October 10, 2012

Why I Fell in Love with Portland Part II

by: Taz Loomans


Yesterday, I started to tell you about my love affair with the city of Portland. Today I’ll tell you the second part of the story.

Monday in Portland was even better than Sunday. My friend Anna George who knows how much I love tea recommended this great tea bar called Tea, Chai, Te. What better place to have breakfast, I thought. So again (and thank goodness for Google Maps on the iPhone!) I punched in the address and saw that it was in a (what ended up being a very cute) neighborhood northwest of where I was staying. At this point, I wasn’t comfortable taking a bus or rail, so I walked it.

It turned out to be about an hour walk, but how beautiful it was! The only reason I would think to complain about the hour is that my legs got very tired, especially with all the walking I did the previous day and because they have gotten quite lazy here in Phoenix. During my walk, I traversed a bridge over the Willamette with lots of bicyclists whizzing by me.

Steel Bridge took me over to the neighborhood with the tea bar.

I kept walking on an arterial which also had a streetcar. It wasn’t too wide and was quite friendly for walking. I don’t know of many arterials in Phoenix that are friendly for walking.

I love this commanding sign right above where the street car travels.

I reached a wonderful, well shaded, and perfectly proportioned neighborhood. When I say it was perfectly proportioned, I mean it was perfect for the size of a human being. The buildings did not feel too tall, they were not too far set back, there were elements on the buildings that made them interesting that were specifically designed with the pedestrian in mind.

Nob Hill, a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood

And there was a tree canopy that made me green with envy. Oh how I wish we had this kind of tree canopy in Phoenix. But I know, we’re a desert and Portland is a rainy, cool environment. No comparison to be made, but I was still jealous.

The tree canopy in Portland was so luxurious, offering shade as well as beauty, a connection with nature, and is instrumental in the human scale of the city.

I walked through the neighborhood of my dreams (called Nob Hill) near 23rd avenue and Lovejoy, past lots of cute little restaurants, boutique stores and coffee shops in old buildings and finally found my tea house. Tea, Chai, Te happened to be on the second floor, and when I walked in, I found an intimate, cozy little space (and when I mean little, I mean little). When I went up to order, I was astounded by the sheer variety and choice of teas they offered.

The first of several long pages of tea offerings at Tea, Chai, Te

As I stated exuberantly on a Facebook post that morning, I was in tea heaven.

My little slice of heaven.

Specialty shops like this one that JUST offers tea, and is able to do it in such a special and unique way, are a sign of a city that is interesting and attractive and creative. I’m sad to say we don’t have this caliber of a tea shop in Phoenix.

After the tea shop I was slated to meet my friend Ivonne who just moved to Portland from Phoenix for lunch. She was going to meet me in downtown and I had another long walk in front of me. Honestly, after another hour of walking, my legs were basically very angry at me and it was hard to walk much more. Ivonne, with all her energy, had plans other than rest for my poor legs though. She wanted to show me the food trucks in Hawthorne, so I carried my heavy legs along with me across the Hawthorne bridge and to the first food truck cluster we could find. Though some of the food trucks were closed as it was Monday, Ivonne and I had no trouble finding food we liked, along with comfortable seating and others who had the same idea. I had a freshly-made egg/spinach/goat cheese crepe and Ivonne had a pulled pork sandwich with sweet potato tater tots. Special, relatively inexpensive, creative and really good food is available pretty much everywhere in Portland.

We had a great time at the food trucks minus the bothersome bee that kept terrorizing Ivonne who happens to have a phobia of bees.

After our little food stop, we kept walking on Hawthorne, my legs a little rested, but very weary still. At one point, after watching me start to slow down and wince in pain, Ivonne suggested we take the 14 bus further up. I’m glad she did, because this was my first foray into the public transportation in Portland. I learned that it was pretty easy, you could buy a ticket right on the bus and the bus driver was nice enough to answer newbie questions. The bus dropped us off in the happening part of Hawthorne, where all the great little shops, restaurants, coffeeshops and bookstores were, with housing on the second floor. Again, it was the perfect density, look and feel for a human being like myself.

We found no shortage of cute places that we wanted to stop in, but we refrained. As my legs were still tired, I pleaded with Ivonne to stop and rest at a coffee shop. We found a great one to stop at called Fresh Pot, which happened to be connected to a satellite Powell’s bookstore location. What a fantastic place this was, we had a hard time finding a seat for ourselves! The adjacent bookstore was a really strong draw and the coffee shop is always busy because of it. This sort of mixed use vibrancy that results from smart adjancencies is largely missing in Phoenix.

The satellite location of Powell’s Bookstore in Hawthorne.

After Fresh Pot we got back on the bus and made our way back downtown. I headed home on foot, maybe a 20 minute walk, to get some rest before meeting my other friend who had just moved to Portland from Phoenix, Annette, for dinner. Annette furtively told me she had a car and I was eternally grateful for it because it meant I didn’t have to walk more. She came to pick me up and we talked the whole way in the car about how much she’s loving Portland.

She took a detour and showed me this fantastic park, which reminded me of one I had visited in Berlin. It was vast, but divided into intimate spaces with a lovely lake with ducks, lots and lots of trees and grass, and valleys and hills. It was during dusk and we ran into one of Annette’s friend there who was jogging. The three of us had a nice walk and talk in the park.

Eventually Annette and I ended up at this amazing Thai restaurant called Pok Pok. The wait is usually long Annette warned me, but we got right in that night. Our food, I can honestly report, was some of the best I’ve ever eaten! My mouth is watering thinking about their chicken wings.

As it was late, Annette dropped me home and I had no choice but to stay there as my legs refused to move any longer. When I settled into my room I realized I had fallen in love with this city – it’s connectedness, it’s unique food offerings, its public spaces, its nurturing of creative businesses, and especially, it’s pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods.

I’ll tell you about the rest of my trip in Part III of Why I Fell in Love with Portland!

Photo Credit: All photos by the author.


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4 Responses

  1. Haley R :) says:

    Beautiful pictures, Taz!!!!! I love tea, too!! Hey, we should get Songbird to invest in that kind of variety of teas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That would be the perfect spot since Jobot and Fair Trade focus on coffee and don’t have anywhere NEAR that type of selection!!! 😀

  2. Steve P says:

    Love it.

    Portland does food very well.

  3. Taz, have you visited Souvia Tea here in Phoenix? It’s up in Moon Valley. I ask because I’m curious if your comment about Phoenix lacking a tea shop of the same quality as the one you visited in Portland is based on the quality of the shops, their locations within their respective cities, or a mix of both. And, yes, like most readers of this blog, I wish Souvia were more central. There’s also Fleur de Tea at 16th St. & Bethany, but that seems to have recently changed its name to Dragonfly Tea.

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