Portland, Oregon was this week’s adventure. It wasn’t planned for. Portland just happened to be a spot on the map we’d never been to before. Plus, we were feeling thirsty and heard the city was a good place to find a decent beer.
My long time childhood best friend and I knew we wanted to go somewhere. We had 3 days for a holiday, little money to support one, and a lot of enthusiasm. So, we decided to fly clear across the country and discover Portland’s best brews.
Happily we had free airfare, a cozy bed to sleep in, and a car to borrow whenever we wanted. When traveling, nothing beats having connections: in this case my travel benefits and her aunt and uncle.
First off, if you haven’t visited Portland I suggest you go. The people are laid back and friendly and are always open to visitors. The scenery is spectacular with lush, moss-covered forests, ice-capped peaks, and meandering rivers – their beds permanently etched from time. The city is exciting – with a number of inviting bars and breweries where you’ll find enjoyable characters sitting around talking and sharing a drink: discussing music, travel, and nothing that sounds like work no matter the time of the day or the day or the week. For the best experience park your car and walk the small city blocks. The streets can be explored in a short afternoon though I suggest you be polite and take your time. Take in the sights of the store fronts and the couple sharing a bottle of wine under an umbrella. Wander the square lined with vibrant food trucks and peruse their menus of relatively inexpensive ethnic cuisine. Pop your head into Powell’s Book Store and explore their 3 floors worth of shelves. Eat every meal out and of course don’t forget to stop at Voodoo Donuts for dessert. There you’ll find the most elaborate donuts you’ve ever seen. Beware the lines can be lengthy and it’s difficult to narrow down your choices. If by the time you reach the counter and can’t decide go for the Voodoo special – an assortment of 13 donuts for $13, surprise-picked by the masters themselves. Or, I hear the Cocks and Balls donut comes highly recommended.
During our few days in Portland we did it all. We wandered the city and made some new friends who were covered head to toe in aging tattoos and a scent that suggested they might have forgotten to shower this week. (Turns out that’s pretty usual in Portland.) They showed us the local bars downtown with the best patios for outdoor drinking and Paddy’s Irish Pub, a bar flanked by their remarkable wall of liquor behind it and a ladder to reach the higher shelves. We even took a trip to Portland’s oldest strip club, Mary’s Bar, where we got yelled at by the talent for the shallowness of our pockets at 3 in the afternoon.
Another day we walked up to Multnomah Falls, a 620ft waterfall that looks like something out of Middle Earth. I’m told it’s a 1.8 mile hike up to the top of the falls and to not take it lightly. That might be a good thing to try for next time.
What took the cake was on our last day – timed perfectly by pure luck alone – happened to be Oregon’s Brewer’s Festival. The festival takes place the last weekend of every July at Waterfront Park and gives an opportunity for domestic breweries to promote one of their prized craft beers. There were 80+ beers from various breweries to choose from – pale ales, IPAs, lagers, etc. $20 bought you a souvenir glass for your tasting and 13 tokens – 1 token to sample, 4 for a whole glass. Since we were feeling quite thirsty we tried one from each booth then topped it off with our favorite at the end. The winner for me was Rouge Dopplestick, a Rouge Ale described as a “super strong double altbier”… whatever that means. The overall atmosphere of the festival was cause for celebration itself. There was delicious fatty foods that made your mouth water, a silver band and other live performances, children running about between their own set of activities, and a lot of really great people-watching.
Our overall impression of Portland is that it’s a mini Boston with a greater hippie population and better beers. (Fun fact: Portland was nearly named Boston but the man from Boston who wanted to name it lost on a coin toss to a man from Portland, Maine. Go figure.)
Portland isn’t an inexpensive city though people seem relaxed and happy and the pubs are usually full. You often wonder when they find time to work. Though in their defense it’s easy to get distracted by Portland. There are so many places to discover, walks to take, forests and mountains to explore, and people to meet. No one sits idle. There’s no desire to. Portland is a charming city that will inspire any traveler to see what’s out there.