Pithering in Portland (part 2)

March 10, 2008 § 1 Comment

My first full weekend in Portland. First I needed to stock up my kitchen so I targeted a Whole Foods downtown. I’m still a little nervous driving over here, so each trip out is a little challenge in itself. I am getting in to the swing of it though. Like a coral forming over millions of years my confidence is on the rise.

Anyway Whole Foods was too expensive, and to be honest I have to say that I don’t actually like Whole Foods. It’s a just a big statement of man’s ability to gather up masses of food in all different shapes and sizes and then to create a pretty display. It’s a demonstration of sheer exuberance, with no telling what kind of wastage they produce. Give me a humble farmer’s market anyday. So I bailed from WF and drove across town to a Fred Meyers average Jo type supermarket where I was asked for ID in order to buy beer.

Saturday I visited one of Portland’s many coffee houses. Portland is a mecca for coffee enthusiasts. The one I went to – Anna Bannanas – is set in an old victorian house. There’s loads of sofas, chairs, tables, books etc – it’s basically like turning up to an eccentric’s house. I got chatting to the guy who served me and he said there’s loads of space but best not to go down into the basement, that’s where the crazy people go. He was deadly serious. ‘Really?’ I asked. ‘Oh yeah,’ he said, ‘we once had this Japanese guy who would buy a coffee and sleep for hours at a time down there, he spent two years here’. He saw my concern and continued: ‘but don’t worry. We’re sort of blessed to have only one paranoid schizophrenic at a time, I think it’s when you get more than one there’s a problem’. He returned to overseeing the complex process of whipping me up a cappuccino. ‘A bit like hamsters in a cage’ I mused out loud.

It was nice to relax in the coffee house and write letters. The guys at my place of work proudly claim you could visit a different coffee house every day and go for weeks before returning to the same one.

So, after this relaxed start I thought I’d visit the Chinese gardens downtown. On the way I strolled around Portland’s ‘Saturday Market’. On my first day upon hearing from the receptionist that such a market existed I said ‘but its Sunday today’. My bold attempt at humour left him unmoved.

Saturday Market

I left to continue my journey to the Chinese gardens. Unfortunately I got as far as a wine bar. I walked into an opticians and mused round, when two middle aged guys walked in and one asked ‘is this the wine tasting bar?’ ‘No, that’s down a block’, was the response. So I followed the two guys, who seemed on a serious mission, and found this place:

Wine bar

This place was quite the experience. I thought I’d have one glass which was on the menu called a ‘flight’. It turns out a flight is actually three tasting glasses, so I had my first wine tasting experience of Oregonian pinot noir. Substantially heavier than the burgundians is my considered analysis. But it wasn’t the wine that captured my interest, it was the people. Everyone was very friendly and wanted to talk to me. They all knew each other by name and it was easy to sit back and join in the banter. There were all extremely proud of the community they’d formed in this bar; the call it the ‘Cheers of wine bars’. By the end of the night everyone – including the staff – had formed a plan to go on to a cocktail bar. I was tempted but ended up declining, for I had plans to drive to the Coast the next day.

The next day I woke up with a couple of cobwebs in place that needed blasting away. What better for it than to hit the coast? Oregon is famed for it’s beautiful coastline and I had an urge to get out there and see the sea, so I got in my cool red car and peddled the gas.

Cool red car

The highway to the coast was great fun. Sometimes going high into the hills where there’s still snow, the scenery was at times exhilarating.

Scenary

See the snowy mountain in the distance? I suspect that’s a big volcano. I continued along highway 26 through the hills and eventually arrived at Cannon Beach. It’s a great beach as you can see:

coast 1

There are such like rock formations up and down the coast line.

Big beach

It’s a big beach

I drove up to a place called Seaside town, which was very tacky. It reminded me of a tacky UK coastal town, except this one was thriving. I made to escape just as soon as I’d had a disgusting fish and chips for lunch.

Back in the car and eager to move away from such a place, I followed highway 101 down the coastline. It was beautiful, immaculately preserved owing to Oregon’s tough planning laws.

coast 2

Majestic.

sharks

I drove back along highway 6, which seemed to follow a river back through the hills to Portland. I preferred this highway to the first one, it was always twisting and turning into another magnificent view; forests everywhere, waterfalls, snowy mountain tops. Everything in the US seems a lot bigger, including the scenery. On the way back I couldn’t help but notice the size of some of the cars people were driving, monstrously sized trucks in abundance.

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