Powell's was probably my favorite place in Portland. It is a bookstore that is a full city block square and 3 stories tall. If there's a heaven it may very well be Powell's.
I spent an afternoon there, wandering through the stacks, wishing that I wasn't traveling with only carry-ons and that I could buy bunches of books. Instead I took pictures of book covers to remind me what to buy later. There is also a cafe in the shop where I got tea and a ham and cheese croissant which was delicious. I hung out for a little while and edited photos before heading back to the rows of books.
This place is a real treasure.
One thing I loved about Portland was all the street art that covered the city. There was something beautiful to discover on nearly every block. Below are some of my favorite finds.
I love all of the different elements here. The standard laying brick interrupted by the circular brick framing the black metal figure of the vaguely Greco/Roman woman. And to top it all off, the graffiti scribbled across her forehead. For some reason I can't look away.
What do you do when the house you're staying in has a vintage bathroom with all the fixtures? Take pictures of course!
I stayed with my friend Andrea in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Portland while I was there. That meant that I got to use this beauty, clawfoot tub and all, the whole week I was there. Not a bad way to start the day I must say.
I never have been a huge fan of roses. They're pretty, but my favorite flowers are Tulips and Gerber Daisies. For prom even I had simply a single Gerber Daisy that I could hold during pictures and then put down to dance. Corsages never fit my little wrists and got in the way of dancing. And roses tended to be in corsages, and I just didn't need them.
That being said, the International Rose Test Garden in Portland is amazing. I had no idea how many different kinds of roses there are, it's really quite impressive. It's not just variations of color, but also of size, shape and most surprisingly, smell. The fact that the smell can vary so much completely caught me off guard. My friend Andrea and I spent essentially all our time in the garden with our noses in flowers, attempting to articulate the differences in smell, which varied from sweet, to musty, to lemony. I'm sure we sounded like weird flower sommeliers spewing off strange descriptions, but we had a fantastic time.
While in Portland my friend Andrea and I decided that we needed to do some nature exploring. There are so many parks in and around Portland that it was really tough to choose where to go. However, once we saw a photo of the Ghost Forest in Neskowin on the Oregon coast we were sold.
Normally I am not that much of a beach person. I burn very easily, and tend to stick to any shade I can find. (Which resulted in my high school friends lovingly calling me Shade Girl. Yup. Shade Girl.) So the foggy and brooding coast of Oregon is totally and completely my kind of beach.
There's a very good chance I would have been entirely satisfied with just the stormy beach, the fog and the rolling waves. Which is all the beach was when we showed up. Because we hadn't given any thought to the tides. Having grown up on Lake Eire I still kind of forget that tides are a big thing. So the ghost forest was hidden under the water. I'm very glad though, that we decided to go grab some (really delicious) Nepalese food and come back when the tide had revealed the ghost forest.
These stumps had once been an ancient forest of 150-200 foot spruces. During an earthquake in 1700 the forest was destroyed and covered in sand. After some particularly persistent storms in 1997-98 the remains of the trees were uncovered. Now they reappear from the ocean twice a day at low tide.
They are super eerie, haunting and otherworldly. It was really amazing.
Even after having to wade through a beach stream, barefoot in the freezing cold water, it was amazing. Even when my phone fell out of my pocket and directly into a good foot of water (completely my fault), it was amazing. (And miraculously my phone still works.) It is an experience I will not quickly forget.
Before going to Portland I had looked at a few articles about what to see and do there. One thing that normally came up was to check out one (or many) of the breweries in the city.
The first one that I got to visit was Storm Breaker Brewing on Beech St. We sat outside in the huge patio space. The atmosphere was super fun and relaxed, and more like a backyard get-together than a restaurant. There was a fire pit, and people playing cornhole, as well as different groups sharing the same long picnic tables. A wonderful place to spend an early summer evening.
What caught my eye on the menu was their beer and whiskey pairings. I was there to try their locally brewed beer, but I absolutely love whiskey. So this was perfect! I picked the "Black Ghost" which consisted of Storm Breaker's Opacus Oatmeal Stout and Ghost Owl Pacific NW Small Batch Whiskey. It. Was. Wonderful.
I've never paired beer and whiskey before so I don't necessarily have the vocabulary to explain why these two drinks worked together, but believe me they did. The dark rich taste of the beer, with the smooth vanilla notes of the whiskey. Which is one of the very best whiskeys I've ever tasted. I even looked them up to see where I could buy a bottle for myself. Unfortunately Ghost Owl is only available in Oregon and it's home state of Washington. I'm super bummed because I'd love to have it again!
Andrea and I also got their cheese plate which was beautiful and delicious. All in all it was a lovely place to spend the night hanging out with a good friend, chatting for hours, and eating and drinking from Storm Breaker's excellent selection.
Yesterday I posted about Voodoo Donuts, and how little it impressed me. Today, I get to have my mouth water thinking about the donuts from a different place.
Blue Star has a few locations around Portland, (two of which I visited) as well as Los Angeles and Tokyo. If anyone is visiting Portland, and likes donuts, I highly recommend them. The donuts are excellently created and their flavor profiles are thoughtful, imaginative, and spot on. This place definitely goes for quality over quantity. Their display is clean and simple with lots of white tile and white platters.
I went for the maple and bacon donut first. By now this is a pretty standard flavor combination, but Blue Star did it well. The bacon, while there was a good amount, wasn't overpowering, and the donut was perfectly light and airy. I also got to try the lemon poppy buttermilk cake donut. It was delicious. The cake was moist and not too dense, and the glaze was that perfect balance between tangy and sweet.
While I happened to try more standard flavor profiles I loved their selection from Mexican Hot Chocolate to Blueberry Bourbon Basil. I wish I could have tried all of them.
One of the rather few things I knew about Portland before I decided to go visit it, was Voodoo Donuts. It was just one of those things that seem to come up about Portland. I'd seen it referenced in TV shows and blogs. So when I stumbled on it at 10am on a Monday morning and there wasn't a line I had to try it.
To be honest, I don't need to go again. It seemed rather gimmicky to me. They were trying to be as outrageous as possible, and they were outrageous. But it seemed to be just to show that they could be, not because it was a really brilliant donut. Just as much sugar and weird things you could fit on a donut as possible. No finesse. And more with the idea of quantity over quality.
I had a chocolate donut with vanilla frosting and crumbled butterfingers on top. Can you say sugar? It was a decent donut, though a little dense and verging on dry. I love butterfingers, but along with the vanilla frosting it was just so much. And while there was the wow factor of putting candy bars on the donut, the flavors were pretty standard. Chocolate, vanilla and peanut butter brittle. Nothing surprising there.
So thanks Voodoo Donuts, I'm glad I got to try you for myself but I won't be coming back. I'll stick with Blue Star donuts next time I'm in Portland. Which, I will be showcasing in my next post, so stay tuned!
Getting to visit Portland was such a treat. I got to spend a few days simply wandering the city and taking pictures. One of the best things was stumbling upon all the different street art. It's really pretty awesome that this little poem was stamped in when the sidewalks were made. Well done Portland.
kaitlin k walsh
Adventurer armed with a camera.