Loving Portland

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I figured that I’d probably quite like Portland, Oregon before I went there.  Let’s face it, any city that boasts a culture of eco-friendliness and brews great beer and coffee was always going to appeal.

That it would make it onto my list of places that I’d happily live, however?  Now that I hadn’t expected.

Looking at the weather forecast for a few days before leaving Australia, I’d been decidedly underwhelmed.  Cloudy and wet, with temperatures around 15 degrees C.  Hmm, sounds like a typical winter’s day in Melbourne really – my hopes for a dose of summer sunshine didn’t look great.

When I finally arrived in Portland, tired and grumpy after an entire day in planes and airports, the drizzle smacking against the train doors confirmed my suspicions.  Gazing morosely out the window as gritty industrial parks gave way to the pierced hipsters and slippery cobblestones of downtown, I was woken from my daydream by the smiling face of a ticket inspector.  Her grin barely faded when – try as I might – I couldn’t find that little scrap of cardboard that I’d purchased 20 minutes earlier. Ahh, the wonders of jetlag.

After a minute or two I was asked to get off the train and buy another ticket.  Of course I found the original one less than a minute after buying the replacement, but that’s not the point.  Given my general lack of coherence and that I hadn’t had a shower in god knows how long, there’s many places in the world that I would have just been written up with the $100+ fine.

Oh, and the upside?  It was actually the stop I needed anyway.  The inspector even gave me directions to my hostel.  My mediocre first impressions of the city were starting to fade…

The Northwest Portland hostel was great – clean, bustling and spread over two old buildings that were full of character.  It was also a couple of minutes walk away from a street of bars and restaurants, so despite being barely awake I dragged myself out to one of them for dinner.  I don’t remember much of the conversation, but the barman and patrons were friendly, the food was good and the beer was cold.  Welcome to Portland.

I was in town for the World Domination Summit (which I’ve written about already), but had most of a couple of days free to explore before it started.  Overnight the weather had broken, and the sun was warming my back through the window as I sat huddled over a strong coffee in a cozy cafe.

A feeling of contentedness rolled over me as conversations buzzed at nearby tables.  The issues in the local paper seemed at once quite different and strangely familiar.  As the caffeine banished my jetlag for a while, I squinted into the sun and leaned back in my seat.  Life was good.  No, actually, life was great – prompting me to write the below as the first entry in my new journal.

Things that are awesome

Yes, that really is my handwriting.  Don’t judge.

By mid morning I’d come to a couple of early conclusions about Portland.  One – nobody is in much of a hurry, and two – people are friendly there.  Like, seriously friendly.  From the cute French girl behind the desk at the hostel to the barista at the cafe, from the laid back barman at the pub to the guy selling me cheap jeans at the Levis store, everyone seemed happy and relaxed.  Including me.

Wandering through Washington Park later that day was a delight, both the manicured lawns of the Rose Test Garden and the quiet dirt trails and towering trees in the less populated parts.  The small Holocaust Memorial was an unexpected find, and all the more poignant because of it.

Where my new love affair with the city was cemented, however, was probably in Pioneer Courthouse Square.  I’m a sucker for street food at the best of times, and Portland’s food carts are famous for delivering cheap, great meals.  Having a laugh with the owner then feeding my face with cheesesteak as I watched life walk, run and unicycle (seriously…) past was a simple delight.

While I sat on the steps of the square reading my Kindle, a local guy walking past struck up a conversation with me about it.  Rico turned out to also be a travel addict, and as we sat there in the sun swapping stories and contact details I came to the realisation that Portland is my kind of city.  I could easily live there – when the weather is good, at least.

Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland

And when it’s not, there’s always Powell’s Books.  For an avid reader, Powell’s is pretty much what heaven looks like.  Except with better coffee.  I whiled away an easy couple of hours enjoying the free wifi, large lattes and a large stack of second-hand books.  I could happily have spent all week in there – the place takes up an entire city block.  It’s awesome.  Go there.

I’ve got so many other great memories of Portland that it’s hard to believe that I was only there five days.

  • Trying to explain to the chatty waiter at a downtown restaurant what the World Domination Summit was (“Dude, you totally realise that sounds like a cult, right?”).
  • More food carts.
  • Drinking my way through several incredible brewpubs – yes, BridgePort, Deschutes and Rogue, I’m totally looking at you.  Especially you, Rogue.
  • Even more food carts.
  • Having my first exposure to the institution that is Whole Foods Market.
  • Oh yes, and don’t forget the food carts.

There’s no doubt that my opinion was coloured by the amazing time that I had and people that I met at the World Domination Summit – not to mention the unseasonably good June weather.  Even without that though, there was something about the city that sucked me in and gave me a real sense of happiness.

Thank you, Portland, for making me feel like I belonged.

I’ll be back.

[Portland view image via R0Ng]


21 Responses to “Loving Portland

  • I only lived in Portland for a year, but I definitely consider it home. I absolutely love Portland! It’s great to hear that you liked it 🙂 The food carts are definitely a huge part of it’s appeal! And people are extremely friendly. I got used to people always smiling at me in Portland, when I left people elsewhere generally seem ruder because of it. Portland spoiled me 🙂

    • I totally loved it! Just writing this post made me want to go back there … tomorrow!

  • Anthony Secco
    10 years ago

    It is a brilliant city! I adore all of the pubs and nice walks. I’ll be to Portland next June as well
    Cheers mate!

    P.s. yes, French girl was cute 😉

    • See you there hopefully mate! I’ve got my ticket too 🙂

      And yes, she sure was… 😉

  • Krista C.
    10 years ago

    Portland is an awesome place. It was my first place I experienced on the west coast and now I live in Seattle, if that proves how much I ended up liking the Pacific Northwest. I also experienced Whole Foods for the first time there as well. When those doors opened it was like a chorus of baby angels singing at the sight of all that organic produce 😉

    • Hahaha … I love that! ‘Chorus of baby angels’ indeed! 🙂

      Though to be fair, I may have heard a harp or two as the doors slid open as well…

  • Portland definitely stole my heart and puts Vancouver on notice as my favorite city in the world!

    • I’m with ya! Vancouver was pretty awesome too – but we had better weather in Portland … and a lot less riots! 😉

  • Dave, thanks for the glowing review of my hometown. You got to see a lot of the highlights in Portland….next time, I can take you to Multnomah Falls, the Oregon Coast and Astoria, where the movie, “Goonies” was filmed. You can even crash on my couch, if you want! Will you be back for WDS? I’m going to try to go this time.

    • They all sound fantastic! I’ve got my ticket for WDS next year …it’ll only be if I’m physically incapable of being there that weekend that I’ll miss it!

      Thanks for the offer of a couch too, by the way… much appreciated 🙂

  • We used to live in Portland. It’s an incredible place and even better the more you explore.

    • I’d love the opportunity to explore it for a lot longer! And if life goes according to plan over the next couple of years, I might just get to do that 🙂

  • Glad you enjoyed our fair city! My friends own Coffeehouse NW and have some of the best coffee in the city, so good choice 🙂 I’m not biased or anything…

    • Hehe, awesome! Well, tell them from me that a visitor from Melbourne – renowned for being a city of coffee snobs – was very impressed 😉

  • So glad you loved Portland. There’s so much more to Oregon too. I posted your story on my FB travel page Go Oregon Now. Check it out:

    • Thanks for that – nice page 🙂 I loved my time there, plus the few days I spent in Oregon driving through on a road trip several years ago. I’ll be back, there’s no doubt about it…

  • Awww what a great tribute to my hometown. Thank you! I have lived here all my life and still love it. Yes it does rain a bit, but oh good lord when the sun shines here it is a little bit of heaven!

  • A friend of mine absolutely adored Portland too – with all these good reviews, I’d better add it to the list! 🙂

  • Portland is wonderful–if only the weather were even a teeny bit better….

  • Looking forward to reaching Portland for WDS2012! Plan to also lose myself in Powells Books 🙂

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