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Adventures in Portland and Seattle & What Is Home?

Another Tuesday, another opportunity to test my willpower and see how self-motivated I can really be on my day off. As the existence of this blog post suggests, I am taking the time to be productive in a way that at least enjoy by writing instead of memorizing my oral French presentation or studying for my upcoming midterm. This is my first week back at school after reading break and I’m finding it quite bittersweet, which is actually a positive thing since going back to mundane everyday life after a break tends to be mostly bitter. Especially since my reading break was spent road tripping to Portland and Seattle with a perfect little costal pitstop at Cannon Beach. It was my first time in Portland and my second time in Seattle, although it felt brand new since the first time I went I was maybe 14 and was a moody, bitter, angry-at-the-world teenager making my parents’ trip twenty times less enjoyable than it could have been (sorry mom and dad). Funnily enough (maybe only funny for me), our first day in Seattle this time around was a rainy and windy nightmare that fell upon us just as my time of the month was falling upon me, so I was maybe just as moody, bitter, and angry-at-the-world as I was the first time I visited Seattle. After failing to find anything that I really wanted to eat at Pike Place Market (and my world revolves around food so this was very not good), I insisted that the only thing that could make me happy was coffee and proceeded to drag Michael around to find the perfect spot, and I was not about to settle. I kid you not, this was like a Goldie Locks mission, except worse because we didn’t get it right on the third try. No, not even close; we walked into maybe six or seven coffee shops that I immediately rejected because “there wasn’t anywhere to sit” (I really wanted to escape the rain and sit in a cozy cafe with a warm drink TO STAY, please) or “it smells weird in here” or “I just don’t like the vibe”. Yes, it was that dramatic. Or I guess I should say was that dramatic since was the problem. I blame my period, obviously. And the weather, duh. I’m usually always a dream to be around; an easygoing, fun-loving ray of sunshine, so they say… Oh, and it didn’t help that in Seattle, the home of everyone’s favourite coffee shop chain, there was a damn Starbucks on every single corner and it was absolutely essential that I had a unique, one-of-a-kind cafe experience! No, I am not needy or difficult. How dare you.

Although it took half an hour of walking and countless coffee shop rejections before finally stumbling upon the right place, the end result was truly worth it. Even Michael agreed! For one, my dirty chai was the most delicious drink I have ever ordered, and for two, the seating inside was plentiful and Michael snagged us a cozy spot up in the loft where people-watching was at its prime. In his understanding and kind nature (which maybe he puts on a little extra when I’m on my period because men really don’t know if it actually affects us or not and that is a gender difference that I always use to my advantage), he genuinely affirmed that it was worth the expedition since the Cherry Street Coffee Shop was by far the best cafe we had stumbled upon and my stubborn refusal to settle for anything less was, in fact, for the best. And no, he wasn’t just saying that in the hopes of making the angry whiny child in me crawl back into her cupboard until next month. Maybe a little, but probably not. I’m telling you, we really hit the coffee shop jackpot here. All thanks to me, of course!

Anyway, that was not where I intended to begin this post as I wanted to present our trip in a slightly more organized and chronological order, but it is what it is. Our first destination was Portland where we stayed in an adorable Airbnb right near Hawthorne, a lively and hip district in the southeast quadrant of the city. I must say almost every house in that neighbourhood was my dream home: a craftsman style bungalow with a few quirks and a cute porch dotted tastefully with fairy lights. Our first night was spent at the Justin Timberlake concert, which was amazing and the first concert I have been to in years. The tickets were my birthday gift to Michael, and I started to worry that I enjoyed the show more than he did and would therefore be a terrible and selfish girlfriend. He assured me that he enjoyed it just as much, so turns out I’m actually a fantastic girlfriend that gives amazing gifts! Who knew!

It is important to note that this trip was planned primarily around food since vegan options are abundant in the states, especially in the bigger cities that are flooded with creative and vibrant people who know what is up (veganism, of course). So we ate and ate and ate some more, and I sadly came to the realization that it would be impossible to eat at all 15 places on my list in just three days. I regret to inform you that my list remains long with too many restaurants unchecked, which is upsetting but just means I’ll have to return one day for all the vegan goodness I missed. Of all the places we did get to experience, not a single one disappointed. From vegan Israeli to southern comfort to hand-tossed pizza, every bite was as good as I had hoped, if not better. My vegan dreams came to life in Portland and it will forever hold a special place in my heart because of it.

Browsing through Powell’s City of Books was another highlight of our time in Portland. This well-known shop is the largest new and used book store in the whole entire world! I thought I would have to pretend to be excited about it because I’m an English major and want everyone to think I’m a cool, well-read bookworm, but as soon as we got there I was actually thrilled. It was like every book I had ever wanted to read or ever put in my Amazon cart or ever added to the never-ending list of must-reads on my phone were all in one place. We wandered around for a good while and I ended up spending almost a hundred bucks on books, but can you blame me?! It was literally like my Amazon shopping cart manifested itself into real life and was begging me to just click “Confirm Order,” except better because it was all right there in front of me and I could start reading my picks immediately! I’m already halfway through a novel that I forgot was on my list until I saw the last copy sitting on its perch calling my name, and I’m delighted to be in the thick of a good novel again.

We left Portland on Thursday and headed to Cannon Beach for a little stopover before continuing on to Seattle, which is not on the way by any stretch, but I have been dying to see the Oregon coast for years now so it was not an option. As expected, it was a little slice of heaven. The water was so blue I almost thought we were in California, and the waves were crashing with such power they could have swallowed me right up. It was exhilarating. The town of Cannon Beach itself is a dream with the most picturesque beach houses sprinkled along the shore and all throughout the streets. It reminded me of a slightly more tropical Tofino. Safe to say we both loved it and decided it was well worth the detour… That is until said detour led us out in the wrong direction when we hit the road again and found ourselves 45 minutes south of Cannon Beach when we really wanted to be headed north. We had to stop in a charming but desolate beach town where the only place open was a tiny seafood restaurant, if you can call it that. The server kindly offered us directions to get back on track and we were finally on our way. In retrospect, this minor mishap was a blessing in disguise since we got to cruise along the coast and soak in its sublimity for just a little longer. We did not arrive in Seattle quite as early as we had planned, but we made it just after 8 p.m. and did not hesitate to call it a day and go to sleep.

Since you’ve already gotten a little taste of our first day in Seattle, I’ll just provide a quick recap: there was a grumpy girl using her hormonal fluctuations as an excuse for her unwarranted irritability that only dissipated once the perfect coffee shop was found and the perfect dirty chai was acquired. Once I got my attitude in check, we spent the rest of the day walking around, checking out the Space Needle but not paying to go up it, eating good food, and walking some more. Again, I had a list of about 15 more vegan spots I wanted to try in Seattle, and we checked off maybe four of them. Sad, but a girl can only eat so much! We visited the Museum of Pop Culture, which Michael loved and I found to be very fascinating, and explored different areas of the city each day. All of our adventures in Seattle were done by foot to avoid the struggle of finding and paying for downtown parking, which ended up being a great way to get some much-needed exercise in considering the outrageous amount of food that was consumed. By Sunday we were tired, well-fed, and headed back to the homeland.

As I mentioned at the beginning, being back in Victoria is bittersweet. Bitter, for obvious reasons such as school, homework, and not being on vacation and having an excuse to eat whatever I want and not work out at all. But also sweet for reasons I did not anticipate–that feeling of returning to comfort, to safety, to familiarity. This time away gave me a great appreciation for home. I really did love Seattle and Portland and can see why people would want to live in either city, but it’s always reassuring when you return home and are overcome by that wonderful feeling of ‘ah, this is my home. This is where belong.’ It’s also a huge plus that Victoria’s winter is slowly softening into spring, which I think might be my favourite season of them all. The sun is starting to come out every day instead of just a few times a week, and it stays out longer and longer each night. I love the feeling of the days growing longer. It is so hopeful and is a calming reminder that we have almost survived another winter and that the warm summer nights that we so deserve are on the horizon.

All of this really got me thinking about what it means to be home. For the last few months I have been very, very sure that Calgary is where I want to end up when it comes to settling down and being a real adult. But then I return to this island in all its lush glory where the ocean is never more than a few minutes away and I wonder if maybe this is home. But then I think about the mountains and the coziness of being inside during the first snowfall of winter and the peaceful hush that falls over the world when everything is insulated by a fresh coat of snow and my whole family that lives in that corner of the world and I think maybe Calgary is still home. Home is a weird concept and it only seems to become more complicated the older I get and the more places I visit. Maybe home is somewhere I have never even been yet. I mean, if I had it my way, Australia would be home. But that’s quite literally on the other side of the world, too far away from my family, and if I lived there I would be bound to encounter at least a dozen atrocious spiders in my lifetime and that would probably shave a few years off my life from the trauma, so maybe that’s not home at all.

Sometimes I envy people who never really leave their hometowns for a significant amount of time and therefore feel no desire to settle elsewhere. But other times I pity them for not knowing if there is somewhere else in this world that would make them feel the most alive and happy and at peace. In the end, I guess home is a choice. When I first moved to Victoria, I thought it was cute and charming but I had no doubt that I would end up back in Calgary. As time went on I started feeling the opposite and was so in love with the weather and the ocean and the quaintness of the city that I couldn’t imagine going back to a landlocked, bitter cold Calgary. Now when it really matters and graduation is starting to creep up, I am torn. A week ago I would have said without a shadow of doubt that I would end up in Calgary, but send me on one tiny road trip and I come back with a whole new outlook. Especially because the first signs of spring are blossoming here in Victoria while Calgary is still getting hit with temperatures far too deep in the negatives for my liking.

Well, I still have time to figure that out and quite frankly I don’t have the energy to dwell on it right now. Today I feel very happy because the sun is out and seasonal affective disorder is real and my mood is so dependent on the weather it is ridiculous (just another reason for me acting out that rainy cold morning in Seattle- it’s not me, it’s never me, it’s literally anything and everything but me!!! Don’t hold me accountable for my actions I am only 22!!!)

Speaking of being 22, I’m going to be 23 in 18 days. Umm, please no? Help? I am not ready? Who decided I was ready? This is a conversation for another day. Rest assured that I will be back to complain about aging sometime around my next birthday. It just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t. Thank you for listening to today’s ramblings. This one was super long so I’m sorry but also I’m trying to apologize less for everything because I apologize so much that I basically apologize for my whole existence and that isn’t good. But this one was long, so thank you if you’re still here. I might just attach some photos from the trip to make it worth your while, so if you made it this far you get a small reward because who doesn’t love some visuals to go along with a long read?!

Wishing you all sunshine and happiness this week!



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