This last Monday, Emily and I had tickets to see Sigur Ros in Portland. We decided to head down a day early and spend the night in the lovely city to the south to get away from the regular pace of life, if only for a short while. Thus, it only made sense to have a Portland theme for this week’s ‘five things’, in honor of all the things that brought us joy over our short 40 hour vacation.
1. Kennedy School - “McMenamins” is a household word throughout Oregon and Washington, signifying a vast array of great places to enjoy with family and friends — a dream that began humbly more than 20 years ago in the hearts of brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin. The siblings are now rightfully considered two of the pioneers of the Northwest microbrew and historic hotels industries.”
That’s from the press room at McMenamins.com. I wasn’t sure how to define it myself, so I figured I would let them do the work instead. For those of you who are unfamiliar with McMenamins, you simply need to do whatever it takes to encounter them here in the Pacific Northwest at some point in your life.
They have great pubs and restaurants filled with a delightful atmosphere and ambiance. They make really tasty beer, like their Terminator Stout. And they also have amazing hotels, hotels so great that one played a large role in our decision to head to Portland early in the first place. If our prospect of heading down early would have meant staying at a Holiday Inn Express somewhere, we would have passed, but when heading down early meant spending the night at the Kennedy School… that was an entirely different story.
Kennedy School is a McMenamins hotel which was a public elementary school from 1915 until 1975 (you can check out the full history here). It is hands down the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Some of its many features include classrooms converted into hotel rooms, chalkboards and all, a heated soaking pool, a movie theater (featuring free admission to paid guests), a full McMenamins restaurant, two medium size bars which serve a full menu of food, and two tiny bars which are cozy and charming.
We loved our evening there, and we look forward to heading back. In fact, Emily and I have already started the preliminary planning for our next McMenamins trips, both back to Kennedy School again, and to their other hotels here in Oregon and Washington.
2. Powell’s Books – Much like McMenamins, if you live in the Pacific Northwest the existence of Powell’s Books is already well known to you. It’s the world largest independent new and used book store, and while that might sound like too many qualifiers to be impressive, have no fear. Powell’s is overwhelming huge. It’s filled with wonderful booky goodness.
Powell’s has an impressive selection of books. Regardless of what sort of book you’re looking for, Powell’s is a great place to browse. Although, you will probably only be able to browse a few sections if you have limited time because the store is literally a city block. Emily and I spent Sunday afternoon there and bought some lovely used books cheap. Between the two of us, I finally found a tshirt there in my size, and beyond that we got Watership Down, Ender’s Game, For Whom The Bell Tolls, A Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, The Catcher In The Rye, A Widow For One Year and Until I Find You. That will lead to some lovely, leisurely reading in between school work over the next few months.
As is the case with everything here on this Portland list (with the obvious exception of the Sigur Ros concert), you need to be sure to get to Powell’s if ever you’re in Portland.
3. Horse Brass Pub – I’m not the only one who says that The Horse Brass Pub is great. Don Miller mentions it at length in Blue Like Jazz, it has been featured on Food Network and the Travel Channel as having the most authentic fish & chips in the US, and I don’t personally know anyone who has visited it without referring to it with affection later. However, this is my blog, so the fact that I love it is enough.
The fish & chips really is fantastic, easily my favorite anywhere. The beer selection is top notch, featuring plenty of beers on tap, including season guest brews. You can top those off with a delicious serving of their bread pudding (again, easily my favorite anywhere). And the atmosphere is more authentic and homey than your typical ‘English’ pub in the states. I actually need to stop writing about it now because the mere idea of it is filling me with the desire to head out to my car and drive down tonight!
4. Black Butte Porter - One of the beer’s on tap at Horse Brass, along with any other bar that knows what’s good for them, comes courtesy of Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. It’s a little brew known as Black Butte Porter and it’s a tasty companion to those Horse Brass fish & chips. My encounter with it this weekend was brief, but it was a highlight nonetheless.
5. Sigur Ros Concert - The concert, and the actual reason for heading to Portland, didn’t disappoint either. At first the concert was simply satisfyingly entertaining. Yet, as the show progressed the band showed us a variety of the proverbial tricks up their sleeves. Visually the show had much to offer, even without the use of any impressive video footage to accompany the show.
Once the band got to the second to last song in their initial, pre-encore set, my enjoyment needle pushed past content and into euphoric. The last two songs of said set were celeberatory and uplifting. Whereas most concerts tend to allow the act to grow larger while the audience at times shrinks away into becoming a mere cheering track, during the last song before the encore, it was as if everyone in the room got bigger somehow. It was marvelous. =)