Passing the Time in Portland

The train ride to Portland was nice and comfortable (the train wasn’t very full, which helped) with great views.  I loved that there were tv screens throughout the cabins telling you what you were looking at as you passed by.  And the four-hour ride was only $26!  Hard to argue with that.

I got a cheap cab ride to my hotel and lamented that the area I was in didn’t look like it had much character or much going on.  I was completely wrong.  At first, I thought there were just divey bars or places that didn’t interest me very much.  I had thought Besaw’s, just two blocks from the hotel, only served breakfast and lunch, but it turned out they also served dinner most nights of the week.  I told myself I would have leftovers for the next morning, but my burger mysteriously disappeared.

The next day, I set out early to rent a car–I was tired of dealing with public transportation and also figured I’d be driving out a bit beyond its reach anyway.  I hadn’t made a prior reservation, so the woman working at Enterprise told me they only had a luxury car or a truck.  Neither of those sounded great to me, but I knew there was no way I could confidently drive a truck, so I chose the luxury car, a BMW.  Now, I have a poor opinion of people who drive them–many of the ones in Northern Virginia just tend to think they own everything and that you and the rules of the road are inconveniencing them–but man did I quickly come to enjoy that car.

I went to the Japanese Gardens and arrived just in time for a free tour to begin.  I was really glad to have had such an informative tour guide, because otherwise I wouldn’t have appreciated what I saw nearly as much.  The International Rose Test Garden is in the same park, so I found my way over there and ran into someone from the Japanese Garden tour and we palled around for a little while, eventually going to Dwaraka to get lunch from the buffet.  (I enjoyed the food until I found a hair.)

The pagoda near the entrance of the Japanese Gardens.
The pagoda near the entrance of the Japanese Gardens.

I had dinner plans with a friend that night, so I went back to my hotel to shower and chill for a while.  I wish I had made better use of my time that day by going to the Lan Su Chinese Garden, but oh well–next time.  I got a cab to Pok Pok, and the driver told me all about how Portland isn’t as great as it used to be now that all these new people are moving in, but he also made sure to tell me to get Pok Pok’s fish sauce wings.  Sounds weird, but he was right–they are delicious!  After dinner, my friend and I moved on to Noble Rot, a fantastic wine bar situated right outside downtown; in the evenings, you can get a view of the sun setting over the mountains behind the city.  We got the last table, so we lucked out, and we’d arrived just in time for sunset.  The atmosphere was nice and not too stuffy, and the waitress was really cool.  Again, the bar is in an industrial area and on the fourth floor of a building, so you kind of have to look for it, but definitely worth seeking out.

I was sad when my last full day of vacation rolled around–I had just gotten to Portland and now I had to get ready to leave.  I had breakfast at Besaw’s (on its last day open 😦 ) and took the car for an enjoyable drive out to Multnomah Falls, which I was only familiar with because I’d read about it in a novel.  I wanted to drive out to The Gorge, or at least deeper into the mountains, but hadn’t realized quite what a commitment that would be, so Multnomah Falls, 45 minutes outside Portland, was a good compromise.

Multnomah Falls

I came back to the hotel to shower and change before having a wander around.  From a map I’d seen of the Nob Hill neighborhood, a lot of interesting cafes and restaurants looked really far away, but weren’t at all.  I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to eat, but as I walked by Southland Whiskey Kitcken, I was enticed by the thought of BBQ and whiskey (and the ’90s-era Mariah Carey song playing outside).  I only wish I could’ve finished my dinner; it’s a shame to throw away good food.  I did manage to finish most of the local Oregon whiskey from my sampler though (the primary reason I didn’t was because the first had a bug in it).  I enjoyed the Burnside Bourbon sample best of all.  I was going to get ice cream from Salt & Straw, but the line didn’t move much in the 10 minutes I stood there, so I sauntered on until I found Moonstruck Chocolate (kind of regretting that decision upon seeing Salt & Straw’s flavor list now, but oh well).

Saturday morning, my friend met me at my hotel and we walked a few blocks over to the Industrial Cafe* for breakfast, where once again, my eyes proved bigger than my stomach**.  I managed to eat the side of bacon I’d ordered and one of the three massive slabs of French toast (I made sure to eat those candied walnuts though), and my friend ate another.  Before I knew it, I was back at the airport and genuinely bummed to be leaving.  I definitely look forward to going back.

*Apparently on this trip I visited at least two places (Ezell’s Chicken in Seattle and Portland’s Industrial Cafe) that Guy Fieri had featured on his show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  I did enjoy my meals from both places, but please let it be known that I hate that guy.

**I’m sure I would have finished more of my meals on vacation if not for my allergies, but it turns out I’m allergic to the Pacific Northwest, which is a shame, because I really like it there.

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