Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hilltop Flyer

Portland's giving me a hell of a view.

Our Air B 'n B digs are in a posh house that's perched at the top of Nob Hill in what's called Hillside because it is. Sort of an Arts and Crafts-style house - dark wood floors and window frames, four or five levels and unusually-shaped windows everywhere -  it's got a view only swells could afford.

From the balcony off the music room (black grand piano) unfolds a panorama encompassing the bridge, city and more pine trees than I've ever seen in one place. They're so ubiquitous that when we were downtown earlier, I spotted the pointed tops of pines between high rise buildings.

One reason I was eager to come to Portland is because of years of hearing how similar it is to Richmond, meaning I expected beards, tattoos and skinny jeans. Check, check and check.

What I didn't anticipate was how seriously they take their Portlandia status. An ad for chewing tobacco touted, "Portland only does local," meaning, I guess, that even dip aficionados can expect chaw from these here hills.

 My newest past time is reading people's chests because apparently, they wear their thoughts. To wit, "Suck, Feattle." I didn't even know what that meant at first. "Beach, please?" is no doubt a nod to Portland's current heatwave, which is wilting locals used to far more temperate summers. "No pity in the Rose City" is, we're guessing, a sports reference since there was a soccer game today with many people sporting team scarves.

While I knew in advance that it's called the City of Roses, after two walkabouts, it's easy to see why. Enormous rose bushes are in bloom everywhere, evident even last night when we walked to dinner in the dark because  it seems that Portland, or at least Hillside, eschews street lights. It's dark in these here neighborhoods.

Last night's dinner at Papa Haydn's featured a savvy server, Argyle Brut to celebrate our arrival and a savory bread pudding with roasted corn, onions, chives and a blackberry compote to die for.

The local Argyle is notable because at brunch today at Rose & Raven, there was a bottle of it on the bar and written on it was, "Thanks for participating in bubbles week." Wouldn't it be something to think that Richmond might take a page from Portland and institute a bubbles week with featured sparklings all over town? A girl can dream, can't she?

Our brunch sparkler was Monmousseau Brut Rose, which went well with my farmer's market quiche, bacon and salad, savored in a LEEDS-certified former carriage house with great charm. So far, everyone's been friendly and oh-so helpful about making suggestions for the visiting Richmond contingent.

I'm not going to lie, the walk back up Hillside from town is not for the faint of heart or out-of-shape, but I love the  advantage it gives me in eating and drinking at will. Add in that around every corner is a new view, interesting architecture and lush gardens and it's a recipe for walking. Today we encountered a huge sculpture of a duck (goose?), made entirely of metal objects and parts such as baking pans, car grills and spatulas.

Their downtown was about as deserted as Richmond's on a Sunday, but that didn't stop us from walking through parks (both the one originally designated for men and the one for women...we mustn't mix our sexes in the park, my dear) and over to the Portland Art Museum.

Richmond's VMFA wins this one hands down. Despite work from Fragonard, Boucher, Delacroix, Corbet, Rousseau and Boudin, it was a bit thin, at least from what we saw.

Everyone insisted we needed to visit Powell's Book Store and let me tell you what. Powell's is paralyzing. Walking into a book store that spans a block and multiple floors and even a book devotee such as myself is immobilized. I contented myself with browsing the Portland table before crying uncle and leaving.

Climbing the hill to our temporary home, I spotted many windows open and fans oscillating just inside. Oregonians are clearly withering under the heat, which by Richmond standards is negligible, as is the humidity.

A girl on a bike struggled to carry a box fan still in the box as she pedaled. Earlier we'd passed a sign for the "skate route," with a skateboarder symbol.

Work it, Portland. You're like Richmond on steroids with less ink.

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