Friday, October 4, 2013

Portland Trip (Part 1 of ?)

Normally if it rains most of the days you're on vacation you'd call it a bad vacation, but Rob (who took all the pictures in this post) and I knew what we were getting into when we decided to travel to the creative mecca of Portland, Oregon last week, so he could attend the Rose City Comic-Con and so we could both explore a city that was high on our shortlist of potential future homes. There's far too much awesome for one little post to contain, so on his advice I'm going to be splitting up this series of posts topics-wise, so you can read or ignore at your leisure.

First of all, let's get this out of the way: Portland is fucking beautiful. Look at these fucking mountains:

Nature in your face.

The first area of the city we stumbled into was the Pearl District, where we saw one Portland landmark right off the bat.

Words to live by.

A few days later we went to Powell's World of Books, which really deserves its own post that I might write at some point, but just so you know it contains over four million books both used and new, takes up an entire city block, and is the largest independent bookstore in the world. There were also a lot of smaller independent bookstores and even though we didn't go in any of them I'm certain that if we lived there I'd never step foot in a Barnes & Noble again. (Not that I do that now.)

Four million books!!
Portland bears a lot of similarities to Pittsburgh, with its rivers, bridges, and mountains (although according to westerners, the Appalachians are just big hills... they're right). It doesn't rain a lot in Pittsburgh, but it's the third cloudiest city in the country, and I quite appreciated the blanket of haze between me and that big glowy thing in the sky. Pittsburgh is kind of a "weird" city, too. They're both pretty cheap. But unlike Pittsburgh, Portland is almost totally flat which makes it excellent for cycling and walking. They're also a little less clannish in Portland, maybe? Probably because most Portlanders weren't born there, and Pittsburgh has a large native-born contingent. I mean, I love Pittsburgh, I think it's a vastly underrated city, and I was happy to see that the elements that make Pittsburgh great exist somewhere else. I'm totally a city girl, but I'm coming to realize that what I really love are small, easily-traversable cities that are not part of a megalopolis. Baltimore/DC is just too big for me.

Just one of Portland's eight bridges. Pittsburgh has more, but it's not a pissing contest (or is it??).

The public transportation in Portland is amazing, especially for such a small city. I never waited more than twenty minutes for a train or bus, and that was at night. Every stop was announced both over the loudspeaker and visually (in Baltimore they usually skip a few, especially at night when I can't always see where I am, and the trains don't have a visual display). It's also super easy to roll your bike onto the train and they have bike hangers for them. They actually want you to ride your bike in Portland! Bike lanes were fucking everywhere and weren't full of cracks and debris. Drivers are not insane and they will stop for pedestrians. Since I have given up trying to get a driver's license, it's very important to me that wherever I live permanently is a good place for non-drivers.

Happy little streetcars.
Everyone in Portland, or at least everyone I talked to, was super nice. Almost Canadian, really. I've never been west of Ohio so while I'd heard about how different the "vibe" is out west, it has to be seen to be believed. On the East Coast, and even in Pittsburgh to some extent, life is all about maximizing your time for ultimate productivity and making sure you look super busy. Portlanders work as hard as everyone else (especially the self-employed ones) but there's not that rushing around "get out of my way, I'm an important person!" feeling. Even the people who were obviously going to work were playing it much cooler than their East Coast counterparts. A question you will never get asked in Portland, at least not by strangers, is "what do you do?" That could be because the unemployment rate is so high, but I'll take it anyway.

We went to all four quadrants of the city, though all of our neighborhood walking was on the east side (the side with the cheaper rent). It rained more days than it didn't but when it wasn't raining there was zero humidity. I thought the weather was awesome, actually. And while Portlandia is more fiction than fact there are certain "trapped in the nineties" details like free-standing record stores and even a Suncoast in the mall. I was really excited about the Suncoast.

Up next: beer and food of Portland, or, why I may turn into a foodie after all!

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