10 reasons this Portland newbie loves this town

by Shannon Ables
Portland writer
The Simply Luxurious Life.

Portland, Oregon, can be described in a handful of ways depending upon your predilections for weather, ideology and geographic inclination. As someone who has lived in Portland before and visited it regularly throughout my life, I have come to appreciate it as one might appreciate any place: with an understanding that no place is a utopia, but depending upon what you enjoy, value and need to thrive, it has the potential to be the perfect utopia for certain people.


Portland is such a place for me.


As I have begun to settle into my flat in the Pearl District – a district that is revived, European-esque with its focus on walk ability and bike-friendly streets, eco-friendly urban spaces and very much a dog owner’s sanctuary – I would like to show you where my first few weeks have taken me and what I have discovered.


If you follow @thesimplyluxuriouslife on Instagram, you may have already been following my journey, but today I will provide even more commentary and pictures as I share glimpses of the Portland that I love and am falling in love with.


1. The Benefits of Oodles of Rain


While the rain can be a deterrent for those who adore the sun, I will admit freely that rain has always been an attraction to me. The serenity it creates, the growth it inspires and the fresh scent that is immediately provoked are all fruits from the plentiful showers.


Walking around the west side, I came across many lush outdoor areas and blossoming trees that I couldn’t help but snap a photo of. Have a look:


~Inspiration for spring wardrobe color options. Pops of color that make a fresh, beautiful statement.~


~A block in the Pearl of neighbor’s front steps.~


~A blossoming tulip magnolia tree. My favorite.~


~A reminder of the gift of spring and renewal. I could have gazed at this tree for hours. (found in the Nob Hill district while walking to breakfast at Saint Honore~


2. The Willamette River Waterfront and Japanese Cherry Blossoms


Similar to the annual blossoming of Washington D.C. cherry trees, Portland’s waterfront along the Willamette River includes a brief stretch of Japanese cherry trees. Fortunately, I happened to be Portland during the last week of March to witness them in full bloom.


Needless to say on this particularly beautiful early-spring day, everyone was trying to capture their brilliant-blush beauty.


~Taken from the Steel Bridge with downtown Portland in the background.~


  ~A hot item to capture by all professional (them) and amateur (me) photogs.~


3. Access to Local Produce


Portland has become well known for its fantastic foodie scene, access to local produce from Oregon and Washington farmers, living nearby the famed Oregon Pinot Noir vineyards as well as satiating breweries. Consequently, I was excited to learn about the Pearl District recently welcoming a food market that focuses on offering customers direct access to them all.


Opening just this past January, Local Choice Market is located on the corner of NW 9th and Everett, and having already frequented it a handful of times in two weeks, I have found my new favorite go-to for in-season, local produce (specifically marked so you know where your food was harvested), fantastic cheese selection and organic dairy options as well as wine labels I recognize and love from both Oregon and the Walla Walla Valley.


 ~Bike cyclists get front VIP parking!~



4. Don’t Forget Whole Foods!


It would be remiss of me to ignore the fact that I love having Whole Foods just a few blocks away. While for basic necessities, it may not be the best price option, however, for quality options that bring that extra flavor, it has those rare ingredients that a typical grocery store may not have. For example, my mother was looking for white truffle salt, and Whole Foods has an entire area designated to salts I had never heard of but now am curious to try.


   ~At Whole Foods, the produce is always beautifully styled. I could just stroll around in the store for inspiration, purchase nothing and walk out with my creativity brimming with ideas.~


5. Sammy’s Flowers


For years I have picked up flowers from Sammy’s Flowers and driven them home three hours to Pendleton to buoy my mood for the upcoming work week. In fact they were my centerpiece for my Kitchen Facelift post earlier this year (click here). So having one of their locations just a block away from my new flat is akin to a cherry on top of an area I already adore.


~Fresh white hydrangeas ready to be adopted by a customer at Sammy’s. I’ll always stop for hydrangeas as there is something quite regal, elegant, yet rustic about them.


~French tulips from Sammy’s that were calling my name and served as the perfect inaugural bouquet in my flat this weekend.~


6. A Love of Cooking


Over the weekend I enrolled in one of the many cooking classes offered by Sur la Table. Focusing on learning the tricks and techniques for Parisian Boulangerie favorites, baker Emelia Hall taught us how to make croissants, chocolate éclairs, sweet or savory palmiers, quick puff pastry and pâte à choux (the dough for éclairs, cream puff and gourgeres). Needless to say, I walked away more than satiated and with dessert for that evening and a sweet treat for the next morning.


With hands-on instruction, the experience was full of information. And while I’ve always loved to cook and bake, the most important lesson I walked away with is that quality ingredients are paramount, more is not better (ingredients, servings) and simple quality utensils save stress, time and assist in creating the end result you want.


 ~Sur la Table in the Pearl District located on NW Couch and 11th.~


~The cooking classroom, prepped and ready.~


 ~Baker Emelia Hall slicing the dough for sweet palmiers.~



~The finished sweet palmiers that changed my understanding of what they are supposed to taste like. Palmiers, like all freshly baked treats, need to be enjoyed within one or two days of being baked. The buttery, flaky taste is mouth-watering. I am now looking forward to an excuse to bake savory palmiers which would be filled with either prosciutto, parmesan cheese or honey mustard.~


~I couldn’t help but peruse the store. I believe I’ve stopped in a couple of times these past few weeks to purchase just a few of the finishing touches my kitchen needs while taking advantage of their cookware sale. In this image are the white dishes I purchased in January. Classic white that pair well with nearly any decor.~


7. The Food Cart Craze


I have only just begun to taste test all of the many food carts that Portland has available (click here for information about all of Portland’s Food Carts). My first taste of this foodie extravaganza was PBJ’s Grilled gourmet sandwich food cart located on NW 23rd street.  Creating the most amazing sandwiches, it uses ingredients you might not otherwise would have thought to pair together (such as bacon, duck, feta, etc).



8. The Alliance Française of Portland


The eighth largest Alliance Française in the country, Portland’s organization offers year-round French language classes and events such as book readings, wine tastings and conversation gatherings. I recently became a member as a way to meet others with the same Francophile appreciations, and my first event was to attend a book reading and signing by best-selling author Cara Black. Her recent book Murder Below Montparnasse is part of her Aimee Leduc detective series which are all based in Paris. What a treat it was, and to hear occasional French terms dropped in the middle of casual English conversations – very nostalgic and motivating at the same time.


~Cara Black’s book reading took place at the Northwest Neighborhood Cultural Center in NW Portland.~


9. Beautiful Treasures to be Discovered


One of the many things I am looking forward to is simply exploring and poking my head into all of the many clothing boutiques, decor shops and art galleries. And it just so happened while looking for linens at French Quarter Linens located on NW 11th between Glisan and Hoyt, that I discovered these unique white cylinder vases (below). While I didn’t purchase them, they were drastically reduced in price and would look lovely as a statement piece on a coffee table creating a beautiful vignette.



10. Turning My Flat Into a Sanctuary


For the first week, my sole piece of furniture was a bed. My dogs couldn’t for the life of them understand how such a living arrangement would work. Finally, I acquired a sofa, a small bistro table for dining and work, the necessities to create a savory or sweet meal and a tea kettle. And while the space may seem sparsely decorated to some, I must admit, I am loving living in a small space with fewer items to need (and my dogs are content now that they have a place to take a nap).


Here are a few images from my flat:


~The view from the flat – the Willamette river and one of the many bridges.~



~The best purchase I almost didn’t make. As a substitute for having a coffee table (no room!), this acrylic “C” table from CB2 is perfect for holding a wine glass, my tea, my computer or rolling over to my bed for my reading glasses upon falling asleep. (other details: rug, sofa with chaise) ~ 



~Breakfast with a view. Living in a small space is more than doable, and often preferred. One thing to try to incorporate into your decision is choosing a place with lots of natural light, as it makes the space feel larger than it actually is.~



~Time to cook. Enjoying one of my favorite appetizers (click here for the recipe) and rose wines from Walla Walla Valley, an evening in doesn’t get any better than this.~


I do hope you enjoyed my first tour of Portland. Many more discoveries await, and I look forward to sharing them with you. Until tomorrow morning, au revoir!

All images were captured by The Simply Luxurious Life

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