PORTLAND FOOD GUIDE - WHAT & WHERE TO EAT IN PORTLAND // PORTLAND , OR

Lardo Portland

One thing you may not know about Portland - it is a foodie town. I had the opportunity to visit a while ago and although I was short on time and not able to do any of the tourist things, I had enough time for three (sometimes two) meals a day. Before my trip, I reached out to the blogging community (read: stalked multiple instagram pages - ooops) for recommendations of where to eat and had a list of ten options.  As great as those were, nothing beats recommendations by local. In between meetings and interacting with hotel staff, I added a few more options to the list. All I was missing were strecthy pants and time.  The Portland food scene is legit and there is not one spot that was lacking, we had one great meal after another. I was tempted to stay put in Portland - but that constant rain business is not for me.  

Harlow Portland

Harlow.  I wanted something healthy and I needed space to do some work before my morning meetings kicked off at 9:30 a.m. Harlow delivered with early opening; work friendly space and ah-mazing healthy options. The mixed berry chai bowl topped with bananas, toasted walnut and coconut (gawd !). If all healthy food tasted that good, I will be ten pounds lighter. The menu also had gluten-free, vegeterian and vegan options. Plus, the staff is super friendly and service is quick. I was there right when they opened, it was quiet and I got a ton of work done over breakfast. 

Sweedeedee
Sweedeedee

Sweedeedee. The cutest restaurant, ever! Located in the Alberta neighborhood. It has this southern flare that is inviting and made me feel like I was dining in the home of an old friend. It was a difficult choice between the pie options and the corn cakes plate. In the end, I went with the Corn cakes served with swiss chard and perfectly crisped bacon. The place was packed so it took a little bit to get my food but it was worth the wait.  [open for breakfast and lunch].

Tasty n Adler
Tasty n Adler
Tasty n Adler

Tasty n Alder. Located in the downtown area (on SW 12th). Oh my gosh - One of the best meals ever. I sat at the bar overlooking the kitchen and saw them churn out orders of the chocolate potato donut so naturally I had to order some (for research purposes). If that is all I had, I will have been fully satisfied, but then the korean fried chicken caught my attention (so good !). The family style set up lets you try a few things on the menu, but the portion size is not so huge that a party of one like myself will feel overwhelmed. Show up early because they don't take reservations and there is a line to get in for brunch. [open daily for Brunch and lunch]

Blue star donut
Blue Star Donut

Blue Star Donut. Their slogan is "donuts for adults" - Could not agree more. I found a location just a block from Tasty n Alder (there are several locations in the Portland area including one just before the security check at PDX). This was another spot with a line. I got the Cointreau Creme Brulee and the PB&J donut and life was good. It was so good, I stopped by the location at PDX for extras before heading home. 

Poque, no
Por Que no ?
Por que no ?

Porque , no. Don't leave Portland without getting a meal here. As a ex-Texas dweller, I am always skeptical to try Mexican outside of Texas. If they make 'em as good as Por que, no - apprehension nipped in the bud. I had Bryan's bowl - a combo of guac, crema, bean, rice, protein of choice, salsa. Life Changed !

Papa Haydn
Papa Haydn

Papa Haydn. This was a recommendation from the hotel concierge. He said "I don't care where you go for dinner, but finish up with dessert at Papa Haydn." On my last night in Portland, I decided to head there for dinner and dessert. The dessert menu is three time longer than the dinner menu and everything sounded great.  Because I wanted to have room for dessert, I ordered the nicoise salad with trout and picked eggs (oh ! my ! Salad !). Then it was time for dessert. I ordered the Boccone Dolce which I am told is a Papa Haydn's classic. It was sooooo good. Even typing this up, I am having a moment. I completely understand why ]a trip to Papa Haydn was recommended.

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Lardo's. The guy that took my order told me they had over 100 sandwiches on reserve and they switch them out often. Hopefully, these recommedations are on the menu when you visit.  The Lardo egg sandwich will change the way you sandwich. My friends ordered the Pork meatball Banh Mi and Korean pork shoulder and had great feedback on those as well. 

Salt and Straw
Salt and Straw

Salt and Straw. I found one on my way to the airport and decided to stop in.  Best decision made on the trip. Their scoops are huge - you have been warned. I am grateful they can do a split flavor for each scoop. I got one split scoop with foie gras oatmeal raisin cream pie and Almond brittle with salted ganache. I don't know if there is Ice cream as delish as the foie gras oatmeal raisin cream pie. It was excellent ice cream. Sadly, it is currently a January new year's indulgence and might not make return to the menu. The staff let you get a taste of all the flavors before you decide. Two flavors from the classic menu that I loved - the almond brittle with salted ganache and the honey lavender.

Coava

For Caffeine Fix. Portland has no shortage of coffee shops. There are so many good local coffee shops with personality and incredible menu- I am surprised starbucks even has a presence. The ones I tried (and loved) were Stumptown coffee ; Taste coffee and Coava coffee

Stumptown

A few other plaaces that were recommended, but I did not get to try - Tasty n Sons / VooDoo donuts / Ruby Jewel scoops / Cool Moon Ice cream / Milk glass market / Luc Lac Vietnamese kitchen.

Now over to you, have you visited Portland ? Any additional recommendations ?

                                                                               

HOW TO SPEND 24 HOURS IN SANTA BARBARA // CALIFORNIA

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Santa Barbara was the second stop on our seven-day highway one road trip. I have loved Santa Barbara for years; partly because it was the setting of one of our favorite tv shows - Psych (filmed in Canada) and we could not wait to explore.  We arrived in Santa Barbara late on Sunday evening. After checking into the Lemon tree Inn, it was time to find nourishment. Ideally, we wanted to do the milpas taco trek, but given the time of day that was out of the question. We picked a spot on the trail and headed off. 

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At first glance, there was nothing noteworthy about the place, but If there is one thing I have learned from my travels - when locals dine at a spot, it is fairly good bet it is the real deal. Lilly’s Taqueria is the real deal with both traditional and unique taco options. We scuffed down our meal in silence in part because we were exhausted but mostly because it was finger licking delicious. If this was all we did in Santa Barbara - I would have been satisfied. 

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The next day, we were up and checked out of the hotel by 7:30 a.m. We started the day with leisure stroll around downtown Santa Barbara lined with whitewashed houses with red roofs and lush gardens. Our first stop was the rooftop of the Santa Barbara courthouse. The clock tower has some incredible views of the Santa Barbara skyline. We could have spent all morning on the rooftop, but there was still so much to see. We explored the courthouse, including the courthouse mural room. The clock tower views were amazing, but the mural room was breath-taking pretty. One tip - take the stairs within the court house because the tlled stairways is a mini trip to Europe - reminded me so much of Sevilla. After many. many pictures, we strolled towards state street - stopping for more snaps of Spanish-esque exteriors.

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Eventually, we arrived at State Street, the palm-tree lined the street with shops and restaurants should not be missed. We stopped at the French press coffee shop. It came highly recommended while we were planning the trip and it did not dissapoint. The coffee was amazing. A stroll through pretty alley ways till we found Tupelo junction cafe and settled in for a diner style breakfast  that we really enjoyed.

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A very quick stop at the old Mission Santa Barbara with beautiful architecture and garden. We were running behind on the schedule; I regret not having more time to explore. Before heading off to Carmel by the Sea, we stopped by Sterns Wharf for a leisure stroll along the broad walk.  

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IN THE MOUNTAINS OF MONTSERRAT <> MONTSERRAT , SPAIN

Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat, Spain

Montserrat, Spain - I had never heard of it, that was until I saw it as part of the tour package I booked for Barcelona. I had every intention of scrapping that tour and booking another one - but part of my travel philosophy is getting out of my comfort zone - including getting off the beaten tourist path to see and do something spontaneous - So off to Montserrat I went. We headed out of Barcelona shortly before 11 to make the hour drive up to Montserrat.

Montserrat
Montserrat

Montserrat is a multi-peak mountain which ranges from Miranda de Les Agulles which stands as the lowest peak 903m to Sant Jeroni which measures at 1,236 m. It is home to the Montserrat Monastery and the famous black Madonna. It can be reached by train , cable car or driving up to the lowest peak aka Monastery level and then hopping a funicular to the topmost peak. Apparently some local make the trip by foot for sport (and or spiritual reasons).  

Montserrat
Montserrat
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According to our incredible tour guide, the black Madonna who makes her home here is known as the saint for fertility and so over the years, many have journeyed up to Montserrat to make their case for her to bless them with a Child. In return for that blessing, some have made promises which including "walking" up several hundred steps to get to the Monastery level on their knees. According to her, most people fulfill this promise over a period of time and if you visit on a weekend, you might catch a glimpse of someone fulfilling their promise to the black Madonna. Such incredible history and even though I don't ascribe to the Catholic faith, I still get chills thinking about being on those grounds and getting to see the black Madonna.

Montserrat
Montserrat

We arrived about 11:50 and quickly made our way into the Benedictine abbey to hear the all-male choir sing (Montserrat is also home to an all-male choir) and they sing in the chapel at noon every day (hearing them sing - I think, this is what Angels must sound like). A recording was prohibited, but I found this clip on youtube from one of their performance (incredible). Following, the choir performance, we made our way to the back room to see the black Madonna (and touch the black Madonna, if you wanted), then circled out through a prayer room (optional) and then to the courtyard.

Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat

On our way up Montserrat, we saw isolated homes sprinkled in the mountains. According to our tour guide, those were homes of farmers who have lived in the mountains for generations and because of the terrains (and how far away from everything they were), they had to be self-sufficient generating their own electricity, water supply etc. These farmers run a small market on the Monastery level of Montserrat, so after our time in the chapel and walking the grounds of the Monastery, I went off to visit the farmers' market. I picked up some honey and nuts and If I did not have other stops in Europe -  the sheep cheese and homemade jam would have come home with me (the combination of those two is one of the best things I have ever tasted).

Montserrat
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Montserrat
Montserrat

Some members of my tour group chose to take the funicular ride to the footpaths above and below the Monastery level. I opted out of it, instead, I found a spot with a great view and spent the rest of our time there.  In hindsight, the funicular ride might have been worth it. The footpath below lead to a mountainside shrine. I managed to capture a shot of it, from my viewing spot and I am told the footpath above the Monastery level guarantee spectacular views of the Mountains (and Barcelona).

Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat

Spending three weeks traveling Europe was an incredible experience - this trip to Montserrat was one of my favorite memories from my short time in Barcelona. 

Montserrat
Montserrat
Montserrat

THE OTHER SIDE OF FEAR - ON BECOMING A SOLO TRAVELLER

Paris

I will love to say I have always enjoyed traveling solo and it came naturally to me, but the truth is that in the Fall of 2012, I found myself in the situation that demanded I step off the edge of the proverbial cliff to discover I could fly. I started planning a trip to Paris in the summer of 2012. I had spent the previous ten years in school or working to build a career, I never had a chance to consider travel. Things were starting to settle down that summer and I decided it was time to explore the world.

Paris

I reached out to a few friends in May and by the end of July, there were six of us scheduled to go on this incredible one week Europe adventure with four days in Paris and three days in London. It was going to be epic, six twenty-somethings with zero care in the world taking on Europe. We planned the trip for late October. Flights and hotels were cheaper and the crowds would have dissipated.   We were going to pull our funds and lodge in a hotel within walking distance of the Eiffel tower. I dusted off my passport, got the necessary travel documents, booked flights and made the hotel reservation. Now the wait, we had a countdown and weekly conference calls to plan the itinerary. We were doing fine until September, and then with each call, one more person has doubts they were going to make the trip. Eventually, by the first week of October --- It was down to just me and another friend living in the UK. I was distraught but at least I still had one travel buddy. A week before I was scheduled to fly to the United Kingdom - Birmingham by way of London;  the last remaining travel buddy had to drop out. I was the last person standing. What to do?

Paris

London and Birmingham - I could manage on my own, but Paris? I did not know anyone there and I did not speak the language. Five days before I was scheduled to depart - I was lamenting to my brother the woes of having to cancel the trip and how much money I was going to be losing on the flight and hotel when he said the words that forever changed me - " Why not go by yourself? " If he could see my face at that moment. I was terrified!

Paris

Without thinking, I started spilling out all the reasons I could not take a trip on my own - from the valid to the vain - I don't want to get lost, I don't speak the language, Is it safe, Who will take my pictures, etc." add to that 101 other excuses I belted out. My brother, full of wisdom, let me go through all my fears and then suggested I reach out to some friends of his who had recently returned from Paris. They will be great resources on where to stay and how to get around.

Paris

I scheduled the call and after a thirty-minute conversation, I thought "maybe I can do this". Now the research, I spent the next four days intensely researching what to do in Paris, typing up frequently used phrases on my notes app and creating a detailed (hour by hour) itinerary of my time in Paris. I flew into Birmingham via London to spend the weekend with my brother. Early Sunday morning, I boarded the Air France flight from Birmingham to Paris. Several times before the flight boarded, I thought about heading back to my brothers' apartment (but knowing him, he might have kicked me out just to make sure I took the trip). When my flight was called, I took the leap and boarded the flight to Paris.

Paris

Arriving in France early morning, I got through customs ok, I meticulously followed the step by step train directions I had written out before leaving Dallas. I made it to my hotel just fine. I started to think, I can do this. I was too early for check in, so the bellman held my luggage while I headed out to catch the tour ride to Versailles. Again, I found my way to the Eiffel tower train station ok. From there, I was supposed to walk about two miles to get to my pick up spot. Somewhere in the excitement of being in Paris and figuring out everything on my own, I did not pay attention to the turns and found myself lost with no GPS to map out my way (insert panic). I walked down every street using the Eiffel tower as a guide and twenty minutes later it I was further away from my destination. I could still see the Eiffel tower but I was nowhere close to where I needed to be. The panic attack started to set in and I broke down crying. With mascara running down my face - the thought hit me - I am in Paris. I have dreamt of this for years and I was not going to let a little setback like not having GPS get in the way. I retraced my steps to get back to the Eiffel tower. All the while looking out for a taxi - I could not find one till I got back to the Eiffel tower. I felt the tears starting to well up again and just then I saw a cab dropping off a family and immediately hailed the cab. 

Paris

Just my luck, he was out of service. But he must have seen my bewilderment because he decided to help me out.  He got me to the pickup spot and refused to take a fare for the ride (who said humanity was lost?). Thankfully, two other members of the party were late so I was not holding up the group.   We made it to Versailles ok and then my Versailles tour guide did not show and did not bother to inform me. Forty-five minutes of waiting, I called the guide who informed me he had mixed up the dates and will not be showing up. After what it took to get there, his little mix up was not going to ruin my trip. I decided to explore on my own and it was an incredible afternoon. 

Paris

I went on to spend four days in Paris on my own, I started out my days early and explored the city till late in the day. Once or twice I cried (ugly tears), I got lost a few times and figured it out by cobbling together my limited French vocabulary to ask locals for direction. I found courage to ask strangers to help with pictures. Those four days in Paris were the defining moments of my time as a solo traveler. It was in Paris I discovered I could travel alone and have an incredible time doing it. That was six years ago and I have not stopped solo traveling - It is still one of my favorite things to do. I discovered something about myself when I stepped past this particular fear. 

What lies on the other of your fear ?

Paris

STONEHENGE PHOTO DIARY // WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND

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Several years ago, I read this article titled the seven wonders of the middle age and I made a promise to myself to see them all. I hardly remeber anything on the list but I remember Stonehenge. When I found myself in England with a spare day for a day trip, it seemed like the perfect time to check something off the ole bucketlist. 

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I had planned a 24 day trip across the UK and Europe (including 8 days in London). As much as I LOVE London, I felt I was doing myself a disservice by not exploring other parts of the United Kingdom. I decided to Bath for my trip outside of London and after doing the math - using one of those tour companies to get to Bath was much cheaper than trying to go at it on my own. I found a Groupon deal for 35 GBP ( a roundtrip train ticket from London to Bath was about 100 pounds). The Groupon deal provided transportation to Bath (and Stonehenge) plus a ticket to Stonehenge. It was the perfect deal for me.

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To be honest, I am not sure what I expected from Stonehenge after all at the basic minimum it is a collection of rocks that formed in this spot and no one quite knows how it came about - there are speculations but no definite source. We arrived about mid-morning and had about an hour and a half to explore the grounds. It was an incredible experience, one that I think we should all experience once in a lifetime but I don't think I will go out of my way to visit again. There was a lot of information about the history of Stonehenge and people who lived in that era. I could have spent the whole morning consuming the information, but we were limited on time due to the tour group schedule. The city of Bath was calling and as incredible as Stonehenge was - I was even more excited to get to Bath,

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