Portland, Oregon… for you New England folks from Massachusetts, “Northampton, MA on steroids,” as described by my Master’s adviser. This one of a kind city is quite different from any that I have traveled to. Downtown Portland is bopping in the morning and quite dead once it turns just 9 pm. The layout I have yet to figure out but I am overcoming that minor tragedy and coming to terms with the fact that my own city, Boston has an even more illogical layout.
After taking note to fashion and just pure mannerisms of people, every city does indeed have a distinct and unique look. Around every corner you see Hipsters walk through in their skinny pants and collared shirts… don’t forget that pea coat or long trench along with colorful Patagonia puffers making their way around with their lumberjack beards and labeled snap-back hats… If you have ever even seen the inside of an Urban Oufitters store, they should just go ahead and make Portland their flagship. It’s a walking, talking advertisement.
With my quite negative New England personality I could argue that Portland is too happy, too friendly, however if I just get my head out of the clouds they are a mix of some quite pleasant shop owners and restaurant personnel. I have yet to meet an angry unpleasant person when walking into any sort of place that requires some hospitality or even on the street for that matter. In fact just going to get my daily coffee at a Starbucks one morning was I greeted with a full on conversation by two of the baristas one after the other asking how I was and if my coffee was actually to my liking (Northeast Starbucks… maybe you should follow suit). My Valentine’s Day latte came out perfect.
After a day in Downtown Portland I can say that I have taken in enough of the scene and look to adventure out (and with the way the city was built it’s quite easy to drive 15 minutes out and be immersed into the wilderness).
Food cart pods, although not too pretty to the eye have yet to disappoint, along with the array of uniquely characterized restaurants that I stumbled upon. The food scene you cannot deny is quite the main attraction here.
Just as a minor note of discussion as well, there are some parts that I personally do not feel 100% comfortable walking through due to what seems to be elevated rates of homeless people throughout the city. I’m not sure what the poverty rates are in the area but it was much more noticeable than other cities that I have traveled to throughout the U.S. and the climate definitely aids in this.
BUT… I do have to say that my day spent walking through Southeast Portland was wondrous. I was able to make the 2.2 mile walk all the way from my Airbnb to the well known Voodoo Donuts and back feeling completely safe. SE Hawthorne St. was a great place to wander as well. Tiny little boutiques, little cafe’s and cute restaurants along with the second Powell’s Book Store lines the street. Portland’s little side gem.
Mt. Hood only an hour and half away from Portland is quite a feasible drive and definitely worth the trip. Take the longer route along the scenic and historic Columbia River Highway that runs parallel to Rte 84 which winds you through the mountainous cliff sides covered with waterfalls, once carved away and created by the river itself. Exposed volcanic rocks can be seen throughout, interspersed with large trees and rainforest vegetation you’d expect to see in the pacific northwest. Unfortunately a lot of the roads close to Mt. Hood during the winter times, so make sure to pack accordingly if you wish to travel further than the Timberline Lodge (boots, snow pants, hiking shoes etc). A ski trip to Mount Hood is something that I look to one day be able to do. The scenery and atmosphere is stunning.
Just 1 1/2 hours north, making the trip to Mt. St. Helens, the active strato-volcano is also worth fitting into your trip. It is much different than Mt. Hood that you cannot just see one or the other. Sitting just between Seattle, Washington and Portland in the Cascade Mountain Range, this relatively young volcano has quite the contrasting environment consisting of the barren desolation of the mountain itself (due to the eruption of 1980) and the wildlife and greenery surrounding it.
The Oregon Coast and its beaches (being a coastal geologist) is something that I wish that I had made it out to see. It seems to be a beautiful spot that looks much different than our New England/East Coast beaches that I am so very accustomed to. If you get the chance, that is another feasible half day/day trip that can be done, only being about 1 1/2 hours away as well!
Portland is quite a unique city that I definitely would come back to. It’s a place that evenly harbors both the city life along with the outdoors and wilderness. There is always something to do and something to see (most of it being free too…).
AND on an end note my favorite parts of most cities that I find to truly encompass its culture is the food. The food was a big hit and I would even just take the time to travel out here for another culinary adventure I enjoyed it that much!
See you soon New England!
Check out my Portland, Oregon Series for an overview of everything I have been eating this week and my Instagram highlight story titled Portland!