Portland, Oregon

First trip of 2017!

IMG_8876 (800x533)

Travel/Lodging:
We grabbed some tickets from Southwest during one of their sales. Our flight landed around 12:30AM on Friday morning. We stayed at the Staybridge Suites – Portland Airport. It was a 10-minute/$15 Lyft ride from the airport, and a 20-minute/$25 Lyft ride to downtown. The hotel is close to a MAX station if you prefer to take public transportation.

Our room was a studio queen suite with a kitchenette. Nothing fancy although this was more than enough for us as we were hardly in the room. The hotel offers a complimentary breakfast, but who would choose a hotel breakfast over Portland brunch?

20170407_010709 (800x450) (2)

20170407_010745 (800x450)

20170407_010754 (800x450)

Day One (Friday)
We started our first full day at Broder Nord for breakfast. I ordered the Lefse, a Norwegian potato crepe which was filled with ricotta cheese, apples, and caramelized onions (preparation changes daily), served with two soft baked eggs. My boyfriend ordered the baked egg scramble with trout which included walnut toast and a griddle cake. We also got a half order of Aebleskivers, delicious Danish pancake balls, with lemon curd and lingonberry dipping sauces.

20170407_092947 (800x450)

20170407_092827 (800x450)

We definitely wanted to hit up a bunch of coffee shops, so we went to Either/Or to try their espresso flight. We may have over-hyped this place for ourselves. The espresso flight is two shots of espresso, a mini dessert, and a cup of sparkling water. Aesthetically and conceptually, it’s cute- but we would have been more satisfied if we had just gotten regular drinks.

20170407_103524 (800x450)

By this time there was crazy wind and rain so we decided to hide out at OMSI. It’s a really interactive museum that’s better suited for kids, but we still enjoyed ourselves (and stayed dry). There was this neat Lego art exhibit… but I didn’t feel it was worth the extra admission fee.

IMG_20170407_131635320 (800x450)

IMG_8845 (800x533)

The rain let up when we left OMSI so we walked to Coava for a cup of their Bella Aurora coffee. It was just what we needed to warm ourselves up. Coava is spacious but there aren’t that many seats/tables.

IMG_8865 (1) (533x800)

We decided to test our luck with the weather and walk over the Hawthorne Bridge to check out Mill Ends Park – the smallest park in the world. Quite Portland if you ask me!

20170407_154151 (800x450)

IMG_8869 (800x533)

After roaming around downtown a little bit, we stopped by Powell’s, a huuuuge bookstore. I don’t buy books anymore (libraries ftw), but this is truly a bibliophile’s heaven.

20170407_181642 (800x450)

20170407_182004 (450x800)

20170407_182150 (800x450)

Even though it was late afternoon we decided to walk by a Blue Star Donuts. As I predicted, it was already closed because they had sold out. If you really want those donuts, go early in the morning.

IMG_8879 (800x533)

We ended our night with some cocktails at Pepe Le Moko, which is around the corner from the Ace Hotel. This place is super dark and tiny, so I wouldn’t come here with a group bigger than 4 people. Their cocktails are really tasty and refreshing, but not very strong. I had my first Amaretto Sour and it was awesome- just the right amount of sourness and the frothy egg white was on point.

20170407_192558 (450x800)

Day Two
Saturday was another early morning so we went to Screen Door for breakfast. We got there 20 minutes before opening and there was already a long line. Thankfully we were part of the first wave of customers to be seated- around 9:10AM. We went a little overboard with our ordering, but I’m glad we did because everything was sooooo delicious.

Our main dishes were the Chicken & Waffles and Eggs Sardou with Cheddar Grits. As “sides” we ordered the Praline Bacon and a half order of Bananas Foster French Toast. There are a myriad of brunch places in Portland, but I’m so, so glad we chose to come here.

IMG_20170408_095453242 (800x450)

Next to Screen Door is an Indonesian coffee store called Kopi Coffee. I could barely move and was feeling a little nauseous due to how much I ate, so I got some Dragon Pearl Jasmine Tea to help digest. My boyfriend ordered the Kopi Jahe, which is Indonesian Ginger Tea.

20170408_110033 (450x800)

After Kopi we decided to walk to another coffee place (I mean, when in Portland…). Since the weather was so much better than the day before, we enjoyed a mile stroll through some neighborhoods. My boyfriend was amazed at all the moss that grows in Portland and how nice everyone’s front yard is. Guess that’s an upside to Portland’s weather.

IMG_20170408_115837909 (800x450)

IMG_20170408_120242833 (450x800)

Tov is actually a double-decker bus. Due to some horrendous winds the day before, the seating section on the second level was messed up so we sat downstairs (there’s only 4 chairs total downstairs, but there are also tables and benches outside). They have a menu full of Egyptian coffee items as well as more common drinks. Their cortado was delicious.

IMG_20170408_123111569 (800x450)

20170408_122719 (800x450)

IMG_20170408_123436507_HDR (800x450)

As a basketball fan I had to stop by the Moda Center to take a picture of the Rip City sign.

20170408_130920 (800x450)

Our next stop was the Portland Japanese Garden. I hear it’s one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. I honestly thought it would be bigger than it is, but it’s still gorgeous.

20170408_140829 (800x450)

20170408_142505 (800x450)

20170408_144623 (800x450)

20170408_144746_001 (800x450)

IMG_20170408_142931034_HDR (800x450)

IMG_20170408_150524293_HDR (800x450)

Their Umami Cafe does free tea tastings and is a great place to sit after exploring.

IMG_20170408_152510825 (800x450)

More coffee. Finally hit up Stumptown Coffee for their Nitro Cold Brew. I’ve had better, but theirs was pretty good.

IMG_20170408_170959036_HDR (450x800)

After hanging out at Stumptown, we walked to Pok Pok. The wait would be an hour and a half for 2 people on a Saturday night. Yikes! On the way to Pok Pok we noticed the SE Wine Collective and treated ourselves to some tastings to pass the time.

20170408_190603 (800x450) 2

Just as we were finishing our flights, Pok Pok texted us that our table was ready and we had 10 minutes to get back to the restaurant. Let me be brief and say that Pok Pok (at least their Vietnamese Chicken Wings) is overrated, and a little pricey for what you’re getting. The Khao Soi was good, but needed chili flakes for some extra flavor. Maybe their other menu items are good?

20170408_200401 (800x450)

We had an early flight the next morning so went back to the hotel after dinner.

Day Three
Got to the airport around 6:15AM. The airport has a Blue Star Donuts before security! And since we were so early, there was no wait. We tried a Blueberry Bourbon Basil and Maple Bacon donut and paired it with a Stumptown cold brew.  

IMG_20170409_064743558_HDR (800x450)

Portland is a really chill place with great food and plenty to do, no matter the weather. I would recommend coming in the summer, when the weather seems to be a bit more stable and enjoyable.

Advertisements

Oahu, HI

Ever since I went to Maui in 2014 I have been itching to go back to Hawaii. So at the end of April my boyfriend and I flew to Oahu. We found a great deal with Hawaiian Airlines, one of the few (if not only) airlines that still provides free meals on domestic flights. Before we landed they offered complimentary Koloa rum punch to those of age.

We landed in Honolulu around noon and picked up our rental car. Then we drove to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber. This hotel is right on Kalakaua Avenue, the main road in Waikiki, located across the street from the beach. Walking down Kalakaua at night reminded me of the Las Vegas strip, except more enjoyable because there was no cigarette smoke or obnoxious drunk people. Each hotel room has its own private balcony, and we were able to get a partial view of the ocean from the 16th floor.

20160428_134934

We dropped off our stuff and then drove to Kailua to eat some poke at The Hibachi, which is a small convenience store with a poke bar.

20160503_132038

After eating we went to Lanikai beach. It took a few minutes to find parking (there’s only street parking in the neighborhood; watch out for “No Parking” signs in certain areas). Lanikai is one of the prettiest beaches I’ve been to. The water is so clear and the sand is soft and white.

For dinner we had Yakini Kuhio, which was a quick walk from our hotel. We had the delicious pork belly dinner which the server meticulously cooked for us.

20160428_202326

Our first morning we had a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) lesson in Haleiwa (North Shore) at 8AM with Steve at Sea and Board Sports. The lesson was so enjoyable. Steve was very detailed and encouraging in teaching us how to balance, paddle, and turn. You start off in the calm Anahulu river, then once you get the hang of things you make your way out to the ocean. During the two hour lesson, we saw about 5 sea turtles swim right past us! Highly recommend Sea and Board Sports for water sports lessons and equipment rentals (they also have kayaks available).

Right after our lesson we drove to the nearby Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. We were there a half hour before they opened because we wanted to avoid the line (which started to get long around 11AM). The shrimp, especially the Scampi plate, definitely lived up to the hype.

20160429_104049

After lunch it was time for a nice refreshing snack at Matsumoto Shave Ice. Since it was still early afternoon, there wasn’t a long line like there usually is. I recommend getting condensed milk and mochi with your shave ice.

IMG_20160429_111622962

On the way toward Honolulu we decided to stop by the Dole Plantation. It’s basically a huge pineapple gift shop with a few activities, but something you should visit if it’s your first time on Oahu. We did the train ride, but I would opt for the garden tour instead.

20160429_142630

20160429_150450

For dinner we ate at Ono Hawaiian Foods, a family owned restaurant. Service was great and our combination plate (which consisted of kalua pork, laulau, pipikaula, lomi salmon, rice, poi and haupia) was delicious.

We were pretty close to Leonard’s Bakery, so we walked there to have malasadas for dessert. We got one regular and one chocolate filled malasada. They tasted good, but I don’t see what the big hype is. A lot of people go here multiple times during a trip but once was enough for us.

20160429_194959

20160429_195238

Saturday morning my boyfriend had a surf lesson with Alysha Surf School. They have  really great discount if you have a YELP account. There were five people in his class and they all got to surf about six times each. I walked around the beach and read a book during his two hour lesson.

It was our last day with the rental car so after the surf lesson we dropped off the car back at the airport. We would be relying on TheBus for the rest of the trip. TheBus is $2.50 per ride (the fare includes 2 transfers) and is fairly timely. The bus ride back to the hotel took a lot longer than expected because of the Spam Jam festival going on right in front of our hotel. Hawaiians sure do love their Spam.

20160503_131901

20160430_161108

We had dinner at Murakame Udon, which was right behind our hotel. I’ve heard the line gets really long, but the wait isn’t bad because of the fast turnover. The restaurant has  a cafeteria style set up and self seating, so it isn’t exactly the place to linger after you’re done with your meal. The udon itself is very cheap, and you can add on food items such as a soft boiled egg and tempura for about $1 each.

20160503_131816

The next morning we took the bus to Diamond Head and hiked up the crater. The hike was quite crowded, but there are nice ocean and city views, plus you get to go inside an old bunker.

20160501_082633

20160501_083638

Monday was our last full day in Oahu, so we started it off at Manoa Falls Trail. Since we went early in the morning, we barely saw people on the trail (which made for a peaceful hike). The hike is fairly easy, but there are a few muddy areas you need to watch out for. Also: SLATHER YOURSELF IN BUG SPRAY.

20160502_083419

20160502_084908

20160502_085504

20160502_090252

Since it was our last night in Oahu, we spent it at Beach Bar that’s in Moana Surfrider Hotel, a quick walk away from the Holiday Inn.

20160502_205202

The next day our flight was in the afternoon so we spent a little time at the beach before catching a shuttle to the airport. I would say Oahu’s a good island to visit if it’s your first time in Hawaii. It has a good balance of the city/tourist attractions, but also a lot of beaches and hikes.

Joshua Tree National Park, CA

For the first trip of 2016 a group of friends and I spent three and a half days in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree National Park is about a two hour drive from the LA area.

My boyfriend recently purchased a GoPro and put together a little video of our adventures.

For lodging we rented an Airbnb in Joshua Tree which had an open and secluded atmosphere, despite being only a few miles from the main road (where we frequented the Super Walmart for food and supplies). It had a beautiful backyard with a fire pit and little hills we climbed for a nice view of the neighborhood.

20160331_161624

20160331_161652-1

20160331_164259

Our first hike was Fortynine Palms Oasis. It’s a fairly easy hike, with no shade until you get to the oasis. We saw a bunch of chuckwallas throughout the trail. We snacked and rested at the oasis for a bit then headed back. The whole hike took about two hours.

20160401_115952

20160401_114517

20160401_121028

After our hike we went to The Integratron in Landers for an hour long Sound Bath. The Integratron is made of wood and glue (no nails!) and is said to be an acoustically perfect structure. The Sound Baths offered at the Integratron are meditation-like sessions accompanied by tones from quartz bowls. It’s quite a relaxing place to rest your head and focus on the pure tones being played.

20160401_150104

The designer of the Integratron, George Van Tassel, was a controversial UFO advocate who claimed the structure was capable of rejuvenation, anti-gravity, and time travel (of the aforementioned, I only experienced slight rejuvenation…maybe you’ll have a different experience).

At night we got the fire pit started for s’mores. The desert is gorgeous at night- for the first time in my life I was able to see multiple constellations. It also got cold, so don’t forget to bring a jacket/wear layers. Halfway through our s’mores session we discovered a kangaroo rat underneath our fire pit. He slowly crept out from time to time to nibble on our graham cracker crumbs.

20160401_212647

On our third day we went to the park for some more hiking. We started off with Hidden Valley, which was an easy paced mile loop. Since it’s so easy (but very scenic), there’s a constant stream of people and kids on this trail.

20160402_120619

Then we did Ryan Mountain. I’m by no means athletic or physically active, so this was a pretty tough hike. It’s 3 miles uphill (the elevation gain is 1070 feet). However, once I got to the top, I immediately forgot the torture I had just endured and was in awe of the perfect views that surrounded me. A bonus is that the hike back down is super easy compared so you end the hike in a good mood.

After Ryan Mountain we ate some pizza at Pie for the People then went back to the park to catch the sunset.

20160402_190829

20160402_192120

On our last day we went into town and stopped by the World Famous Crochet Museum. As you can see from the pictures below, you could literally spend minutes in there.

20160403_112437

20160403_112608

20160403_112958

Simply put, Joshua Tree is amazing. The National Park is vast with numerous trails and options for exploring and the surrounding town is quaint and relaxing.

 

New Orleans, Louisiana

My friends and I usually take a yearly trip to Las Vegas, but this year we decided to switch it up and head to New Orleans.

We had eight in our group, so we rented an Airbnb instead of a hotel. We stayed in the Uptown/Carrollton district of New Orleans, which is a 10-15 minute Uber drive to the French Quarter.

We got in late Saturday night and went straight to Cooter Brown’s, which was a five minute streetcar ride from our Airbnb.

20151003_221039

It’s definitely a no frills sports bar with tons of beer on tap. They had an amazing shrimp poboy. We also tried the alligator sausage and muffaletta. Note- that’s HALF a muffaletta in the picture below.

20151003_223852

The next day was our Swamp Tour with Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours. We found a discount online so we paid about $40 for the tour which included transportation to the swamp. Since we weren’t staying at a hotel in the French Quarter, we took an Uber to the Marriott on Canal Street and waited in the lobby for the bus. The bus ride was about half an hour.

Overall, the tour was good. If you’re looking for a tour where they make the alligators jump out of the water with pieces of chicken, this isn’t one of them. I believe because they are part of a national park, they aren’t allowed to feed the alligators. They do, however, entice the alligators to come close by throwing ice cubes in the water. Even though the weather was chilly, we saw about 10 alligators during the 1.5 hour tour. Our tour guide was very friendly and informative. At the end we got to hold a baby alligator!

20151004_142538

Lunch afterwards was at Bayou Beer Garden, where I had an awesome burger and some crabby bites. We ate in their outdoor patio and were surrounded by a bunch of TVs.

We then made our way to the French Quarter to start our Voodoo Lady Bone Tour Haunted Tour. If you’re a scaredy cat like me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The guide walks you around the French Quarter and shares historical stories of death that happened in New Orleans. Nothing scary or spooky happened (at least not to us!). You also get to see the famous LaLaurie mansion, which was featured on AHS: Coven (and was also once owned by Nicolas Cage).

20151004_213703

There’s a pit stop in the middle of the tour at Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, which happens to be one of the oldest bars in the US. Grab a purple drank to sip on for the second half of the tour.

20151004_211738

After the tour it was on to dinner at Royal House. I had their Taste of New Orleans, which was three small bowls of gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish etouffee. Highly recommend this dish as you are able to taste three of New Orleans’ staples.

20151004_224314

Luckily for us, the Saints had won their first football game (against the Cowboys) of the season and we were in French Quarter to celebrate! After dinner we made our way to Bourbon street to join in on all the fun.

We made stops at Tropical Isle to get some hand grenades, and Pat O’Brien’s for some hurricanes. These type of drinks are way too sweet for me, so I split one of each with my boyfriend. In my opinion, the hand grenades are tastier and a little stronger than the hurricanes.

The next morning we had a brunch reservation at Atchafalaya. I had the duck hash, and three of my friends had the shrimp and grits, which they could not stop raving about. There is also a build your own Bloody Mary bar.

2016-01-29

Later that night we hung out around Frenchmen Street, which was a lot cleaner and quieter than Bourbon street. The Frenchmen Art Market is a cool place to check out local vendors and chill (they also let you draw on the ground with chalk).

20151005_230729

20151005_230741

20151005_233538

We spent the rest of night bar hopping to whichever bars didn’t have a cover. Even on a Monday night places were crowded and open until 3AM. It was time to head home as we had a flight to catch in a couple of hours.

I absolutely wish we had a little more time in New Orleans (we were only there for two full days), but am overall satisfied with what we experienced in our short time there.

Weekend in Napa

Spent a night in Napa for a quick weekend trip. I am not big on wine (mostly a whiskey drinker), so this trip had more chewing than sipping.

On Saturday we found ourselves at the Oxbow Market in downtown Napa around noon. I really enjoyed this place (and there’s free parking in the adjacent lot!). There are a bunch of different food stalls and restaurants you can choose from. It’s reminiscent of the Ferry Building in San Francisco and San Pedro Square in San Jose.

After walking around the building a few times, we decided to start off with some oysters from Hog Island Oyster Co. We ordered a mix of six different oysters and they were all so fresh and delicious! I especially loved how they were clean and I didn’t have to crack them open! Workin’ for your food ain’t that fun. I wish we had eaten more but we had to pace ourselves.

IMG_8256

IMG_8259

We then headed over to Gott’s Roadside. We ordered the bacon cheeseburger, ahi tuna tacos, and garlic fries. I’m not a fan of hard taco shells, but the tacos were quite appetizing. The burger was good, but I felt it was only a little bit better than a burger you would get at Red Robin. The fries were enjoyable but I freaking love garlic so there wasn’t enough of it in the fries for me (there’s never enough!!!).

IMG_8264

After our lunch, I headed over to Three Twins Ice Cream for some Land of Honey and Milk ice cream and then Ritual Coffee for a flat white (which was good, but not as good as Chromatic Coffee in San Jose). We found some seats outside (did I mention the weather was gorgeous?) to enjoy our sweet treats and people watch.

Soon it was time to check into our hotel. We stayed at the Staybridge Suites in Fairfield, about a fifteen minute drive from downtown Napa. I liked the layout of the room – a living room, kitchen, and separate bedroom and bathroom – but overall I did not have a great first impression of the hotel. Room is a little outdated and could use some more lighting. There was an extensive complimentary breakfast and the staff was decent and friendly enough, but I don’t think I’ll be back.

IMG_8277

IMG_8278

Because I had had had to watch the NBA All Star Saturday Night events, we didn’t have dinner until about 8:45PM. We wanted to avoid the dreaded Valentine’s Dinner wait and crowds so we found Chaats Cafe, an Indian restaurant half a mile down the street in a shopping plaza. We weren’t looking for a special or romantic atmosphere at all, but the restaurant did have roses on the tables and heart shaped balloons, which I thought was cute. They even gave us free gulab jamun for dessert. Overall, the food was good but a bit pricey due to its location.

The next morning, we met up with some of our friends at Jamieson Winery for a wine and cheese tasting. The winery seemed kind of small but looked really nice. One of the sides of the winery had some interesting murals painted on the walls.

IMG_8288

IMG_8284

Our host, John, was very friendly. He told us the recommended wine/cheese pairings, but ultimately told us to “play around” with the flavors to find our personal preference.

IMG_8315

IMG_8321

They also brought out one of their mini horses, Molly, who was THE CUTEST THING IN THE WORLD. Would you believe she’s their biggest mini horse!?

IMG_8297

IMG_8307

I had never been to Napa before, so I’m glad I went, but since I’m not into wine I feel like there wouldn’t be too much more for me to see/do/visit.

…Well, there is one more place I’d go back to Napa for- Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ. Whiskey flights!? Yes, please!

Bachelorette Party in Maui, HI

Five girls embarked on a five day trip to Maui, HI for a good friend’s Bachelorette party. I had been to Oahu when I was about eight years old, but this would be my first time back in Hawaii as an adult.

Since we had a snorkeling trip planned, I purchased a NIKON COOLPIX S31 waterproof camera. It’s a cheap camera with decent quality, and it worked for me because I rarely (and by rarely I mean almost never) need to use a camera in or near water. It was the only camera I brought as I didn’t want to juggle between two different cameras.

We rented a two bedroom, two bath condo in Kihei. The neighborhood was nice and quiet, right around the corner from a small beach that we walked to at four in the morning (we were pretty much on mainland time the whole trip).

 

10288773_10152439736637288_4320041523432467765_n
View from our little patio.

 

 

10365947_10152439816377288_7026433401088190733_n
This beach was about a three minute walk from our condo.

 

Probably the best thing we were walking distance of… Coconuts Fish Cafe! Humongous, delicious fish tacos. Still craving them ’til this day.

10277240_10102345205920364_1402276039678812165_n

We slept early due to the jetlag, but it worked great with our schedule because we had a boarding time of 7:30AM for our snorkeling excursion with Pride of Maui. Our excursion went to Turtle Town and Molokini Crater. I LOVED this experience! It was definitely the highlight of my trip. Everyone on the crew was great, and THEY FEED YOU. Pastries and fruit in the morning, a barbecue for lunch, and an open bar. AN OPEN BAR. ON A BOAT. IN HAWAII.

We didn’t see much in Turtle Town (“only” seeing a lone turtle), but Molokini Crater had a lot more action. Plus, the fish there are used to humans so you’ll be surrounded by them.

10299103_10152439740497288_5710754298427513967_n

10325665_10152439742257288_4180729673534277125_n

10356307_10152439742102288_962714289733747450_n

The excursion ended around noon and we spent the rest of the day walking around Front Street and visiting the Banyan Tree.

1454940_10152439817332288_6506108610698102538_n

The rest of the trip was pretty much just going to the beach every day. I rarely (and by rarely I mean almost never) swim in the ocean in the mainland.. even the beaches in Southern California are too cold for me. But who could resist Maui’s warm and clear water!? Needed to take advantage of it before going back home to the freezing, mysterious dark waters.

10334399_10102345190391484_8195191328479430771_n

10170890_10102345204752704_8239629422041697803_n

On our last night in Maui, we went to the Wailea Grand Luau at Honuaula. Beautiful view, entertaining performances, and open bar! They only had sweet drinks made with rum (I don’t like sweet drinks, nor do I like rum), but hey, when in Hawaii, right? It was starting to get pretty cold and windy towards the end of the luau (which ended around 8PM), but thanks to the open bar I had my alcohol blanket on.

10372274_10152439854077288_1042705535682058816_n

10322624_10152439854222288_2372291301690271482_n

1897953_10152439854572288_431188215320366551_n

Obviously this is a very, very tamed down reflection on my trip (bachelorette parties aren’t meant to be documented, if you ask me!), but Maui left a great impression on me. I’d come back in a heartbeat, but the explorer in me would probably want to visit the other islands I’ve yet to step foot on first.