Lifestyle Local Culture Travel

West is Best by Sam Lichtenstein

Last summer, I went on an epic road trip down the west coast and through Arizona with two of my best friends, and as soon as it ended, I knew I had to go back to the West this summer.  The day after my summer camp counselor job ended, I was on a 5 AM flight (because yes, I hate myself) to Portland, Oregon.

 

At this point, Portland is synonymous with Williamsburg: hipster mecca.  As a blue-haired, pierced, and tattooed art school student, you can probably figure out why this doesn’t bother me very much.  Portland is home to amazing coffee (Stumptown Coffee Roasters was founded in Portland in 1999 and makes a mean cold brew), amazing food (looking at you, Blue Star Doughnuts), and some great nature (the Rose Garden is a must see).  It is the perfect place to visit if you want a big city that’s got less traffic than LA and is less anxiety-inducing than New York.  While there, I stayed with one of my best friends who attends Lewis and Clark College, a university just outside of the city.  It’s so easy to get around with or without a car, as Portland’s public transportation system is superb.  My favorite spot in the city is the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Square Park.  The 4.5 acre garden was opened in 1917 and houses over 7,000 rose plants of approximately 550 varieties.  As you make your way through, Portland’s nickname of “City of Roses” will definitely make sense.  If you’re looking for an afternoon pick-me-up, grab a lavender matcha latte at Tea Bar, a posh, minimally designed tea shop with two Portland locations to check out.  If you’re looking for a bite to eat, Pine State Biscuits is an absolute must.  Three Southern boys who wanted to bring buttery biscuits, next-level sausage, gravy, and juicy fried chicken to the Pacific Northwest launched Pine State in 2006.  I’m from the south, and my meals here were better than anything I’ve ever had south of the Mason Dixon.

 

After four days in Portland, up next was San Francisco.  I flew down and met up with my mom, who flew in from Florida to join me for the second leg of my west coast trip.  My favorite part of my time was actually spent in Alameda, a town near Oakland across the bay. After an artist friend of my mom’s picked us up from the ferry, we made our way over to what used to be a naval air station, and is now home to St. George Spirits and Faction Brewery.  St. George moved to the 65,000 square foot airplane hangar in 2004, and in 2007, produced the first commercially available American Absinthe, St. George Absinthe Verte.  The distillery offers tastings and tours, and I highly recommend the tasting.  We were able to sample vodkas, gins, brandies, liqueurs, and their very own absinthe.  The spiced pear liqueur is reminiscent of a Thanksgiving apple pie, and the NOLA coffee liqueur, made with cold brew coffee and chicory, is the perfect choice for caffeine fiends like myself.  We couldn’t leave San Francisco without seeing some amazing murals, so we checked out Clarion Alley in the Mission District.  Since 1992, the Clarion Alley Murals Project has brought colorful, and sometimes political, paintings that are sure to impress.  

 

With only a few more days left of the trip, we stopped in Santa Cruz, a city neither my mom nor I had visited before.  We checked out the Boardwalk and ate yummy seafood, then made our way over to Natural Bridges State Beach, a California state park with a million-year old mudstone arch.  The beach only has one arch left, as the other two fell years ago due to erosion and storms.  One of my favorite things about California is its parks, so I was so disappointed when the Big Sur area was closed due to the Soberanes fire.  We didn’t let that kill our vibe, though; our detour took us through scenic mountains in the Los Padres National Forest on the Chumash highway.

Every time I leave California, I find myself wanting to go back.  The beaches, with cliffs and Instagram-worthy rock formations, are way more exciting than the warm, green Gulf of Mexico water that I’ve grown accustomed to.  While I was excited to get back home to Florida (and then back to New York City for school literally a week later), my travels are always on my mind.  There are so many parks I haven’t gotten to see and food I haven’t gotten to taste!  This east coaster is already thinking up her next trip to the best coast, because let’s face it: we always want what we don’t have.

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