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:

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruddick/Wood Tavern – Newberg, Oregon

One of the harder things about leaving the city is that suddenly there aren’t a lot of local places to pop into for a drink or a snack. At least that seems that case in the Portland area. Though given how little I drink leaving the bar scene wasn’t a sacrifice by any means.

Though from time to time a girl needs a local place to sit down with her girlfriend for a good old fashioned gab fest and have a glass of champagne and a plate of fries. Enter the Ruddick/Wood Tavern in Newberg Oregon.

It has all the relaxed PNW charm without any of the traffic or parking challenges of it’s city counterparty. The interior was left mostly salvaged and the walls are adorned with topographical maps of the local hills.

It’s not a large place but it does offer a fair amount of seating options, and while it has always been pretty busy when we go in we have always found a seat. We try to make it on Wednesdays for their “Whiskey Wednesday” specials. The selection is extensive and I have not yet had to order the same drink twice, except for their sparkling rose. But that was on purpose because it is so delicious it is hard not to repeat the glass, bottle <insert serving of choice> over and over again.

Every time we go in we make a pact to order something different off the food menu, I think it has really only worked about half the time. They have an excellent rotating cheese plate that we keep ordering and have never been disappointed. I think we may order it because the menu says “cheese and accoutrements” which halfway through a bottle of champagne becomes too much for us to handle and we probably wind up ordering it because we find it so funny.

The other must order is the fries plate, which comes in a variety of options. We have ordered them all and I don’t think I can say which is my favorite. They are all good and worth a try.

You can find the Ruddick/Wood Tavern at 720 E. First St, Newberg, OR 97132. It is around the corner from the main restaurant Ruddick/Wood which serves lunch and dinner from 11:30am to 9pm.

 

Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City was another of my work conference trips and honestly a city I probably never would have gone to otherwise. I was however very pleasantly surprised by the trip and thoroughly impressed with the cities art deco architecture.

While we were out there I found out the local art museam had a traveling exibit of one of my favorite photographers so I took a few of my coworkers to the museam. I think the highlight for them was when I got too close to a statue in the garden and it started yelling at me. I assume that the sculpture garden has video cameras and speakers hooked to the security desk, but we will never know for sure.

 

We were there during one the wildest lightening storm I have ever experienced, and spent most of one night huddled in my broken sleep number hotel bed terrified I might get electrocuted if I touched anything metal in the hotel directly. Yes I realize this is not how it works, but we don’t get storms like that on the west coast. It was scary.

Because of the storm that was in the area the hotel was also hosting a team of storm chasers that were out filming tornados. I loved getting a chance to talk to them and learning more about what they do. But it didn’t necessarily help the fact that I was terrified of major storms.

 

I was pleasantly surprised by the food in Kansas City, not only was the BBQ the best I have ever had in several local restaurants. I also had an unforgettable breakfast at the 12 Baltimore Café in the Hotel Philips. The stunning art deco interiors may have played a hand in that review though.

One of the friends that I tortured into accompanying me to the art museum is a sports fan, so she took me to a Kansas City Royals game. Which happened to be hosting ladies night.  We go free t-shirts and way too many margaritas. I had a blast even though I am not the biggest sports. The margaritas may have had a hand in THAT one.

 

 

On the last day in town I wandered around some antique stores and happened upon the City Market, which I wish I had known about earlier in the trip so I could have spent more time there.

Kansas City in one day:

Stay: Hotel Phillips

Eat: Jack Stack BBQ – Martin City Location

See: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

Questions:

Have you ever been to Kansas City Missouri? What are some of your favorite must do’s in the city?

Carruthers, Astoria Oregon

There is a small town on the Oregon Coast that I know quite well, they call it Astoria Oregon. Astoria, long famous for being the home of one of the most dangerous river bars in the world, childhood 80s movies and copious amounts of rain, also happens to be one of my childhood home towns.

 

If I am being quite frank, when I was a kid it was kind of (read really) a dump. A sad little town at the mouth of the Columbia River, with a crumbling downtown and a small tourist season in the summer. Somewhere between the 1990’s and the mid 2010’s the town managed to turn itself around and now has a booming year round tourist season and with it some really phenomenal restaurants. None of which existed when I lived there, naturally. One of the newest editions is Carruthers.

Carruthers is located kitty corner to the old Astoria Liberty Theater, which was renovated in recent years and is now used as a performing arts theater which has headlined shows with hometown staples like movies by Chris Lang and musical performances by Blind Pilot. The restaurant was built out inside the old Owl Drug Store (which was a filming location of Kindergarten Cop) and was originally a clothing store.

 

 

The interior has been decorated impeccably, we were sitting next to this fire place (see above) which I could not stop staring at, not least of which because it was about 40 feet tall.

 

Both the bar menu and the dinner menu was amazing, I could have ordered everything but stuck to the butternut squash gnocchi and could have eaten nothing else for the rest of my life and been happy. It was amazing.

The vibe of the restaurant is a bit more upscale than Astoria has been traditionally used to but happily people dined in all assortments of style. It seemed everyone regardless of Sunday best or just jumped off the boat clothing were right at home. I couldn’t stop staring at the lovely surroundings, enjoying the relaxing atmosphere and the incredible food. I was only occasionally distracted by the mirror pictured below, as I plotted how to steal it without getting caught. I failed to come up with a way to smuggle a 12 foot tall gold mirror out in my purse so I just took a picture.

Address an Additional Information: 12th and Commercial Astoria,  Oregon 97103

 

 

Pioneertown, California

I am a huge fan of strange and unique sites and my family is a huge fans of old westerns.  So when I stumbled on the existence of Pioneertown an old live in western town movie set that happened to be pretty close to Palm Springs I jumped on the chance to take my family while we were already down there for a hiking trip.

 

The town was built up in the 1940s and it include several blocks of a an old western town, a sound stage, a functioning blowing ally and post office as well as a working restaurant. The restaurant Pappy and Harriett’s Pioneertown Palace started as a movie set cantina but continues today as a popular restaurant and music venue.

 

Most of the building while interactive are mostly facade’s. You can go into the store fronts but not much more and the heights are all faked to look real by scale but in fact are not true to life two story buildings.

It felt a little bit like being in Disneyland’s Frontierland, which makes sense because it was a movie set meant to evoke a feeling while also being compact and manageable. Much like Disneyland as a whole. We spent about an hour poking around the buildings pretending we were in old movies, dashing between sets and running down the dirt road. We had planned on having dinner at Pappy & Harriett’s but sadly we forgot to check their hours and open days and they were closed. So we hungrily drove back into Palm Springs and had dinner back in the valley. Moral of the story the restaurant and the set is worth the trip but make sure you check the restaurants open hours before you drive up because it does take a bit to get there.

Address and Additional Information: It doesn’t really have an address since it is an unincorporated community in the Morongo Basin but here are the coordinates 34°9′26″N 116°29′41″W.

 

 

Baixa – Lisbon, Portugal

Another one of my favorites in Lisbon was the Baixa neighborhood. This is the area of town that was flattened during the giant earthquake in 1755. When it was rebuilt it was rebuilt in the “modern” style (modern for the time) and with straight roads. It is one of the only areas of Lisbon with straight roads. It reminded me a lot of the main shopping district in Vienna, though Vienna’s pedestrian only shopping street seems to be endless, where as Lisbon’s is just the right size.

The central street is a pedestrian only street choc-a-bloc full of restaurants, cafes and shops. The side streets off the main pedestrian only space are also pedestrian only, though as you get further out more and more streets have car traffic as well. At one end you have the Terreiro Do Paço a public square on the waterfront that is ringed by cafes and restaurants. And at the other end a rather busy square that houses hotels, public transit stops and the Rossio Train Station.

The mix of architecture in the area is overwhelming, sings from the 1920’s standing on buildings built in the 1700s and everything in between. The main square which I think may be called Rossio Square though I couldn’t find any definitive information, has a large fountain in the center and is surrounded by a stunning array of services from old shoe shops, tabaco shops, modern hotels, pawn shops, fancy restaurants, bars,  jewelers, and even a McDonalds.

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The apartments at the top of each building in the square reminded of apartment’s in Paris though I suppose that shouldn’t have been surprising given they probably belong to the same architectural time.

We spent a lot of time in the Baixa, it was close to where we were staying and given the time of year and that it is a fairly bustling tourist hub a lot of the services were open where other areas may not have been. There were loads of shops for me to spend my evenings wandering around in, as a non night-scene person it was really nice to have a reason to be out without all the drama of bars and clubs. There was also this ridiculously cute pug having a ride about town.

There was also several pastry shops that we visited on more than one occasion. They were crowded and frenetic and made amazing coffee. They were always stuffed full of locals and severed everything from pizza to Portuguese pastries like our favorite, Chocolate Salami.

Chocolate Salami in fact has nothing to do with meat but is a chocolate fudgy dessert that is rolled up with cookies and nuts and then sliced to serve.  We ate a lot of it, and I mean A LOT OF IT. I think I probably had some everyday. Lisbon is known for the Pastel De Nata which are very good but I Chocolate Salami really blew me away.

Part of the draw for me to the Baixa was the use of it in the filming of the Spanish Language TV show El Tiempo Entre Costuras or The Time In Between. Which is adapted from the book of the same name. Most of the show is filmed on location in Moracco and Madrid but the later part of the story heavily highlights Portugal and Lisbon and Estoril were used in filming.

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One such filming location, though technically in the Chiado district it is only a block or so down from the Baixia, is the glove shop Luvaria Ulisses which has been operational since 1925. As a lover of all things Art Deco I knew I had to go there and buy a pair of handmade gloves. The shop is so tiny there is only room for the shop attendant and one or two customers. What you see below is literally the whole shop, when you walk in there is nothing more but the small door to the closet like stockroom. But it was charming and wonderful and we all of course walked out with gloves.