California 2009, Part 0, Portland

Pardon the very generic title. I went for my annual trip to California, which is inevitably post-Labor Day, and I circle the lower half of the state, and am decidedly not so adventurous. Normally I try to see new stuff in my travels, but once a year, I visit the same places, visit friends and family, and do the same things. But it’s a healthy, happy routine, and I manage to feel a bit more vigorous, and feel like my old self again.

This is Part 0, because the trip started with a very brief prelude in Portland, Oregon. That’s right, I made a quickie stop in Portland for beer and lunch, it was raining (OMG), and the 10.5 hour flight ran just a bit too long in Lufthansa’s very cramped economy cabin. LH468 was packed to the brim, so why has Lufthansa canceled this flight?

This flight's taking too long.

This flight's taking too long.

As usual, gray Northwest skies and rain.

As usual, gray Northwest skies and rain.

PDX feels downright like a ghost town compared to the mega-airports that I normally fly out of, making for a rather unusual way of entering the United States. I took the MAX into town, which was remarkably convenient, I wish that other cities in the U.S. would make it this easy to get downtown.

So this is one of the trendiest cities in the U.S., it’s been lauded for its restaurant scene, being bike-friendly, year-round skiing and snowboarding, the Blazers, great beer, etc. etc. etc. I headed straight for the Bridgeport Brewery in the Pearl District. The district is unrecognizable from the industrial wasteland it used to be, now it’s all expensive condos and trendy shops and restaurants. I kind of preferred the run-down state of NW Portland, complete with the quintessential Pacific Northwest Skid Row (downtown Eastside Vancouver, Pioneer Square Seattle, and NW Portland, add some rain).

Pioneer Courthouse Square

Pioneer Courthouse Square

Steel Bridge, Big Pink, go Blazers!

Steel Bridge, Big Pink, go Blazers!

The city’s grown up a bit, but it still has that feel of a small town. Despite all this recent development, it’s not Seattle or Vancouver, which have international reputations, but it’s stubbornly provincial, and unhappy with being in the public glare. I had my beer and lunch, chatted for a couple hours with my former English teacher I had not seen in many years, and headed back to the airport for the flight down to California.

So there you go, five hours in Portland.

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