All Posts in “Adventures”

Portland Vacation 2014: Day Three

Today was our last day in Portland. After we woke up and checked out of our hotel, we went and got breakfast at Blue Star Donuts. Stephanie had walked by this place (in the evening, when they were closed) the last time she was in Portland doin’ some job interviews, and she wanted to be sure and check it out during this visit.

The place was pretty cute and fairly busy; there was a consistent line of 8-10 people the whole time we were there. They had a nice selection of ~15 donuts to pick from ranging from traditional old fashioneds to ultra-fancy blueberry+bourbon+basil cake donuts. After we received our donuts, we went across the street to Heart Coffee Roasters to get some coffee to pair with our sweets. Their espresso had some really strong chocolate/fruit notes. It was a little different, but very nice to drink. The donuts, on the other hand, were somewhat lackluster. My cake was pretty greasy, and Stephanie’s frosting was a touch too acidic/metallic. But we ate everything and were happy to have tried some place new.

Andrew Blue Star DonutStephanie Blue Star Donuts

I had dulce de leche hazelnut donut and Steph had one with passion fruit frosting and cocoa nib bits.

Once we finished stuffing our faces, we drove up to Washington Park. This is a massive (400+ acre) public urban park just a few miles southeast of downtown. It contains a zoo, a sprawling arboretum, a forestry museum, a children’s museum, a rose garden, a Japanese garden, and a ton of sports fields/play areas/walking trails. First, we visited the Portland Japanese Garden. Opening in 1967, it has been widely recognized as one of the best, most authentic Japanese gardens in the world (even including gardens in Japan!). I really appreciate traditional Japanese aesthetics, so I was really excited.

Portland_Japanese_GardenThe Upper Pond in the Strolling Pond Garden reflects the vibrant foliage.

This garden was really beautiful and probably my favorite part about our visit to Portland. If you’re ever in the area, I would heartily recommend checking it out. Upon entering, we were immediately afforded an amazing view of Mt. Hood as it seemingly rose up out of the Portland skyline. I think this was my first trip to Portland where visibility was good enough to enable a view of Mt. Hood. It’s quite dramatic.

Anyway, at almost six acres, the garden contains five! different varieties of traditional Japanese gardenscapes. They each have their own aesthetic and section of the grounds, but everything is so artfully arranged that they blend into one another almost seamlessly. Because it was SO sunny today, all of the colors were extra concentrated; everything felt especially fresh and verdant. Although I wish that the average person had a better sense of how they should act in a public garden/space (hot tip: it is NOT okay to squat down in the middle of a narrow, one-way footbridge to take crappy pictures of koi with your camera phone for 60+ seconds while other people are waiting behind you – also, DON’T pick flowers/leaves!), Stephanie and I were able to find lots of little “hidden” benches to sit on and enjoy some fleeting moments of serenity. I would definitely be interested in visiting again – especially during a different season.

Andrew torii Japanese gardenExploring the shadowy paths of the Natural Garden.

After we finished touring the Japanese Garden, we went down to the International Rose Test Garden. The Internet tells me that this garden contains over 7,000 rose bushes of approximately 550 different varieties. “Peak bloom” generally occurs in mid-June, so we lucked out and timed our visit perfectly. There were hundreds of people slowly walking up and down the gently sloped hill between beds of roses. Most people carried cameras, but a few held parasols above their heads to keep themselves cool. The fragrance of sooooo many flowers, combined with the sunshine, created a particularly festive atmosphere. If everyone had been dressed in their best formal wear, it wouldn’t have been to hard to imagine that we were all attending some elaborate garden party. There was even a harpist performing in the amphitheatre!

Stephanie_Rose_1Stephanie with one of her favorites.

Before we returned to Seattle, we stopped and grabbed an early dinner. We found a taqueria with a nice outdoor patio area in the Alphabet District and ate in the sunshine. I got a taco combo plate with one barbacoa taco (my favorite taco fillin’), one carnitas taco, and one pescado taco (meat #27!). These were a little small, but pretty tasty. Traffic wasn’t too bad on our drive north and we made it home safely without incident.

Thanks for the wonderful weekend, Portland!

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Miles run in 2014: 145.5
Books read in 2014: 37

Portland Vacation 2014: Day Two

To start our Saturday, we went and got breakfast at Sweetpea Baking Company (a vegan bakery) which is in the Buckman neighborhood of Portland. I got an iced Americano and a delicious almond ring pastry. This place is really good; we always visit whenever we’re in town.

Andrew_SweetpeaEnjoying my coffee while watching some puppies wrestlin’ outside the window.

The main activity that we had planned today (and really, this is the thing helped us decide to come down to Portland on this particular weekend) was attending the Portland Fruit Beer Festival hosted by the Burnside Brewing Company. We wanted to get there fairly early before the crowds got too nuts-o (the festival started at 11 am), so we headed over after we finished our coffee. Luckily, the brewery is only about ten blocks away from the bakery, which meant we could just walk up.

We got there at the perfect time. There were enough folks milling around so that the environment felt festive, but not so many that you had to wait in line to get beer. As part of admission, each person got a commemorative pint glass and 12 tickets good for samplin’. Most of the samples “cost” one ticket for a 3 oz. taste, but some of the fancier/rarer/higher ABV stuff was two or three tickets. The majority of the pourers were ~sticklers about not giving you more than 3 oz., but a few of the guys were pretty generous and filled your glass halfway. Woo! There were more than 45 kinds of beers and ciders from ~30 different breweries available for tasting.

glass and guide Portland beer festStephanie Portland Beer FestFestival guide (left) and Stephanie enjoying Ecliptic Brewing’s Lacerta Frambuesa (right).

Between the two of us, Stephanie and I tried 18 different varieties. While we were sippin’ on our beverages, we split an order of pretzel knots and a bucket of truffle fries. My favorite drinks on the day were the Peach Slap by Deschutes Brewery (a semi-sour ale with strong peach, peppercorn, and juniper berry flavors – absolutely my favorite drink today), the Sweet Triple Hot ¡Tepache! by Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider (pineapple juice fermented with habenero, aji, and ghost peppers – sweet with a pretty good kick; pineapple pairs so well spicy), and The Tiger Cub by Stone Brewing (a very sour saison with a strong cherry flavor – mouth-puckeringly delicious). Stephanie’s favorite (which I also enjoyed a lot) was a Belgian Framboise infused with cocoa nibs and raspberries. By the time we left (around 2 pm), the place was packed. We had to stand in line for ~10 minutes to get our last sample. I’m glad that we got there as early as we did.

beer notes PortlandHastily scribbled notes about some of the different beers we sampled.

Once we left the brewery, we mosied over to downtown Portland and made our obligatory visit to Powell’s. We also walked through the Saturday market and did a fair amount of window shoppin’. It was really nice out, so it was pleasant to just wander around ~aimlessly.

For dinner, we went to Sushi Ahi. It was okay (not great). Sushi is definitely one of my favorite warm-weather foods because it’s so light and fresh and easy to eat. Unfortunately, the menu they had in the restaurant was significantly different than the one on their website (way fewer veggie sushi rolls), so we ended up mostly ordering a bunch of veggie appetizers/starters. They did have one vegetarian roll (the SUPER VEGGIE), which we did get. It had a whole lot goin’ on, but it was good. We also split an avocado+tofu caprese salad, some deep fried tofu wrapped in daikon, some broiled taro potatoes in miso paste, and some edamame.

Ahi sushiSuper Veggie: cucumber, avocado, oshinko, gobo, kaiware, inari, and asparagus wrapped in soy paper. Oh my!

After dinner, we went out for a drink at Hereafter (the sister bar to The Bye and Bye). It was still really nice out, so we sat out on their back patio. I ordered a tart n’ tasty black currant cider and Stephanie had a glass of red wine. Once we finished our drinks, we went back to the hotel and watched a few episodes of Chopped. Another successful day in Portland!

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Miles run in 2014: 145.5
Books read in 2014: 37

Portland Vacation 2014: Day One

Earlier this week (on Wednesday), Stephanie and I agreed to go on an impromptu vacation this weekend down to Portland. We’d been thinking about doing this since February, and the weather was forecast to be so nice this weekend (75-78 °F and sunny), so we reserved a hotel room for Friday and Saturday night. We ended up leaving early this afternoon, just a little after 12 pm, because we wanted to try and miss as much traffic as possible. Without any congestion on the road, the trip from Seattle to Portland generally takes about three hours. Although we made fairly good time for most of the way, there was a big ol’ accident just south of Tacoma, so it ended up taking us about three and a half hours. To help pass the time, we busted out some super fresh road trip tunes.  These consisted of Dormarion by Telekinesis, The Bones of What You Believe by Chvrches, Passive Me, Aggressive You by The Naked and the Famous, When It Was Now by Atlas Genius, and Lungs by Florence + the Machine. All of these albums are catchy and upbeat and lovely to drive/ride along to.

Once we crossed into Oregon, instead of driving straight to our hotel to check in (we’re staying about 20 minutes east of Portland), we continued up the Columbia River Gorge on I-84 for an extra half an hour and went and hiked around Latourell Falls. This waterfall plunges 224 feet (or 249 feet, depending on which part of the internet you choose to believe), cascading straight down off of a huge column of basalt. It is exceedingly impressive. And beautiful. And awe-inspiring. Also, the trailhead/parking lot is located only a short walk from the base of the main falls; if you’re itchin’ to see some impressive nature-y stuff, but are disinclined/unable to go hiking, this seems like it’d be a pretty good place to visit.

Andrew_Latourell_Main_FallsLatourell Falls is only 42 times taller than I am! This image captures the lower ~1/3 of the waterfall.

Stephanie and I, however, did come to hike, so we hopped on the loop trail that climbs to Upper Latourell falls. The roundtrip trek is about 2.5 miles and gains ~520 feet of elevation. It’s certainly not a strenuous hike, but I probably wouldn’t rate it as being “easy”. The way up isn’t particularly well marked, with lots of “unofficial” offshoots, but we made it to the top without too much backtracking. Upper Latourell Falls is about half as tall as the main falls and has some swoopy curves along its drop. Despite being somewhat less impressive, I think I actually enjoyed the upper falls more; I thought that its meandering descent made it more visually appealing. In any case, we had very nice conditions for the hike. The weather was warm, but there was a slight breeze to keep the bugs down, and although it was a late Friday afternoon, the trail was pretty empty. I don’t think we passed more than four or five groups of people on the entire hike.

Stephanie_Upper_Latourell_Fallstop of Latourell FallsUpper Latourell Falls (left) & the stream beginning its 250′ descent from the top of the Main Falls (right).

Once we got back to the car it was already after 6 pm, so we decided to go check into our hotel and head into Portland to find some dinner. For the trip back west, we forewent taking I-84 and opted to follow the aptly named Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway. This is a fairly labyrinthine route that teeters along shoulderless cliff faces and has navigates many blind curves and narrow bridges. It was way better than the interstate.

Stephanie_Vista_HouseThe view from Vista House, a scenic overlook along the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway, sure isn’t bad.

The last time we were in town, we happened across The Bye and Bye (a vegan bar in northeast Portland). Their victuals and their vibe were both quite good, so we elected to go back tonight for dinner. Stephanie got their Eastern Bowl (Portland has a crazy strong food-in-bowls presence), which came with approximately seventeen pounds of nutritional yeast-breaded tofu, broccoli, and brown rice with a tasty ginger-peanut sauce. I got the Weeping Tiger Sandwich which layered marinated tofu cutlets with lettuce, tomato, avocado, jalapeño, and Sriracha/miso mayo. Both entrées were very good. I also had an “adult” slushy made with gin+cucumber+mint. It was super refreshing: a perfect summery beverage to end a wonderful summery day.

Andrew_Bye_and_ByePretty excited for some food and drinks. And Sriracha!

We were a little pooped from all the sitting/driving/hiking, so we called it an early night and drove back to our hotel once we finished eating. Stephanie was looking forward to floppin’ into bed and watching some HGTV… but our hotel’s cable subscription didn’t include this channel, so we had to settle for the Food Network instead. Despite this disappointment, today was definitely a good start to our mini-vacation.

Note: Once again, although I’ll be writing/finishing these posts once I’m back in Seattle, I’ll be pre-dating these to the date on which things actually occurred.

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Miles run in 2014: 145.5
Books read in 2014: 37

Bocce in the Park

Yesterday, according to the internet, it was 87 °F in Seattle. This broke the previous record high on May 1st by SIX degrees. Hooray, sunshine! In order to take advantage of the nice weather, Stephanie and I went down to a park that’s ~eight blocks east of our apartment to play outside.

Stephanie_BocceSuch concentration.

It’s a nice, fairly large park full of trees for climbin’ and grass for rollin’ around in. There’s also a bunch of playground equipment and two baseball/softball diamonds. We brought along my bocce set and played all around the park. I think that bocce is probably one of the best games to play when it’s particularly warm out, because it’s fairly low effort but still requires ample skill and strategy. Thankfully, the trees provided plenty of dappled shade so we didn’t get too hot.

Immaculate form (left) and Stephanie wins two points (right).

We also threw a Frisbee around for awhile and watched some eight-year-olds play baseball. It was a lovely way to spend a late afternoon/early evening.

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Miles run in 2014: 132.7
Books read in 2014: 27

Woodland Park Zoo – April 29th, 2014

Yesterday Stephanie and I went to the Woodland Park Zoo. We had many compelling reasons for going to the zoo on a Tuesday afternoon: 1) it’s always enjoyable to play hooky, 2) the weather was gorgeous (~75 and sunny), and 3) baby animals! (According to the zoo’s website, four otter pups and a porcupette were just recently deemed old enough to be allowed to roam their exhibits.)

WoodlandParkZooSignThe zoo!

We got to the zoo at just the right time. Because we went and grabbed some sushi lunch in Wallingford beforehand (so many avocado rolls), we didn’t arrive until ~1pm. This was just when all of the kids on field trips were getting ready to leave. We walked past 10+ school buses and a lot of hot/tired kids as we we were entering the zoo. If we’d gotten there earlier in the morning, our visit certainly would’ve been a bit… louder. In any case, the zoo wasn’t very busy and we were able to walk around/view the animals in a nice, leisurely fashion.
tree kangarooStephanie_monkey

A tree kangaroo chompin’ down on a flower (left) and making friends with a Patas monkey (right).

Unfortunately, we were unable to spot any of the babies that I mentioned earlier. They were likely snoozin’ away the afternoon in the comfort of their respective dens. Nevertheless, we still had a good time. And we did get to see one baby, but it was a Komodo dragon, so probably not quite as adorable as a baby porcupine/otter… I’d say that my top three animal sightings/viewings on the day were 3) the warty pigs (very cute and seemingly underrated; we stood by their exhibit for 5+ minutes and nobody else stopped to watch them), 2) the sloth bears (the yearlings/cubs were wrestlin’ pretty ferociously with one another), and 1) the tree kangaroo (such a fluffy tail!). We wandered around the zoo for more than three hours and exited just a little bit before closing.
Andrew_PenguinThis little guy almost jumped in the water ~20 times but never quite worked up the courage. Poor buddy.

After we left the zoo, we made our way over to the adjacent Woodland Park Rose Garden and walked around a bit. Although most of the roses won’t bloom for another month or so, it was still beautiful and vibrant and lovely. Several cherry trees were in blossom and most of the plants had a ton of new, brightly-colored growth. The grounds are manicured exceptionally well (especially for a free public park), and it’s easy to pretend that you’re lost in the middle of a sprawling Victorian estate. This seems like it’d be a particularly perfect place for reading a book on a lazy summer day…

Andrew Rose GardenNo roses yet, but so many different shades of green.

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Miles run in 2014: 132.7
Books read in 2014: 27