A Taste of Portland

Trip Start May 09, 2009
Trip End May 27, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Friday, September 18, 2009

From Ilwaco, we crossed the bridge to Oregon and made our way to Portland. We've been staying at a campground here that is located on Jantzen Beach which is on an island just north of Portland and surrounded by the Columbia River.   Unfortunately, it is very close to the airport.  But since we are only 7 miles from downtown, and there were no other good alternatives, we decided to put up with the jet noise – along with the noise of the train that runs near here and the loud horns of ships in the Columbia River.  All the more reason to spend most of our time in downtown Portland and not at the campground!

On our first full day here, we made our way downtown (thank god for our GPS!) and parked in one of the city’s SmartPark garages.  We walked along the Williamette River waterfront where there is a long wide pathway for bikes and walkers.  Then we took a four hour "Epicurean Walking Tour" of Portland.  Our tour guide, Herb, is an actor and improv comedian, so he was quite entertaining.  The emphasis of the tour was on Portland’s slow food movement (shout out to our friend Sue Zack who is a proponent of slow food and first told me about this).  The restaurants and specialty shops we visited believe in FLOSS – fresh, local, organic, sustainable and seasonal.  Along with the small tastings of foods, wines and spirits we got along the way, Herb provided some tidbits on Portland culture and history.  One of the most interesting stops was at The Rogue Brewery where they not only make microbrew ales but also small batch spirits.  We met with their rum distiller, Mel, who explained the distilling process.  Mel was apparently voted most “kickass distiller” in Portland, and she was fun and informative.  We had a great tour with the best weather possible (sunny and low 80s). 

The next day, we had lunch at Kell’s Irish Pub with Ryan Kramer and Mariah Dunn, who we had met at the Norris campground in Yellowstone and have lived here for a couple of years.  It was great to catch up with them.  Then we went to the Portland Saturday Market – an arts and crafts market with food and music that happens every Saturday by the river.  We aren’t really in the buying more stuff mode, but it was a fun atmosphere.  Since the weather was not great, we headed back to our campsite to catch some football on TV; we had limited cable access at this campground – unfortunately, we saw MSU lose to Notre Dame but couldn’t see FSU trounce BYU (yea, Noles!!).

Portland is, hands down, the coolest city on our trip so far.  Downtown is a combination of modern and old architecture, with small and large parks everywhere, and an accessible waterfront.  It is situated perfectly for taking advantage of nearby mountains and rivers.  The only downside for us would be the weather which is too gray in the winter and too wet for our taste.  But a great city, nonetheless.

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