Hilton Minneapolis – Minneapolis, Minnesota

The last time I was in Minneapolis for work I was put up in the Hilton Minneapolis downtown but toward the end of the skyway. It is the third hotel I have stayed in for work out there and by far my favorite.

Despite the lobby being torn up for remodeling and the fact that every single time I went back to the hotel via the front entrance (rather than the skyway) I had to go through a different door the experience on a whole was quite lovely. I actually didn’t even mind the musical doors, it just made me chuckle.

The rooms were simple, clean and well equipped. Complete with hair dryer, nice sample sized shampoo, coffee pot and a TV with normal channels. Have you ever been to a hotel where they have cable but they have the strangest channels accessible?! So strange. The shower did not make strange squealing noises which seems to be common for me, and the temperate control was actually controllable.

They also had a really nice dining room/bar area. A REALLY great breakfast buffet full of fresh cut, not wilted sad, fruit. Fresh pastries, oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, tons of cereal choices, bagels, fresh lox and GREAT coffee. The gym on the mezzanine level was also nicely equipped, clean, new and not stuffy. I didn’t try to pool but plenty of other people did and they clearly loved it.

 

In addition to all the other pluses and a must have for any hotel in Minneapolis if you are there for work, is the connection to the skyway. Never have I spent more time in a place with such changeable and challenging weather. And while I still find it odd in concept, I find the skyway a complete lifesaver when getting to and from meetings pretty much year round. No more worrying about wearing or carrying things that work for both subzero or crazy hot and humid PLUS office. You can get from hotel to office without ever leaving a climate controlled environment even if it is several blocks away. Brilliant.

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Cuvée – Carlton, Oregon 

There are a lot of really great restaurants in the Yamhill/Willamette/Tualatin Valley area thanks in part to our robust wine industry. Up until recently I had focused most of my time dining at restaurants in the Portland area, there are so many great places there you could go out every night and never run out. Having recently moved out of the area has given me the excuse to branch out a bit and boy was I ever happy to have given that chance after enjoying an unforgettable meal at Cuvee in Carlton, Oregon.

The restaurant resides on the main street of Carlton, about half through through the one stop sign town in the heart of Oregon’s wine country. It offers dinner on a prix-fixe menu, letting you decide soup/salad, a main entrée and a dessert or a starter. I had been wanting to go for a while. So when I happen to be in town for an event with a friend we jumped at the chance to eat dinner there.

Everything looked too amazing to choose. So we chose to share, I chose the asparagus leek soup (hot) it was amazing. We shared pomme frites, even more amazing. Then we split the salmon and lamb stew, saying the entrees were a religious experience would be an understatement. The sauce on the salmon was quite literally the best thing I have ever eaten. And the lamb stew was so tender and full of flavor I think both of us nearly passed out from sheer ecstasy.

By the time our entrée rolled around we were already full but we pushed ahead anyway because it was too good not to, and then we pushed ahead again for the dessert we chose to share which was a crème caramel. I have never tasted anything so rich and so light at the same time. It was gone in an instant and we have both been dreaming about going back ever since.

Aside from the exquisite food, the waiter was incredibly kind and friendly. The dining room was bright and quiet. I could not recommend a better French Restaurant in Oregon and think even a drive from Portland is worth it.

Apartment - Lisbon, Portugal

I have really at this point covered most everything we saw in Lisbon and Sintra but I did want to cover a few other topics regarding the area before wrapping up this series, nearly a year after we went!

As I have mentioned we like to try to stay in apartments or houses rather than hotels when we are traveling. This isn’t always the case, if we are only going to be somewhere for a couple days hotels serve quite nicely. But for longer trips we really try to establish a home base so that we can retreat back and have some time to ourselves. Traveling can be quite taxing. Everything is so different, not only the language but all small things too like street signs. All the newness is a lot for your brain to process, you often don’t realize how tired you are until you sit down and stop for a moment. Having that relaxed place to go back to can really make a trip that much more pleasant. Having enough space so everyone can have a little alone time in the process is also, as they say, priceless.

We really lucked out on our apartment in Lisbon, I went back and fourth so many times on so many different options and in the end just sort of shut my eyes and pulled the trigger. I am sure any of the options we were weighing would have been lovely but we loved the one we picked and would probably stay in it again if we ever make our way back.

The service was impeccable, we found the place and booked through vrbo.com but the apartment is one of a few managed by Rent Experience a Lisbon business. If the apartment we stayed at was not available again we would rent one of the others managed by the same company. They had shuttles to pick up and drop off at airport, in both cases the drivers were there early and got us to our destination in record time. The man who let us in to our apartment showed up on time, spoke perfect English provided maps, directions, showed us where everything in the apartment was and how it worked. He even told us about a new a couple sites we hadn’t heard of that we visited and loved.

The apartment was also perfectly situated, nearly everything we wanted to see was in walking distance, we were only two blocks from a grocery store, two blocks for public transit stop, and four blocks the main square in the Baixa. We were also surrounded by cafés and restaurants. Plus the street wasn’t busy so we didn’t have to hear road noises all night.

And the apartment itself perfectly fit our needs. Clean, light airy, modern and enough space for everyone to get some alone time. Or in our case enough space for the healthy half of us to avoid the sick half of the family.

 

Directly across the street was Fabrica Lisboa a café that we visited more than once, they had great coffee and pastries as well as excellent sandwiches and salads. It was simple food but comforting and the ladies that worked there were nothing but kindness.

The apartment building also had a lift for those of us that needed it, which wound up being used a couple time but mostly by our luggage, we were on the fourth floor and the use of it for hauling up suitcases was a brilliant suggestion by our driver. The building also had a locked lobby. It was very nice knowing we were tucked it safe and tight not knowing the city very well. But as promised we had no trouble. The entire trip was easy comfort and kindness. If anyone wants to pay me to go back to review things it wouldn’t be a hard sell (hint-hint). 

In a nutshell we loved Portugal, we talk about it all the time and dream of going back often. If you are fortunate enough to be thinking of going or planning a trip I hope that my posts have helped you in some way. 

Water Front – Lisbon, Portugal

The very first day we spent in Lisbon we walked the waterfront and watched the sun go down. It was bustling with locals and tourists a like. Families walking around between work and dinner. It seemed like the entire city was out enjoying the fresh air brought up the Tangas river from the Atlantic Ocean.

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Throughout the rest of our stay we found ourselves coming back night after night, and not quite on purpose. We walked it when we went up to Belem, we had dinner there, my mom found a boat serving drinks, and a wine cart the rattles around the waterfront serving up wine to passerby’s. My husband found a hotdog vendor claiming to sell American Hot Dogs, it looked more German to me but he seemed to enjoy it.

 

Maybe we were drawn to it because we all are used to being by water, living in costal towns or on fishing boats most of our lives. But looking around and seeing everyone else made me think maybe it is just primal, the freedom of being on water, the openness and possibility.

Lisbon is without a doubt one of the most magical places I have ever been. I would go back there in a heart beat, I would agree to live there without a second thought. It is the most home I have ever felt in another country.

One of these days we will go back, but for now this post brings us to the close of my journey to Portugal, which happens to be almost a year from when first got there.

The Block House Café – Dayton, Oregon

I have an affinity to hamburgers. I didn’t eat red meat for about 20 years and when I went back to eating it I did so with gusto. I LOVE HAMBURGERS. I can’t say that I am terribly picky either, I like fancy gourmet burgers, I like burgers with crazy toping, and I like flat greasy diner burgers from little hole in the wall places.

The Block House Café in Dayton, Oregon has a nice mix of all these traits and come out clean with a burger to suit all type of burger consumers (in my opinion anyway). But most importantly they offer a mini burger that is more suited to my stomach size.

As an added bonus the restaurant resides in the building of the former First Baptist Church of Dayton Oregon. It was built by a family who opened one of the first brick companies in the area and is one of the oldest standing brick buildings in the valley. It has been beautifully restored into a small dining facility with high ceilings, bright windows and a relaxed atmosphere. The wait staff was incredibly nice, and the menu aside from the hamburgers list boasts a large selection of sandwiches and a brunch menu to die for. They also have cinnamon roll pancakes, which are truly incredible. They are located on 301 Main Street in Dayton, open only for breakfast and lunch closing at three everyday.

After we ate we walked around the town, which is mostly just three shop lined streets that flank the main square park. It is a very small town. But it does have a surprising list of places to eat, none of which I have been to yet. One of which, Archie’s is a 1950s themed ice cream shop decorated  to resemble the Archie comics I am so very fond of. Had I not been stuffed and it been a slightly warmer day I would have pounced on the chance to go in. Next time. There is always next time.

 

 

Silverton, Oregon

 

Oregon like most rural states is littered with small charming towns. Not terribly well know, to either tourists or locals in nearby cities. I grew up in small towns though, so even while I lived the majority of the last 15 years in Portland I would often seek small towns for weekend retreats.

I have managed to make it to just about every one of them within a two hour radius of Portland and now that I live in one of them I spend even more time wandering around country roads discovering new areas to spend my time.

A few months ago, when Oregon was still in the grips of an ice age, or what most people would call an average winter (I complained a lot this year about our third snow to my coworkers in Minneapolis and got no sympathy), out of desperation for change a friend took me on a surprise adventure in Silverton.

Silverton is situated just north of Salem along Silver Creek, which is fed from the 10 waterfalls in the Silver Falls State Park the largest in Oregon. The town like any has had it’s controversies and triumphs the later more famously known is the story of Bobbie the Wonder Dog who after being separated from his owner in Indiana found his way back home to Oregon six months later.

Now a days the town is fairly quiet though with the uptick in Portland residents the small surrounding towns are enjoying some extra tourism. The town which had been fairly quiet when I was younger is now filled with antique stores, cafe’s and jewelry shops.

We spent the better part of the day between the antique stores and the book store. I always love seeing small independent book stores and try my best to help support them. This one in particular was a used book store as well and I managed to find a few items to add to my collection of out of print books.

After checking out the book store we headed down to the waterfront walk, and were pleasantly surprised by the local food coop, a small nursery in an old gas station and a jewelry store that had an impressive collection. I bought myself a pair of earnings, but what I really wanted was everything in the store.

We ended our day at a local café next to the river, sharing a table full of crepes and coffee. It was lovely. Good company, and a pleasant outing to distract from the fact that our spring is about two months behind this year and we are all dying of vitamin D deficiency.

Things that shouldn’t be missed:

La Rambla – McMinville, Oregon

For our anniversary this last year we decided not to do anything big. Instead we spent a weekend in a small town just south of where we live that happens to house one of my all time favorite restaurants in the world.

I discovered La Rambla a number of years ago, right around the time my parents and I were discussing spending Christmas in Barcelona. I had started researching things to do and places to eat in Barcelona and as Google has a tendency to do, it pointed me to a restaurant near me (in Oregon) that was named after one of the attractions we were looking at in Spain. So I had to try it. The rest is history.

La Rambla is a small tapas restaurant  in McMinnville Oregon. Frequented by locals and wine enthusiasts alike the restaurant has never been anything but packed regardless of day or time I have visited. The small intimate restaurant offers a wine list that is 7 pages long and a small but comprehensive list of snacks, entrees and desserts. And of course cheese.

As luck would have it (or perhaps my one track mind when it comes to a decent cheese plate) I forgot to take any pictures of our latest visit. Except the one of the cheese menu. Which I took so that I could remember the name of the goat cheese that knocked my socks off (Cana de Cabra in case you were wondering).

For our meal we shared a bottle of wine,  a few cheeses, a small flat bread ending the meal with churros and chocolate. We were happily stuffed and also slightly disappointed we didn’t get to try more from their outstanding seasonal menu. I guess that just means we will have to go back. I think I would be pretty okay with that.