Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Oregon Trail

I didn't know much about Portland before I headed out there for a work trip last week (remember that horrible flight? Portland is where I was going). Actually, the extent of my knowledge was limited to what I had gleaned from The Oregon Trail, that old PC favorite. Let me assure you that I did not die of a snake bite, or dysentery, or anything else. Oh, and I didn't have to ford any rivers. Although sometimes it felt like I might have to, especially since it pretty much rained every day of my trip. But I wasn't going to let that stop me.

Portland has a very East Coast feel. In fact, it reminded me of Old Town Alexandria. Brick sidewalks, lots of great small restaurants and boutiques, and very walkable. But the people in general seemed a lot more relaxed than us East Coasters; walking around I felt like I was always in a rush and they just seemed to be strolling. The downtown area is full of one way streets, and when there was nothing coming, I would just cross against the light. And those Portlanders looked at me like I was a crazy woman and a lawbreaker. What, I couldn't wait just 30 seconds for the light to change? Well, no actually. I had places to be!

Like Voodoo Doughnut. I first heard about Voodoo Doughnut from the television show Man vs. Food. With sexually explicit doughnut names like chocolate triple penetration and cock and balls, not to mention the overall yummy appearance of their doughnuts, this place was at the top of my Portland To Do list. So one afternoon after the hearings had been conducted, one of the judges and I walked over and got our doughnut on. And let me just tell you. SO GOOD OMG. I started with their signature Voodoo Doll doughnut and it was seriously the best doughnut I have ever had. The shop is open 24/7 and they have numerous and unusual doughnuts to choose from. So I bought 6. You know, in case of doughnut emergency.

Voodoo Doll doughnuts (one missing a bite). And yes, that's a pretzel stick stake through it's heart.

In fact, the best thing about Portland, at least to me, was the food. Every restaurant we tried was delicious with special and unusual menu options, and there is a big focus there on sustainable and organic ingredients. So everything was really fresh. And amazing.

The second best thing about Portland is Powell's Books. It's the largest bookstore in the United States. And seriously, you guys? It's freaking HUGE. It takes up an entire city block (or more) and the different departments are organized into rooms with bookshelf after bookshelf that reach right up to the ceiling. You have to get a map when you get in, or you can get hopelessly lost, which honestly might not be that bad since there are so many awesome books everywhere you look. And stuff that you can't find anywhere else. Powell's sells both new and used books, so any random thing that someone decides to bring to them ends up on the shelves, which means there are lots of gems just waiting to be discovered by the wayward book wanderer.

Inside the Science Fiction/Fantasy "room" at Powell's Books.

After spending the week at the Portland Regional VA Office, I had all day Saturday to myself to sight-see. I was supposed to meet up with my friend Wendy, but she got called into work on Saturday, so I had to amuse myself. Despite the pouring rain, I made it across the river to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to take a gander at their planetarium. I'm kind of a sucker for planetariums and astronomy. I think it has something to do with my love of Greek mythology, since so many of the stars, constellations, planets, etc. are named after myths. Anyhoodle, planetariums are my thing, and while at OMSI I got to see the Holiday laser show (I have always wanted to see a laser show) and a short lecture/show on the December night sky. In a cool twist, I was the only one at the night sky show, so I basically had my own personal planetarium presentation. And the guy doing it was kinda cute, so, bonus!

Luckily for me, Wendy decided to drive down to Portland after work on Saturday and we got to spend the evening hanging out. We got the best Italian food ever (at Mama Mia's on 1st Avenue), a bottle of wine, and then just hung out in the posh hotel watching Indiana Jones. It had been too many months to count since I had last seen her, so basically, it was a great Saturday night.

And you'll all be happy to know that my flight home on Sunday was completely uneventful without a hangover in sight. And thank god I didn't come through Chicago. Because that place is just a mess.

The Christmas Tree at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

The lobby of the Hotel Monaco, where I spent an entire week. Good thing it was so posh.

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