Saturday, November 6, 2010

September trips: Portland/Seattle

Because I had committed myself to finishing The PinchBot invasion at or before BrickCon and there were certain scenes that required things that wouldn't fit in my suitcase I ended up staying up practically all night animating the night before we left. The shot were the giant pinchbot lands may be very short, but it took forever to do because I had to photograph every frame twice. For more behind the scenes about the episode check out my MOCpages entry.

I got some ridiculously small amount of sleep (2 or 3 hours) before getting up again to finish packing. I used to be vehemently opposed to coffee in any form, but Bert recently introduced me to the Mocha, which is delicious and highly caffeinated. It enabled me to get to the airport and on the plane without falling asleep. On the plane we sat next to a talkative Portland native named Janet who gave us a few suggestions on what to do in our short time there. Then we landed and I fell absolutely in love with Portland. Let me tell you why.

Portland is so green, there are trees everywhere. Not only are there more trees on the streets than in Chicago, but because there are forested hills in every direction so you can barely turn your head without seeing green. I love it. The downtown area where we were staying was nice and clean, with bins for trash, recycling and compost and electri-powered public transportation that's free in the downtown area. After we got checked in at our hotel (found through Priceline) we took a nap (very important) and got up with about two hours to kill before our dinner reservation. We walked to the restaurant taking a slow meandering route. We stopped at VooDoo donuts which Bert had had recommended to him. It had a cool funky vibe and a wide selection of elaborate donuts. Bert got the eponymous donut and I got an Old Dirty Bastard, which had oreos and peanut butter on top. They were enormous and delicious.

We walked through a park and saw a good chunk of the Pearl District (which is where Bert wants us to live if we ever move there) and then had an amazing dinner at Andina. There was cerviche and lomo saltado and grilled asparagus and it was all heavenly (there were also some potatoes that were purgatorial). I want to eat that meal again right now. NOM NOM NOM.

The next morning, we walked west through the town in search of a breakfast place and just when we were getting frustrated we found a cute little coffeehouse and got some "exquisite" hot chocolate. Then we went for a short hike in Washington Park which puts the city parks in Chicago to shame. Washington Park is in walking distance from the main downtown area, but it offers a immersive natural experience that you'd have to drive for an hour to get in Chicagoland. We stepped into the park and were immediately hiking up a lush path beneath towering Redwoods. Simply gorgeous. Further inside the park we walked through the rose garden (which was lackluster, but it might have been off season) and the Japenese garden, which was amazing both for it's landscaping and design and for amazing views of the city.

We took public transportation back to our hotel. It was clean and simple and scenic. There may have been a nap at this point. Then we picked up lunch from one of the best rated food trucks: Built to Grill, which makes amazing Italian food (more on that in a bit) and headed over to the Zipcar I had reserved for the afternoon. Then we took a drive along a historic scenic highway along the Columbia River gorge filled with scenic overlooks and waterfalls. The starting point was maybe 20 minutes from our hotel. We stopped at the first overlook and ate our lunch. I had an amazing chicken pesto tomato mozzarella sandwich and bert had a penne pasta and sausage concoction I believe. There was cannoli for dessert. It was really tasting and the view wasn't bad either.

See that little gray stone building in the distance? That's vista house, it was our second stop and had wonderful panoramic views. (Click the photos for larger versions)

There were a lot of waterfalls along the highway. Some we admired from the car and others we parked and walked to get a closer view. The waterfalls are much more impressive when viewed close up as evidenced by these two pictures of the same waterfall:

There were nice little hiking trails around the falls, full of lush vegetation and spectacular views:

Then we got to Multnomah Falls, the tallest one in Oregon and the "third tallest year-round waterfall in the United States".

There is a path that leads all the way to the top of the waterfall and I thought it would be cool to look over from the top and I convinced Bert that we should do it. He agree to do it, but wasn't happy about it, as evidenced by this blurry photo:

11 switchbacks and an hour and a half later we were at the top, sweating and disappointed that the view wasn't more spectacular.

Note the tiny cars on the right side of the picture. That's where we parked.

That evening (after a nap, of course) we had dinner at Beaker and Flask which was again excellent. The next morning we had a nice breakfast and then took the Cascade train to Seattle. I alternated between sleeping, reading and looking out the window.

Then we were in Seattle! Seattle is a much more urban city than Portland, though they do share similar vibes. It is very hilly (though not like San Fransisco) and while the downtown is filled with skyscrapers and highrises, the residential neighborhoods we visited felt more like small towns than part of a big city.
We checked in at the Hyatt (Bert's last free stay left over from his job with Hyatt) and then went down to Pike Place Market to get a late lunch/early dinner. I was a little overwhelmed by all the people and sights and sounds, but once we sat down to eat I was fine. After eating we headed over to the Seattle Center Exhibition hall to get checked in at BrickCon and start setting up. This is what the NNN booth looked like on Saturday. In addition to the usual (computer playing videos, DVDs on sales, flyers and business cards for the taking, and Phil and Sherry's desk) I set up a scene from The Pinchbot Invasion with lights where I had actually animated it the day before and we sold extra minifigs from my collection. We made a killing on the minifigs.

We walked around the Seattle Center a little bit that night. It's a big green campus filled with big cultural buildings (museums, performance spaces, art buildings etc.) and the Space Needle. It was very pretty at night with a lit up fountain going and we had a nice little romantic walk.

Then we took the monorail back downtown to our hotel. Yes, Seattle has a monorail. It only has two stops (which happened to be exactly where we needed to go between) and it looks like it's straight out of DisneyWorld, but it's a real form of transportation.

Friday, Bert spent his morning at a spa so I could spend the day at BrickCon animating the last scenes. That evening we got dinner in the Capitol Hill neighborhood at Spinasse (amazing Italian food) and got a drink at a gay bar down the street. Saturday morning was the first set of public hours and it was swamped, people were buying the minifigures so fast, we could barely take the money and give them their fig before the next person was asking for one. Bert was a huge help, as he more or less took over those sales so I could focus on selling the DVD and handing out fliers. That evening we had dinner at a great Thai Place in the Queen Anne neighborhood and then went up the Space Needle. Here's what the view was like:

Sunday started off with another public day and I had a little time to actually walk around and see other people's creations. Here's my write up of BrickCon on the NNN site and here's my gallery of pictures, my absolute faves are here, here, and here. That night we switched to a new hotel downtown (thanks again to priceline) and spent the night in the room. Bert helped me count the money:

The next morning we went to the Public library to see the cool architecture:

And then we walked around a bit and went back to Pike Place market where there was a photobooth:

Then it was back home and back to normal life.

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