Driving into Portland felt different this time. I guess it should since the last time I came on a bicycle. Last time it was a bit overcast with periods sun. This time its rained constantly with periods of harder rain.
One shouldn’t let the elements deter a visit. Our first evening was special because we had dinner with some wonderful friends. Donna and Mike are extremely generous — making a wonderful “home cooked meal”. It was a welcomed since we’ve generally eaten breakfast at our motel or B and B; lunched on peanut butter and jam sandwiches; and typically eaten dinner at a local restaurant in search for unusual menu items. For dinner we enjoyed chicken marsala — the taste and the presentation were outstanding — I can still taste it today, mmmmmm. D and M, thanks again for being so kind to a pair of nomads.
The following day we ventured far and wide. Portland has a Saturday street fair, that also exists on Sunday, located in the China Town section of the city. We walked the fair taking in the art work, the smells of food and local brews and listening to some musicians rock on!
A local institution, by a stroke of luck, happened to be nearby the street fair — I am referring to Voodoo Donuts. We joined a lengthy, but rapid line before a short entry time into the bakery. The decor is early San Francisco hippie as are the employees The donuts are light, sugary and altogether sinful. We each tried a maple bacon combo long john and an apple fritter. Hands down we agreed the maple bacon was the clear winner of the “Silver Palate” award. This is a newly minted award given to those establishments that create an ultimate culinary experience.
The day was still young so we struck out for the famed Portland Rose Gardens. Even in rain the garden was a sweet scented oasis. Roses are a key feature of Portland and are a vehicle for welcoming folks to the city. Since 1912, the Royal Society of Rosarians have been the official greeters for Portland. Members take this responsibility seriously. They dress in beautiful and elaborate costumes that add a sense of pageantry to any event.
The garden hosts hundreds of rose plants that come in a variety of colors red, pink and yellow; present are many rose families including tea roses, shrub roses and rose trees. The essence of the blooms transported me to my youth when I regularly visited my maternal grandfather’s rose and carnation garden. I would race my siblings around his yard sniffing flowers. I loved the juxtaposition of the sweet roses with the saucy and spicy scented carnations.
From the delights of the rose garden we made a soggy pilgrimage to the zoo. Exotic animals touch me in a primeval way. Perhaps its the ancient sense of fear while hunting prey that is usually bigger and stronger than we. Whatever it is whenever I go to a city I check out the residents. Portland’s zoo has a strong reputation for a eco-friendly environment that attempts to provide a “natural” environment for its guests.
The zoo was well done. For the most part the exhibits were thoughtful and interesting. I am still a bit confused by the presence of the brass squirrel. I guess this was created to pay homage to a wily enemy of anyone who gardens or tends lawns.
Portland is like no where else, or is it, my road partner suggested that the city and to some degree the state mirror the counter-cultural nature of the Powderhorn neighborhood of Minneapolis.
I cannot disagree with this pithy assessment. After all its the responsibility of Portlanders to “Keep Portland Weird” is it not?