Adventures in Portlandia Part 3

Now, when I left you last oh best beloved, I had brought you up to speed with Portland’s shopping strengths.  This time we shall delve deeper into the most touristy highlights for the interested visitor.

portland theatre

A passing theatre in Portland

A really good way to get ones bearings and see the best of Portland, as with any city is to take a good walking tour, in this case the Portland Walking Tours Best of Portland tour, an excellent 2 hour odd walking tour that takes you through much of the highlights of downtown Portland along with a good deal of local history and such.  There’s about twenty people to a tour, but two guides and they divide the tour into two smaller groups to keep it on a personal level.

Out on tour

The intrepid walking tour group

As the above picture shows in part, one of Portland’s strengths is the amound of public art on display, as new buildings have to include this in their building plans.

The Quest

The Quest – for nippleage maybe.

This is maybe my favourite sculpture on the tour, named ‘The Quest’ it was designed by Count Alexander von Svoboda in 1970, and is nicknamed ‘three groins in the fountain.’

pioneer square

Pioneer Square in the sunshine.

The main centre-point of Portland though is Pioneer Square, slap in the middle of downtown, with public transport links a plenty, this is a great first port of call for the curious traveller, and in the middle of the photo you can see the walkway down into the tourist information center. Around the edges of the square are food carts, including one offering cheesesteaks, and a branch of Starbucks, should you be sad enough to turn down the better indie-er offerings not 2 minutes walk away.

signs

Signs o’ the times.

This is the little very touristy bit on the edge of the square, the collection of signs giving distances to to various cities across the globe except for one which just gives the city name : Tipperary, because of course, that’s just a long way.  Also there are cool fountains.

fountain

A neat fountain by the waterfront.

Portland also has much to tempt the sportier amongst you dear readers, with the NBA’s Portland Traiblazers in town, along with the MLS Portland Timbers soccer team, whose stadium, JELD-WEN is very easy to reach, again on the red line train.

JELD-WEN Field

JELD-WEN Field from the outside

The stadium is open to a limited extent of a weekday so you can pop into the team store and pick up some souveirs, such as a bottle opener, shirt or whatever your fancy takes.  The stadium also plays host to home games for the Portland State Vikings American college football team.

inside the stadium

Inside Jeld-Wen Field – posh seats and boxes.

Though I didn’t get to see them, the Portland Rose Garden which gives the city its sobriquet of ‘The Rose City’ is apparently worth a visit as is the Japanese Garden.

This then wraps up my touristy section – for more information and tips, I’d heartily recommend checking out the Travel Portland website, next though is the part I suspect several of you are waiting for, the beer bit.

 

Adventures in Portlandia Part 2

Welcome back as we make further forays into my Portland trip – this time with a shoppier theme, after all the point of taking money on holiday with you is not taking it back right?

Doct Mart

Guess what this place sold.

Downtown Portland offered Macys, Nordstrom Rack amongst its American shopping standards along with a Nike Store and an official Oregon State University merchandise shop – the Beaver store (stop sniggering at the back.  However the best plan is to head into the Pearl District where the shops take a quirkier and more independent tone, as do the cafes and restaurants -of which I can heartily recommend the Pearl Bakery as an excellent neighbourhood location for a Sunday morning latte and croissant.  There is however one 600lb gorilla in the district, the majestic behmoth that is Powell’s City of Books.

Powells

Unprepossessing but within lies a bookish wonder of the modern world.

My word dear reader, what a mighty fortress of knowledge and wonder Powell’s is.  Taking up an entire city block, and made up of sixty eight thousand square feet of bookishness, along with World Cup tea and coffee and free wifi, if this place had a beer license I’d set up a bed there in a trice.  There are seven or 8 different colour coded sections that cover three floors and it seems all books are here.  Interestingly, there is no separation twixt hardback, paperback, first or second hand books, all editions of a particular book in stock are shelved together.

I can not stress enough the magic with which this store enchants the visitor.  At least a whole morning could be lost therin, and verily getting lost was all too easy, as one could wander different routes yet still end up at the same point in the shelves.  Another part of the charm is that the feel of the place is not as slick as say a branch of Barnes and Noble or Waterstones, more it feels like the best University library in the world, only one where you can buy books, t-shirts and so forth.  I came away with four books and a ‘born to read’ t-shirt’ and felt I could have come away with a lot more (The Sherlockian by Graham Moore, The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, The Birth of Classical Europe by Simon Price and the Orkneying Saga in case you wondering, confess you were)

Powells along

Warning, may contain lots and lots and lots of books.

Out on the redline en route to the airport was the Lloyd Centre, a large shopping mall with attached multiplex cinema, and concrete for all
with another large Macys store.

lloyd centrer

Big, concretey and shops

However, once you made your way into the center proper, other parts were revealed including a passing ice rink .

ice rink

Yes, an ice rink bang in the middle of a shopping mall.

However, there were more artisanal shopping experiences available downtown as evidenced on the Monday I was there, where Pioneer square, slap in the middle of downtown Portland played host to that most pleasant event, the farmers market.  There seemed to be a good range of local cheeses, breads, fruit and veg, and meat available so yay this, with a friendly atmosphere aided by the 80 degree sunshine.

Farmers Market, Portlandian style

That then wraps up this episode of adventures in Portlandia, next time for those intrepid souls staying the course, some more scenic touristy stuff, then for part four, the beery bit.

Adventures in Portlandia Part 1

I’d start by quoting Dr Johnson somehow, but frankly life’s just too short, so let’s move on quickly and quietly to the meat of this special series of bloggage, the recap, write-up and general love letter to Portland, Oregon, venue of my holiday week there a mere month ago.   As a point of something, one part will be the beer love letter, and this post and any others needed will cover more general info and some of my favourite bits of my trip.

terminal 5

One of the seating/restaurant areas at the architectural marvel that is terminal 5 at Heathrow.

Let us start though oh best beloved with the only real pain with visiting fair Portlandia, getting there – As it currently lacks a direct flight, getting there took a 9 hour flight from Heathrow to Dallas on BA, and thence a 4 hour flight to Portland on American Airlines.  Hot tip time, if you can afford it, go for premium economy on the first leg.

Once you’re there though, getting around and about is a doddle Portland is delighfully sized – perfect for walking just about everywhere downtown, and also has an excellent public transport system with the light rail/metro being ideal, running direct to the airport, and helpfully had a stop right outside my hotel, the Hotel Fifty.

Light Rail

The metro/light rail just up the street from my Hotel.

I also would heartily recommend the Hotel50 as somewhere worth staying, slap bang downtown – no more than 15 mins walk from pretty much everything, but also right on the waterfront as evidenced by the view out of my room window.  The room was fine and the hotel restaurant did top coffee, bacon and pancakes of a morn’s breakfast, so criteria were thoroughly checked.

Hotel room window view

The view looking out over the Williamette river from my hotel room

Having raised the delicious themes of food and coffee,  let us then dear reader continue with them. Portland, being very indie rock in nature, is full of top notch coffee joints.the  My picks of the pack were Public Domain Coffee and Stumptown Coffee, both of whom roast their own – Stumptown in particular is widely available city-wide, the one Stumptown store I went in was so hip, I felt my jeans get skinnier as I walked in. However, Public Domain nudges it due to their excellent range of baked goods, including the delicious sesame pretzel croissant.

Public Domain Coffee

Public Domain Coffee’s downtown shop.

On the matter of food, top quality stuff was available across the price range, starting with Portland’s famed speciality, it’s food carts, located in ‘pods’ situated through out the city, these offered a wide range of keenly priced options, be it bbq, burgers or a wide range of mexican and asian options.  The downside though was there seemed to be a lack of seating around these carts.  Higher up the price brackets though, there was an excellent range of restaurant options. Most of the time though, I found the pub/bar food to be of a superb standard, though there were a couple of standouts, first thebacon and blue cheeseburger at Brasserie Monmartre was top notch were the frites in pork belly and tarragon, which to be frank were indecently good – they also came cooked in duck fat or truffle oil .  They also had a strong committment to beer (more of which later) and some unique artworks on display as you can see below.

Brasserie Monmartre

The bar at Brasserie Monmartre – not a bad little beer range eh?

My other top pick would be the Portland City Grill on SW 11th Avenue, a proper steakhouse/wine bar sort of a place, located on the 30th floor of their building – the lift ride up nearly popped my ears – however once you’ve made it up, tis well worth the effort – proper slightly dim lighting, live piano and steak so wonderful that if I were a cow, I’d be happy to end up as a cut of their sirloin.

Brasserie Artwork

One of the previous winners of the Brasserie Monmartre’s annual crayon art competition on display throughout the restaurant

The other main attraction of the Grill is the view out the window. Being on the 30th floor  you could see out over most of Portland from downtown out into some of the suburbs as the light faded.  It rather put one in mind of Nick Carraway in the Great Gatsby talking of watching as the “white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water”

city grill

The view out of the Portland City Grill over Portland of a Thursday evening 7ish or so.

Here then ends the first part of my Portlandian summation dear reader, coming soon will be part 2 in which your narrator speaks more of the city and at least one of it’s vital bookish shopping opportunities.

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