Monday, July 21, 2014

Lighthouse Party of Six

This weekend we fulfilled a bucket list item: staying at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse off of Highway 1 in Pescadero, CA.  The hostel is a steal, offering a secluded getaway with stunning ocean views, a relaxed ambiance, and a private hot tub on the cliff for pennies quarters on the dollar.  Since it's a hostel, everyone is extremely friendly (some people a little too much so! #lighthouseofpartyof8?) and our favorite new friend was Michael, the unhurried, all-smiles man at the front desk who gets to live there all the time.

Our group was made up of six girls, including Brittany, Melissa, Gio, and Gio's two roommates, Hannah and Marie, who are childhood friends from Wisconsin.  It was such a great group of girls, and we're already planning what our next five weekend getaways together could be.

As I said, the views were spectacular, and we got particularly lucky with the weather, as it was the clearest of weekends.  

(Photo credit: Giovanna)

Downtown Pescadero, a 10-minute drive from the lighthouse, was a quaint whistle-stop filled with surprises.  At Duarte's Tavern, which was founded in 1894, we enjoyed their famous artichoke soup and ollallieberry pie.  At Pescadero Country Store, we relaxed in the sun as we scarfed down delicious sandwiches and played with dogs.  This little town had it all: cute shops amidst old barns and secret gardens; wine tastings with cute assistant vintners named Luke; groceries with warm artichoke garlic bread.  As Melissa said, we were pretty much eating or laughing or both the entire weekend, and it was great.

Nearby, we visited Harley Farms Goat Dairy, whose restored barn was originally built by Azorean men!  A surprise baby goat had been born two weeks earlier, and we got to ooh and ahh over him for awhile.  He seems to spend much of his day trying to climb into this trough (a trend we noticed among goats).

The lower level of the barn is their cheese shop, where they sell anything you can imagine related to goats, and then some.  Highlights were these artistic cheeses, especially the one second from the left entitled "Van Goat", and their spectacular habanero jelly that's not to be missed!

On the upper level, they were setting up for a lovely farm wedding reception that evening.  This wildflower bouquet was probably taller than me (I can't tell you the number of delightful wildflowers we saw over the weekend).  Harley would be a fantastic venue for a magical 20-person dinner party.

A little farther south from the lighthouse, we had Sunday brunch at Highway 1 Brewery (I finally ate chicken & waffles) and then we went to Pie Ranch for...more pie, and...more goats.  

Despite all these jaunts, the majority of our time was spent taking advantage of the hostel.  Late in the evenings, we were huddled in our tiny room, playing games, having our tarot cards ready by Melissa ("Hope on top of joy"; "Cups on cups on cups"), eating pie, and trying not to sweat.

The best meal we had the whole trip was one we assembled ourselves from the markets and farms in Pescadero, complete with local berries and tomatoes, goat chèvre and feta from the farm, freshly made guacamole, lemon-stuffed olives, salami, and that killer artichoke garlic bread I'm mentioning again because it's just that damn good.  Later that evening Marie built a fire and we made s'mores while Brittany told us a ghost story about the lighthouse ("Light!  Daaaaarkness.  Light!  Daaaaarkness."  "One week and seven days later...") that had some of us spooked, but more often than not we were in stitches of laughter.

And finally, the crowning glory of the hostel: the cliff-top hot tub.  We took a dip both evenings, but by the second we were seasoned professionals, being sure to reserve the time slot during sunset, which was jaw-dropping.  Drinking blackberry wine prosecco and listening to our special playlist, with feet in the tub and this view?  It was heaven.

(Photo credit: Brittany)

Brittany: "I don't want to say 'goodbye' to the lighthouse."
Melissa: "It's not 'goodbye', it's 'see you later!'"  

The level of corniness demonstrates just how attached we were to our special weekend at Pigeon Point.  We will definitely be returning customers!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Portland: Food, Flowers, and Folk

At the beginning of June, I got to go to Portland with work for a snack fair.  Yes, a snack fair!  The convention center was filled with stalls featuring different vendors' snacks and drinks, and we walked around sampling to explore new options for Box.  It was hard work.  Best stalls: anything with ice cream.  Worst stalls: anything with organic, natural, gluten-free, energizing bars (hint: this was all bars).

Our hosts even took us to Portland City Grill for a fancy dinner, complete with sushi, steaks, and fine wine.  They successfully wooed us.

On Friday, Brittany flew up to join me so we could spend the rest of the weekend exploring Portland.  We stayed at an Airbnb in the Northwest, and our whole weekend ended up revolving around three things: food, flowers, and folk.  

We started with the most obligatory tourist stop: Voodoo Doughnut.  Covered in kitchy, colorful decor, this place has every kind of wacky doughnut creation you could imagine.  Our two most interesting orders were the one with Cap'n Crunch toppings, and the chocolate voodoo doll, complete with a pretzel stabbed in his side.

We basically restaurant-hopped the whole trip, one night even getting a pasta app at Grassa before moving on to tapas at Tasty N Alder.  We joked that for a successful restaurant/bar/boutique in Portland it needed only be named "______ &/And/N _______".  Another restaurant we were eager to try was Pok Pok, an authentic-meets-inventive Thai place covered in twinkle lights and fish sauce.  The most interesting thing about the place was that they also own the bar across the street so that while you're waiting, you can have a drink and an app, and then your waitress at the bar will let you know when your table is ready at Pok Pok.  Amazing way to capitalize on wait times!

For Sunday brunch, we walked a couple blocks from our place to Besaw's, an adorable cafe I could've moved into, that had killer delicious food, plus views of dogs and babies.

After food, our visit was dominated by gardens and flowers.  We visited the Chinese Gardens, the Japanese Gardens, and the Rose Garden in Washington Park.  My favorite was surprisingly the Chinese Gardens, which was condensed into a single city block, provided a beautiful pamphlet describing all the elements of the gardens, and had a lovely little tea house for us to enjoy.

City of Roses indeed!  We saw them everywhere we went, and more than I could imagine at the Rose Gardens.  The flowers were incredibly fragrant, and the names of the roses were so unique, often sounding more like ice cream flavors.

One of our favorite nights was spent in the SE part of the city, and after dinner we headed to Landmark Saloon, which had a great folk/blues/Americana band playing, and lots of people swing dancing.  We enjoyed our sweet tea vodkas in between being asked to dance by the locals.  It was such fun, and we commented on the fact that in San Juan we salsa danced, in North Carolina we square danced, and in Portland we tried our foot at swing.  So many travels, so many kinds of dancing.  What's next?!

Finally, the quintessential "Keep Portland Weird" photo, with supplementary evidence.