Monday, July 11, 2011

Pastries, Ponies, and Thundereggs in Portland

The heck with "Snakes on a Plane." My trip to Portland, Oregon, began with "Snacks on a Train." What a lovely way to start a vacation: hopping aboard a brand-new Amtrak train car in the wee hours of the morning and sitting back with a cup of coffee, some banana bread, and a brand-new book, with nothing (except quite possibly a nap) to distract you for the next 3.5 hours.

I met up with two friends from college days upon arrival (one of whom graciously hosted us at her Portland home), and we immediately set out in search of (a) lunch and (b) pastries. We found both at La Petite Provence. And then we picked up some emergency backup pastries at Pix Patisserie to tide us over the next few nights. When we weren't eating at Panero's or at Thai Peacock. (In case you're wondering, over the course of three days we did actually dine at places that did not begin with the letter P.)

Inside a thunderegg.
As for the thundereggs, they were not something we ordered at a trendy diner: we visited them at the wonderful Rice Museum, which is not at all about rice but is totally about rocks.

It's an amazing collection of geological splendor that also includes petrified wood, meteorites, and dinosaur and early-mammal fossils, all housed in a vintage 1950s architectural gem of a sprawling ranch house.

The thunderegg, which is Oregon's official state rock, is basically a rounded rocky blog that is unimpressive on the outside, but contains a core of minerals that form stunning patterns, many of which resemble traditional Chinese paintings, seascapes, and other vignettes, in miniature. The minerals are typically jasper, agate, or opal.

Also on display was a subdued stone that boasted a claim to being the oldest rock in the world. But it seems to be merely late-middle-aged compared to some of the older oldest rocks in the world, so perhaps next time I'll pause to read the fine print (maybe it's "the oldest rock in the world located in Portland" or something).

Tucker the Baby Psittacosaurus, however, was undeniably the cutest critter in the place.

And there was even a separate room filled with minerals that flouresced under black light. Very cool!

And of course we stopped at the incomparable Powell's to shop for books.

"What about the ponies?" OK, OK, already. I didn't see any real ponies, but did spy several toy ponies tied to old hitching rings embedded in the city's curbs, all there thanks to a community art effort called The Horse Project.

More pastries, more coffee, then back home to *sigh* responsibilities and expectations.

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