20 May Why We Love Our Oregon Home
While hopping around to visit family and friends after Peace Corps, we first hit Cocoa Beach, Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville, Memphis, and Chicago. After two years of living in Jamaica, our road trip slowly led us “home” both mentally and physically.
After two weeks traveling state-side, we finally returned to Oregon for the first time since we left for Jamaica in March of 2012!
A lot of people had been asking us what would be the first thing we’d want to do when we returned. Apart from hot showers and the freedom to drive, we didn’t really have set plans.
The main things that sparked nostalgia while we were away were definitely: the beautiful outdoors and the glorious food. In our first week back in Portland (and Salem), we took full advantage of these two benefits of being Oregonians, and explored both old favorites as well as new discoveries.
The Great Outdoors
I always say that there a few places greater than Oregon in the summer. We’re so thankful to be back where we have an amazing variety of options for running routes and a multitude of gorgeous hikes less than an hour away. Portland and Salem both share the Willamette Valley, which is especially lush in the summer and boasts easy access to almost any terrain imagineable- rivers, mountains, ocean, and dessert.
Silver Creek Falls
I’ve gone to Silver Falls State Park frequently throughout my life, since it’s so close to where I grew up. Coming back home after two years abroad, I was blown away by how majestic this place truly is.
Apart from the astounding, Lord-of-the-Rings-type greenery and the sheer number of waterfalls in one place, what makes Silver Falls unique is that you can actually walk behind four of the falls!
We hiked about 7 miles of the Trail of Ten Falls. The hike can be shortened a number of ways and you can even get spectacular views of some of the falls with a short stroll from the parking lots at the three trailheads. If you only see one, visit the South Falls and enjoy a picnic in their Day Use Area ($5 park fee per vehicle). Even better, spend a few days there and camp in a tent, RV, or cabin rental.
Springwater Trail, Portland
We love cities that have great bike and walking paths (yet another reason why we love Portland). One of our favorite multi-use paths is the Springwater Trail, which is part of a 40-mile loop around the city. We enjoyed a morning run on part of the trail and through the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (pictured below) while staying in the Sellwood neighborhood.
Among the many old favorites we enjoyed during our first week back in Oregon, there were a few new discoveries as well. While we were in Jamaica, my family back home had taken up a new hobby which they insisted we try: geocaching.
Geocaching is sort of like a treasure hunt using GPS coordinates. You may not know it, but in all likelihood, these tiny treasure capsules are hidden all around the places you live, work, and play. Using an iPhone app with clues and coordinates from over 2 million caches, it’s a fun and cheap form of entertainment for all ages- and a great way to explore new places.
On our first day of geocaching, we found three caches. The first took us to a hidden corner of one of our favorite parks, the next to the top of a parking garage with a view of the city. The final cache, around the state capitol building, required a group effort as we followed clues and elaborate codes modeled after the movie National Treasure.
In Jamaica, we spent every Saturday morning buying produce at the local farmer’s market. Apart from the presence of produce, that market is nothing like what we call Farmer’s Markets here in the States. Nevertheless, we love both kinds and were delighted to reacquaint ourselves with the Oregonian version.
The Moreland Farmer’s Market takes place at SE Bybee and 14th every Wednesday afternoon in the summer/early fall. If we hadn’t already made dinner plans, I definitely would have picked up more snacks. Instead, we scored one of the tastiest flats of strawberries I can remember eating, plus a bouquet of flowers for our sister-in-law’s birthday.
It seems like the Salem Saturday Market has grown since we last visited over two years ago. It fills the parking lot at NE State and Marion with a food court, artisan and food vendors, and regular live music. Smaller markets are also hosted at other locations on Mondays, Wednesdays, and through the winter (check the website for details). On our first trip back, we devoured a giant savory crepe, fresh strawberry lemonade, and a pork burrito, then picked up cinnamon rolls, fudge, and fresh vegetables to bring home. Yum!
Portland is a foodie town. While we really enjoyed the food in Jamaica, our options were somewhat limited. Our return home, therefore, was made complete with the obligatory visits to our favorite eateries as well as the introduction of some new hot spots.
Jade Bistro: Teahouse & Patisserie
My favorite restaurant in all of Oregon – and perhaps the world (I don’t know, I’d have to think about that some more before I commit) – is Jade Bistro. Although my brother-in-law does work there, I swear that I am not biased. Everyone loves this place. The only complaint it gets is that the line to order food can be long … because the food is amazing. And the atmosphere is delightful as well.
My favorite dish is probably not photogenic enough (both brother-in-laws took these photos, by the way: Kapono Photoworks and PDXploration). It’s the wide rice noodles with fresh veggies in a slightly sweet soy/oyster sauce- a lot like pad see ew. Their truffle oil french fries are also to die for, and you don’t want to miss the unique and extraordinary (and green) Vietnamese wedding cake.
The other can’t-miss Portland restaurant for us is Saburo’s, which like Jade Bistro, is also in one of our favorite neighborhoods: Sellwood. Saburo’s may not be the most authentic as far as Japanese sushi goes, but it makes up for it with generous portions, affordable prices, and delicious flavors. There are not too many sushi places with nigiri and rolls quite this big. We can’t get enough of it!
A.N.D. (A & D) Cafe
Portland is a fairly progressive city and home to many restaurants that are friendly to the growing population that have various dietary restrictions. At A.N.D. Cafe, everything on the menu is vegan (unless prepared with egg or cheese) and any item can be made gluten free. This was our first time at A.N.D., and we would definitely come back for the walnut “meat”loaf on that benedict!
Ox is a new hot spot that had popped up while we were away. When we came home, we were treated to a feast among family at this Argentine-inspired restaurant. We always appreciate places where we can eat small plates or family style and share dishes, and that’s what Ox is all about. As is now common among Portland establishments, ingredients are sourced locally and the menu changes seasonally.
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