Portland: Things to Eat, See and Do

It’s been a busy season of travel lately, including a recent trip to Portland, Oregon. Since I live in Northern California, Portland is a quick 1.5 hour flight away and can easily be done over a long weekend. Over the years I’ve fallen in love with its laid-back vibe and its unpretentiousness, the plethora of trees and no lack of excellent food. I have had a few friends ask me for recommendations on things to eat, see, and do there, so here are some favorites that I’ve accumulated over the years.


Portland-5Even if you don’t drink much coffee, no visit to Portland is complete without a cup of joe. Stumptown is the household name, but one of our friends (and Portland local) persuaded us to try Coava and we were glad we did. Visit the spacious location on SE Grand Ave (also its flagship) for a pastry and a honey latte. Heart Coffee is another one that came highly recommended but I haven’t tried it yet.



Blue Star Donuts
There’s no need to make a special trek to a specific location because they’re all over Portland, including the airport. The Cointreau Creme Brûlée and the Raspberry Rosemary Buttermilk are my favorites. And yes, it’s far superior to Voodoo Donuts, unless cereal flavors and penis donuts are your thing.

Pine Street Biscuits
They have several locations, but go to the one on Alberta St or Division St for ample seating and a peek into the kitchen. Either way, expect a line. The Reggie Deluxe with Egg is the breakfast sandwich of champions.

Pok Pok
THE Thai place in Portland. I’ve only been to the one on Division St (the original location), but they don’t take reservations for parties of less than 6. The Pok Pok NW location takes reservations for all party sizes, but I hear it’s not the same so the decision is yours. They are known for their fried chicken wings but try the Kai Yaang dish with sticky rice (this was sold out on my last visit and I was so bummed!).

Nong’s Khao Man Gai
Another Thai place, but this one only serves chicken and rice (and chicken hearts. And chicken livers). Some people love it, some people don’t get it, but even at 4pm they manage to have a long line by selling only one dish. Good for a quick lunch or take out.

Le Pigeon
Highly acclaimed French restaurant, which I dined at with some friends on a previous trip. The space is actually quite small, so I don’t recommend it for a large party. The food was tasty but also on the heavy side (as most French food are). We enjoyed the hamburger and grilled pigeon dishes.

The Hairy Lobster
We discovered this place almost by accident, as it was located a few blocks from our hotel in the Pearl District. What a wonderful find! They have amazing desserts and a creative cocktail list. If you want to splurge on a meal, I highly recommend this one.

Salt & Straw
No visit is complete without waiting in line at this ice cream shop known for its famous savory flavors. Unless you’re from San Francisco…then I’d suggest waiting in line back at home.

Oh, and if pubs are your thing, don’t leave Portland without visiting a brewery. We went to Hopworks on our most recent visit, but there are plenty in downtown worth checking out as well.



In my opinion, the thing to do in Portland is to grab some coffee, eat, do some tax-free shopping (unless you’re already from another tax-free shopping state then never mind), eat again, admire the lush greenery around you, check out some cute shops, eat, then drink. I’ve laid out some of the top shopping neighborhoods and streets for you below.

This area has most of your usual chain stores (J.Crew, GAP) dotted with high end department stores like Nordstrom. But for a unique experience, a visit to Powell’s is a must. The location in downtown claims to be the largest bookstore in the world, housing over a million books. Even Mr. Wonderful, who rarely reads books, spent an hour there.

Division/Clinton neighborhood
This area is hipster/foodie land where you could easily spend half a day. Some of my favorite stores are Adorn (chic clothing boutique with the nicest sales reps) and Little Otsu (cute stationary store with another location in SF).

NW 23rd (part of the Northwest District)
This street is a nice way to spend a couple of hours in the afternoon. There’s less gourmet places to eat compared to Division/Clinton, but more shops. I like Sloan boutique for its minimalist women’s clothing, Tender Loving Empire for local handmade goods, and The Meadow for local specialty food items (I came home with a set of bitters and fancy simple syrups).

Alberta Arts District
I haven’t had time to thoroughly enjoy this area, although it feels similar to NW 23rd but with more art galleries and vintage shops. Worth coming if you have the extra time.



Washington Park
Technically still in Portland, but on the outskirts of the city. Take an hour or two out of your day and wander around the large park. Be sure to check out The International Rose Test Garden which is particularly beautiful in the summer.

Forest Park
If you’re itching to do some hiking, Forest Park has miles of trails waiting for you to explore. And if hiking isn’t your thing, you can drive up to Pittock Mansion and admire the pretty view of Portland from its backyard.

Multnomah Falls
This gorgeous waterfall can be seen from the parking lot, but the six mile hike is worth doing. Unfortunately the trails are still closed from the fire in 2017, though the viewing platform has been reopened.

Willamette Valley
Oregon’s wine country, and so affordable compared to Napa. Sokol Blosser is a crowd favorite, though we personally preferred Domaine Drouhin (delicious Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris) and Domaine Serene (about 5 minutes up the road).

Have you been to Portland? If so, please leave some of your personal favorites in the comments below!

How to Pack for a Family With One Carry-on Suitcase (and Two Backpacks)


Yes, one. Yes, it can be done.

Now I will preface by saying we only have one kid. We also did this when Little V was 18 months old. I didn’t have to bring a breast pump, and we didn’t have to worry about bottles, so I personally found it easier to pack for an almost-toddler than a little baby. Time will tell whether we can pull this off again when V gets older, but hopefully she’ll be able to carry a little backpack of her own next year!

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5 Tips on Traveling to Europe with a Baby

VtravelI’m just as nervous as you, honey.

When Mr. Wonderful first suggested we spend the rest of his paternity leave going to Europe, I thought he was out of his mind. Little V was only 2 months old at the time, and the idea of hauling my sleep-deprived, half-crazed self with a baby in tow just seemed insane. I could barely get through the day by day, and he wanted to travel?!

“Fine,” he said. “You’re no fun.”

Sigh. Apparently giving birth to a baby also turned me into a party-pooping old grouch.

So I relented, though in the weeks and days leading up to the trip I was half-hoping that a minor catastrophe would happen. Just bad enough where Mr. Wonderful would have to admit cancelling the trip would be for the best, but of course not so bad that anybody got permanently hurt. I did end up with a foot injury, and Little V did pick up an ear infection (we went to urgent care two days before the trip), but Mr. Wonderful cheerily carried on with his packing. So off we went. And here are some things I learned:

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How to spend 1 day in Disneyland/California Adventure (with the new Diamond Anniversary events)


I have a soft spot for Disneyland. It’s one of the few places where I feel everyone is just a little happier, a little kinder, and a little more relaxed. It’s like Christmas. You just have to pay for it.

Mr. Wonderful and I get our fix about once every 2-3 years, and with the Diamond Anniversary celebration that just started a few weeks ago (translation: brand new World of Color water show, brand new fireworks show and brand new electrical parade) we just had to go.

Many Disneyland fans will argue that trying to do Disneyland Park and California Adventure in one day is a bad idea – you feel rushed, you don’t enjoy the magic, and it’s hard to soak up the atmosphere of each “land” if you’re constantly walking from one thing to another. I get that. But I’m the type of person where if I’m visiting Paris for the first time, and I only get one day, I’m going to cram the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Louis Vuitton store and my Laduree macaroons in one day. I’m not going to sit at a café all afternoon even though, yes, that would be the local Parisian experience. In my opinion, one should check out the highlights on the first visit, and then soak up the atmosphere another time. But if that’s not you, then both Disney Tourist Blog and DIS Unplugged have a good 1-day plan for just Disneyland Park.

Otherwise, this would be my suggested 1 Day itinerary (including my favorite rides and eats!) for both parks (note this plan would not be ideal for pregnant women and young children as it does involve a lot of roller coasters): [Read more…]

3 Days in Amsterdam


Even when I first started my round-the-world trip, I was looking forward towards the end of my travels, when I would pay a visit to Amsterdam. As someone who appreciates art and fashion, I was long attracted to one of Europe’s most design-oriented cities. In addition, it has the highest museum density in the world! From the Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum to the Museum of Bags & Purses, I could have spent a month just hitting up museums alone.

If you love flowers, April through mid-May is the best time to visit Amsterdam as you will catch the renowned tulips in bloom. And don’t forget to be there on a Wednesday to catch a free lunchtime show at Concertgebouw concert hall, which is ranked as having one of the best acoustics in the world.

Below would be my suggested timeline for someone who wants to see the highlights of Amsterdam and its countryside, fit in a few museums and unique shopping, as well as dine at a Michelin star restaurant. This particular itinerary assumes you are visiting Monday-Wednesday during the Spring…if you are not, then adjust accordingly.

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Transitioning Back to “The Real World”


Just a few months ago I was sitting on this ledge in Bagan, Myanmar, catching my breath after scrambling up the steep steps of Buledi temple. I remember thinking how my round-the-world trip with Mr. Wonderful had just begun. There was so much to see. The days and months seemed to stretch out before us.

All too quickly we’re back to what people call “The Real World.”

I hate that phrase. As if traveling for six-plus months was some irresponsible fantasy, and all we did was drink piña coladas on the beach. As if the world we saw doesn’t carry any permanent significance. There were family and friends who thought we were making a grand mistake we would never be able to recover from.

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Backpacking in Raja Ampat


It was Mr. Wonderful’s wish to visit the remote area of Raja Ampat in Indonesia for our round-the-world travel. Renowned for its pristine corals and abundant marine life, it’s a dream for many divers to make a trip out there.

Remote, however, always sounds better than it is. Our Indonesian friend booked the entire 5-day trip for us, and for $600 a person ($1000 for divers), it seemed like a good deal. That is, until we were greeted with huts that only had partial walls, ripped mosquito nets, and squat toilets. Taking a “shower” meant scooping water from a garbage can and pouring it on your head while mosquitoes flew about. As one person in our group said, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so uncomfortable in my life.” [Read more…]

The Best and Worst of Bali


Years ago, a friend invited me to go to Bali with her. Her parents lived there, and she painted visions of tropical beaches, cheap massages and gourmet food for a fraction of the price. But getting to paradise cost more than my college student budget could afford at the time, so I never made it out to Bali. That is, until last week. [Read more…]

Traveling to Antarctica: A Wish Fulfilled


I have officially stepped foot on all seven continents of the world.

As odd as it may sound, going to Antarctica had been on the top of my bucket list over the last decade. It started with my senior trip in high school, when I went on an Alaskan cruise with a group of friends instead of traveling to traditional teen destinations such as Hawaii or Mexico. For a California girl who hates the cold, I became oddly captivated by the remote, icy wilderness—untainted by people but a sanctuary for animals you would never be able to find anywhere else.

I wasn’t aware that going to Antarctica was a possibility until I was in college, after hearing a friend tell me about all the exotic places his parents would travel to, including Antarctica. I secretly added it to my list of “Things to Do Before I Die” which eventually became “Things to Do Before I Have Kids.” [Read more…]

Best Shoes for Travel (that aren’t ugly)

It used to be that I would buy travel shoes with slightly more style than comfort. I survived multiple trips to Europe and Asia this way, bringing my Tory Burch flats and Sam Edelman Trina sandals that were so popular with fashion bloggers. Sure, my feet would hurt a bit after 10 hours of sightseeing, but it was nothing unbearable.

Last year, I wasn’t so lucky. In the middle of a trip to Copenhagen, my right foot started hurting badly. It turned out I fractured tiny bones in my foot pad, which sometimes never heals. My podiatrist explained it was simply one too many cobblestone roads in shoes with thin soles, and there was a price to pay. I now have chronic sesamoiditis, so wearing high heels and flats with thin soles can cause a lot of pain for me.

Now that I’m forced to err on the side of comfort over style, my choices are more limited. I spent the summer checking out shoes in stores like The Walking Company, Aerosoles and Clarks, in addition to selections offered at Nordstrom and Zappos. Some pairs, like the Adam Tucker brand I purchased from Nordstrom, felt heavenly when I first slipped them on and then gave me cramps after a few hours of wear. The problem is that we tend to fall for the “cloud-like” feeling of soft padding, but what your feet actually needs is firm padding with some flexibility. Thank goodness for Nordstrom’s satisfaction policy! When I explained my situation, they were more than happy to take them back.

After a few months of trial and error, I finally made some purchases based on the five criteria for purchasing travel shoes from my last post. Here they are!

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