This week I decided that despite the fact that not all of this relates directly to health and wellness, Portland was too much fun to keep all the details to myself. In this blog I will share a little of the insanity through little short musings about what we encountered.
Transportation: The amount of public transportation available in Portland is in stark contrast to anything available near me, or I am am sure anything near you. I was able to take a train from the airport to an area near my hotel for just $2.40. A similar taxi ride would have cost me about $50. In addition to the train they also have a trolley system, buses, and best of all a series of walking/running/riding paths that were filled to capacity during most daylight hours. The availability of all this allowed us to walk almost anywhere that we wanted to go, or hop onto a tram or train for the more distant locations. This consistent exercise also allowed me to try local eateries without feeling too guilty about my food choices.
Food: Speaking of food, I must confess that the food in Portland is amazing. From the unbelievable amount of food trucks, to many restaurants carrying local, fresh, and organic food choices, to the not so healthy Voodoo Doughnuts, I do not think I have ever had so many delicious meals in such a short span of time. In the first hour I was in Portland, as I was dragging my suitcase from the train stop to the hotel, I came across Veritable Quandary (VQ to the locals). This restaurant changes menus about every two weeks, and it has so many delicious sounding dishes that it was very difficult to choose just one. My friend Kim had a beautiful fish stew that had me wishing I had ordered that instead of my yummy, but safe and healthy wild mushroom salad.
Another great food find was Mother's. I asked a bellhop in our hotel what the one restaurant I should not miss was, and this was his pick. It is extremely crowded but worth the wait--I actually went here twice during my stay. The first time at Mother's, I ran over, made a reservation, and then ran back to the hotel to shower before walking back. They had a Bloody Mary with jalapeno infused vodka that was to die for, and after my half marathon I actually had a vegetable green curry stir fry that had me almost licking the sauce off the plate.
The last place you must visit when you are in Portland is the Screen Door. Now I have to admit, this was my big splurge dinner after having run 13.1 miles through the drizzly Portland hills. Screen Door has the most creative Southern dishes, so you can understand why I considered this a luxury--the south not being known for their health conscious food (think Paula Dean). The one twist to this place was that they did have an entire menu of side dishes using local fruits and vegetables, light sauces, and a nice balance to the other not so healthy choices. I got the Screen Door platter, which allowed me to choose three sides: mac and cheese (I only ate half), catfish like I have never had before (crunchy on the outside and melt in your mouth in the center), and a beet arugula salad with a citrus vinaigrette. So I had my indulgence meal, but still ate reasonably well at the same time.
My one huge, no way to justify it, trip was to Voodoo doughnuts. Pretty much everyone I spoke to said I had to go there while I was in Portland. In my defense, Kim and I actually accidentally stumbled upon it while we were looking for coffee. We figured fate had delivered us there, so maybe just this one doughnut wouldn't kill us. Kim had an apple fritter that was almost as big as her head, and I munched on a raised doughnut covered in crushed Oreos and peanut butter know as the Old Dirty Bastard. And while the delicious treat indeed did not kill us, our favorite part of Voodoo Doughnuts was not the pastry, it was the entertainment.
Keeping Portland Weird: Right across from Voodoo is an entire wall painted with the words "Keep Portland Weird." As Kim and I sat eating our doughnuts and drinking our coffee, we could see this huge sign as a backdrop when a somewhat normal looking man wearing a red clown nose and holding a monkey puppet pulled up in a gold conversion van covered in weird 3-D art. For a while he just moved the puppet around as he laughed manically. Eventually he jumped out wearing a monkey mask, blasted his music, and then danced around to his tunes. If that wasn't funny enough, in the passenger seat was a teenage boy that looked as though he wanted to melt into the fake leather seats. Almost simultaneously, the monkey man drove off and a scarey homeless woman walked up to take his place. She was warning us of how the world was going to end, that they were going to shoot darts through the back of our heads, but that tomorrow would be a new day. It was a very interesting floor show that I am still not sure might have truly been a delusion due to the sugar high from the Voodoo doughnuts.
Portland Landmarks and Activities: Months before we headed to Portland, Kim and I developed a list of things we wanted to do before we headed home. We wanted to eat at a Portland food truck, get a Voodoo Doughnut, take a picture in front of the Portlandia statue, all of which we managed to do in the first couple days. We also wanted to visit Powell Books, one of the largest bookstores in the world. I have never seen so many books in one place in my life, and teaching reading is what I do for a living. We spent hours perusing the endless shelves, but in the end I only came home with a pop-up book about trucks for Eoin and a book on triathlons for women to get me started on my new journey. Powell's also has a huge coffee shop where you can sit at big long wooden tables, drink coffee, and read your new purchases.
Kim and I also made time to hit the Portland Flea Market, which is another must do when you are in this city. We walked through blocks and blocks of vendors including food, clothing, and local artists, where we found many things to take home as souvenirs. I actually found a funky skirt made out of recycled men's dress shirts that I took home for me, and by the time we left we both had bags and bags of items to shove into our suitcase for the trip home.
There was also a trip to the Portland Rose Garden, a visit to the science museum, a trip on an aerial tram over the city, and last but not least a half marathon run that gave us a completely different view of this amazing city. I still can't believe we fit so much into such a short amount of time. But the best part of the entire trip was that I was able to do all these things with my two friends by my side. This was truly a trip I will never forget, and once again I was able to do it all while staying active, playing outdoors, and making reasonable food choices...well except for the Voodoo doughnuts.