Have you ever traveled someplace new and the second your foot smashes the pavement, you just feel like you’re meant to be here?
That’s me with the city of Portland, OR.
It’s been a solid sixteen hours since I landed in Philadelphia, away from quaint coffee shops and men painted silver, miming for a dollar at Portland Saturday Market. Sure – Philadelphia is weird. But they’re not Portland weird.
John and I have had Portland listed on our travel bucket list for several years now, and I hate to say it was solely from watching the IFC show Portlandia. Fun fact: do not tell local Portlanders that you’re here just because of some embellished sketch comedy. They do not like it. And I totally understand why.
The city is as vibrant and unique as you could imagine.
Our first stop during our trip was to the Portland Saturday Market. This is the grand poobah of craft shows – and I should know – I’m literally at every craft show ever. We got to the city just in time because we actually were there for the opening day of this event and it certainly did not disappoint! The creativity that runs around at the market is insane. There was a vendor, Getting to Gnome You, who turned John and I into real life gnomes all within twenty minutes. I mean, that’s pretty great on so many levels.
Though it’s super touristy, if you come to Portland and DON’T make a pit stop at Voodoo Dougnuts than you need to go home and re-evaluate some stuff because you’re clearly doing Portland wrong. The whole place has a funky vibe and some even funkier doughnuts. Try the Captain my Captain – or the Old Dirty Bastard; you’re solid either way.
Portland isn’t like any other city that you’ll visit. As someone who grew up in between New York and Philadelphia, I’m used to aggression. Aggressive drivers. Aggressive walkers. Aggressive tones of voice. People are constantly on the move where I’m from and if you’re walking too slow, people get annoyed with you and will probably flick you off some kind of unkind gesture. Portland isn’t like that. It’s not commercialized. It’s not aggressive. It’s just kind of there, living, breathing, existing. They’re drinking beer and artisan coffees. They’re playing saxophones on the street corner. They’re eating fourteen different kinds of pizza. They’re biking, biking, and biking again. They’re writing and talking with their friends. I’ve never been to a city before where you can see more people out and about having social lives than sitting and staring at their phone screen.
Portland is about life and it’s about conservation and it’s about artistic expression. And sometimes it’s even about drinking authentic Chinese tea in an actual tea room in the middle of Lan Su Chinese Garden.
The thing about Oregon itself, though, is that I never really equated it to being anything more than Portland. On our last day in the city, we took the two hour drive to Lincoln City which is right on the Oregon Coast. We splashed in the Pacific Ocean that was too cold – me wearing high heeled boots because I don’t know how to dress for the occasion; John falling helplessly in love with the view. And I can’t blame him. The view was something magical.
The Oregon Coast, at least in March, wasn’t overly crowded. You had people running with their dogs and flying kites. Young girls sitting out on the rocks almost near the ocean. Beautiful sunshine. And more than anything, there was just something so peaceful and so serene about being there. Like in that exact moment, all you knew is that you were alive, that you were standing in some place that mattered. For a split second you knew this is what life is about – about exploring, about taking something so simple and understanding simultaneously how immensely complex it is. The tranquility of the Pacific Ocean will have that affect on you.
Portland itself a city that doesn’t act like a city. It’s simple. It’s organic. There’s no big shopping mall where you can blow lots of money. It’s filled with quaint little shops and artisan coffee shops where you can try a lavender mocha, or a spiced orange latte, and even purchase some local photography hanging on the wall. Portland is a place where you can talk to strangers without that east coast awkwardness. It’s a place with live music and bubbling talent. You can walk literally everywhere, no matter where you are. Oh, and it’s also a place where you can take an aerial tram across the city.
As someone who grew up with the underground tunnels of the subway, transportation involving flying high above that beautiful, twinkling city, is the weirdest and coolest experience of my life.
Keeping Portland weird doesn’t do justice for me. Portland should just remain to be Portland.