The Decemberists, featuring lead singer Colin Meloy, is one of Portland, Oregon’s best known indie rock bands. Formed in 2000, the band is as unpredictable and fringe-driven as Portland itself: whimsical, sometimes with a wink to the macabre, and often political. Whether they are playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, staging a mock battle in concert in Pittsburgh, or performing a benefit for presidential candidate Barack Obama in their hometown (2007), their concerts have been described as “energetic, communal, cathartic and revelatory.” They have set themselves apart as “hilariously grandiloquent,” “interested in legends and myths and theater and thesauruses,” and “never a band to take themselves too seriously.”
For some of us, 2016 felt like a year that was just wrong , so with only one more week remaining, let’s go out singing along with The Decemberists’ “The Wrong Year” from their prescient 2015 album, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World.
It’s Christmas Eve. Michael Hyland’s Swampy Christmas compilation is playing in the background, there’s a chill in the air, presents are wrapped and under the tree and as I finish up this week’s post I’m thinking about how incredibly lucky Steven and I are. We have wonderful friends and family, our health, and the opportunity to travel to places like Portland, Oregon.
Portland feels so good: youthful, hardworking, hopeful. It’s not Paris or Dubai. It doesn’t pretend or want to be. It’s happy to be proud of a well-crafted beer or a timeless Pendleton blanket. Artists, cooks, makers of all kinds, and smart entrepreneurs take an idea – no matter how simple or crazy – and run with it. It also has big shoes to fill – with names like Nike and Adidas and Doc Marten – and the Silicon Forest is spreading. But to the traveler, the city maintains a mellow edge. It’s not asleep at the wheel, but it’s not out to run you over. People smile pretty easily in Portland and even on the twentieth grey and rainy day in a row, there is an epidemic of resting nice face throughout the city. After just a few hours walking throughout this highly walkable town, we turned to each other and said, “I like this place.” And though Portland’s likeability may seem cliché by now (based on the number of Americans who are so taken with the city that they dream of moving there) it still rings true.
Spend a little time in Portland. Then go back and spend a little more time. It grows on you and you realize how comforting it is to eschew promises of tremendous, great and huge. Substituting those hyperboles with simple goodness, thoughtfulness, generosity of spirit, and a genuine smile can turn “I like this place” into “I love this place.” Way to go, Portland.
While in Portland, we stayed at the Residence Inn, a Marriott Hotel in the Pearl District. With an indoor swimming pool, spacious rooms, and an ideal location, the Residence is perfect for either an overnight or extended stay in Portland. The Pearl District has inventive small stores, galleries, and some of the best restaurants in the city. You can head over to Goose Hollow to take in a play at the Artists Repertory Theatre or stop into the lovingly restored Central Library originally built in 1913 in Pioneer Courthouse Square.
We decided to try out the new Pine Street Market which opened in September offering a collection of small “order up” restaurants in nearby Chinatown with offerings ranging from Israeli street food to tasty American-Korean fusion bibimbap at Kim Jong Smokehouse. If you haven’t done the Portland donut taste test, now is your chance – Voodoo Doughnuts and Blue Star Donuts are in striking distance of each other. (Our vote goes to Blue Star.) And if your sweet tooth is still gnawing at you, Cupcake Jones’ delicious freshly baked handcrafted cupcakes are filled and iced to your liking while you wait.
Located near Pioneer Square, Boys Fort is a store with a great point of view: locally made and vintage products for the boy (or girl) who doesn’t want to grow up. Personal accessories, things for the home, things you need and things you just have to have, Boys Fort made us happy campers. On an evening walk back to our hotel, Steve discovered Y-Chrome Art of Barbering and returned the next morning for a bit of a sprucing up by barber Geovanny.
While you’re out and about, be sure to look up for some of the best art in Portland. You’ll find world-class street art murals installed on buildings throughout the city under the auspices of the Forest for the Trees Project, an annual mural festival that was launched in 2013. The festival itself — where you can watch the artists create their multi-story installations — is held at the end of August each year.
There’s always something new on Zippertravel’s Pinterest. For a fresh look at “The City of Roses,” check out our revised and updated board “Portland, Oregon.”
And while you’re on our Pinterest page, browse through some of the other 205 terrific boards dedicated to travel, architecture, fashion, politics, and design, along with some original photography by Elizabeth and Steven. You don’t have to be a Pinterest member to view Zippertravel’s boards, but if you enjoy pinning you can do so by clicking on the button in the upper left hand corner of this page or selecting the Pinterest icon below. It’s just that easy.
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