Published: September 13th 2011September 11th 2011
Backspace Coffee House
Not all bathrooms in Portland had this much art.
We left Portland on Saturday, after three and a bit good days of wandering about, drinking coffee and espressos (actually macchiatos), testing the local beer, shopping, visiting galleries and, of course, eating. The people of Portland are, for the most part, incredibly friendly and helpful. In my experience, not the norm for such a big city. Oh there are also the slightly ‘different’ folk who spend a lot of time talking to themselves and chat up others for no particular purpose other than to hear themselves talk, but those folk make up the total ambience of a big city. Somehow they seem to fit and are accepted. Many times, when we got on a train or streetcar, or were standing and waiting for the same, someone would start in with one of us. Les seemed to attract the most attention.
When we arrived on Tuesday we parked the car and never got in it again until leaving on Saturday. What a treat it was to walk five minutes to the train called the MAX, similar to Calgary’s LRT, and travel from the northern outskirts right to the centre of town in 25 minutes. Downtown there was a streetcar service and
lots of buses. We used them all. We both bought transit passes. Mine was a seniors pass for two weeks for $13.50. Les’s was a bit more, but they both paid for themselves many times over.
We visited most of the notable districts in the central part of the city, such as the Pearl District, Nob Hill, Hawthorne, the University, and the Waterfront. If we were living in Portland we would be down to these places often, I’m sure. I was overwhelmed by all the stores and manufacturing businesses that were set up there. I’m sure you could find a prime source for almost anything you wanted to buy, other than say a car or an airplane. For us, the main attraction was Powell’s Book Store. The place is legendary and now we know why. Les also had a great time at several yarn stores.
Eating was a lot of fun with everything from fancy (read ‘expensive’) restaurants to food vans parked in central locations downtown. There was good coffee to be had in almost any city block. The shops were almost as prolific as they were in Italy. One standout downtown were the Stumptown Coffee Shops, but Jack
found the Phil and Sebastian’s (of Calgary) equivalent on the east side of the river on Water Street while visiting an Art Gallery. It is called Water Avenue Coffee and is part of a complex than includes The American Barista and Coffee School.
The pubs were outstanding and served locally brewed beer that was right up with the best of them. My favourite was the Deschutes Brewery Pub near Powell’s Books. They have a British style bitter that is just like the bitter in England. They even have the option of keg or cask poured. The cask pour is what the Brits have and I like that the best. I think it has more taste. However, the most unique pub name was an upscale place quoted as having the best wine list in the world in 2008. It was called ‘Veritable Quandary’.
The number and quality of the art galleries in Portland is outstanding. We didn’t come close to seeing all of them, but liked what we saw, for the most part. In the world of art there always seem to be some that have high acclaim, but we don’t understand the art. One surprise was in the
These fountains are all over downtown Portland. Another part of the class act of the place.
Portland Art Gallery where they have hanging some original Monet’s including WATER LILIES.
A couple of the galleries focussing on photographic art also provided many other services for photographers including darkrooms, art and photography classes, and loads of information on what was going on in Portland and other places on the west coast of the USA. I asked them how they got their money for operation. The answers ranged from gallery memberships, art sales, grants, and “lots of begging”. Regardless, the results were there to be seen in well managed, well presented galleries.
The only limiting part of the trip so far is the HEAT. By 1 pm the temperature is usually into the 90s and unbearable for we northerners with blue skin. What that means is we do our outside stuff in the morning and then spend the afternoon at inside venues, which includes coffee houses and pubs. Oh darn!
In a few videos I’ve seen about Portland, they talked extensively about how the city has been redefined in the past two decades to accommodate more family life downtown. This seems to have attracted families to live right in the heart of the city. During the
Hawthorne Bridge over the Willamette River
There are numerous bridges in Portland. Many of them are old lift or draw bridges such as this one.
week I saw groups of moms out doing exercise classes that included jogging in a group with their fancy, tricycle push strollers. On the weekend, in the parks I saw families playing on the fields and in the wading pools and fountains. Some parks had young people setting up games or putting on little shows for the kids. It all seemed very European to me and I liked it.
The last thing we did before leaving Portland was to go to the Art Market set up around the Skidmore Fountain down on the river waterfront. It was entertaining, but really just an enhanced version of what you can see at the Sidney Market every week at Sidney on Vancouver Island. Mind you, Sidney doesn’t have the buskers that were at the Portland Art Market.
There are more photos below