Portland is a strange city to plan a visit to. While people back in NZ and in Vancouver had raved about it, when doing some research into what to do there, there isn’t exactly a lot to ‘see’. To clarify, Lonely Planet had listed coffee and beer as #1 & #2 in terms of what it had to offer!
However, we had a friend, Emily, who had recently moved to Portland, and she took the two days we were there off. This was really awesome, and also meant we had a bit of a chauffeur for our 36 hours in the city. As soon as we arrived, she picked us up and whisked us off for lunch at two iconic establishments; Voodoo Donuts and Stumpgrind coffee. What we can say for sure is that Voodoo Donuts should be penciled into any foodies list as a Portland must do. These guys do incredible things with their donuts, and don’t go as far as to take away from the essence of what a donut should be. You can get anything from a basic sugar or glazed donut, to a Dirty Ol’ Barstard (Alex’s pick of course) which is basically a lot of delicious chocolate, cookie and peanut butter. The best part is how affordable they are – we paid $8 for four awesome donuts.
Portland’s CBD is really nice, and a pretty relaxing place. As we said, there isn’t exactly much in the way of tourist attractions, so there aren’t really any crowds anywhere you go (which we loved). In the CBD is Powell’s Books, North America’s largest independent book store, which takes up the equivalent of a city block. To put this into scale for you, they have maps of the store at the entrance, and colour code sections to help you find the genre you are after. They stock used and new books, and we can highly recommend heading in here if you find yourself in Portland. Alex came out with two books, which certainly weren’t planned, and Jonny almost bought a massive book on basketball (it was very big, and would have made packing tough).
Portland is also the home of Nike, where it’s founder grew up and attended University. For this reason, the Nike stores are amazing (unfortunately we did not have any money to buy anything), and Nike also sponsors the local bike-share concept (called Biketown).
Our friend Emily took us out to a few breweries that night, and invited some of her local friends to join us. It was awesome meeting some new people, and chatting away about modern life, both in the US and back in NZ (as you always do with new foreign friends). Not only this, but Jonny got to sample some of the local beers from Rogue, 10Barrell Brewing and Deschutes. Rogue offer a four beer flight for USD$8, but 10Barrel bested them, offering up a 10 beer flight for USD$10. They get pretty creative with their brews, blending in local coffee’s, pumpkin, chipotle and various fruit sours. To cut a long story short, Portland microbrews did not disappoint.
The following day, Emily was also kind enough to drive us out to some local surrounds, taking us to a park under St Johns bridge (the most famous of Portland’s many bridges). It gave us some pretty incredible photos, and it was nice walking around an oft-overlooked part of a city.
For lunch, we made a point of checking out the famous food-truck scene in downtown. Portland has a good block of food carts which surrounds a public car park, and offers up close to every variety of food you could want. While there were plenty of options, we went for three samples – The Dump Truck (offered four types of very tasty dumpling – $7 for 8 dumplings), The Whole Bowl – a vegan/vegetarian friendly food cart offering up large bowls of fresh vege, beans and rice for $6-7, and the Grilled Cheese Truck – which offers everything type of filling in a grilled cheese sandwich you could ask for ($6-9 for a sandwich with chips and a pickle). We also headed south to Lake Oswego where Emily worked. Lake Oswego is a man-made lake, which has unfortunately turned into a bit of a private lake for it’s residences. While the public can see the lake, we are told, accessing it is a bit trickier. This sort of thing (and the Pool 88 gate in Vancouver) are quite foreign concepts as a Kiwi, as the idea of privatising such a large piece of ‘nature’ is strange.
Our one night of accommodation was spent at the Southeast HI Hawthorne Hostel. It was about USD$80 for two dorm beds for a night, and while sufficient, we can’t exactly recommend it as a ‘must-stay’. However, the surrounding area has some great eating and coffee spots, and a great number of op-shops or ‘vintage stores’. Never before have we seen such expensive second-hand clothing!
Although our time in Portland was brief, we really enjoyed ourselves. We did wonder if there would be much to do except eat and drink coffee/beer, but it has a very cool vibe, and looked like a great place to live or hunker down for a week of chill time.
Our expenses for two days;
Total: $338 USD / $472 NZD
Wow. We even saved on one night of accommodation due to our flight to Cabos leaving so early, so this shows that Portland is definitely more expensive than Seattle.