Day 15 - Roses & GhostsSeptember 22, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C
The day started with a fantastic coffee from Barista. Always a great start. After a bit of shopping and meandering around Downtown it was lunchtime. Portland is well-known for its wide range of gastronomic treats and we have already experienced a few with our first night at the buffalo wings diner and yesterday afternoon in a bar run by a craft brewery. Portland is probably most famous for another dining treat, food carts. These mini marvels are in certain areas of the city and there are a large number on offer. I ended up going for chicken and rice from Nong’s Khao Man Gai and Alice had the jalapeño popper from The Grilled Cheese Grill. Both were as good as we had expected them to be and we were left wondering how lucky the workforce here in central Portland are to have this array of food available for lunch.
Next up was an opportune time to burn off all these lavish meals. The aim was Washington Park and that would require a bit of a walk to get there and look around. The park is a real treat as it is fairly small and immaculately looked after. There are tags in front of nearly all the plant life telling the passer-by what they are looking at which gives the park the feeling you are in a large open garden centre. This also allows the sense of ordered nature within the park which is exactly what I think of with Japanese gardens. Funnily enough, there is also a large Japanese garden here too! This costs $9.50 to visit. At first I thought this was a bit steep and unnecessary, reminding me of the 'big yellow taxi' song of having to pay to see trees in a tree museum. However once inside, the care, precision and beauty of the manicured gardens within gardens are staggering. To be able to show the harmonious aspect of nature in a controlled manner is a skill and an art. Within minutes, breathing slows and relaxation begins as your gaze is lost in the stones (the bones), the water features (the life force) and the vegetation (the seasons). Following a suggested route, you are guided over bridges, passing a tea house, next to babbling brooks, a waterfall and a finally a Zen garden. To some, a Zen garden is a bunch of small stones raked in pretty patterns around bigger stones. To others, it's a point of interest to reflect on everything and nothing. Yes, Alice and I were both big fans of the garden. The only criticism is the current construction around the garden leading to a partially distracted visit. However, this just gives us another reason to return in the future as the extension plans look interesting. There is more in the park too, with a touching holocaust memorial and a large rose garden. We now felt relaxed and contemplative and began our slow walk back to Downtown.
We went straight to Voodoo Donuts. The variation of donuts were bewildering and the 'homer' donut caught my eye. It was really good too. Alice had the 'portland cream' which is the official donut of Portland. After donuts came coffee at Stumptown, a local blend known for its sweetness. Again, very good. All this snacking was in preparation for a tour we were going on in the evening.
The 'Shanghai ungerground tunnel' tour of Portland was how it was billed. Probably the strangest and unintentionally funniest tour I have ever been on. The group met at a designated bar, and hung around for a bit and then had orientation at the back of the bar. The tour guide introduced herself and then asked us whether we wanted a history tour or a ghost tour. Both of my eyebrows were considerably raised already. When the majority shouted out ghost tour, it appears Alice and I and the group next to us really should have shouted out history louder. As it turns out, "history" had very little to do with this tour anyway. So did "tunnels". And so did anything that wasn't anecdotal experiences of paranormal activity. The focus was on a practice known as shanghaiing, basically kidnapping people to work on ships for years on end. When referring to an event in this little known or never actually happened history in this particular basement, the tour guide started each sentence with 'back in the day...'. Urban legend became concrete truth within these walls. But hey, the people wanted a ghost tour and that's what they got. It was basically a tour of the basement of the bar we started off in with various props scattered about with added stories of women's hair bring pulled, children's hands being felt in theirs, men having unexplained scratches on their necks, etc etc for two hours. Afterwards, the internet confirmed all our suspicions that there is actually very little evidence of any of the history that was just explained to us. If you still want to go on this tour, make sure you are inebriated and are prepared for large pinches of salt. A heady mix!
Although the tour was not what we thought it was, the mellow atmosphere from earlier in the day ensured that we could laugh about it over the main activity that Portland does best, dining. In a diner come restaurant, which they actually called a 'dinerant', Alice and I had a lovely dinner with milkshakes. The place is called 'The Original Dinerant' and Alice had 'The Grasshopper' which had creme de menthe, creme de cacao and chocolate ice cream and I had the 'The Pick Me Up' which consisted of baileys espresso and vanilla ice cream. They were fantastic and our favourite shakes of the trip so far.
With dinner done, we got the tram back to the motel, mulling over the day's events.
Song of the Day:
Elliott Smith - Needle in the Hay (Elliott lived most of his life in Portland)Read more