Travel: Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.

One of the best ways to get travel information is to talk to people who know the place. We sent some questions to O'Reilly technical editor chromatic who lives in Portland, Oregon and he sent the questions on to the Perl Mongers list. What we got back is a very good guide to the place. Here goes ...

> Portland itself is on a river about 80 miles from the coast and
> with a nice backdrop of Mt. Shasta.

Michael Schwern: Two rivers. Its at the confluence of the Willamette and the Columbia. Selena Decklemann: Well, I think most people would think of Mt. Hood as our backdrop :)

*writes "Mt. Hood is a very fine backdrop for Portland, Oregon." on the blackboard 100 times with scratchy chalk*

> Another plus is that the place is nowhere near as rainy as
> somewhere like Seattle, Washington, which is a bit further
> North.

Selena: shhhh. Don't tell people that!

> Maybe first we can deal with where to stay: Let's say we have two
> people and one is blessed with a big budget and the other with a
> small one. Both like alternative and interesting places. Where
> would you recommend they stay?

Selena: Big budget and they like "the city": stay downtown at Hotel Lucia or the Heathman Big budget and they like brew pub atmosphere: stay at the Kennedy School

Small budget: after midnight special at the Jupiter Hotel ($59 + tax) Very Small budget: portland hostel (hawthorne or NW portland) -- $17-20/night

Michael: For the small budget there's the local hostels.

Hawthorne Hostel

NW Hostel

Both are clean, well run, right in the middle of the city in very good neighborhoods on good public transit lines and have free wi-fi.

... continues below ...

> After they've checked in they'll look at the waterfront and the
> distant mountains and wonder what to do next. Where would you point
> them as far as general sightseeing is concerned?

Selena: The Zoo, Various gardens (Chinese Classical Garden, Japanese Garden, Washington Park Rose Garden, many botanical gardens, the Downtown Park blocks, tons of parks -- The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall has lots of good shows ( There are many live theaters -- Imago, Theatre Theater, Miracle Theatre Group, Profile Theatre Project, Stark Raving Theatre...

We have a farmers market every wednesday and saturday from april through october in the Park Blocks near Portland State University.

Hood River is about 1 hr drive away and beautiful -- mountain biking, hiking, wind surfing, fishing etc.

There are tons of wineries -- Dundee is a good first place to explore. There's even a sake brewery in Forest Grove.

Mt. Hood for skiing, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, backpacking, hiking.

Oh.. i could go on and on...

Michael: In town there's the Portland Duck land & water tours.

Portland is a very bike friendly city. I would very much suggest renting a bike and getting around on that.

If you have a car you can drive east down the Columbia River Highway. See the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls and take a loop around Mt. Shasta, err... Hood.

Once you're out there you can take a sightseeing tour on the Mt. Hood railroad.

Going in the other direction there's the Lewis and Clark Explorer Train going from Portland out to Astoria where the Columbia River dumps into the Pacific.

Great deals on an Oregon Resort from RunningY Oregon Resort

> After that they got a bit hungry and it's time for lunch anyway.
> Being forward planners they're even thinking ahead to where dinner
> might be had. What would you recommend?

Selena: And our restaurants are the best - italian: il piatto; northwest cuisine: lucy's table; quirky rad breakfast: wild abandon; great local breakfast: cup and saucer; tasty french pastries & bike nuts: st. honore; "southern" cooking with great cocktails: bernie's; ethiopian: queen of sheba; another great dinner place: farm. and there are tons more.

Michael: Fantastic food, a bit upscale but still comfortable, keeping around the $20-30 range:


Mother's (highly recommended for breakfast, too)

Fantastic food a bit easier on the checkbook:


Wild Abandon

And if you want to sample some of the NW's fine beers with your meal:

Rogue Pub
A fantastic selection of local Rogue beers. Try a sampler. The food is only so-so.

Excellent beer selection. Excellent pub food in the bar. Excellent NW food in the restaurant.

> Portland is well-known for its music and bands and for the fact
> that the Dandy Warhols developed an area into a place for theatre
> and music. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

Selena: Dandy Warhols? ouch.

I don't know them but the Wikipedia entry looks interesting ... 'The Portland, Oregon Warhols are strongly influenced by The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones [citation needed] as well as including implicit musical references to Jethro Tull and My Bloody Valentine in some songs. Frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor describes the band beginning as a group of friends who "needed music to drink to." The band performed live shows in bars throughout Portland and released their first album, Dandy's Rule OK? in 1995. This album was influential in Capitol Records' decision to sign the band.

The band first achieved success in Europe after the release of their second record ...The Dandy Warhols Come Down in 1997; the lead single "Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth" proved popular in many countries across the continent.'

... not very popular in the USA they say.

selena: I'm no expert on indie rock in portland -- but I do not have a good impression of that particular band. There are many bands that call Portland home these days -- Modest Mouse, Sleater Kinney, the Shins, the Decemberists, Mirah, Quazi, former members of Hazel... Lots were originally from Olympia or Seattle. And several are very recent imports (the shins?).

It may be that the Dandy Warhols blew open the musical doors to Portland for the rest of the country.. but I don't think so. I think that the indie acts from Olympia that frequently toured in Portland, and then eventually moved here were the real influences. Portland has had a strong "underground" music scene for at least 20 years, with significant youth-focused band encouragement and mentorship. I think that the music programs in town are starting to dwindle, which doesn't bode well for the future of music here in town. We'll have an influx of more mature bands for another decade, but after that... we'll see what happens.

Now i'm interested in what caused all the musical hubub here. More research is in order.

> What are the main venues in town? What sort of music is generally
> played in them (I know this sort of info has a short usability span
> generally)?

Selena: Of course tons of live shows -- check out the Portland Mercury or Willamette Week for listings and recommended events. Both have online-rags with tons of info. Typical places are Berbatis, Dante's, Doug Fir, Holocene, Roseland, Ash Street Saloon, Aladdin Theater, Hawthorne Theatre, Nocturnal...

Berbati's and Dante's usually have the bigger name indie acts and lean more toward "rock" music. Ash street will sometimes have experimental stuff and more local bands. Roseland has hip-hop and the bigger-named bands (i saw KMFDM and Belle & Sebastian there (different years :)). Hawthorne Theatre generally has thrash, metal, etc. Aladdin Theater is one of my favorites - its a sit-down experience with beer and comfy chairs. Music is generally singer- songwritery, with a few rock acts from time to time. Holocene has more indie hip hop, trance, experimental and local indie acts. Doug Fir has more indie acts, some big some small. Nocturnal has all sorts of stuff - from local indie to lindy hop dance competitions.

Tons and tons of great bars. Depends on what you are most interested in. It is pretty easy to name 5-6 good bars in any section of town.

We also have great events certain times of the year - portland int'l film festival in february, and we just got done with TB:A - time based art - festival in september. There are several beer brewers events. Every first Thursday there is an art/wine walk in the Pearl (which is downtown-ish), and every Last Thursday there's a great street celebration/art walk on NE Alberta street. Summertime is the best time for these.

Michael: These are the major ones I'm familiar with and have been to. Best way to get a feel of what they play is to look at their calendars.


Doug Fir

Crystal Ballroom

> Portland is said to have more than its fair share of computer
> geeks. What sort of geek-friendly activities are there?

Selena: Check out the FreeGeek calendar on their wiki. Also we've got PLUG, perl mongers, OSCON in the summer, etc...

Michael: FREE GEEK!

Ground Kontrol (classic video game arcade, bar & live music)

> Are there a lot of tech employers in the area?

Yes. Big ones off the top of my head: Intel, Microsoft, Nike... There are a ton of small agencies, programming outfits, consultancies.

> Summing up the ethos of a place can be difficult, especially in
> larger cities where ghettoization and/or cultural diversity lead
> to many different places. People say that Portland has very much
> an anti-authoritarian, questioning, alternative culture sort of
> ethos. Is this just for three blocks in town or is it
> generally true?

Selena: It is and it isn't true. There's definitely a hippie vibe going on in the SE Hawthorne area, and definitely an anti-establishment, anti- corporate vibe in the N Mississippi/NE Alberta area. Then we've got the Pearl, which is all glossy and full of corporate types who actually dress up or maybe wear polished shoes to work. A lot of people work from home or have odd-hour jobs, so you see lots of people running around the shopping districts and hanging out in coffee shops during the day. Lots of people live in portland and work in the suburbs or vice versa, so there is an unpleasant amount of traffic during rush hour. Some people commute as far away as Salem every day.

So, there's a mix of people -- but overall, I'd say that the town vibe is liberal, with a little streak of libertarianism that I think comes from the high tech sector running through.

Michael: Oregon is a schizophrenic state with Portland and the major cities being very liberal and the rest of the state very conservative. This is how you can have the anti-gay Defense Of Marriage Act be added to the state constitution while Multnomah County (Portland) is marrying gay couples. The further away from downtown you get the more the rest of the state leaks in. But you're generally good for at least 5 miles.

Here's my take on Portland is the way it is. People live here because they want to be here. They're not here because of a job, the job market here isn't so hot. They're not here for the weather, "seasonal affective disorder" (ie. grey grey grey grey grey winters) will drive most folks out who don't really want to be here. They like Portland for whatever reason. And when you like the place you live you want to make it work. You go outside, you talk to people, you work with the community. You don't sit around wishing you were somewhere else. That's my take.

Big thanks!

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