Portland is an awesome town, there is lots to see and do - but for us it was all about the food! We are all a bit food obsessed and tend to make a lot of travel plans based on meal options! We’ve been plant based for almost 7 years, so the veg friendly food scene in Portland was a big draw for us. We decided to stay in Vancouver, WA just across the bridge from Portland, as it was a short drive into town and the location we selected allowed us to make use of our Passport America membership.
We got off to a late start on our first day, due to a late arrival the night before, and decided to take in a walking tour as our first introduction to the city. Adele was very excited that the only option available was the Underground Portland Tour, all about the “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things” in Portland’s past, to quote the description from the website. She is intrigued by all things macabre at the moment! We purchased some park and ride passes, only to discover that the next bus wasn’t due to arrive for another hour (meaning we would miss our tour) so we drove into town instead. Parking for the day was actually less than taking transit, something to keep in mind when we look into park and ride options in other cities! We ended up not using the park and ride at all in the end, as it wasn’t available over the weekend. Transit falls under the government agency umbrella, which meant lots of time on hold and a refund being sent to us in Canada by cheque. It was more than a little bit frustrating, to say the least!
Back to Portland… we arrived at our designated meeting place in Old Portland with rumbling tummies and enough time to grab a quick snack. The Happy Cow App led us to Voodoo Donuts, a funky, bright pink shop on the corner of the block, alongside a rather sketchy alleyway. The whole area was a little worse for wear, I was not surprised to hear that it was at one point called Skid Row while on our tour. Voodoo Donuts was a fun experience, they had a full tray of vegan options, including some rather obscene shapes and descriptions! We found out from our tour guide that Voodoo Donuts is an institution in Portland, started up by a guy associated with the music industry to feed hungry concert goers after Grunge Concerts. He apparently started out with post concert treats, including a sugar donut (coated in finely crushed aspirin!), an apparently disgusting pepto bismol donut and a (no joke) nyquil filled donut! The latter got the attention of the FDA and just about shut them down; their current iterations include a dose of rebellion with their shapes and descriptions, but no questionable drugstore ingredients anymore. The donuts were good, but sickly sweet, we could have easily split one and been happy to have a small taste. We sat at the outside tables for our snack, which turned a bit uncomfortable when a man nearby started taking a too close for comfort interest in our kids.
We walked back to the tour meeting point and embarked on our walking tour. We were dismayed to see the man from the donut shop trailing us, still staring at the kids. We let the guide and fellow tour attendees know that the guy had been following us, as we figured the more eyes on the kids the better, and Dom made sure the guy knew we were aware of him. The situation was likely harmless, but my “mommydar” was on full alert, and we’d rather be safe than sorry. We were able to fully relax and enjoy the rest of the tour when the guy finally disappeared as we made our way to the waterfront.
The tour was a lot of fun, hearing about the seedy underbelly of a city allows for a whole new understanding of it! A regular history tour is all well and good, but we thoroughly enjoyed learning about the strange and unusual events in Portland's history! We talked a lot about the infamous Shanghai Tunnels, which were likely only used for unloading and transporting goods, as coercing men into merchant marine boats was done openly in many local bars and taverns! We learned about the bootlegging industry and the protests staged by the local Temperance Society, with women barricading the doors of local establishments until the local police (and rumoured owners of said establishment) got fed up and arrested them en masse. We heard all about the local red light district, and “seamstresses” who operated there. It was eye opening, and very interesting to say the least!
Our next stop was the Red Robe Tea House & Cafe, where we enjoyed some delicious noodle bowls paired with some gorgeous Oolong Tea. Eloise commented over dinner that “when I was younger I used to think these places were just names in an Atlas, and didn’t pay much attention to them, but now that I’ve been there I have a whole new understanding.” To which Dominic promptly replied: “Good! Being able to read maps is important, otherwise you get turned around when your phone tries to talk to you.” Always the funny guy! It’s really awesome to see that our travels are already starting to open up our kids perspective on the world. We tackled rush hour traffic, signing along with an old 90's mix of Juliette’s to help the time pass quickly. We were thrilled to find a Peace Lily during our grocery run at Fred Meyer, we are slowly rebuilding our plant collection to optimize air quality in our RV.
We woke up early the following day to drive out to Milwaukie, OR for a Bob’s Red Mill Tour. We were so happy to have made the trip, the tour was fantastic! We found out all about their extensive line of products and processing facilities, including the history behind their massive mill stones. It’s pretty awesome to see that they are still using the same techniques that grain millers have been using for thousands of years. We even had a chance to wave hello to Bob himself, very exciting! We had a delicious meal at the Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store, Restaurant & Bakery, and then had fun grocery shopping for staple grocery items - and a few items we haven’t seen before, like Heirloom Orca Beans. We can’t wait to start experimenting in the kitchen!
Our next stop was the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville. Dominic was looking forward to seeing the Spruce Goose, a massive plane commissioned by Howard Hughes in the 1940’s. The Spruce Goose still holds the record for the largest wingspan of any plane to date, and we don’t doubt it! We were able to climb up a set of stairs and walk around inside, it is massive. The planes and displays were fantastic, one of the highlights was a series of paintings by a local artist, with corresponding historical accounts of the subjects depicted. Thanks to the paintings we found out about the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and a really cool account of a badly damaged Allied airplane whose crew was escorted to safety by a German pilot during the war. The two pilots became friends years later! It was such a fantastic reminder of the kindness and compassion that exists in the face of war and all of its atrocities. On our way home we stopped at Just Pho You, a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant in Newberg (with an even better name!) that was listed on the Happy Cow App. We decided to stop en route rather than getting stuck in rush hour traffic with hungry bellies. They had a delicious vegetarian section in their menu, with smaller noodle bowl sizes that were perfect for the kids.
We had another late start the following morning, as the kids were feeling under the weather. Our first stop was an incredible brunch at Blossoming Lotus, they had a fantastic selection of fresh juices and teas, in addition to a pretty fantastic food menu. One of the highlights was the tofu benedict with smoky kale, we are keen to try and replicate all of it but especially the kale in the near future as it was delicious! We made our way over to the Oregon Historical Society next. It was located in the picturesque University district, with lovely green space in between traffic lanes. We learned all about the history of first nations in Oregon, along with exhibits about Oregon Trail Pioneers and the Portland Police Department. Dominic and the kids put their drawing skills to test in the Comic exhibit, while Juliette walked over to Kure Juice Bar for a Golden Mushroom Elixir and an Immune Boost shot. So delicious! We then made our way over to Harlow on Hawthorne for a pretty incredible meal, which included a killer Mac & Cheese and rice bowl for the kids, and a Buffalo Cauliflower bowl that Juliette is keen to try and replicate soon, because it was fantastic! We wrapped it all up with a fantastic white mocha cashew cheesecake and kombucha on tap. Did I mention that we are a bit food obsessed?!
Our last day in Portland was clear and sunny, perfect for exploring the city. We made our way back to Hawthorne Street, to visit Next Level Burgers. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, and I was impressed with their focus on avoiding GMO products. We found another Kure Juice Stand right around the corner, which was a big treat and a great way to boost our immune systems and hit the kids’ cold to the curb! We really liked Hawthorne street, it’s the main thoroughfare of a cool neighbourhood with lots of good eats close by. We parked by the Aerial Tram, only to discover that it is closed on Sundays - boo! We walked up to the top of the stairs leading to a pedestrian walk over, but while it was good for our cardiovascular health, the view was less than spectacular. Next time!
Armand had been itching for a train ride, so we decided to take the streetcar into town to visit Powell's Books, one of the biggest book stores we have ever been to! We had fun wandering the stacks, and found a couple of Asterix and Obelix books to add to the kids collection. We are a family of bookworms, which made it an enjoyable afternoon for all of us. We stopped at Townshend's Tea in Montavilla afterwards, another awesome neighbourhood full of character. We enjoyed house brewed Kombucha on tap, and Juliette had a delicious Oolong tea. We are big fans of Oolong at the moment! We are currently reading the Wildwood Series and decided to take a literary inspired drive into the Impassable Wilderness depicted in the books. In reality, the Impassable Wilderness is easily accessible and well inhabited, but it was really cool to put a visual to the description in the book none the less. And the St Johns Bridge is pretty fantastic!
We had received a restaurant recommendation from a couple we were chatting with at Harlow the night before, and made our way over to The Sudra in St Johns as a result. Our dinner was fabulous, they served tapas style dishes, which allowed us to try a wide selection of different items. We love Indian food, and it was done exceptionally well at The Sudra. We are going to miss the Portland food scene, although we are excited to get back in the kitchen! We are making our way up to Seaside next, before winding our way down the Oregon Coast.
Voodoo Donuts - A bright pink shop on the corner of an alley in Old Portland. It is well worth a visit, for people watching and to experience the risqué donut names and shapes on their menu!
Portland Walking Tours - We had so much fun on our walking tour of Portland! In addition to the Underground Portland tour we went on, they also offer a Portland Historical and Ghost Tour! Our tour guide was fantastic, we would definitely recommend going on one of these!
Red Robe Tea House & Cafe - This cafe was an accidental find, but a really good one! We enjoyed a delicious noodle bowl, paired with a fantastic oolong tea. Definitely worth a stop!
Bob’s Red Mill Tour - How do we love Bob’s Red Mill? Let us count the ways! We’ve been using their products for years, it was so cool to see where they originated! We also learned about the milling process, and discovered some products we hadn’t seen in the grocery store yet (heirloom beans and sorghum). So much fun!
Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store, Restaurant & Bakery - Juliette was in heaven at the Bob’s Redmill Store and Cafe, there are so many sources of inspiration lining the shelves! The cafe has some delicious options, catering to different dietary needs (eg. vegan, gluten free). We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch.
Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum - This was definitely one of Dominic’s favourite stops so far, and Juliette and the kids learned lots about aviation here! The Aviation and Space Museums are in separate buildings, both are a wealth of information and are well worth a visit.
Just Pho You - A healthy and wallet conscious Vietnamese option in Newberg, OR.
Blossoming Lotus - Blossoming Lotus is a fantastic brunch option, with a varied menu of delicious, whole foods choices. They also offer fresh pressed juices, elixirs and kombucha on tap!
Oregon Historical Society - A fantastic museum with lots of exhibits detailing First Nations, Oregon Trail Pioneer and Portland Police Force history.
Kure Juice Bar - A fantastic juice bar with several locations around town. They offer bottled beverages to go (our favourites were the Immune Boost shot and PDx Tasty) in addition to cold and warm fresh pressed options. The weather was cool, so I tried the Golden Mushroom Elixir & Green eLemonator, both of which were delicious!
Harlow on Hawthorne - We can’t say enough good things about this delicious spot! All of the meals we tried were delicious, and their children’s menu was a huge hit with our kids. They offer Kombucha on tap, along with other delicious house brewed beverages.
Next Level Burgers - A delicious vegan burger place, with a focus on non-GMO ingredients. Delicious!
Aerial Tram - We missed out on riding the tram, but it looks like lots of fun!
Powell's Books - A book lover’s paradise, multiple floors chock full of books! They have a lovely coffee shop right beside their erotica and romance section!
Townshend's Tea - With multiple locations around Portland, Townshends Tea is a lovely spot for a cuppa! They have a wide selection of delicious teas and house brewed kombucha on tap.
Wildwood Series - A very strange and magical series by Colin Meloy, with an Impassable Wilderness, talking animals, magic, and a tribe of bandits! We thoroughly enjoyed the audio book series, first with Amanda Plummer and then with the author reading the text.
The Sudra - A fantastic vegan Indian Food restaurant with tapas style dishes and multiple locations around Portland. They have a fantastic drink menu too!