Chris Madigan takes a whistle-stop tour of Oregon’s “City of Roses”.
9 AM – Wake up at Ace Hotel
One of the world’s hippest hotels (there is now one in New York but this is the original) it’s a 19th century building, retaining many original fittings, with added quirky touches, such as bedside tables made from glued-together books and giant cat wallpaper. The Ace has a great restaurant/bar attached (Clyde Common), with incredible gin and homemade tonic, but that’s for later. For now, grab a latte from Stumptown in the lobby (Portland rivals Seattle for amazing coffee); we’re going shopping.
Info:1022 SWStark Street – acehotel.com
TIP: the Ace is in the area where local, Gus van Sant, set his film about street hustlers, My Own Private Idaho, with River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves.
10 AM – Retail therapy
Most of the big chains are around Pioneer Square (worth a detour for underU4men at 507 SW Broadway, which sometimes has live underwear modelling). The Pearl – a formerly run-down warehouse district that has scrubbed up nicely – is home to a lot of one-off boutiques, interior shops and art galleries. For clothing, check out the jeans at Blake (2285 NWJohnson). Slightly further afield, and left field, is the fake-grass floor and funky clobber at Galore Department Store (823 NW23rd Ave). And Cielo Home (528 NW12th Ave) is packed with lovely things for your pad.
TIP: unlike most US states, where the price leaps at the cash desk, Oregon has no sales tax.
11 AM – Powell’s City of Books
This enormous bookshop – covering an entire block – contains whole rooms dedicated to subjects other places would give a shelf (including an LGBTsection). Second-hand books sit next to new copies, so you can make great savings. Wandering around, stumbling upon fantastic books picked out by the knowledgeable staff, it’s hard to visit this place without losing a few hours, and a few hundred bucks.
Info:1005 WBurnside – powells.com
TIP: the city has produced many top writers, including Fight Club author, Chuck Palahniuck, the new star of crime fiction, Chelsea Cain, and the fantasy and science fiction writer, Ursula K Le Guin.
12 PM – Brunch
Because non-hetero life is so much a part of the culture (Mayor Sam Adams is the first big city boss who’s out and proud), there aren’t many specifically gay districts, but NE Alberta Street, while also green and craftsy, is definitely lesbian. The Tin Shed, run by gay women, is the best brunch spot in the city. Fuel up on Sweet Chix (chicken sausage, onion, basil, red peppers, brie and apple), Sin (sweet potato brioche French toast with fruit and maple syrup), or any number of fun delicious dishes. Info:1438 NE Alberta St – tinshedgardencafe.com
TIP: visit a chocolatier, such as Oprah Winfrey fave, Moonstruck (moonstruckchocolate.com).
Portland has more cycle lanes than any other US city, and so much green space, it’d be a shame not to spend time on two wheels. Hire a bike (or inline skates) at Waterfront Bike Rentals and pick up a Portland By Bicycle map. For a sedate amble, follow the Waterfront Park route along the river, cross Burnside Bridge and head along the Eastside Esplanade, a pontoon floating on the Willamette, then head south past Ross Island. For something a little wilder, climb up to Forest Park and ride some of the 70 miles of trails through 5,000 acres of Douglas firs, streams and wildlife habitat.
TIP: Oregon is a sport-lover’s dream. The Columbia River Gorge is a windtunnel, which makes the town of Hood River a watersports mecca; nearby is Mount Hood, with year-round skiing. Stay at 1930s-built Timberline (timberlinelodge.com).
6 PM – Classical Chinese Garden
In the heart of the city, an oasis of tranquility is a garden based on a Ming Dynasty design in sister city, Suzhou. Walkways take you around beds with striking maples and bamboos, or delicate orchids and magnolias. Streams and pools feed into a central pond, and pavilions are called things like, Celestial Hall Of Permeating Fragrance, with intricate carved details. In the Tower Of Cosmic Reflections, The Tao Of Tea offers a breathtaking range of infusions.
Info:NWThird & Everett – portlandchinesegarden.org
TIP: there is also a formal Japanese garden in Washington Park, claimed to be the most authentic outside Japan.
7 PM – Dinner
Portland doesn’t tend to do boring so restaurateurs here are individualists. 50 Plates in the Pearl district does sit-down dinners or upmarket bar food, such as oysters, “po’boys” (clam sandwiches) and pulled-pork “sliders” (another sarnie). You can, of course, take a culinary tour of the world. Biwa is a fantastic Japanese joint that goes beyond sushi and ramen soups, and has a dizzying list of sakes. For a quick bite, the Por Qué No? Taco bar on N Mississippi Ave has delicate delights and knock-your-socks-off spicy numbers alike.
TIP: in April/May, try spring Chinook, succulent salmon caught as they run to spawning grounds.
9 PM – Live music
A cauldron of hot bands, Portland has produced The Gossip, featuring the mighty Beth Ditto, and The Decemberists, among others. If the gloriously camp pop orchestra, Pink Martini, are in town (check at vocalist Timothy Nishimoto’s wine bar, Vino Paradiso, on Flanders St), don’t miss them. Otherwise the next big thing will probably be on at The Doug Fir, 50s cocktail lounge upstairs, log cabin live venue beneath. Info:830 E Burnside St – dougfirlounge.com
TIP: For alternative Portland sounds, listen to KNRK at 94.7FM. For an LGBT slant, tune to KBOO at 90.7FM.
11 PM – Cocktails
With some 30-plus breweries, mainly specialist micro-brewers, Portland is often called Beervana, but it’s a wine city, too, with the Willamette Valley renowned for its pinot noirs. The city also produces several gins (including 12 Bridges and Aviation) and Trillium absinthe – elaborate absinthe fountains are found in most bars for lovers of the “green fairy”. Two of the city’s best bars have gay owners: British-born Lucy Brennan’s 820 (820 N Russell St – themintand820.com) has a huge range of fruity martinis; while Daniel Shoemaker and Ted Charak create eye-watering homemade cocktails at Teardrop (1015 NW Everett St – teardroplounge.com).
TIP: the river’s name is pronounced “W’lammit”. This rhyme will help: “It’s Willamette, dammit!”
1 AM – Clubbing
SW Stark St has long been the centre of gay nightlife, with clubs including Scandals and Boxxes/Red Cap Garage, but these days clubs are spread around the city. Crush on SE Morrison St is hip right now, while the Silverado (SW3rd Ave) has male strippers. Bears gather at Eagle Portland (which features “bear naked billiards”). Meanwhile, the Egyptian Club (SE Division St) is a hot lesbian spot.
TIP: find a calendar of events, from club nights to literary events, at LGBT magazine justout.com.
The perfect cure for early morning munchies – and the craziest – are these doughnut shops (one on the west side, one on the east). Choose from toppings such as Lucky Charms Breakfast Cereal or Maple Icing with Bacon. Or just go for your favourite double entendre name: Butter Fingering, Triple Chocolate Penetration or Cock & Balls (okay, not so double, that entendre).
Info:22 SW3rd Ave – voodoodoughnut.com
TIP: you can also get married in the Voodoo Wedding Chapel. The perfect way to wind up your day in Portland.