Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Word nerd vacation: The city

On average, there are 144 sunny days in Portland per year. I got to enjoy four of them. I only wore my jacket in the freezing conference rooms, and hardly saw a cloud all week. I may have missed out on the complete Portland experience without having to walk around in a downpour, and part of me is sad I didn't get that adventure, but it was fabulous exploring a new city under a canopy of sunshine. Especially since it was 40˚ in Utah when I left.

The first item on my tourist to-do list was to visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden. I had hoped to practice some of the techniques I learned in my photography class, but the sun was too bright to get any good pictures. Oh well. It was still a lovely little garden that made me forget I was in a bustling city.

These window things were cool. They are designed to show only a small portion of the garden, completely cutting off any view of the outside world, giving you the illusion that you're surrounded by serenity. After spending four days in the heart of downtown Portland, I can see why that would be important.

Next up was Powell's City of Books, which was what I was most excited about. (Re: word nerd vacation.) It's the largest independent bookstore in the U.S., and I could not wait to check it out.

This was one of those occasions where traveling alone really came in handy—I could nerd out over dictionaries for as long as I wanted without worrying about someone getting bored or begging to go home.

Seriously, some of those dictionaries were HUGE. This one, Webster's 3rd, I think, was old and dusty, as dictionaries should be.

Powell's has a section for everything—my favorites were the Jane Austen collection, the special editions of books, and, of course, the language section. By the time I made it over there I had a stack of books that was getting awkward to carry. Luckily, no one was around, so I plopped everything on the ground for 10 minutes or so and scoured the shelves for treasures.

I ended up buying 7 books plus a few extra items. The price tag may have gone into the triple digits (I love having three-paycheck months!), but sometimes happiness can be bought.

Now, we need to talk about one of my other favorite things: food. Portland has it. I did my best to hit some good restaurants, and mostly succeeded. Sadly, the food trucks I had heard so much about didn't live up to my expectations, so I didn't give them a second chance. (Maybe I just picked the one bad egg of the bunch, but for now my opinion of Utah food trucks is far superior.)

My food quest included a stop at Voodoo Doughnuts, which I've been hearing about for years. Legend says the donuts are so good people are willing to stand in line for hours to get some.

I picked out my favorites: a chocolate cake donut and an old-fashioned glazed, with a giant apple fritter thrown in for fun.

The verdict: no one does chocolate cake donuts better than Dunford's Bakery, and the glaze on the glazed donut tasted too candied. But it's still worth the trip if you get the chance to go.

I saved the apple fritter for breakfast the next day. It probably would have been better warm, but I enjoyed it all the same.

On Saturday I checked out the Portland Saturday Market, which may have been the best decision I made all week. By that point I was weary of constant city-ness and just wanted to see some trees and sit on a patch of grass. A country-like fair seemed like a good compromise, so I headed over during my lunch break and enjoyed myself so much I was 15 minutes late for my next class.

The market has tons of vendors selling interesting, handmade things, and delicious smells follow you wherever you go. I bought two pairs of earrings and some fudge, and then got a quesadilla from a stand that smelled like my dad's burritos. It was very tasty, and unlike any quesadilla I've had before.

But perhaps the best thing about the Portland Saturday Market is that it's right next to the beautiful Waterfront Park, which had far more than a lone tree and a simple patch of grass to sit on. It did my heart good.

When my last session got out, I dashed back to the park and found a lovely walking trail, which surrounded a lake and included two bridges. I wish I could walk this trail every day.

Once I got away from the city a bit, it was easier to appreciate its beauty.

The best part of the walk was this tree.

I really wanted to climb it, but I didn't want to draw attention to myself, and besides, I only had 10 seconds before the self-timer snapped a picture of my mischievous ways, so this was all I managed.

It's a lovely setting to stop and Facetime your mom and sisters, too.

Books, donuts, and trees—Portland, it was nice to meet you. Let's get together again sometime.

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