Trip Start Mar 26, 2006
Trip End Oct 20, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Who would have guessed? By complete surprise, I've been entirely won over by a city I never heard anything about before - Portland! Imagine a mix of hip, relaxed funkiness, world-class restaurants and museums, progressive politics, a university, Japanese and Chinese gardens, affordable and contemporary lofts springing up everywhere, unique shops, cool neighborhoods, free mass transit within the city center, tons of places to hike, bike, and kayak within minutes of downtown, fresh Pacific seafood, friendly approachable people, and a Shambhala meditation center. Unbelievable! I'd want to spend a winter here before making the final call, but Portland easily jumps to the top of my list of favorite U.S. cities.

As it turns out, one of our long-time friends from Denver, Davol, is renting a place here for a month, and over the weekend, Tony, another friend of ours from D.C., is flying in for the weekend and doesn't know we're in town. Davol devises a surprise meeting over breakfast the following morning, and when Todd and I walk into the restaurant and sit down at their table, Tony just about falls out of his seat. Our reunion had us fighting back tears, and for the next two days we talk non-stop, eat, and laugh continuously.

Some highlights...

We duck into Powell's Books, the largest independent bookstore in the U.S., followed by a stop into the Chinese Gardens, an enchanting oasis that makes you forget that you're in the city center. We visit the teahouse to enjoy tea and appetizers under the calming gaze of a Kwan Yin statue, snap tons of photos of perfectly feng shui'd settings, and Tony walks around barefoot on the smooth stone walkway to receive the relaxing benefits of an accupressure foot massage, which the walkways are designed for.

We ride the free (yes, free!) light rail to densely treed Washington Park at the edge of town and view the Japanese gardens. Davol and Tony give me a quick photography lesson as we snap pictures of shrines, Zen rock gardens, waterfalls, and perfectly manicured bonsai.

The next morning we saunter past Fenouil, a French restaurant that catches our eye, and spontaneously decide to stop in. The smoked salmon hash with poached egg and hollandaise set down before me is pure culinary magic. This meal alone is enough to make me want to book a return trip to Portland.

To round out the weekend, we drive the Willamette River Gorge and hike the trails that wind up steep hillsides past gorgeous cascading waterfalls that rush past lush, moss-covered stones and boulders. It's hard to believe that so much recreation is available so close to the city, and we find ourselves talking about how tempting it is to make Portland home.

Though we'd promised ourselves that we were going to eat cheap last night, we were too tempted by our friend Bill's recommendation to try the mussels and frites at Paley's Place. So we threw our dress shirts on again and headed to Paley's for some of the most delicious mussels we've ever tasted. (Thanks, Bill!!!) There were a million entrees on the menu that sounded incredible, so we'll be visiting this spot again.

It's our last night here. It'll be hard to leave Portland in the morning, but there's more to discover further down the coast, so off we go.
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csimpson on

good luck!
You're going to LOVE Portland. Sounds like lots of change, being away from all your family and friends, but keep your heart open and dive in to all that the Northwest has to offer! I had no idea how great it was up here until we started on this trip - definitely will be back. Hope you like it, too. And thanks for dropping me a friendly note. Cheers.

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