Keeping Portland Weird – Spring Break Pt. 1

Keeping Portland Weird – Spring Break Pt. 1

“Portland? Why Portland?” was the reaction I got when I told people I was going to Portland. AKA out of all the typical spring break destinations I could choose from, like Florida, California (which was actually the second part of my spring break), the Carribeans, my home, why Portland?

Long story short, my friend, Yadanar, was actuually the one who initiated a trip to Portland, and I just happened to tag along her. I knew almost nothing about Portland, and to an outsider like me who isn’t from the country, Portland is just another small, seemingly average city that hasn’t received as much national recognition as bigger cities like New York or Los Angeles. I honestly didn’t expect much. Little did I know.

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Voodoo Doughnuts – one of the top tourist “attractions” in Portland. The line was sooo long from morning till late afternoon. We didn’t even bother lining up, because we knew there are better doughnut places. (See below!)

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Truth is, I was surprised by how unexpectedly fast I fell in love with the small city of Portland. Yes, Portland is unassuming and doesn’t scream “city” like many other major cities do, but this is exactly why it is charming in all its little ways. Its personality awaits to be discovered, embedded in the many big and small details within the city itself. It didn’t take me long to be charmed by the clean aesthetics of local boutiques, the many quirky and indie cafes at the corner of every street, Powell’s bookstore (which is now my favorite bookstore), food trucks, and people and cars which never seem to be in a rush. Roads are wide and comfortable to walk or drive on, and the traffic was reasonable even during rush hours.

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Powell’s City of Books – a famous bookstore chain based in Portland, it sells new, used and even out-of-print books. It self-claimed to be the largest independent bookstore in the world. I love bookstores, and this is problably my new favorite. They have an extensive collection of books I’ve never heard or seen before, and I swear they sell more “hipstery” books than other mainstream bookstore chains.
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Japanese and American Historical Plaza
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Alberta Arts District
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Alberta Arts District

Ever had gluten-free beer? Or diary-free almond milk frozen yogurt? Maybe even dye-free sprinkles? Well, Portland has no shortage of alternative health and diet food options. Except in Portland, these food are not just part of some food trends that are plastered all over Instagram, but are actually part of the people’s lifestyles. Many parts of the city are all about that all-natural, organic lifestyle. And almost everything in stores and restaurants are hand-written – menus, logos, public signs. There seems to be a personal touch to everything.

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Eb & Bean – a tiny, local frozen yogurt shop that serves diary-free frozen yogurt.
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Unique yogurt toppings! I love the salted cacao nibs.
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Interior of Eb & Bean.
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St. Simon’s Coffee Co.

You should also see how eco-friendly the city is! Tasting spoons in ice cream shops are metal instead of made of disposable materials, plastic straws aren’t available at a coffee shop, our local tour guide offered us free bottled water but asked us politely to recycle or reuse them, and so on. People in Portland care genuinely about their environment, and recycling isn’t just some half-ass effort to make yourself feel like a better person.

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Bollywood Theatre – an Indian restaurant with a modern American twist.

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Bollywood Theater’s interior – this is easily one of the prettiest restaurant I’ve ever been to.

Portland is a hipster, the fruit loop in a sea of cheerios. Which also explains the city’s unofficial slogan, “Keep Portland Weird.” The most amazing part is that it is hipster in the most down-to-earth way, not a try-hard-LOOK-AT-ME-I-AM-SO-UNIQUE way.

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Blue Star Donuts – inspired by the making of French pastries, this shop makes their doughnuts using brioche dough. The results are buttery, soft doughnuts, lightly fried in rice oil. Some unique and delicious flavors include dulce de leche w/ hazelnuts, tiramisu and orange olive oil cake.
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Creme brulee and hard apple cider doughnuts. The tiny pipette is actually filled with Cointreau, a triple sec alcohol, which added a nice kick to the cream filled dough. These were one of the the fanciest doughnuts I’ve ever had.
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Which social media geek are you?
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Number 1 Bento – Bulgogi Chicken Combo Bento. Located in the food truck pod on Alder St, this Korean food truck sells traditional, homestyle Korean dishes. The portion was huge and the meat was oh, so juicy and deliciously marinated. The food truck scene is pretty huge in Portland, and some of the best dishes originate from these tiny food trucks.
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Pine State Biscuits – one of the most popular restaurants in Portland, this shop serves some delicious, fresh biscuits. Instead of dense and buttery, this biscuit was soft, almost doughy, with a nice corn meal-ish texture to them.
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Salt & Straw – Freckled Woodblock Chocolate flavor, which is basically salted chocolate with cacao nibs. Absolutely AMAZING, this ice cream completely blew my mind. I’ve never loved salted chocolate more. The waffle cone was freshly made, too!

It did take some time for me to get used to the constant rain drizzles and a pace that is slightly too chill for me, but these actually channeled the my inner, artsier side. I was calmed down by the city’s vibes, which was a relieving and even reassuring change after a hectic and stressful school quarter.

Another thing about Portland is its huge nature scene. There are many hiking trails, and if you do happen to visit Portland, check out The Seven Wonders of Portland – Mt. Hood, the Oregon Coast, the Columbia River Gorge, Painted Hills, Smith Rocks, the Wallowas and Crater Lake. Portland is also known for being very bike-friendly, and even though we didn’t bike around the city, I’ve heard that it’s very easy and even fun to navigate everywhere with a bike.

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Multnomah Fall

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Columbia River Gorge

I love how I came in with no expectations and just let Portland throw me off guard, and in the best ways possible. If there’s one thing that going to Portland has taught me, it’s that don’t ever underestimate a place just because it’s not on the top of everyone else’s travel lists. Travel with an open mind and there’s a high chance you will be surprised by what a place can offer.

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Maurice – a quaint, elegant French restaurant.
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Maurice.
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Friendly barista at St. Simon’s Coffee Co.

Some hot spots to hit up in Portland:

Tourist attractions

  • Portland Saturday Market
  • International Rose Test Garden
  • Japanese Garden
  • Powell’s City of Books
  • The Seven Wonders of Portland
  • Alberta Arts District
  • NW 23rd St
  • Pearl District

Coffee & Drinks

  • Stumptown Coffee Roasters
  • Coava Coffee Brew Bar
  • Heart
  • Courier Coffee Roasters
  • Barista
  • Fat Straw (bubble tea & bahn mi)
  • Sip (juice cart)
  • Tea Chai Te

Dessert

  • Salt & Straw (ice cream)
  • Ruby’s Jewel (ice cream)
  • Eb & Bean (frozen yogurt)
  • Blue Star Doughnut
  • Voodoo Doughnut

Restaurants

  • Screen Door
  • Tasty n Alder
  • Cheese & Crack Snackshop
  • Sweedeedee 
  • Tasty n Son
  • Little Big Burger
  • Bollywood Theater
  • Cheryl’s on 12th
  • Grassa
  • Lardo
  • Blossoming Lotus
  • Pine State Biscuit
  • Food truck pods (Alder St)
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