What Happened After Two Friends Went on a Trip Together: 2016 Edition


What did y’all end up spending?
We know this down to the penny because we tracked all of our expenses in the very advanced financial tracking system, iPhone Notes. We split every single expense (besides the errant coffee, ice cream or gift) and just traded off who paid. So we both took turns looking very generous, or — when Hope got drunk, ordered an ice cream and then wandered off to play pinball while Amy paid—wildly presumptuous.

These are per person:
• Flights $570
•Lodging $507
•Trip Insurance: $60
•Transportation: $148 — includes train from Seattle to Portland
•Food/Drink: $850
•Miscellaneous: $105 + Hope paid $85 for sailboat rental
TOTAL: about $2,240

What was the worst / best thing that happened?

The worst thing was Seattle’s weather. Seattle was not pleased to see us. It was windy and cold and sometimes it rained. But at least I was expecting the rain. I set up an appointment to rent a boat on our first day and called that morning to say, “It’s cancelled, right?” because it was SO windy and they said, “Nah.” I left Amy on the dock and did a test with a worker on the lake that went well enough. But when I picked Amy up to do our adorable two-person sail, it was a disaster. It was so windy (25 knots, people!) and I’m genuinely surprised Amy wasn’t mad at me for the rest of the day. Disastrous. But now “a fun activity gets ruined by wind” is an official theme of our BFF vacations.

view from Pike Place Market, Seattle

The best thing was getting Salted Straw ice cream five times in four days in Portland. Hot damn.

The worst thing was that it was frigid in Seattle, which could be reframed as, “I did not bring a sufficient coat to Seattle.” It was just so windy and cold and WINDY. That put a damper on the first half of our trip that we did a good job tolerating. Also, who knew Seattle was so hilly? (It was so hilly.) Excellent glute workout, but overall not enjoyable. The best thing that happened was PACIFIC NORTHWEST SAMPLE CULTURE. Everywhere we went gave us generous free samples with everything! This included ice cream shops, bars, and even a spice store.

What was the worst / best thing you ate?

After at least half our meals, Amy would ask if it ranked as the best or worst thing. My worst thing was probably a spinach pastry roll at a bar. But I wasn’t feeling 💯 anyway. My best thing was a toss-up between our $100 per person celebratory dinner at Le Pigeon and the $7 breakfast biscuits at Pine State Biscuits. But the biscuits might win by a hair. One day I want to write a Billfold article about all the fancy $100+ prix fixe meals I’ve had around America and the sub $10 meals that were just as good. We got three biscuits for two because Amy gets me. Amy got a bacon and egg and I got an egg and cheese with gravy and we split a biscuit with jam and honey butter and OH BABY, Billfold. I will dream about them in my golden years.

State Park Biscuits for two, Portland

The worst thing for me was, by far, the stale snack mix that Alaska Airlines served us on the plane. While whining about it, I asked Hope if she thought it would be the worst thing we ate all trip and she humored me enough to speculate. I’m glad to report that it was. The second-worst thing was an order of “blue balls” (a note to budding restauranteurs: no) that we got at Rogue Brewery in Portland an hour before getting our tattoos. The BEST thing was the cedar plank trout that we had in our glorious $95 tasting session at Le Pigeon in Portland. Honorable mentions go to the biscuits at Pine State in Portland, the mini donuts at Daily Dozen in Pike Place Market in Seattle, and every single pizza that we got over nine days (more than you’d think). Omgomg and the homemade Pop Tarts that we shared over brunch with our friends Michelle and Matt at Bad Habit Room in Portland. I’m going to dedicate spring 2016 to perfecting my own homemade Pop Tart.

Homemade Poptart at Bad Habit Room, Portland

How were the Airbnbs?

I loved our Airbnbs. We paid a bit more for them than we did in Rio, but we did two so I think when you take away fees it was about the same. But we got so much more this time! Our Airbnb in Ballard in Seattle had murals of animals and gnomes and I’m just now realizing we didn’t take a picture with them. Tragic. It also had a wood stove that I made a fire in most nights and that we sat by while we played Love Letter and ate the Thin Mints our host left us. Both of our beds were in little nooks with curtains and the shower had TWO shower heads. That led to a slightly awkward moment when Amy thought I was so excited by those because I wanted to shower together. No. I just love overly efficient hygiene spouts.

Our Portland Airbnb was half a mile from Salted Straw and had notes on everything (including the ceiling) explaining how to use it. It had a curtain around a bed we shared and a TV we watched HGTV on and a coffee table that Amy broke and repaired and then I broke and repaired. In short, would stay at again. A+.

Our Seattle Airbnb with Amy’s giant garlic clove and book on palm reading purchased from Pike Place.

SO GOOD. And the second one was even better than the first. In Seattle we stayed in an adorable basement studio with gnome paintings on the walls and the world’s friendliest and most accommodating host. She stayed totally out of our hair but came down to show us how to work the wood stove when we asked (crucial). She exclaimed that I looked just like my Airbnb profile picture and I swelled with illogical and inexplicable pride. One night when it was especially frigid, she texted me that she had left a tray outside our door with extra firewood, a magazine, and a bottle of white wine. I’d like to give her a public virtual hug. The best. In Portland, our place was even nicer although our hosts were far weirder. We never met them, and speculated that they might not be real. They left defensive and passive-aggressive notes all over the apartment for their lodgers and each one seemed more absurd than the last. Hope confessed to me after our first night there that she had been kept up by worries that the place was haunted or that they were hiding in the shadows waiting to attack us as we slept. Par for the course. I gave them five stars on Airbnb—80% out of genuine appreciation and 20% out of fear.

Did you end up needing the travel insurance?

No. Thank the heavens. But I have zero regrets about buying it. The peace of mind was worth it at twice the price.

Nope! Still worth it for the peace of mind. As is the point of insurance.

Who spent the most?

I think I actually spent the most! I kept thinking about my “what would you do differently” answer from Rio so I was determined to buy things I wanted. Amy and I split everything but bus tickets on the trip, so I guess I didn’t beat her by buying fancy whiskeys and ice cream because she did the same. But I bought myself a Timbuk2 bag in a store (ask about my bag addiction), the disastrous boat rental, and some gifts. I’m very proud of myself.

Radiator Whiskey, Seattle

Everything was really even. I got a $30 massage that Hope sat out, but I can’t think of anything else we spent differently. Oh. Wait. Hope spent $85 on sailing. We were going to split this cost and then when it wound up being more expensive than planned and after I almost fell out, she offered to pay for the whole thing. After asking twice whether she was sure, I agreed to this arrangement. It was a scary ride.

How did you feel about each others’ spending habits?

I never have problems with Amy’s spending. I know I answered this last time and I’m going to look dumb if there was an issue in Rio…but no, her spending habits, like her disposition, are perfect. Or at least very compatible to mine. I loved that she wanted to find pie regardless of time or price on March 14th. I love that she wanted to take an uber the 0.9 miles to the cat cafe in Seattle. I love that she was OK not getting a full bottle of wine at Le Pigeon.

I felt our spending habits were entirely aligned. Every now and then if something seemed a little expensive, Hope would exclaim, “We’re on vacation!” to make us feel better about spending the money. It worked.

What did you disagree most on?

Amy and I rarely disagree. At the cat cafe, the baristas did a foam art battle and we disagreed on whose was best. Sometimes we briefly disagreed about whether we were walking the right way. Amy was always right.

Meowtropolitan, Seattle

We disagreed about the character of almost every participant and host on every single HGTV show. Every night in Portland we would hang out, eat, and day drink, and then retire to our ghostly abode around 9 p.m. and watch hours of “House Hunters,” “House Hunters U.K.,” “Love It or List It,” “Love It or List It U.K.,” :Property Brothers” … you get the point. One night we really disagreed about a young couple buying a house where the woman (to hear me tell it) was especially mature and ready both for her relationship and their house. Her immature husband listed requirements for their house that out of fear for the future he must have known they’d never find, didn’t seem to support her music career, and had an unflattering haircut to boot. Hope said they seemed happy together. I looked up his Twitter and bitingly read his tweets aloud as proof that he wasn’t so great. All this to say, yeah, we didn’t disagree much.

What did you agree on most?

Timing? We agreed a lot on what time we should leave to meet our friends, make the train, make the flight, etc. Which, yes, is a boring trip detail, but really nice!

What time to go home: 9 p.m. Always. We also agreed that our Portland Airbnb hosts’ signage was out of control. We agreed that the buses were great, that nearly everything we ate was delicious, and that it generally made sense to go to a brewery whenever the mood struck (which was about every day).

What did you spend most of your time doing?

We did walk a lot. But probably eating. I mean, what is there in Portland and Seattle besides eating and drinking? We spent a fair amount of time standing in line for food as well. Amy also let me visit Card Kingdom where I used to order Magic: The Gathering cards from back in high school (sup, ladies/gentlemen?). In fact, I dragged Amy into at least three board game stores. Five if you count bookstores that had board games.

Sampling beer in breweries. Every brewery had a billion beers, super cheap prices (but very expensive merchandise; $50 everywhere for a hoodie! What!), lots of jovial 30-somethings, and babies. So many babies. That was another thing we agreed on: that babies in breweries are adorable.

All the beers. Peddler Brewing, Seattle

What did you splurge on most?

Fooooood. I asked Amy if she wanted to do a tasting menu again this trip and then booked us a reservation at Le Pigeon. We did the seven-course tasting. As a food snot who has done most of Boston’s prix fixe menus I have to say: Highly recommend.

Cedar plank trout at Le Pigeon, Portland

Our meal at Le Pigeon. One time we accidentally splurged on a bus ticket by trying to buy two $2.50 passes with a $10 bill in Seattle and learning the bus drivers can’t give change. Live and learn.

Did you end up getting tattoos?

HAHA YES. I still can believe I decided on a tattoo and got it only a couple weeks later. I can’t believe I have a tattoo at all. Amy I had been texting each other tattoo ideas since last July and none of the several hundred ideas were agreeable to both of us. We played with doing an homage to our weird obsession with Shakespeare in high school and eventually this happened:

We got tattoos! In high school we developed what I’m sure we thought was a charmingly quirky fascination with Shakespeare. A few weeks before we left on our trip Hope texted me that she thought I should get a tattoo of a shake and she should get one of a spear. I loved it, hired Esther Silverman (nee Werdiger, of Hairpin “League of Ordinary Ladies” fame) to draw my milkshake for me, and then in Portland we got INKED. Hope got hers on her calf, I got mine on my rib, we thanked and paid our tattoo artists, and then we hopped off our tables and walked to meet our friends Mose and Mitch for dinner. Then we laughed for the rest of the trip about how funny our tattoos were. Still laughing.

Acrobatic Tattoo Displaying

What was the best part about traveling with your best friend?

Not having to worry she was going to sue me after almost dunking her in Lake Union. Being able to sit on a train together for three hours barely speaking and it not be weird at all. Having someone pack snacks for me for our departing flight without me asking ❤.

It’s just really nice to look around and take in the fact that you’re in some random rented apartment on the opposite coast from where you live, and that you’re with a friend who you’ve known since middle school and you’re laughing just as hard as you did back then. It makes you feel very lucky and very loved.

What did you like most about the destination?

MOST is too hard a question. Here’s a list:
I loved that it was warm enough in Portland to eat outside.
I loved how many breweries there were.
I loved how how many pinball machines there were.
I loved that every bar had a stack of board games.
I loved that Portland had a public transit system you could use with your phone.
I loved that both cities gave out free samples like their lives depended on it.

Full Tilt ice cream, Seattle

The people were very chill. I liked that no one pushed me on the bus in either city and that everyone was so eager to give us free samples (yes, samples earn a second mention). I liked the overall Pacific Northwest attitude. Sometimes I can be the tiniest bit uptight. I should be more like a Pacific Northwesterner. Or, I don’t know. I should be like myself. But it felt good to be there.

What would you do differently?

I would follow my parents’ advice of packing warmer clothes. I’d travel to those cities in a warmer month than March. I really think that’s it though. I had an awesome time.

I guess maybe plan some more intriguing indoor things to do in Seattle in case of bad weather. I say that as though I planned anything; Hope did all the planning on this trip and did a lovely job. I feel like I can’t complain about the agenda because I contributed basically nothing to it. So I guess I would have done some more research about what it would be fun to do. I wouldn’t go sailing. But there was no way to know how that would have gone. Oh! We never made it to the Pie Bar in Seattle. We went to a different pie bar but I wish we had tried both. As regrets go, that does not feel too bad.

Hope Lanphear can’t stop taking pictures of food

Amy Mullen doesn’t regret not moving to Seattle for grad school last summer.

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