Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Shanghai Surprise with Flat Stanley

Dear TLC,

Saturday Critter and I took Flat Stanley to downtown Portland for lunch and to see some of the sights. We took him to Fong Chong’s restaurant in Chinatown for dim sum. Flat Stanley watched in fascination as the wait staff rolled little carts of food around the restaurant. Each cart contained two or three food items, in little plates or steamer bowls, and the visitor gets to choose what they’d like to eat from the cart. “Shrimp roll? Shrimp dumpling?” You take what you want and wait for the next cart to roll through.

“What’s it mean, dim sum?” asked Flat Stanley. I learned later that it means, literally, “touch the heart”; in essence, “order to your heart’s content.”

Critter and I sampled several things and most of lunch conversation went like this:

Me: What’s that pink thing with the peas in it?
Critter: I don’t know. But it’s really good.
Me: What’s in it?
Critter: Peas…?
Flat Stanley: I think it’s a shrimp ball…

Chinatown is located next to Portland’s Old Town shopping district so many visitors make a day of it, sampling really good food and then continuing to the open air market by the river. A new Chinese Garden is now open and there are lots of little art galleries close by.

For a taste of really old Chinatown and Old Town, visitors can go on tours of the Shanghai Tunnels, located beneath the city. These tunnels were built in the 1800’s to move goods from the ships docked in the river to basements of warehouses and such in the city. But they were also used to kidnap unsuspecting sailors and workmen and sell them into slavery across the ocean. Many of the old bars had trapdoors built in to capture a person and hold them for the next shipment out. Don’t worry—no one uses the tunnels anymore—it’s simply a tourist attraction now.

After lunch, we walked around Chinatown and then went to Powells, the City of Books. This bookstore is a favorite and fills an entire city block. I especially like the Gold Room which has a large section devoted to science fiction and fantasy. Authors from all over come to this Portland bookstore to sign books. And parts of the building…

Next we visited Mill Ends Park, the world’s smallest park. “You’ll like this one especially, Stanley. It’s just your size.” This park was created on St. Patrick’s Day over fifty years ago for a colony of leprechauns. It is reported that snail races have occurred here, too.

Our last stop was a visit to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). OMSI used to be located up on the Washington Park hill across from the Zoo but in the 1990’s it moved to a new site by the river. The site was donated by Portland General Electric and one wing of the museum is built in an old steam turbine building. The museum has a planetarium, an OMNIMAX theater, and the USS Blueback submarine.

By late afternoon we were home again. And just in time to eat dim sum leftovers!

Take care and lots of hugs!