Portland Getaway

Months ago, when I agreed to head down to Oakland on the weekend of our anniversary, Nicole and I had decided we’d have a slightly delayed celebration. Originally we had hoped to spend a nice weekend in the English countryside attending our friend James’s wedding but that did not work out. On Friday we took the train down to Portland for a weekend away and our belated celebration of 5 years of marriage. Amazingly, the entire trip went like clockwork. We didn’t have any delays on buses or trains and we got everywhere we wanted to go on time and in good spirits.

We stayed at the Avalon Hotel and Spa, which Nik had gotten a good price on via a travel site. It was a few minutes outside of the hustle and bustle of downtown, which was nice. We had considered trying out the spa side of things, but it was spendy ($105 for a massage) and the 48 hours we had for fun were easily eaten up by other things. Saturday was the big day. It started at 10 am with a culinary walking tour of the Pearl District, a former industrial neighborhood rezoned for businesses and residences. Over the course of three and a half hours we visited a bakery, a tea shop, a brewery, a pizza place, a dessert café, a deli, and a shop that sells various culinary goods and gadgets. There was a tasting at each location and along the way we got to see a lot of the Pearl District. This was totally fun. The real surprise for me was Hot Lips Pizza. I was a bit nonplussed when I heard part of the itinerary was a pizza place. Perhaps my NYC bias was showing a bit. Hot Lips was a real treat though. We sampled their daily veggie pie, which had broccoli, hazelnuts, cheese, and a squash puree. It doesn’t sound too good but man, it was delicious and their thin, crispy crust was outstanding.

After the tour we took the obligatory trip to Powell’s bookstore, which was conveniently nearby. This is the biggest bookstore in the nation and a must-visit on any Portland trip. As usual I spent two hours there and barely scratched the surface. I picked up a bunch of books and then we returned to the hotel for awhile. We chilled out for the rest of the afternoon and spent some time deciding where to have our big dinner out that night. We ultimately chose Wildwood and were able to get a reservation for 8:45. At 5 we headed over to the hotel’s attached restaurant, Rivers, for some drinks and happy hour snacks. With four mini martinis for $4, how could we say no? We drank and talked while munching on some olives and local hazelnuts, tuna tartar, and French fries and steamed mussels.

Later that night we set out for Wildwood for dinner proper. As I had gotten a new suit for the wedding, we decided to dress up for the night out. The restaurant was one of the first in Portland to work with Pacific NW ingredients and create a truly seasonal menu. The food was excellent all around. I had a steak and beet salad to start, which was tremendous, and then had the grilled Muscovy duck for dinner. Duck is hit or miss, often too greasy and heavy. This preparation was excellent, very light and flavorful. It was served with a chestnut puree, turnips, and a poached pear. A cheese plate and a pot of Earl Grey finished the meal. Very nice indeed.

Sunday we bid the hotel adieu and met up with some friends of Nicole’s for brunch at Wild Abandon (thus continuing the “wild” theme). Then we went back to JD and Chris’s place, a cool period home built in 1903. JD is a high school friend of Nicole’s that she’s seen once in the past 15 years or so. He and his wife were good folks and very hospitable. JD had recently gotten a wii and it didn’t take much convincing for me to have a go with it. I don’t know that I’d want to use the “wiimote” all the time, but I will say that it creates a very different experience than your average game console. Even something as mundane at bowling was more fun than it had a right to be with that controller.

Later in the afternoon JD was kind enough to drop us off at the train station. The trip back was uneventful, even with a car crammed full of co-eds returning to Seattle’s various universities. I read one of my Powell’s purchases (The Unknown Battle: Metz 1944, a book I’ve been seeking for a long time) and we hit town around 6:30. By then it was snowing, which is a strange occurrence in Seattle. We grabbed a bus and were home by 7:30. I had visions of a snow day for today, but it was not to be. When I woke up, there was some snow on the ground but the roads were clear and dry. Ah well. Still, no complaints here, as we had a very fun weekend and suitably celebrated our anniversary at last.

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