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TND – Absconding to Portland

September 16, 2014

portland

This summer was bookend by seeing California friends in places that were not California.  In May* one Bay Area friend tacked a trip to Boston/Nantucket onto a conference in Toronto.  We took her on a tour of all our favorite bakeries in Boston – which is to say Sofra and Flour – and then stuffed her full of food at Dinner.

* okay, it wasn’t even remotely summer in May this year, but for the sake of a neat framing device we’re going to call it proto-summer.

Then in the last week of August I got up at an absurd hour on a Tuesday morning to catch a flight to Portland, OR to cash in on Jes’s impulsive suggestion that I join them for their summer vacation.  

The weather while we were there was spectacular – Portland’s reputation for rain apparently doesn’t apply between the 4th of July and Labor Day – although the last day I was there we did get rained on, so between that and stopping in Powell’s Books to buy a birthday present I felt like I’d had a fully rounded Portland experience.

powells

I was there for about four and a half days and did my level best to sample as many of Portland’s culinary delights as possible given the time frame.  I managed to eat and drink my way through the menus at:

Broder (Swedish brunch)
Pok Pok (James Beard award winning Indonesian street food – I went twice, it was that good)
Bollywood Theater (Indian street food)
Nuestra Cocina (Latin American/Mexican bistro)
Clyde Common for Happy Hour
Plus, gorging on (the ridiculously cheap) berries from a variety of famer’s markets, and lunches from the plethora of food carts that seem to lurk on every corner.

In between all the eating, socializing*, and lazing around reading, we managed to partake of Portland’s tourist attractions.

* and sometimes combining the socializing and eating as when I met my cousin who had literally just moved back to Portland for dinner the first night I was there.

food & drink

After brunch at Broder the first day we took ourselves off to the International Rose Test Garden.  And, let me clarify here, when I first looked at the words Rose Test Garden I envisioned something like a formal English garden with (a few) beds of neatly tended roses.  The Rose Test Garden does indeed have beds of neatly tended roses, separated by long grassy alleys.  Where it is nothing like what I imagined is in the sheer size and scale of the garden.  It is acres of roses in every shape, size, color, and scent you can imagine (and some you can’t – a lot of the roses looked and smelled nothing like a traditional rose).  It is gorgeous, overwhelming, and heady with the scent of roses.  Needless to say, I took many many pictures .

roses

We also strolled around the Japanese Garden, which is serene and contemplative.  I am starting to wonder if I’m doomed to grey skies when I visit Japanese Gardens.  When I went in San Francisco it was damp and overcast.  When we went in Portland it was also damp and overcast.  Still lovely to wander around.

japanese garden

I dragged everyone up to the Pittock Mansion in my ongoing quest to visit a historic house in every city I go to.  It was lovely.  It’s a little later than the Newport Mansions – early 1900s rather than late 1800s), and it’s smaller and more comfortable.  The Newport Mansions always feel slightly offputtingly grand, it’s hard to imagine anyone living there or children playing on the lawns.  The Pittock Mansion feels like a house where people lived, where people sat and gossiped in the music room, and chased kids down the lawn.

pittock

We also spent a lot of time just wandering around a variety of Portland neighborhoods – the Pearl Arts District, along the waterfront, through a number of residential areas. Downtown Portland is still very industrial, and wears it with pride.  There’s a lot of street art on display – from murals on the sides of buildings, to sculptures in parks, to doors that look like the entrance to a fairy kingdom.  We have a friend who is a graphic designer, and I worried that if we let her roam around Portland we’d never be able to pry her lose again.

downtown portland

Where the downtown area still maintains the feel of the city’s industrial roots, the residential neighborhoods are dominated by Craftsman style houses all of which I coveted.

arts & crafts

All in all it was a lovely vacation in a part of the country I’d never been to before, and made even lovelier by the chance to spend time with Jes and her family.  I also managed to overlap by one day with my cousin who just moved back to Portland, and had dinner with her the first night I was there.

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