Thank you, Portland, for reminding me what good old-fashioned customer service feels like. It was so nice to be treated like a lady again. After three and a half years of living in South Florida being ignored, condescended to, yelled at, overcharged, ripped off, or just stood up, being treated well was all but a distant memory. I knew something was different about you, Portland, when I was in the hotel lobby our first morning and the stranger next to me making coffee stopped and said good morning to me as if we were newlyweds whose eyes had just fluttered open after our most perfect wedding night. Both full of kindness, enthusiasm, and genuine caring, we would say good morning to each other just like that. It was a beautiful way to start the day. That’s what it was like most of the time while I was with you, Portland. Your people are the friendliest, warmest, kindest, most caring and genuine people I’ve ever met in ANY city in America. But it wasn’t just your people. Your food, ease of getting around, attractions, beauty, weather and of course bang-ability combined, put you at the top of the contender list of places I’d like to live one day.
When Michael and I first arrived at your international airport, our Uber driver’s car looked and smelled as if he had driven to us straight from the dealership after purchasing it. This level of hospitality and cleanliness would come to be a theme driving with Uber around your town. Our driver was nice, talked about what we should see, overly checked on us until he dropped us off at the Dossier Hotel downtown, where he must have handed the invisible baton of amazing customer service to Phil, the front desk clerk. I can’t say enough about Phil— during our entire stay there, he was wonderful.
The hotel was great. Clean, comfortable, cozy, well located and reasonably priced. If you are an amenity person, the Dossier might not be for you, but they have everything else you will need for a great stay, including Nespresso coffee pods for your in-room morning brew. What a nice upgrade from what I’m normally used to, which consists of pouring bathroom sink water over a tiny frisbee pod of crappy ground coffee.
So that’s a ton of the good, now let’s hit the bad real quick, before I do my rapid fire event recap. They say you’re overcast and rainy eight months out of the year Portland. And while it did rain during our three day visit, it was only during our afternoon naps, so we were lucky. Maybe drizzle and overcast would be depressing after a long stay? However, if that were true, I would expect your people to be depressed and miserable, but it was quite the contrary. Clearly a city containing such charming, friendly people doesn't seem to have a depression issue. What I see instead of eight months of drizzle, is a place where both the summers and winters are mild. It rarely snows and rarely gets above 90. Sounds pretty good to me.
Then there is the homeless problem in your downtown area. While it’s not to the extent of San Francisco, Denver, San Diego or other places I’ve been where the homeless population literally dissuaded me from wanting to return to specific areas of those cities, it's still bad. While I’m sympathetic to those with mental health issues, having a homeless person yelling nonsensically about Japan or screaming at one of their other personalities is still unnerving while trying to enjoy your vacation. I believe dealing with homelessness means making it very uncomfortable to be homeless. We as a country have done the opposite. If I had to guess based on your history, Portland, you won’t be "Trailblazers" in exacting newer, tougher measures on the homeless.
It’s so easy to get around to all of your attractions. You have done a tremendous job with transportation. Your trains are easy and cheap to use. Uber was a cinch. The city bike rental program also exists, but leave those clunky things behind and rent one of the hop-on and hop-off electric scooters to zoom around the city.
They were SO great! I wish every city had these. The only stupid thing are the rules which state you can’t ride on the sidewalks and have to wear a helmet. Riding those things in the street would be a bit more scary and most tourists don’t pack helmets, so after witnessing literally everyone without a helmet and on the sidewalks, we decided to join in. No problems either.
In what I imagine might be similar to how it would be in heaven, street food was everywhere. There were random parking lots around town where the perimeters of the parking lot were lined with food trucks which appeared to all have taken up permanent residence. Being able to grab a pita stuffed full of seasoned beef, hot sauce, and cool cucumber dressing at any point in one’s day seems like a huge selling point to me. Most of the street food lots seemed to serve much of the same stuff, but they were open late which I think is hugely important. The best thing to do after a night of drinking is wolf down a large pita and then go sleep immediately. My body has always been a temple.
Tasty and Alder Restaurant
This joint lived up to the hype! It was unique, delicious, and the service was amazing. I had a corn pancake with cheesy eggs and steak and we also had the Korean fried chicken. Be prepared to spend though, as it’s a little pricey. It was worth it I thought since everyone that worked there was as nice as Mr. Rogers on Quaaludes. The Bloody Mary's were the perfect spice, although whoever decided to do away with celery in these drinks needs a swift kick in the rear. The Blood Mary could have only been better if instead of an olive, lime and whatever else they put in there on a toothpick, they had put a shrimp, a piece of bacon and a stick of celery.
Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen
I LOVED this place also. The hip hop music is really loud and you order at the counter, but then they seat you and bring your food to you. There's a great array of unique crafted cocktails and savory food. Maybe a bit too much fish sauce on the Papaya salad, but otherwise I would highly recommend. Literally everything we had here was packed full of delicious flavors. I left there with the top button of my pants undone.
Pok Pok on Division
Overall, I liked this place, I really did, but it wasn’t the “must eat” everyone said it was. Maybe all the hype around it built up my expectations too high? We ate a bunch of things, all of which I would have made small tweaks to improve. Even the famous wings. They were good, but I wasn't going to leave there and start calling people to tell them they have to fly to Portland to have these wings. Maybe I was soured because they severely overcooked the tiny portion of boar meat we overpaid for. I think the thing this place did best was that they put the picture showing "Guy Fieri Ate Here" where it belongs— out of sight, near the crapper.
Pine Street Market
Smaller than many of the similar type food markets I’ve visited in the last couple years, but a decent selection and yummy food. Definitely worth a pop in. We each had kimchi ramen and some pulled pork bao buns. What's most important here is to point out how cute my man is!
Oregon, your wine alone is enough reason for me to marry you. On a previous trip, I did a tour of the Willamette Valley which I’m still convinced is among the top wines in the world. We did do one tasting while in Portland, but I am not spending a ton of time talking about your wine because it’s a part of most of my days already as I almost always order wines from Oregon on any menu. By the way, finally I've started seeing King Estate Vineyard bottles in stores across the country. Nice job guys! That was my favorite winery to date, and at the time of my tour, bottles were only able to be purchased directly from the vineyard.
What kind of ex-cop would I be if I didn’t vote on my favorite donuts? Blue Star vs Voo Doo? It was Blue Star all the way! Speaking of police work, while I was watching the evening news in the hotel one evening, they reported the Portland police had shot a citizen during an encounter. As writing, blogging and podcasting about police issues is my day job, I was not in the mood to hear citizens who are ill-informed rushing to judgement about yet another police incident while I was on vacation. I couldn’t find the remote fast enough, but the only comment from one of the very few protestors was something to the effect of, “We aren’t saying it’s wrong or right, we would just like to know all the facts.” The last thought I had before dozing off to sleep with a smile was, “Geez Portland, even your protestors are reasonable and nice!”
This place is so gorgeous and there are endless trails for people to explore. There’s a free shuttle to take you between stops like the zoo, Shakespeare Garden, the Secret Garden, and the Japanese Garden. We didn’t have time to do it all, but we settled on a hike and stopped at a couple of the attractions. When we got off the free shuttle, a parks employee was standing there greeting everyone. He might very well have been the friendliest man I’ve ever met. He gave us information about the park, walked us over to the large wooden map, showed us the highlights, and gave us free pamphlets. When he found out we were going to hike to the International Rose Test Garden, he gave us detailed directions, and as it could only happen in Oregon, he offered to actually walk with us the mile to show us the way. Entrance to the rose garden is free and is a must see. Just look at those flowers! We even caught the tail end of a proposal while strolling through, smelling all the amazing scents together.
Easily one of the top Japanese Gardens I’ve ever seen. It is very large, breathtakingly beautiful, and worth the $17 admission. We did opt to pay for a traditional Japanese tea service at the concessions building which was the perfect way to end our tour of the garden. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Mountains, other Falls and Hiking
While I hate hiking thanks to what my mother called “forced family fun” hiking trips, I am getting used to the idea again. Yes, I know, such a tortured childhood where my awful mother took us poor kids on walks to exercise and enjoy nature. How did I ever survive? Michael talked me into a short hike on the Wildwood Trail. If one is an outdoor enthusiast, the close proximity of such beautiful open areas and parks will be a major plus should they visit Portland. I will say to you, Oregon, your beauty is spectacular! You are simply breathtaking. So clean, and so much beautiful space, I fell in love instantly with you. So much so, I would consider taking up hiking on the regular should I live there, and would force any future children I might have to also hike.
But enough of the clean and beautiful, let's get down and dirty! We wanted to check out the male strip clubs because we had heard good things. One thing is for sure— still nothing in my mind lives up to the Montreal male strip clubs. If however, a vacation in Portland absolutely has to contain a strip club, try Stag PDX. The dancers were good looking and they put on somewhat of a show. I didn’t see anyone take it all off though, like a couple dancers did at Stag’s counterpart, Silverado. And unless you absolutely just have to see naked men and the Internet will not suffice, there’s really no reason to go there.
The. Place. Was. Tragic.
On stage, one dancer yawned, another laid on his back as if he were suntanning, one spun his penis so fast, it looked like he probably damaged his reproductive ability in what felt like an attempt by a horrified dancer to avoid anyone getting a good look at his manhood. Not one of them had any dance moves, but for a strip joint, the cover was only $4 and the drinks were cheap ….like seven to eight bucks a piece. No pictures were allowed. Trust me, it's probably better that way.
What a perfect opportunity to talk about the bang-ability of Portland. I rated it a two. Keep in mind this is not a 1-10 scale. I calculate bang-ability by walking through congested areas of town while counting the total number of people I see with whom I would theoretically, in a vacuum, have sex with. You know, if I were single, didn't have to buy them dinner, or talk to them. So then, I take the total minutes I'm counting and divide by the number of people I pick. I do this several times and then average them together. To give you an idea, a two is decent, but Buenos Aires scored a six. Portland, your look is sort of campy and hipster which many people find hot, but I wouldn't hold casting auditions for a porn film here. Just personal taste.
No matter what the bang-ability number is, I consider you, Portland, to be a top contender among places to relocate to one day. My hope is that Portlandians don’t lose their love, warmth, kindness, or amazing customer service. I leave you, Portland, with a smile on my face, a belly full of delicious food, and a deep gratitude for reminding me how important it is, not just in the service industry, but as a daily practice, to treat people others with loving kindness.
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