The Pacific Northwest

Words by Jasper

Mysterious, mossy pine forests punctuated with immense boulders. Waterfalls spewing mist through tree covered cliffs. Clear streams that lead to bleak craggy coastlines, dotted with raggedy islands. Ultra-trendy cities nestled in amongst the wilderness. This describes the Pacific Northwest, probably one of our favourite parts of western USA. Here are a few of the best places we checked out.

Portland OR
There was so much to say about the ‘hipster capital of the world’ that it warranted a whole post to itself. Find it here.

Forks, Washington

Ok, we admit it, we came here entirely because of Twilight. But if you’re like us, and thought the best thing about that film was the location, we hope you’ll understand. Forks sits on the edge of Olympic National Park, a huge expanse of temperate rainforest, classified by its high levels of rainfall, but lower average temperatures.

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Forks is a small town that has been thrust into popularity by the famous film series, but other than a couple of Twilight shops and location tours, life ticks over like any other small unassuming community.

North West of Forks is La Push, a grey beach with imposing cliffs and brutal waves. We wrapped up and took a stroll on the beach but we left the paddling to the flotilla of hardcore surfers (sadly any vampires out there won’t be able to reach La Push as it is past the werewolf treaty line).


North Bend, WA

Tucked just off the interstate from Seattle toward Montana, this mysterious town is most famous for Laura Palmer’s death and “damn good coffee”. For those of you who missed the reference, North Bend houses many of the shooting locations for David Lynch’s supernatural cult-thriller Twin Peaks, several of which are definitely worth seeing regardless of whether you’ve seen the show or not.


The most iconic spot is probably Twede’s Cafe, which is better known by Twin Peaks fans as the Double R Diner. Peaks Geeks will be pleased to know they do, in fact, serve some damn good coffee, and the cherry pie isn’t too bad either. People who have never seen the show will probably also be pleased to know this.


Just down the road is the Salish Lodge and spa that overlooks the Snoqualmie Falls. It’s a high end place that we could only dream of being able to afford a night at, but when your hotel is perched precariously close to a huge and picturesque waterfall, I guess you can charge what you like. The setting obviously caught David Lynch’s eye as the Salish Lodge serves as the exterior shots for the Great Northern Hotel, yet another crucial TP location.

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Vancouver, BC

Just a stone’s throw across the Canadian border is Vancouver, a lively, modern and artsy city. Sadly we only had a day and night to explore it, but what we managed to cram in gave us a good glimpse into life in Vancouver.
The downtown area had a great mix of independent shops, cool eateries and imposing buildings new and old. It also has one of the best libraries we’ve ever been in. Inspired by the colosseum, Vancouver Public Library is almost as impressive, with cosy study areas, modern interior design and dizzyingly high walkways looking down over seven floors of books to explore. Any ancient Roman academic would have been proud to study here. Jo, however, read a book about Finding Nemo.
Tucked underneath the main bridge to downtown is Granville Island, a once industrial area that, like most others in the world, has now been transformed into an arts district, with theatre, music, independent craft retailers and a food market. If this sounds a little too pretentious and grown-up for your taste, have no fear, there’s always the pirate party ship.
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Interstate 90, Washington/Montana

This is literally just a motorway, with nothing of interest other than the odd Native American Casino resort. We don’t recommend it as somewhere to visit. It does, however, get a special mention for some of the most spectacular and iconic tumbleweed we’ve ever seen. It’s amazing that in West Washington state you have lush forest, and yet after a few hours driving east toward Montana, it’s barren and prairie like. The only things that weren’t void of life were, ironically, the perfect spheres of dead bush making a dash for freedom across the road.
For us, the Pacific Northwest is a place we’ve wanted to visit for so long for so many reasons, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Each place we visited was worthy of weeks, possibly months, of exploration. As has been the case with most of our travels so far, we will be leaving with more on our bucket list than when we came.

 

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A Weekend In Portland: The Essential Itinerary 

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Portland, Oregon, a city which boarders Washington state on the northwest coast of America is affectionately known as ‘hipster capital of the world’. We were really intrigued to see how fitting this term actually is, as…to put it in the least snobbish way…the American ideals of ‘cool’ can often differ from the European. But to our pleasant surprise, Portland was awesome. And we think any beard-trimming, vinyl-collecting, succulent-planting European hipster would be proud to call Portland home.

One of the main things that struck us about Portland is that the residents are really friendly. The Portlanders we met had such an obvious love for their city that they were constantly giving us recommendations for coffee shops, bookstores and bars in the hope that we love it just as much them. And it worked.

Unfortunately, as we only have a month to tour the entire west, we were only able to spend two days in this awesome city. We managed to cram in quite a bit though, so here’s a little list of what -in our opinion- a short trip to Portland should include:

Brunch

Brunch is to Portlanders as afternoon tea is to the English: something to be taken very seriously. The most popular spots can have queues snaking out the door and the options throughout the city seem endless. We chose a place called ‘Mothers Bistro’ in downtown, a Parisian style restaurant which served traditional egg-based dishes and, of course, delicious coffee.

Powell’s Bookstore

A large chunk of our first day was spent in Powell’s Bookstore, the largest independent bookstore in the world. The building pretty much takes up an entire block, with five stories of new and used books. As we found out, is easy to get lost in there and, before you know it, 3 hours has past. Powell’s really is a Portland institution, and a city break here isn’t complete without perusing its many shelves.


Multnomah Falls

One thing that is so special about Portland is that it is surrounded by wilderness; it almost feels like a city built in the middle of a national park. So, a short drive out of town brought us to Multnomah Falls, a beautiful waterfall surrounded by moss-covered evergreens. You can view it from the bottom, or a short hike leads you to the midway bridge. It’s a popular tourist spot, so if you want to avoid the crowds, try to go on a weekday….and not on Labor Day weekend, like we did.


Shopping

Portland has an awesome shopping scene. Seriously, bring all your money, you will want to buy everything. Southwest 10th Avenue between Stark street and Washington, was a favourite of ours. There was so much to buy on this street: outdoorsy hard wear, über cool home decor, arty jewellery; there was even a shop dedicated solely to feminist fashion brands. Here’s a list of links to our favourite shops:

http://www.animaltrafficpdx.com/ 

http://www.woonwinkelhome.com/

http://www.backtalkpdx.com/

http://www.wildfang.com/

Doughnuts

A lesser known fact about Portland is that Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, was born here. This perhaps explains the city’s obsession with doughnuts. We went to two different establishments and both had lines out the door. ‘Blue Star’ is the place to go for the more ‘gourmet’ style, with flavours ranging from maple bacon to cayenne spiced PB&J- get here early though, as they can run out by the afternoon. If you want a doughnut fit for Mr Groening however, go to ‘Voodoo’ and ask for ‘The Homer’. Voodoo is to doughnuts as Powell’s is to books: a Portland institution and a must-see.

‘Mmmm doughnut’ *dribbles*

 

Honourable Mentions and Sidenotes:

  • Outside of downtown, Hawthorne street has loads of cool vintage stores and another (smaller) Powell’s! Portland just can’t get enough of books.
  • Nike Bikes. These are Portland’s much cooler version of London’s ‘Boris Bike’. They are neon orange and named after the infamous sports brand (which originated in Portland), rather than after a floppy-haired fool. But I digress.
  • Unlike most American cities, you won’t require a car to get around. The public transport here is pretty good, with reliable buses to and from town, and a tram service called ‘The Max’, operating city-wide.
  • If you are so inclined, the state of Oregon has legalised the use of recreational marijuana. You can buy pretty much any product you can think of from one of Portland’s many dispensaries. And because it’s Portland, much of the products sold are locally sourced, fair trade and organic. Think salted cacao infused with organic marijuana oils, that sort of thing. But, please note: unlike Amsterdam, public use is prohibited and you have to be 21 to even enter a dispensary.

In conclusion, Portland has stolen our hearts, well and truly. There is so much to see, do, eat, drink and buy; so many kind people to chat to; so much to explore! We definitely plan on coming back….unless it gets too mainstream.