Autumn is upon us, a chill is in the breeze, and for the past two years this has meant my taking off on an adventure abroad. This year however, the TC and I are saving up for our wedding so another overseas journey is out of the question. That’s just fine–there are a lot of cool places to visit not far from Vancouver. Places like…
I’ve never been down the west coast of the US before so the only thing I knew about Oregon was that it was pretty and had apples and also the Portland Timbers (an MLS team I can respect despite it not being my beloved Whitecaps FC). Also, I thought Portland would probably be cool, and it is.
How we got there: We took the Bolt Bus. Costs about $100 for a round-trip from Vancouver, and takes about 8 hours each way. The bus also has free wi-fi, which is great when you end up stuck at the US-Canada border for an hour and a half because there are five buses full of Seattle Seahawks fans in front of you.
Pros of the Bolt Bus: relatively cheap and easy way to get to Portland, you get to go through Seattle which is cool, and Washington state is really pretty when it isn’t raining.
Cons of the Bolt Bus: the seats are not all that comfortable and you don’t really stop anywhere long enough to have a meal (so pack a lunch but eat your fruit before you get to the border!). It was also raining and dark on our way back through Washington state, so there were very few pretty views to be had.
Where we stayed: With friends in Milwaukie, a suburb of Portland. It was pretty easy to get to downtown on the bus, which cost $2.50. The streetcar system is pretty cool too.
What we did: Ate a LOT, took in Pecha Kucha PDX (which is free, unlike in Vancouver), played ukulele in the car, went to a house party where the host and his incredibly talented friends played bluegrass all night (there were banjos, mandolins, guitars, a fiddle, even a stand up bass), went shopping for hiking boots (no sales tax, woot!), visited Powell’s Books, watched the sun set over Portland from Departure on the 15th floor of the Nine’s Hotel, walked around the tres cool East Side (including the antique/oddity shop Smut Vintage, where I was tempted to buy someone else’s old photo albums, and where a 1980s issue of the motorcycle titty mag Easyriders had a cover story titled “What’s the KKK up to?” which included an interview with a clan wizard), and generally chilled out, which is easy to do when you’re in Portland.
Where we ate:
- Clyde Common – a trendy eatery near the Ace Hotel in downtown Portland. The cocktails were excellent but not cheap, and the food was decent upscale pub fare (honey bacon, good bread, that sort of thing) though nothing that blew my hair back. Perhaps if we’d been there for supper rather than lunch we would have been more inclined to order something more exciting than a club sandwich and a burger. That being said, “happy hour” is a thing in Portland, and Clyde Common’s lasts for three hours, so if I ever want to get day-drunk on good mixed drinks I’ll know where to go.
- Bridgeport Brewery – our official reason for going to Bridgeport was to fill up a friend’s growler, but we stayed for lunch and it was pretty great. Great fries. A pasta special. Excellent (cheap) beer. Mini pies for dessert. We filled up the growler with Witch Hunt, Bridgeport’s seasonal spiced harvest ale (as far as autumnal beers go, this is probably the best I’ve had). Sad story: we actually filled a second growler with delicious-smelling chocolate porter but the growler must have been cracked–the neck of the bottle spontaneously broke off while we were idling at the border and chocolate porter spilled all over the bus. Sigh.
- Jam on Hawthorne – Who doesn’t like a good breakfast? Who doesn’t like the option to get a waffle with the works and a big pile of hash browns on the side? Unlike most popular East Van brunch venues, Jam on Hawthorne is huge so the only reason we had to wait ten minutes for a table was because I didn’t want to sit near the fans (I was cold). They also have a play area for kids and give you lollipops on your way out.
- Departure – TC and I wanted to have a cool drinking/dining experience while the sun went down and we really couldn’t have asked for anything cooler than the 15th-floor rooftop patio at Departure. For one thing, the interior is CRAZY and looks like a space ship. For another, despite its fanciness, it’s not as expensive as some of my more splurge-y dining favourites in Vancouver. Thirdly, the view is amazing, fourthly, the drinks are awesome, and last but definitely not least, the food is effing delicious. The best way I can describe the menu is “Asian tapas” (ordering a bunch of dishes and eating with share plates and chopsticks). Everything we tried was good, but our favourites were definitely the wok-fried Brussels sprouts with chili, lime, and mint, and the orgasmically good crispy pork belly.
What I would do again: I would certainly spend more time exploring the East Side because it’s a pretty cool neighbourhood. I would go back to Departure, because the food was really that delicious, and I absolutely need to go back to Powell’s Books. It is the Versailles of used bookstores and I even had to run around putting a few things back before I went to the till because I realized I didn’t have room for everything I’d picked out. If you love books, visiting Powell’s is just a gorgeous experience (thank you to blogger/illustrator Loobylu for the great tip!). Poor TC had to watch me lose my nostalgic shit over all the books in the “Newbery Honor” section of the children’s area, and it definitely took a great feat of willpower for me to not to buy up all the Winne the Pooh. I even found myself lusting after books I hadn’t thought of in years, like Charlotte’s Web and A Wrinkle in Time. Sigh…what’s a book lover to do?
My only real regret about our time in Oregon is that we didn’t get to see more of it, especially the Oregonian wilderness outside the city. Luckily for us, Oregon is not far away. So til next time, keep it real, Portland!