PNW Coast – Weekend Roadtrip

Earlier this month Sam and I took the car along the PNW coast and saw a few of the many, many spectacular beaches – each only about 2-3 hours away from Portland. The trip left such an impact on us that we’ve been longing to do it again, so we’re hitting the road again this weekend! So before there’s too many memories to recount,  I wanted to take some time and reflect on our coastal trip and jot down some of my favorite moments.

 

Driving through the Country

After work, we drove directly to Newport in the hopes of getting there with some daylight to spare. With an obligatory Taco Bell burrito puddling up hot sauce on my lap, we made our way through windy, country roads with (frustratingly) low speed limits that gave us plenty of time to sightsee. Since every road trip requires lots of time in the car, it’s a bonus when there is always something new and beautiful to see. One thing we didn’t do? Take a picture. Just imagine rolling amber hills, forested cliffs, and a windshield with more than enough dead bugs to make me question my validity as a new Vegan.

 

Catching the Sunset in Newport

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We did manage to get to Newport in time; we parked as close to the beach as we could and walked in the freezing cold coastal winds to enjoy the sun as it set behind the horizon. The majority of the town was asleep by the time we arrived, and was still asleep by the time we left in the morning, but seeing the cute shops in the street helped me imagine a bustling seaside town during peak hours. Maybe this weekend we’ll see that side of it.

 

Finding little Sea Creatures in Smelt Sands

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The next morning we drove about thirty minutes south down the coast to visit Smelt Sands, a really cool beach with tide pools, which, for those of us who have lived 15 years in a desert, are little pools of ocean water that get holed up in the crevices of rocks as the tide changes. Sam and I saw a bunch of crabs and starfish and since I grew up catching little sea critters just like that with my brother, I was incredibly delighted to experience this. Other living things here? Ravens or crows, I can never tell the difference. But they hunt the crabs here and it’s interesting to watch them work their way strategically through a shell.

Exploring Sea Caves in Depoe Bay (and grabbing lunch)

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Probably the highlight of the trip for me was Depoe Bay, where we spotted some caves along the cliffs that were accessible because of the low tide. I don’t keep up with the ocean’s schedule but we arrived around noon so I imagine that’s a good time to come and see these guys for yourself! Getting to them requires some scrambling and clambering but nothing too intense or advanced. (Sam’s Note: & don’t make the fun mistake that we did. You don’t have to scramble over the slippery algae rocks. There is a rope to help you get down towards the South side near the caves!)

Afterwards we grabbed lunch at the Chowder Bowl (the veggie burger was a special so they may not have it all the time) and grabbed some vegan Taffy at Ainslee’s.

 

Enjoying the Views in Neskowin

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There’s a really cool hill/cliff/hump?/chunk of land on the beach in Neskowin. If you make your way up you can sit on branches and enjoy some incredibly peaceful views of the ocean. Another thing to do here is almost die because you lose your footing (SAM) so make sure to be careful when you start the descent. Neskowin seems like the type of place where you find more to do the more you visit, so I’m super excited to head back and do some more thorough exploring. We enjoyed a veggie burrito and a beer at a little shop near the beach as we prepared for our final stop of the day.

 

Sleeping in Oceanside

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*Picture is from Newport but sleeping is all the same, isn’t it?

Oceanside automatically makes me think of Southern California, but the only thing the two cities have in common is that they’re both on the side of an ocean. Oceanside, Oregon is beautifully quiet, and quaint, and we found a good spot to listen to the waves as we got tucked in for the night. Just like Newport, I imagine this small town to be packed with surfers during the day but experiencing the quiet side of it was the perfect way to end the trip.

Our Way Home

On our way home, we stopped in several other small towns and revisited Cannon Beach (which is still my favorite, for now) and made it home with enough time to unwind and prepare for the workweek.

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Sam and I never used to have two consecutive days off together, but now that we do (on occasion) we’ve discovered the absolute magic of weekend traveling. I highly suggest doing this and just bumming it out in your car and pack a ton of PB&J sandwiches to make it cheap, and fun, and easy. On to the next one!

-Zach

 

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Our Experience in Amsterdam & Paris

I don’t remember when it first hit me. Maybe it was when the sun was on my face and I was hearing the splatter of fountain water in the gardens by the Louvre; maybe it hit me watching Sam pick through stones and shells on the beige beaches of Soulac; or maybe it was way earlier than that – sitting at a café by the canals eating poffertjes and drinking dark coffee, Dutch Coffee, feeling inspired and enthused from our visit to the Rijksmuseum. In any case, it hit me like – not like a brick wall, although it was sudden, but more like something pleasant and wonderful. It hit me like tickle, I suppose, when the hairs on your arms stand up and your stomach tingles and your palms prickle. It hit me like that and the notion was that my life is good. You get a feeling like that occasionally, and it is fleeting just like all feelings, but that’s what makes it good. And on a trip like this you keep track of those moments and when you get home you will always be able to remember everything about them. The smell and the sounds. The ambience. The feeling on your skin and inside of your skin. This is why travel is important.

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Looking for shells in Soulac Sur Mer

I also remember the scary moments, and the stressful moments, and those moments will stay with me forever too, and they’re just as important because contrast is the most beautiful thing in the world. But for now let’s focus on the good.

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Ducking under bridges in Amsterdam’s canals

At the beginning of last month, Sam and I flew to Europe. We were going to visit Holland and France with a day in Brussels, Belgium, and maybe swing by Switzerland depending on how long we intended on staying in any given place. We booked nothing, no trains or hostels, with the intent of traveling with as little restriction as possible. Only 2 things were certain; we would see my grandmother in France and meet up with my mother in Holland, and then again in France.

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Our view from the Eiffel Tower

This was Sam’s first time out of the country and my first time out there alone, as an adult, no longer the Dutch child I once was but now more American and far hungrier to explore and to experience life as I’d remembered it and, undoubtedly, romanticized it. Because of this, I didn’t want to plan the trip around family – it was too tame, too familiar, and I wanted adventure – I wanted that backpacking experience that broadens horizons and shakes up your soul.

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Swinging 100 meters above Amsterdam

It was two weeks of figuring our train routes and tram lines and learning about French culture (Dutch culture wasn’t much different) and hunting for wifi and vegetarian food and, above all, beautiful places to take mediocre photos of. That’s the physical aspect of it. Emotionally it was two weeks of challenging ideals and fine-tuning our plans for the future and just talking, endlessly over coffee or tea or beer or wine (always with a drink, I’m saying), endlessly discussing options and laughing at each other, endlessly having time for each other, and occasionally bickering and making up and laughing at each other again. Because that’s the other thing about travel, is finally getting to be with each other 24/7, and you never get that chance at home so you have to indulge in it like a good wine.

And it’s nice to kiss someone you love and then look up and see the Eiffel Tower behind them, you know?

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But after all of that, after the long days of walking and eating and catching last minute trains and all that European adventuring, every night we returned home to a piece of my family. And that’s unique, and bizarre, because I didn’t want that and I would’ve worked hard to avoid that originally, but it ended up becoming a part of the trip I cherished most.

Family reached out to me when they found out we would be in town and worked around their schedule to meet with us. To take care of us and to share a piece of their life, a shard of their culture with us. It was family I hadn’t seen in 10-15 years, yet felt oddly close, comfortingly familiar.
And out of the 2 weeks we were in Europe, we ended up only booking one hotel, a bed and breakfast in Bordeaux, while the rest was spent in the company of Kiefts. It broadened my horizon in different ways – reminding me that there is goodness in company, that going out of your way for someone else can be rewarding and that being alone isn’t always the best way to enjoy things. A difficult pill for a writer to swallow.

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Sam bicycling by my oma’s house

Anyway, the summary of experience is that life was good, is good still, but was really good there and then, and in more moments than I can count but moments that we will write about here.

We’ll share more detailed posts soon, and if you’ve been to Europe you might relate, or maybe tell us what we missed so we might catch it next time we go, and if you haven’t gone maybe this will convince you to go; everyone ought to.

-Zach

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Boston: Our 5 Favorite Food Joints!

Zach and I visited Boston in 2016 for the first time. We traveled by foot everywhere, and followed the crowd to help choose just which food establishments to give a shot! After trying 33 different establishments over our two-week stay, I’ve chosen our top 5. All of which are great in pricing, taste, and ambiance!

#5 PRET A MANGER

Perfect for consumers looking for fresh, healthy, light food options during their stroll through the city. Pret A Manger has freshly made sandwiches, soups, salads, and coffee! The location on State Street goes along side the Freedom Trail, which makes it a perfect rest stop for tourists!

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(We don’t have a photo of the establishment! But if you’re following this trail, you’ll pass Pret A Manger!)

#4 BOLOCO

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The specific location that we loved was located on Boylston & Charles Street; right across from the peaceful & beautiful Public Garden. Boloco specializes in burritos & also has great vegetarian options as well! & check out the Public Garden after you eat at Boloco!

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(Public Garden)

#3 AU BON PAIN

Au Bon Pain is Boston’s equivalence to Einstein Bagels, but pastry based. They have fridges filled with fresh sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, salads, and beverages. They also have an area where you can order hot breakfast and lunch sandwiches, as well as a huge self-serve pastry case. The one on Boylston St is a great location where you’ll get to see locals walking to work, teens skateboarding, and close to Charles River. Just take Boylston St down to Charles St, make a left on Charles, and up to Boston’s Public Dock on the Esplanade.

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(We also don’t have a photo of Au Bon Pain! But This is the Public Dock on the Esplanade. Gorgeous right!)

#2 GLOBE

While we were staying in Boston, we couldn’t resist going to a Red Sox game! Game night we felt like finding a cool bar establishment to grab some wings and beers prior. While walking down Boylston St, we found Globe. They’re a tiny restaurant with fabulous food and reasonable prices. But they have great seating that just can’t be beat! You can either sit inside to escape the heat, or they have outside seating that’s close to Boston’s Public Library. A great area to just watch the locals go about their days, and take in the amazing sunset while eating dinner.

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#1 DELUX CAFÉ

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One night when we were walking through the city on our way back to our hostel, we heard loud chattering coming from around the corner that we thought were just residential. However, it was actually coming from this little establishment called Delux Café! It’s one of those hidden treasures that are always busy due to their amazing ambiance, food, and friendly staff! We stayed here one night for over an hour, just talking to one of the bartenders about what it’s like to live in Boston. Definitely check them out!!

-Sam

Zion – Emerald Pools Trail

Zion is one of the most spectacular national parks in North America, and the fact that you can find it tucked between miles of sepia-toned desert creates a contrast that helps you truly appreciate its sweeping vistas and narrow, river-carved canyons.

I’ve been to Zion several times over the last few years in desperate attempts to escape Vegas, and each time the canyon reveals more secrets worth sharing. This time, Sam led the expedition to the Emerald Pools.

The Emerald Pools

There are three parts to the pools: Lower, Middle, and Upper. The hike is very manageable for all ages and capabilities – the lower pools are only a .6 mile hike from the trailhead and the upper pools are an additional mile up.

My favorite by far were the lower Emerald Pools, where the trail leads you under the lip of a canyon and a curtain of water rains alongside you.

Lower Emerald Pools

The Middle Pools run down the edge of a cliff so the park has chained the area off for safety. Still, this small resting spot on the way to the Upper Pools provide some good picture opportunities.

Middle Emerald Pools

The trail ends at the Upper Emerald Pools. This is a perfect picnic hub – a pool of water surrounded by tall cliffs and plenty of flat rocks to sit on. Even when the place gets crowded, there is a satisfying sense of serenity here.

Upper Emerald Lakes

If you’re looking for a good entry-level hike into Zion, the Emerald Pools give you just that: easy enough for any experience level but rewarding enough to ignite that sense of adventure.

Looking for more?

If you’re antsy for more than a 1.5 mile hike, there is a split in the trail that leads you to the Grotto. Although there is no real destination here besides the bus stop, the hike itself leads you along some amazing views of the mountains and is a definite bonus for photographs.

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Once you get to the Grotto, you can also find the trailhead for Angel’s Landing, one of Zion’s toughest hikes but also one of its most rewarding.

-Zach