Every time we travel to a new city, I ask Tony the same question, “Could you live here?” He knows that my one question is really 100 questions in one. What I’m really asking him is,
- Do you like the climate?
- What do you think of the architecture?
- Are there enough stores/restaurants that interest you?
- Does the political culture feel close to our beliefs?
- What would Matteo’s childhood be like living here?
And so many more. I want to know, does this city’s vibe feel like us? I ask it in every single city, and sometimes the answer is, “no!” sometimes its “maybe,” and sometimes its, “yeah, I could see us here.”
When we visited Portland, Oregon the answer was a resounding, whopping YES, I LOVE THIS CITY. In planning the trip, I admit I had a preconceived notion of what I thought Portland would feel like. I was anticipating hippie, hipster, and a little pretentious. I was wrong.
Yes, the city felt hippie and hipster in some ways, but not pretentious. It felt genuine. It felt liberal (that’s a refreshing change when you live in the-smack-your-forehead-this-is-ridiculous conservative culture of Arizona). It felt like a big city with lots of small town neighborhoods. Like Seattle, I felt like the “locals” showed a lot of pride for their city and that says a lot to me about a place.
We were in town from Wednesday evening until Saturday morning. There wasn’t a ton of time to explore, and like our time in Seattle, Portland was in a heat wave while we were there. Where we had wanted to spend every second in the cool outdoors, we were limited by the heat and had to plan accordingly. Our time in Portland was spent at a Holiday Inn and I was pleasantly surprised with the accommodations. Clean rooms. A very nice free breakfast. Helpful staff. An indoor swimming pool which Matteo and I very much enjoyed.
Wednesday night, once settled in to the hotel we were well in to the evening so I elected to stay back with Matteo to give him a chance to burn some energy in the pool while the rest of the family checked out a nearby brewery, Deschutes Brewery. They loved it! They started with a beer sample tray and had fun trying the different craft brews. I was neither there nor enjoy beer so I’m not the best person to give a review of this evening other than to say everyone said they enjoyed themselves and liked the food too.
On Thursday morning, we decided to head out. We checked out Portland’s famed Powell’s City of Books bookstore — the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world. As an avid reader, this was a blast! Multiple levels and floors of books, with great staff recommendations located right of the shelves. I took down some notes and thanks to Powell’s staffer Diane’s note on a shelf in the Mysteries section, I’ve found an Irish author who’s writing is the perfect combination of interest, intrigue, and suspense without feeling soap opera-y at all. Thanks Powells!
We walked down to the riverfront area, a very pretty park area with nice views. This was the disappointing part of Portland for me – they definitely have a homeless problem. I know all big cities with temperate climates deal with this (San Francisco comes to mind) but in addition to homeless, there was also evidence of obvious drug use. I literally looked up a tree in front of me to see a needle stuck in the bark. At that point, I was less comfortable letting Matteo run around the park, so we decided to start walking our way up towards an area with several food trucks with the plan to grab some lunch and head back to the hotel.
Thursday evening I again elected to stay back so that the rest of the family could enjoy a relaxing evening without the distraction of toddler mood swings, but before everyone left Tony walked down to a restaurant called Pacific Pies to grab dinner for me. Think of pie in the British/Aussie usage – this place had savory meat pie dishes in addition to the classic sweet desserts Americans are used to. I had their chicken, spinach and artichoke sandwich and was in love from the first bite! It was so good, that Tony and I decided to order from them again for Friday’s lunch. If you’re in Portland, try this place. It’s fantastic!
Friday evening was my favorite time of the entire vacation. Though we were bummed that both the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers wouldn’t have games while we were in town, Portland’s women’s’ team, the Portland Thorns, were playing at home on Friday evening. So we went! It was a hot night, but that’s my only complaint about the evening. Providence Park is gorgeous, and Portland has a devoted fan base. The game was great (Portland won!) though the higher profile players were not there since it was also the weekend of the Women’s’ World Cup.
We decided to eat lightly at the game so that we could stop for ice cream on the way home. Once the game was over and the sun was down, we were left with a really pleasant night. We walked down to a Ben & Jerry’s where we all grabbed cones and then made our way back towards the hotel. On the way, we stopped at a bar for a drink on their outdoor patio. Bar patios close at 11:00 pm in Portland so we left after one drink and made our way back to the hotel.
Saturday morning was spent lazily preparing to head back home and we flew out of the small, but really nice, Portland airport. Tony and I took advantage of the lounge where we enjoyed drinks and snacks and Matteo entertained the other patrons by loudly providing commentary on whatever kid video he was watching at the moment.
Portland, I was sad to leave you. We shall meet again, someday.