Since we are all stuck at home, I decided to share the highlights of our adventure to the USA exactly one year ago. In my last post, I recapped the start of the trip in San Francisco and our picturesque road trip on the R 101, travelling north to Portland.
When we planned our trip, two destinations were non-negotiable: New York City and Portland. Since they are on opposites sides of the country, it made planning a bit complicated. I had spent a few weeks on clinical rotation in NYC in 2016 and fell in love with the city, so I wanted to show it off to Carl. He, in turn, had met a friend from Portland online through a Christian forum and they had become close, so he wanted to meet up with Jason face to face.
The spectacular beauty of the Pacific Northwest cannot be exaggerated. Carl remarked that it is truly the best of everything nature has to offer – serene coastline, majestic mountains, and lush forests. The road trip through this Eden was exactly what we needed to restore our spirits.
On our way to Portland, we took a short detour to Cannon Beach with its stunning (yet cloudy) views before reaching Stumptown where we would meet up with Jason. Portland was nicknamed Stumptown in the 19th century, when, due to the city’s rapid growth, land needed to be cleared quickly, but the tree stumps were not immediately removed. In some areas, there were so many tree stumps that people used to jump from stump to stump to avoid the muddy, unpaved roads. The name stuck and many local businesses have since included it in their brand.
Jason served as our tour guide and quickly earned his title by introducing us to the best tacos we’ve ever had and taking us to Salt and Straw to taste the weirdest and most delicious ice cream flavour combinations.
In fact, Portland’s unofficial slogan is “Keep Portland Weird”. This attitude was evident everywhere, especially since June is Pride Month and the day we arrived was also the Pride March. We were thoroughly entertained. We stopped at Tea Chai Te’ (a tea shop) and chose our flavours from the largest selection of teas in the world. When Jason told us about his favourite tea called Rooibos (he pronounced it Roy-bas) we delighted in informing him of its South African origins.
After a long and exciting day, we closed the evening off with drinks at a local hangout and called it a night.
Our Sunday morning started bright and early, as we had to make a plan for breakfast before going to church, which only started at 10h30. On Jason’s recommendation, we went to Mother’s Bistro which was packed, but fortunately, we found the last spots at the bar.
After breakfast, we made our way to church. The congregation was small due to a lot of families being on summer vacations, but we enjoyed the word and felt spiritually replenished afterwards.
The afternoon was spent hunting down the famous Blue Star doughnuts for lunch and some Kombucha tea to carbo-load before making our way to Pittock mansion.
This old mansion is famous for its impressive panoramic view of Portland and surrounds. The mansion is close to the Japanese rose garden where the delicious sweet scent of roses showers your senses as you walk into the kaleidoscope of pink, red and white arrangements.
After taking copious amounts of pictures of more species of roses than I’ve seen in my lifetime, Carl felt energetic enough to take a hike through Hoyt’s arboretum. I was in no way geared for a hike, but the stunning natural beauty made the hot and humid hike worth it.
Since it was Father’s Day, we only met up with Jason for dinner at Screen Door Restaurant. Generally we try to eat healthy and would not routinely indulge in fried food, but HOLY MOLY! The Southern-inspired comfort fare was exactly what we needed to make this day even more perfect. We shared small plates of creamy mac and cheese, juicy fried chicken, sweet cornbread, biscuits and gravy etc etc. There is absolutely nothing fancy about this place but just looking up the link made my mouth water. I will definitely be back when we return to Portland!
Unbeknownst to us, we needed the extra sustenance from Sunday, for the physical escapades waiting for us on Monday in the Columbia River Gorge. I am not enough of an accomplished writer to do the magnificent splendour of this area justice.
We hiked around Latourell falls, Bridal veil and climbed the mile-long steep, curvy hike towards the top of Multnomah Falls. We thoroughly enjoyed the fresh air and endless beauty of our surrounds.
By late afternoon we replenished our stores at Pfriem brewery on the banks of Hood River. The drive back to Portland was exquisite with Mount St. Helen in the distance and endless greenery, the nature of which was foreign to our eyes, to admire and adore.
Finally, the big birthday was upon as on Tuesday – the reason for our awesome trip. We met Jason for a final breakfast before setting out to our romantic cabin near Mount Rainier.
Nothing in my research prepared me for the fact that it would still be snowing on the mountain and very cold in the middle of the American summer. But the weather was the perfect setting for the cosy comforts of the Little Owl Cabin at Chateau Mermot. I just loved the vintage cabin decor and still want to attempt to capture it in our own home. We had a braai (BBQ) on the deck for the birthday dinner and some carrot cupcakes a la Trader Joe’s, before cuddling for a Netflix movie and an early night.
On Wednesday it was time to explore the exquisite Mount Rainier National Park with the Silver Falls trail. Once again words fail me, but the pictures will hopefully do the scenery justice. Although I was not geared for this hike, it took my breath away. After the hike, we made our way to the visitor’s centre where a winter wonderland awaited. We spoiled ourselves with a slice of real greasy American Pizza and coffee, before returning to the cabin for warmth and much-needed rest.
I was a bit sad to leave the cabin the next day in the midst of a light cold drizzle, but our adventure had to continue. Our trusty Cadillac took us to Seattle, and since this was the last day we would have the use of our cool SUV, we explored the more remote tourist attractions on our arrival in Seattle. We saw the Troll Bridge and admired the skyline from Kerry Park. We also took on Discovery Park where we once again underestimated the length of the hiking trails and the scale of the map.
Once we were checked into our Airbnb, we decided to make our way to the waterfront, through the alleys and side streets to the famous gum wall.
This time the waterfront was much closer to what we expected compared to San Francisco, and we admired the sunset while sharing a plate of fish and chips on the pier.
I was surprised to find that most of Seattle’s famous tourist attractions are generally very close to each other in the proximity of a two-mile line from the Space needle to the city centre. Just like we did in San Francisco, we purchased the City Pass to save on excursions and started our day off with a view of Seattle from the Space Needle.
There were too many museums to admire in the same park on one day. We went to Chihuly Garden and Glass which is a museum filled with the most magnificent colourful glass sculptures.
We also took a stroll through the Museum of Pop Culture before taking the free shuttle to the waterfront.
We went on a very entertaining cruise around the harbour and then made our way to Pike Place Market where we enjoyed the “World’s Best Mac and Cheese” at Beecher’s.
We started our last morning in Seattle with a delicious artisanal takeaway coffee since that is what the city is known for. Once the caffeine kicked in, we met our Uber driver who took us to the airport for our flight to New York City.
Join me next time as we make our way back to the East Coast and explore the Big Apple together…
Here’s a toe-tapper that takes me back to many awesome road trips. I am so blessed to have “that man” with me now on all my road trips.