Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Round the world travel: Portland, Oregon, USA

Where I am

Back in the U.S. after my brief sojourn in Canada, I am still on the North West coast.  Portland, the rival to Seattle, feels smaller and more town-like, cleaner and less, well, grungy.  The small twi-hard part of me I try to mostly ignore was excited by the endless fir trees that cover every hillside on the train journey down and that adorn the outskirts of town.

Portland feels like a city that grew out of a garden, everything is green and manicured, with white wide streets and flowers everywhere.  There's also an enormous amount of street art strewn about the inner city, brightly coloured metal sculptures dropped on corners, fountains spraying in the middle of the street.  

It's the most self-consciously 'created' city I've been to yet.  It feels like the city planners knew what type of town they wanted to be vibing and set about doing so.  It's working, because Portland has a huge graduate population of bohemian creatives and their presence is reflected in the affordable prices, trendy stores and night-time entertainments.

Where I stayed

It was my birthday not long ago, so my lovely bf got me a couple of nights in a nice hotel, the Courtyard Marriott.  Normally I'm not a fan of the generic brand hotels, you could be anywhere inside them, but a) the Expedia deal was a little too good to turn down and b) the designers here have gone off book versus other Courtyard Marriotts I've stayed in.  All the artwork was by local artists and the whole thing had a very trendy, artsy vibe to it, with a swish diner for breakfast and a bright, well equipped gym.

What I read

'The Shadow of the Wind' - Carlos Ruin Zafon

Which is to say I started it and was not gripped.  Maybe I'll come back to it.  Hate to leave a book unfinished...

What I gnarfed

Pancakes and eggs benedict (on separate days!) in the hotel Dinerati.  Both amazing, both so calorific I almost wish I hadn't looked at My Fitness Pal. Darn it.

Had one of those weeks where I can't get enough noodles, so thankfully there was a huge square of street food carts right by the hotel and I could try a different thai cart each day.  Best thing is the portions are big and cheap ($5), so I could eat the leftovers for lunch the next day.  Thrifty yum.

Trail mix, which is most definitely NOT healthy at all, despite the claims of the packaging.  Still it prevented me from passing out from hunger and I bought it from a man who looked uncannily like Viggo Mortensen.

Free apples from the hotel gym.

Voodoo Donuts, which I am ashamed to say I learned about from Man vs Food.  The whole building is coated in glitter which gave me something to stare at while I waited in the ever-present queue outside.  I got the classic voodoo doll and a Portland cream donut to take away, so I could get one of the awesome big pink boxes.  Both were sweet to the max and utterly delicious.  

What I listened to

Terrible pop in said hotel gym, the newest JM podcast, Endor, because they are beautiful and amazing, Avril Lavigne on my internal jukebox, because of all the skater bois (sorry I just can't) boys.  An unfortunate side effect.  Thankfully also in there were the Twilight Sad, because the main through street of the city was Burnside.

What I did

Enjoyed it being hot, hot, hot again.  Canada's heading into Autumn, but not me! Endless Summer this year.

Spent forever just wandering, browsing and soaking up the bookish atmosphere in Powell's Bookstore.  It felt like the cool younger sibling of Foyles in London.

Took a riverside walk past adorable boutique shops and expensive restaurants.

Tried to work out how many apples it was socially acceptable to steal from the hotel gym, then took one more.

Smiled that several cafes and stores had signs proudly stating 'Since 1994' like that was a very long time.

Lazed in the sunshine at the International Rose Test Garden which was worth the hike.  It was stunningly beautiful lying amid the rose bushes.  It smelt like my Nan's garden used to, since she was a much more accomplished gardener than I will probably ever be.  Resolved to make another attempt at taming our garden when I get home.

Had a lovely chat about the Royal family, old British coins and the greatness of New York with a wonderful gentleman named Charles at the Office Depot.

Stumbled across the now infamous Heathman Hotel, sighed and tried to surreptitiously take a picture. Don't judge me!  Did not, however, drop $3000 on the Charlie Tango package, because frankly for that money it'd have to come inclusive with Rpatz himself.

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