Portland straddles the banks of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, in the very north of the state of Oregon, bordering Washington above. It has a population of around 600,000, and is regularly noted as one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the world.
My first real visit to Portland came in October, 2011 when I went to stay with my roommate and her family, along with an old friend of mine, for the weekend. I consider the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, British Columbia – Canada) my second home. I have never visited somewhere where I have felt more at home than these locations. My love of Seattle has been documented in the first of ‘My Favourite Places’ feature, and I love Portland for many of the same reasons. Firstly, the natural beauty of the region takes my breath away. As you approach Portland, the presence of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens dominate the skyline (on a clear day!). The surrounding neighbourhoods and suburbs are a maze of lush greenery, and cycling is the favoured form of transport.
But where should you visit if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Portland?
First thing’s first – Get yourself to Powell’s!
Powell’s is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world – and let me tell you, it is MASSIVE. It occupies an entire block of Portland and sells every book you could ever possibly want. You could literally spend HOURS trawling the sections, and as a literature graduate myself, I can assure you I did!
Where next? Well, after browsing Powell’s for a couple of hours you’re sure to have worked up an appetite – off to Voodoo Doughnuts!
Voodoo actually have a couple of other locations, but they just don’t taste the same as they do from the main Portland store. The famed doughnut is the ‘Bacon and Maple Bar’, but putting bacon on top of my doughnut just didn’t appeal to me. I went for the ‘Dirt Doughnut’, with vanilla frosting and crushed Oreos, which was mighty good. The ‘Old Dirty Bastard’ was also pretty darn good – chocolate frosting, crushed Oreos and peanut butter! You also can’t beat the ‘Old Fashioned’, with simple maple frosting. Delicious!
Right, so we’ve filled the belly for a while…What’s next?
The Japanese Gardens was a pretty cool stop on our weekend trip. Entry ranges from $7 – $10, and gives you access to five distinct Japanese Gardens. They are very well kept and absolutely beautiful.
There’s also some pretty spectacular views of the city from up at the park and adjoining Rose Gardens, however a camera does not do them justice so forgive me for no pictures of that.
One of my favourite places I visited in Portland was NW 23rd – a retail and residential neighbourhood. This is a super trendy area, full of quirky coffee shops and pricey boutiques. It felt kind of magically being here late afternoon as the sun began to set and the fairy lights turned on. I had that first ‘Christmas feeling’ of the year, in late October.
At night time, Portland comes to life with bars and nightclubs. Unfortunately at the time I was only 20, and unable to enjoy the Portland nightlife, so instead we went to find the White Stag sign.
This can also be seen as you drive over the bridges of the Willamette at night.
There’s also the great Saturday market, and the amazing (AH-mazing) food carts serving up the best and authentic street food you’ll ever find. And that’s all for my whirlwind, MUST SEEs of Portland, Oregon. If you’ve visited before, please let me know of any other recommendations. Personally, I can’t wait to get back to this city and explore some more. Keep Portland weird!