Fawning Over Portland, Oregon
6 ways Portland stole my heart with dive bars and green spaces
Living in the UK you get used to green spaces, from our luscious countrysides to our urban greenery, us Brits have it down when it comes to appreciating biophilia. That being said, there really is nowhere quite like Portland, Oregon.
We’re greeted by our hosts and long time friends of Pete. Despite some jet lag and groggy throats after our long 9 hour flight we are put straight to work with a PBR and joint on the porch.
Oregon is one of the latest states to bring marijuana out of its illegality and into the social fold and let me tell you – I am living for it; But there’s so much more to this evergreen county than well, its green! This picturesque landscape is cut with lakes, rivers, forests and a towering city so well integrated into its natural surroundings that at times, there is no real way to differentiate between suburbia, forest and city centre.
Our plan for this adventure? Eat good food, drink good beer and immerse ourselves in the lively happening buzz of Oregon City and Portland.
1. The best dive bar in the world, Chi-Chi’s and vegan chicken wings
When I say the best dive bar in the world, I mean the best dive bar in the world. What is the criteria? Simple, everything should be wrong but on the same token be oh, so right. Sandy Hut is everything you never knew you needed in a bar. Unassuming outside, but inside a conglomerate of old tat, kitsch doo-hickeys and vintage vibes from every era brought to you under one roof. Not only does this local hot spot have fine on tap IPA’s, Beers and other such delights, but for a couple of bucks you can sink Chi-Chi’s to your heart’s content. Effortlessly cool, without being cool. Sandy Hut is a must visit.
As a reluctant vegetarian, I’m constantly trying to find alternatives to satisfy my cravings. Fire on the Mountain serves up succulent vegan wings and drums, which is a treat for any non-meat eater or flexitarian, especially as you get to choose your sauces from a truly yummy selection of sweet and spicy, nutty or blow-your-head-clean-off-hot. But, the true joy is that your carnivorous friends can dine with you as they are not exclusively anything – except delicious.
2. The four T’s and a night of Pool
Train, trail, tram and trolley. Three modes of transportation, five bucks and a pair of strong legs is all you need to conquer this stunning loop of Portland. This explorative route takes you from the heart of the city to the very top of the loop where you begin your descent into a quiet, towering forest. The Forest itself is faerie-like, covered in mosses, lichens with every inch a different shade of green. If the light shining through the canopy isn’t enough to make you stop and pause, the view from the top of the trail will as you find yourself surrounded by Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson and Mount St.Helen. The latter part of the journey brings you back down to the city once more via tram, (or cable-car) and trolley (or er.. tram).
We found ourselves at The Midway Pub later that evening, thanks to a lift in a local bartenders’ campervan to get us up the hill after a couple of sherbets. This lively spot is great for setting down for the evening and basking in good company.
3. Abandoned paper mills, modern art and unmissable breweries
Blue Heron Paper Mill closed its doors in 2011, but its mark on the landscape is everlasting. Powered by a gargantuan man made waterfall flow, the industrious factory wouldn’t feel out of place in a Studio Ghibli landscape. Think Nausicca, or Laputa. Nevertheless, this breathtaking picture spot is a must see and an awe evoking site.
The Portland Art Museum displays a compelling permanent exhibition of modern and postmodern art from across the globe. Expect to come face to face with works from Magritte, Kirchner and Manet. But, if thats not your gig there is a plethora to be explored and discovered as the museum is home to a wide and stunning collection of American Art, Asian Art, Native American Art and Northwest Art.
See all their collections here: https://portlandartmuseum.org/collection/
You cannot come to Oregon and not expect to visit one exceptional brewery. Deschutes boasts a complete selection of mouthwatering beers and arguably an even more delicious food menu. The place is decked out with exposed beams, copper stills and solid oak tables. Warming, soulful and an absolute must-visit for hop connoisseurs, the next level comfort food and buzzy atmosphere.
4. “Meet me at the Bagdad” and Hawthorne Blvd
Hawthorne Blvd is home to a never ending selection of artisan coffee, cider hot spots, street food parking lots and terrarium specialists; not to mention a few oddities, weed shops and super stylish clothing. Truly a hipsters paradise, but one I could totally get onboard with.
Once fully explored, we settled into the Bagdad Theatre; a one screen oasis of entertainment fully loaded with a bar-cum-pub and restaurant. There is something even more impressive than its 93 year inhabitation and that is its jaw dropping and mystical decor. This grand ole’ dame is studded with faux Arabian style architecture, nodding to middle eastern aesthetic set design whilst bringing something of that ‘old Hollywood glamour’ to Hawthorne Blvd.
5.Pizza, Powell’s bookstore and Powells Tattoos
Starting the day right with a pizza is my favourite thing to do. There isn’t really anything better in my humble opinion, but especially when you’re surrounded by some stellar pizza themed illustrations. Sizzle Pie lives up to it’s rocky theme, delicious slices and broad selection of toppings. Suitable for veggies, vegans and meat lovers alike!
Reading to me is EVERYTHING, so visiting the historic Powell’s City Of Books was on the cards from the get-go and has been for a number of years. If you, like me, have every day dreamed about recreating that scene where the Beast bestows his library to Belle then Powell’s is the perfect modern day setting. Getting lost is easy at Powell’s, with its sprawling several story labyrinth housing floor to ceiling genre’s to suit everybody’s taste. Without a doubt, you’re sure to find a gem and as luck would have it I came across a diamond in their Powells Magazine.
Sabrina Elliot is the tattooist and illustrator you never knew you needed. Her artwork draws inspiration from vintage manga and her tattooing style truly brings her characters to life. Flirty, a little dirty with a touch of melancholia – I knew then that I had to try and pay her a visit at Powell Tattoos on Powell Boulevard. I couldn’t believe my luck when she told me that she had space for me during our last few days and she whipped me up a little fawn to commemorate our trip. Needless to say I was doe eyed from start to finish and have totally fallen in love with my reclining Bambi babe.
6.Stargazing at The Shining Hotel on Mt. Hood
Ditching the hustle and bustle, Pete and I decided to escape the hubbub and hit the road to Mount Hood and the Timberline Lodge. Unbeknownst to Pete and myself at the time of booking, Timberline Lodge is the frontage of the famous horror movie hotel in The Shining. Upon arrival you are welcomed into a cosy foyer, complete with “Here’s Johnny” axe and an offering to rent the movie – which of course, we did.
Out of season, this ski lodge still stands amongst smatterings of snow and dry, cold breezes. The view is something I’ve never experienced, although I’m a self proclaimed wild mountain child, the sheer drops and forestry on our long journey up took my breath away with every hairpin turn on the slow climb. But, nothing prepared me for the midnight sky and the never ending star blanket above us every night.
There are two stunning restaurants to choose from at the lodge, situated around a three story roaring fire and chimney place, all held together with gigantic wooden beams. With two dining styles to choose from, an A La Carte option as well as something a little more casual; we opted for fancy, because in for a penny – in for a pound. Both meals were exceptional, even for a little veggie like me. The breakfast selection was to die for, with views of far off misty mountains to absorb while sipping some damn fine coffee.
Aside from stuffing ourselves silly, drinking old fashion’s by roaring fires and skipping down corridor after corridor pretending to be extras from the Shining – we did do some exploring. A short drive back down the mountain we explored Government Camp, Mount Hood’s alpine village. A tidy little spot, surrounded by woodland and forestry, a couple of dive bars and a supermarket – should you need to top up on any snacks or stop for a cold one and a slice.
Our final excursion saw us hoofing ourselves up to the highest point of the mountain that we could get to before the cloud set in. I’ve gushed about the view, but honestly, just look at it.
We ended the trip with a dip in the heated outdoor pool, complete with pool floaties taking the forms of golden dragons and unicorns. Aside from fooling and falling about with each other, it was a welcome blessing to sit in a hot tub and dry off and warm our little bones in the sauna.