For the last two days the sun has been out and the days have been glorious. I’ve been wandering back and forth throughout the neighbourhoods of Portland, doing my best not to get too lost, chilling out in parks and beating the heat inside book stores and record stores. I think it’s pretty safe to say that this has quickly become one of my favourite cities in the U.S.A.
The Western side of the city is easy to walk around and within the downtown core the public transport systems are all free to use making it incredibly easy to see the city on a tight budget (which I’m now on). I’ll start with the sights closest to where I’m staying, next to Portland State University. The university campus isn’t much too look at, it’s nice and all but there’s nothing to really write home about. Apart from the fact that it’s there and it exists. A little down 5th Avenue is the Portland building, a work of interesting post-modern architecture that looks a little like a wrapped and ribboned present. However the most striking part of the building looms over the street before it, the second largest hammered copper statue in the U.S.; Portlandia.
Continuing up 5th until I hit Yamhill and followed it until I came to Pioneer Courthouse Square, this is where Tourist Information is tucked away behind a fountain and underneath a Starbucks. It’s considered to be Portland’s living room and everytime I’ve walked by, even when the weather has been fair it has been almost empty so I’m not sure how it’s got this reputation.
From here on in, it would be difficult to proceed in any directional manner as I’ve been all over the West side of Portland so I figure I’ll just talk through the things as they come up on my camera. I’ve spent a lot of my time in the Pearl District, this is by far my favourite neighbourhood, although the Alphabet and Nob Hill districts put up a good fight. Pearl was where I came on my first night here and where Powell’s Books can be found.
In the heat of the day I found myself turning a corner and literally walking into a huge record store. I don’t want to tell you how much time I spent browsing, but those of you who know me will know that it was probably too long.
Next up, I found myself walking through the Waterfront Park. Rumours were abound that from the opposite side of the Willamette river I would get a pretty good look at the city, from much closer up and in better conditions than when I had been out for a drive previously. There are plenty of bridges between the South and North end of the city and there are two that were of a design I had never seen before.
So this was a somewhat unusual type of drawbridge, it probably doesn’t even count as a drawbridge. When large boats come down the river, the middle section is lifted up by winches in both towers allowing for the boats to pass through. It seems like it must take a lot longer than the standard drawbridge to raise and lower an entire section of road, but, like I said, they have two of them here so they must be fairly efficient. So I made it across the river, and the view of the city was pretty good. Portland, being one of the smaller cities I’ve been two doesn’t really have the same level of striking skyline as many of the others but I kinda like it.
It looks pretty good with that beautiful blue sky in the background, right? I crossed back over, I was somewhere South of my hostel at this point around an intersection for the highway. The street signs weren’t particularly useful and I ended up taking an unreasonably long walk around just to find my way back to somewhere that I recognised, but it was worth it as I got to see some pretty good views of Mount Hood beyond the city.
As far West as I made it in Portland was all the way up hill to Washington Park, which lies on the border of Forest Park; the largest city park in the U.S.A.
I didn’t make it quite so far, but I did manage to spend some time walking through the public rose gardens. I think I’m probably starting to grow up a little bit. Last year I found myself really appreciating architecture for the first time, this year I’m really into it, and now I found myself in a garden of roses.
Ok, I didn’t like it half as much as I enjoyed walking around the city and seeing the different buildings from all decades of the modern era but it wasn’t half bad. The smell of roses in the air, the huge variety of colour.
On the way back down from Washington Park I passed through the brilliantly named Alphabet District and Nob Hill before returning to the Pearl District. At the north end of Pearl is the Tanner Springs park, a small block in the middle of warehouses, offices and apartments that symbolizes the historical origins of the area as a wetland.
This is Portland. I don’t know what you guys think, but I love it here and it keeps getting better and better.
I got chatting with one of my room-mates Federico and he told me about this street fair thing that supposedly happens on the last Thursday of the month over in the North East side of the city. He’d met a friend in Vancouver who had a friend, Joe, in Portland who had offered to meet with him and show him around and Federico invited me along as well. We caught the street car, then a bus and ended up who even knows where on the edge of a park where Joe was going to meet us.
We had to wait a while in the park, but this was no issue as there was plenty going on to keep us entertained. When we got off the bus we headed towards the baseball diamond to see a large group of people playing kickball, which is basically baseball but without a bat and using a football instead.
Across the field were a group of four doing some pretty interesting yoga, they invited us to join them but I didn’t feel that I was wearing appropriate clothing and then beyond them was a large congregation sitting around a young, bearded man talk. At first I had assumed that this might have been something to do with the Occupy movement but as we got closed I soon found that it was a church meeting. We hung around until the church meeting ended and Joe emerged from the crowd. He walked us to his bright yellow Volvo, his Swedish chariot, and drove us across the suburbs until we were quite lost. Soon enough there were cars parked up end to end on both sides of the road, apparently we were getting close.
Joe found a place to park up and fortunately had the insight to look back to check which intersection we were on so we could get back there later. We walked down to Adler Street.
Last Thursday is definitely best described as a street fair, there are all kinds of things going on and the roads are closed and just about every different stereotype you can imagine is walking the streets enjoying the atmosphere. We walked past food carts, artists, people hula-hooping, an endless array of musicians and bands playing on street corners and street performers. We walked end to end, checking out galleries and considering queueing for a beer in every packed bar that lined the street.
While we were walking from stall to stall, Reindeer Sausage caught the eyes of Federico, he and Joe decided that this was definitely something worth spending their money on. For obvious reasons, I didn’t join them but did have a pretty tasty seitan vegan sausage instead.
Once we’d had our fill of the sensory overload that is Last Thursday, Joe suggested we head away from the crowds to find something to drink. Federico had got a thirst on and felt that this was the best idea. Joe drove us across the city to the South East to a bar called Apex. It wasn’t a microbrewery but they had so much variety when it came to what was on draught and everything was up on a LCD screen. Joe later informed us that this was because they change up their drinks pretty regularly and its the easiest way to keep things in order.
After a cheeky pint, we decided to call it a night and Joe was kind enough to drive us back to the hostel.