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Portland: Wine, Waterfalls, & Winter Wonders

January 19-22, 2013:  Portland, Oregon

Click Here to see all 37 photos from our time in Portland, Oregon

It was just a few days after New Years that the big winter air travel sales kicked into high gear, presenting us with $69 fares to the city of Portland, Oregon, a destination that has been on our US travel list for quite some time…  We booked immediately and along the way, snagged a $16/day all-inclusive rental car rate, and rounded out the long weekend deal with 3 free nights ($400 value) at a highly rated Aloft hotel  using our Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points, making the long weekend a steal at $54/per person, per night for air, hotel, and transportation…

Arriving at Oakland airport on Saturday morning, we were fortunate to find clear blue skies and a bright yellow and green University of Oregon Ducks Bombardier Q400 waiting at the gate to take us to Portland for the weekend…

Our Ride to Portland, A Bombardier Q400 - Oakland, CA

This was not only the first turboprop we had been on in a long, long, time (I wasn’t sure if they were still used out of Bay Area Airports!), but the pilots and crew provided us with a pleasant, enjoyable, and comfortable ride up to the largest city in Oregon.

Two hours later, we were on the ground, picked up our rental car and made our way to our hotel, the Aloft at Cascades Station.  This trendy W Hotels property was conveniently located near shopping, freeway access and the MAX light rail line, but was quiet, with great customer service, comfy rooms, and made a great home base for our weekend.  We got checked in, and was back downstairs and headed to the MAX Red Line to make our way into Downtown Portland.

Running every 15 minutes, the Red Line is a convenient and inexpensive way to make your way into downtown.  A $5 day pass gives you unlimited access to all transport in the Portland area, and put us right in the heart of downtown in less than 30 minutes.  Jumping off at the 10th Street/Galleria station, we enjoyed the weekend rush of locals and tourists alike as they shuffled between local stores, eateries, and the parks…


We wanted to grab a quick snack to hold us over ’til dinner and an entire square block of food trucks did not disappoint — every possible style of cuisine on the planet could be found here, from African, Bagels, BBQ, Cajun, Caribbean, Ice Cream, Italian, Middle Eastern, Pasta, Paleo, Sushi, Tacos, and Waffles…  (Drool!)  We found a Taco truck that served old-school Shredded Beef and Chicken Tacos, just like I used to get growing up, and we enjoyed these along with a good sized bag of Chips and Salsa for $3.

From here, we got a little intellectual and took a tour (read: got lost) inside of Powell’s Books — a place that can only be described as what the inside of the Amazon book warehouse must be like, but instead of conveyor belts, there are tons of people (both looking for books as well as helpful staff members helping you find them!)


Each of the “rooms” identified in the store listing was a labyrinth of towering shelves with every possible book I have ever seen in every topic under the sun.  As we walked through, there were even some people “challenging” the staff with obscure and oblong titles that seemingly appeared within moments of making the request…  As the sun began to set in the city, we ambled through the Travel area, moving to Cooking and Food, Health and Exercise, and even found a self-publishing Espresso machine (if you ever wanted to publish your own book — you can upload your files and have it printed and bound here in minutes!)


From Powell’s, it was time for dinner and we ended up at Deschutes Brewery just a couple blocks away.  Great food, great brews, a fun atmosphere, and a fantastic Gluten-Free menu to enjoy!  Natalie and I both munched on burgers, sweet potato & paprika fries, and a wicked bowl of French Onion soup while enjoying a Sampler of some of their best…

The Sample Tray at Deschutes Brewery - Portland, OR

After dinner, the newly discovered (new to us!) weather phenomenon known as “Frozen Fog” settled into the downtown area, and with the temperature dropping into the mid-20s, we made the pilgrimage just six short blocks away to a place recommended to me by friends and family alike, Voodoo Donut…  It’s a donut shop, open 24/7, with more than 50 varieties to choose from and picks up a 27 Zagat rating?!?  Believe it…  When we got there, a line more than 50 deep ran along the sidewalk, with locals and tourists both vying to inch their way into the tiny ordering lobby to pick up a box (or two, or ten!) of Orangatang, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Peach Fritter, No Name, Miami Vice, Arnold Palmer, or other donuts…  You can even pick up a 3 gallon bucket (yes, a bucket, lid and all) of day olds for just $5.  Natalie was a saint for waiting with me in the cold, but I picked up a sampler box here too and enjoyed them all weekend long!

Welcome to Portland's Donut Holy Land - Portland, OR

The next morning, we grabbed the rental car and made our way southwest for a wonderful day of wine tasting in the Willamette Valley.  With helpful recommendations from friends in the area (Tristaetum, Sokol Blosser, Zerba, and Four Graces) we sampled Oregon wines, enjoyed a wonderful picnic lunch and just barely scratched the surface of the area, so we are looking forward to a return visit to stock up and check a bag (or two) on the flight home…

The Vineyards and Countryside of Willamette Valley - Portland, OR

Saturday night was spent with a good friend from college and enjoyed catching up, sharing some excellent Mexican food, and walked to another culinary high point, the ice cream shop known as Salt & Straw…  For all of my life, I have been a simple ice cream guy, enjoying Vanilla in a Root Beer Float, Strawberry in a banana split, or the occasional Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough if I was feeling adventurous at Cold Stone Creamery.  This was something entirely different and amazing…  Start with uber-fresh and natural, organic, and sustainable ingredients whipped up into tantalizing flavor combinations like Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper (some of the best ice cream I have ever had), Honey Lavender, Pear with Blue Cheese, and you start to get the picture.  Reasonably priced, two good-sized scoops set you back just $5.25 and the line snaking out the door explains the rest.  Take note, Baskin Robbins — your days may be numbered…


Sunday Morning sent us to Lake Oswego, where we passed by the Sellwood Bridge, which was undergoing a move to repair and replace the 87 year old structure with a new, seismically sound replacement.  It’s an important link for the local people as it is the only place to cross the river for 12 miles, and is heavily used, so it was a sight to see as they perform all of this work.

Our stop in Lake Oswego this morning was the Crave Bake Shop, a Gluten-Free haven of bakery wonder where the Gluten-Free actually won over the world…  You see, there is this little show called Cupcake Wars, where bakers the world over come and battle it out on the culinary stage.  The owner of Crave brought her Gluten-Free masterpieces to the big show and won out over the standard wheat flour wielding bakers.  And that my friends, is a David and Goliath tale of triumph.


This morning, we picked up a little sampling of everything (and a few to make the trek home and spend some down time in our freezer until they will be enjoyed!) allowing us to try Hot Chocolate, Birthday Cake, Rasp-Terry, Black and White, and Apple Fritter Cupcakes (The Apple Fritter was one of the cupcakes featured on Cupcake Wars, and is like Apple Pie in a paper wrapper — so good!)  In addition, they do scones, cinnamon rolls, and cake bites (think cake pops with no stick, but full of yum!)

From here, we headed south and east to reach Silver Falls State Park, where we would brave a little snow, a little ice, and be treated to amazing waterfalls set against the lush temperate rain forest of the Oregon wilderness.  Driving into the area we were completely surrounded by freezing fog with temps hovering just below 30.  Less than 5 minutes from our first stop, the fog evaporated, and we had sun and blue skies for our visit, making the 34 degree day seem almost like summer!  (Several people have already asked — we did not freeze and we really were not cold — we packed well, wore layers, had beanies and gloves, and really didn’t notice the chill at all!) Our first stop was for the North Falls and with a short 5 minute walk, we reached the viewpoint and got to enjoy this…

Self-Portrait at Silver Falls State Park - Portland, OR

From here, we continued our way through enjoying nature in the quiet and calm of the park.  There were lots of families out today (it being a holiday) and parents with kids were out enjoying the sun and the sights, though, we still probably didn’t see more than 100 people for the entire trip.

We arrived at the South Falls about an hour later, after several short stops along the way, and got to have this view to ourselves…

South Falls at Silver Falls State Park - Portland, OR

After enjoying a picnic lunch out amongst the trees, we slowly began to make our way back home, and within minutes of leaving the State Park, we were once again surrounded by the Frozen Fog…  It is errie, cold, but has the most amazing residual effect…  As the fog surrounds the trees, the fences, the plants, etc., the frozen water droplets get attached and the result looks like this…


Looks like snow, feels like snow, but…

No Snow On The Ground! A Frozen Fog Winter Wonderland - Portland, OR

The roads are completely dry and clear, as the moisture can’t take hold on the asphalt and the shoulders…

Our drive back was enjoyable, though we were surprised by the amount of traffic that Portland presented us on the way back to our hotel on a Monday night (holiday travelers returning and some commute traffic?), but it didn’t impact our trip at all.

We headed home with wonderful memories, and a desire to make a return trip just as soon as we can…  Thanks Portland for a fantastic weekend away and we’ll see you real soon!

Click Here to see all 37 photos from our time in Portland, Oregon

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