Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oregon: One day in Portland and a few days in Eugene

After arriving in Portland, the next day we went to hike outside of the city since it was a sunny day. In fact, it was so clear that not only could we see Mount Hood (a near by snow-capped mountain), but also Mount Saint Helen! We drove along the Columbus River for about an hour-- it was a breath-taking scenic drive with rest stops along the way for beautiful vistas and hiking. We stopped at the Multnomah Falls rest area to look at the beautiful falls, visible right from the road!
There is a hike you can do up to the bridge, however Emily advised that it's pretty steep and the best view is pretty much from at the bottom, so we continued on to another famous hiking spot, Punch Bowl Falls. The hike is pretty easy and scenic, though you walk along a (sturdy) path on the edge of a cliff, so if you have acrophobia avoid this one! Still it's a really beautiful trail with a moderate amount of visitors and clearly marked trails. We stopped at the lower Punch Bowl Falls to sit down and enjoy the scenery. The forest is unbelievably lush; in fact, it is considered a rain forest! Moss grows quickly on every tree and there are tons of streams and waterfalls as a result of massive amounts of rain (which is why we were so glad to have a sunny day!).

My friend Emily at the Falls
We then headed back towards Portland, stopping at one rest stop on the Columbus River. It was just a small spot with a tiny parking space and only a few cars, but it was gorgeous:
The next morning we woke up early to go to a traditional Indian good luck ceremony. My friend's mom has a patient who is opening up an Indian restaurant. We arrived a little late, but it seemed alright. There was a Brahman, a religious "priest" in the Hindu religion, reciting prayers and blessing the family and restaurant. It felt really special to be a part of it. All of the other women were wearing gorgeous saris and unbelievable bangles and earrings. I had just finished my book, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, a novel about Indians moving to the US and how their children grow up and find their own identities here, so it was very fitting. We also had a traditional Indian breakfast that was amazing! There were these hand-made dumplings that you poured leek soup over, a kind of pasta dish (reminded me a little of Rice-a-Roni but better), lots of yummy sauces, and more! It was pretty intimate, so I didn't take any pictures unfortunately...

After that, we drove to Eugene, about 2 hours south of Portland. We went straight to the University of Oregon campus and did a little walk around. The campus is really charming, with older brick buildings, lots of trees, and tons of bikers. Since I ran cross country in high school, coming to Eugene is like reaching a mecca: Prefontaine, one of the greatest American distance runners, trained here with Bill Bowerman. It is also the home of Nike and known as "Track Town USA." We passed the track, Hayward Field, and then headed towards the football stadium. U. of O. has an amazing football team, called the Ducks, that's ranked 3rd in the nation!
Hayward Field

Walking over a river from campus to the stadium

The oh-so-tiny stadium (not)
 We went to a coffee shop called The Beanery, which has yummy sandwiches, coffee, and soup. We then pretty much folded right back in to what college kids do: sit around, drink beers (despite it being barely 2pm), watch guys play video games, and talk about all of our options for the evening. Luckily, I am just out of college long enough that I will not subject myself to drinking nasty, cheep beers. Even luckier, Oregon has a strong microbrewery culture, so we were able to drink lots of different local brews. Sadly, it's a common misconception outside of the US that we don't drink anything beyond Bud Light and Budweiser and that we consider Heineken a top-tier beer-- if only they could see Oregon! For dinner we had Burrito Boy, a delicious burrito joint that you should definitely check out.

That evening we went to check out the Ducks V. Arizona State game on TV. Before halftime even started, we stopped watching. The score was something like 40-8 Ducks, with tons of interceptions and 40-yard touchdowns. If you are looking for something to do on a Thursday night, John Henry's is your place to go. On Thursdays they do 80s night, where people dress up and listen to incessant 80s music, and before midnight pretty much all drinks are $2, so you know the dancing gets wild.

The next day it just didn't stop raining. I ventured out once to eat at Albee's NY Gyro; it was probably the best gyro I've had in the world. They also serve tons of different old school sodas. Albee was actually working and I talked with him, and he is in fact from NY, so that was pretty cool. For the most part, unfortunately, the weather was terrible, so I had no motivation to do anything.

That night I hung out with my friend Caroline who I WWOOFed with in France. We went to Cornucopia, a really cozy restaurant that also has a huge fridge full of local beers. You can make your own 12 pack for only $10! So we grabbed a 12 pack full of different local beers and headed home. Caroline made a delicious dinner with some local squash that was shaped like a pumpkin but was bumpy and purple. When she cut it, it was hard as a rock, and after cooking it for 20 minutes (with peanut butter! yum!!!) it was smooth as velvet. So delicious!

The next day, Saturday, was a bit more productive as the sun came out. We headed to the Saturday market, a really great open air market with tons of farmers on one side and tons of artisanal vendors on the other side. The food vendors were spectacular! Tons of beautiful produce, with the farmers there to answer any questions you have on how to cook with the food, how the produce is grown, and more! One of the most interesting stands was the mushroom growers, called The Mushroomery. They had unbelievable mushrooms, including a massive hot pink one! They also sold mushroom tinctures, including Turkey Tail Tincture, which is known to actually prevent and reduce cancer! Some more info here if you are curious:

Later that afternoon we headed to a beer festival, the Fresh Hop Fest! It was a small one, but for $15 you could get a pint glass and 5 half pint drink tickets. The theme of the festival was "hops," so all of the beers had a very hoppy taste. One cool feature was that they had actual hops around the festival so that you could see, smell, and touch them. I had never actually seen or thought about hops, so it was quite interesting and fun. There also were only about 15 brewers there, so it was much more manageable than the other beer festival I went to in Belgium where they had something like 200 brewers. This was much less overwhelming. My favorite beer there was the Track Town beer, which had a strong flavor but a hint of citrus at the end. They also had a food vendor selling Irish nachos, which comprised of corn beef, cheese, sour cream, chives, and hand-made potato chips-- hands down the best nachos I've ever had!

Beer with hops

Irish nachos
That night we had a delicious potluck with a bunch of Caroline's friends. The best thing on the menu was the spaghetti squash stuffed with home made sauce and meatballs! I never knew squash was so amazing until this weekend. It's so delicious!

Then we all took our bikes and headed to Sam Bond's Garage to hear the band He's My Brother, She's My Sister, a really cool fusion band of blues, bluegrass, and rock (I like under genres on their Facebook it says "Cabaret Blues"). The bar itself also boasts having some amazing late night pizza, featuring toppings such as artichoke and pesto.

The next day, I took the bus back to Portland, sad to leave all the new friends I made in Eugene. Besides Bristol, it is the only other city I've instantly felt like I could live there. So awesome, will have to go back soon!!