Mary and I had a lovely anniversary trip to Portland. We walked a ton, ran a bit, ate some good food, saw the sights, went to an improv show, and generally relaxed in the city to the south. Here are some observations about Portland:
Portland is a very short city. Buildings did not stretch up into the sky, as they do in Seattle, or any other major city on the coast I've seen. I had to ask what the tallest city in town was, and even then, I couldn't say I'd noticed it. Mot navigation was done via street signs, or relation to the river.
The Art Museum
was amazing. While I've seen my share of classical sculptures and Asian parchment, once we hit the Renaissance area, and then moved on to the European paintings (Monet, etc), it just got better and better. Plus, the Modern Art wing was really incredible. Nice sculptures over there. I won't soon forget "Five Words In Orange Neon."OMSI
was a bit of a letdown, but I've learned to not expect much from Science Museums. RPI was a better Science Museum than any actual museum I've ever visited, and I got to spend 3.5 years there. On the other hand, touring the very last diesel-electric sub that the US Navy ever built was pretty cool. It was a nicer sub than the Russian one we toured in Seattle (USA!), but still looked like a cramped ride. Plus the tour guide (John McCain's twin brother) was a pretty cool guy.
Restaurants were decent. Nothing was mindblowing, but we managed to nab some good happy hour food at Three Degrees
down by the water, and had a really excellent Anniversary Dinner down at Veritable Quandry
. There was bar and pub food a plenty, as well as coffee and croissants/scones. The pace seemed even slower than Seattle, and that's coming from someone who thinks Seattle is a pokey place for food service. We waited at least five minutes in line at Stumptown
; that would never fly at a local Starbucks. I couldn't tell that the coffee was any better or worse.
The Pearl District is clearly what South Lake Union longs to be, with the idealized mixed-use condo buildings, the Streetcar running right through it, and a nice mix of open space, shops, restaurants, and access. Looking at some prices, it seems living there is about $100k too expensive, although for a couple with good paying jobs downtown, the entire area lends itself nicely to being a single car household.
Speaking of the Streetcar, we took that thing all over the place, and thanks to the Free Ride Zone, only had to pay once. Access to "Trendy-Third" was nice, as was using it to get down to the waterfront for happy hour. If the Seattle SLUT could be extended further downtown (at least to Yessler) and North along Westlake to Freemont or up Eastlake to the U District, South Lake Union would explode as the urban center of town. Between that and the bike lanes everywhere, we valet-parked the Acura when we got there, and didn't take it out until we left, being able to walk or streetcar it everywhere. Portland is clearly more flat than Seattle, but I still think we could learn some good lessons about transit for right here at home.
Also, Portland seems like a slightly younger city than Seattle. Perhaps it was just the areas we visited, staying mostly downtown. I'd say the prevailing age was late 20's/early 30's, certainly at the coffee shops and such. The number of homeless people seemed much higher than Seattle, but then, they were far less aggressive. Being my usual alert self, I didn't feel threatened at any point. I had to ask what the major businesses were in the area. It was not at all obvious that we were in Nike Town.
We didn't make it out to Cannon Beach, as we had initially planned. It was just too cold in the city, and we figured that it wouldn't be any warmer on the beach. We also didn't make it into the Lloyd District, since research described it as "suburbia along the MAX". We also missed out on the skycar ride, and the Japanese Garden, but we hit the Chinese Garden downtown.
Overall, a nice trip, and a good stay. I recommend Hotel Lucia
, as it was a nice room, a good location, had friendly staff, and if you can land there via Priceline, the cost is reasonable.