Portland, the next big thing in the Pacific North West after visiting Seattle. Was I excited? I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect from the place, in all honesty, something that I found exciting if not a little scary also. I had seen the beautiful scenery (which due to the restrictions of my travel plans I feared I would not actually get to experience), but that was pretty much all I knew of the place. That, and the fact it was where both Poler (the camping brand) and Elliott Smith (not a camping brand) were from originally.
My fears of missing out on the scenery were proved wrong on the Bolt Bus. Although I didn’t get a chance to go and stay in the woods and bask in their green sea of beauty, I did get to look at it through the window on my journey which is something.
I won’t bore you with the details, but the bus did arrive (with me inside) in Portland. Hooray for being alive! Alive and well, I made my journey from the bus station to my hostel in Hawthorne. When I booked this hostel, I read about it being in a good area and 20 minutes into my hour-long walk I really started to doubt the legitimacy of that. Surely nothing that good happens 3 and a bit miles out of the city. The tall buildings turned to greenery and suburbia, beautiful suburbia at that – I would be surrounded by trees after all! Eventually, I did get to the hostel and got myself checked in and set up. It was a converted house that wasn’t all that big, was suitably dingy, but actually quite well maintained. It’s also a hub that connected people from all over the world, and in such a situation there is only one activity to break the ice: pub crawl!
The pub crawl was run by a Californian export who fell in love with Portland. He shared deeply about the hidden secrets that Portland has to offer, it is a town less about Downtown, and more about the series of village-like districts that form the city as a whole. This, combined with the greenery is something that has an appeal from my days in Sheffield as a student. This is very much the kind of place you would love to be a student too. The killer combination of dive bars, live music, street food and beautiful scenery. I think the fact that the weather was near perfect in my time there certainly enhanced the greenery.
“Specifics” you cry out, “I want specifics”. Fortunately for you, you’re about to get them my dear, impatient reader. The day after the pub crawl, just 2 or so miles in the opposite direction to downtown sits (or rather stands) Mount Tabor. Surrounded by trees atop this dormant volcano, you may not be able to get perfect views of the city or the Oregon mountains that surround it – however, you do get a nice view of parts of it. With it being 4/20 and weed being legal in Portland it’s safe to say that there were a number of people smoking a jazz cigarette or two, and who can blame them for wanting to chill out with such beautiful scenery on offer.
Whilst I didn’t partake in the smoking, I did get to explore a lot of Portland – with a particular focus on East Portland. In Portland, I dabbled into the joys of tater tots for the first time in the beautiful surroundings of the Baghdad theatre. There were other amazing foods from the international food trucks that litter the streets, and I was even there during Pizza Week – a week during which you can pick yourself up a signature slice for $2 from a series of restaurants across the city.
But it wasn’t just the food that was a taste sensation in Portland, there is also the beers. Where in other places I have been to bars and enjoyed a basic range of beers, Portland has a real brewing culture and there a series of breweries that you can tour around or even enjoy one of their beers in the sun if you are blessed with good weather.
It’s safe to say that a little (read “massive”) part of me fell in love with Portland during my time here. I much preferred it here to Seattle. Did I set my expectations too high for Seattle, and my relatively low expectation of Portland was simply exceeded? You could take that angle, however, I wouldn’t say so. Portland provided me with everything I thought I wanted but couldn’t have. M Ward sang “Every town is all the same when you’ve left your heart in the Portland rain”, and I certainly hope for the sake of everywhere else that I visit that it doesn’t ruin them or this is going to make for a very Portland-heavy blog series.