I have been wanting to visit Portland, Oregon for quite some time because of all the wonderful things posted on blogs from those who live there, and from ravings of those who have visited. So, when I earned a free Southwest flight I jumped on the chance to make visiting a reality. In planning the trip, I found the following websites extremely helpful...

- travel Portland
- diy alert
- get crafty
- indie music Portland

These websites sent me on a goose chase of neat things to do in the area, links of which I'll include in each post as I visit.

As I began planning my trip, I wondered how long to travel for. The more research I did, the more my calendar filled up. I decided I could easily go for a full week filling each day with places in just the area in and around downtown. If I was renting a car, even more time than a week might be needed to experience everything.

I flew out Saturday morning and spent most of the day in transit as Portland is about as far as you can go from Orlando! It was well worth the travel time, though, I decided within minutes of my arrival. This revelation came because of how easy and cheap it is to get around and by how extremely nice everyone is - both of these have stayed consistent each day of my trip! A quick conversation with the guy at the transportation booth revealed the MAX light rail the cheapest way to get from the airport to downtown (The trip cost only $2.30! compared to I believe it was $40-50 for a cab, or $18 for a bus). Trains arrive and depart frequently from the airport so it was just as easy of an option as a cab or bus, and so much more economical. Now here's where the niceness of Portlanders started to reveal itself...three of my fellow riders started conversations with me in the short 38 minutes from the airport to downtown. These were not the annoying conversations where you wish the person would just let you sit and ride in peace. No, these were really interesting, engaging people. The MAX dropped me off at Pioneer Square, and I walked one short block southeast to the Hilton. I would recommend staying at the Hilton or a hotel in this general vicinity because its central location in downtown allows walking in any direction really easy, and jumping on the MAX to head any direction easy as well (note: the MAX is free within the downtown area so no worries about making a wrong decision - just jump on and see where it takes you, then jump on again and try out another area - there won't be a ton of fares to pay so enjoy as much of the downtown area as you can. Just be sure you know where the line is drawn and fares are required. I haven't seen a ticket checker yet on any of my trips, but I have heard there is a fine if you get caught without a ticket outside of the free area). Here's a few views from my hotel room...

This is to the west - Pioneer Square where you can hop on the MAX going east or west, a visitors center where you can get help on what train or bus to take and maps and brochures of places to visit, as well as a Starbucks.

This is to the east - more views of the city and mountains in the background (I'll have to ask someone, but I think the large mountain is Mount Hood, a dormant but potentially active volcano).

After unpacking a bit, I was ready to head out and resting to be had even after an already long day of travel and little sleep the night before! The only thing I hadn't researched much was where to eat so I went with the concierges recommendation to take the MAX and get off at Oak Street where he said I would find many fun restaurants and bars if I just walked around a bit. There was a lot of both, but they were spread so sporadically that I was having a hard time finding one that really stood out as, "I want to eat there!" So, trusting that everyone would be as nice as the travelers on the MAX, I stopped two girls heading across the street towards me and asked for a recommendation. They spent at least ten minutes giving me multiple options and directions to each, pulled out a piece of paper to write down a few places so I wouldn't forget, and invited me to the Oregon Word Jam at Kelly's Olympian. I told you Portlander's were nice! I ended up eating at the Thirsty Lion Pub & Grill, which was not one of their recommendations, but looked fun as I walked by on my search. I was not impressed with the food or the service, but the crowd was fun beginning at around 8:30 when the band started to set up. So, it's someplace I would definitely go back later to drink and listen, but not to eat. After searching for my server to pay my bill (I told you the service was not the greatest), I left to check out this "Oregon Word Jam" my two new friends were talking about. I listened to Willy Vlautin, a novelist and songwriter strum on a guitar and "sing poems," then enjoyed some of Tim Sproul's poems. I had never been to a poetry reading before, but found both artists very fun to listen to - both had really fun styles, which garnered a lot of smiles and laughs from the crowd. Then came the best part of the night...the Lewi Longmire band. The band includes Lewi Longmire, along with Ned Folkerth on drums and Bill Rudolph on bass. Their site describes their sound perfectly as "roots rock/americana." I stayed as long as my drooping eyes allowed. They were fantastic! I may just go see them again on Thursday at the LaurelThirst Public House...they were that good! For anyone that lives in Orlando, Kelly's Olympian where all this took place, reminded me a lot of Taste. A really intimate, fun place to watch a great band...

Here's a link where you can listen to snippets of some of their tunes (just click on the picture of each CD).

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