From Portland Street Music…

Street Music at the Portland Farmers Market

I wrote in a previous post about Portland when I was part way through my stay.  Now I’m just about finished here any my love for this place is as strong as ever!

Last time, I mentioned the Portland street people – with their crazy hair do’s, facial hair to match (for the males, anyway) and typically, dogs in tow!  The other great Portland street tradition is the street music scene.  For example, in addition to the wandering troubadours, the famous Saturday Market (also open Sunday during the summer) boasts a couple of stages where all variety of bands perform.

I was particularly taken by a band called ‘All The Apparatus’, an uniquely eclectic mix of accordions, guitars, wind instruments, all sort of percussion instruments, playing a blend rock, folk, gypsy music, blues, sea shanties, and so on.  Quite something to see and hear!

The ‘always happenin’ Pioneer Square regularly features live music (“Noon Tunes”), movies (Flicks on the Bricks), and all sorts of funky events (e.g., Sand in the City!)

…to Street Food!

Another Portland treat is the food (and drink!) – lots of wonderful restaurants of all persuasions and great brew pubs.  We found the food to be from very good to outstanding, with service to match and some of the more creative menus and cocktails I have seen anywhere!  And the prices are very reasonable – dirt cheap by comparison with New York, and cheap by comparison with Atlanta.

In addition to the plethora of permanent dining establishments are the quirky “food carts”.  This is a great phenomenon, where vacant lots are turned into mini-dining areas – reminiscent of the Hawker Centers in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.  In Portland, food carts are a fun and easy way to eat all variety of food – from burgers and tacos, to Indian, Thai, Italian, Mediterranean, Vietnamese, and so on.  Among our favorites were The Frying Scotsman, and Ciao Chow – great places to eat reasonable portions of excellent nosh at a great price!  In the words of the Food Carts Portland blog:

Portland has a proliferation of Food Carts and they seem to be growing in numbers and locations. Some might call them lunch wagons, taco trucks or even snack shacks, but whatever you call them, they are truly a phenomenon in Portland. Set up in parking lots, sidewalks, and even parks (sometimes in large groups and sometimes solo), one might nosh on a fresh tortilla Baja fish taco one day, a rib-sticking bowl of traditional goulash the next, have a coffee and pastry for an afternoon snack, and then take home a giant Indian combo box for dinner.”

Food Carts on 4th Avenue, Portland

They really are a treat – some of them quite gourmet, highly varied, very inexpensive and, most importantly – very clean and sanitary.  According to Portland Monthly, which has a special on Food Carts in its September Magazine, only 2 out of the 137 food borne illnesses reported in 2009 were traced back to food carts – they are strictly regulated.

…to Spectacular Scenery

We did rent a car a couple of days.  We took a trip into the Willamette Valley, and stopped at a Lavender nursery, Llama farm, and a winery – all delightful and easy to visit.  We explored the magnificent Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, where I went inside the unbelievably enormous Spruce Goose, ogled my favorite flying machine, the SR-71 Blackbird and drooled over a treasure trove of air and space memorabilia (I’m a sucker for large, radial airplane engines, jet engines and rockets!)

We visited the Columbia River Gorge with its many beautiful waterfalls and climbed the largest, Multnomah Falls.  We took the winding road up to Larch Mountain (oh, to be on a motorcycle for that!) and hiked to Sherrard Point.  From there we had amazing views of five major volcanic peaks (Rainier, Adams, the much flattened St. Helens, the mighty Hood and Jefferson).

We visited the famous International Rose Test Garden, which truly is breathtaking, and the tranquil Portland Japanese Garden nearby – a great setting to contemplate the mysteries of IT value realization!

Much of the great scenery is viewable from within the city, surrounded by hills as it is, and the two picturesque rivers.  As an example, I rented a bicycle for an afternoon, and rode along the East and West embankments of the Willamette River on a beautiful sunny day – splendid!  Yes, Portland is not only a walkable city – it’s also very bike friendly!

Portland – “The City That Works!”

Portland proudly sports the official motto, “The City that Works.”  From nearly three months up close and personal, I don’t know how true that is, but it does seem to be an apt description.  I know we saw Portland and the environs at its best – in the wonderful summer months.

Even the staunchest boosters admit that the winters can be hard to take.  I’m not a lover of rain.  To be more precise, I actually enjoy the torrential thunderstorms we get in the Southern US from time to time – at least from the comfort of my house!  But the seemingly constant damp of London was one of the reasons my wife and I uprooted and made the US our home some 35 years ago, and I understand that Portland can feel somewhat like London in terms of the rain.

I’m looking forward to completing my consulting assignment, but I will miss the vibe and efficient ease of Portland, where getting to or from the airport is a $2.30, 40 minute streetcar ride from a couple of blocks from my downtown hotel (thank you, Marriott Courtyard for taking such great care of my wife and me, and being such a great ‘home from home’! One of the most comfortable and best-run Courtyards in the USA!)

I will also miss the stimulation of working with a superb client team – they’ve been a real privilege to work with!  As is usually the case with my best clients, I’ve learned a lot from them, and leave the engagement with greater insight into Business-IT maturity and IT Operating Models than I arrived with.  I hope they feel the same about my short time with them!

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