I said to my friend Catherine before meeting up in Portland for the weekend that my only impressions of the city were of "some brick warehouses next to a river." This is because a lot of my family's trips growing up were spent driving around the Pacific Northwest on routes that often took us to or through Oregon, and all we ever saw of Portland was flying by on the freeway getting a quick glimpse of those brick warehouses along the river en route to the woods somewhere.
I was right, of course. Driving on the freeway heading to dinner on the first note, I pointed out all those brick warehouses with excitement. My childhood impressions had not been incorrect! Portland did have brick warehouses next to a river.
But I learned very quickly that Portland offers more. Way more. So much more that I wished I had more time to linger and — let's be real — eat.
You see, there's not really that much to do in Portland besides linger and eat. But maybe that's the point. Maybe that's why Portland appeals so much to the nation's most mellow, most funky, most laid back sorta folks. Linger and eat. Linger and eat. Who wouldn't succumb to that gentle rhythm? And for my short weekend getaway, for three days, that's basically what I did.
I arrived late into Portland and booked a hotel near the airport for the night, which ended up costing a fortune and also turned out to be a suite so big that when a girl came to bring room service in the morning she was shocked at the size and told me she'd never seen one of the suite rooms before. (Room service, btw, is one of my favorite luxuries in life, and I could probably dedicate a whole post to singing its praises.) I lingered over my eggs and bacon and spent the morning writing, which I hadn't done a lot of since returning from Southeast Asia.
I headed into town around noon, marveling at Portland's easy-peasy public transportation system. Dropped my bag off at the AirBnb my friend and I rented, then wandered around downtown for the afternoon, grabbing lunch at Abby's Sandwich Bar and checking out world famous Powell's Bookstore.
Catherine arrived around 4, so I headed back to the house and we hung for a bit before heading to our 6 pm dinner reservation at BEAST, which was delightful and refined and lovely and fun. You sit at communal tables, eat off a fixed menu with absolutely no alterations, and I enjoyed both getting to know our table mates as well as not have to decide what to order as dish after dish of gorgeous food was placed before me. Catherine indulged my love of pinball after by stopping by Ground Kontrol, an arcade filled with classic games, including my all-time fave The Addams Family.
The next day we headed out to visit the International Rose Test Garden, which was absolutely gorgeous. The aroma of roses rises up to meet you before you even descend down into the gardens, and the light filtering through the surrounding trees cast a gentle glow on the roses in the shade. (Roses are my favorite flower, just as a head's up in case you are reading this and looking for ways to win my affection.)
We wandered around the roses for a while, then walked through the park, passing the Sacajewa statue, and eventually finding us back on city streets. I proudly navigated us on the city bus in search of a museum that had recently been written up in a New York Times article on Portland, the Peculiarium. Much to our chagrin (OK, annoyance), the museum was closed for renovations until Halloween. We walked back down the street and stopped for coffee and a donut at Blue Star Donut then went in search of a roast beef sandwich at Kenny & Zuke's. Catherine's roast beef sandwich was horrific (overly cooked meat, for one thing), but I had a Reuben that was almost on par with something you'd get in NYC.
We headed back to our AirBnb (a super cute Craftsman) and got changed for dinner with my friends Josh and Joy who had just moved up to Portland from San Francisco a few months ago. We dined at Grüner, a restaurant inspired by the foods of the Alps and Bavaria and all had outrageously delicious food.
The next day, Catherine and I brought bagels over to Josh and Joy's new house (although sadly Joy had to work) and ate in the backyard, then lingered (obviously) over beers at Great Notion Brewing Company before heading to the train station to hop our train to Eugene, Catherine's new home.
Catherine had reserved us seats in business, but one of the coolest things about Amtrak's Cascades line is the observation car, which has giant windows looking out at the landscape passing by. I found a seat and enjoyed Oregon's languid hills and fields rolling by; maybe it's because I was away from the West Coast for 10 years, but ever since moving back to San Francisco a few years ago, I find the West's open, wide spaces bring me a real sense of peace, like all is right with the world. California will always be my #1, but Oregon is so stupidly beautiful I found it almost winning the top spot in my heart. (Almost. Wyoming and Maine are also up there.)
I'd never been to Eugene before (unless my family stopped there during some childhood trip; most of my memories of Oregon take place in Ashland or camping somewhere in the woods) and was instantly charmed. Craftsman homes! Adorable little cafes! Crustpunks! By the time all the dropouts and degenerates make it to San Francisco, they're hardened and rough, but hanging out on the streets of safe little Eugene, they're sort of earnest and not-yet-broken by the toughness of the world. I gave money to some buskers sitting in Kesey Square (named after Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, obvs), popped inside VooDoo Donuts to take a look, marveled at all the "no trespassing" signs on all the windows of the town (all aimed at the aforementioned crustpunk kids lounging on the streets), then had a nice dinner at Oregon Electric Station. And then it was off to bed and late to rise to catch my flight back to San Francisco!
So there you have it. Three days in pretty, perfect Portland (and a nice little side jaunt to even mellower Eugene). I'll be back for you, Portland, because there's more places I'd like to linger and way more places I'd like to eat.