Into Portlandia and Beyond

Sight, sounds, and tastes from the roadtrip. A travelogue of sorts

Portland

Crystal Ballroom – The driving force to hit the road, err.. after spending time with my two sisters, of course. Picked up 4 tickets to see a double-bill show of my favorite new bands, Manchester Orchestra and Cage the Elephant. Manchester Orchestra’s Simple Math is my favorite album of the moment, give it a listen.  The famed  Pearl district, McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom, with it’s “floating” dance floor was also a big draw. Although we missed a part of Orchestra’s set, Cage sounded outstanding and a good time was had by all.

Powell’s – The largest independent bookstore in the world, Powell’s City of Books occupies a full city block in the Pearl district. The store is easy to get lost in. I am impressed with a help desk in every color coded room with many clerks ready to assist, and even a gps iPhone app that will help navigate it’s labyrinth of corridors. This time I visited it twice and made it through only two sections, Photography and Graphic Design.  I could honestly spend a couple of days here, but alas people are always waiting on me.

  • Transportation – Although I have never taken advantage of it, Portland has public transportation that every Californian should be envious of. We had a chance to ride the Swiss-designed and eerily silent, hospital tram, to get a good vantage point of Portland. Also rode their modern, eco-friendly, Portland Streetcar, that features free travel zones and honor system payments.
  • McMenamin’s – McMenamins Pubs and Breweries litter every district and town in the Portland area. Their location’s are a big draw and inspiring. For example: Kennedy School, a old elementary school where you can have a pint in class, or cigar and whisky at detention. Mission Theater were you can grab a cheap movie, sit on a couch, and have brews & burgers served to you. The Chapel Pub, still on my to do list (terrible about making it to church). The Edgefield, a sprawling country estate, almost a theme park for alcohol-minded adults. Liza told me they just purchased a prison for it’s next destination. These places would be huge in California! With over 60 locations, I make sure to see a new one on each visit.
  • Departure – The best place to get a cocktail and appetizer is to head to the two rooftop bars above the posh, The Nines hotel. Upon arrival you feel like you are walking down a runaway to a plane. You’ll enter a place that feels not from Oregon. A international vibe with waitresses dressed in retro flight attendant outfits. The outside bars give a great view of downtown, Mt. Hood and Saint Helens. A place were the rich hang and people dress to be seen. Unfortunately, a seat outside was not to be found, so we could only admire the vantage point and be a tad envious of the patrons.
  • Food carts – In central Portland, you will find food vendors occupying over two city blocks. Here you will find 5-star international food at a great price. Going to a fast food chain would be a sin around here. I would suggest grabbing at least one meal here.
  • Shopping – In the state with no sales tax, this may be the only time I get inspired to shop. Pioneer Place occupies four city blocks that are interconnected with a sky bridge. I found a killer deal on Lucky Jeans at Nordstrom’s The Rack. Magpie, a vintage shop, with wig adorned mannequins and groovy music is what held my interest.
  • Voodoo Donuts – The line going out the door, makes visiting this big tourist attraction on the cusp of not worth it.  But the pink house location on the east side has some cool retro pinball machines to help pass the time. Still the donuts are delicious, one-of-a kind, and just a bit naughty. Items like Triple-Chocolate Penetration and Cock-N-Balls can attest. My favorites include Portland Cream and Old Dirty Bastard. People really are crazy over this place. You can be married here or even buy a donut-filled coffin.
  • Missed Spots – Always places you don’t have time or stomach room to visit. This time it was Jake’s Famous Crawfish, Snoop Dog’s family BBQ, Reo’s Ribs and grain & gristle, a place specializing in fresh seasonal brews and home-made pork rinds. Always next time.

Ashland, OR

  • Near the California border is a great little town to visit, that somehow reminds me of Carmel or Sausalito. Ashland is a theatrical town, home of  the Oregon Shakespeare festival, has plays showing regularly from February to October (about half by Shakespeare). A quaint downtown to explore with street performers to entertain you. This is definitely a couple getaway paradise, and a place to spend a long weekend. Would like to come back, watch some theater and explore 93-acre Lithia Park, that extends to the center of the city.
  • The Black Sheep is the spot to seek out if you are longing for traditional English pub food. The best I’ve had in the States (and maybe beyond). A pipping hot and fresh, Cornish pasty had a great flaky pastry crust and all the British favorites were present. Highly recommended.
  • Central in the town is one high-rise, the historic Ashland Springs hotel. This is where I will be staying next time.

Chico, CA

  • First night we had some great Italian food served in roomy booths and nice wood bar. The pasta dishes where too big to finish with some great cheese bread on the side. This is a place to bring a appetite
  • Old Chico- God damn best Sierra-Neveda beer can only be got in Chico. So you better grab a sixer before you leave.
  • Nash’s– Lots of air, lots or water and lots of cute waitresses to serve your hangover. The also serve fried chicken with eggs in a country gravy. My morning is heaven, till it sets in. Find this Breakfast spot.
  • New Clairvaux Abbey–In Vina, a small town, just outside Chico is a place strait out of Pillars from the Earth. Rebuilding a chapter house from 13th century Spain with stones transported to California by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. The stone masons have been busy. Including some early work from my brother-in-law, Ross. If you want to help the cause, find Ovilia, a Belgian Dubbel Ale. BUY IT!
It was a great time off. Big thanks to Liza, Ross, Vic and Peter who were great hosts. Also, Ian, my gangster brother. I wish to repay you all sometime soon with some more good times!

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