By Andrea

Where I go : Portland

When most think of the USA, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vegas immediately pop up. Not many would know of Portland, Oregon, especially if you are a non-American.  Frankly, if not for the fact that I travel frequently to Portland for work, it will probably not be top of my list as a place to visit for a vacation.

Portland is a city that grows on you. As one of my Oregonian friend says, Portland is one of the best hidden secrets of the United States. Indeed. I couldn’t agree more.  It has so much to offer – great food, tax-free shopping and the beautiful outdoors.

Wearing: Summer is the best time of the year in Portland. It can get hot but it is also notorious for its rain – similar to Seattle.  I wear dresses (stockings underneath if it’s a cooler day), leggings and long tops and layering pieces just in case the weather changes. I always carry around a cardigan or pashmina and sunnies (currently over-using my Kate Spades) and a straw hat. Facial sunblock and chapstick are must-haves, especially during summer even on an overcast day and Crabtree & Evelyn hand cream as it gets rather dry.

I bring minimal jewelry when I travel and instead bring pieces that are versatile and can match with various outfits for example, simple danglys, large hoop gold earrings, a long necklace, my favorite Tiffany’s necklace from my boyfriend or a bangle.

Reading: Magazines that I buy from the airport since it’s a lot cheaper, my iPhone for my daily indulgence of updates on Google reader, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and my iPad which has 600 books on it, games and Flipboard.

Watching: Portland is fondly known as the ‘Rose City’ as it is peppered with numerous rose gardens making it a hot spot to visit during summer.  Grab a picnic basket and sit down with friends to people-watch at the Rose Garden. It will be extremely gorgeous with all the roses in full bloom in June.

Eating: It is easy to find good food of all cuisines in Portland. For the best Eggs Benedict, visit Meriwether’s, or if you want a home-styled breakfast place,  Laurelwood has a lovely ambience and serves a good Panini. As for the health-conscious, the Daily Café serves healthier  but delish options on the menu.

If you are craving for “IN-n-OUT”, Five Guys serves a mean burger with one of the best fries in town or for home-styled burgers, drive down to Beaverton and look for Annie’s – owned by a lovely Vietnamese couple and famous for their burgers and milkshakes. Hotel restaurants are not typically known for good food but Red Star is quite an exception. It never disappoints and the lavender honey corn bread is to-die-for.  For a sugar treat before dinner, visit Saint Cupcakes and order the minis – red velvet, chocolate and carrot cake!

At night, swing over to Pizza Italia for traditional Italian grub or if you are dining in a large group, Navarre serves up a good mix of fusion cuisine in tapas style portions.  For a more romantic or fine-dining experience, Aquariva is an excellent place to go out on a date. For the dessert lovers, Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty honey lavender ice cream and salty caramel cream will definitely satisfy or if you fancy cakes, hop over to Papa Haydn’s for a mind-boggling array of cakes, gelatos and the works. Take-aways are recommended as the café is perpetually packed, and the time I was there, there were some people from Seattle that drove down to Portland just to buy desserts from here!

Above all, if dining at restaurants and cafes is not your thing, hunt for a food cart which is one of the biggest current craze.

Toting: I bring my chimp – Pimp (featured above), everywhere I go except when the boyfriend is around. He’s my trusty companion. I am a heavy user of leather bags when I’m in Singapore, but on travels, I prefer to take along my canvas Marc by Marc Jacob tote which is not only lightweight, it packs in a lot of my stuff. As a frequent traveler, I’ve learnt that the best way to travel is with a lightweight semi-hard case like the Samsonite spinner, organize your items using Eagle Creek’s packing folders and cubes. More packing tips here.

Trotting: I swear by ballet flats whenever I travel. It’s light and easy to pack and extremely comfy to run around in.  It’s easy to get around in Portland. Rent a car, hop onto the TriMet, bike your way around , or simply call for a cab 503-227-1212.

Loving: Have I mentioned that Oregon is a tax-free state? That means, TAX-FREE shopping baby! Everything is cheaper here without the taxes. I stock up on toiletries at Target, branded products from Kate Spade, Tiffany’s, Chanel (yes, prices are comparable to Paris) etc. Portland might not be as fashion forward as NYC or San Francisco, but you can easily find things to buy either at the outlet malls at Woodburn or downtown at Pioneer Place or at Bridgeport. Brands to be found – H&M, Forever 21, JCrew, Gap, Bath & Bodyworks, Victoria Secrets’.. you get the drift. NW 23rd Avenue is another favorite shopping avenue of mine for quaint finds and unique local finds – think Haiji Lane.

Odds & Ends: Portland is not the capital city of Oregon (Salem is) but it is the most populous  and is a green city. It is common to sight cycling paths on the roads, pedestrians are king of the road and drivers are polite – they hardly honk and always give way, and a random fact? It is illegal to pump your own gas here!

For those that love nature and are sick of shopping and eating, drive out of Portland to go white water rafting, or have a picnic on the way up to hike up the Multnomah Falls. If you love running like I do, lace up and challenge your legs at Leif Erickson. Alternatively, head over to the Farmer’s Market to pick up some fresh flowers, produce or a potted herb plant.

Where I Sleep: At my buddy’s place or at The Nines.

What I Bring: My Sony Nex-5 for capturing moments, iPhone (absolutely cannot live without this), Goody StayPut hair-ties, Tempurpedic travel pillow, Bose noise-cancellation headphones.

There is so much to share about Portland, that it is impossible to squeeze everything onto one post. Read more on my Portland adventures here.