eight day vacation to Oregon with some of my best friends from college, Yena and Liza. Vacations are a great way to reunite with friends who are all in different places. In fact, the last time I saw Liza was two years ago in Kenya, on the first vacation the three of us took together!

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One of the best parts about this vacation, which I hadn't really experienced before on other vacations, was how easy it was.  In my mind, vacations usually come with a fair amount of planning and forethought (and stress). I'm naturally a planner, but with work and just life in general, I hardly gave any thought into our vacation after buying plane tickets and renting a car. My friends, who are in medical and dental schools, were in similar situations, which meant that we had very little concrete plans, aside from a general idea of where we might be on certain days. It was liberating (and a little weird) to not feel tied down to an itinerary and to plan each day as it came. 

Our trip ended up naturally breaking up into 5 parts - Portland, Columbia River Gorge, Bend, Crater Lake, and the coast - and I wanted to share my favorite pictures and moments from each. 

So.... Portland! I flew into Portland early, slightly before my friends,  knowing that my first day would pretty much be the only day to explore Portland. (I was leaving our vacation a few days before Yena and Liza.) Portland's quirky and unique vibe was clear to me as soon as I got off the bus to walk to my Airbnb - the words that come to mind are hippie, nature, community, small-town, and creative. 

 Our Airbnb tent in someone's backyard!

Our Airbnb tent in someone's backyard!

Oh, and food. And beer. I hadn't read much on Portland until my flight over, and most of the must-dos and must sees involved food and drink: microbreweries, food carts, Voodoo Donuts, Salt & Straw ice cream, Stumptown coffee, Pok Pok chicken wings, etc. So much food, so little time! I did also read about the Chinese and Japanese gardens and Forest Park, but I knew I wouldn't be able to do the gardens and parks, given their distance and since I didn't have a car yet. However,  I think I did a good job of hitting some fun spots during my day:

9 AM: Belmont and Hawthorne Streets

I took a morning jog down to the neighborhood around Belmont and Hawthorne Streets, where I got an iced coffee at Stumptown while I explored Powell's Books and a couple funky thrift stores. This was a really cute neighborhood, with lots of trendy-looking restaurants, cafes, and shops. I would have loved to spend more time here - it reminded me a lot of Hayes Valley in San Francisco, but with its own Portland flavor!

12 PM: Northwest / Nob Hill

Yena had arrived at this point, and we took an Uber across the river to the Northwest neighborhood, where we had lunch at The Fireside and caught up while waiting in line (for almost 30 minute!) for ice cream at Salt & Straw. A lot of their seasonal flavors contained local in-season berries; I ended up choosing Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero, which had a pleasantly mild aftertaste of spicy, although Yena thought this had a little TOO much going on. We wandered the streets a bit before heading back to our Airbnb to nap.

 Our first use of the selfie stick!

Our first use of the selfie stick!

7 PM: Mississippi Street

After lazily awaking from our afternoon snooze, we walked over to Mississippi Street to check out some local breweries and restaurants, per our Airbnb host's recommendation. I actually had a second serving of ice cream at another well-known place, Ruby Jewel, who did not have as exotic flavors as Salt & Straw but whose ice cream was just as rich and creamy. In general, places seemed to close somewhat early, at 10-11 pm, especially given the long summer days - but Yena and I weren't too disappointed, since we were both losing steam and ready to call it a night after a couple beers and Yena's fancy "Lawn Party" cocktail.

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9 AM:Downtown Portland

I'll admit, we didn't spend much time in downtown Portland, since we were keen on getting down to Bend as soon as Liza arrived. We did explore a tiny bit for 15 minutes or so, walking off our very large and hearty breakfast (read: probably a half-dozen-egg omelette) at Mother's Bistro. There was a nice square that hosted free summer concerts and was surrounded by big trees and upscale stores, reminding me of Seattle, but much smaller. While Portland was adorable and I would have loved more time to explore, we were itching to get going so we could make the most of our day before heading down to Bend later that night.

Up next: Columbia River Gorge!