Sunday, September 22, 2013

Roadboy Visits Portland

Sunshine, Flowers and VooDoo Donuts! 

It has probably been about 4 years since my last visit to Portland Oregon. And, when I received an invitation to participate in a conference there this week, I admit feeling a twinge of indifference. While I am very fond of Portland, after so many visits it is a "Been There, Done That" destination for me.

Don't get me wrong, there is a whole bunch of neat stuff about Portland that I will always love, and first time visitors frequently depart hatching strategies how to move there someday. But the weather is frequently crap and the "Portland is better than anywhere else attitude" of the locals can grate.

Perhaps, after a long hot summer in Phoenix it is just a case of good old envy! 

The Rose City

The Portland Theater
(Home of The Portland Symphony)

I mean it is hard not to envy Portland. It is a city filled with art. It also possesses a hopelessly photogenic downtown framed by lush green hills and the Willamette River.

It is fairly clean and offers great hotels, parks, museums, shopping and restaurants.

Reportedly The Second Largest Hammered Copper Sculpture in the US
The Largest Being the Statue of Liberty
Sadly it Graces The Awful "Portland" Building

Portland is also a diverse stew of humanity filled with emo's, bums, zero body fat people, kayaky outdoorsy all stirred together with a bunch of Intel techno geeks.

This is the city where America's young, artsy and hip successfully perfect underemployment right up to middle age.

Herewith, a few of Roadboy's impressions for 2013.

The Airport. 
PDX after its renovations is quite simply one of the nicest airports in the US. It possesses bright cheerful and downright lovely public spaces. Its internet is free and fast (O'Hare are you listening??). There are live musicians scattered about and some terrific local food outlets are represented. Some great places to shop in there too. My favorite is the Pendleton shop. Pendleton clothing is made from the superb wool from its own woolen mills. I think Pendleton clothing and blankets are a total bargain when you consider Pendleton products are timeless classics in design and they last lifetimes.

Portland Icons On Display At The Airport

The Tri-Met MAX Light Rail:
Max is efficient, inexpensive ($5 for an unlimited use all-day pass is a screaming deal) and comprehensively multi-modal. A helpful MAX representative was in the airport to explain the route map and how fares work. After her fast, friendly intro I found MAX served me perfectly for my entire visit.

Max does have faults. Like the DC Metro, it stops running too early (around midnight). It also starts attracting sleaze after 9:00 PM. After traveling on it the better part of a week I never encountered a ticket checker or anyone from transit security. The system would benefit with more of each.

The Airport Red-Line MAX Train 

Downtown Portland is filled with elegant city furnishings. I loved its modern bus shelters with excellent seating and those big brass rails to lean on. There are elegant four poster brass drinking fountains endlessly bubbling on every corner and canopy street trees abound. Bravo Portland!

The Food:
Great restaurants, ethnically diverse, excellent food trucks abound. If you don't eat well here it is your own damned fault. And (of course) Portland is home to VooDoo Donuts (yum - bacon maple bars)!

The Architecture:
Some really wonderful recent projects have popped up downtown, IMHO the best is the complete renovation of the US Federal Building. It is a solid 10+. 

The Newly Refreshed US Federal Building

The SERA / Cutler team delivered a tour-de-force renovation to a mundane, concrete clad old  building. With its new organ pipe westerly facade, an understated entry / lobby sequence, a huge sloping photovoltaic roof canopy, bird friendly glazing and spare, yet elegant interiors, this building is really proof that, with thought and care, old things can always be made better.

The other big new building is the new US Federal Courts building. It is markedly less successful.

I also noted that the waterfront is getting a new suspension bridge. I'll be interested to see that when it is  finished.

Teddy Roosevelt
In The Park

For those that have never visited Portland. Or, for those that haven't visited in a long time, pack that umbrella and return. For Me, the visit was nice.

But I'm still kind of tired of Portland.

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

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