While I’d rather not think of today as such, the end of the Odyssey is nigh. Looking back on everything I’ve done this last week, it’s pretty amazing to recount all my experiences…but I’ll save that for another post.
Yesterday yielded another long drive from Bend to Portland. I was helped greatly by the free breakfast provided by the Days Inn, which might I say was FANTASTIC for an inexpensive little roosting point like that. If you’re in the area and looking to save money, the Days Inn is probably some of the best value you’ll find in terms of central location, cleanliness, and of course, free food, so snatch up a room to rest your weariness after the plethora of activities you’ll end up doing in Central Oregon.
I landed at Multnomah Falls around mid-morning, finally feeling my inner, kitschy tourist bones stop shaking. My internetting had informed me that a bridge leading to the stop was temporarily closed; a chunk had been taken out thanks to a rogue boulder sending itself over the edge of the falls. I’m sure it lived a good, long life. Anyway, this resulted in the normally 1.8-mile hike to the top being cut short to around a quarter mile. Ah, same thing. As evidenced by the photo below, no amount of regret was had for taking the time out, and there was no shortage of people visiting the falls to stare mouth-agape at the 600-foot wall of awesomeness.
Before rounding out the rest of my “Portland outdoors” experience, I next headed to what I lovingly call my “alternative tourism” activity for the day…
Voila, the Portland office of my beloved home of employment, KPMG! No, no, I wasn’t working. With all due respect to my adoring coworkers, that was not on the agenda. I simply forgot to submit my time and had to use a loaner computer located at the office to do so. Obviously on purpose, because I wanted to see the Portland version of where I work, duh!
My day’s journey next took me to another touristy activity, the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Much like the favored Japanese Gardens, this one boasts to be the most authentic garden of its kind outside of its originating country. I’ll take that at face value for now. Although the garden is smaller than you’d expect and a little more architecturally-focused (as opposed to nature-focused) than the Japanese gardens, it was still a beautiful side trip into a royal courtyard of 1600s China.
The best part about this place is the tea house, which serves an overwhelming amount of fine teas along with some light tea snacks. This place is known to be crowded during peak season, but I was pleasantly surprised to find just a few other pockets of patrons and have a table to myself. I enjoyed a flight of three different Oolong teas and a mung bean moon cake (delicious) for about 45 minutes while listening to an older Chinese gentleman play the erhu. Flowing and delicate, the music provided the perfect atmosphere for sitting and enjoying my tea while looking out at the muted building colors, the fruit blossoms, and the little bit of sun that was peaking through.
Still thirsting for nature, I eventually bid farewell to the Chinese Garden and headed to another Portland staple, Forest Park. It’s hard to believe that a large-ish metropolitan area can be in possession of something like FP, but Portland is and its citizens boast it proudly, as they should. FP contains over 70 miles worth of trails and gives a multitude of options to everyone from the “my friend dragged me to go hiking today” neophyte to the ripped hardbody who can mountain-bike a straight mile uphill. It’s also extremely pet-friendly, and I was able to meet a flurry of furry friends on my journey.
Feeling refreshed and blessed for the connection with nature I had made today, I took a turn for the urban and had dinner at Ox, the Argentine-Portlandese fusion restaurant known for two-hours waits, woodsy-rustic smells, and delicious…tripe!??! I was intrigued from the moment I did a preliminary “Nearby” Yelp search, and I knew early on I’d be in for a treat.
As expected, the decor was a splendid setting for a delicious meal – clean, beechwood-colored counters and tables, rich brick walls, and an impressive silver-plated wood-fire oven. Untrue to the anticipated wait time, I was immediately sat at the bar, which is probably my favorite place to sit at restaurants anyway. Being that it was 7:00 pm on a Friday night, the place was poppin’ and full of locals enjoying empanadas and red wine galore. Taking recommendations from my bartender, Dylan, and fellow bar patrons, I went as big and as Argentinean as I could: buttery, smoky bone marrow clam chowder, a juicy lamb shoulder chop, and even a glass of Malbec! I indulge in a glass of wine maybe 5-6 times a year in the company of family and extremely close friends, but I felt this was well worth the punch in my Wine Card.
Per recommendation of my new chef friend sitting to my right, I took my adventuresome tastebuds to their edge. While I pride myself on being able to eat almost anything, I am wary of anything remotely spicy – a hindrance for me with respect to some of the hearty genres I love like Southern, Mexican, and South American food. The clam chowder was perfect in its creamy, mouth-melting goodness, but came with a few slices of jalapenos. Against my will, but at Tom the Chef’s insistence, I swirled the jalapeno into my soup, took a sip, and felt the flavor infuse my mouth and enrapture my senses. WHAT HAVE I BEEN MISSING ALL THESE YEARS!?! It became evident to me that the ancient use of spices truly does have a purpose, and that the phrase “spice of life” really was so apt. Needless to say, the soup you see below was finished in its entirety.
The lamb chop, too, was cooked all the way through and made me have a greater appreciation for fattier cuts of meat. Topped with the chimichurri raved to me by my leftside bar-neighbor, I felt temporarily transported to Meat Heaven. Shockingly, I didn’t even feel the need for dessert after dinner due to the level of satisfaction I was feeling afterwards. I slowly finished everything and hung around talking with the “bar-borhood” before trekking to the nearby Doug Fir for a show.
Being at a music show from approxmately 9:00-1:00 last night, I felt like I was actually in my early twenties for the first time in a couple weeks. This was the latest night I’ve had while on this trip, which I felt was completely appropriate being my last night in Portland. After all, I like to go out with a bang.
Let me start by saying that the Doug Fir is an absolute must-see for the full Portland cultural experience. While it’s obviously the only music venue I’ve been to while here, I can imagine it’s probably the coolest and one of the nicest, based on my conversations with locals. Once a dilapidated and nondescript motel, the place was drastically refurbished within the last decade (I believe) and now resembles a mid-century modern log cabin that perfectly embodies “swanky” in every way. With spherical lights, mirrored bathrooms, outside fire pits, and-oh-a glass-blown moose hanging up next to the bar, I was immediately intrigued and impressed by the level of emphasis on design placed here. The show venue downstairs also had a nice bar and allowed for adequate room to enjoy music and music-related activities.
Now…the music. There were three bands that played: first up was the jumpy, alt-pop and occasionally synthy Thumper. While it took just a little while to warm up, I couldn’t have been more pleased with their hand-clappy, catchy, almost chillwave-esque “Dancing’s Done”. Their last song was amazing too, but I had my first major fail of the night by neglecting to take the name of it down. Very upbeat with great guitar, though, so I’m sure that narrows it down for you if you happen to look ’em up. 😉
The next band, Pattern is Movement, was probably my favorite, so much that I was too enamored to even take a picture, apparently! With elements of Beirut, Pinback, and even James Blake, they run mostly on drums and crazily-tuned, layered vocals for their sound. Speaking of drums, the drummer’s faces were so classic that I deeply regret not capturing them during his performance. While everything was outstanding, the crowd went absolutely wild for the cover of D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does it Feel?)”. And I can say this: NEVER have I witnessed such impressive vocals in person, ever. To Spotify I go to add these gems to my fabled collection!
The final band and main headliner was Yellow Ostrich. As soon as they appeared onstage, I instantly noticed the swag of the lead singer – an integral component to a great performance. The Brooklyn-based outfit was classic, raw indie rock that brought in some of the atmospheric vocal layering reminiscent of the previous act. Needless to say, the harmony worked and I found myself a fan of them as well. All in all, I left thinking of my ticket as the underpriced key to my beautiful musical dream.
No late night out is complete without food, so I joined a new concert-friend up at the restaurant part of DF for a scrumptious, warm, seasonal berry crisp. Not bad food and memorable service from one of incredibly entertaining servers (young guy with a beard – literally, you need to ask for him; sure that really narrows it down for you in Portland). It was a late night and an early morning, but I’ve never been happier to be tired in my life.
While I hope you enjoyed this latest installment of IC, the day is happening and I MUST seize it. Today brings journeys to Portland’s east side as well as another blog entry written from the air. Anything to counter my depression from leaving this exquisite state. 🙂
Enjoy the day!
Thought of the day: Put yourself out of your comfort zone to find where you’ll be the most comfortable.