…And she’s back.June 5, 2009
I walked into work yesterday and was immediately approached by my boss and an older co-worker. “So??”
Both had recommended I go to Portland. Both thought it was my type of city, full of people who have a similar look and way that I do. So, after my four nights in the Rose City, they were eagerly awaiting my judgment.
Vancouver markets itself as a green, sustainable city with efficient transit and an open culture. Portland has got us beat.
We left Saturday morning. The 6 hour drive down was made longer by border waits, so we got into Portland just before 5. Our first hotel, a recently refurbished motel, was in a quiet area of downtown near the University. On the map it looked far, many blocks, from the must-sees I had highlighted. But it really wasn’t. A city block in Portland is considerably smaller than most – generally just big enough for one building. And the buildings are all originals. They have managed to preserve ornate columns and beautiful brickwork of another era. The city has also re-done many of the downtown sidewalks in brick as well. The only concern we were able to come up with… isn’t Portland susceptible to earthquakes? Wouldn’t the city crumble?
Despite being mid-festival, the downtown core was immaculate. Few cigarette butts on the ground, a scattered homeless population who only once asked for money, and then there were the trees.
Large old trees lined the streets city-wide. No matter where we went, the city looked green. Despite coming from a green city (self-proclaimed or not), I was still impressed.
From the first stop at Ivar’s in Tacoma, through the entire trip, people were so friendly. I know Canadians are supposed to be a nice bunch, but the people of the Pacific Northwest deserve just as good of a rep. So nice.
The first night, we took to the streets. (That’s essentially what we did everyday, but I digress.)
We had drinks at a couple places, even pulling out some board games at one great place called Bailey’s Taproom. Beer prices across the city are reasonable and without any extra taxes, makes for an affordable night out. When I told a friend how much we spent there, his reaction was, “You got a deal. That has to be wrong.” But that’s just because we are used to a 4.75 pint ending up 6.50 after taxes and all that jazz. (BTW, I was unbeaten at Battleship and handily took him down in our games of Connect Four as well.)
We also stumbled upon an evening parade. We didn’t stick around to watch much of it, except a legion of awesome nerds dressed in full Star Wars gear. To get a feel for it, you’ll have to check out the rest of my trip pics.
The next three days were spent wandering, eating, drinking, shopping and soaking in the Portland experience. Most days were only loosely planned and consisted of walking for hours in the 30 degree heat. By late afternoon we were usually bagged and opted for some hotel time rather than the ridiculous happy hour specials.
We did a few of the must-sees – the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Powell’s Books, and the Saturday Market (albeit on a Sunday). We also found some great spots en route – The Living Room Theatres, the city’s public spaces, a lovely shoe store on Hawthorne that caused our one minimal fight of the trip, and the craziest electronics store I’ve ever visited.
We stayed two nights at the Modera Hotel, followed by two at the Hotel Lucia. The Modera was lovely, with an open courtyard and artistic fire pits. The room was great and the staff helpful… but the Lucia was even a step up. Right in the heart of downtown, our 8th floor suite overlooked an amazing bank building and the streets below. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t take any pictures of the two suites – but we made a mess of them the moment our bags exploded in the room.
The last night, after enjoying a happy hour meal, my drunk friend and I retired early to our suite. We turned on some Star Trek TNG and ate amazing American junk food in bed. While we didn’t explore much of Portland’s nightlife, I got the feeling the pub culture we enjoyed was exactly how many spend their evenings. My only regret was not eating from the myriad of food carts that line Portland streets – offering everything from Egyptian to Russian food, with many a Mexican cart in between. It just seemed like everytime we stumbled upon one, it was moments after a meal.
I loved Portland. In an ideal world, I could see myself living there. But unless there’s an American husband on my horizon, I’ll just have to visit again sometime – hopefully we can get this high speed train running soon, Gregor.
Our drive back took us to Astoria, Oregon – the Northern-most part of the state, right along the coast. With my driver requesting fast food for dinner, lunch was my choice. So, to a sea-side seafood restaurant we went. The lack of patrons was disconcerting, as was the terrible service, but my god it’s nice to have half a crab once and a while.
We traveled across the longest bridge I’ve ever seen, where the end just disappears into the fog. It took over 5 minutes from end to end, with half of it elevated high into the sky and the other part, just feet above the water. Luckily, our fears of a tsunami were not realized.
(Edit: Having read the wikipedia page, I can tell you it’s the longest continuous truss bridge in North America, 2nd longest in the world.)
We took a route along part of the southern Washington coast, travelling up to Aberdeen, a town best known for producing Kurt Cobain (and where he met Krist Novoselic). It was a sad looking place that didn’t even merit us getting out of the car. Needless to say, I now know why Cobain was so depressed.
Then, up through Olympia and back on the I-5 through 34 degree weather. Usually we opted for rolled down windows instead of air conditioning – must to my hair’s chagrin. One stop left – Jack in the Box. I’m proud to say my final meal in the U.S. consisted of mozzarella sticks and curly fries.
Despite my anxieties pre-post-and-during, it was a successful trip. I would do it again in a heartbeat.