Portland, Oregon: 2015

Crazily enough, Doug and I found ourselves in Portland, Oregon just 52 weeks after our 2014 visit. Again, for the wedding of a close friend from college days in Kansas. Life is funny sometimes, isn’t it?

keep portland weird small

We had the privilege of being invited to three weddings in May and June, and vacation days were quickly being eaten away. For this reason, we made a trip to Portland and back, Saturday/Sunday, in about 36 hours! Alaska Airlines, the company I have my rewards credit card through, offers an annual free/discounted “Companion Fare” to members so we only had to buy one flight (plus fees). Not bad! There were like five different events in Portland that weekend and hotel prices were skyrocketing so instead of staying at the Portland Ace like last time, we ended up at an AirBnB which we loved. (It will get its own post.)

The first thing we did after getting off the plane (other than getting our rental car; we haven’t braved Portland public transit yet) was to get food. Our flight left San Diego around 6 and landed in Portland around 8 or 8:30… and we were hungry! Luckily our AirBnB hosts had already e-mailed us a fun list of places to eat in their neighborhood so we chose one and were not disappointed. We ate at Helser’s on Alberta. If you watch Portlandia, you’ll remember an episode where the line for brunch stretches on for several miles. We were lucky enough to beat the 9am rush; but a line did form as we had our meal.

Helsers 2 small

helsers 1 small

June was the month I decided to go 30 days gluten-free, and I thought that Portland would be a gluten-free utopia. Not so! Most restaurants had a few things marked with an asterisk on the menu, but not as many as I’d assumed. I was still able to enjoy delicious meals, though. Above, a yummy chorizo-potato hash with Tillamook cheddar cheese.

We stayed a little bit north of the up-and-coming Alberta Arts District. Last year, we stumbled across this area and so this time we were happy to explore it (as opposed to The Pearl District where we stayed/explored last time).

Alberta Arts District

Alberta Arts District

Alberta Arts District

The wedding itself was in the nearby town of Woodburn. I changed into my “wedding clothes” and put my makeup on at the Woodburn outlet mall. #improvising! The wedding venue was at a really pretty historic house, The Settlemier House. It was awesome! It reminded me of something from Gilmore Girls, which my friend (who got married) and I bonded over in college. So, all in all it was very appropriate. ;)

Settlemier House

The following morning we had breakfast at a gluten-free bakery called Tula, and drove all over the city window-shopping. I like how Portland seems big and small at the same time. Each neighborhood is totally walk-able, but to get from one side of town to the other in a car is also a breeze! (This conflicts with some reports I recently saw about Portland having terrible traffic. We must have missed rush hours!)

Tula Bakery

I have a number of friends up in the area and considering how our trip was so short, I just made a facebook event and suggested that we all meet at lunch at the same place at the same time. Some friends weren’t able to make it, but some were, and we had a great lunch together. I think it went really well considering the fact that Doug and I just dragged a bunch of strangers together to share a meal. I enjoyed it so much I just might pull the stunt again sometime!

Near Kennedy School

McMenamins Kennedy School

We all had lunch at McMenamins’ Kennedy School, which is an actual elementary school turned hotel, restaurant, bar, and art cinema. What a great idea–turning a decommissioned building into something so creative! It was a good place for a somewhat large group. The food was super reasonably priced and the large location was so fascinating to explore while waiting for others to arrive. The bathrooms are simply the old school bathrooms! It was like being in a time warp…

Portland Sign

This summer certainly was the year of quick weekend trips. I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to see so many of our loved ones, but it did leave me feeling pretty exhausted! I think that next year I am definitely going to take a week-long trip (take all my vacation days at once) instead of taking a Friday here, a Monday there. I think it will help recharge my batteries better. However,  I sure did love feeling like a jet-setter all summer!  Now I’m ready for fall!

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The Madonna Inn

madonna inn 3

Madonna Inn

Our friends got married at the Madonna, in San Luis Obispo, a month ago. Wow, The Madonna Inn is a hard place to photograph. I think it lends to its specialness… The whole inn is so sprawling, twisting, multi-tiered, that it’s impossible to get a photo of the whole thing at once, unless taken from the air!

madonnainn2

Madonna Inn

We left work on Friday at noon and made our way up to San Luis Obispo. There was a bit of traffic in Santa Barbara (which I hear is normal) but overall we made good time, especially considering the first night of a three-day weekend. We checked in while it was still light out and met up with a few friends in town for dinner and then made our way back to the hotel. One of the most fun and inspiring parts of the wedding weekend was the Friday night tour of rooms! Viewing the rooms on the Madonna Inn website is fun, but being inside them is so much different and awesome.

Madonna Inn

I am so glad that we were part of a large event because we got to see inside probably 10 or more rooms! Above, one of my favorites, the beautifully kitschy “Oriental Fantasy.” Many rooms had rough, dark rock walls and some even had rock showers! Below, the blue room is the famous circular “Voux” room.

Madonna Inn

We chose, in my opinion, the most striking (out of the cheap rooms), the Chestnut Foal. The paint was certainly green, the wallpaper- funny, and the light fixture was a show stopper! Oh yeah, and the bed was very comfy. An important factor in hotel choice, but here it pretty much becomes “a plus.”

Madonna Inn

Madonna Inn

Overall, the Inn seemed like a strange alternative universe. Sort of like a grown-up Disneyland. The exterior and interior were adorned with gingerbread trim and carved wood– details upon details! I didn’t have a chance to visit the pool or spa, but the breakfast cafe was underwhelming (yet packed full of guests). It’s worth noting that the wedding dinner was very delicious, much better than the on-site breakfast. It seems like the hotel is straddling the line between tourist-chic, luxury-aspirational, and nostalgic kitsch. It’s truly a one of a kind place, absolutely worth visiting.

I am so happy and grateful that our friends decided to have their special day at such a fun and unique place. There are so many cool places in California, let alone the whole US, that sometimes it takes a special event to bring you somewhere you otherwise wouldn’t know about. I would never have visited The Madonna otherwise, and now I am so glad I had the chance to do so!

Madonna Inn

Madonna Inn

Madonna Inn

Need a recommendation for where to stay? Check out my Your Turn section.

What’s in Your Beach Bag?

Beach Bag

  • Before you pull all your gear together, you have to start out with the bag. This one is amazing. Of course, you could use a backpack or one of those reusable grocery bags too, if you wanted to save a few bucks.
  • For some people, getting a new swimsuit and towel every spring is like a ritual. “Now I’m ready for summer,” the act says. I haven’t gotten a new beach towel since 2005 (I loooove the one I have) but I did get a new swimsuit this year, after the elastic finally went out on my old one. Yikes. Long story short–if I was getting a towel this year, I would get this one!
  • Sunscreen. I hate, hate, hate it! I dislike sunburns more, though. This stuff should get the job done without causing massive break-outs. I really do prefer the kind you rub in to the kind you spray on–it’s more effective and you’re able to make sure you didn’t miss a spot. Plus, you can ask someone cute to help you apply it ;)
  • Some people can really pull off the big floppy hat. I certainly can’t. If you know how to rock it without looking like a fool, I would like some tips. Anyway, it’s a super way to keep the sun off your face and shoulders. (Photo found here.)
  • Magazines–my current favorites are Bon Appetit and Sunset. Another fave that I used to read more while living in Kansas was Southern Living. The mix of food, travel, and interiors in those regional mags just does it for me!
  • Water. Yes! Make sure to stay hydrated. All that sun and salt water will leave you pretty crispy unless you drink tons of water. I like this kind of water bottle, with a straw.
  • Games. You could bring something as simple as a football or soccer ball. Group games like horseshoes are also really popular!
  • Snacks. My current guilty pleasures are these Terra vegetable chips. I can’t buy them because it’s too risky–I just might eat the whole bag in one sitting; and they aren’t exactly cheap!

“HOLD UP,” I hear you saying, “I don’t live near the beach.” Relax! Use this list as a jumping-off point for any outdoor activity, like a picnic at the park, non-strenuous hike, or something like that. Sub a lightweight blanket or tablecloth for the towel and you’re in business!!