This year Joseph and I did something a little different. We usually stay outside the city of Portland but this year we are right in the heart of the city. The center-of-town park is on Congress Square, directly across from the Portland Art Museum on one side and right next door to the hotel on the other side. It’s a cute venue with colorful plastic tables and chairs, shade-providing trees and space. It’s where people can sit and enjoy the passersby with a cup of tea or get some takeout and eat under the stars (or in the sun).
The park was just below my window. This morning I woke up around 6:30 and looked out the window. It’s something I like to do when I travel and stay in a city. I often find there’s a whole population of people who seem to disappear by the time the stores and businesses open. When I was in Atlanta earlier this year, I watched men arriving to their construction-site workplace at 5am. By the time the sun was coming up, the parking lot was full. By 8am, the cranes (3 of them outside my window) were in full swing (pun intended).
This morning, in Portland, I was amazed to see two people in wheelchairs putting the town park back in order after last night’s mini-concert. They were moving tables and chairs back into place. Actually, they were pushing them with their chairs. Who they were and why they were in wheel chairs and why were they re-positioning things in the park? Was it part of a special program to provide employment for certain groups who otherwise might not have a job? Were they volunteers? I wondered…
Diagonally across the street, the Police had posted barriers and event people were setting up for the annual art show/block party. Joseph and I don’t usually go, but we have done it couple times. This year, since we stayed right in the heart of town, we decided to walk around and see what crafty things there were in the street. We were surprised that it’s about half the size that it was the last time we went. So, after checking out the crafts, we decided to walk around town.
I think this was the first time we walked so much around the heart of Portland. We’ve walked around Old Port and the north end, and also the Scarborough suburb, and of course, the Portland head light. But this time we walked up and down the streets, first through the art show and then just “around” to see what the neighborhoods are like. I always find that walking where people actually live tells me more about the town than Fodors, AAA, or TripAdvisor. The houses around center city Portland remind me of the section of Philly near Drexel U and some reminded me of the row houses just outside 69th street, like neighborhood where Joseph’s house was.
While we walked I met a midlife woman delivering mail. She asked where we were from and we talked a little about West Chester and Philly. She had a decent accent and I asked where she was from. She was born and raised in the Ukraine. She immigrated to the U.S. twenty years ago. She suggested a place for us to have breakfast, but we couldn’t find it. We kept walking and ended up back at the end of the art show.
Still trying to decide where to have breakfast, we saw a restaurant call “Local 188” and it was pretty packed. So we walked over and the menu in the restaurant window showed a pretty substantial brunch menu. We went in and were told it would only be about a 15 minute wait, so we stayed. Happily, it wasn’t even that long a wait.
Before I knew it, I was enjoying a Bloody Mary and some corned beef hash and eggs. And we had a sweet and really upbeat server – a good sign for a great vacation!