Portlandia! [Part Two]

I won’t give you a play-by-play, I know that can get pretty tiresome, like showing you the two-hour slideshow from my family vacation. The horror.  But, what I will do is give you days 2-5 of my stay in Portland in terms of lessons learned…so that maybe on your first trip to Portland you’ll–well, I don’t know how helpful these insights will be, but here are 7 things I wish I would have known before my plan landed.

1. Go to the local places, not the chains.

This may be universal advice, but especially in Portland. The tiny holes in the wall are the ones with the good eats.  Don’t even bother going to the Denny’s when you can go to the Stepping Stone Cafe and get a Mancake (yes, the one made famous on Man vs. Food).

Or, you can head to Southeast Portland to a place I would have never gone on my own accord, but am now glad I did. The Original Hotcake House serves up pancakes that elicit this response; we’ve named it “When Harry Met Syrup.”

It’s not all about the pancakes though. J Cafe served us up some paninis that flat-out trumped the ones we got at Starbucks the next day.  And speaking of Starbucks, don’t even bother. Portland Roasting Coffee and Stumptown Roasters make Starbucks taste more like gas station brew.  Portland’s got your taste buds covered.

2. The first time you discover that ‘Couch Street’ is pronounced ‘Cooch Street’ you will immediately feel as though you’ve reverted to your college self.

It’s not a joke. And no one else thinks its funny.

3. Go to the gardens.  The Japanese Garden is worth the $9.50.

I almost didn’t go in when I found that I’d have to spend my lunch money to look at flowers, but oh it is so much more and there is no better way to spend a morning.

Sold yet? These aren’t tourism board photos, I took these with my iPhone! No frills or fancy cameras, it really looks THIS magical.

4. In Austin, a highway divides East and West. In Portland, it’s a river.

Check the damn map before you set off anywhere.  The fact that the GPS says it’s less than a mile away means nothing if you have to trek up to the bridge before you can even consider finding what you’re looking for.  And it’s not a small bridge. This also means that if you’re going to NW 24th street and you ignore the ‘NW’ part when you get off the bus….You’re in trouble. This little oversight got me lost for over an hour. :/

5. Use mass transit, but bring a smart phone.

In the same vein as the previous tip: I know I sound like a total punk for saying so, but I don’t know what people did before smart phones.  Missing one bus or getting one connection wrong could mean the difference between being early and being an hour late. The Trimet system is great though, and I highly recommend it as long as you are able to use their handy online trip planner.  Once you have things kind of memorized, I’m sure it becomes much easier, but as a visitor…keep that smart phone handy.

P.S. I totally knocked out Resolution #82!  Thanks Trimet!

6. Befriend the locals.

Now, I did have a big gathering full of locals to befriend at the Web Visions conference, but I imagine there’s plenty of social events where it’s easy enough to do for anyone else.  For me, this was our rag-tag group of geeks:

That’s me in the back there.  Yelling for some reason. Also, before I forget, there are a few lovely friends who weren’t there that night and of course the one behind the camera, and I can’t possibly forget them, so I’m sending my love to Ken and Burke.

Exploring a new city is so much fun, but it’s far more fun when spent in good company, especially when the good company knows all the good places to go. We ended up hopping around some bars and breweries, eating good food and driving around the city, all the things I would have been doing anyway, but everything gets amped up a notch when you’re spending it with other people.  And of course things like this happen [nerd alert]:

HTML graffiti. Kind of.  It’s chalk on a chalkboard painted wall. We’re not THAT rebellious. One of the little things that just made the night that much more interesting.

The bottom line is, don’t be afraid.  I’m usually a pretty quiet person in social situations. I just so happened to get lucky that Burke is one of those people that brings others together, and that’s exactly what he did and we all ran with it from there. By the time we parted ways I felt like I’d known these people forever. And, even though they weren’t ALL locals, it helps that Portland is just a really friendly town.

…word to the wise though.  Avoid conversation on the bus.  All of those ended up being kind of a bust.  Including a guy who talked to me for half an hour about how much he enjoyed ribs.

And thus, ends my semi-sage Portland advice. I’ll leave you with just one more piece, and the one that means that I have all of these fantastic memories on film:

7. Don’t be afraid to be a tourist!

It’s a trip, a vacation, an adventure. Throw your ego to the wind!  Except when you’re taking vanity shots like these…they’re a little egotistic, but that’s okay.  Happy travels!

Question of the Day: Have any of my readers ever been to Portland?  What were the highlights for you?

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