By Michael Bugno
Upon arrival, I am greeted with a huge brick wall that says, “Keep Portland Weird”. I sort of knew what I was getting into when I read Keep Portland Weird: 5 Crazy things to do in Portland, Oregon. But seriously—whatever happened to arriving in a city and having a Top 10 sights to see? Am I that old fashioned that when I visit a city, I want to see the sights that it’s known for, not the crazies that inhabit it?
Donuts and coffee, Portland style
First stop, Voodoo doughnuts. My marketing gears started immediately spinning – I could make this place millions! The line/wait is ridiculous – and it’s only because the folks running the joint are going at a snail’s pace – ah, perhaps this is the New Yorker in me coming out. Slow down, smell the flowers and enjoy life, isn’t that their motto? Reducing the wait time in half could bring this place millions of additional dollars each year! In all my NY haste, I think Voodoo does as well as it does because it’s in OR, perhaps the NYers like me need to sip the Stumptown Coffee and take a chill pill.
A Market (that even New York marketers can enjoy)
So, what next, perhaps a jaunt through the Portland Saturday Market? It was tons of fun – I smelt everything from hippies burning incense, to two dudes rubbing Cajun spices all over their chicken. Have I mentioned how nice everyone is? I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a city with nicer dwellers. I mean don’t get me wrong – they’re crazy, but the non-crazies are super nice too.
From there, I headed over to see what the Chinese gardens were like. I wasn’t feeling so zen. The gift shop had a window that peered into the gardens, so I took a brief look; so not for me today. What should I do? I did what every stereotypical gay man in his 30’s does – I went shopping! The North Face, Under U 4men, Nordstrom and of course the ever popular Powell’s Books. I mean seriously, an independent bookstore that’s a whole city block! I was lost in there for well over an hour and I loved every minute. Why can’t Powell’s take over Barnes and Noble?
Medieval combat anyone?
A friend of mine who is native to Portland told me to take the MAX from one end to the other. I did and it was grand, best free ride ever! I got to see a snapshot of the city and on the way back I stopped off at Portland State University to watch students playing Valhalla, which is Medieval Combat. Yikes! I also saw another Saturday Market on campus with fresh flowers of every color, all sorts of vegetables including a basket of Brussels sprouts still on the stalk, and more.
As I walked through the market taking pictures of everything, I realized that the photos did not do the produce justice; how could I describe in my recap all the wonderful smells and the visual stimulation this Market brought? I can only say the Brussels sprouts smelt so amazing that I wanted to begin cooking right then and there. I love Wegmans produce, but there is something about farm fresh items in a farmers market – the colors, the smell, the feel – it beats a grocery store any day.
City for Foodies
I had dinner at Clyde Common. Only after putting down two barrel-aged Negronis: Beefeater gin, Cinzano Rosso Vermouth, and Campari, aged for 2 months in a Tuthilltown bourbon whiskey barrel and finished with an orange peel, did I decide it was time to eat. For my meal, I opted for the tagliatelle, cauliflower, lemon and breadcrumbs with a plate of Tumalo Farm’s Pondhopper (goat milk) cheese with preserved figs, honey and walnut bread. Which brings me to another point – one can always plan a budget conscious vacation getaway, but don’t cheap out on food; you need to visit the local posh restaurants. And downtown Portland did not disappoint!
Waterfalls, Hops and Barley
Sunday, up and at em’! After a big breakfast at the hotel, I made my way to Avis Rental Car and drove away in a light blue Nissan Versa. First stop – Multnomah Falls. I walked up to the main bridge and then hiked to the top for an amazing view. From there, I drove to Horsetail Falls, another hike and two spectacular views as the falls actually split in two different sections. The peaceful sound of falling water calmed me for hours.
Hood River was the next destination, with a stop at Full Sail Brewery, complete with a tour from Randy, my tour guide. The best part about the tour is, at the end you turn in your wooden nickel and get a pint glass – they must know folks have sticky fingers. Full Sail became an independent, employee-owned company in 1999, divvying up the company between 47 people, hence the 47 on their logo. Clearly when one does not work for “the man” and works for himself, he is so much more passionate about his job and it showed.
I ate lunch in the pub there – an amazing fish sandwich with spicy tartar sauce, a side salad with house vinaigrette and two Sessions – the beer was great, so smooth and not at all hoppy. Once I left Full Sail, I was feeling a little tipsy, so I thought best to walk to the local bistro and grab a cappuccino, this time with whole milk. Sitting outside and sipping cappuccino in the mountain air of Oregon is like no other – and this provided me ample time to write postcards. After an hour, I was off to Mt. Hood with the loop around and a pit stop in Gov’t camp.
Once I was back in Portland proper, I was off to buy a book at Powell’s to show my support to the locals. Dinner that night was at ¿Por Que No?, complete with a chorizo taco, an Alaskan fish taco, ½ order of chips with guacamole, and one Tecate – just like the locals.
Monday morning, it was back to work. Oh how I miss my days of vacation!
Michael Bugno is employed as a Marketing Events Manager in New York City, commuting three days a week from his home in Philadelphia (not the kind of traveling he likes to do). Fortunately he has the opportunity to travel in the US and abroad with work and for pleasure visiting friends, revisiting fabulous past favorite destinations or exploring places totally new.