Checking in, post-Portland

I’m halfway through my big travel stretch with one more trip to go (Newport, then Portland, and soon Florida). Gotta say, it’s not a bad way to break up the winter! I hate, hate, HATE this stretch from November to February when it’s so cold and dark that you can barely drag yourself out of bed every morning. I show up everywhere late this time of year, and each winter I seem to want to travel farther and longer. I sometimes wonder if I’m eventually going to end up just…moving. No place is perfect, but sometimes you really start to wonder what’s so great about Boston when you fly into this dirty, old airport and people are rude and it’s snowing and cold and it takes you 90 minutes to drive four miles home…but somehow I’m always homesick for this place when I’m gone! So I guess I won’t be moving away anytime soon.

So I’ve been cooking despite all the travel, and obviously eating pretty well on the road, too, considering the quality of places I’ve visited. In Portland, although I was there for work, I can recommend a few great restaurants and shops we managed to visit. I stayed Downtown/the Pioneer District and ventured out into a couple of the neighborhoods, including Northeast (Buckman/Kerns), Southeast Portland, NW 23rd (Nob Hill), and the South Auditorium District, where we toured a post-urban-renewal district and accompanying sequence of public parks and fountains created by noted landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, who worked primarily in the American Northwest. No big surprise — it was raining 100% of the time I was in Portland — so we didn’t get to experience how awesome these spaces must be in the warm weather.

Amazing meals were had at The Picnic House Downtown, and Jake’s in the Governor’s Hotel (maybe not so much amazing as just “solid,” and noted for their Dungeness Crab, a west coast specialty that was indeed worth trying). We tried unsuccessfully to get a table at Tasty n Alder, but it books up too far in advance for business travelers! If you make it across the river to Northeast Portland, check out the pocket of restaurants in The Zipper, a new micro-restaurant space that opened last fall. Though the food counters are tiny, there’s a gigantic shared dining room and patio with room for probably 100 people, and I was pretty darn satisfied with the falafel and beer selection. Pictured: Blood Orange Hard Cider, courtesy of Paydirt.

I also did some decent shopping at the famous Powell’s Books, and in the Nob Hill/Alphabet City area north of Burnside along NW 23rd Avenue, where I actually bought a new pair of glasses at Fetch and picked up some Poplandia popcorn, chocolate-covered Hazelnuts (apparently a distinctive crop in Oregon) and Moonstruck Chocolates for my Valentines back home. Of course, no visit to Portland would be complete without partaking in the coffee snobbery or the donut trend, so I did both! My favorites were VooDoo (the most famous) and Blue Star Donuts, which locals told me they prefer. And, seriously, I didn’t have a bad cup of coffee (or tea) the entire time I was there. Boston honestly needs to get on board this boxed iced coffee train IMMEDIATELY.

Eating aside, it felt like I barely scratched the surface of Portland. Didn’t make it to the Japanese or Chinese gardens, or take a bike tour, or visit any breweries, though I certainly got a chance to try a few beers while eating out. I only sampled one food truck plaza, didn’t get to the International Rose Test Garden that gives the city its nickname, and I would have loved to better explore the waterfront as well as to check out some of the famed jazz clubs. Sadly with the time difference and work starting up early every morning, that had to get postponed to my next visit! There’s so much to do here and I’d love to bring Georgia and Mark to see everything. This is one of the most family-friendly places I’ve ever been. Baby wearing seems to be the norm, public parks abound, restaurants welcome tots of all ages, and most stores seemed cool with them, too, even offering indoor stroller parking (and I didn’t see a single $1,000 carriage in site — which has sadly become the barometer by which I judge new places). I felt like me, my clogs, my jogging stroller and my hyperactive toddler & artist husband could have just moved right in among bike-riding, vegetarian friends. As fun as Portland was, I was so happy to get back home to be with my babies this week! We celebrated by hitting Disney on Ice together!

Have a wonderful week everyone!

2 thoughts on “Checking in, post-Portland

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