Friday, December 22

Portland Part 2

Jo and I were lucky enough to find ourselves in Portland, Oregon for a week earlier this month. I'm collaborating with some great people there so it was mostly work for me, but Jo got to spend most days walking the city (stay tuned for her post - coming soon!).

For backstory, my previous Portland posts are Here and Here, although there may be other references lurking in May and June of the archives...

Portland is a great city and makes me feel totally at home. Read that as "Jac is head over heals for the place". I'm not sure if it's the cold, the mountains, the hot tea, the rain, the multitude of subarus, or the political leftness... but it's all good! We stayed in what is probably my favorite hotel thus far, the Benson. It's a small hotel that has all the good stuff, including lovely sheets, bathrobes, good cable and room service french onion soup, while not being at all tacky plasticky and nasty. They even have a lovely little Asian lady who knocks on the door at 5.30pm 'you want bed turned down?' and when you invariably say no she hands you a bunch of candy and a little card with the next day's weather on it.

Portland was FREEZING cold! Literally. It was ranging from -1 to about 8 degrees C, but we were lucky not to get any rain the whole time we were there. San Antonio has been a lush 25-30 degrees the last few weeks (unseasonal perhaps) but we did have a very cold week just before we left for Portland so we went and found ourselves a good quality jacket each. Columbia for the win :) I don't know if you can see the mountain in the background, I think it's Mount Hood (the one everyone seems to get lost on lately but it is the most climbed mountain in the US so the stats are stacked against it). Anyhow, totally covered in snow! Gorgeous.

Portland was great for getting us in the mood for an American Christmas. Not only was it bitingly cold (even with our new coats we still needed at least 3 layers before venturing out) there were also lovely carols playing everywhere, even in the taxis. The hotel itself had the whole old style American Christmas feel, with an enormous tree in the lobby. No only that, but every edge of the room was lined with pots of poinsettias!

The other cool Christmassy thing about the Benson was the HUGE gingerbread house (nay, castle) in the lobby. It was made by the chief pastry chef who is now an architect! All made out of food but totally not edible (something to do with fixatives...I did not try to stick my tongue in the lake) The windows were my favorite - made with smashed and melted pieces of Jolly Ranchers!

I spent most of the week working, but we also had some lovely dinners (no surprise for this blog perhaps), including one at a place called 'The Farm Cafe' that uses all local produce. I had an amazing crab risotto and Jo had wild mushroom fettucini. We also had warmed Oregon brie with an apple cider sauce and local hazelnuts.

One of the loveliest things about Portland has got to be the trees, the variety, the density, the hills surrounding the city that are still densely forested... There was even a hint of the Autumn (fall) colouration remaining!

One night, before going to dinner, we walked through the freezing city to go and check out chinatown, which turned out to be small, but heading home we stumbled upon a fabulous night market! It was called 'Art Happens' and wasn't a regular thing, just a one off for pre-Christmas, but there was some beautiful stuff - earrings and hand made bags etc. It was fun to walk though the square filled with Christmas lights and market stalls.

On the last day there we went out to the hills just outside Portland and did a wine tasting tour. They make some good pinot! The countryside was lovely and reminded me a lot of the Northwest coast, but without the gum trees. Lots of hills and farms and gorgeous mountains all around. It was a great day, mostly sunny even. Some of the wines were terrible and we were thankful we were sharing a tasting glass, but some were lovely. Our favorite place was a winery called the Red Barn that had a lovely farmer type in denim overalls running the tasting. Very down to earth and friendly, not at all snooty like some of the other places. He brought out cheese and crackers, and in true American style, brownie bites! Not sure how they went with the wine because the cheese was too yummy to go there. They're one of the older vineyards and they send their grapes off to different winemakers, so we were trying a range of wines all grown on site. They had a very drinkable pinot gris, which is usually the bane of my existence, and some good pinot noirs :)

The bad side to the Portland trip is the Jo has now realised that the rest of the states is nothing like Texas/Florida... She even found a little house, right up in the park above the city, that she'd 'quite like to live in'. Sorry Texas, you'll never win her heart now!


b&c said...

What a great post! Portland sounds just lovely. You've got us very keen to visit too. The description of the Oregon brie has made me hungry. And the candy castle!! Amazing! Thanks heaps for keeping us all updated with your adventures :)

CupKate said...

I like the gingerbread castle... was there a gingerbread dragon with it? Portland does sound very inviting (f somewhat cold)