Pages Navigation Menu

INDULGENT ADVENTURES - Travel, adventure and windswept dreams.

Guest Review: Nat K & family go to Portland, Oregon.


Keep Portland… Weird?

The brief: A short last-minute weekend vacation for a family of Aussie imports, recently translated from Sydney’s inner-west to Seattle, Washington.

Destination: Portland, Oregon.

Prior reference points for Portland: Origin of the TV show Portlandia…(obviously). Keep Portland Weird city slogan (although technically this was borrowed from Austin, Texas in 2003). Setting of the book Wildwood, written by the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy. Home of Keith, a work friend from fifteen years ago (will he remember us?!).

In other words, Portland was pretty much a blank slate!

Portland, Oregon, USA.

Portland, Oregon, USA.

What we discovered: The city of Portland is bisected east/west by the Willamette River, and north/south by Burnside Street.

We stopped in the NE for lunch.
Luce, is a lovely small Italian restaurant serving satisfying half-serves of homemade ravioli and linguini. We also took away a divine slice of flourless chocolate cake for the sweet-loving seven year old. So far, so good!

Portland, Oregon, USA.

Portland, Oregon, USA.

We stayed in the SE, in an upstairs apartment booked at the last minute through HomeAway.
On meeting us, the owner apologised about the industrial character of the location: he emphasised the necessity of locking the heavy-duty gate to the complex at all times. Behind the security grill, the apartment itself was sunny and welcoming, decorated in mid-century/Scandawegian, well-equipped, and altogether very satisfactory.

Portland, Oregon, USA.

Salt & Straw, Portland, Oregon, USA.

Next we ate ice cream in the NW at Salt & Straw.
The sun was out, as were the people and Friday afternoon looked fun and festive. We had: strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper, chocolate gooey brownie, gummy bear sorbet, and a sundae. They were all huge (everything really is bigger in America!), delicious, and just what we felt like. The dog outside enjoyed his vanilla single scoop too.

We headed to back to the SE, for dinner at C’est ci bon crepes + Vin.
C’est ci bon crepes + Vin is a tiny wine bar/crêperie close to our apartment. We took the sommelier’s recommendations for local wines: a blanc for me and a rouge for my partner, and shared the fried goats cheese salad while we waited for our crêpes. People at the neighbouring tables complemented our children on reading paper books. Apparently these are more praise-worthy than electronic ones. (Or perhaps all children with Kindles are actually playing Angry Birds.) The restaurant was busy, and the service wasn’t speedy, but weren’t in a hurry and we loved the food and the atmosphere of this place.

Portland, Oregon, USA.

Portland, Oregon, USA.

The next morning, staying in the SE, our first up on the agenda was caffeine. Coffee is a touchy subject for Aussies in the U.S. Portland (and Seattle for that matter) prides itself on its cafes, serving single-origin/locally-roasted/artfully-decorated espresso (almost always in takeaway cups though even if you drink in). Since relocating to the US, we have settled on the ‘double 8oz latte’ as a satisfactory substitute for an Australian flat white. We google-mapped ‘espresso’, and decided on the Half-Pint café, a couple of blocks away. It was good, made all the better by being delivered to me in bed, by my obliging partner!

After breakfast we crossed the river to visit Powells Bookshop still in the SE, an enormous emporium filled with all the books you could ever want: used, new, children’s, adults, manga, literature, pulp. We acquired several and tracked back to check out the Saturday Farmers’ Market (passing the Voodoo Donuts queue, snaking over several blocks – I’d count that as weird). We didn’t spot any farmers (or fresh produce for that matter) in amongst the fast food, and the touristy nick-nacks.

Next stop Sunnyside to check out Noun: a person’s place for things (definitely not weird). After much browsing and hankering, I chose A Compendium of Collective Nouns, which would make a very handy addition to my reference book collection. On the way past Twill, I also nabbed a reversible skirt with hook-on bag. [Perhaps a bit weird…a hook on bag? a fashion accessory yet to find its way to the land of Oz.]

Portland, Oregon, USA.

Portland, Oregon, USA.

For dinner, we decided to check out the Doug Fir Lounge, which our apartment hosts had described as ‘Space Odyssey meets Log Cabin’, an entirely accurate designator. Unfortunately the cuisine did not live up to the décor, with the fish & chips, so lovingly detailed on the menu, tasting suspiciously like they had come via the deep freeze rather than straight from the deep ocean. Sigh!

Portland, Oregon, USA.

Laurelhurst Park, Portland, Oregon, USA

On Sunday morning, we visited Laurelhurst Park, which is very pretty. We walked around the lake, lost the nine year old, shot a few hoops, found the nine year old, then decided there was time for coffee before we went to meet Keith. The closest espresso place was Heart on East Burnside, the coffees were adequate, even if their production was a drawn out affair.

Portland, Oregon, USA.

Portland, Oregon, USA.

Keith remembered us! We met him at the Kennedy School in the NE, an actual (ex-) elementary school remodelled as a hotel, bar and restaurant. Apparently the accommodation still has the original blackboards, and there is a steam punk bar in the furnace room. We sat in the sunny courtyard, which was doing a roaring trade. The food was delicious! Fresh salads and steaks, and tasty fries, which went down superbly with an ale or two.

We said goodbye to Keith and Portland, with promises of reciprocal visits, and drove back up the I-5, through Olympia, back through Sleater-Kinney (so that’s where the band name came from!), back to the views of the snowy peaks of Mt Rainer, back past the all the South Lake Union developments, back home. For now.

Portland, Oregon, USA.

Portland, Oregon, USA.

So, Portland: good food, good coffee, good books, nice parks, a farmer-free Farmers’ Market, and more good food and good books.

How about Keep Portland Well-Fed and Well-Read?

Portland, Oregon, USA.

Squirrel, Portland, Oregon, USA.

 

Nat K is Indulgent Adventures’ Aussie spy… err, writer-at-large in the US. The family’s Sydney friends send photos of Sydney icons and events to try and ensure they don’t get too comfortable in Seattle. Watch this space for more stories on an Aussie family’s adventures in the US.

 


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.