Thursday, 11 June 2015

Road Trip Diary: Portland, weird Portland.

Day 26
Friday 29th May 2015

Portland! Home to the perennial bearded hipster, beautiful Instagram-ers and a million food trucks. Thanks to our love of Portlandia (look it up on Netflix and thank me later) this was one of our most anticipated stops.

We arrived in Portland Friday afternoon and were due to be staying in a crap motel north of the Willamette River for two nights and then a decent hotel downtown for two nights but after travelling around so much we decided to cancel them and go for a Holiday Inn near 23rd Avenue. This is the best thing we've found about Expedia, their cancellation policy is usually flexible, so we didn't lose any money. The new hotel was in a great location, had a pool and an amazing buffet breakfast that we took full advantage for four mornings. Tip: A little bit naughty and considered by many uncouth, if you're on a budget try and discretely 'conserve' (i.e shove it in your bag when no one is looking!) some of the breakfast food. Individually wrapped fruit, muffins and bagels make for excellent cheap/free lunches. 

We dumped our bags and promptly had a nap. Not very rock and roll but we were a bit knackered and wanted to have a fair few drinks and a night out. 23rd Avenue is a really long road packed with bars, restaurants and shops so is a really convenient place to stay near. We walked down 23rd, past the beautiful architecture and old wooden houses and found Serratto, a restaurant offering mid-priced Mediterranean fare. The staff were friendly and it had a lively, chatty atmosphere. A delicious mushroom risotto for me and wild boar pappardelle for him plus a few glasses of prosecco pushed us over budget a bit- around $85 for a shared starter, main, wine and tip but we knew we could claw it back another day.
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Day 27
Saturday 30th May 2015

We hopped on the streetcar halfway down 23rd Ave ($1 fare for 2.5 hours of unlimited travel- pretty good!) and headed downtown. Portland is famous for a few things, mainly its hipsters, food and its weirdness. It's a standard small-ish sized U.S city with a few run down areas and some bright sparkling new ones. We walked to the Saturday market near the river which was huge- a mix of hippy stalls selling things carved out of wood/jewellery made from cutlery and food stalls selling something for every type of craving. The area was buzzing but we weren't hungry just yet so after a little walk along the river humming the Portlandia 90's song we stopped in at Stumptown Coffee for an iced latte and then on to Lardo for an incredible lunch of Korean pulled pork and kimchi.

That night we hung out on 23rd Avenue at the local bars- mainly McMenamins, Lompoc Tavern and the Fireside, all with great happy hours. We've found booze is around the same price here, if not slightly less especially in the aforementioned happy hours which are regular occurrences. Cocktails seem to be cheaper though, most have been around $8 (£5.16) for a margarita.

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Day 28
Sunday 31st May 2015

A little bit hungover today so we had a leisurely walk through the Nob Hill area to ascend up to Portland's famous International Test Rose Garden which was huge, 4.5 acres of fully bloomed roses of all colours and sizes, all setting off my hay-fever to a spectacular degree. I jest, it was beautiful and we stopped to smell almost all of them and carried on through Washington Park to see the statue of Sacagawea. We each bought a donut at Blue Star Donuts on the way back thanks to a recommendation from the lovely Lil at Whip Until Fluffy and ate them on the steps of the Timbers Soccer stadium.

For lunch we popped in to Trader Joe's, another U.S revelation. It's basically a store where everything is own-branded and sold simply or with as little packaging as possible. You can fill your own jars and pots with all manner of produce, fill a growler (a term for a large ale bottle) with beer or top up your soap dispensers with peppermint hand wash. It's all a fair bit cheaper too. We bought some hummus wraps and ate them in a local park watching the world go by. We spent the evening drinking cocktails and beer at Matador, then on to Southland Whiskey Kitchen for a fine mac and cheese and plonking ourselves into bed just gone midnight.

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Day 29
Monday 1st June 2015

Exactly two years ago, Ed and I got married. Today, we got a hangover. We were in dire need of that excellent hotel breakfast. Oops! Not the best way to start your anniversary. So far, we had been experiencing unusually decent weather in Portland but today, that came to an end. It was drizzling as we hopped on the streetcar to downtown and, equipped with appropriate weather gear, took in some more sights in the infamous rain. We spent a couple of hours browsing the shelves at Powell's City of Books, which claims to be the world's largest independent book store. It takes up a whole city block and is like a huge department store for books. Ed loved it and we ended up buying a few to take the place of ones we've already finished this trip. We couldn't resist another trip to Voodoo Doughnut so popped to one of Portland's branches and had to queue for a good half hour this time (it went quickly as I was distracted by their rainbow glitter wall) to get our Oreo topped delights. If we carry on like this, we'll turn into a pair of doughnuts in no time.

We had heard some good reports of a little Greek restaurant on 23rd Avenue called Dorio so decided to head there for our anniversary meal. We needed to keep it reasonably cheap as Portland hadn't been kind on our wallets and Dorio was perfect. It was the best food I had tasted in nearly a month. We shared freshly cooked lamb and chicken skewers, tangy and fragrant spanakopita and a delicious moussaka, washed down with some very good house white, all for around $50.

Portland surprised me, it was a lot bigger and more spread out than I had imagined before. I thought it would be like East London, all tightly contained over a few main streets, but in reality it's pretty large. There's whole other districts we didn't get to scout out but we loved what we saw. It's not overly pretentious like some of the hipster vibes you get in other places and it's laid back like much of the pacific northwest. If you get a chance to visit, don't hesitate!
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  1. Portland looks so lovely! Voodoo Doughnuts looks dangerously delicious, too. I cannot wait to visit Portland-- I will check Portlandia out just off the strength of this post :). In-N-Out and Five Guys are fantastic but if you have a chance, try the Habit Burger Grill! What's another burger, right? Thoroughly enjoying these posts!

    1. Haha seriously do! It's one of those shows where certain bits make me laugh more than others, but there are some gems in there! Ooh thanks for the tip, we'll keep an eye out for a Habit Burger, haven't seen one yet I don't think. We can add it to our burger count! :D


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