Reub's journey

29 February 2012

Two nights in Portlandia

She should buy those matching beets, don't you think? A stunning accessory.

Soaking up the culture, visiting Powell's book store, eating some great food, and eyeing the hipsters: what's not to like about a few days in Portland?

We managed to get to a number of favorite places, including the farmer's market.

The mushroom seller there was frying gnocchi in butter and pouring wild mushrooms over it at the same time as she was being interviewed by a French radio station.

The French folks were interested in the buy-local-buy-fresh movement that is so widespread here, and they even interviewed John as he waited for his gnocchi. They were pleased to realize he knows a bit of French, but then it became clear that his French is limited. Still better than no French at all.

I love the hand-painted murals in the Crystal Ballroom

We were in Portland for the jazz festival, and was that ever fun. Besides being a forestry professor, John is also a jazz musician, so it's pretty great to attend concerts with him.

Skylight in the ArtBar at the Center for Performing Arts
I love visiting cities. They're so full of life and ideas.

We stayed in a great old hotel, built in 1913 by a timber baron for about a million dollars: a huge fortune.

The wood paneling was Russian, from a tree that is now sadly extinct.  I'm glad that this old building has been loved and cared-for; how sad it would be if all of this went under a wrecking ball, everything going to waste.

Just coming off from a season of Downton Abbey  I imagined myself very privileged.  That's not too far off, is it, if you take the broad view of things?  On a global basis how many people get to spend 2 nights in a place like this, replete with Austrian crystal?

Seriously. How ridiculous.

Simon Benson, the wealthy philanthropist who built this magnificent place, was a teetotaler.  He installed dozens of brass water fountains in Portland to encourage people to drink water. They still work great.

Here I thought I was taking a picture of the doorman, but haha, it was a 3-star general from southeast Asia! What a dork I am. You see, I don't really deserve to stay in places like the Benson Hotel. In my defense the doorman's pants and the general's pants were nearly identical. Stripes are stripes.

Did I mention how good the food was? This is Idaho trout wrapped in bacon and roasted in a wood-fired oven. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Not even all that expensive.

Portlandia. We are not quite as bad as this video makes out. But there are some truths here:


  1. I have only been to Portland once a long time ago, but was fascinated with the city. It is unique and sophisticated but does appear to have a large skin-head or drug-head culture of some sort.

  2. holy crap, you got a good taste of culture and finery! that hotel is amazing!

  3. Tabor, Portland has become a city of the young, with all of the vibrancy that entails. There is a high percentage of adults with college degrees, and it seems as if everybody rides a bike. Lots of parks and little restaurants. Not many skinheads, but certainly a lot of hipsters.

    twg: Portland was a load of fun!

  4. I don't understand how they have all that local great fresh food all the time when their growing season is so short.

    that bacon wrapped trout looks amazing. glad you had a good stay at the mansion.

  5. Portland has definitely become the west coast hipster city of choice. It used to be Seattle, before that, San Francisco. Very cool.

    I hope you caught a glimpse of Portlandia herself, on the front of the Michael Graves building downtown. Yes? She's huge and scary. Her eyes follow you everywhere!

  6. hat's the header photo? I like it.

  7. I have been watching cooking chef's, they say wrapping the food with bacon makes it moist.

  8. Ellen: It's true that from mid-November to mid-February there isn't much fresh produce. But now there are mountains of winter veggies and greens, plus wild mushrooms. Yum. The climate here is really rather mild, and although we had snow yesterday, it wasn't seriously cold.

    Reya: You know, I haven't seen her, and never even remember she's there.:( Portlandia is a huge bronze statue, but she's hard to see up there, and she's in a bit of an obscure part of downtown. Gotta make a point to visit her, though, you're right about that.

    Ann: I love bacon, and want to try wrapping a fish in it now. So fatty though. Oh well.

    The header photo is a close-up of a drop of rainwater on a bit of moss hanging from a branch. I'm so pleased that you noticed it!

  9. I had no idea Benson was behind those bubblers! Looks like you had a great time in PDX. Wish we were there with you!

  10. Lovely. Portland looks nice. Also, Powels!!!

  11. Chrystal, have you always called them bubblers? Or have you taken on that word since living in Chicago? I love that word! I just learned that Benson was the guy behind them. Surprising some rich alcoholic didn't think to install whiskey bubblers.

    Loach: Have you been to Powells? The world's most kick-ass bookstore. It's possible to spend entire days there.


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