Saturday, October 20, 2012

First Days in Portland

Because of a little complication with the photos, we weren't able to get the pics of our first few weeks here til now, so I will jump back a bit and take you along while I share how our journey started when we got here!

After we arrived from the airport we conked out and slept like babies and had a tasty breakfast with Grammy's homemade raspberry jam and coffee the next morning.  After that, we were on our way to Portland!  It'd been quite a few years since I had been and Joseba had never even seen this city he had committed to living in, so it was a must!  Although I grew up a stone's throw from Portland, OR, I honestly don't know much more than Joseba about it.  Granted I know the freeways a bit, the layout and where Saturday Market is, but other than that, I only really know Portland for where I used to shop for school clothes, so this was an adventure for both of us!

We first stopped off in the area where we had been looking for apartments - the Mississippi neighborhood in NE Portland.  Portland is divided into 4 quadrants basically.  The Willamette River seperates East from West and Burnside Street seperates North from South.  We live in the NE area in an up-and-coming area near cute shops, restaurants and parks.  But, back to our first day - we parked in the NE area and strolled the streets til we found our first official lunch spot in Portland, OR - a place called Wolf and Bear's.  Seeing as it was sunny it was completely acceptable to eat outside of this food cart, which are all the rage in Portland.  It's basically a little snack shack where they cook you up a tasty meal in a small trailer and you eat it right there or at some picnic tables or small eating area near the spot and enjoy a little taste of heaven!  Neither one of us had eaten at one before and were looking forward to the occasion, so when we spotted this one on Mississippi Ave we stopped off.  We took a snap to commemerate Joseba's first meal as a Portlander as he sat on a picnic table in the parking lot with a little gnome in the garden staring him down!  We dined on variations of the Falafel Wrap - hummus, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, grilled eggplant, parsley, falafel and salad greens covered with tahini sauce on a warm pita.  Tasty!

With the sun still shining we drove down to a free parking lot and hopped on MAX - the light rail system in Portland - to Downtown.  Although Portlander's main form of transport is the car, the city has been planned and developed with urban transportation in mind - be it bikes, buses or trams - which is one of the reasons we picked it as our new hometown. 

We got off in Downtown and were surprised at how laid-back and calm the city was, even on a Friday at mid-day.  While it boasts the title as Oregon's largest city, it is only the 29th largest city in the US, so it still maintains some of the small town feel with all the amentities of the big metro area. 

We wandered up and down the streets, pointing out gorgeous brick buildings and fun shops.  Seeing as that Portland was once a timber town, many of the buildings of the early era were built in bricks to avoid burning.  Many still stand to this day and make a gorgeous contrast against the newer skyrises.  We eventually stumbled upon Powell's Books - the self-proclaimed largest independant bookstore in America and the largest bookstore West of the Mississippi (about as American of a phrase out there!).  With a multi-story building that takes up an entire city block, Powell's City of Books  has something like 68,000 square feet of retail space!  That's a lot of books!  As an obviously avid reader, it's sort of like a little heaven where you can just go in and get lost in an avalanche of books.  Listed as one of top 10 bookstores in the nation according to USA Today, it is a huge tourist attraction for visitors but also a hopping spot for locals alike. 

After dining at a food cart, wandering the streets and then buying books at Powell's the next thing to do on our 'get to know Portland' list was to have some beer!  Known throughout the country as a beer haven, Oregon as a state has a reputation as a beer-lover's place and Portland is no different.  With tons of local breweries, Portlanders pride themselves on a good pint of beer and have so many options that you can get silly just trying them all!  While most people hear of wine-tasting, the Northwest also offers beer-tasting where just like the former, you can order a couple of beers to taste and test out.  Not only that, it seems that every bar we have been in, with thier massive list of beers on the menu or on tap, you can just outright ask if you can try a few before committing to your order and the smiley waiter will gladly oblige and bring you a couple to try out before you down a pint!  It's amazing!  I am not the most schooled girl on beer yet and get a bit confused when words like barley, malt and hopps are thrown around, but I am doing my best to learn and do my fair share of testing too! 

For our first day we stopped off at a local brewery that has made it quite big - Deschutes Brewery.  With something like 10 beers just on tap, we ventured into ordering a Obsidian Stout for Joseba and a Chainbreaker IPA for me.  To show you that beer is not merely a tailgating or boring drink, take a look at the descriptions for our brews which make you just want to come visit and order one right now!
 - Obsidian Stout -
Deep, robust and richly rewarding, this is beer to linger over. Obsidian has distinct notes of espresso, chocolate, roasted malt and black barley, with just enough hop bite to cut the sweetness.
Malt: Pale, Crystal, Carapils, Munich, Black Barley, Roasted Barley, Wheat
Hops: Nugget, Millennium, Willamette, Northern Brewer
IBUs 55 | Alcohol by Vol. 6.4%
- Chainbreaker IPA - 
Deschutes is taking you into the next beer frontier. Brewed with wheat and pilsner malt; this IPA displays beautiful citrus aromas from Cascade and Citra hops that meld with the esters of Belgian yeast. Think thirst quenching hopped-up wit beer with enough IBUs to warrant the IPA name.
Malt: Pilsner, Wheat, Unmalted Wheat
Hops: Bravo, Citra, Centennial, Cascade
Other: Sweet Orange, Coriander
IBUs 55 | Alcohol by Vol. 5.6%
Only the first of many beers as we make ourselves more at home, we soon after continued with our meandering and eventually had to stop off for a burger at Theo's.  This restaurant happily makes thier burgers and sandwiches with high quality ingredients, like many spots in Portland, OR.  The truth is that many dining spots in Portland go above and beyond that and make thier dishes with local organic ingredients.  Slow Food instead of Fast Food is really a thing in Portland.  Granted, there are McDonald's and Burger Kings floating around but many people would rather stop off at a local café for thier lunch.  Besides eating local with restaurants that provide fresh ingredients from down the street, just living here a bit we have seen lots of little community gardens and local produce markets.  We have one just down the street from us that we plan on going to this coming Tuesday for some veggies grown literally in our same zip code!  
After munching on our burgers, it became dark and we decided that for our first day in the States, we had done well at starting our ongoing exploration of this new city and got really excited to be able to find a place and move down!  
More to come soon!