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Portland, Day One

Saturday, July 2nd, 2005:
We left Atlanta at about 9:50 am EST, and arrived just before noon Pacific Time. The Portland airport is small, clean, and has many places to obtain coffee. We should have paid attention to that as a dark-roasted harbinger of things to come, but I was too overcome by the non-Georgia weather.

"David, it's not hot. Do you notice that? It's not hot. Did I mention that it's not hot?"

In fact, it was probably in the 60s, with a lovely breeze and this sort of cool moisture in the air that just felt wonderful on the skin.

We picked up the rental car (a white Kia Optima), and drove out into the sunshine. Didn't turn on the air conditioner, we just rolled the windows down. I don't remember the last time I was able to do that.

We took what was technically a wrong turn, but it didn't matter. We weren't on a schedule. As it happens, we ended up near the Columbia River Valley, and just sort of opened ourselves up to enjoying wherever we wandered.

I could become a tree-hugging hippie in Oregon. The trees. The pictures do not do them justice. We have no trees like this in Atlanta. These are tall and majestic; deep green with just a hint of blue, and they know how to be trees, as opposed to the scraggly yellow-green pine toothpicks that stick out of the red clay here. I immediately understood why Oregon has a tree on its license plate.

Columbia River
The Columbia River


History plaque
An Oregon history plaque detailing the exploration of the area by William Robert Broughton


Columbia River Valley
More of the Columbia River Valley


Boater enjoying the day on the river
Boater taking advantage of the beautiful weather

After snapping pictures and taking a few more off-the-path turns, we found our way to Portland itself, and the Hotel Lucia. Our room wasn't ready, which wasn't a surprise given that we were early. We were early everywhere because we opted to keep ourselves on Eastern Time the whole weekend, and because Portland isn't anywhere near as big as Atlanta, so it doesn't take as long to get from Point A to Point B. Also, the traffic was almost nil. Yes, it was a holiday weekend, but I just have a hunch that it simply isn't anywhere near as bad as Atlanta traffic, even during a normal weekday. I could be wrong, though.

"No problem," we said, and asked the concierge for a lunch recommendation. Without exception, absolutely everyone we spoke with in Portland was very friendly and pleasant. We headed over to the South Park Seafood and Wine Bar restaurant as directed. Had a local rosé with an addictive appetizer of dates stuffed with Spanish almonds, wrapped in thin strips of Serrano ham, then lightly grilled. Followed this with butternut squash ravioli with sage and walnuts. David had a cup of clam chowder, followed by the house burger and fries. We each had dessert, too, justified by the fact that we'd been up since 6:30 am EST and hadn't had a proper meal.

While eating and watching the passers-by, we noticed something that, to our eyes, was a little odd. Living in Atlanta, we're accustomed to being surrounded by a very diverse ethnic mix. Not so in Portland: we counted maybe 20 African-Americans the entire time we were there. I guess I just always forget how different the demographic population of the South is compared to some other parts of the country.

South Park restaurant
Doors of the South Park restaurant, where we had our first meal in Portland

Afterwards, we went to Powell's Books, which is quite large, as advertised. I'd say it was at least twice the size of the Oxford bookstore that was on Pharr Road, and perhaps even a bit larger. We definitely didn't make it through the whole thing, as David was not in a "nebbing" mood. :( Too bad, because I quite liked it. I joked that we couldn't ever let lexmaniac go in there because we'd never see him again.

Powells Books
The entrance to "the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world," according to the management.

After that, we just strolled through the city streets. Our eyes were bombarded with signs of coffee. Indeed, we could stand outside our hotel and see no fewer than three coffee shops (Peet's, Coffee People, and Starbucks) within the same block, and these are not large city blocks. We simply had trouble believing that a city the size of Portland could support so many coffee shops. David theorizes that it has to do with the winters, and people using caffeine to try to cope with depression-induced lethargy.

I'll make no bones about it: we were scoping out Portland to see if it would be worthwhile to move there. But we're not moving to Coffeeland Potland Portland for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  1. We asked a good many people what they liked most and what they disliked most about living in Portland. The "like" responses were varied. With only one exception out of all the people we spoke with, the unanimous response on the "dislike" was "the winters." People hated the length of time they went without seeing the sun. We believe David is very mildly afflicted with Seasonal Affective Disorder. It would be completely unreasonable for us to spend the money and effort to move across country only to have him have to get a light box or something.

  2. Housing prices. While most cost-of-living aspects seemed fairly comparable to Atlanta, housing prices were not. We drove through several suburbs, and picked up real estate brochures. The short version is that we can get a 4/5 bedroom house here for what a 2/3 bedroom house would cost there.

It's unfortunate, though, because I really liked it. It was an amazing thing for me, heat sensitive as I am, to be able to just walk block after block without getting hot and flushed, and I didn't take a single minute for granted. It's definitely a walking city. Without any real effort at all, we made it over to the Saturday Market which, interestingly, had sort of an add-on market next to it that seemed sort of unofficial -- full of incense, cloth bags, and the sort of things you used to see street vendors with in Athens, GA before Athens' downtown lost so much of its funky, fun aspect. It was crowded with aging hippies and college kids. That's something I didn't think about . . . the West Coast and the Sixties population. Not that I minded it: I'd rather have kindly hippies than pugilistic knuckle-dragging rednecks, given the option. Still, I'd forgotten how many of those who'd dropped out with Timothy Leary landed at the edge of America and just stayed there. One of them tagged us with two stickers in conjunction: a peace symbol and an American flag. Far out, baby.

Actually, speaking of the ages represented, there seemed to be very few people our age. I don't know if that was because they'd all left town for the the holiday weekend, or if Portland is just generally very young like that.

Portland's cityscape is somewhat eclectic, yet it all seems to work together. A good portion of the city reminds me of Little Five Points in the sort of shops and atmosphere present. Other bits (near Portland State University) are very pressed and collegiate - the shiny bits of the city putting its best foot forward with a stand-alone Nordstrom, Gap, and the like. Still other bits, like the Pearl District, have sort of an arty yuppie look that's very clean and attractive. Many businesses seem to have a sense of humor, or a sense of playfulness, at least, with their naming, like the one pictured below:

Voodoo Doughnut
You can't tell much from the picture, but the sign says Voodoo Doughnut.
Just one of Portland's many cute businesses.

Something else I liked about Portland: there was a wonderful profusion of independently owned and operated small businesses that existed side-by-side with megachains like Best Buy and Office Depot. I loved the small size of the city, and how casual everything was: you could go anywhere in jeans, including a white linen restaurant.


Water fountain
Portland has an awful lot of water, and water fountains. These charming sources of hydration pepper the city streets.


parking meter
Clever idea: an ATM-friendly parking meter dispenser

After our trip out to the 'burbs, we came back into town and went into Fred Meyer to get some idea of what groceries might cost, were we to migrate. I was surprised to find that they were owned by Kroger. I guess it's just that the tone of the store seemed so different from the tone of a typical Kroger, with FM's emphasis on organic vegetables, fresh juices, and the like. Only the cheese selection was underwhelming: it seemed like an afterthought at best.

Our East Coast time frame was starting to catch up with us, so we headed back to the hotel. The Hotel Lucia definitely works at its atmosphere. It has been called "the jazz hotel," by some, and when you enter your room, the clock/radio is tuned to relaxing jazz music. The halls aren't generic and innocuous to the point of being invisible. Instead, they're lined with black and white photos by Pulitzer Prize winner David Hume Kennerly, and despite my tired state, I was inclined to linger a little and browse. Only a little, though. Within what seemed like just a few moments, we were fast asleep.

Lobby of the Hotel Lucia
Lobby of the Hotel Lucia


One of the pictures hanging in the lobby
One of the pictures hanging in the lobby


Our hotel room
Our hotel room. Look at that fluffy bed! They also offer a pillow service for your choice of firm, medium, soft, etc. pillows.



Tomorrow: Tea, wine, and waterfalls.

Full gallery of pictures here.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
freakyferret
Jul. 14th, 2005 01:26 am (UTC)
What you mean it's not hot? It's gotta be 120 over there. Just like here! It is amazing to travel north (and west), and to find the temperature only half of what it is here, huh? :)

Nice photos. Here's hoping you guys enjoy tomorrow as much!
weetanya
Jul. 14th, 2005 01:30 am (UTC)
Awwww.

I am portland-sick now. Great story and great pictures! You were in my old stomping ground, and within a spit of where I used to work.

Hotel Lucia looks like it was awesome.

And my arch-nemesis Tina used to work at South Park, as well as a cook friend of Dave. Wonder if that cook made your dinner, heh!
pointedview
Jul. 20th, 2005 12:22 am (UTC)
More pictures to come, as soon as I get the chance to edit them and post them.

The only reason we didn't do the Mark Spencer, as advised, was because they only had queen sized beds available at the time of reservation, and my back at the time was not having that.

Now, see, if I'd known that your arch-nemesis was there, i wouldn't have given 'em our business. :) I did look for Jax while we were driving around, but somehow we missed it, which hardly seems possible given how much of Portland we saw.
freakyferret
Jul. 14th, 2005 01:32 am (UTC)
Housing.

Here, in my very small rural town, a 3 bedroom house with a decent yard is about $30,000. A few factors make it go up or down, but not by much.

When I was in New Orleans, friends of my hosts were looking at a house. We passed by. They said the owners wanted $210,000 for it. I looked at it and was in shock! It was a 2 bedroom house not with a yard but a strip of grass surrounding it. Literally. Holy fuck!

I mentioned that, and they mentioned California. Apparently the same type of house would go for $1 million in L.A. or the like. Wow. Makes you realize when you hear about a movie star's house being $1 or $2 million, it's not really all that much maybe.

lsbd33
Jul. 15th, 2005 02:26 am (UTC)
pics
way cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) i'll show richard when he gets back in town - he'll love the water fountains & parking meters! :)
hokiegirl1
Jul. 20th, 2005 12:11 am (UTC)
Wow! Portland looked beautiful! J and I are in that questioning locals phase since we're thinking of moving too. Good to get insights from the locals.

Side question: I went back and read your Vegas trip and saw you saw the 2 shows we're thinking of going to: Blue Man Group and O. If you had to choose one, which would you choose.
P.S. Saw you tagged me during the Vegas search - going back to do it. Honored! and ashamed I didn't see it until a month later!
pointedview
Jul. 20th, 2005 12:19 am (UTC)
If you haven't seen a Cirque du Soleil show, then you simply must do so in your lifetime. O is a fine one to do it with, too. However, if you have seen Cirque, then go for Blue Man.

*smiles* Don't be ashamed, sweetie - I haven't been around as much as usual because of the back problems which, thankfully (so thankfully) are much better. Thank you so much for your response, and I hope you and J. have a really marvelous time in Vegas!
canopic_no_9
Jul. 23rd, 2005 12:26 am (UTC)
You're right - it IS like little Five Points. Portland is sunnier than Seattle and has more places to sit and walk outside. Generally its a much more outdoor city than Seattle. There are things I like about Atlanta but I don't think I could deal with the heat...well, maybe. Sounds like your trip was lovely. Tag and I need to spend a weekend in Portland sometime. Just to get away. Maybe go to the beach.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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