When I decided to move back to the UK from Toronto, I wanted to make sure I got to see plenty of places before I left. The first destination of my trip was Portland, Oregon.
Perhaps not the most well-known of cities in the USA, I’d heard of how hipster it was, and wanted to check it out for myself. As I was solo travelling, I didn’t get to go into any of the dive bars (which was kind of a shame, because I would have liked to have checked some of them out), but I got to see what the city centre was like at least.
I landed in Portland at 8pm on a Monday night, and caught a taxi straight to my Airbnb, located in the Hollywood district. The house was cute and my bedroom was beautiful – I had a massive four poster bed. Having been sat around at Toronto Pearson airport all day, all I did was unpack a few of my things, and go to sleep.
Day One in Portland
As Portland was three hours behind Toronto, I woke up pretty early at 7.15am. I lay in bed for a while, before getting ready to head out.
The Max light-rail stop was directly outside my door, and Hollywood to downtown took just 15 minutes – and cost $2.50 for a single ticket, or $5 for a day ticket.
I got off at Pioneer Square, which is the most central area of Portland… and immediately located a Starbucks. I could get an English breakfast tea for $2.20, which excited me greatly (not as cheap as Tim Hortons in Canada, but it’d do!).
I spent a while wasting time in there, as there was a free walking tour I wanted to go on that didn’t start until 11am (outside Pioneer Courthouse, in case you were wondering). I find it funny when walking tours talk about the history of the USA and Canada, because I forget just how new these countries are – especially compared to the UK and Europe. One of the “highlights” of the tour was a stop outside a museum, which was the 7th oldest museum in the USA, at a whopping (wait for it…) 127 years old. Yeah…
Other things we saw included the smallest park in the park (Mill Ends Park, which is located at a crossing in the middle of a road), the Portlandia statue (which is hidden by scaffolding), and some fountains you can swim in. If you’re new to Portland, I’d definitely recommend checking out the free walking tour, as you get to know your bearings whilst learning some interesting facts about the city… but if you’re from Europe, then don’t expect too much history, otherwise you’ll probably be disappointed.
The tour took about two hours, and I was getting kind of hungry, so I headed to Voodoo Doughnuts (of course!) to have… a doughnut. I opted for a Chuckles, which was chocolate and caramel, and it tasted delicious.
Walking back to the Old Town via a slight detour to the Keep Portland Weird sign (another tourist classic), I noticed just how many homeless people there were. Back home in Nottingham there was a growing number of people on the streets, and there were lots in Toronto too. But in Portland, they took it to a whole new level – they weren’t just sat there, they were coming up to you begging for money; and there were groups of them crowded together drinking, and they’d shout at you as you walked past. I found it pretty intimidating – and that was in the daytime!
I spent the afternoon wandering around the city centre, which was fairly compact. I had to head back to the Old Town/China Town district for my second walking tour at 5pm, which was called Underground Portland. This one cost $23. We learnt about the crimes and scandals that took place in the 1800s and 1900s, and ended up in a basement where we learnt about the tunnels underneath Portland. If that’s the kind of thing you’re interested in, I’d certainly recommend going on the tour.
After the walking tour, I went in search of some food trucks. In my mind, I’d imagined artisan carts selling all types of food, but they were just food trucks. Still, I had a nice chicken pad thai for $7, which I ate whilst sat in Pioneer Square, watching the sunset.
I got back to the Airbnb for 8pm because it was getting dark, and I really didn’t feel like wandering around the streets when there were so many homeless people about!
Day Two in Portland
Portland doesn’t have a main attraction (unless you count doughnuts and dive bars), so I didn’t have anything specific that I wanted to do on my second day, other than head over to Washington Park as the weather was nice.
So, after a pit-stop at Starbucks for brunch, I caught the light-rail over to Washington Park, which, from Pioneer Square, took just ten minutes.
The light-rail took you to the bottom of the park, by Oregon Zoo. I thought you could walk through the park, but it looked like you had to catch the free shuttle bus, which connected you to several areas of the park. I got off at the rose garden, and it was SO pretty – there were roses in bloom in shades of cream, red, pink, lilac, lemon and peach. It was very pretty.
I caught the light-rail back partway and walked it into the city centre, via a detour to Urban Outfitters (didn’t buy anything, OK!). I then headed back to Starbucks (I know, I’m so predictable) for another mug of English breakfast tea, and a cookie… and also so I could use their WiFi.
I decided to check out Union Station to make sure where I knew I was going to catch my train the day after, but walking back through the Old Town again, it was crazy just how many homeless people there were. It’s sad to see so many of them out on the streets, but it does make you feel a bit intimidated if you’re by yourself.
By the time it reached 4pm, I’d seen all that I needed to see in Portland, so I headed back to the Airbnb to catch up on some work and pack my case.
Thoughts on Portland
The day after, I caught the 8.20am train to Seattle, to discover more of what the west coast had to offer.
I’m glad I came to Portland, as it had been somewhere I’d wanted to go for a while, and seeing as I was travelling over to Seattle and Vancouver, it made sense that I made Portland my first stop. I think if I’d had a chance to try out some of the bars I would have been more impressed, but still, I enjoyed my time. However, I think two days was definitely enough (especially as I was by myself), and if I’d been there any longer, then I would have just been bored.