Portland Trip – Downtown, then Home

This is final installment in my set of posts on our Portland trip. The previous posts: heading for Portland (see post here), arrival, ice cream and dinner, (see post here) spending the day in town and meeting with Evan Lewis and wife for dinner down south in Bridgeport/Tigard. (see post here) and a day in Lake Oswego (here).

lobby of the Embassy Suites Downtown Hotel

Next day, we went back into Portland, a 10-15 minute drive, to the Embassy Suites Downtown where we stayed our last night. It is the old Multnomah Hotel, with a rich and storied history, and Embassy has done a beautiful job refurbishing it. Staying here put us within easy walking or light rail (the MET) distance to Powell’s and all the other downtown stores and sights we wanted to see.

After getting settled, we walked to the MET stop and took it to Pioneer Square Park, then walked up a block to Nordstrom’s, and then north several blocks to Powell’s. For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s one helluva bookstore.

The picture taken just inside the NW entrance and shows a tiny fraction of the store. There other areas, other floors… a mecca for book lovers. If it looks crowded, remember it was Sunday midday, though Powell’s is pretty much always crowded. We weren’t looking for anything particular, and wandered happily for some time. I picked up a book of essays, I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley (recommended) and a couple of other things. Then it was time to walk down the slope to Voodoo Doughnut.

For the uninitiated, Voodoo Doughnut is a very funky local place featuring a wide and mind-bending array of doughnuts, many combining ingredients you would not expect, such as raised glazed doughnut with peanut butter filling and vanilla frosting topped with Oreo cookie pieces. They call that one the Dirty Old Man. Their maple bars are legendary. So we walked there in high anticipation, only to find a line. This is not unusual. Even before the place was featured on the Travel Channel, visited by Anthony Bourdain and later by the Man vs. Food show, it was very popular. Now, it’s…difficult. The line stretched down the block to the corner, then around and halfway down that block. Here’s what we saw from across the street as we approached:

Voodoo Doughnut, downtown Portland, Sunday early afternoon

Yep, the line goes around that corner to the right, and halfway down that block. So we got in line. You have to do that for a legend. After 15 minutes, we had taken one stride forward. There was a music festival with venues all around town, one of them a couple blocks away. Maybe that meant more people or larger orders. Whatever. We could hear the music and lots of people were walking by but the line wasn’t moving. Wife was getting a cold, and I was tired, so after another ten minutes and one more step forward, we bailed. But we had a plan. We headed back to the hotel and a nap, we needed it.

Next morning, we slept in, had breakfast in the hotel and headed for the airport. But we took a detour. You see, there is a second Voodoo Doughnut location on the east side of town (meaning the east side of the Willamette River), and it was on our way. We got there and found no lines, plenty of selection and got our Voodoo fix. Man, those maple bars are good. Also, I had a dirty Old Man, but without the peanut butter filling, just the vanilla frosting and Oreos on top. Pretty darn tasty. Then it was on to the airport, and the usual routine to get on a plane and fly home.

Every time we visit Portland, it gets harder to leave, though it was good to get home to SoCal, the familiar bed, the cats, the rest of it. Great trip!

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in Adventure, Personal Opinion, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Portland Trip – Downtown, then Home

  1. I would have stood in line for a great maple bar too. A Dirty Old Man? I dunno….

    Thanks for the great series on Portland. I have a few friends that live up there, and I may have to take the leap and go.

  2. You’re a great promoter of Portland, Rick. Looks like a great place to move to. I especially like the bookstore picture.

  3. Richard says:

    Laurie – or at least take the leap and visit!

    George – Powell’s is everything people say and more.

  4. Chris says:

    I’ve really enjoyed your Portland series, Richard. I love that city; if I had to live somewhere urban, I think it would be my choice. Lots of folks from Missoula relocate there, especially the kids looking to “make it big.”

    I’ve been lucky with my trips to Voodoo Donuts, and haven’t had to do much waiting in line. But you’re right, their maple bars are to die for. Powell’s is to die for too; that whole little section of town is great. I wish I could head that way right now!

  5. Richard says:

    Chris – heck, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump, what’re ya waiting for?

  6. Chris says:

    True. What’s a 9-hour one-way drive on a whim after all, right?

  7. I’ve only dealt with POWELL’S online, Rick. My orders arrived promptly with no hassles.

  8. Todd Mason says:

    Portland is my favorite city, and I’ve spent only about five hours there. Perhaps that’s part of the reason, but I’ll take that gamble again sometime, if I play my cards correctly. Good luck (did you say Why you’re moving? Intentionally not? Tough day, and I’ve forgotten if so)!

  9. Richard says:

    Todd – I don’t believe I said I was moving, only that we were considering a move there, but that’s a fine point, I guess. We wanted to get an idea of the real estate market and value for dollar. If we do make the move, and there is a chance, it would be from a desire for more room. We now are in a 2 bed/2 ba, 1000 sq.ft. condo. Between my 3500-4000 books and my wife’s many tubs and shelves of fabric and quilt making supplies, we are squeezed like five pounds of peas in a four pound bag.

    The amount of room we want would cost more than we can afford here in SoCal, so it’s a matter of how much we are willing to compromise and where we might be willing to move.

  10. Richard says:

    George – it’s walking into that huge building, nearly a square block, smelling the books, the wood shelves, creaking wood floors, searching through the sections, the shelves, browsing… it’s incredible.

  11. Jeff Meyerson says:

    On our one visit to Portland we were also taken with Powell’s, one place that lives up to the hype.

  12. Maybe someone will host a BOUCHERCON in Portland. That might be one way to get me to Powell’s.

  13. Richard says:

    There was talk of it a year or three ago, George, but it didn’t work out. I believe Kate Derie was involved, though not in the lead. Not sure what happened.

  14. Patti Abbott says:

    A bookstore with that many people in it just warms my heart. I may visit Portland for that reason alone.

  15. Richard says:

    It’s a nice place anyway, but Powell’s is a real draw for book lovers. Tons of new books, tons of used books. It’s a bit of a zoo on weekends, but it’s nice any time.

  16. Carl V. says:

    Can’t thank you enough for the pics. I love seeing inside pictures of bookstores that people recommend. And I am almost 100% positive I’ve seen Voodoo Donuts on one of those food show specials about donut places.

    By the way, I put the Sloane Crosley on my library hold list today, should be in within a week or so.

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