I typically take a boatload of photos while we’re abroad, but I’m not sure I’ve ever taken nearly 2,000 in one week until we visited Lisbon. There were gorgeous vignettes to take in everywhere we turned — and that was largely thanks to the beautiful tile work that adorned even the most modest of buildings. So, I thought I’d kick off my Portugal travel posts with the azulejos of Lisbon.
Last year was a busy travel one for us, and while we weren’t on the road as often as some people are for work or recreation, it was the most we’ve ever traveled together in the course of 12 months. It seemed like we were on the road at least once a month for the latter half of the year, which challenged me to become more of an efficient packer, relying on wardrobe workhorses instead of packing items just for an outfit photo. Plus, it gave me ample time to home in on the travel accessories that make the journey more enjoyable and more efficient. Here are my top five:
- Vince sneakers – I wasn’t sure what to expect when I bought a pair of Vince sneakers late last year. Bloggers rave about them, but there’s always a real possibility it’s because of aesthetics and not comfort. I’m happy to report that these slip-on sneakers live up to the hype. They were comfortable right out of the box with no need for a break-in period and I’ve already worn them for countless miles of exploring cities.
- Packing cubes – Just like the Vince sneakers, everyone talks about how great packing cubes are, but you don’t really understand how great they are until you try them yourself. They’re a space-saving solution in your suitcase and they help keep everything organized. I love the preppy stripe on this Paravel set, but we actually have these and they do the job well. We also have one of these each and prefer them over the budget brand, but they all get the job done.
- Flight 001 adapter – We’ve been delighted with this four-in-one adapter that fits together to work in 150 countries.
- Bose noise-cancelling headphones – The ambient drone of an airplane never bothered me before Dave gave me these. I don’t think I realized how loud planes actually were until I was able to shut it all out and focus on my podcast without distractions.
- Belkin mini outlet strip – Maximize the best outlet location in your hotel room with this mini power strip. It even has two USB ports so you charge your phone and keep the outlets free. On international trips, we dedicate one of our adapters to keeping this plugged in because it’s just so handy to have.
Whenever the travel bug bites, it’s incredibly tempting to book a ticket to a new city or country to explore. However, jet-setting or even spending a weekend away isn’t always feasible due to limited vacation days or financial restrictions. If you’ve found yourself in that boat, don’t worry. Taking time to explore your own city through the lens of a tourist can be just as satisfying — and I’m sure you’ll discover pockets of your city with new-to-you hidden gems or hot spots that you didn’t know existed.
Clear Your Calendar
What a I love about staycations is that they force you to slow down and plan a weekend that’s all about getting out, dining out, and giving yourself an out from your to-do list. In order to fully be present and get the most out of the time in your city, you need to clear your calendar. Take time off from work and other responsibilities to play hooky around the city. Extend your weekend by adding in Monday and Tuesday for a four-day adventure. Additional time away from the office will distance you from your 9-to-5 job, making you feel more relaxed and refreshed when you do make it back. This also means shirking your to-do lists at home. The chores and projects will be there when you “return” to your normal routine, just like they would when you go out of town.
Do Your Research
Why not approach your staycation the way you would a full vacation? Pick up a local guidebook and scour travel websites to find museums, activities, and events. Check Yelp for new restaurants to try. Peek at Instagram and see what others are geotagging. Add all of these ideas to a Google Map so you can start to plan your adventure. When you live in a city, it’s easy to become complacent and overlook the attractions that make your city appealing to visitors. By approaching your city like a newcomer, you’ll have a renewed appreciation for your hometown – and you’ll be able to recommend activities to other visitors afterward.
Plan Your Itinerary
After you’ve earmarked a handful of activities, plan an itinerary that includes restaurants and bars to visit, along with all of the must-see activities you’d like to do. By creating a fun-filled checklist, you won’t feel tempted to just head home and kick back on the couch the rest of the day, which leads me to my next suggestion…
Stay at a Hotel
If your budget allows — and since you saved a ton of cash on the expense of getting to a destination — treat yourself to a hotel for at least one night during your staycation. Pack your suitcase (love this one) and splurge on a spot in the city’s most bustling area to stay out late, and then sleep in the next day and order room service. If your hotel has a spa, even better. Breaking your routine — and physically getting away from the chores at home — will make you feel like you had a true getaway.
As with vacation, you’ll want to document the fun! Take your camera and snap photos throughout the city, making sure to appreciate the unique features and interesting architectural design you might otherwise overlook. I did this when I worked with Toyota earlier this year on a “48 Hours in Madison” post. Embracing my local tourist made the weekend so much fun and I had a renewed appreciation for the city. Post your photos on social media and tag your local convention and visitors’ bureau and use any hashtags your city and state’s tourism board uses on their social media. It’s a fun way to show off how fabulous your hometown can be and they just might share your image!
image via Unsplash
Portland was never on my list of must-visit travel destinations, but when Dave’s company sent him there to assist with an office move, I jumped at the chance to visit the city since his flight, his meals, the hotel, and the car would be paid for. Sure, he had to log hours at work, but that was a minor inconvenience when we still had every evening together and most of the weekend to explore. And after just a few days, I was smitten with Portland. I went on the trip with the misconception that Portland would have a granola-crunchy-hippie vibe, but that wasn’t the case. I mean, sure, there’s legal marijuana and plenty of Birkenstocks, but it’s a vibrant city that’s pulsing with creativity. That doesn’t even take into consideration the majestic coastline a short drive away, the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, and Mount Hood’s stunning addition to the skyline. I didn’t expect to be blown away, but I was and I’d love to visit again — but this time without any work requirements for Dave! Below, you’ll find photo highlights from the trip and a list of the things I recommend that you add to your own Portland itinerary.
We stayed at Hotel Rose, which is a Staypineapple property. While the room decor was eclectic and not in a good way (it felt like it was a newly acquired hotel that hadn’t yet been redecorated, but I don’t think that was actually the case), everything else about the stay was wonderful. Those staffing the front desk were exceedingly helpful, and they even set out pineapple cupcakes for an afternoon snack. The location was perfect for walking to just about everything we wanted to do. However, my favorite part was the bedding. Staypineapple properties have a separate duvet for each guest, so you kind of wrap yourself into a taco with it while you sleep. We first experienced that sleeping arrangement when we were in Denmark and it’s nothing short of amazing to snuggle into your own cloud. Plus, your partner can’t commandeer your half of the covers.
EAT & DRINK
- Belmont Fermentorium/Modern Times Beer – Fantastic beer lineup and a delicious vegan menu. I had the bulgogi tacos.
- Blue Star Donuts – There’s a bit of contention over which bakery has better donuts: Blue Star or Voodoo. They’re both good in their own way. Blue Star’s unique flavor profiles really allow the individual ingredients to shine. We tried the blueberry bourbon basil (my favorite), the chocolate almond ganache, the horchata-glazed O.G., and a powdered sugar donut.
- Grassa – Fresh pasta in a no-frills atmosphere with shared tables. You order at the counter when you first walk in.
- Great Notion Brewing – We liked Great Notion so much that we stopped by two more times during our short trip. Their hazy IPAs are incredibly juicy with a depth of tropical notes. And you have to get the buffalo tostones, which are fried plantains tossed in buffalo sauce and served with a jicama slaw. (Fair warning: they’re incredibly filling. Dave and I made the mistake of ordering them and an entree each the first day, and it was way too much food.)
- Loyal Legion – Loyal Legion was another favorite on the trip where we stopped a couple of times. They have an impressive beer lineup with 99 Oregon beers on tap, and a delicious $6 smash burger.
- Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen – We had heard great things about Luc Lac, which was near our hotel, but the wait was staggering each time we thought about popping over for dinner. On a whim, I called to see if I could place an order for carry out. I could, and better yet, it was ready in roughly 15 minutes. Sure, our hotel room didn’t have the same ambiance as the restaurant did, but it didn’t matter at that point.
- Salt & Straw – I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve become lactose intolerant in my old age. Fortunately, in a city full of vegans, there are plenty of dairy-free items to eat — including ice cream! Salt & Straw has a wider variety of options for dairy lovers, but they always have one or two options on hand for people like me. I loved it.
- Sizzle Pie – You can either get a whole pie or order by the slice. We ordered our slices to go (including the garlic-heavy Napalm Breath) and sipped on PBR while we waited.
- Sparky’s Pizza – Another pizza-by-the-slice joint. It’s pretty basic and divey, but a good option for a cheap meal.
- Stumptown Coffee Roasters – Stumptown is a PNW favorite for good coffee.
- Voodoo Donuts – I refuse to stand in a long line for donuts and the only reason we stopped here was because it was close to Dave’s office, and it was fairly early in the morning so the line was roughly 10-15 people deep. They were good, but if the line stretches down the block like it’s known to do, skip it and wait for a week day.
- Cannon Beach – The Sunday of our trip was the only day Dave didn’t have to do anything at the office, so we decided to take the 90-minute drive to the Oregon coast. I’m so glad we did, too, because it was my favorite day of the trip. We first stopped at a local coffee shop for caffeine and brunch before walking along the shore to Haystack Rock, the iconic 235-foot sea stack featured in Goonies. We arrived as the tide was going out and by the time we got to the rock, the tide had receded and we were able to see the marine life living in the tide pools. Afterward, we went back to town for taffy at Bruce’s Candy Kitchen and drove to Tillamook to check out DeGarde Brewing. We thought about getting lunch at the famed Tillamook Creamery, but my goodness, that place was a zoo. They had parking lot upon parking lot and droves of people going to the facility. We skipped it since we’re already spoiled with amazing cheese here in Wisconsin.
- Portland Art Museum – I went to the city’s art museum one afternoon while Dave was at work and spent a few hours looking at the exhibits. My favorite was the section about the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. Growing up in northern Wisconsin, I’m familiar with the artistry and traditions of the Ojibwe tribe. To see nautically inspired artifacts from people who lived along the Pacific coast was really interesting. I especially loved the whale headdress.
- Portland Japanese Garden – Portland is home to one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan itself. Spanning 12 acres, the property features eight separate garden styles, a traditional tea house, decades-old bonsai trees, and a breathtaking view of Mt. Hood.
- International Rose Test Garden – Right across the street from the Portland Japanese Garden is a free rose garden with over 7,000 rose plants and approximately 550 species. You can read the history of the garden here, which sheds light on why Portland came to be known as the “City of Roses.”
- Saturday Market – On Saturday morning from March through December, you can head to the river for the Saturday Market. It’s a local arts and crafts market with plenty of food vendors.
- Multnomah Falls – A 30-minute drive from Portland along the Columbia River Gorge will get you to Multnomah Falls. When we were there, all of the hiking trails were closed due to the Eagle Creek Fire. However, we were still able to take a photo of the 620-foot falls and walk out on the upper viewing bridge. The parking situation is a bit cumbersome. The lot is located in the median of the highway with one-way entrance on either side. On our way from Portland to the falls, the lot was full and we were instructed to stop at another park and take a shuttle to the falls. It was the morning of our return flight and we weren’t keen on the idea of leaving the car with all of our luggage at another location in case the shuttle service was unreliable for timing. So, we continued along the highway all the way to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. We took a quick look around and then headed back toward Portland, figuring the falls were a lost cause, but the other side of the lot was open and we were able to wait for a space.
- It’s legal… – Serra is an Instagram-friendly marijuana emporium, if you’re into that sort of thing.
- Photo op – You’ll want to take a photo of the White Stag sign — it’s that iconic “Portland Oregon” sign that you see everywhere. Get your photo from the Burnside Bridge.
Portland has a great selection of stores, even though I didn’t make it to nearly as many as I would have liked. Of course there was the requisite stop at Powell’s Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore. You could spend hours getting lost in there, browsing the aisles (and multiple floors) of new and used tomes. I loved Canoe, where I purchased a beautiful glass bowl made by Portland artist Lynn Read. Of course I also went to Schoolhouse Electric where I wanted to buy just about everything in the store. We bought these sconces for our living room before we visited the store in person and the craftsmanship is incredible. I’ve been a bit of a Schoolhouse fan girl ever since and it was fun to see everything on my wish list in person. (It’s all amazing. Obviously.) I also went to Jacobsen Salt Co. when I was in the neighborhood and procured garlic-infused salt (use it as a finishing salt), habanero-infused salt, and sea salt licorice. The Portland Japenese Garden has a nice gift shop with locally made pottery, of which I purchased a small decorative bowl.
I hesitated to buy this dress when I first saw it online. Not because I didn’t fall in love with it, but because I haven’t been enthused about buying much of anything at full price lately. I figured that since it was available on the Madewell site, Nordstrom, and Shopbop, I had a fairly good chance of snagging it once a discount was available. Then it started to sell out quickly and my resolve went out the window. I’m so glad it did, too, because this dress is absolutely perfect for summer. I love the interesting details at the fitted bodice that garnered compliments throughout the day, and the loser fit throughout the midsection that felt breezy in Austin’s stifling heat. And wouldn’t you know that two other full-price purchases I made recently are also my absolute favorites for the season? I snagged these sandals that I mentioned in Friday’s post (gorgeous) and these clear earrings (so good). Sometimes it’s worth forking over your money for the good stuff.