A weekend on the other side of Columbia River: From Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon
Jan 20, 2018
Most people in Seattle visit Portland for tax-free shopping, I on the other hand just needed a break from Seattle 🎒
The decision-making process
Its been almost two weeks since my last trip to San Francisco and I was itching to go out and explore some other city. I really wanted to do a ferry ride to a nearby island or city. One of the options was San Juan islands, the closest ones to Seattle, but for obvious reasons, they didn’t have many activities during winters. Another option was visiting Vancouver or Victoria in Canada, but before I could start planning for it, I realized I needed to have a Canadian visa being an Indian Passport holder, which I didn’t have at the moment.
But, since I really wanted to go somewhere, I decided to make it simple and finalized Portland.
How to reach Portland from Seattle
I booked the earliest Amtrak train from Seattle to Portland for the coming Saturday and the train back to Seattle was on the next day (Sunday evening) from Portland. And the best part, the total cost for both trains came out to be just 70$ 🤷🏾♀️
For other Amtrak options, you can check their website here.
If you want to travel by road, you can either take your own car or hire one, which most of the people do, but be wary of the traffic that you can find on the interstate highway. But if you still want to travel by road but not worry about driving, you can book a bus from Wanderu. There are so many cheaper options here 😄
And finally, if you don’t like road or rail journeys, I am sure there must be good flight options as well 🙂
The train journey
I didn’t sleep much the night before the travel date, but with the excitement of the trip I woke up early and then slept all through my way till Portland. Sadly, I missed the beautiful waterfront views outside (if any!) 😔
Where to stay in Portland
Hostel! Hostel! Hostel!
There were not many hostels available 1 week before the trip, so I booked one of the very few remaining, Travelers’ House hostel. It had a good bus connectivity which was a positive because of my zero driving skills.🤫
The only issue with the hostel was that it did not allow booking for just one night, so I sent them a mail requesting for a one night stay and they were kind enough to agree and help me with the process. More about the hostel later.
How to reach the hostel from Union Station
With an excellent bus connectivity in the city, it was really easy to reach the hostel from Union Station.
It was a 7-minute walk to the bus stop from the station, from where I got a direct bus to the hostel. Uber or Lyft are the next best options if you are not much of a public transport person. Or you can also rent a car just in case you are planning to drive on your own.
The hostel- Travelers’ House
I reached the hostel around 12 pm and was allotted the room immediately. It was a small cozy home located in the suburbs of Eastern Portland.
I left the hostel soon after freshening up and decided to take a stroll along the Alberta street. The weather was warm with a little drizzle.
Alberta street is one of the most vibrant streets of Portland lined up with small cafes, local boutiques, and galleries. It also has one of most amazing murals that I have seen so far.
Brunch @PineState and IceCream @Salt&Straw
Pine State Biscuits is famous for its gravy biscuits and biscuit sandwiches. People had warned online of the long queues outside the restaurant and I could see one when I reached the place. Since I was alone, I got my chance a bit early with the seating at the bar. I ordered mushroom gravy with biscuit and iced coffee for breakfast. The food was a little overrated for me but super filling.
Few steps ahead there was another interesting restaurant, Bollywood Theater. I got really curious as to what Bollywood is doing in an American city,🤔 so I decided to go inside and ask for myself.
Bollywood Theatre was started by Troy MacLarty who was inspired after his first visit to India.
I had saved some space for Salt and Straw’s ice cream, another one of the must-visits. I had Arbequina olive oil ice cream with caramel and the taste was weirdly nice.
Salt and Straw is now open in Seattle also, so do visit it if you get chance.
Commute within Portland
Portland has an excellent public transportation system. The buses and light rails run at frequent intervals and the well-constructed bike paths also provide an easy quick ride.
For bus/train, you can either buy a day pass or if you have bought 2 tickets in a day, you can travel for free for the rest of the day. I didn’t know this before and spent around 10$ on a one day travel😔
I had been planning to buy a camera for some time now, so the rest of my evening was spent in BestBuy Stores of Llyod Center and Cascade Station. Having spent almost 3 hours on camera hunting, I did not finally buy the camera. What I actually bought were 3 t-shirts from H&M sale.
Cascade station is actually on the outskirts of the city, near the airport. It took me around 40 minutes to reach there via light rail, and it was a pity I did not buy anything there 🙈
Dinner @Life of Pie
It was almost 8 now when I reached back to the town and I was starving. I looked for pizza options near me and found this amazing restaurant, Life of Pie. Again, I got a seat at the bar. But the good thing about it was, I got a chance to watch the whole process of making a pizza in a handmade Italian oven. The mushroom pizza that I ordered was pretty average and I regretted not choosing the Margherita Tomato Basil pizza 😭
I decided to take a bus back to the hostel from the pizza joint. There was not a single person at the bus stop other than an old stoned man. The bus was going to take 10 minutes more to arrive, so I walked to the nearest convenience store and booked a cab.
It was really surprising how this part of the Portland was really really silent by 9 pm.
Time to Socialize…
There were a very few people in the hostel during this weekend which made it easy for all of us to hang out together. We sat in the living room discussing topics varying from life, travel, puzzles to studies. We dispersed off and went to sleep after 2 hours of socializing.
I forgot to request the lower bunk bed this time, and the upper bunk that I got was almost touching the ceiling. But since it was just one night, I did not make any fuss about it.
I wanted to start early today to be able to cover a few other places in the city before my afternoon tour of the Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls and Multnomah Falls.
I took a bus to a cafe for breakfast in downtown – I don’t remember the name.🙈 They didn’t serve frappucinos, so I went to Starbucks right on the opposite side of the road and got myself a Frappuccino and an everything bagel with cream cheese.
Powell’s Books Store
Powell’s City of Books is apparently the largest independent bookstores in the world and extends to a full city block in Portland. It was simply huge with around 9 color-coded rooms and with sections varying from biology to history to sports so on and so forth. I spent around 2 hours just scanning the books. I was really intrigued by the book title, “My Holiday in North Korea by Wendy Simons”. I didn’t buy it at the moment and borrowed it later from Seattle Central Library once I was back.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
“Between Lake and Mountain lies true meaning!!”
It had started raining outside, and I thought I’ll enjoy noodle soup in the cold weather so I started walking towards Chinatown, a nearby neighborhood.
Before I could finalize a restaurant, I saw this beautiful garden hidden behind the walls in front of me. I decided to go inside and check it out. With a 10$ admission fee, I got the most serene and quaint views. Inside the garden were the plants native to China and structures signifying Chinese culture. I’ll let the pictures speak the rest.
It was already 1:30 pm and I had my pickup from the hostel for the evening tour at 2:00 pm. But I really wanted to stand and click some pictures on the Steel bridge that connects east and west Portland separated by Willamette River. There was not much time to first walk to the bridge and then head to the hostel, so I stood and clicked the “half of what I wanted pictures” from the Waterfront Park, which was a 5 min walk from the Chinese Garden.
10 minutes after reaching the hostel, Sarah, a beautiful lady who was going to be our driver and guide from Hub Travels came to pick me up. I carried my bag along so that I didn’t have to come back to the hostel to get it after the tour.
Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls
We drove through Columbia River Highway towards the Corbett, where our first stop was, the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic point. That was the first closest view of the fluffed-up clouds.
After appreciating the beauty of the view and taking some pictures, we headed to the Crown Point Vista House. This place was the highlight of the tour for me with the most gorgeous views of the gorge.
Our next stop was the Latourell falls. Oh! They were so amazing and with every fall, you can see the mist rising above. The columnar basalt layers formed due to lava solidification in upper rocks more quickly than lower and the bright yellow lichen that has grown along the cliff on the right side of the falls simply added to its mesmerizing beauty.
Entry to most of the other falls including the Multnomah falls – our last viewpoint was closed due to the Eagle Creek Fire in September 2017. The Multnomah falls looked magnificent from far away but we couldn’t get even a slightly closer to it.
Multnomah falls is actually the fourth largest waterfall in the United States.
I got some souvenirs from the gift shop which was located at the base of the falls.
Dinner @Thai Peacock
Our ride back to Portland was much quieter as everyone was tired and taking a small nap in the back seat. I got down in Portland downtown for dinner at Thai Peacock – the food was really good, but a little too spicy for me.
I walked to Union station after the dinner and waited for my train back to Seattle. It’s amazing how in less than two days, I was able to experience so much of Portland and around it. I really wanted to visit Mt. Hood but due to time constraints, I couldn’t – I have heard its really good, so try to visit and let me know how it was 🙂