Walked down Alberta Street — a hipster commercial strip in a gentrifyiing-but-not-quite-there-yet neighborhood — and started the day with a marionberry papillon (a long way of saying a berry pastry) at Petite Provence. It actually tasted like France!
Then I moved on to second breakfast at Random Order, which was a slice of Oregon cherry pie (mine is better, if I do say so myself). Home for a little bit of reading while I waited for my laundry to finish spinning in circles. “Hyperbole and a Half” is a hilarious memoir.
Lunch was Indian street food at Bollywood Theater, and then the day of running around like crazy really began. It started with trip downtown to the Lan Su Chinese Garden, which occupies exactly one square block of Old Town/Chinatown. It’s amazing how much you can fit into one square block — if you didn’t look up, you could walk around and forget that Portland existed at all. They have a large pond, walkways, gardens (our docent spent a lot of time talking about the importance of rocks), a tea house, and several large rooms. It’s modeled on a much larger garden in Portland’s sister city in China.
From there, drove up to the Portland Rose Garden. Wow. It’s amazing how well roses grow here (along with everything else: rhododendrons that stretch up to thirty feet tall, giant dahlias, and lavender, rosemary, and sage that come up to my waist). This garden has been around since 1917, and it’s famous for a reason. I spent a lot of time there.
Just up the path, I also enjoyed Portland’s Japanese Garden. It’s pretty impressive.
Had dinner at Andina, a Peruvian restaurant that has definitely earned its reputation as one of Portland’s best. I rounded out the evening with a trip to Ground Kontrol, a barcade where I dropped seven dollars on Joust (with a few quarters given up to Pac-Man and Asteroids).
Portland is an interesting city. It’s flatter than I expected it to be, and most of the mountains look to be pretty far off in the distance (though there is a big hill on the city’s western edge). The Willamette River divides the city in half, but as is true in so many cities, most of the river is lined with industrial horrors. The city is Baltimore-sized, which means that everything seems to be about fifteen minutes from everything else. It has a very hip/grunge/DIY/coffee shop vibe, and it’s whiter than I expected (Seattle looked much more diverse). Lots of gardens, lots of tiny bungalow houses. Food carts — usually five to eight parked in one lot — are all the rage. Downtown is home to the largest homeless population I have ever seen. On the whole, it’s cleaner than Baltimore, but it reminds me of home in having a little grit around the edges.