Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Portland, I Think I Love You Part 2 – The City

In the past we have shied away from taking the kids to cities. They always seem to get whiny and tired after about 5 seconds. Then they start dragging their feet, they’re tired, they’re hungry, can they leave now etc etc. It’s just a nuisance. So we would plan trips to locations outside of big cities and plan the odd day trip into town. But recently the kids have really started to appreciate what a great city has to offer. And I always know that a city is great when my kids actually like it. Additions to the ‘great cities according to my kids’ list include London and Paris (see earlier posts), Seattle, Toronto (Jacob’s choice), Edinburgh, and most recently, Portland.

I’m not sure if it is the floating cabin we stay in that so endears them to Portland or if Portland’s charm has rubbed off on them all on its own. Either way, both Jacob and Zoe love it here, and so do I.  Like everyone else I know, I had driven past Portland on the I-5 and glanced over to see a bunch of bridges, but I had never actually spent any time here until we came for a few days last August. We had bumped into some friends on the ferry last year who were also heading to Portland. They were staying at the Jupiter, a super cool boutique hotel on the east side of town. It is also the home of a great restaurant, the Doug Fir. This place is so kitschy inside it’s awesome – all mirrors and wood and a bar made out of fir. The food is delicious, too! We had a great dinner there with our friends last year and that was the start of my love affair with Portland.

If I had to use a word to describe Portland, it would be ‘under processed’. The city seems to have achieved a level of coolness without trying too hard at all: neighbourhoods of old character homes butt up against reclaimed warehouses and gentrified industrial sites. At first glance, many of these warehouses seem to be unoccupied and then you catch a glimpse of a sign or a stretch of garden and you realize it’s actually a day care or a restaurant or a design house. It’s just so cool. There’s also an awesome 50s feel to many parts of the city with retro neon signs everywhere and what appears to be original 1950s signage on many of the shops. Newer stores and restaurants are also using retro fonts for their signage as well. There’s also a big movement afoot to grow your own food. Everywhere you look, people have reclaimed space on the boulevard or in parks and planted vegetable and flower gardens and fruit trees line many streets. Add to all this a critical mass of twenty-somethings who appear to be running the place and it’s a great combination.

The Portland Arts scene thrives in this environment: arts collectives are everywhere, theatre is abundant and the music scene is enough to make you drool. On our last visit, my friend Sandy called us en route to say that Jack White and his new band The Dead Weather would be playing in Portland while we were there and that we should go. Kent and Jacob are huge Jack White fans and ended up getting tickets and going to the concert. This would not happen in Victoria! Or if it did, it certainly would not be an all-ages show. When he got home, Jacob said his ears were ringing and that the lead singer was ‘totally crazy’ but that he loved it. What a great experience for him.

I”ll just say here that I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of my favourite all-time songs just happens to be “Portland Oregon” by Loretta Lynn and Jack White:

a crazy combination that works like a charm. It’s from one of my favourite albums ever: Loretta Lynn Van Lear Rose. Check her out at she is an icon.

Anyway – I digress. Portland also has possibly the best bookstore ever anywhere. Powell’s Books is 68000 sq. ft and takes up an entire city block. The store is divided into ‘rooms’ that each have their own colour and categories of books. Zoe is a book worm and so we spent a great deal of time in the ‘Rose’ room with the kids books. The thing I love about this place is how they offer new and used right beside each other on the shelf. What a great idea. Unfortunately, Jacob, at 13, is still not that interested in reading despite my best efforts to entice him. It was a frustrating experience that I did not handle well. Parenting FAIL.

Me: ‘Why don’t you choose a book, Honey?’

Jacob: ‘Ummmmmmmmmm’

Me: ‘Look they have Robinson Crusoe. And Tom Sawyer

Jacob: ‘No thanks. You bought me that book last year. Remember?’

Me: ‘How about this one: Everything in the World that is Interesting to a 13yr old Boy’

Jacob: ‘That sounds boring’

Me: ‘Ok how about  ‘Make it Yourself 13th century Doily Patterns’?

Jacob: ‘Mum don’t be an idiot’

Me: What about ‘Birding in the Antarctic – More Than just Penguins?’

Jacob: ‘Hey how about this one: The Complete History of the US Marines’. What do you think of that one, Mum? Come one, Mum. I’m sure you would like to get me this book, wouldn’t you mum?’

Me: ‘Alright alright you don’t have to get a book’

Jacob has come by his sarcasm honestly anyway and I guess I had it coming to me.

Portland also has great neighbourhoods and Multnomah has to be one of the best. We browsed the main street with all its great little stores and cafes and had an excellent lunch. I could have stayed all day but it was time to leave Portland as we had to be in Port Angeles by 9pm.

I am happy to report that the trip back was much better than the trip down. The traffic on the I-5 was bad leaving Portland but fine after we went over the bridge into Vancouver, Washington. Zoe actually fell asleep and we made it to Port Angeles with time to spare. The Coho was fast and customs a piece of cake and we were in bed by 11:30pm.

I can’t wait to go back.

Thanks for reading-








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