Portland. City of Roses. Land of “Put a Bird on It.”
Those closest to me have been following this evolving ‘whim’ that I’ve had to move away from Austin, my home. I mean moving out of city, out of state, moving–specifically–to Portland, Oregon. No particular reason other than a change of scenery. Portland’s beautiful, it’s green, and has been described accurately by both Austinites and Portlandians as “Austin on Steroids.” It’s got the same vegan-local-hipster-artist culture, an even more health-happy population, and…and it actually has seasons!
Well, lucky me, there just so happened to be a web design conference in Portland this month. Luckier me, my company agreed to send me there on their dime to learn more about the future of web design, but also to explore my potential future home for the first time. And, did I mention the fulfillment of Resolution #2: Visit a new US State? Check!
The conference started yesterday, but I padded it with a few days and flew in Monday morning so that I could explore the city a little before being confined to the Oregon Convention center for three days.
There’s nothing quite like taking off from dry and crispy Austin, TX and descending from the clouds over snow-capped mountains and miles and miles of green forest in Oregon. But, I won’t spend too much time on the obvious. The greatest part about my first day in Portland was…
Resolution #87: Wander a Big City with No Agenda
I won’t lie and say that I’m the kind of person that would have a panic attack if I didn’t have an agenda, but I usually do just because I don’t want to miss anything, especially in a place I don’t know. But, I think that this is also the easiest way to miss things too. If you just go from one site to another, to another, you miss all of the amazing stuff in between. I made a point to ask for recommendations in the PDX, but refused to plan out a damn thing.
So, after 3 hours of getting hopelessly lost in the Portland mass transit system I finally managed to get to my hotel, but thanks to being lost I got a great look at the surrounding neighborhood while I rode the bus in circles. It turned out I was right along a great street of boutiques and restaurants, so I decided to take a walk and see what I could find.
Just a block away I found an adorable boulangerie, St. Honore Boulangerie. People were outside eating something WAY more appetizing than the pretzles I’d been snacking on for the last six hours of air travel. I picked up a yummy vegan panini (no, I’m not vegan, vegan food just happens to be really delicious) with hummus and roasted veggies, and the people watching was free.
Refueled, I headed off down the street. I found a “Chocolate Cafe” (meaning they sell ONLY chocolate and coffee. Can I get an amen?) where I picked up some truffles, then just down the street I popped into another candy shop which ended up being the first place in the US where I’d found Katjes. Priorities, right? I tinkered around in some boutiques that were way too expensive for me, but window shopping is just as great. I did, however, walk away with a pair of $20 flats. They were on sale.
I decided to head back after a couple of hours to take a nap before venturing back out into the city. But…a wrong turn would land me face-to-face with this guy…
This, lovely readers, is the greeter for The Peculiarium. I don’t even know what to say this place is, or what it means to Portlandians. It’s a hot dog / ice cream shop / museum of sorts? Oh, just let me show you.
It was….something. They also had a broad selection of insect snacks, like Nacho cheese crickets and scorpions in lollipops; also a winner of a board game selection included gems like “The Crazy Cat Lady Game” and “Mr. Bacon’s Big Adventure.” So, thoroughly confused and a little disturbed, I finally made it in the right direction and back to my hotel.
I figured after a little rest I’d head out into town to fulfill yet another resolution.
Resolution #103: Do something that I heard about on the Travel Channel
Thanks to mister Anthony Bourdain, I’ve had dreams of Voodoo Donuts without even setting foot in the place. And, who can blame me, right? When the donut case looks like this:
Cap’n crunch? Bubble gum?! OREOS AND PEANUT BUTTER?! But I had to go with the classic…
The voodoo doll. (Also vegan. Is there anything that’s NOT vegan in Portland?) Complete with a pretzel stake through the heart and raspberry jelly blood filling. And I’m not going to lie, I had a little bit too much fun ripping the head off and squeezing the filling out. …Too much?
It turned out that Voodoo Donuts was actually just blocks away from another friend’s recommendations: Powell’s City of Books. So I ducked in there to see what the hub-bub was about, and didn’t emerge until almost 2 hours later. That place has everything. I mean everything. Local books, rare books, even a really awesome collection of hand-printed zines. In other words, book worm heaven.
Next, a thrift shop across the street. I’m determined to leave with a “Portland” outfit. Something consisting of neat patterns, high socks, and probably combat boots. I don’t know what the fixation is, I guess I’m just envious of the hipster ability to put together clothing items that don’t match, and make them look fabulous. …I didn’t actually walk away with anything, but I DID find these shoes, which were worth the trip:
Better than combat boots, I’d say.
I was determined to find a food cart for dinner since I’ve heard they’re so good here, but the time change and aching feet got the best of me and I caved as soon as I saw a Whole Foods. So I finished off the evening with a salad and the company of…this stranger…who had a ‘666’ tattooed on his face and the word “Fuck” across his knuckles. Mm….Portland. I love ya already.
It’s really amazing the things you find when you aren’t looking. The doors you walk into, either on purpose or because you were looking at your phone and you’re lost, but none were a mistake, and none were a waste of time. Life doesn’t always need a plan, In fact, sometimes eliminating the plan will reveal things you would have never known existed. For me, today, it just ended in some bizarre oddities and cool shoes, but in the bigger picture…it can really change your world. Explore!