I had one little thing on my to-do list during these few months I’ve been in Canada, and that was visit my friend Sarah in Portland before I left for Japan. We had been talking about this for ages – I first met Sarah in Roatan (she arrived shortly after me) and we were soon neighbors and friends. When she moved back to Portland last year, she left the island and I promised the next time I was in Canada that I would come see her. So I did! I only had a short weekend, so we decided to make the most of it. Here’s a recap of my weekend, through the unfiltered lens of my old iPhone:
I flew in and out of Vancouver because I wanted to check something off my bucket list – taking the train down the west coast! I went on the Amtrak Cascades and I absolutely loved it (I did not like having to go to the train station at 5:30am though. This girl does not do mornings well). The seats were roomy, there was free wifi on board once we crossed the US border, there was a dining/coffee car, a lounge car and outlets for everyone. It was a long trip… about eight hours, and you aren’t allowed to disembark anywhere until you’re at your station. I got up and walked around a few times. But the coastal scenery kept me glued to my seat most of the time – I was SO happy I got a window seat.
Once we finally arrived in Portland, Sarah and her roommate Liza came to get me and obviously first things first in Portland – we had to go EAT! We went straight to Pine Street Market, an indoor market full of hip food stalls that are offshoots of local restaurants. I got Israeli street food from Shalom Y’all and slammed it so fast I didn’t even take a picture. Everything we got was fantastic and I felt like things here (and actually everywhere I ate in Portland) were really reasonably priced.
After we filled our bellies we headed out to the Portland International Rose Test Gardens, which was beautiful and smelled amazzzziiinnnnngggg. There were lots of selfies and iPhone rose photos going on here.
From here, we headed up to the Pittock Mansion to take in the beautiful architecture of the building (it was closed, I would have loved to have gone inside!) and the stunning city views from up on the ridge. Liza and Sarah gave me a Portland geography lesson, and then we roamed the grounds.
After this we headed back home and thought about getting ourselves together to go out for food or drinks, but I had a long day and my hosts were tired from paddleboarding in the river all afternoon so we called it a night.
Saturday morning we got up and, as you do in Portland, headed to the farmer’s market. I don’t have any pictures from this because it was, as it is in Portland, raining. I did snag some macarons to enjoy later. I think I managed to eat about 20 macarons in my weekend there. They were everywhere!
We walked around some really cute little shopping/entertainment districts and browsed around in the stores for a few hours. It was very Portland-y to me. Such quirky, eclectic stuff, and hipsters as far as the eye could see!
I enjoyed it though, and there was so much food. After visiting a saltwater aquarium store that sent me into a tearful homesick depression when I saw the seahorses, butterflyfish and tang I know so well, Sarah took me to what was my favorite meal in Portland – a pork belly rice bowl at Double Dragon.
I don’t know why this was so good, but I was over the moon while I was eating it. Curry lime collard greens, savory roasted mushrooms, pickled cucumber and some serious soft-boiled egg yolk porn combined with a generous portion of crispy pork belly and topped off with kimchi – it was just the best flavor and texture combination. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything better for $11. I could easily eat this daily. Sarah’s bahn mi burger was not too shabby either.
We decided on an unconventional form of entertainment for the evening – a paranormal walking tour of the infamous Portland Shanghai Tunnels. Now, I’m no stranger to tunnel tours. My hometown is famous for them. But this was by far the weirdest tunnel tour I’ve ever been on.
There was a group of about eight of us and we met in a restaurant courtyard while our guide started telling us about the history of the tunnels in downtown Portland. The lady guiding the tour seemed really nervous, and the way she talked about the guy who has been excavating these things was a little creepy – she sounded like a cult member talking about her leader. Oh well, Portland is weird, right? Then they opened up a street-level gate and we shuffled down into the ‘tunnels’.
I’m using the term tunnels loosely, because this tour really only consisted of walking around in the basements of like two or three buildings. There wasn’t anything really ‘tunnel-like’ about it, though due to earthquake-proofing a lot of areas were blocked off for safety or restructuring the building, so maybe there used to be more. Our tour focused on paranormal activity and there is apparently a lot of it down in these basements where back in the late 1800s through the early 1900s crooked dudes would ‘Shanghai’ unsuspecting drunk bar patrons by dropping them through trapdoors in the bar floor, into the basement, into crude holding cells and then onto huge ships as slave labor. Some guys made it back to Portland and some didn’t. The basements had to be excavated out as they were full of rubble and they found some interesting artifacts down there like shoes that had been taken away from prisoners (they had broken glass cemented into the floors around the cells – no shoes = no trying to escape), an opium den, etc.
All in all this tour was okay – it was interesting and I liked hearing the stories about the times of Shanghai-ing. I probably would have gone on a non-paranormal tour if I knew then what I knew now, because I wasn’t into the ghost focus at all. Our tour guide was super into it and that’s cool, but some of her ‘proof’ consisted of stopping us for 10 minutes in a small, low, enclosed area and telling us that lots of people on the tours faint there so it must be spirits or something. (Uh, or the fact that you’ve got all these people breathing/exhaling in a small area for 10 minutes with zero airflow, underground?) Anyway, I’d do it again, it was good for $13 but I’d skip the paranormal one next time. The tour came back above ground and they took us to a shop/museum full of stuff they found down there while excavating and it was cool.
We decided to get some fresh air afterward and took a walk over a huge bridge down to OMSI and peeked in the windows (it was closed). Portland is definitely the city of bridges and the early evening scenery from the bridge was gorgeous.
The next morning was time for me to check off my last two to-do items on the list before leaving: hit up a Trader Joe’s (we don’t have them in Canada!) and have a classic Scandinavian brunch at Broder Soder. Obviously, it being brunch and all, I had to get the cocktail with the dill vodka in it.
All in all, this was such a fantastic weekend filled with food, solid girl time, craft beer, roaming around and a little bit of weird. It was perfect. Thank you Sarah for showing me your city! I hope I’ll be back soon. There was so much more I wanted to see and do – I could spend ages just eating my way through PDX. A good reason to plan another trip!
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