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Trip Report Portland and Beyond - Happy Vacation to Me!

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Hi Fodorites,

A quick trip report on my vacation to Portland, the coast and the Willamette Valley in May. Special thanks to sunbum, Andrew, tomfuller, Daniel, and the others who provided some great suggestions!

Southwest gets me to Portland non-stop which is always a consideration for me when flying. I rented a car thru Thrifty and I definitely won’t use them again. Their offices are a long shuttle from the airport and even though I had reserved a Compact, they gave me a tiny Toyota Yaris with no hatchback cover on the luggage compartment. I think they did this to get rid of it when they saw I was a solo traveler. When I went in to complain that this model is considered an Economy class with other agencies, they said that since it had 4 doors (hah) it was a compact. The tiny car was an advantage in the city, but not my preference for the highways. The extensive scratches on the exterior were not important, but the stained and dirty seats were quite disgusting.

This was my 4th visit to Oregon and I finally decided to see a bit of Portland. I stayed in a nice vrbo property in Irvington because it looked like a neighborhood I would love with all the historical homes. The “garden apartment” was actually a basement apartment (which was clear in the pictures on the listing). It was very spacious with lots of windows and natural light, and nicely furnished, but the bedroom had very low ceilings (and I’m only 5’4”). The backyard garden was very nice and the location good, easily walkable to several restaurants on Broadway. It was on one of the main streets (15th Ave.) in Irvington, so lots of traffic, but quiet at night.

Since the weather was good when I arrived, I headed straight to the Intl Rose Garden and Japanese Garden. The roses were not blooming yet, but were loaded with buds that looked like they would be glorious in about a week. The rhododendrons were fabulous. The Japanese Garden was wonderfully serene, the best I’ve ever seen and I really enjoyed my time there.

Dinner was on Broadway in Irvington at Milo’s Café (recommended by a co-worker who happened to visit the week before me). I had their special seafood crepes which were excellent. My server brought me a taste of their specialty, Hungarian tomato soup, and it was delicious, try it if you are in the area!

I had signed up for the Portland Walking Tours Epicurean tour and we met at a wonderful, historical hotel downtown. There were just 3 of us since this was a Friday morning and our guide was Damon. This tour was very fun and interesting! Thanks so much to sunbum for recommending it. We walked all over Portland and visited about 8 different and unique places. We had delicious tastes everywhere and I honestly would recommend all of them. I think my favorite was The Pearl Bakery, where I returned later for breakfast goodies for my apartment. The French Drinking Chocolate (our first stop on the ground level of the hotel) was a treat for this dark chocolate lover. Got my day off to a happy start!

Following the tour, I headed back down to Powell’s bookstore for a brief visit. The place didn’t quite hit me so I didn’t stay long. I was probably just not in the mood. I wandered around the Pearl District for a bit, and then stopped into a busy brewery restaurant for a late lunch. It was fine, but unmemorable.

Saturday morning I drove downtown again, found a parking lot and visited the artists’ market near the bridge. This really was lots of fun and I ended up buying some lavender soap (my weakness) and a beautiful Korean paper mache lamp. The artist shipped it to me and it’s a beautiful addition to my den. I tried a beef pita bread type of Middle Eastern sandwich which was delicious, but evidently not up to proper food service standards, as I paid for it all the next day. :-(

I was very lucky on this trip because it only rained part of 2 days, and both of those were days driving to/from the coast. Fine with me!

I revisited the little beach town of Manzanita and the same vrbo beach house I rented about 4 years ago the first time. It’s called Seaward Dream and the owner is wonderful to work with. I loved my 5 days here, just relaxing, no plans, and my best friend and her fiancé flew up from Albuquerque to join me for a couple days. We were so happy to find The Terra Cotta Café where we enjoyed an excellent dinner. Highly recommend, but make reservations as they are booked solid during the summer season!

I did drive down to the Tillamook cheese factory to take their tour. All I can say is good thing it’s free because there is not really a tour and all you can see from above is the slicing and packaging part. Then you “flow” through to the gift shop and restaurant which is definitely the emphasis. I did enjoy a yummy marionberry ice cream cone, but otherwise I would recommend you skip this supreme tourist trap unless you are in desperate need of a restroom on your coastal drive .

Next, it was time to head to the Willamette Valley for the big Memorial Day wine tasting weekend, another repeat from a prior trip. The first time I did this weekend, I had a very unpleasant experience at a B&B, so this trip I tried a vrbo property and struck GOLD. This little “cabin” guesthouse on the owner’s property was heavenly. Just a 10 minute drive from downtown McMinnville, gorgeous views of the mountains, their vineyard and lovely gardens with lots of flowers. If you are interested, I’ll provide the listing number, but it’s easy to find on vrbo if you sort by number of bedrooms because it’s technically a studio that can sleep four and will take pets upon prior approval. Very nicely furnished, high end. I will definitely return!

I did lots of wine tasting and ended up with a case to get home. I just don’t know how this always seems to happen…..

I did have two lunches in Carlton at Horse Radish. Great place and excellent food. They have live music on the weekends.

All-in-all a very relaxing and enjoyable vacation. I think I have covered Oregon pretty well now after 4 trips so it’s on to some new destinations – Amsterdam and Germany next early summer. Now in the planning stages.

Thanks again all for your suggestions! If anyone has questions, I’ll be happy to try and answer.

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