Tuesday, September 02, 2008

In the Land of Port

Just got back last night from a quick trip to Portland (Oregon). Bryn and I were going to spend one night, but on the way down we decided to add an extra night. We had a few places and things we wanted to see, like the Japanese Garden, the Planetarium at OMSI, and the Zoo; however, the only place on our list we both made it to was Powell's Books. And let me say right now that it was TOTALLY worth the trip. In fact, for Bryn it was probably one of the highlights of his year, especially Powell's Technical Bookstore.

I hadn't been to Portland in years and even then, I'd never spent a significant amount of time there. It was interesting. Of course I felt right at home in the up-and-coming Pearl District with its Whole Foods, yuppie-vibe, and new condo buildings. The rest of the city that I experienced had a rather depressed air to it. I enjoyed the architecture though. It seemed like Portland retained more of its old buildings than Seattle has, although that may not have been entirely by choice. The scale of the city is also much more pedestrian friendly. It invites walking in a way that Seattle doesn't.

There was a definite coffee-culture happening. Almost as many coffee places as Seattle, although the one that was recommended to us (Stumptown) was terrible when we went. Could have been a one-time fluke? But I have to say that it was the loooongest line I'd ever waited in for a medium (medium?) mocha before. I also observed equally long lines at many other coffee places, so it does seem like they are attached to their coffee. There was also a proliferation of little gift shops with windows filled with clutter. All of those places have long since been priced out of Seattle's downtown core.

I did make it to the Portland Art Museum (without Bryn), which was really cool. You can tell that Portland was a booming city with lots of wealth during the late 19th/early 20th century. I was surprised at some of the artists and pieces represented for a relatively new, West coast museum. They have some definite strengths that the Seattle Art Museum doesn't seem to have. I was also especially pleased by their Native American art/artifacts. They had a collection with pieces from across North America, which is refreshing in a Northwest museum. I mean, I really like Northwest Coast Native art, but there's a whole slew of cultures out there to see. It was nice to see and contrast pieces from different geographical areas.

As for the hotel, we stayed at Hotel Modera, a refurbished Days Inn near the Cultural District. It was nice enough. The remodel had been done quite well although when I booked it on Hotwire it was touted as a four star hotel, which I don't agree with. It had some four star characteristics, but lacked the ammenities I would expect (no in-room snacks or on-site restaurant/bar). $27-a-day valet parking with in/out privileges isn't enough of an ammenity. But the rooms were nice (if small) and the bed was really comfy. Bryn particularly enjoyed the fire pits they lit in the garden every evening. I'd stay there again.

On the way back we stopped at an outlet mall near Centralia (or somewhere like that). It was a sad little place. The most puzzling place I saw there was a Christian Outlet. I was confused. Is it a place where overstock from all the other little Christian gift stores ends up? Or did they just buy in bulk and offer really good deals on things? Bryn went in to check it out and I opted for a shoe store instead. The shoe store was terrible and while I was waiting on a bench outside the Christian Outlet I observed many things I did not want to buy through the window such as plastic angels and plastic eggs with bible sayings carved into them.

It was good to get home last night. There is nary a Christian Outlet to be seen in my neighborhood and plenty of good coffee. In fact, I'm sipping a Vivace mocha right now!


Snotty McSnotterson said...

The reason P-town is 'coming up coffee' is because of all the Seattleites who moved there. I'm not joking. Portland is like Seattle Light (or maybe it's Diet Portland: lighter and better for you, for now).

Manthony said...

I keep hearing it is where hipsters go to die. I would predict it will go the way of Seattle in twenty years based on the gentrification of the Pearl District and influx of yippiness.