The trip started well, with a little upgrade to World Traveller Plus on BA - nice to be welcomed on the plane with a glass of bubbly, even if I had to give up my window-seat (the extra space was worth it and I could always find a window if the views were amazing). It quickly went downhill when delays meant we lost our slot, then someone decided that they were ill enough to be taken off the plane before take-off (better than after), and so we were delayed about 2 hours. We had a 2 hour 45 minute layover in Seattle, so we were unlikely to make the next flight to Portland. The skies were cloudy for most of the way, so I didn't miss spotting Iceland or Greenland from above. After catching up on a whole load of movies we arrived in Seattle, where of course we didn't have enough time to catch our connection, or the next one that they'd automatically re-booked us on. The next few flights were full, so we had to wait another 2 hours before we got our connection. All pretty annoying at the end of a long flight.
Seattle airport is not the worst place to be stuck, and we tried our first local craft beer in one of the pubs there, before sitting down to watch the world - and planes - go by. The flight to Portland was short and sweet - I had a seat on the left hand side of the plane (as I'd hoped for) and got a spectacular view as we flew past Mount Ranier and then over Mount St. Helens - just before arriving in Portland.
We found the Hotel Deluxe - where some friends had stayed recently - just a little outside the main downtown area, checked in and parked the car in the garage next door for the weekend. We had a nice room with a view over the city and the mini-golf bar across the road.
We headed straight into the centre, looking for a recommended restaurant called Andina, in the Pearl District (a few minutes walk north of the downtown area). I'd visited Portland very briefly in 2001 on a lightning road-trip with a friend from San Francisco but barely remembered anything other than the crazy bridges across the river; we must've stayed out in the suburbs with my friend's friend, and avoided the centre. Having watched the show Portlandia we were expecting the city to be very "hipster" but it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be - not too many massive beards on show. I loved the city immediately - it had a great feel to it, nice architecture and some great murals.
We found the restaurant and waited for a while, drinking Pisco Sours while we waited. Eventually we were seated and enjoyed a selection of ceviche, empanadas and grilled octopus, washed down with a couple more cocktails.
We headed back home and stopped off at the 19th Hole for one last drink, to try our first Oregonian craft beer. Both were a bit disappointing, but we had plenty more to try over the next couple of weeks.
The next morning we woke up ridiculously early (jet-lag, I guess), so headed out for an early breakfast to a diner-style café - Byways, in the Pearl District. We stopped off along the way to get a coffee at Stumptown, famous for its decent coffee and recommended to me by a Twitter photographer friend, and Murray tried the Nitro. I didn't like it at all, and was also disappointed with my coffee - I'd asked for a black Americano with just a little water (not too hard), but they added too much and it just tasted weak.
We got to a bustling Byways and ordered a couple of different scrambled eggs dishes - they were absolutely delicious. In typical hipster style our juice was served in mason jars (they are everywhere in Oregon!).
Next stop on the day's agenda was a trip to REI, but it didn't open until 10am, so we had some time to kill. We decided to have a wander up to the river, and ended up walking past the sketchy Greyhound bus station and then across the magnificent Broadway Bridge. Even though it wasn't yet 9am it was absolutely scorching, but people were still out running and cycling.
Next stop was Safeway, since we needed to go to the loo, but we checked out the beer area too - quite an impressive selection!
With more time to kill we wandered the streets of Pearl a bit more.
Finally it was time for REI to open and we spent a while in there, each buying a few bits and pieces - cheap fleeces, a few summer skirts for me, and a couple of reduced rain-jackets. It was nice to be in a state with no added sales tax - what you saw on the price-tag was what you paid! We headed back to the hotel to dump our purchases before heading back into town for the Pints in the Pearl beer festival, that fortuitously happened to be on that day.
The beer festival was in full swing by the time we got back. We bought a few tokens, got a metal beer cup, note book and embarked on our first beer. The four breweries featured were 10 Barrels, Deschutes, Fat Head's and Bridgeport, so we each tried a different one from each, with hubby writing notes on his thoughts about them. Again, none of them blew us away, but they were nice and refreshing. We wandered around, had a little bite to eat, watched people go by, listened to music, chatted to a few other visitors and like everyone else, clung to the shade, as it was almost 100 degrees and the sun was beating down overhead. It was great people-watching - I'd never seen so many tattoos and beards!
We decided to have a break from the beer at about 4pm, so headed back to the hotel for a bit. As well as the beer festival coinciding with our visit, we were also there for the annual Rose Festival parade, and we noticed lots of rose murals everywhere (as well as some other cool ones - like this dog one).
Hubby felt like some ramen noodles so we found a place opposite the Ace Hotel and ate there. It was a little disappointing - especially having been to Japan last year.
After supper we watched the crowds gather for the parade - people had brought fold-up chairs and kids played in the street. Before the parade there was a 5km road race - not very pleasant on such a hot day.
Eventually the parade started - with the usual floats and marching bands. There were some rather bizarre floats and costumes, and we watched them go by and walked alongside for a while, seeing a bit more of the downtown area.
As the parade came to an end it crossed the highway back towards our hotel. We were both feeling very tired and dehydrated so we headed back to the hotel and had a quick cocktail each at the Driftwood Bar. Lots of the people involved in the parade were staying there, so the atmosphere was buzzy. One of the stormtroopers came in for a drink - I can't imagine how unbearably hot it must have been on this balmy night, but he was still smiling! We managed to stay up until about 10.30pm - not bad given how much we'd fit into the day.