Day Trippers in Portland: Book-Heaven & Gluten-Free ESB!

As the last part of the Epic Weekend of Mid-May 2009, the husband and I headed South to Portland . He had an audition, and I had the day off, so we decided to make a day of it!

Well, technically, it was a day and an abbreviated overnight, graciously granted by Lizzie and the Tall RedHeaded One, in Hillsboro. And although the husband and I simultaneously discovered a mutual incompetence at pool and encountered possibly the Most Depressing Bar on Earth, or at least in the greater Portland area — a cold and cavernous room with no lights turned on, bad and/or no music, no customers, and some unspecified claim to the Irish — the tea and the visit and the pull-out couch that followed were just perfect to get set for the big day ahead. Thanks, guys!

City of BooksWhile the husband prepared and auditioned on Monday, I wandered the Pearl District a bit and ultimately spent most of my day in the Best Place on Earth (or at least one of the top five in this region) Powell’s City Block of Books.

Siiiiiigh. Hours. Easy.

And I managed to leave with Only One Book.

Jolie Athenais Greater thrift never knew such a woman as could cleverly cull the dozens of “if onlies” and stalwartly stride away from piles of poetry, towers of travelogues, fairy stories by the castleful, and bins of bargain best sellers.  Can you believe it? True story.

And I do have high hopes for Athenais: The Life of Louis XIV’s Mistress, The  Real Queen of France by Lisa Hilton. I’ve been on a bit of a Versailles kick lately, and this is all about La Marquise de Montespan.

The husband joined me in Heaven (i.e., Powells) after his audition (which went very well, it sounds like!), and also managed to whittle down his wishlist to a couple of new play collections. And since Powells has this nifty
“Happy Hour” promotion going on, we also walked out with our very own Powells Pint Glass! And I know we must be the first ones on our block.

Drink your stories, kids!

After Powells, we met up with Lizzie downtown for a quick recap and a cuppa.

One Grecian Urn

One Grecian Urn

She chided me for attempting to take their picture on, “out of all the gorgeous locales, the most unattractive street around.”

Before I had a chance to argue that it was the street immediately outside her workplace and therefore exceedingly convenient, and that, well of course I planned to capture the beautiful, dappled leaves behind their smiling faces from what would certainly be a striking upwards angle, Lizzie decided she and the husband might as well just grab onto the ugliest thing in the unattractive street.

Et voila.

We said goodbye to Lizzy (hopefully not for another 9 months like last time!) and the husband and I continued on our daytrip.

And yes, I found some prettier things to take pictures of, including some panels at the Library and a barely visible mermaid on the window of what Lizzie called “some men’s store geared towards people who like leather and battle relics and nautical things” (we loved the look of it).


After a fruitless search for a new French Bakery “somewhere in Pearl,” and a side-trip into a neat little  haberdashery where I just couldn’t convince the husband he absolutely needed this fantastic leather aviator cap, we ended up at the Deschutes Brewery, just in time for a non-literary, slightly more traditional happy hour. Dinner and drinks for two — and plenty of it — for under 20 bucks. Not bad, eh?

And guess what? They had “Golden Ale,” a gluten-free ESB on tap!


It’s been so long since I had an actual ESB, I sort of forgot that “bitter” is actually part of the title! And honestly, I’m so out of the “sipping” habit that beer in general requires, I could only finish about half of my pint. But once I got the bitter back in my tastebuds, the sipping habit was slowly slipping home, and that half-a-glass was downright delicious.

We closed out the day, decadently with gelato. Pistachio for me and hazelnut for the husband. As far as I recall, it was my first taste of gelato ever … how is this possible?


Side note: When I told the Young and Completely Humorless Gelato Vendeuse that I was a “gelato virgin” and “aw, look how cute the little flower-shaped cups are!” she just shrugged and looked a little bored. “You can taste whichever ones you want”  and “uh, well, I guess you could take the cup with you… or recycle it. …or… whatever.” Totally did not share my enthusiasm. As the husband said on the way out: “How can you be surly working at a gelato shop? Doesn’t that just set your default to happy?” Guess not.


We headed back to Tacoma well after the evening rush, and on the way I continued our budding Road-trip Read-aloud tradition with a couple of stories from Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu.

And, except for a terrifying two-minutes deadbolt stuck in a disgusting men’s room at a truck-stop — it was really a perfect end to the day.

Thanks, Portland! Casting Gods willing, we’ll be seeing you again soon.


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