24 Hours in Portland, Oregon

by Beth Whitman (April 14th, 2014)

I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t get down to Portland nearly as often as I would like. It’s only three hours from Seattle, however, it seems like it’s easier for me to find time to fly to Bangkok than to drive to PDX.

Portland is smaller and more laid-back than Seattle, yet still a bustling metropolis with plenty to do and see. Portland’s arts and cultural scene serves up theaters, museums and venues galore. Its natural surroundings meld seamlessly with the city, which includes several large parks within its bounds worth exploring. And, perhaps most importantly, the city is chocked full of delicious restaurants and eateries, from famous Voodoo Doughnuts (including vegan treats) to brew pubs to upscale restaurants.

Voodoo Donuts

My ideal day in Portland includes a little bit of everything that makes this city the fun and quirky place it is. Here are some things to see and do in Portland if you have 24 hours.

Morning: Yoga at Yoga Pearl
I discovered this place by accident when I was looking for something healthy to eat (see Prasad, below). Located in the Pearl District adjacent to Prasad, the studio accepts drop-ins for under $20 for a single class, and the schedule includes a wide variety of classes. This is a great place to start your day. 

Breakfast: Prasad Cuisine
After yoga, have breakfast and/or juice at the adjacent juice bar and cafe called Prasad Cuisine. The menu is entirely sustainable and organic, which is not only very Portland, but also a wholesome and delicious way to start your day. After a hearty breakfast, grab one of their healthy juices to go. Be warned – the green juice is very green. 

Prasad Yogurt Parfait

Late Morning: Pearl District
Portland has several areas of town that no visitor should miss. The Pearl District is one of these. A rehabbed industrial area now filled with cool shops, art galleries and more, the Pearl District is also home to a store unlike one you’ll find anywhere else. That’s right, Powell’s Books is here. Powell’s is the largest indie bookstore in the entire world—it takes up an entire city block at more than 68,000 square feet. Venture in. Wander its hallowed, color-coded departments. Marvel at the sheer number of books. I never miss a chance to visit Powell’s when I’m in Portland.

Once you’re done at Powell’s, check out Tanner Goods, a store filled with locally made products with a focus on design and quality. You’ll find wallets, belts, bags and other items, all of which make excellent gifts for others or yourself. If you regret not making a purchase while there, you can place your order online.

Finally, stop at Cargo Imports. Cargo Imports brings in what they call “uncommon” objects from around the world (but mostly Asia), and indeed the variety is staggering. You’ll spot furniture, textiles, party supplies and novelties.

Give yourself plenty of time at Cargo. You could meander the tiny aisles for hours and still not see everything. 

Lunch
Portland is a city of food carts, with more than 600 within the city limits. Carts tend to clump together, which makes cart hopping all too tempting. Why have one dish for lunch when you can have several? For lunch, take a food cart tour, either on your own or with a tour group that will lead you to some of the best food carts in Portland. 

Portland Food Carts

Afternoon: Go to a park
Use the afternoon to walk off all that you’ve eaten by going to one of the city’s many parks. Portland has two parks worth special note—Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country that has about 70 miles of trails within its leafy bounds, and Washington Park.

Washington Park is also quite large, and includes some of Portland’s main attractions alongside 15 miles of trails. Attractions include the lovely Rose Test Garden, with views of the city, Portland Zoo and the Portland Japanese Garden. 

Late Afternoon: Check in at your hotel and relax
I recommend staying at the Hotel Monaco. After you check in, relax from your walk with the hosted wine and beer hour from 5 to 6 p.m. each night in the lobby. Not only will you get to kick back in style, but you’ll also get to taste some local beer and wine. Portland and its surrounding areas are known for their amazing libations.

 All the rooms are quite unique at Hotel Monaco (a Kimpton property). We had a live goldfish in ours. In the morning be sure to pop back by the lobby for hot chocolate (with marshmallows), tea or coffee.

Hotel Monaco

Dinner: The Farm Cafe
The Farm Cafe gets points for its location in an old Victorian house. It gets bonus points for the delicious menu items, which focus on a fresh, farm-to-table philosophy, but are also incredibly inventive. An excellent list of local microbrews, wines and cocktails doesn’t hurt either.

Evening: Entertainment and beer
Portland’s nightlife is varied. While there are clubs in town, you’ll be much more in the vein of all things Portland if you head out to a local brew pub or microbrewery such as Deschutes Brewery’s brew pub. Music venues are located throughout downtown, as are night spots that embody the unique quirk embraced by the city, such as the Darcelle XV Showplace, a drag and comedy show that’s been going strong since the 1970s and is still headed up by Darcelle, the oldest drag queen on the West Coast!

I’m not a beer drinker but still find it fun to go to one of the brewpubs, as much for the music as the people watching.

Travel Well,

Beth

*****

Photo credits:
Portland Food Carts: InSapphoWeTrust via Flickr
All other photos by Beth Whitman

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Tips for Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road

by Beth Whitman (April 4th, 2014)

Central London TrafficTwo weeks after taking a job at a tech company in 2000, I was sent to Australia with my boss, Peter, and a colleague, Holly, to meet with some photographers who were going to help us launch a website in time for the Olympics.

Two weeks into a job is not a long time to get to know your traveling companions but we were all genial folks and ready for an adventure. We were just cresting the tech bubble and used to the wild ride of those days.

Peter wanted to rent a car so we could get around a bit. But never having driven on the “wrong” side of the road before, he was, well, a bit out of sorts.

After pulling out of the rental car parking lot, we nicked the rear view mirror of a car parked on the right side of the road. Peter hadn’t gotten the hang of staying to the left yet. We all pretended we didn’t see what happened and kept going. After all, we had all just met weeks prior and who wanted to admit that the boss had just swiped a car and then, if we really want to be honest, drove off. (In reality there was likely little if any damage to that rear view mirror but it was just embarrassing, the whole situation. We soon forgot it when Peter ended up slipping on some rocks at Bondi Beach and we had to take him to the hospital for stitches to his head – but that’s a story for another post about how not to hit your head on rocks in a foreign country).

Anyhoo…

There have been other countries where I’ve done the driving on the left side of the road. And quite nicely, I might add. I drove a combi-van up the east coast of Australia and, more recently, my dear friend and Bhutanese sister, Chuki, let me drive her car in Bhutan. That was probably the most challenging driving I’ve done as any time you pass someone, you’re forced to drive with half the car off the road because the roads are so narrow. Quite unnerving when you’re driving on the left. I handed the wheel back over when we arrived in Paro, one of the country’s city’s of any size.

So, what does a North American do when you want to rent a car in a foreign country where they drive on the left? Here are a few tips for driving on the wrong side of the road:

1. Learn to drive a stick shift well in advance as many other countries only offer manual shift cars – particularly in Europe.

2. Before you leave home, find out from your car insurance company if they cover rentals abroad. If not, consider taking the rental agency’s coverage. Though it can be expensive, it’ll be a minor amount compared to what the cost of an accident might cost you.

3. Learn a bit of the language if you don’t already know it. At least enough to read some road signs.

4. Just as you would do with a rental at home, before you drive out of the lot, check the car thoroughly for any damage that might already exist on the car and note it on the paperwork. Also make sure the gas tank is full.

5. Practice driving on the left before you get yourself into any kind of major traffic or get into city traffic. After leaving the rental agency, drive around side streets where there’s less traffic and a lower speed limit. Don’t head out info speeding traffic until you’re good and comfortable.

6. If at all possible, stay away from major cities. True, you’ll likely rent the car at the airport which will be near a major city, but then get out of dodge as quickly as possible. Navigating in a big city is enough to make one a bit queasy.

7. Get a good map from the rental agency and map out some semblance of where you want to go before you even put the key in the ignition.

Holland Traffic Smileys8. Once in the car, take some time to get used to where all the controls are – particularly the brake and gas peddle. But become familiar with the windshield wipers and headlights as well. That way you won’t be scrambling to find them when you need them most.

9. It’s easy to succumb to peer pressure when you’re driving on the highway where everyone is easily doing 120 kilometers an hour. While it might be legal, it may not be the safest for you, a newbie driver in that country. Stay at a speed that’s comfortable for you but not so slow that it will cause an accident.

If your destination is Europe, Enterprise just launched a website specializing in rentals in Europe including Spain, France, the UK, Germany, Italy and Ireland.

Travel Well,

Beth

*****

This post was done in partnership with Wanderlust and Lipstick and Enterprise Rent-a-Car but they had no input on the content.

Photo credits:
Central London Traffic: oatsy40 via Flickr
Holland Traffic Smileys: Michiel Jelijs via Flickr

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Fun Facts About Honolulu

by Beth Whitman (April 3rd, 2014)

Statue of Duke KahanamokuApologies in advance to my friends on Oahu but I have to admit that when I visit your lovely island, I spend little time in Honolulu. While I have done some sightseeing in the city—including, of course, Pearl Harbor and the downtown galleries—like most people, I make a beeline to the beaches upon arrival. I can’t help it. Your beaches are beautiful!

I figured, however, that there must be something more to the city than beaches, and certainly more than the few highlighted facts we know from travel magazine headlines. Here are some fun facts about Honolulu that I was delighted to discover.

1. Honolulu is the only city in the entire U.S. that’s home to a real royal palace. Iolani Palace is located right in downtown Honolulu at 364 South King Street. Before the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893, Iolani Palace was home to King Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani. After the coup d’etat, the palace was used as a government building until it was restored and opened to the public in 1978. Today, you can go visit. It’s quite opulent.

2. That’s right. There was a coup d’etat in Hawaii. In 1893, an anti-monarchy group (mostly headed up by U.S. citizens) overthrew the government with the underlying dream of being annexed by the United States. Once that happened, Honolulu gained two things that are still major players in present times—hotels and resorts, and a U.S. military presence.

Iolani Palace3. Iolani Palace got electric lighting a whopping four years before the White House did.

4. You might think of all the Hawaiian islands as peaceful paradises where you can get away from all the hassles of modern, city life. But Honolulu has some of the worst traffic in the country. A Forbes listing of cities with the worst traffic puts Honolulu at number two, with 60 hours of time wasted in traffic per person per year. (More apologies to my Oahu friends for bringing up this fact.)

5. Honolulu has more than 33 Buddhist temples.

Hawaiian Pidgin6. While English and Hawaiian are the official languages of Hawaii, you’ll often hear people speaking something entirely different from both, even on television or in advertising. This less official language of Hawaii is Hawaiian Pidgin, a Creole language that developed out of immigrants from China, Japan, the Philippines, Portugal and other countries all trying to communicate with each other in the 19th century. Pick up a copy of Da Jesus Book (the Bible in Hawaiian Pidgin) for a good laugh.

7. Waikiki Beach brings in more than 70,000 tourists every single day.

8. Honolulu translates in English to “sheltered bay.”

9. Duke Kahanamoku is widely credited with taking surfing from a little-known Hawaiian pastime to an internationally known sport. He grew up in and around Waikiki, learning to surf and swim at Waikiki Beach.

There are lots of options in terms of accommodations in and around the area. You might try the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort and Spa. While it’s not in Honolulu, I have to admit that the Hyatt is one of favorite hotels and worth the drive from Waikiki to the city to do some sightseeing.

Travel Well,

Beth

*****

Photo credits:
Statue of Duke Kahanamoku: Luke H. Gordon via Flickr
Iolani Palace: Cliff via Flickr
Hawaiian Pidgin: Kai Hendry via Flickr

 

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