Around the World – Pacific Northwest USA (part 22) – Portland, Oregon

The kids had their way on our last day in Portland, so we had a “Wie is the Mol?” day…

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The Pacific Northwest has always attracted us, but actually going there was triggered by a Dutch reality TV show, Wie is de Mol? (“WIDM”) whose 2017 season was set in Oregon.

In WIDM the goals of the 12 contestants is to increase the prize money by successfully completing team challenges. However, one of them is the “mole”, trying to keep the prize money as low as possible by subtly sabotaging the challenges and mixing up things in general. At the end of every episode all the contestants get quizzed on who they think is “de Mol” based on what happened in the group challenges. The contestant who has the least correct answers has to go home, but the mole always gets a pass of course… It’s edited in such a way that also at home conspiracy theories run amok as the series progresses. Needless to say it is a very popular and highly additive show, with its 18th season kicking off in January. We can’t wait!!

During the first 3 episodes Portland and surrounding areas were the backdrop of WIDM, before heading to Eastern Oregon (Pendleton and Oregon Trail) and ending to Central Oregon to explore the Cascade Mountains, lava fields, scenic rivers and wide-open spaces. Amazed by the beauty of Oregon, we decided to build our summer holiday around some of the locations that were shown on TV. We were not alone as the show’s popularity resulted in a remarkable 55% increase in searches for flights from the Netherlands to Oregon and actual bookings had tripled compared to 2016.

In the past posts you have already seen several locations that featured in WIDM: Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock on the Oregon Coast, Bend and The Painted Hills, Dee Wright Observatory and the McKenzie Pass in the Cascade Range, Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. We coincidentally also stayed in the same hotel in Portland itself, Hotel Modera, and had already walked past several other some locations (like Hawthorne Bridge, Voodoo Doughnuts, Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Alder Street Food Truck pod and Powell’s Books). There were still a couple of WIDM sites to tick off, especially because no vacation is complete without a visit to an amusement park.

Voodoo Doughnuts, Part 2
As to be expected when handing the reigns to the kids, we kicked off with a visit to Voodoo Doughnuts Two in Eastside Portland (1501 NE Davis St.), where a more extensive selection of delightful doughnuts was selected. The lines weren’t any shorter though…

Oaks Amusement Park
On the banks of the Willamette River in Portland’s more southern Sellwood neighbourhood, there are plenty of carnival thrills in the historic Oaks Amusement Park. It has been opened in 1905 and provides a mix of classics like bumper cars, a roller coaster, miniature golf, go-carts and modern rides that made us queasy just looking at them, especially the huge centrifuge-like contraption.

In WIDM, the contestants had the entire part for themselves at night and needed to reach the rides without getting caught by the (laser game) snipers.

The kids obviously loved the rides. The parents, still feeling full of just one doughnut, wisely avoided them and strolled around, studying the common American in their natural leisure habitat.

Willamette Falls
After that it was a short drive to Oregon City to admire the natural 40ft. (12m) high and 1500ft. (457m) wide horseshoe-shaped waterfalls in the Willamette river. As from 1842, the falls has been used to power various mills (lumber, flower, wool and paper) and was used for turbine-generated electricity for the city of Portland since 1889. Unsurprisingly, as the water throughput of the Willamette Falls almost equalled that Niagara Falls. Since 1873 a canal and set of locks allowed vessels to pass into the Willamette Valley as well.

The abandoned Blue Heron Paper Mill at the base of Willamette Falls was the scenery of a challenge the second episode of WIDM. It’s not open to public since it became defunct in 2011 when the Willamette locks have closed as well. Luckily, there are several vista points.

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It must be said that the view from the northern vista point on the I-205 was quite obscured. This was actually one of the best shot that I could take)..
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but from the southern viewpoint on Highway 99E, the panoramic views were quite impressive…

Q Restaurant & Bar
Inspired by the fantastic Japanese dinner at Yama on our first night in Portland, the kids had their eyes set on Mika Sushi (1425 SW 2nd Ave), but unfortunately the restaurant was closed that night due to unforeseen circumstances. Their second choice was Vietnamese, Luc Lac (835 SW 2nd Ave), which was 6 blocks away, but the lines there were insane.

So there we were, casually underdressed (shorts and slippers) and without any restaurants reservations for the Saturday night… We were so lucky to get a last-minute table at the packed Q Restaurant and Bar across the street (828 SW 2nd Ave), which turned out to be Annie Cuggino’s renowned restaurant and was one of Tripadvisors’ highest rated in Portland.

From their menu that is based on hyper-seasonal produce, Chantal choose the beautiful entree-size Panzanella Salad and a side of Sautéed Spinach (with whipped ricotta, toasted pine nuts and golden raisins) and I ordered the Lamb Bolognese. As long as there is pasta marinara with parmesan cheese on the menu, the kids are happy too!

The kids got some yummy freshly squeezed Grape and Apple juices; the foam on the latter almost made it look like a glass of unfiltered Weizen beer ;-). The Warm Pearl Bakery Pugliese Bread with EVOO and Maldon sea salt that we ordered never came (but wasn’t charged either) and the wine only just came before the food was served, so we were stuck with water for quite some time. Luckily, both the food and the wine were great.

Especially my Greek-style braised Lamb Bolognese with mint, feta cheese and pine nuts paired really well with the 2015 Sinister Hand (a Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blend with a touch of Cinsaut by Owen Roe from Wapato in Washington’s Columbia Valley.

As desserts, we had house made Melon Sorbet and Blackberry Ice Cream as well as the Crème Brulée from the “Smaller Treats” section. It was just that: delicious and served in a small coffee cup, much to the dismay of our youngest 😉

When we were waiting for our bill, there was some commotion as a hobo or skater (witnesses were not conclusive) threw a couple of bottles onto the restaurant’s front windows on Taylor Street, just behind where we were sitting. Luckily, they didn’t give way, so nobody got hurt and only some glass had to be swept from the sidewalk. Quite a stupid/gutsy move as the police station is only 1 block or so away and several patrol cars were circling the neighbourhood in minutes.

When we hit the street at 10pm to walk back to the hotel, the lines outside Luc Lac were still there!

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