Sunday, July 16, 2006

We're here, we're here! And we're completely in love with this city. It's preternaturally beautiful, first of all, green and lush, the city crawling up the hills from the Willamette River, which runs through town.

The Jupiter Hotel is funky in the extreme, in all the right ways. It's an old ('50s, maybe) motor court that's been turned into a hipster hangout, complete with a very happening outdoor bar, The Doug Fir, that kept rockin', noisily, until the very wee hours. Thank goodness for iPods!

The guest rooms have lots of funky touches. The doors are painted with chalkboard paint, and there's a cup full of colored chalk so you can unleash your creative muse. They also provide bubbles, designer water and, most importantly for us, speakers with a cord to connect to your iPod.

We got checked in and changed, and then Ian showed up. It was the first time he and Christian had seen each other since Ian left Nashville, so there was lots of catching up to do. Being on the far western edge of the time zone, there was still plenty of daylight left at 9 p.m., so Ian drove us around the city for a while, including a stop by his employer.

We all went to a fun little restaurant stuck under a bridge in an industrial district in Portland called Le Bistro Montage, or just Montage, which is the name posted above the door. It's a dim room that has an atmosphere just as fun as the food, which includes an out-of-this world spicy Mac & Cheese, which was intense with garlic and cheddar cheese and chicken. Kristin had the daily special, the crab casserole, which was full of cheese and onions and lots and lots of very fresh crab. Yummy!

Inside the dimly lit dining room, they play rock 'n' roll, and most of the customers sit along a wall at a long communal table. Above on the wall is a giant painting of the last supper. Employees, mostly of the tattooed and pierced variety, are all playing games that you feel strangely connected to.

For one thing, the servers seemed to be in furious competition to outwit one another, fashioning interesting to-go boxes out of tin foil. There were scorpions, flowers and even helicopters with propellers that really spin. One was a tall, thin giraffe with a little head on top that must have been at least five feet.

We moved on to one of Ian's favorite dive bars, where Christian had Bridgeport Ale, one of his favorite beers, on tap. It's made just down the road.

Driving back to the hotel, we noticed the moon, which was larger than any of us had ever seen it, sitting right on the horizon, huge and golden. Knowing it was an optical illusion didn't make it any less magical. We attempted to get to the top of Mount to see it better, but the park was officially closed and we didn't want to run afoul of the police on our very first night of vacation, so we eventually gave up.

For now, we're going out for a day of exploration in Portland. Tonight we stay at Steve and Patti's house in Portland's Lake Oswego area.


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