Our last morning in Portland, EZ and I strolled through the lovely neighborhood of the Northwest Quadrant and hiked up a steep hill to the historical Pittock Mansion. It was the Tuesday after the Memorial holiday, and everyone was back at work, so the streets were eerily silent. The sun beamed brightly. It was going to be above 90 degrees – a spectacular, sizzling summer day for Portland.
Our first stop was Anna Bananas, which bills itself as “The Oldest Café in Northwest Portland.” The café looks like it had been converted from a cute little house. The interior is quaint and homey, and the staff are warm and friendly. EZ and I sat outside on the front porch, given the beautiful weather.
I ordered a South of the Border scramble, which features shredded cheese, tomato, onion, avocado, salsa, and sour cream, and is served with a toasted jalapeno bagel. EZ ordered a coffee, black. We lounged quite comfortably and each enjoyed our orders. Fresh and flavorful. In the background, salsa music played lazily, drowsily. It was such a peaceful, indulgent morning in a peaceful, indulgent neighborhood.
I wanted to buy a few culinary souvenirs for my family. So after brunch, EZ and I walked a few blocks to City Market, a market offering high-quality grocery items, including notable cheese, seafood, and butcher counters as well as beautiful floral assortments. It was very pleasant to wander up and down the aisles and pore over the intriguing specialty goods. I found a selection of fresh, local products. After much consideration, I settled upon pumpkin butter, Bee Local Portland farmland honey, and gourmet chocolate bars.
Next came the hardest part: the walk to Pittock Mansion. Or should I say, climb? Our maps app indicated that the walk to the mansion was about 1.7 miles. We had walked farther during our time in Portland, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. But what we didn’t realize was how steep the walk up the hill would be. It was more like a hike.
Once we finally reached the top, panting and sweating in the unexpected heat, we were greeted by a beautiful estate. The mansion, a French Renaissance style chateau built in 1909, was the private home for Henry and Georgiana Pittock. Henry was a publisher and business tycoon, while his wife Georgiana was a founder and fundraiser for many charities and cultural organizations.
The mansion was surrounded by gardens and greenery, with a panoramic view of the city below.
While it was free to ramble the ground, the entry fee is $10 to enter the mansion itself.
The interior of the mansion transports you back in time. Scenes of domestic life are laid out with exquisite detail and remarkable preservation. You can easily imagine Henry pacing in the study, Georgiana sitting at the harp, the children playing in their room, the servants setting the dining table. Perhaps you can even feel their presence.
EZ and I caught an Uber from Pittock Mansion back into downtown. We only had about an hour before we had to head to airport. And so, hungry from our hike, we decided to grab a bite before collecting our things from the hotel.
First, we went to Blue Star to get me a donut. Now, this isn’t your ordinary donut joint. This place takes its donuts seriously, pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Blue Star offers unique flavors like crème brulée, PB&J with jalapeno jelly, raspberry rosemary buttermilk, and blueberry bourbon basil, among others.
I ordered the maple bacon donut. I couldn’t understand what was taking so long to receive my order; then I realized that my donut was being handcrafted from scratch. When I finally did have it in my grasp, the donut was soft, oh-so-fresh, sweet, and salty. Above all, tasty.
Impressions of Portland
Too soon, EZ and I were on a plane, headed back to LA.
“How can you leave us on our most beautiful day?” a few different people at the Portland airport had asked. They were very excited about their 90 degree weather.
As the plane took off, we could see snow-capped Mount Hood out the window.
Settling back into my seat, I reflected on my time in Portland. It had been wonderful. The city had been clean, green, and beautiful, full of delicious food, fun breweries, and inviting shops. Nature beckoned at every corner, with plenty of hikes and gardens and waterfalls within reach. The vibe was laid back and creative. Passions were pursued with vigor, jobs a mere side note.
The only real drawbacks the city had for me were the lack of diversity and the lack of sun in the wintertime. However, as Portland is growing rapidly, particularly as more Californians move up, diversity is also starting to expand. Another point I’ve heard much about is gentrification. But I don’t know enough about Portland’s city planning to understand yet if it’s the bad kind of gentrification or the good kind of gentrification. What is the difference between the bad and good kinds of gentrification, you ask? According to Pete Saunders:
“Nationally, the gentrification debate is defined by the experiences [cities] like New York, San Francisco and Boston. There, the issues are rapidly growing unaffordability, concerns with displacement and growing inequality. But the gentrification debate is quite different in … cities like Philadelphia and Atlanta, where seeking ways to more equitably spread the positive benefits of revitalization might lead such discussions.”
Portland seems fairly thoughtful in the way it has crafted its city over the years, and I hope the city allows its virtues to be accessed and shared by all of its citizens.
In any case, as a visitor, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated much of what Portland had to offer. And there were still many undiscovered delights I didn’t have time to explore during my stay.
I’ll be back, Portland!