Our first impressions of Portland were quite muddled, as we arrived late at night. My friend and I took the MAX Light Rail from the airport and then decided on taking an Uber to our AirBnB, as busses didn’t seem to run as frequent anymore after 10pm on a weekday. Ironically, our AirBnB was in the Southeast of Portland, in a neighborhood called Brooklyn (which is also where the neighborhood I live in real life, only a few thousand miles away on the East Coast).
Our first full day in the city was dedicated to sightseeing. The best way to get around in Portland was, as we quickly discovered, by bicycle. Every city has their own unique name and app, it seems. Portland uses one called Biketown – with bright orange bikes everywhere and a similar orange app (sponsored by Nike), which you can download to your smartphone for free. Biketown/ Bikeshare is pretty awesome – for $12/day we were able to use our bikes for three full hours and actually we still had plenty of minutes left at the end of the day, since we just returned them to a rack whenever we felt like walking around.
Portland’s downtown area is very walkable. You can comfortably see everything of value in one hour, maybe two if you are an extremely slow walker and stop at every street corner. There is nothing much in the Pearl District, but we really liked its name. The most impressive thing we came across on our first full day were indeed the notorious food carts and stands: Rows and rows and rows of delicious stands all over the place, some sorted in a square, some randomly to the side. If you want to eat good food, Portland is certainly the city to be in (more on this in a separate post).
The rest of the downtown area consisted of a few outdoor adventure shops (such as REI, of course) and a ton of breweries. Indeed, we decided to make a full brewery tour afternoon out of it, which we did on our third full day in Oregon (stay tuned!).
Perhaps the most impressive thing other than the food and breweries is the Japanese Garden, which is on a hill (we took an Uber – which was the most convenient way to get around most of the time).
Unfortunately, other than the few reasons mentioned above, Portland in Oregon was really not our thing. The social awkwardness of the people in the Pacific Northwest (which my friend had forewarned me weeks in advance) really hit home in this town. My friend and I just couldn’t really connect to the people and their overly laid back, almost oystered—in-their-own-shell mentality. It constantly felt like we were either in a twilight zone or vibrating on a different level, no matter where we really went in town.
The city itself is also quite small and I believe that one day, perhaps two, can be more than enough when it comes to exploring it. The only other great thing we found was a huge outdoors market with everything you could imagine – jewelry, handmade items, cool vintage art and so on. It was on Saturday and in the downtown area and luckily it was also sunny on that particular day.
Fortunately, Oregon’s nature really made up for what Portland was lacking (in terms of beauty at least), so that we ended up having a great trip overall. It was also the beginning of fall season in the Pacific Northwest and leaves were scattered on the ground already. September is a really picturesque time to visit Oregon and Washington State.