Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mr NYC in Portland

One of the reasons for my not blogging lately is that last weekend I was out of town -- in Portland, OR.

I'd never been out there before and had no idea what to expect. (Being from NYC, most other cities are underwhelming, to say the least.) However, after spending just a couple of days in this Northwestern ville, I can happily report that Portland, OR shoots right to the top of the list of my favorite American cities (along with San Francisco and New Orleans).

So here's a brief recap o' my trip.

Unlike those other cities, which are fun and colorful, Portland is fun and ... chill ... It's
also very beautiful. Driving from the airport, we saw the huge, gorgeous Douglas-fir trees that make the Pacific Northwest famous. There aren't a lot of tall buildings in this town but the architecture is pretty, contextual, and tasteful. Like NYC, Portland is very compact -- even more compact, actually, because it's smaller and only has a population of two million people. Portland is divided into four quadrants and people there talking about living in either NW, SW, NE and SE. Driving across the city takes about twenty minutes from end to end, and about it's half an hour from any spot in the city to PDX (the airport). Unlike a lot of American cities, Portland has decent public transportation -- no subway but trolleys and a very good bus system. Apparently you can get from most sections of the city to downtown in about twenty minutes. All in all, a pretty easy city to navigate.

Our time in Portland was busy. We actually got out of town and drove up into the mountains nearby. The views and vistas there are stunningly beautiful. We drove to the top of the Columbia River Gorge which inspired us to do "downdogs" and "sun salutations" and other yoga moves, so Zen was the experience. Then we went hiking up several trails, passing several lovely waterfalls (one of which sprayed us and felt wonderful).*

Later we went to dinner at a very good restaurant in town called The Farm Cafe. They serve fresh, organic food along with excellent cocktails (this is a very popular spot so either go early or make reservations).

We then hung out for a little while at a great, great place called Voicebox Karaoke, easily the most upscale, classy karaoke bar I've ever been too. You can rent private rooms, each one very comfortable and unique, and they have great drinks and dumplings on tap.

Then we saw a show. Not a concert or a play exactly but what is apparently a live action sitcom called "Fall of the House." It's basically a raunchy version of Friends set in Portla
nd but with lots of different characters and wacky situations. Shocking thing? It was good! And funny! And very well written! The characters were well developed and dimensional and we really enjoyed it. If you are ever in Portland and this show is on, I suggest you go.

Next day we went downtown and walked along the waterfront. Portland is cut in two by the Willamette river and bound together by several bridges, each one distinct and interesting. Then we had brunch at Mother's Bistro, a popular restaurant with very good food. After that, we went to Powell's, the largest bookstore in the country. Simply put, Powell's has lots and lots and lots of books. If you go, make sure you get a map. It has nine rooms (each with its own designated color) and four floors. We bought a few books, including a huge history of the world for our friend and host, and even managed at one point to get lost in the huge place.

After this, we went rollerskating ... and even did the hokey pokey!

Dinner that night was pizza taken out from a place called Dove Vivi. A very good organic pizza place, we had a sausage pizza and one covered with corn and red peppers. Mmmmmmm.

On our way the airport, we stopped by Voodoo Doughnuts for dessert. This is the first time I've ever had donuts made by punk rockers but they ... were ... awesome! We went there at 5 PM on a Sunday evening and there was a long line outside the store and it took almost half and hour to get in. I had a basic jelly doughnut but you can also get things like the Maple Bacon donut (you read that right) along with other exotic pastries. It goes without saying that if you like donuts -- and I love 'em -- and you're in Portland, you must go to Voodoo Doughnuts.**

And then, after a wonderful whirlwind trip, we came home to NYC on the red eye.

So, to sum it up, Portland is great. If you love NYC, you'll really like Portland. What impressed me most is that Portland still has vibrant neighborhoods and a downtown that doesn't shut up at night. We stayed in a neighborhood called Clinton which has lovely small homes with beautiful lawns but is also within walking distance (literally, just minutes away) of bars, restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, banks, and park space.

Portland is a real city, not just a "metro area," and if you live there you feel like you're in a community. It's a very chill, relaxed city, where people work to live, not live to work, where time is as important as money, where the cost of living is reasonable, and where you feel like everyone is a good neighbor.

Cheers.

*For those of you who might hike these trails with a significant other, there's a book called Pokin' Round the Gorge that suggests secluded spots that are good for a little outdoor nooky. I have not read this book nor did our hike include this activity but I thought both of my readers might like to know about this publication.

**Voodoo Doghnuts is next door to a place called The Paris Theater. Unlike our Paris Theatre, however, they show different kinds of movies.

1 comment:

  1. You summed up Portland nicely. There's a great unlikely synergy between NYC and Portand. One correction - we actually have 5 quadrants (I know right). Fits with our classic mantra "Keep Portland Weird."

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