I think I'm not lying by saying that Portland has been the subject of more conversations than any other locale we've visited on the road and I really don't think that's because it was that much more interesting or exciting than all the other places. As a matter of fact I'm sure that we visited places more interesting and engaging than Portland.
No, the reason why Portland had remained the most talked about place on our trip is because it's likely the closest to what we would consider for a home at some point. That's important, because really to me that had always been one of the goals of the trip: of all these places that we get to see, what is it about them or who is it there that would make us want to stay long term or conversely that turns us off?
Portland is undoubtedly a mecca for us millennials. I don't think Portlandia! came out of nowhere. I'm not surprised to see the bicycle culture embraced here. The micro brew scene is alive and well here. These are all things that we deem important. A move to a more local culture, something that's more personal and I think at the end of our time here that's a lot of what we experienced here.
Whitney's thorough research had unearthed the McMenamins company in Portland. Essentially a company in the hospitality business, McMenamins owns several hotels, bars and event spaces throughout the town. We first arrived at their White Eagle bar/hotel to a satisfyingly gray sky and intermittent drizzle. We shook off the precipitation and got our room keys downstairs from the bar keep.
The White Eagle itself is an old live music venue, seemingly featuring as much local talent in it's heyday as it does now. The bar room is divided into a dining area and a more traditional bar area with a small band stand. After we'd dropped our bags upstairs in our room we got a quick bite there. As it's still a performance space, we were treated to some local comedy and musical talent while we ate.
By the way, aside from the local scene, politics, and environment, we also kept an eye out for local cuisine on our trip. That's how I got to taste my first raw oysters on Key West, for example. For Whitney being married to a German and for me being one of those, that local cuisine inevitably includes local brews. Portland isn't shy about it's selection and actually has some local players that did the micro brew before it was cool.
Right now I'm speaking of the Widmer Brother's, whose brewery bar was just down the block from the White Eagle. Though their Hefeweizen is the most well known, we tried other brews of theirs. After about 32 oz. of courage we decided to walk (!) to into downtown Portland.
I'd loosely picked out a bar, not really realizing how far away of a walk it was from Widmer's, but it really ended up being a kick starter for one of those long conversations we tend to have when we're not preoccupied with issues of the day, like planning ahead or working on the blog, for example. I guess, this particular conversation didn't necessarily have anything to do with the particular idea of moving or finding a fitting social context that we would both feel comfortable in. What we talked about was our impression of the social development of the west coast and how we compared it to the places on the east coast we were familiar with.
We've had many of these conversations over the years. Often I feel that I walk away with new ideas about the topics we had discussed. I like being able to hear Whitney's take and often try to take them for a wheel in my brain. Until we tell our ideas to someone else they just fester in our little brain box and it's often only after a good little jolt from outside that I am able to expand and explore ideas I've been thinking about. So this is really one of those activities that I really value. Sometimes I wished we could do those discussions more often, but then I'm sure they wouldn't be as fruitful.
The distance from Widmer's to our next stop at Bailey's Taproom was about 1.7 miles, but before long we sat down in a cozy corner with a cold beer. As an aside, this bar has probably the most beer-nerd-tastic tap list. It was basically a big monitor with a digital read out for all the tapped kegs, listing the name, ABV, origin and level of the keg. As a matter of fact you can go right to their website and see a live status of their kegs.
We rounded out our evening by hopping a few blocks over to the arcade at Ground Kontrol. Arcades and video games are not usually a part of our leisure time activities, by we were up for a different scene tonight so the pinball and DDR was. Just in case anyone was wondering, we're both laughably bad at DDR. Pinball worked a little better, we got through three, maybe for levels of Galaga. I also treated myself to one of my childhood dream arcade games "Cruis'n Exotica". I remember watching the (older) cool kids at the public pool playing the game growing up, so I was so excited to finally get my turn.
I came in 5th.
We returned home on foot once again and fell asleep quickly when we got back to the White Eagle.
Our plans to grab breakfast and explore a new neighborhood in the morning were quickly thwarted, after we realized that the place we had earmarked had closed . . . on the pervious Friday. Ugh. Luckily, Mississippi Avenue had a couple of other options available for us and after a little wait we got to fill our stomachs after all!
Really part of the idea of getting breakfast out at a coffee shop had been to start on a post for El Paso. I'd been struggling to put together a post for that part of the trip for awhile and in looking for a different solution we came up with the idea of making a graphical post in the shape of a newspaper. We had planned on starting to create (writing out and drawing) the elements for our newspaper over coffee during or after breakfast, but that plan fell flat. Our eatery, Gravy, turned out to be more of a brunch place and because of the line and wait to get a table, we thought it wouldn't be fair to stay at a table after we finished. So the El Paso post would have to wait a little longer.
Instead, we returned to the White Eagle to pick up a couple of rolls of film I meant to get developed, while in civilization. We headed over to Blue Moon Camera in St. Johns. Luckily for me they did 1 hour photo for my film, and so we headed around the corner to Anna Bannanas for more fresh coffee and to get this Newspaper off the ground.
The night before we really had come up with a number of different ideas to make a more graphical post. The newspaper idea was just one of a number like the comic strip, food menu or movie script. I really hope that we find the time and creativity to make one or two more of those happen. After we had settled on the newspaper, we figured out what kind of "articles" we wanted to write and then split them up and added little doodles to break up the text. We wanted it to look a little rough, perhaps a little like a school newspaper printed and then photocopied and I think we got there mostly.
An hour later, I'm back in the Blue Moon, to pick up my film. I was pretty anxious, because this was the first time I was getting back film that I had shot on the road trip so I looked through them on the light box right then and there. Of course it's a negative, so it's a little hard to tell if the colors came out right, but the light levels seemed more or less okay. I really would have loved to get them scanned, but it's so expensive (I think around $20 a roll) and I wouldn't have been able to take the negatives with me so I decided against it. It's unfortunate though, because I'd really love to be able to show some of them off here.
Later during our Kennedy School stay, I figured out a rough workaround: I took pictures of the negatives against the laptop screen and then let Whitney work her magic in Photoshop. So if you see any pixilated images on here, that's why.
Whitney wasn't feeling so well, so I took her, the Omimobile and my two rolls of film back to the White Eagle for a nap.
According to our goal to eat locally as much as possible, we found one of Portland's touted local eateries. Whitney's a pretty good cook, but that hasn't always been the case. Over the years I've known her, she has diligently honed her skills. It's true that in the beginning there would be meals that didn't work out quite like she had imagined. Now, on the other hand, Whitney does the whole, "oookay . . . let's look what we have in the refrigerator!" style of cooking, which I find mesmerizing to watch and damn near sorcery. Overall I think I grew up eating a pretty wide variety of foods, but since I've met Whitney she's been pushing the envelope (see the Best Seafood entry on the updated list post!). It shouldn't come as complete shock then that she has also been the driving force behind the fresh and local ingredients dinner option. I'm really loving trying all these new foods, too, in the meantime. It's really the first time in a long while that I've expanded my food palate so thoroughly over a pretty short period of time and because I am a pretty conservative eater usually, that's saying something.
Suffice it to say then, that we both had a wonderful time trying new foods at the Meriwether's restaurant. Deviled Eggs with Crabmeat! Steelhead beignets! Horseradish Cream! Dungeness crab risotto! We often share entrees, both to save a little money and so we can order, say, an appetizer of something we've never had, or to allow us the luxury of a dessert. I think that often times entree's are so big anyway that I barely make it through the entire thing, and it's such a pity to waste all that food when we can't finish our plates. So this plate sharing really has been working out for us.
Fat and happy we returned "home". For a few more hours we made ourselves comfortable on the patio outside to finish the hand written aspects of the newspaper post. After photographing all the elements we'd come up with, Whitney used her photoshop magic to make it the thing you see. By the way, we really try our best to keep it pretty clean on here so the title to that post was mostly born out of frustration from the traffic ticket.
This was probably out most well organized day yet in Portland. We cleared out of our room in the White Eagle and picked our breakfast spot, Cafe du Berry, primarily on it's proximity to the Portland Aerial Tram, which I really wanted to ride so that I could get a view of the city (and maybe, just maybe to take a picture). It's kind of silly to say, but I thought I'd get a better view somehow. Still, considering that the viewing platform is essentially the 9th floor terrace of the OHSU's Kohler Pavilion it's not shabby. Also, can you really knock $4/per person?
Driving and walking around Portland we had already noticed all the flowers and roses in particular in the front yards. Our next stop at the International Rose Test Garden wasn't too much of a stretch then. I'm still not entirely sure, how it came to be the rose test garden, but it's really not important. The gardens themselves are beautifully arranged flower beds with rows upon rows of roses. We weren't there during peak bloom, but still got to enjoy many different flowers in all shapes and sizes. Additionally, the garden is built along the hillside of Arlington Heights, so that through the trees you get a lovely view of the city below. I thought a lot of my mom, who loves roses and has a few beautiful bushes of them in the yard out front of the house I grew up in. They'd fit right in here, I think.
If you think one brewery is enough for this duo, you're dead wrong my friend. Sour beers have had some sort of a revival and it's no surprise that a cutting edge place such as Portland has a brewery devoted to brewing just sour beers. Crazy, I know. This one, the Cascade Brewing Barrel House, actually came on the recommendation of our friend Julia from back in New York. I'm not a sour beer fan really, but it's about trying new things and out of the six or so sours we tried, I actually could have gotten on with at least four of them. That's definitely four more that I would have guessed, so that's good right? Right!
Remember that I mentioned that we cleared out our room at the White Eagle? Well, that's because we had reservations at another McMenamin's establishment, the Kennedy School. This was certainly a bit of a fancy place, but it was just so cool that we couldn't pass it up. Basically, it's an old elementary school converted into a hotel/resort.
The guest rooms were spread across a number of different wings (we stayed in the "English" wing) while the other, bigger rooms like the auditorium, the gym etc housed all sorts of amenities. There was a cigar bar, a restaurant in the cafeteria, a movie theater(!) and even a little outdoors swimming pool. For our taste we'd done (almost) enough roaming around Portland, so we were totally cool with spending the evening here, soaking in the pool and then getting a couple of drinks in the Boiler Room bar.
I'm serious: if you go to Portland, do yourself the favor and check it out. I am pretty sure you don't have to be a guest to go and walk around and it's just a neat place to hang out and grab a drink in one of the bars in the school building.
To tick off one more box on the bucket list, we had made reservations at the Oregon Culinary Institute. We probably could have gone to a culinary school restaurant elsewhere, but come on, we're in Portland! The land of fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Plus, there's no way we were going to be able to afford a 4 course meal for $18 anywhere else, so what the heck, right? Since the restaurant at the Culinary Institute is a teaching environment, every aspect of the experience there is a bit like a classroom. Our hostess, servers and cooks are learning while preparing and caring for us and the other guests and because I was paying extra attention, I even picked up a trick or two for opening wine bottles. Very neat. The food was outstanding and once again, we got to try tons of different things.
Back in the Kennedy School pool, we both agreed: Portland was worth the visit. Would we move here? Maybe and it certainly didn't seem like a crazy idea, then again . . .
P.S.: This would go under "Wednesday", I suppose but I'll just add it here. Before leaving Portland for good the next morning, we couldn't resist checking out one of the farmers markets. We knew we weren't going to be near fresh food for a couple of days, while we were out camping so it just made sense to pick up some fresh ingredients to cook with. In retrospect, I think I should have just brought my camera along to the farmers market, it all looked so delicious. We ended up with a bag of granola, lettuce, a mixed bag of mushrooms, radishes, strawberries, raspberries, bread... And man, all of that stuff was just so friggin good!