My in-laws offered to watch the children for the weekend, so Cynthia and I were able to spend Friday and Saturday nights in Portland. It was nice to have a break. We haven’t spent any time in Portland in almost two years, and we were surprised how much things have changed. The area around Powells has really been built up recently, with a bunch of upscale chain stores and restaurants, and (more importantly) lots of parking. Since Powells has always been cursed with a lack of parking (and a lack of space in general), the changes in the neighborhood definitely count as an improvement to me. Even if they do include a P.F. Changs.

We made it out of Powells this time for $100, possibly our cheapest trip ever. If you’ve been there, then you’ll know what I mean.

I’m currently reading a copy of Altered Carbon that I picked up at Powells. It’s going well so far, but I’m not convinced that it’ll make it through to the end.A few minor reviews:

The Benson Hotel

We stayed at The Benson Hotel, thanks to HotWire. All in all, I wasn’t very impressed. Our room was nicely furnished, but it was really small and even though we were in a corner room at the end of the hall, it was amazingly noisy. We heard every door open and close on the floor. On Saturday morning, the maid was going down the hall, knocking on doors looking for rooms to clean at 8:00. She didn’t hit our room, but we could clearly hear her conversation with the people across the hall from us. We ended up shoving a towel into the gap under the door–it helped a bit, but it was still irritating. The hotel has paid WiFi service available. The signal strength was really strong; I’m not sure where they hid the nearest access point, but I doubt it was more then 30 feet away, considering how bad the antenna is in my PowerBook.

The Bijou Cafe

We had breakfast Saturday at the Bijou Cafe. It’s apparently rated as one of Portland’s best breakfast places, and it was good, but I wouldn’t put it on my “best ever” list. I had the roast beef hash, and it was dull and flavorless. A strategic application of salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce turned it into a decent dish, though. My wife was happier with her french toast, and was particularly taken with their tea service.

The Rheinlander

At a friend’s recommendation, we ate at the Rheinlander for dinner on Saturday. It’s German-themed, with roving accordionists. We had a nice private niche in the back, well away from the action in the center of the room. I don’t remember exactly what we ordered, but we enjoyed the meal. If you can cope with kitsch, it’s probably worth the trip.

The Bread and Ink Cafe

Breakfast Sunday was The Bread and Ink Cafe. This was my favorite meal of the trip; the wait was short, the room was clean, white, and bright, and the waiter was excellent, bordering on prescient. I had the blueberry pancakes and a side of bacon, partly as a response to the germanfest of the night before.