Category: My Favorite Places

I saw the sun in Seattle one winter day

Mount Rainier enjoying a sunny day.

Mount Rainier enjoying a sunny day.

I have a love/hate relationship with Seattle. I love Seattle, but I hate paying for parking so most of my trips to Seattle are on foot. I don’t walk all the way from my home…I drive to a ferry, walk onboard and then stroll the streets of Seattle. On a sunny day this walking thing is a pretty good idea, but when it is raining I will sometimes pay the cost of parking because I am a wimp and don’t want to get my shoes wet. Recently I had to drive into Seattle and it was a sunny day, this convergence of opposites is sometimes known as a miracle, but I like to think of it as a coincidence.

That's not smog, that's called mist.

That’s not smog, that’s called mist.

Once we (me and my two favorite ladies) arrived in Seattle we headed for the Fremont area. Fremont calls itself the “center of the universe” although I believe Galileo said it wasn’t. It was one of the reasons he was excommunicated. The church may have forgiven him, but Fremont still hasn’t. Fremont has a troll that lives under a bridge, a rocket, a large statue of Lenin, and an annual naked bike ride.

We were a little early for our scheduled appointment, so we headed for Gas Works Park.  Morning frost covered the ground and there were icy patches in the parking lot. As we walked through the parking lot  I was surprised to see a little girl with her dad and a sled.

Sledding Seattle style: a hill, some frost, and no fear.

Sledding Seattle style: a hill, some frost, and no fear.

They climbed to the top of the hill in Gas Works Park and she took off sledding down the hill. It is a steep hill, a dangerous hill, and the little girl loved it. I was envious, but I was not dressed for sledding, so I did what most adults do, I stood around wishing I was younger.

On top of the hillside is a cement solstice calendar and one of the best views of the city. My daughter poked holes in the ice of the solstice calendar and I took pictures like a tourist with an itchy trigger finger.

The top of the hill in Gasworks Park.

The top of the hill in Gasworks Park.

The old gas works area is now surrounded by an attractive, aging, rusted, barbed-wire fence to prevent lawsuits or injuries or to give homeless people a challenge. I’m not a historian and I don’t want to look up information on Gas Works Park so the next few sentences are going to be fiction (lies). Gas Works Park was originally a set from the Mad Max movies. The Australian government gave it to the city of Seattle as a gift of goodwill (like the French and the Statue of Liberty.) Today the gasworks are used to form a pocket of rust in the downtown area as a metaphoric reminder of the approach of death that we all face.

Gasworks Park. Famous for looking like a zombie movie set.

Gas Works Park. Famous for looking like a zombie movie set.

Seaplane approaching landing.

Seaplane approaching landing.

The Olympic Mountain Range hiding beneath the Aurora Bridge.

The Olympic Mountain Range hiding beneath the Aurora Bridge.

After about 20 minutes of winter sun and cold, we headed back to Fremont for coffee and our appointment. Fremont is a great little pocket of Seattle. American neighborhoods could learn a lot from Fremont, but I think most American neighborhoods don’t understand Fremont’s ironic sense of humor. While some neighborhoods line their streets with Neighborhood Watch signs, Fremont went out and bought an old rocket. The statue of Lenin was probably picked up on eBay (this is a lie, the statue predates eBay) and the Troll is just cool. The message of Fremont is perfect: Dude, take it easy. Why you all stressed out?

Fremont's own rocket.

Fremont’s own rocket.

Israel has the Iron Dome, Freemont has this.

Israel has the Iron Dome, Fremont has this.

After our visit to Fremont we decided to head to Capitol Hill area. I really hadn’t traveled to Capitol Hill much before a year ago because I was an idiot. I have begun to remedy this situation by visiting this little hipster enclave whenever we are driving in the city. I am clueless about Hipsters and so I will make some wild generalizations intended to be funny and not offensive. If you are sitting at a cafe reading this in jeans that you stole from your sister, don’t get your pant legs all rolled up.

As far as I can tell being a Hipster means wearing clothing that looks used, is two sizes too small, and if you are a guy you must have some type of strange facial hair. The male version of Hipsterdom confuses me a great deal. In my opinion there is nothing more uncomfortable than a tight pair of jeans. I am not suggesting I never wore tight jeans, but that was the 80s and the jeans were paper-thin and soft. Today the jeans look like they have been dipped in starch and are so tight and small that I am certain hospitals in the area have to have special scissors to cut them off when a hipster ends up at the hospital after falling off his one-speed bike. (Come on kids, put on a helmet when you are on a bike. This isn’t Breaking Away, I believe that movie was shot in Indiana.)

It was lunchtime so we went to Oddfellows.

Hipster food place on Capitol Hill.

Hipster food place on Capitol Hill.

See, I told you it was a hipster place. That is Oly beer in there.

See, I told you it was a hipster place. That is Oly beer in there.

Now you don’t need a PhD to eat at Oddfellows, but you do need to pay attention. So here’s a guide so you don’t look like an idiot: 1. Stand in line, 2. Read the big menu on the wall, 3. When you get to the front, order your meal, 4) Don’t pay anything. Don’t take out a credit card. Don’t give the person working a CASH REGISTER anything resembling money. Why? I don’t know, but most often people nearest the CASH REGISTER are the ones you pay, but not in Oddfellows. In Oddfellows you get a little table number from the person working the CASH REGISTER. 5) Go sit at a long table with the other hipsters. You can talk about things like hair gels and where to buy the best child sized suit vests. 6) When your waiter brings you your food looking like he just stepped off a farm (gumboots? really? I am super confused about this whole thing) eat. 7) When you finish eating, pay the waiter.

IMG_0467

Hipster foodies: Communal tables, order here, sit there, waiters in gumboots.

After our meal, the food was good, we strolled next door to Elliott Bay Book Co. I like Elliot Bay Book Co. and I like books, but it is sad to me that the bookstore is about half its old downtown size, its like it moved to Capitol Hill and lost 100 pounds. It does have all the elements of a great bookstore in my opinion: books, and odd smells.

My favorite side street in Capitol Hill. Elliot Bay Bookstore and hipster food.

My favorite side street in Capitol Hill. Elliot Bay Bookstore and hipster food.

Our final stop was at some cupcake place. I ran into my first cupcake shop about five years ago in San Francisco. I never really gave much thought to cupcakes until then, but these days if I want something sweet, cupcake shops are a good place to spend too much money for a little snack.

Bacon and Bourbon cupcake? Thank you, may I have another? Also located on Capitol Hill.

Bacon and Bourbon cupcake? Thank you, may I have another? Also located on Capitol Hill.

The sun was dropping and we had a good day, so it was time for the long slog home. A ferry ride, a drive, a few stops along the way and then home. Thank you sunny Seattle.

My Favorite Places: The British Museum

Someone in London deserves a medal. I am not speaking of the upcoming Olympics or of some Londoner’s brave behavior during WW II, I am talking about a cultural decision to make many of the museums in London free. The first time I traveled to London I did not know this and I purchased a “London Pass” which got me into a few of the attractions that had an entrance fee (Tower of London, Queen’s Gallery), but when I tried to use my pass at most of the museums (National Gallery, Tate Modern, Natural History, Victoria and Albert) I discovered that these cultural landmarks were there for everyone to enjoy without having to spend a quid, a pound, or a guinea.

These museums are not free because they suck, the are free because someone decided that you shouldn’t have to pay to see some of the greatest stuff in the world. My favorite museum in London is The British Museum.

There is something about the light in the Great Court.

There are people who are probably saying as they read this, “Well, the reason the museum is free is because all the stuff inside is stolen from somewhere else.” Sure, Elgin is not going to get a warm reception in Greece any time soon, but I don’t think he cares since he has been dead for many years, but most of England doesn’t care either. It is that British attitude that is both admirable and maddening. For all their cultural awareness and preservation of the arts, there is an underlying, unspoken message for people who don’t like it, “We don’t care what you think.”

The greatness of the museum collection is unquestioned. The Elgin Marbles are impressive, the Rosetta Stone sits behind a big glass case and is always surrounded by people, the Egyptian rooms are impressive, but what I like best about the museum is that two great poems were inspired by visits here.

Rumor has it that John Keats wrote Ode on a Grecian Urn after visiting the museum, and Lord Byron penned Ozymandias after seeing a broken statue in one of the halls.

I am Ozymandias.

There are probably other reasons to like the museum, but each time I have visited I find myself circulating in the same general area: enter the Great Court, take a left and wander for a couple hours.

The Rosetta Stone before the computer program.

Balawat Gates.

Now the British Museum is not everyone’s favorite place, in fact some people don’t like anything about the museum other than the food.

So, if you are a lover of chocolate frogs or reminders of the greatness of man’s ancient cultures the British Museum is a must see, and it is one of my favorite places.

My Favorite Places: The Art Institute, Chicago

Chicago maintains its reputation as a tough, broad-shouldered city by generously consuming unhealthy foods and living near the farmlands of America where, at least once a year, a farmer manages to get his arms pulled off by some machine.The armless farmer then walks five miles to the nearest farmhouse to call for a doctor. He is airlifted to Chicago where his arms are reattached and he is on the evening news for a week saying things like, “I thought about trying to take the cell phone out of my pocket to call, but I didn’t want to get blood on my pants. I wish I had gone with the iPhone 4s, then I could have asked Siri how to cauterised a wound.” It is this stoic, midwestern attitude that dominates the city of Chicago, at least as far as I remember.  I lived there many, many years ago.

I returned to Chicago a couple years ago to see one thing: George Seurat‘s, Le Grand Jatte. No, Le Grand Jatte is not a restaurant that serves bratwurst covered in green relish and onions–although Le Grand Jatte would be a good name for a restaurant or picnic store–it is a painting housed in one of my favorite museums: The Art Institute.

The Art Institute has one of the greatest collections in the WORLD. That’s right, the WORLD. In other words, one of the greatest museums on planet Earth resides in the city of broad shoulders, stacker of wheat, player with railroads and freight handler for the world. If you don’t believe me check this out:

Bam!

Pow!

Smack!

Judo Chop!

Blam!

Kaplooee!

I would have put another picture in this location, but Hopper‘s Nighthawks was on vacation in Boston when I visited.  Instead I will leave a large blank space here to represent my bitterness and anger after I discovered the painting was on loan and I would just have to live with it.

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I spent four hours in the museum. I wish I had set aside a full day because the four hours I had allotted myself was not enough.  I sprinted through the collection and didn’t really have a chance to savor the paintings like the true art connoisseur that I am, and I am not in great shape so four hours of walking fast wore me out.

So if you are visiting Chicago after pulling your arms off, or just on a regular vacation, you owe it to your eyeballs to go to The Art Institute, it is one of my favorite places.

My Favorite Places: Musée de l’Orangerie

The Musee de l’Orangerie might be my favorite art museum in the world. Instead of trying to explain why you should go, I will do the lazy thing and drop a couple of pictures into my blog now.

Like Monet? Here's some Monet for you.

Here's some more.

Feeling lightheaded? Grab a seat and enjoy the view.

The museum is spectacular on multiple layers.  The two upstairs rooms have eight Monet paintings surrounding you like covered wagons in a movie starring John Wayne and those rooms are totally awesome.  I don’t mean totally awesome in a 1980’s Jeff Spicoli way, but in a “I can’t believe someone did this” way. I like Monet just like most people, but I am not crazy about Monet. Monet is a lot like Barry Manilow to me: I like his songs, I know his songs, I won’t admit in public that I like his songs but put on Mandy and I’m singing along with Mr. Manilow in a few seconds. But, if given the choice between Mr. Manilow and something edgier, I go with the edgier, and the edgier is downstairs in l’Orangerie.

The personal collection of  Paul Guillaume is hiding in the basement of the museum and I must say that dude had some pretty good taste in paintings. It’s easy to look at his collection today and think that you could have selected the same paintings if given the chance, but come on, let’s all be honest here, he took some chances.

What I like best about Guillaume’s collection is the weirdness of it. Many of these artists were really stretching the idea of beauty. Do I know that from some art class I took or a book I read? No, I am no Art major, I am just a guy who knows what I like, and I like weird paintings.

Exhibit A

Not strange enough for you? Here is my favorite painting in the museum:

The town is melting...

If you don’t like Chaim Soutine you can still find a nice collection of Picasso, Cezanne, Matisse, Modigliani and Renoir. I love Soutine and l’Orangerie has the largest collection of his work that I am aware of. I could spend a couple of hours looking at these paintings, but not everyone in my family likes his stuff, my son asked me if Soutine had a physical disability, not the greatest compliment for a painter unless you are Chuck Close.

The museum is just the right size for a leisurely two-hour visit without having to feel rushed. The line to get into the museum can get a bit long so I suggest showing up just before it opens so you can maximize your time. So, if you are visiting Paris, live in Paris, passing through Paris, visit the l’Orangerie it is one of my favorite places.

My Favorite Places: The Gardens of Versailles

The Palace at Versailles is on several lists of things you should see before you die. Unfortunately places that end up on everyone’s bucket-list are pretty crowded (people take these bucket-lists seriously.)

I have been to the Palace at Versailles a couple of times: once in a driving rain storm which should have sent everyone home, and once during a lovely warm day which should have sent everyone outside to the gardens, but the problem with Versailles is that almost everyone who arrives there is trapped by the clock and their paid tour. Groups of human blobs clog every hallway, vista, and room. The most annoying groups follow a tour guide who holds up a little flag so his flock of sheep don’t get lost. These groups are under the impression that they are descendants of Louis XVI and therefore can take up 80% of the space where ever they go.

The a typical picture from inside the Palace.

The crowds might be frustrating but it is worth the trip to see the Palace in all its crowded splendor. My suggestion is to make your trip to the Palace secondary and spend your time in the gardens.

For me going to gardens usually ranks right up there with going to a fabric store, but the gardens at Versailles are different. First of all, if you plan your trip correctly you don’t have to pay to see the gardens. The gardens behind the Palace are open to the public (except on Sunday when they have a music and fountain show) and if you are bold enough you can walk up to the palace and take a peek inside if you are dying to see what crowds of people look like.

The gardens themselves are lovely, that’s right, I said “lovely.” (I worked in a cemetery for a couple of summers and I know how hard it is to tame wild hedges and keep things looking nice.) The best part about the gardens is that they are almost free of people.

Apollo's Fountain in the garden at Versailles.

Since most people are on a tight timeline, many of them never make it down to the garden area, so while the rest of the traveling world is trapped in the Hall of Mirrors for half an hour , you can be strolling through the gardens getting lost.

Bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes, because the gardens are large.

Maps of the gardens are available for people who don't want to get lost.

Amphitheater hidden away from the public by some tall hedges.

So if you are thinking of going to Versailles, my suggestion is to save yourself a couple of Euros and spend the day in the garden. Pick up picnic supplies in the center of town (they have a farmer’s market most days), grab a bottle or two of wine and sit down by the fake lake and enjoy life like a King/Queen. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you spend the majority of your time in the gardens, it is one of my favorite places.

My Favorite Places: The Rose Theatre, Port Townsend, Washington

I do love a good theater and these days “good” theaters are getting more and more difficult to find. What now passes as a good theater is some place that has 16 movies to choose from, seats that rock and full ear-shattering sound. The Rose is not one of those theaters.

Here is where I am going to sound like a snob: Going to a multiplex should be something you do only when you have to, like getting a colonoscopy. Maybe part of my problem with multiplex movie watching is that I feel like a cow being taken to slaughter when I go. Crowd in this line, walk down these increasingly narrow halls until you come to a room where advertisements disguised as entertainment play between movies, advertisements that I paid ten dollars to watch.

The Rose, on the other hand, is a personal experience. You can buy tickets online if you want to guarantee yourself a seat, but you still have to get your ticket from the little ticket box before entering the theater itself. There are two screens: The Rose and the Rose Bud. I am not sure how many seats there are in either theater, but one of them probably holds about 50 people and the other one holds around 150. Most of the movies are independent films and foreign, but they also show blockbusters. For example, right now the two movies playing are The Hunger Games and Pina.

The Snack bar at The Rose.

The snack bar is small, efficient and has some of the best popcorn in the world. The prices are nearly as ridiculous as most theaters, but don’t fret, the popcorn is worth it. Order the medium-sized popcorn in a large bag. Take the 2/3 filled bag to the seasoning bar and start adding stuff. I like the parmesan cheese and yeast mix (if you have not had yeast on your popcorn add it to your bucket list).

Once I am fully supplied, I head into the theater and find my seat. My seat is easy to find because no one ever wants to sit in the front row. At the Rose, the front row is not 25 feet below the screen, so I get all the benefits (no one in my line of vision+leg room) of the front row and none of the problems.

Then the best thing happens, a member of the staff comes out and welcomes everyone to The Rose and gives a mini-lecture about the movie. They don’t say, “Tonight your movie is about a crazy ballerina,” they add something to your movie going experience. Sometimes the information is about the director, sometimes it is about an actor, and sometimes it is about the writing/production of the movie. Then they remind you to turn off your cell phones and ask you to pick up after yourself, in other words, they treat you like a human being with a brain. (I have never seen anyone texting during the movie or heard a phone ring.)

After the movie, stroll Water Street and pick up a slice of Waterfront Pizza. Sure the place looks like a hole in the wall but if you have functioning taste-buds they will thank you. If you are really feeling daring and it is a nice day, pick up a couple slices, grab a Port Townsend Amber Ale and head to Chetzemoka Park.

So if you are in the northwest corner of the United States, head to Port Townsend and take in a movie at The Rose Theatre. It is one of my favorite places.

My Favorite Places: Bacharach, Germany

Nestled along the Rhine River sits a little town named Bacharach. Bacharach is one of those towns that refuses to move into the 19th Century. Sure it has running water and toilets, but it is like a little town in a snow globe, it is as cute and unchanged as any place I have ever been. There is a fake almost Disneyland look to the town, but it is a real place.

Downtown Bacharach during rush hour.

The cobblestone streets, the leaning timbered buildings, and the lack of crowds makes a tourist feel like they have fallen off the world. How many times did I say, “I can’t believe this place still exists?” Probably too many, but I really couldn’t believe it.

What is there to do in Bacharach? Eat, sit around, drink cold sweet wine, walk, take short hikes up to the castle above the town, and relax. This is not a destination if you are 25 and looking for a party, but for families or finely aged members of the world this is a great destination.

Don’t miss the ice cream/gelato shop on the main street and don’t forget to head up into the hills away from the river.

Bacharach and the Rhine from the hillside above the town.

Above the town is a trail leading to a destroyed church and a castle that has been converted into a hostel. If you venture just beyond the castle there is another fantastic viewpoint.

The end of the trail above Bacharach.

The interior courtyard of the castle above Bacharach.

Most of the hillsides around Bacharach are lined with vineyards and dotted by castles. There are river boats that will drag you up and down the river if you want to feel like you’re on a Disney ride with 3,000 of your closest friends. (It is a crowded touristy activity, but I think it was worth it.) A few of the castles are in ruins but the majority of them have been pretty well preserved. The castle above St. Goar is stunning. I intended to visit the castle with my family but I ordered a large beer for lunch. After drinking the two liter beer, I didn’t really feel like doing much, other than taking a nap. These are the difficulties in traveling in Germany, you order a big beer and they bring you something that looks more like a pitcher of beer than a pint. I am not a wasteful person, so I had to drink all of it.

For some folks Bacharach is a good distance from other destinations, but the German rail system is so good it really isn’t too inconvenient to find your way there. So, if you are planning a visit to Germany and you want to see what life was like before television, head to one of my favorite places: Bacharach.

My Favorite Places: Being Lost

One of my favorite places in the world is being lost. I like being lost. There are of course different levels of lost and I will admit that being lost at night is not the best, or being lost with other people (for example, my family) is not a great deal of fun, and being lost in the woods is not something I would suggest doing unless you are filming one of those survival shows. Some might call the type of lost I am writing about wandering, but I like the term lost better.

I have been lost many, many times. There was a time when being lost made me anxious, but lost hasn’t killed me yet, although there was a time I nearly died while hiking around Mount Rainer, but that is less of a “lost” story than it is a “following the wrong trail” story.  The variety of lost I am talking about is the type where you drop yourself somewhere unfamiliar and you begin exploring. Leave the maps behind and just let the day unwind, this is best done on foot and don’t get crazy and plop yourself somewhere dangerous, find a spot off the beaten path and begin drifting.

Entering into the world of wandering is a wonderful thing, too often people plan their trip itinerary down to the minute, I have been guilty of doing it, but if you really want to relax plan to get lost. For the really gifted traveler getting lost isn’t something that even has to be scheduled, it just happens naturally. It might be on a trip to wash a backpack full of clothes that you find yourself lost, or maybe you hop on the wrong metro train and find that you are suddenly miles from you planned destination, take a deep breath and accept the unplanned day as a gift from the traveling gods.

A few years ago I became epically lost (not quite as epic as Ulysses) in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. My intention had been to zip into the cemetery, get a quick picture of Jim Morrison’s grave for my son, and then spend the rest of the day on Montmartre. My plan had two major flaws: 1. I was using a guidebook with a very small map, 2. I was under the impression that everyone would be looking for Jim Morrison’s grave.

I gave up on the map after about thirty minutes, but I could not give up on the idea that following groups of people would lead me Mr. Morrison’s decomposed body. So for four hours I followed groups of mostly young people like I was a very large, conspicuous spy. Believe it or not, this very excellent plan did not lead me to find Jim’s grave, but I did find many graves of other pretty famous people. I ended up having a very good day of walking and reminiscing about the good old days when I worked in a cemetery for two summers. If I had found Jim Morrison’s grave immediately here is what I would have missed:

Georges Rodenbach busting out of his tomb

Edith Piaf's grave site

Modigliani...wow...Modigliani

Alice Toklas and right next door...

Gertrude Stein

Mr. Wilde

I eventually did find Mr. Morrison’s grave and I can honestly say that I liked Victor Noir’s much better.

This is what four hours of lost looks like. Mr. Morrison napping peacefully in the background.

Fertility charm and grave of Victor Noir.

My Favorite Places: The Pergamon Museum, Berlin

When it comes to stealing really large things from ancient civilizations there is a great deal of competition. The English have the British Museum filled with pilfered artifacts that they refuse to return, the French have done a nice job of grabbing old stuff and hiding it in the Louvre basement, but the Germans really set the bar when they filled the Pergamon Museum with some really, really big relics from the ancient world.

When I first read about the Pergamon Altar I assumed that it would be a reconstruction of bits and pieces found scattered on some desert landscape, but it is not, it is the whole thing. It is massive. It is not only massive, it is nearly complete and preserved.

I have moved a few pianos in my lifetime, but never have I seen something this big inside a building. I wondered how they got the whole thing in the room, but I am sure I don’t really want to know who was forced to put the Altar together. I doubt it was a union labor job.

I am not one to suggest returning ancient artifacts to the original countries, I like being able to see the great works of the ancient world without getting my shoes dusty, but when I saw the Pergamon Altar I did think a line had been crossed. Berlin has enough historical sites without stealing a few from other countries, but since my entire country was stolen from the Native Americans I doubt there is a moral high ground I can stand upon. At least that was my thinking until I left the Altar room and saw this:

Yeah, those are the Gates of Ishtar from the ancient city of Babylon. Unfortunately when they set up the Gates in the Pergamon they were not considering how I might get a photo of the entire set up. So instead I walked around in a daze snapping photos of other tourists taking photos.

The Gates of Ishtar were more impressive than the Altar. The ancient city of Babylon in my head was one of those mythical places like Troy or Mordor, but there it was, the actual gates that people walked through thousands of years ago. The color of the tiles was one of the most surprising aspects of the gates. I have always had a stonewashed vision of the past, but here the colors were vivid and shockingly detailed. I cannot imagine how impressive the gates were to the ancient travelers visiting Babylon.

So if you are in Berlin and have a few hours to kill between eating Berliner doners, drop by the Pergamon Museum, it is one of my favorite places.

My Favorite Places: Powell’s Bookstore

Portland, Oregon is home to the greatest bookstore in the world. Now I have not been to all the bookstores in the world but Powell’s, in downtown Portland, is everything a bibliophile could want in a bookstore. As the Romans said, “It isn’t the size of the bookstore, it is what you do with it.” Powell’s is a full city block in girth and six floors in length. Well, Powell’s has size and they know what to do with it.

English: Powell's City of Books NW Entrance- P...

Each year I take a pilgrimage to Powell’s with a friend. Tradition dictates that the journey takes place in May and we spend at least four hours wandering through the store. Does that sound like too much time in a bookstore? Well, you probably haven’t been to Powell’s, four hours is barely enough time to scratch the surface. Rows and rows of poetry, thousands of books on Shakespeare, enough history to make the librarians at Alexandria jealous, kids books, books on farming, knitting, even boring crap like math has a full section. Pick up a map of the bookstore when you enter the building and you should be able to find your way around. You can park in the Powell’s garage and they will validate an hour of parking if you buy something. If you make it out of Powell’s without a purchase you are a bad person and if you are there less than an hour you are an idiot.

The rare book room on the sixth floor can cause heart palpitations. I saw a first edition Catcher in the Rye there, I wasn’t allowed to touch it, but I saw it. ($3,500.00 if you want to get me something for Christmas.) Oh, there are some Hemingway 1st editions, some Ken Kesey 1st editions, and lots and lots of old books that make me wish I was rich.

There is a café in the store on the second or third floor…it is almost in between the second and third floor…just walk toward the coffee smell and you will find it. The café serves your typical northwest coffee with a hint of Portland style. Portlanders (Portlandians?) are unique people. Don’t judge a Portlander by their cover; even the most tattooed and pierced member of the Portland tribe is friendly. The staff at Powell’s may look like they just escaped from a fire-eating-circus and freak show, but they did not. The strange haircuts, the odd glasses, the lack of deodorant, the eyebrow piercings and the earlobes stretched to extremes by gauges are all part of the charm of Portland. These people love books and are happy to help you. They are not snotty, know-it-all-elitists, they are like your weird aunt or uncle who always knows what book you should read next.

People from outside of the northwest need to know one thing when traveling to Portland: it is not Seattle. The two cities are vastly different and so are the people. Portland is relaxed and nearly European in feel. Seattle is a little colder, a little more uptight and a little more business focused. If you took Portland and Seattle and mixed them together you would get San Francisco. If you like the relaxed quality of SF, then Portland is your city. If you like the business suit and Starbucks, then Seattle is your spot.

If you ever visit Portland you must visit Powell’s, it is one of my favorite places. I will be there this year on May 18th,look for me in the rare book room.

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