Well, we’re arrived in Portland! The flight in was pleasant and relaxing.No bothersome security or attention or anything. We boarded our plan after munching down on a couple of cinnabons (YUM!) and standing in line for only 10 minutes. Emily was wonderful and pre-boarded us while getting ready for her wedding…isn’t she amazing!? So we touched down in Portland after getting a couple good hours of reading Harry Potter in (and thoroughly disgusting our neighboring passengers with our googly-eyes.
The airport at Portland International Exchange (or whatever they call themselves) was great. Finding our luggage was easy, getting to the car pickup was a snap, and getting our car was a breeze. Within 30 minutes of touching down we were on the road and off to try to find our hotel.
Lest I sound like I have rose-colored glasses, I must say that the freeway system around Portland city center is a little lacking. Actually, that’s not fair, it was not bad at all. I was just ignorant. I’ll spare you the messy details, but suffice to say that I did 2 complete circuits around the city center and was embarking on a third when we decided to give up on the directions provided and struck out on our own to find the place. With Emily’s able directions and my crazy swerving, we were finally able to both pinpoint our location and navigate ourselves to the hotel. Sadly, we didn’t really take into account the fact that we had arrived early in the morning and our room wasn’t ready, so we checked our baggage at the bell desk, turned our car over to the valets and started walking…and walked…and walked…and walked.
Portland city center really is a very beautiful place. It strikes me that it is very much what Flagstaff would become if it ever grew up to be a full metropolitan hub. The buildings were fun and had all kinds of personality. The people were friendly (I lost track of how many people stopped right in the middle of the street to allow us to cross, even though we were nowhere near an intersection) and the air was clean and wholesome. We first wandered over to get some lunch at a place called Greek Cucina (or something like that). Sadly, this wasn’t as positive an experience. We were seated next to a couple of kids who seemed pleasant enough, themselves, but their waitress clearly knew them (or at least I hope she knew them) and exhibited a vocabulary to make a sailor blush. Not only that, but out waiter took a good 15 minutes to find us, just to bring our drinks. We didn’t leave a tip. I feel a little bad.
But anyway, from there we decided to walk to the Saturday Market, a venue that is highlighted in all of the travel guides we had read and that was singled out by our concierge as a good way to spend our time while they prepared our room. The Market was close to exactly what I expected it to be; Smaller than than I had thought it to be, it was full of the sorts of eastern trinkets and crafts that fill a thousand shops in Flagstaff and Sedona. It was charming for a while, but eventually it began to wear on us a little…while we love Flagstaff (and Portland’s market) and I could happily visit it any time, the heavy eastern influence can become cloying and overpowering so we decided to wander off to the riverside park, a short stroll from the Market. We strolled up and down the riverside, crossing the river at an old 2-story bridge that rumbled every time a train passed overhead.
Eventually we tired of the riverfront as well and wandered back into the city center. We walked past all kinds of buildings with ancient-appearing facades. What grabbed my attention was how the modern stores integrated so well into the old buildings. We were also charmed by the tri-max – a free tram system that circled around some of the more active areas of the city center.
Sadly, not all was beauty and charm. One thing that particularly grabbed us was the number of bums. I don’t say homeless because I’m not convinced that they are homeless. They seemed a mix of the hippies that can be found in Flagstaff and beach bums from California and they were *everywhere*. What amazed me was they had no problem holding signs that said things like “I want your weed” or “I want to get drunk”. Clearly these aren’t people who are on the narrow edge of living or starving. Normally I feel bad passing homeless people and not contributing. I felt no remorse for ignoring the bums, though.
So we wandered around until we heard loud cheering and shouts and went to investigate. As we rounded a corner, we found a square so like Heritage Square in Flagstaff that we suspected that the designer in Flag had at least visited Portland. In the middle was a long platform and 19 men in drag were doing a can can. It turns out that smyrc (Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center) was having an awareness/fundraising event and had just set the world record for drag queens dancing in a line (isn’t it weird the things that there are records for?). Tired from all of our walking we sat down in a shaded corner of the square and watched as the queens danced and visited with people in the square.
Finally we were tired so we wandered back to our hotel and checked in. You can see pictures from the room in our photo gallery here. The room was beautiful (though not as large as we had expected) and had an amazing window that allowed a magnificent view of the sky (even though it had become cloudy). We spent the rest of the evening in, venturing out for a brief dinner at Rock Bottoms.