Last year, my brother, sister and I, set off on an amazing adventure to the US of A. Somehow, we survived each other and spent two incredible weeks city-hopping down the West Coast. If you’re planning a similar trip this summer and need ideas, look forward to reading my city guide travel series…
Two Nights in Portland
Tax-free shopping and waterfalls
After taking an underground tour of Seattle in the morning, we were ready to set off for Portland on our first long drive of the holiday. That’s three hours on the “wrong side” of the road. Plenty of time to get used to it then. Well, for my brother at least, as it was his turn to drive (even though I’d only done about 20 minutes from the airport to our hotel in Seattle, but I wasn’t complaining).
We’d heard about Portland’s amazing tax-free shopping areas so we headed for that first. Weirdly, my brother was the most excited about the prospect of shopping. Admittedly, that was only because Zara and I were already carrying too many clothes so all we had on our list was trainers or boots for the many hikes we had planned. Luckily for my brother, this meant that he was able to pick an outlet of his choice and, of course, he went for the one with the most sports stores.
What To See
Woodburn Premium Outlets
Woodburn Premium Outlets features 110 stores with savings from 25% to 65% every day. The stores range from designer brands such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and J.Crew to sports brands like Adidas, Puma and Nike. We were particularly impressed with the savings on sportswear. There were branded trainers worth over £100 in the UK, selling at half price or lower. Zara and I got some trainers whilst my brother practically skipped from shop to shop, in his element.
About an hours drive out from the centre of Portland is Multnomah Falls, a breathtaking hike along a series of waterfalls. We travelled out there for the day but there is a lodge you can stay at if you want to spend the night. The drive down is stunning, along the river with mountains on either side of you.
There are a number of different routes you can take on the mountain – we were spontaneous and just went in the direction that looked most exciting. The first waterfall you see, within just five minutes of “hiking” is Multnomah, the falls the mountain is known for. Lots of tourists congregate around here, taking pictures but the rest of our hike was far less crowded.
The hike up the mountain is moderately difficult at the start, with a zig-zagging, (what seemed like) never-ending path to the top of the Falls but it is so worth the effort! The view from the top is stunning! And you can see right out to the mountains across the river. Once you get that out the way, the hike eases and you follow directions to the next waterfall or viewpoint. Two of my favourites were Fairy Falls and Lemon’s Viewpoint. I’d recommend you plan for three to five hours here, there’s a lot to see and you don’t want to rush the hilly climb – very tiring!
Where To Eat
J&M Cafe is a great breakfast or brunch cafe in the heart of Portland, serving full breakfast until 2pm. Along with the usual breakfast bagels, eggs and toast they do some alternatives such as the “Mess of Potatoes” that I had, consisting of hash potatoes, salsa and sour cream. I would say it can be a tiny bit on the pricier side but not extortionate. Service was quick, staff were incredibly friendly and it was spacious and comfortable inside. Worth a visit.
After breakfast, head down the road from J&M Cafe to Half Pint, a quaint coffee house. The barista was very warm and friendly and helped us choose which coffees we’d like. He asked about our preferences and then gave us an exciting new suggestion. My sister had their famous Chillimex – a spicy mocha with cinnamon and chilli. It’s no surprise this place has raving reviews online.
Panda Express is a fast-food chain restaurant serving American Chinese cuisine. Really well-priced for the amount of food you receive. You choose rice or noodles with your choice of topping and drink. We went for a large mixed plate between three of us and were satisfied with the portion as we were only a little hungry.
One thing you have to try is their world famous Orange chicken. Unlike any other I have ever tasted!
Fit for the Portland vibe, Sizzle Pie is an alternative spot with loud metal music blaring inside. The servers are pierced and tattooed and the walls are covered in graffiti art. They serve “classic and unconventional pizza [with] a selection of vegan, veggie and omnivore options.” Definitely worth a visit for lunch or late-night snack, as we did, with its late night opening and large selection of beer and wine.
It was here that we got our first taster of how big a slice of pizza in America is – the equivalent of two to three slices in the UK. Sold by the slice, one is more than enough for someone peckish.
Another late-night eatery is King Burrito, a Mexican take-away selling a huge range of burritos from breakfast until the early hours. If burritos aren’t for you, they also do tacos, burgers, hot dogs and a variety of vegetarian dishes. Authentic Mexican food, very filling and affordable.
I don’t know if it’s because Portland is known for its alternative scene but I really didn’t like our hotel. We stayed at Eastside Lodge in the centre of Portland and it had a very eerie atmosphere. The reception desk was quiet, and never seemed to be manned. On arrival we were met by a grumpy man who mumbled something about an upgrade so I enquired about the price at which he seemed to get offended and told me I couldn’t have it.
The rooms were incredibly dark even in the day. The size was good but the decor inside was dreary. There were always random people that seemed to be lurking around outside and it made me feel a bit unsafe. Parking was provided but it was very difficult in the tightly packed spaces. We barely spent any time in our hotel but it still managed to make a bad impression on me!
If you liked this post, look out for next in series: Oregon
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