Portland – Day 5

Last day of conferences for The Mister today (NodeConf) – this time he had to go way out the other end of the main city for it. I had a meeting set up with an accountant who was coming down from Seattle to meet me so I didn’t go on The Mrs activities for this conference – although it was a food tour and I knew by now that Portland is a bit of a food town so I was a bit sad to miss out on it.

We had breakfast together at Public Domain and I ended up staying there working for a couple of hours before heading to the edge of the city to Union Station to meet the accountant. I wandered through the rather pretty Pearl District.

Portland

I was pretty amazed this accountant would come all the way (3 hours drive) to meet me. It was a great meeting too – she was so enthusiastic about Xero and I learned a bit about how she runs her business and why she loves Xero. Lucky I had some Xero goodies to give her – the keep cups were a huge hit! I’ll probably put a post and video up on the Xero blog when I get back.

In the afternoon after a bit more work back at the hotel I went on my own adventure back over the river – still a couple of places on my coffee map to see and I didn’t feel like working out the bus so I went to one that was quite close on the other side that I could walk to. Took me a while to figure out how to get up onto the bridge and after some initial panic that it was cars only I saw a guy heading towards it so followed him!

Portland over the river

This evening I met The Mister half way between the hotel and his conference, which was back in the Pearl District and after a dinner that was not that impressive despite the very cool Italian brick restaurant (too much cardamon in my pasta) we went home on a route that took us past the cupcake shop I’d seen on my walk earlier. YUM – Cupcakes Jones – snaps for being open in the evening and snaps for having mini cupcakes – just a couple of mouthfuls as a sweet treat after dinner.

Portland cupcakes!

Portland – Day 4

Today was a day off between the 2 conferences The Mister was attending so after we had the morning on Xero business and going to a meeting we had lunch with the locals at one of the strips of food carts.

Portland food carts

The afternoon was an adventure – we went on a bus over the river to visit the Stumptown roastery and spent a couple of hours there drinking coffee and using their wi-fi!

Portland bus stop

Dinner that night was at Mother’s Kitchen and it really was in some oversized dining room!

Mother's Kitchen

The food was American I guess, sliders (burgers), duck and beans, house salad etc and much to my delight, key lime pie which I always see reference to in Patricia Cornwell books but felt like I’d never yet had it in the States – this was proper homemade stuff. Such a huge slice though!

Portland – Day 3

Today was the second day of Mrs activities – City day.

We started out with a really great walking tour of the city – makes me want to go on the one in Wellington to see if our guides have got as much to say about Wellington and as many interesting little factoids as the Portland guide Adam did.

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Here are a bunch of random things I took in from the tour and regaled to The Mister later – he was so impressed that I’d remembered so much!!

  • Could’ve been called Boston over a coin toss.
  • The show we watch, Leverage, is filmed here even though it’s set in Boston.
  • Largest stand of elm trees in US is outside the Portland Art Museum – originally a park area it was cleared in the days of Sunday walks in your Sunday best as the rest of Portland was covered in trees, then replanted in elms many years later after the rest of Portland city had been cleared and they had no wooded area left – whenever Dutch Elm Disease happened, it wiped out all other elms on other side of the Rockies leaving this group in the Northwest as the largest group.
  • Portland is known for it’s sustainable and green initiatives and alternatives including the first gold class (or whatever the ranking system is) green hotel, Hilton.
  • In the 70′s  the city was fined every 3 days for bad air quality – pollution from cars – and that’s when they got together as a population and decided on a town plan which seems to still be at the heart of everything, they seem to vote and stick to it every couple of years.
  • No-one in Portland uses an umbrella – that’s how you can tell a tourist – locals just wear something with a hood and deal with it!
  • Shop and building signs aren’t allowed to stick out over the sidewalk – for pedestrian convenience supposed to be able to see 5 blocks in any direction when crossing the street (you can, I tried it!)
  • Portland known for 3 liquids water (unfiltered ) beer and coffee – the beer and coffee is good because of the water.
  • No pigeons in the city because falcons live under the bridges and peck them off if they are anywhere other than a couple of the enclosed city parks.
  • Smallest park in the world maintained by Portland parks and rec is in a traffic island – Mill Ends.

Portland - walking tour

After a lunch we rode the free inner city train to China Town for a wander around the Lan Su Gardens that were crammed into one city block. It was nice and tranquil and I got chatting to one of the wives who wanted to hear all about New Zealand as she was trying to convince her husband they should move there. I also got to see my first ever hummingbird – it was really close to my head and easy to see on the orange-coloured tree but it buzzed away by the time I got my camera zoomed onto it.

Portland - Lan Su Chinese garden

That evening we went with this couple to the top of the tallest building in Portland (that we’d had pointed out from the bus yesterday) to have cocktails at sunset. It was a great view from up there and a really clear evening that we were really lucky to get!

Portland view

Portland – Day 2

Today was the first of the ‘Mrs Days’ of JSConf – more typically known as the ‘Significant Other Track’ – while the conference-goers are choosing whether to attend talks on Track A or Track B, their partners can be entertained by the conference organiser’s wife.

Our first day of activities – Nature Day.

After a bit of getting-to-know you just after dropping our partners off at the conference we all boarded a bus for a trip out of the city to some falls and a tour of a historical mansion. I was almost last on the bus and it was amazing how quickly others had formed a click – I sat towards the back of the bus for an excellent vantage point of the groups forming up front. If you know the movie Miss Congeniality, you’ll know what I mean when I say it was like the bus trip that left the Alamo for the Miss United States Pageant! I noticed that the majority of the group were dark-haired and all extremely chatty “and like, my friend, like, is totally hooked up with, like the latest shops in her neighbourhood but I’m like, “girlfriend it’s one and a half times the cost of living in that neighbourhood, I put our expenses through one of those calculators and like it’s totally out of reach”". There was a much older couple on the bus and I wondered if they accompanied their son to the conference and were eligible for the Significant Other Track. The wives were all so chatty – I wonder if it’s because we’re all married to geeks who just sit in dark rooms and code all the time … I met one girl who was new to knitting and using a round needle on the sleeve of a sweater she was knitting she was able to walk, talk, stand and knit so the sleeve grew heaps during that first day.

The trip out of the city was pretty – the day was a bit misty and we followed the river along the border between Oregon and Washington states. We wound up into the hills to a vantage point and then onto the amazing Multnomah Falls – the second highest all year round falls in the States (assume Niagara is the first?)

Portland - The Vista House

We had lunch in the lodge at the falls – a giant corned beef on rye for me – had to take most of the meat out – it was enormous! It was freezing at the falls, I guess the spray kept the area around the water cool.

Portland - Multnomah Falls

After the falls we toured the Pittock Mansion – an early settling lumber family in the region. I don’t really have much patience for listening to tour guides talk about old stoves and bedrooms and faucets and customs but it was quite cathartic to show some interest and let it wash over me. The house wasn’t that spectacular compared to some of those I’ve seen in Europe but interesting enough. (Gosh that sounds a bit snobby and well-travelled!)

Portland - Multnomah Falls

Dinner tonight was at Clyde Common joined to the Ace Hotel. A place with a daily fresh produce menu where everyone sat at long shared tables. We sat up at the bar and after finding out that the bar tender was from Melbourne, we ate there rather than at a table. It was a great fresh meal – I had wholemeal pasta with asparagus, broad beans and other vegies and The Mister had “the best f’ing pork chop ever” (Ed. note later … turned out to be best meal of the trip). Another guy came to sit at the bar by himself and eventually we found out that he was from Australia (and knew the bar tender it turned out … who knew Australia was so small?) and had been attending the conference too so he and The Mister geeked on for a while, ordered port and cocktails, while I nodded supportively like a good wife and pretended that I was still present in the conversation while I checked Twitter and email (yaaaay for free wi-fi!).

Portland – Day 1

After a lovely lazy day, again sunny, with Bev and Dan yesterday (the boys played golf) we arrived in Portland about midday today and to our surprise it was quite sunny! I thought Portland (that’s Portland Oregon) was always rainy but apparently not. The flight was pretty quick and painless, 1.25 hours. We grabbed a map from the hotel and started wandering – first stop the downtown cafe of Stumptown Coffee Roasters.

We spent most of the afternoon wandering along the waterfront and getting the basic layout of the city, working out where The Mister needed to be tomorrow for the first conference. The city felt nice, and with the sun today a little bit like Wellington – in that sun is such a rare event that everyone was outside with their dogs and families enjoying the good weather.

Portland

The city is on a grid, very environmentally friendly (and friendly to the homeless as well it seems) and not too many chain stores – have spotted a Macy’s but no Bloomingdales. There are loads of bridges across the river, a tram that runs through town and lots of trees everywhere.

Portland

There was a knock at the hotel door in the early evening – hotel staff dropping off a ‘hangover kit’ for JSConf – they expect the conference attendees to party hard obviously! We went along to the opening night party – a room full of geeks and pirates including jugs of beer and some live parrots – tame enough that I was allowed a pat but I left pretty quickly when the one I was patting shat all down the skirt of the woman carrying her!! Pretty hard crowd to break into – hardcore geeks.

JSConf Pirate Party