Saturday, March 21, 2015

themacinator and Sister Take on Portland (a THB-style posting)

themacinator is not a travel blogger. Her father, THB, travels often, and documents his trips meticulously in words and images (although the most recent couple of posts detour a bit from this- scroll down). In fact, I don't travel much. But last year, K, my sister, and I went to New York for the first "sister trip" and right now we're sitting in Portland on the last night of Sister Trip #2. In honor of THB (or inspired by or whatever), here are some thoughts.

First, the one and only rule of sister trips is "no killing each other." Obviously, we both adhered to this rule last trip, as we survived and then went to Hawaii with the whole family AND made it to Portland. We have not made it home yet, so I can't promise the rule will be upheld, but it's looking good. We planned very little for our NYC trip- some ideas of what to do, but no planning. We planned almost nothing for this trip.  I've mentioned here that K is the much more prudent sister- she did all the planning that was done- booked our flights (I literally emailed her the day before to find out what time we were leaving), arranged where we were staying, etc. But we had no agenda.

We are staying in an apartment in the Pearl District. The apartment belongs to friends of my parents- they also have an apartment that is vacant and can be rented out to friends and family. We were going to stay there but ended up staying in this amazing top floor (16th floor!) apartment, with the most generous deal. Amazing! (Unlike THB, I'm not going to post every dollar spent here!) The apartment even has a deck- no, we did not eat lunch on the deck- but we have brought amazing weather (read: the drought) to Portland, and I did read on the deck this afternoon.
view from the deck
Essentially, K and I have made sure to enjoy the best of what we heard Portland had to offer: FOOD. K has sampled donuts from both Voodoo Donuts (verdict: crappy) and Blue Star (verdict: amazing). Favorite flavor: blueberry, bourbon, basil. I do not eat donuts, but don't worry, I've eaten lots of other things. We ate at Salt and Straw, the ice cream place, twice. I had caramel cupcake ice cream the first time- amazing. The second time we shared a sea salt caramel sundae (literally has caramel running though it, like, a LOT of caramel running through it). This place gives you as many tastes as you want- and they want you to taste things, and the tastes are huge, so we basically ate 7 scoops the first time. They make the waffle cones on site, so there were many people making waffles on those waffle machines you use at hotels. I wanted my ice cream on a fresh waffle, but didn't want to be too pushy. (K says it would melt the ice cream. I don't think I care.) We went to Frice bakery today and sampled the Portland version of Arizmendi's chocolate thing. Good, but not great, until we realized that we had forgotten to order made to order madeleines. Literally, made to order. We waited and waited and then ... amazing fresh cookies. I don't even like madeleines. (That's a lie- I like anything that is sweet and doesn't have cooked fruit or is name donuts- but I won't seek them out.) But these were incredible. They served us maybe 12, and they went down so quick. Incredible. I took a picture of my food for you. We did not drink a ton of beer or coffee, but did do a little of both.

gone before you finished reading this caption
We have taken a lot of different shiny public transportation things. There is a street car and one is a light rail. They are color coded, but it is VERY important to know that the color of the actual vehicle has nothing to do with the color of the line. While there are many blue and green cars out there that run the blue and green line, they do not correspond at all with the lines. Further, disembodied voices tell you to exit on "my" left or right (the streets are often one way, so you might exit on either side). However, because the voices come from speakers in the roof and are prerecorded, it might take a person a few rides to figure that these voices are supposed to represent the driver, who always sits in the driving booth that faces forward, although there is one in the rear since the cars can go both directions. Additionally, although it does cost money to ride these modes of transportation, we saw one person the entire time "validate" her ticket. The transit system appears to be entirely on an honor system- you can buy your ticket at a kiosk outside any stop (and sometimes on the cars), get on, ride around, get off, get on, repeat. You may never have to show said ticket to anyone. People must be paying, though!

we need this in Oakland, if we could fund it. only, I never even saw a pothole!

Other cool things we did: visited the Portland State University farmer's market this morning- amazing selection of premade foods, including (wait for it) cookies. Went to Blue Moon, an all-analog camera store that has optical printing on site- SO cool. They also have and repair typewriters. And, of course, I've made approximately 5 (no, exactly 5) trips to Powell's. If possible, that place is too much bookstore for me. It's true.

Miscellaneous observations:
  • There are a lot of people here that appear to fall on some spectrum of unhoused, homeless, street people, homeless by choice, etc. These people appear much more like Santa Cruz homeless than Oakland homeless in demographics. There may be more of them than in Santa Cruz. What's unclear is why they don't go south where it doesn't rain so much.
  • Portland is just as white as I had heard it is, at least, as far as we can tell.
  • Downtown Portland is very quiet and empty during the week. It livened up a lot today, and it's not clear if that's normal- tourists? People off work? March Madness (happening here today)? Spring break?
  • We aren't quite clear where everyone works. There are a TON of restaurants, so it's very possible that people work at restaurants to make money to eat at other restaurants.
  • Some things seem outdated: yes, you still can't pump your own gas, no, there is still no sales tax. People smoke a lot here- it seems bumping up the cigarette tax might help with that. How is everything so clean and apparently well funded (ie: pothole hotline) with no sales tax?
  • People seem VERY civilized here. For example, we saw dozens and dozens of dogs and not a single one was off leash. K saw one tied up dog this morning (in front of Starbucks, of course), and we saw one around lunch time today, although it was for approximately 1 minute and then the owner went and sat with him. We saw zero dogs strain on their leashes to lunge or bark at anything, and I think I heard two total dogs bark on their leashes. There wasn't any dog poop anywhere.
  • "Food trucks" aren't food trucks. They're permanent food carts or stalls. And at least the ones in downtown Portland were disappointing.
  • Meat is back. It seems to be coming back in Oakland but it is really back in Portland. Lardo's is a super popular mini-chain, but you can go anywhere and get lots and lots of meat. 


thb said...

Prices, THB wants prices. Pics of the eating spots, THB wants more pics of eating places. Utility boxes, THB wants pics of utility boxes. Otherwise, THB is very pleased...he still has TWO daughters (at least until they get home)