Have you heard? We released our first travel video series, “Go, Be You,” with Alaska Airlines! We’ve spent the last five weeks highlighting a city per week, and we have three more to go! This travel series is about more than the destination itself; we’re taking a look at why certain cities have the power to unlock the best versions of ourselves.
As you get to planning your next trip, we hope you enjoy the suggestions that follow. And don’t miss the Portland episode at the end of this post!
At the beginning of this year, I promised myself I was going to punctuate the year with shorter trips to places I’ve never been across the country.
Long weekends have resurfaced as a travel trend, being that they’re easier bits of time to take off work and are often a neatly satisfying amount of time to drop offline.
The first trip I booked was to Portland. A quick flight from Los Angeles, it was the perfect trip to take with a few friends.
Portland’s meticulous stockpiles of music and literature are a kaleidoscope of culture, emotion and expression. History is held in worlds within worlds of curiosity around every corner.
Here are just a few places to plot on your map:
A hot bowl of fresh pasta tastes so good after taking your coat off from the cloudy outside. That perfect bowl lives at Grassa, where I embarrassingly teared up over their cacio e pepe. Our group played a bit of musical pasta, passing the bowls in a circle to try each dish. The rigatoni has a brightly sweet acidity in a rich warmth that is their Sunday pork ragu.
We went to Pok Pok twice in the span of three days. Once to try the Vietnamese fish sauce chicken wings, which we were surprised by the size of, and a second time to remedy a sushi dinner that erred on fancy rather than filling. The sticky, crispy, caramelized wings were perfect for a rainy movie night spent watching “Baby Driver.”
But the crown of comfort food is biscuits and gravy at Pine State Biscuits, and if you’re going to split a plate with friends to keep sampling Portland fare, it will go quickly. So order something sweet too – another biscuit with local apple butter.
From street and outdoor wear to music and literature collections, Portland is a pop culture play zone with an academic seriousness in its love for history and travel.
This is inherent in the unmissable Powell’s City of Books‘ nine glorious floors. Home to approximately one million books, I could wax romantic about how tall the shelves are. Upon entering, our group split off and agreed to meet in about two hours. In my quest to become a bona fide explorer, I’m embarrassed to have realized how much I don’t love traveling alone, or browsing alone. But I did it, I traversed every color-coded floor, including the one simply colored “Coffee,” and left with two books and a ‘zine.
Fun fact: Company President Emily Powell is the third-generation owner of the chain of bookstores.
For more reading, try Portland’s oldest bookstore founded in 1938, Cameron’s Books and Magazines.
“Hey, what did you think of the music last time?” the clerk at Canoe asked. This was another place we popped in twice, a modern design lover’s mini-museum, with wall text for every item’s country of origin. You can buy and browse online, but only in store can you sample every lovely perfume they carry. I came back for Bon Parfumeur 701.
For vintage-lovers, Urbanite is an antique mall that just opened in September last year. It’s a veritable treasure trove composed of over 40 different vendors with all the furniture, vintage signage, décor, stationery and bits and bobs.
Cargo Inc. feels like everything your coolest aunt would amass in a lifetime of travels, which makes a lot of sense since its founder, Patty Merrill, is a ceramicist and folk art collector. Spanish music was playing as my eyes danced from wonderful shift dresses, embroidered jackets, handmade papers, mahjong tiles, bangles, books and all shapes of scissors.
It’s especially lovely to go visit at night, when the steps up to the tall double doors are lit with lanterns. Step into another world when you enter, but mind the door for the shop cat, Calla Lilly!
Of course Portland plays at the top of the coffee game, having given us Stumptown, Heart and Coava. Prince Coffee and Good were new to me, and the beans I took home from Good were delicious.
You really can’t go wrong in this city, since everyone is so knowledgeable, but don’t miss checking out the Artist Fellowship on display at Stumptown’s downtown location. Gallery owner and curator May Barruel, along with a small committee, award selected artists $2000 and a 6-8 week solo exhibit as a way to locally invest in the arts.
To Get Lost
It doesn’t take long in Portand to drive somewhere you’ll feel completely enveloped by trees, the city a forgotten thought but not too far out of reach.
We stuck close to the city but easily felt a million miles away in Marquam Park. If you can’t drive as far as Mt. Hood or Trillium Lake, another great natural exploration is Hoyt Arboretum. Portland is a weekend dream, in part, because it won’t take half the day to get to one focal attraction.
There’s a certain kind of elegance I aspire to as an artist and writer, but Portland is disarming. It doesn’t ask for that. So I gladly shrug it off for the weekend. That glee tastes like fresh cold air. Style and fun here are made of music and weather and trade and heritage. Portland isn’t waiting to be found, but it does have a spot for you.
Like anywhere worth visiting, there is no singular experience that is “Portland,” but there is something about this place, where art is everywhere, on the walls and in front yards, that invites you to think for a moment longer — to teach you, to urge you and challenge you, but most hospitably, to thank you for listening.
This post was sponsored by Darling’s airline partner, Alaska Airlines. All thoughts and reviews remain Darling’s own.
Watch “Go, Be You” Episode 6 – Portland
Images via Lawrence Yong