I'm back in San Antonio now but I had a great time in Portland. It was so wonderful to be somewhere cool and green. I got so excited when it rained that the locals thought I was nuts, but it's been so long since I went outside in the rain! It either doesn't rain here, or it comes in buckets with the chance of golfball sized hail and the dents in my car are enough to convince me to not even think about going out in that!
But back to Portland. I was there for work. We're collaborating with one of the research groups there and I was helping them put together a grant proposal and set up the infrastructure for some basic analyses. They worked me pretty hard but they're a great group so it was a pleasure, and there was plenty of time for good food, shopping and lots of walking (in the rain!)
I was staying in a spunky hotel in the centre of downtown that had wine tastings every night and 24/7 cartoons (and they expected me to leave my room???). I spent one evening wandering downtown, in the rain, and managed to find myself a great teapot from a place called Kitchen Kaboodle. It's green (the teapot) and doesn't dribble. Yay! Mind you, I got soaked through walking back to the hotel and went to the wine tasting looking like a drowned rat. Oh well, the wine was pretty blerky anyway. There was an Algerian red that tasted like pinebark and water and a Portuguese red that tasted like it had lemon juice in it. I wondered if the hotel had found a convenient way to get rid of their nasty wines and the joke was on us. There was a lovely sav blanc though and I'm not usually a fan (maybe it was just in comparison to the others). In general I've stayed away from US wines and stuck to the old koonunga hill, bit I tried a few Portland pinots when we were eating out, and they were pretty good. Doubt I could fine them in Texas though, the Aussie stuff is easier to get hold of (although "Yellow Tail" seems to have a monopoly here and I don't think I ever noticed it in oz). But again, I digress...
Portland was lovely. Admittedly, I probably saw the nicest parts of town, but it was so lush and green, with the river running through and forested hills everywhere. The trees were huge and varied and driving through those areas just smelt so green!
I liked that there seemed to be lots of small, independent shops (still plenty of chains but less conspicuous than a huge cement parking lot with a massive shop in the centre) and there were also lots of small, spunky restaurants that were doing interesting things with food. Yay! My only condition when I got there was 'please, not Mexican, Latin or tex/mex food, please' but it was all good. We had 'fancy American' one night (I had a halibut steak on delicious oyster mushrooms and vanilla bean creme brulee to finish...mmmm) and Italian for lunch a few times (fresh made pasta, simple crab or mushroom sauce, lots of garlic) and we even had good Japanese for lunch, including delicious tuna nigiri. The chain restaurants were there, but only in some districts and not close to the density of what you see in San Antonio. The most alarming thing was the 'starbucks on every corner' phenomenon which was almost literal. Every second corner perhaps. How do they not put each other out of business?? I love the Saturday Night Live prediction for 2000 that said 'starbucks will make franchise history but opening a starbucks inside a starbucks'. Maybe not 2000 but it can't be far off!
Portland is the 'city of roses' and the rose garden is amazing. It's high up on the hill, looking over the city, and they have a bunch of 'test gardens' there. Rose season was just starting so I got to see plenty of lovely blooms, but not the full splendor of that entire garden in bloom. It must be amazing! I didn't take many pics at this point because it was pouring :) Yay for my columbia jumper and walking shoes (plug plug).
That's not smog in the background, it's rain!
On Thursday we went walking through the Japanese garden in our lunchbreak. The garden was incredible. It's high on the hill above the rose gardens, completely surrounded by forest. They have all sorts of rules about being quiet and not eating, but the garden was very extensive and so well looked after. It was raining (again) but that seemed to fit the atmosphere. We just wandered about quietly and it was so lovely and peaceful. Who would have thought that highly tortured trees could make you feel so calm?
Anyhow, after a great trip I made my way back to San Antonio where is was 35 degrees at 11pm when I stepped of the plane in full cold weather gear. Ahh Texas. Hopefully the grant will get funded. I'd like to go back for a weekend and go to the markets and China Town. I'm so predictable!
4 months ago