Popping About Portland

I arrived to a sunny, gorgeous Portland several summers ago—after a flight that was chock-full of huge arena football players! In the city for a conference, I got fantastic local recommendations for activities and dining from a former local. My colleague and I really enjoyed some fabulous meals—turkey at Huber’s (the oldest restaurant in the city that has every turkey dish one could ever conjure up) and a stellar view and dinner at Portland City Grill—as we spent three days in this great walking city.

Downtown was easy to navigate on foot, and a streetcar system covers much of it and the trendy Pearl District. I caught a festival of sandcastles whilst there and enjoyed the casual Pacific Northwest vibe of the city. The weather was fabulous and the sights (including the gigantic Portlandia statue and the famous Powell’s books) were great…I highly recommend a visit to the City of Roses!

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Welcome to New York!

Taylor Swift wrote us a song–Welcome to New York–and it was the soundtrack of our visit there recently. In that vein, I thought I’d write a melody of my own to sum up our weekend there. Maestro, if you please…

New York is Cold
A Melody by S. Bates

Brrr! Brr! Wear your scarf.
Freeze freeze…with hat and gloves!
The 9/11 Memorial is profoundly gorgeous
And filled with thoughts of love.

Subway to Soho; get your Metro card.
Stop in Prada en route to warm up…
Meet friends from college over brunch
at Hundred Acres over bub(bles).

Head uptown down the avenue;
Ignore the freezing wind (freezing wind!)
Stroll hand-and-hand in Central Park
Before spotting the Plaza and going in!

A glass of Malbec at the bar
Will warm you like nothing can.
Head down Fifth Avenue to experience
The deliciousness that is Bergdorf Goodman.

Here the cafe is a dream–
The best to celebrate…
Friends, family, art deco, impeccable service,
And your fiance’s birthday.

Bundle up…bundle up!
The rest of the trip is a whirl.
Dining at Vice Versa and A Voce
Makes you ready to get on a diet, girl!

Check out of the fabulous W Downtown;
Hop an Uber and head to JFK.
You avoided the winter storm.
Go home, warm up, hurray!

I knew I was an global business traveler and an amateur photographer, but until I wrote the above (possibly Grammy-winning) ballad, I had no idea that songwriting was in my future. (Insert sarcasm here.) Even with my lack of musical talent, I hope you’ll agree with me that a trip to cold NYC is the perfect thing to do in January, provided one has a fabulous winter coat. Welcome to New York!

Christmas Market in Sweden

Two years ago in November, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Scandinavia, one of my favorite parts of the world. While there, I realized that I might be able to visit a Swedish Christmas market in Malmö. Luckily enough, I walked down a lovely pedestrian thoroughfare from my hotel to hit the market and browse through some of my favorite Swedish stores like Indiska. The holiday scents from delicious food and drink offerings like glögg (mulled wine) were intoxicating! My must-have purchase? A tomte gnome, which is a traditional Swedish version of Santa. With this brisk evening jaunt in 37◦F weather, I had a fantastic glimpse into Christmas customs from a country that I adore. An early “God Jul” to you!

Delicious San Francisco

I’ve referenced the City on the Bay several times in past blog posts, but after a recent visit to San Francisco, it’s worth starring in its own blog post. I was in town for only 48 hours, but a walk-able downtown area, fantastic fall weather, easily available Uber, and meeting up with friends made this quick trip an autumn treat! Here is my recipe for a delicious visit:

Ingredients
1 night of tennis at the Bay Club (optional: enjoying wine afterwards in club’s bar)
2.5 hours of exploring Union Square, Chinatown, and the Financial District on foot
5 tasty dim sum dishes at Hang Ah Tea Room, which calls itself the city’s oldest
1 bottle of wine mixed with 1 cheese plate at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant
Optional: a quick peek at gorgeous men’s store Wingtip, housed in the old Bank of Italy

Directions
Set weather to an average of 60 degrees. Mix all ingredients together, add a sprinkle of World Series fever, and serve with a side of Apple. (I was lucky enough to visit nearby Cupertino and have lunch at the tech giant’s headquarters. I Ubered; I visited; I bought the “I left my heart in Cupertino” t-shirt.) Bon appétit!

Eating Our Way through Santa Monica

Aside

This weekend, my fiancé and I spent three days in Santa Monica, California. In town for a wedding, we happily ate our way through some of the best restaurants there. Headed to this lovely beach community soon? Below are some of the best places we went over the long weekend:

  • Ivy at the Shore. The Ivy is a Beverly Hills institution, and we hit this more casual location for lunch. Think colorful decoration, the famous Cobb salad (I enjoyed mine with lobster), attentive waiters, and refreshing berry champagne drinks. The outside seating area filled up quickly, and we loved having a leisurely lunch before strolling down to the touristy Santa Monica Pier.
  • The Penthouse at the Huntley. We joined some friends in a snazzy private booth here for dinner, and what a meal it was! We started with a delish charcuterie plate and marveled over the pâté. For my main course, I selected the truffle lobster macaroni and cheese–to die for!–and shared some of the chocolate panna cotta with my friends for desert. The views were incredible, and the service was excellent.
  • One Pico at Shutters on the Beach. This hotel is gorgeous and worth a visit itself, but I will happily recommend their Saturday brunch. We enjoyed tasty bubbles and their heavenly array of breads in this open and airy space directly next to the beach. Since I was still in a food coma from the previous day, I had a light mealof fresh corn soup with a zesty Caesar salad.
  • Sonoma Wine Garden. This fetching wine bistro sits atop of Santa Monica Place, and their Sunday brunch boasted six unlimited day drinking options (think elderflower mimosas) and noshable treats. Make sure you stake claim on your umbrella quickly, as these were in high demand on a sunny afternoon!
  • Casa Del Mar. This hotel, also directly on the beach, is another Santa Monica staple, yet we were finished stuffing our faces and only enjoyed a glass of wine overlooking the ocean. The atmosphere was quaint, and this was absolutely the most delightful way to cap off a lovely weekend.

The wedding we attended was at the nearby Viceroy–and it was pretty swanky. I would have loved to luxuriate by its cabana-covered pool, and they did a wonderful job with the wedding. We stayed at the Le Meridien Delfina, and while the hotel was not my favorite SPG property, the staff was pleasant, and the spicy truffle popcorn was addicting. It’s a good thing that we danced the night away at the wedding reception and walked all over town, or we would have gained a lot of weight eating our way through gorgeous Santa Monica!

Santa Monica Beach Scene from Casa Del Mar

Santa Monica Beach Scene from Casa Del Mar

Princess Cruising to Alaska

In my ever-exciting quest to visit all 50 state capitols, one of my dear friends and I set off for Southeast Alaska to hit Juneau via a Princess Cruise. We were thrilled to learn that the Golden Princess departed on a summer Saturday from Seattle during Seafair, and we spent the day prior to the cruise exploring the Emerald City. My friend and I hit the high points: Pike’s Market, a duck tour of Lake Union, Smith Tower, and drinks with a local friend. The following day, we headed for the largest US state as we boarded our ship.

Upon immediate exploration, we decided to make the most of our time at sea and filled up our days at sea with activities galore: TRX classes at the gym, treatments at the spa, bingo, shopping classes, card games (literally 15+ hours of Spite and Malice at the boat’s wine bar), and enjoying the ship’s big band music. Some things we learned about Alaskan cruising Princess-style: “all-inclusive” barely covers anything, never do the set dining (dull table mates), pack for warmth with layers, and always buy the full bottle of bubbles/make friends with the bartender. We loved the relaxation that we found away from it all, though, and we achieved Princess’ mantra of “escape completely.”

We hit Juneau on a drizzly Monday morning, and we immediately took off through the downtown area towards the state capitol. Upon arrival, a kind volunteer gave us a wonderful tour–did you know that Alaska has the only state seal with a seal on it?–and shared some wonderful stories about Elizabeth Peratrovich, one of the first civil rights activists. Shopping and a whale watching excursion completed our time in the capitol city.

Next stop was Skagway, which was a little town rich with gold rush history. We opted to go on an close-by adventure to a musher’s camp (picture: Alaskan sled dogs made famous by the Iditarod) to experience nature and cuddle the baby huskies. This was especially well-worth the trip when we came across a bear less than 30 feet away. Rar! We also stopped in the famous Red Onion Saloon–a former brothel!–and enjoyed the scandalous tour. The next day, the cruise ship sailed around Glacier Bay, and we happily shelled out more money to sit in the adults-only Sanctuary and watch the beautiful glaciers calving (breaking apart and falling into the water with a loud clap, which the Tlingits called “white thunder.”)

Our favorite stop was in Ketchikan, where we decided to forgo the tourist stops and do Stray Boots‘ art walk scavenger hunt. We saw wonderful galleries, watched the seals play near Creek Street, and discovered the best bar in town: the Arctic Bar, home of the lovely Paula and the best Bloody Mary in Alaska. My friend and I enjoyed going off the beaten path (read: away from fellow cruisers) before getting back on board and cruising onward to Victoria, BC. Having journeyed to beautiful Victoria before, we spent some time people-watching near the harbor during our quick stop in Canada before heading back to the Golden Princess for one final round of Spite and Malice.

 

Des Moines: French for The Moines

For our second annual Mom/Daughter Eating/Drinking/Touring Extravaganza, my mother and I visited Iowa and Nebraska this weekend. Friends and acquaintances asked why we’d make a specific trip to visit what is known as the “flyover states,” yet I am glad we did–Des Moines is quite a cosmopolitan treasure to explore! We arrived on a Friday morning, and after some navigation of the downtown area’s easily explorable streets, we hit the gorgeous state capitol building.

Iowa was my 36th state capitol to visit, and it was well-worth the trip: a beautiful 23 karat gold dome, a collection of miniature inaugural gowns of Iowa’s first ladies, and an incredibly gorgeous law library. If I lived in Des Moines, I’d try to figure out a way to have my wedding in the library–from stunning spiral staircases to rows and rows of books, it’s no wonder that international dignitaries and politicos regularly visit.

We enjoyed bloody mary drinks and lunch at a local spot before heading back out for a visit to the Center Street Pedestrian Bridge and the Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens. Free to the public, this was a nice way to burn off lunch…another of which being some light shopping on Locust Street. My favorite store was RAYGUN, which sold wonderful Midwestern-themed graphic products, including wares with this week’s blog headline “Des Moines: French for The Moines” emblazoned across them.

We drove by the well-known Salisbury House and walked through the Pappajohn Sculpture Park–worth a stop. Our evening was spent relaxing at our hotel’s evening reception (a perk to staying at the Embassy Suites) before heading to a delish prix-fixe meal at Lucca, both ideally located on Locust Street, with a beautiful night view of the capitol. We were in town during Iowa’s Capitol City Pride Fest 2014, as well as during an evening concert on the river, so our night ended with a glorious fireworks display. With or without the pyrotechnics, we found Des Moines to be charming!