It’s been 3.5 years since I left Portland, OR, to return “home” to TN. There were so many things I loved about Portland, and even more about Oregon: the landscapes, trees, mountains, ocean in close proximity, clean air, charming homes, innovative restaurants and excellent bars… I could go on. But at the end of it all, I felt impossibly lonely a lot of the time. Disconnected. I think a big part of that was just me and the walls & barriers I had up, but I also think there’s something about Oregon that is akin to places like Minnesota or other spots in the Midwest: people are guarded and distant. Friendly, but not at all interested in pursuing friendships or otherwise. They’ll give you directions anywhere but to their house. After growing up in the South where I never met a stranger, I never quite learned how to navigate those stoic waters.
Anyway. Last weekend I had the opportunity to head back for a long weekend. It was wonderful in all the ways I’d hoped it would be, even better in some, and it was honestly one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. I ate, drank, napped, hugged, explored, and laughed my way through five glorious days. Here, for posterity, is a photographic record, with a few notes thrown in for good measure.
I arrived mid-afternoon and made a beeline for Nong’s Khao Man Gai, which I’ve been craving since I moved. That’s a long time to miss something, but man, is it valid. I also got to see one of my dearest dears and her 3-year old daughter’s perfection (if you math it, you’ll note I moved before she was born), and that was the very best way to kick off the trip.
And then I went to Saint Cupcake, which, in my estimation, makes the very best chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting ON THE PLANET. This is my heaven.
I settled in to my Air BnB, located in inner SE, and was immediately charmed and felt at home. It probably helped that I was less than a mile away from where I used to live, but the studio itself was cozy and perfect. While I was grateful for the offers to stay with friends, this time around – and especially with homework to do – it made sense to have my own space.
A bit later, I ventured back out and went to Barlow Tavern, where I ate a few sliders and had a few drinks, keeping company with my friend who was tending bar.
Once she was done, we made our way to Clyde Common, one of my long-standing favorite downtown establishments. After a few drinks (and a very unnecessary salad and pretzel), I bid her adieu, and toddled back to the studio for the night.
I slept like a ROCK.
In the morning, I met back up with my dearest dear from the day before at a place called Broder Nord. Breakfast was just fantastic, as evidenced by the below. I also snuck in a sparkling brunch-type cocktail, since I’d had coffee at the studio. Better living through chemistry and all that.
It was a beautiful day and I had a few hours to kill after breakfast, so I wandered up to North Portland, St. John’s area. I lived there for a year and had a view of this bridge, which never ceases to take my breath.
I mean… phew. And here are a few others from that little walk. (I feel compelled to mention, the weather was pretty unusual for this time of year. Rain. LOTS OF TERRIBLE RAIN ALL THE TIME, IF ANYONE IS THINKING OF MOVING THERE DON’T DO IT.)
I made my way into town where I had lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery with some favorite former co-workers. (I will mention here that many, many years ago on my first visit to Portland from MN, when I was trying to decide where to live/move, Rock Bottom was the first place I went because it was right next to my hotel. So, there’s good history there.) The food was fine, the beer was great with a silly name, and the company was exceptionally fun. Afterward, I stopped by to see a friend who owns a gym across the street and we visited for a few minutes; mostly, I just went to get one of the best hugs in existence. It happens when the person you’re hugging is a human brick wall, I suppose. One of the sweetest. And it’s kind of nice to drop in on someone and immediately launch into a conversation about racism. I mean, I’m into that sort of dialogue.
Went back to the studio for a nap, and then back out to meet up with a longtime friend and her family for dinner at Bollywood Theater on Division. The whole family had me cracking up; it had been some years since we’d all spent time together, and it was like meeting the girls again for the first time. They got jokes, man. LOTS of jokes. The food was excellent.
After dinner, my friend and I split off and went for drinks at White Owl Social Club, where we sat by the fire and caught up on life. It was pretty fantastic. I also may have had a Jell-O shot.
We carried on to the Limelight in her neck of the woods, had a drink there, and then called it an early night. Tempting as it was to keep going, I have learned temperance in my old(er) age. Mostly.
I met up with a few girlfriends I hadn’t seen for a while prior to the move; we had a grand old time catching up and having brunch at Midpoint Food & Drink. Portland is notorious for brunch, and just as notorious for the long lines that generally come with it, but we timed this one just right and were able to get in right away (wonderful service, food, and company). Here is my breakfast (and lunch, because LOOK AT IT).
I went back to the studio for a nap, packed up some things, and made my way to Verboort, Oregon, home of the Sausage and Kraut Festival! It’s one of my favorite things ever, and yes, I actually did plan this entire trip around the festival’s occurrence. An old friend and former co-worker met me there, and after a not-too-bad wait in the rain, we were seated. And it was glorious. Everything is home/handmade, and it tasted like it. ❤
After sausage, we drove to Banks and had a beer together before parting ways, and I went on to Seaside for the night. I miss the coast more than anything. Time was, when I lived in Portland and had a little heartache, I’d drive straight to Astoria and regroup. There’s nothing that fills my spirit better and more than time spent near the ocean.
I stopped in to visit an old friend and favorite, one of the very first people I met in Portland when I moved there. He’s opened a brew pub (Seaside Brewing Company) and it’s pretty fantastic; I highly recommend a visit.
We made our way to U Street Pub for one more…
…and then I parked it at Seaside Oceanfront Inn for the night. They were incredibly friendly, the room was great (although sadly, no real fireplace – that’s my other favorite thing), and I woke up to this.
Oh hello, ocean.
I wandered around on the beach for a while, taking pictures and video, but also just closing my eyes and listening to the sound. Thankfully, there was no heartache from which to heal on this trip; just pure enjoyment and soul fulfillment. I could have stayed forever, and am still kind of surprised I didn’t. But instead, I hopped in the car and drove the ~20 minutes to Astoria, home of the Goonies and also my very favorite breakfast place, Columbian Cafe, home of the E-shot cocktail (espresso, vodka, and Kahlua) and homemade toast with pepper jellies. Total swoon.
It was another unseasonably lovely day on the coast, so I wandered around for a bit, hard-pressed to head back into town just yet. I wound up talking to a friendly old veteran who was standing on a pier, watching two bald eagles hanging out on posts. There was the slightest hint of a rainbow, which just made it all the more perfect.
One of these days I’ll move to a small coastal town. There’s something familiar and comforting to me about it all; I won’t ignore that forever.
I made it back to Portland with enough time to do a little studying and a little napping before meeting up with another group of friends/former co-workers for drinks at Produce Row. They were playing a wonderful soul soundtrack when I walked in, including a lot of Marvin Gaye. It was perfect. So was my drink, the Lemon in the Grass. I won’t tell you about the other drink I ordered because it was even MORE delicious, but also super high-maintenance and I wouldn’t do that to the handsome barkeep.
Soon after, we went over to Taylor Railworks for dinner where we proceeded to have one of the best meals I’ve ever experienced. So much laughter, connection, intelligent discussion, honesty… and the food was fantastic. Highly recommend; my photos don’t do this one justice at all.
That night was just perfection.
There was a whole lot of tedium to tend to before checking out of the studio at 11am, so I stuck around and tended to all that, cutting it real close but locking the door behind me at exactly 11 o’clock. Which worked out well, because I had a lunch date at 11:30 with a friend who’d just returned from Asia the day before. She was kind enough to power through the jet lag; I like to think Andina (the final must-go-to on my list for this trip) made it worth her while. Plus, I mean, I was there, too.
And then there was all this. I wanted to order more, but it was enough to whet the appetite and remind me why I love this restaurant so much.
After lunch, I met up with another of my dearest dears for coffee and a long walk through Mt. Tabor park. We had a lot of catching up to do, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my last afternoon in town. Plus, another unseasonably gorgeous day (I swear I’m not lying under threat of injury from all of Portland to please not encourage anyone else to move there, I’d never do that, ahem) meant I got views like this.
We stopped in for a few drinks at the Doug Fir Lounge where I had the distinct pleasure of meeting his girlfriend. Suddenly, it was time to head to the airport, but not without first stopping at Nong’s one more time for dinner to go. I mean, when you crave a place for 3.5 years, it only makes sense to eat there twice. At least.
Portland… I miss you a whole lot more than I thought I did. Til next time, eh?