Oregon 2014: Art, ice cream, everything.

The title for tonight’s post was originally going to be something to the effect of “The Trauma of Leaving Portland and Returning to Phoenix will Never be Forgotten”, but hey – I’m a pretty positive person! Let’s celebrate the day’s events, shall we? After all, it was a good day, and I feel it brought the Odyssey to a close beautifully.

I knew the day was off to a good start when I had my second complimentary breakfast in a row from the Country Inn near the airport. While the location certainly wasn’t ideal (I spent most of my day on Portland’s east side, several miles away), it was a really comfy and great place to stay for the evening and I was pleased. I set out to explore two culturally eclectic areas of Portland: Mississippi Avenue and Northeast Alberta Street.

Mississippi Ave.

The story goes that Miss Ave went from “grungy to trendy” nearly overnight. Speaking as someone who’s only seen the end result, I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by this little strip of wonder. I parked up at Fremont Street (Mississippi’s main drag seems to run from Fremont to Shaver, or about three blocks) and made my first stop at Reading Frenzy, a white-washed indie bookstore filled with every little literary oddity you can imagine. Like some of the other bookstores in Portland, they also had some cute art prints available and other trinkets crafted by local artists. I picked up a few things for friends and, as I was walking down the street, noticed something unexpected: Control Voltage, a store entirely dedicated to electronic music apparatuses!

For a solid twenty minutes, I made my rounds in the room and tried out Moogs, Korgs, and even a theramin! I even got to chat with the store employee about electronic music and felt even more inspired to eventually get into this craft. This was probably my favorite stop in this section, so I recommend going here immediately if you’re at all interested in music (and especially making it!)

My final stop led to Fresh Pot, the street’s well-known coffee shop. They brewed up a fabulous americano for me, so I felt energized and ready to face more sunshine.

Overall, Mississippi balances an intimate, bohemian feel with a bit of historical Portland. It’s got quite a bit in a small amount of space and, like Portland as a whole, has something for anyone. Nonetheless, I truly feel that it embodies the “real Portland” and would probably make a great place to live for someone who’s truly interested in immersing themself in the culture.

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Side note: This taqueria, called Por que no?, was PACKED by the time I was leaving Miss Ave. Highly recommend you check it out if you’re passing through.

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Alberta Street

Feeling hungry and eager to begin my anticipated visit to the famous Alberta Arts District, I headed out and landed at Cafe Hibiscus, a tiny Swiss restaurant located in a aesthetically striking corrugated aluminum building. I was fortunate to make it in RIGHT before closing and was immediately sat by my gracious host and server, Tammy. My meal consisted of Swiss barley soup and emince zurichoise (pork sautéed in mushroom cream sauce) with a side of spätzli. Both were just delectable; in terms of comfort food, this is about as good as it gets.

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What’s additionally cool about this place is that due to its original roots extending to the Hawaiian islands, the food is entirely Swiss but set amidst a background of both Swiss and Polynesian decor. Breathtaking views of green fields spotted with edelweiss are juxtaposed with tropical sunsets, making the scrumptious lunch all the more captivating.

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While I could hardly resist Hibiscus’s mouth-watering dessert offerings (helloooo, chocolate torte!!!), I had had my heart set on the famous Salt and Straw Ice Cream for my final sweet-fix since I first stepped off the plane. But first, as I began the small trek over I just HAD to capture the little ad below and the optics store. Babiators? You’re killin’ me.

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This was the line for S&S:

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It took about 30 minutes of low-grade agony, but I got this, so it was worth it:

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Top: honey lavender; Bottom: Pear and Blue Cheese

As you can possibly infer from the above picture, S&S is mainly known for their unusual (but heavenly) flavors. Other examples included Salted Caramel Cupcake, Strawberry Balsamic with Cracked Pepper, and even Olive Oil, which I sampled and, amazingly, loved. They also source their ingredients from local, organic farmers, giving their ice cream an exceptionally smooth and rich taste. Or hey, maybe it’s all in my head.

Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. This is a fine example of a Portland staple that rises above any touristic connotations it has. Simply fantastic.

(Note: There was an art gallery right near here that looked incredible, but I didn’t get to see it other than a cursory glance from outside while waiting in line. It’s called Screaming Sky and it’s chockfull of anything a Japanese-culture fanatic could ever want, not to mention awesome art. Take a trip and I’ll live vicariously through you, thanks!)

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Unrelated to ice cream, but also fantastic.

I next moved onto the fairly new vintage shop, Zig Zag Wanderer. While I did get to buy a fabulously floral old blouse from the 70s, I think this place had a particularly nice selection of African- and Native-American-inspired articles. I nearly bought a small dish but resisted due to the potential heartbreak that would occur from it breaking in my overstuffed suitcase on the flight back. Nonetheless, it’s a great place and would also highly encourage a stop here.

Next stop was Ampersand, a larger, more gallery-focused version of my earlier romp in Reading Frenzy. The artist currently on display there, Matthew Fisher, had several works being shown on the walls that immediately whooshed me to the front counter to inquire about print prices. Only a cool 600. Dang. I WILL find a way to own a Matthew Fisher someday, though – you can count on that.

As the time to return my rental car drew nearer, I landed at my final stop, Townshend’s Tea. This place not only serves an overwhelming amount of teas, but also has a great selection of little pastries and an awesome garden to sit in in the back. With my mini Milk Oolong pot, I camped out in the garden for a solid 30 minutes, basking in the glory of the day.

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Although I enjoyed the serenity of the garden in the afternoon, I couldn’t help but feel a slight pang of bittersweet course through me at that moment. I looked up at the sky and realized that in just a few hours, I’d be headed back to familiar territory. I caught myself, though, and realized that this great adventure had not only been enjoyable, but had taught me a great deal about embracing my experiences in the company of only myself.

I’m a bit tired, though, so I’ll delve into that tomorrow.

Looking out the window as the plane took off, I fawned at the glimmering green with the biggest smile on my face and even in my eyes. From city, to sea, to mountain, I had made this journey entirely my own. I had rolled in the sand, danced in the crowd, and glided through the snowy hills. I had seen, I had done, I had conquered. I had met people, I had been entirely alone. I had seen beauty all around me that continued to caress my mind and inspire my thoughts. That’s something nobody can ever take from me.

– H

Thought of the day: You are the supreme ruler of you.

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