Saturday, July 13, 2013

4th of July in Portland and beyond

Portland - WelcomeI like the Northwest United States. Lush,  green scenery, fresh air and still giving you that feeling that you are in the West Coast. 

Portland may not be an international destination but it has lots of things to offer to travelers. This Filipino guy absolutely enjoyed the sites, food and wine in and around Portland.

Let me take you on a virtual tour of my favorite sites in Portland, Oregon.

4th of July fireworks
Portland - Happy 4th
We came to Portland to site see and of course to witness how the city celebrates the 4th of July. Portland gets an extra hour of sunshine more than San Francisco so the fireworks did not start until 10pm. The city was hosting its annual weeklong blues festival near the Willamette River so there were a lot of people even early on. We were able to chat with locals and I discovered one thing in common among them - they have a sense of pride about Portland. I think they should because we learned later on the trip that Portland is truly a great town.

Portlandia statue
Portland - Portlandia statue
I've learned about this statue from my guide book. One of the things I should have done before visiting Portland is to watch the popular tv show Portlandia. This would have given me an idea about Portland and this statue. But the great thing about not seeing Portlandia is that I didn't have any expectations about the city and I ended up loving every bit of the trip.

Powell's City of Books
Portland - Powells Bookstore inside
I was in the Red room when Mijo texted me letting me know that he's in the Blue room. I like going to bookstores but it was the first time I've gone to a bookstore as a tourist attraction. I was told that Powell's City of Books is the largest bookstore in the world. The building is multi storey where the rooms are color coded. It occupies an entire city block. In fact, the bookstore spills over to the next block where the technology books are located. You'll need a map to get around the bookstore. Guess what I found in their technology section? Mainframe assembler language manuals and a few of them printed in the 70s! I was a happy camper. :) If I lived in Portland, I would hang out here often.

International Rose Test Garden at Washington Park
Portland - International Rose Test Garden
This garden is huge and there are lots of roses of different colors, sizes and scents. This is probably where Portland got its nickname City of Roses judging by the rows and rows of possibly thousands of rose bushes and flowers in this garden. Mijo, being a gardening enthusiast, was beaming with joy. All the roses for him to see! The best smelling roses for me are Bella Roma (D31) and April in Paris (D13). This is where I found the perfect Portland souvenir. A fridge magnet pink rose with Portland, Oregon written on it. Mijo and I discovered later in the trip about the other equally stunning parks dotting Portland.

Voodoo Doughnut
Portland - Voodoo donuts
I remember this donut shop from an episode of Anthony Bourdain's TV food show shot in Portland. I added this to my list because I was intrigued particularly with the Bacon and Maple donut. It looks gross but it actually tastes good. The savory bacon flavor goes surprisingly well with the sweet maple taste. As you can see, Mijo and I got carried away with our Voodoo Dougnut shopping. We had to finish eating these donuts in the next three days in Portland. Do you see a donut shaped like a voodoo? That's the voodoo donut and it has a red jelly filling which oozes once you pull out the pretzel off the donut. Funny how locals would shout 'totally not worth it' at us while driving by. It didn't sound promising at that time particularly since we had been in line for almost half an hour. Aside from donuts, they also sell souvenir items. Oh, and they accept cash only.

Portland Art Museum
Portland - Portland Art Museum
Of course, no city tour is complete without a visit to the art museum. The museum entrance had this artful collection of bike helmets that formed a red letter P in the middle. Luckily, they have a reciprocal membership with the Asian Art Museum.
Portland - Cyclepedia at Portland Art Museum
A bicycle exhibit was also being held at the Portland Art Museum entitled Cyclepedia: Iconic Bicycle Design. The art exhibit displays 40 bicycles from collector and designer Michael Embacher which include mountain, racing, tandem, urban, folding, cargo, single speed, and children’s bicycles. Portland is a bicycle city. I thought it is appropriate that Portland is the venue for this design-oriented exhibit. I totally enjoyed this exhibit even though I know nothing about bicycles. Later that day, I bought a book called Everyday Bicycling by Elly Blue at the museum store. Wish me luck. :)

Pioneer Square
Portland - Pioneer Square
This is where the local Portland crowd and tourists get together. It is hard to miss the square because the city's main light rail lines converge here. The Visitor Information center is located here. This is also where we found out about the city's hop-on hop off trolley tours which made our getting around the city easier. Ikea plastic chairs dot the western edge of the park.
Portland - Pioneer Square Statue
This sculpture is called Allow Me and it is a bronze life-sized sculpture of a man offering his umbrella was created by national artist J. Seward Johnson.
Portland - Directions
This Mile Post sign is also found around Pioneer Square and it shows Portland's sister city's and the geographical distance from the city.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Portland - Cafe Scene
Portland is a great coffee town and as a coffee drinker Stumptown Coffee Roasters was in my list to check out. I saw one on 3rd St. while walking back to the hotel from Voodoo dougnut and another one on Stark St. Their Stark St. location is the closest to our hotel. The cafe has good ambiance and good coffee. While inside the cafe, I couldn't tell whether the long line of people were locals or tourists? I even brought a bag of their Hairbender blend coffee back to San Francisco. I'll tell you all about it in my other blog.
[read my Everyday Coffee in the City blog here]

First Thursday art walk
Portland - First Thursday
I don't know where the First Thursday art walk first started but most cities have it. First Thursday is when artists open their galleries for public viewing. Since the first Thursday of the July falls on the 4th of July, organizers moved the First Thursday on Wednesday instead. Mijo and I went to Portland's Pearl District with the hope that there would be artists selling their artwork out on the street so we can rub shoulders with the local crowd. There wasn't a street art sale but we did find Waterstone Gallery quite inviting and enjoyed the paintings and sculptures on display inside.

Columbia River
Portland - Columbia River
This is the view of Columbia River from Vista House. We took a day trip on our last day in Portland. We saw the picturesque views of the mighty river from the Columbia River highway.

Multnomah Falls
Portland - Multnomah Falls
This is Oregon's highest cascade falls. Because Mulnomah Falls is a big tourist attraction from Portland, there was a big back up going to the falls that weekend. Nevertheless, it was still a great trip. The view reminded me of a scene in Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings movie. I just got the postcard I sent from from the Multnomah Falls souvenir store but I am sort of dissapointed to see a Portland postal office stamp instead of Bridal Veil, Oregon.

Columbia Gorge wine country
Portland - Columbia Gorge wine country
From Multnomah Falls, we headed to Oregon's Columbia Gorge wine country. As a wine enthusiast, I've read great things about Oregon wines and one of the trip's goals was to visit a couple of wineries to sample Oregon's Pinot Noir.
Portland - Wy East Vineyards
The first stop was at Wy' East Vineyards. This vineyard have limited production wines. When I say limited production, I mean between 100 to a little over 200 cases. We tasted their 2012 Pinot Gris, 2011 Tilly Jane White, 2010 Pinot Noir Blue Chip, their 2010 Pinot Noir Reserve, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and their 2010 Cloud Cap Reserve. Very good wines. I brought home a bottle of their 2010 Pinot Noir Reserve as a souvenir.
Portland - Cathedral Ridge Winery
The second and last stop was at Cathedral Ridge. Their wine tasting list definitely contained more wines but we were only allowed to taste 5 wines. We tasted their 2010 Bangsund Pinot Noir, 2011 Necessity Red, 2010 Merlot, 2010 Syrah and their 2010 Cabernet Reserve. All good wines but I found their Cab compelling because of its unique earthy nose. In the end, we took home a bottle of their 2010 Bangsund Pinot Noir.

Portland food scene.
I also enjoyed the restaurants and the great food scene around Portland. Here are the ones I tried while we were in town.

Mother's Bistro
Portland - Wild Salmon Hash at Mother's Bistro
Mijo and I had brunch here. The place was already packed when we got there at 9:30am on a Friday morning. I was thinking that was a good sign. The host asked for my name and my cell phone number and a text message was sent later when our table became available. The decor reminded me of a formal house with draperies and family photos. I ordered a house favorite Salmon Hash (pictured above). It was very tasty. Mijo ordered the House Cured Lox Platter. We also shared a Belgian Waffle. Everything was delicious and we didn't have to wait a long time despite a full house.

Long Bottom Brewery
Portland - Rock Bottom Brewery
Portland is also a great beer town so we had in our list to try one of the micro breweries dotting town. Mijo and I came here after watching the 4th of July fireworks. They had a live band playing the time we stepped inside the brewery. I am not a beer drinker but I appreciate a good dark ale. We both ordered what they call Thunderdome (taps June 12th @ 5:30pm). It was very flavorful with hints of peach and pine.

Salt and Straw
Portland - Salt and Straw
Ok. I found this place in a couple of 'top creamery list' in the country so I also had this on my list to check out. A popular place probably because of the lists so be prepared to wait in line for a long time. I was curious about their Honey Balsamic Strawberry and their Pear with Blue Cheese flavors. So I asked for those two flavors when a staff came around to ask us if we want to try a flavor.  I finally decided to get a scoop of their Pear with Blue Cheese on a cup but with a sugar cone. Delicioso! Now I know why this place is such a hit.

Papa Haydn
Portland - Hummingbird Cake at Papa Haydn
I also found this restaurant in a list somewhere. We went to Papa Haydn when we were doing a self walking tour of the Alphabet District. I the restaurant specializes in desserts but they also serve excellent entrees. Mijo and I shared a Duck Confit salad and a Clam and Sausage pasta (not in the picture). This dessert, though, is something extra special. It is called the Hummingbird Cake. It is very similar to carrot cake but with lots of nuts and very moist. We also shared their seasonal merengue. The bread and butter they served right after they sat us was so good and fresh.

Food pods
Portland - Food pods
Not to be confused with food carts, food pods stay in a permanent location. Portland is dotted with food pods. The ones we tried are located near our hotel - SW Alder St and 9th Ave and the one on SW Washington St and 3rd Ave.

The Original Dinerant
Portland - Dog of the Day at The Original
This was my first meal in Portland. After checking-in and dropping off our luggage at the Hotel Vintage, Mijo and I went to The Original for a quick lunch since it is just a couple of blocks from the hotel. The interior kind of resembles a diner but with a minimalist and modern. A quick survey of the menu gave me the impression that the place serves comfort food with a twist. I had what they call the Dog of the Day and it was substantial at the same time delicious! I couldn't help but notice the rest of condiment on the table because they are not the usual Heinz and Tabasco pair of condiment. They use local Portland brands like Camden's Blue Label catsup, NW elixirs hot sauce and Fatdog handcrafted mustard. 

The rest of Portland scenes.

Portland - Theatre
Walking around, we found this Portland theatre near the SW block park. I noticed there are lots of older building in Portland. Don't they have earthquakes up here?

Portland - Skidmore fountain
This photo was taken around the Skidmore fountain area. This was part of a self-walking tour in my guide book.

Portland - Fountains
Here is another fountain one of the same looking fountain dotting the city.

Portland - Fountain
This water fountain is the Salmon Street Springs.

Portland - Tanner Springs Park
This cool artsy park is called Tanner Springs and can be found in the city's Pearl District. Mijo and I both agree that Pearl District is our favorite district in Portland.

Portland - Local scene
I took this photo around Mill Ends park.

Portland - Pedicab
Portland pedi cabs.

Portland - Saturday Market
Portland's Saturday Market is huge. We got to the city's Old Town district and witnessed the merchants setting up their stores. 

Hotel Vintage Plaza
Portland - Vintage Plaza wine hour
Mijo and I also totally enjoy our hotel's wine hour. Every afternoon from 5pm-6pm, the hotel hosts a free wine tasting hour at the hotel lobby. They feature different wines each day. We found this Pinot Noir from Coelho Winery the best! Thanks Hotel Vintage Plaza and Coelho Winery!


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