An Introduction to the Pacific Northwest
Hands down the most exciting part of my trip has been the chance to visit cities I never had a reason to go to. Places like Austin and San Francisco were ones that I was planning to visit, but Portland was never even on the list. Just no real interest even though I'm Despite a devout Portlandia fan.
A short drive up I-5 through Shasta National Forest puts you through the heart of Oregon and into Portland. The drive is actually really nice if you can make it, as the dusty plains of Northern California turn into lush forests and overcast skies. It's definitely a refreshing change.
The best way to describe Portland is...weird. And I think the residents like it that way. Full disclaimer: I did not see the sun for 3 straight days when I was in town, so I don't know if that helps my review. It's clear that the entire city is very community-based, making it a much better place to live than to visit.
With that said you have to recognize what Portland is good at. In a way they've given us a snapshot into what I believe will be the America's future. You have a small, yet defined, downtown set in a beautiful natural area. An extensive and effective public transit system that can take you anywhere in town (Portland boasts a smartphone enabled train and bus tickets). And most importantly, a focus on local shops and restaurants building out smaller neighborhoods surrounding the city. Portland's commitment to building vibrant neighborhoods really shows, though it takes a keen eye to pick out some of the better neighborhood bars and restaurants.
You can pretty much find a specialty shop for just about anything. I decided to trudge a few blocks through the rain to Mac! Mac & Cheesery for some comforting lunch. Another night we stumbled into local favorite Bunk Bar for some awesome Cuban Sandwiches. Or maybe you like craft beer? Then make your way down to the Thristy Lion Pub to catch a Timbers game with the local fans. Those places catered to what I like, but there are tons of other places ranging from Bacon specialties to high-end sushi (to high-end vegan, who knew). The theme remains consistent: if it's not local, it's not Portland.
I'm really glad my travels brought me to Portland, because it is a long way to go for just a visit. If you're really hankering for an adventure, make your way to Oregon. It might be rainy, and it might take a lot of work to find the good spots, but if you're willing to put in the effort you'll be rewarded. Who wants the easy things in life anyway?