Why go to Portland?


So a couple of weeks ago, as part of my taking it easy plan, I decided to randomly bugger off to Portland. It wasn’t so random as it was one of the cities of my list of places to visit and being in Vancouver (Canada), it was only a matter of time before I go, but the dates were spontaneous and random, mostly based on when I could find a spot in the hostel.

In short: Portland is a really cool city, way too cool that I wanna go back or live there if I could, although whenever I think of that I remember the US border guard warning me: “you cannot work while there, you need a visa”, when I told him I am a freelancer, to which I responded: “I am not planning on it”, and I wasn’t, my plan was to have a break and enjoy Portland!

But I couldn’t help but think of this as a -1 for Portland even before I get there, it is located in America. Nobody says that to me in France, nobody asks me what I work, where I am staying or to see my return ticket.

After a long and (interesting, I might add), bus ride to Portland, I finally made it to the City of Roses and I instantly fell in love (a term I seldom use and certainly do not take lightly).

Only couple of hours after I arrived and judging by walking down the street, a few conversations with random people and a trip to the grocery store, my first impression of Portland was: it has a combination of the coolest, cheapest and most laid back city I’ve ever been to, ever! I felt a little too much optimism floating around in the air and on the sidewalks and I was fairly confident this will get at me by the end of my trip.

To my surprise, the following few days did not alter that first impression. I was only liking the city more. I still could not get over how well respected pedestrians are, especially having recently been to Doha and Beirut, two very car oriented cities (where walking is not even anticipated by drivers), and having lived in Hull Qc, I can surely notice the difference. I am particularly big on J-walking but cars would actually stop in the middle of the road.

What’s even better, there are tons of non brand names little boutiques which is come a rare “luxury” if I may say that and the catch, they are not $100/ piece. Not that I am big on shopping or anything, but it is nice to see vintage shops and used stores and some more ethical shops instead of being bombarded by brand names and sameness all the time everywhere you look. My biggest consumerist dilemma however, was: too many locally hand made earrings, it took me an entire day to make my most precious purchase of the trip!

One day I randomly came across an interesting concept: the oldest museum of the world by concept and not physically. It documents critical thinking. Named the Faux museum, it was set out in a weird way with the intention of getting people to think. I thought it was a very subjective experience and every person can get whatever they want from it really. To me, the best was the conversation I had with the owner, a leftist, pacifist with some hippyish spirit, older person who has some insight on the state of the world from the perspective of someone who’s been there done that and is still trying. There was a projected hint of optimism, which I think kinda comes with the city but maybe perhaps speaks to the human nature of turning to a faint ray of optimism against all odds as an alternative to despair.

If you’re ever there, check it out (it is one 2nd and Davies): the entrance fee is $6.00, $3.00 if you’re a senior, student or if it is your birthday, all of which the owner seems to have accepted from me if I didn’t choose to be too honest. In hindsight, I should have said, yes a student of life, when he asked me if I were a student. Maybe next time.

Then, I came across the Oregon leather factory, which was really interesting. Leather factories and tanneries have recently sparked my interest as I learn how important they are in my family and hometown history. Unfortunately, most of the stuff was now imported in the exception of some horse saddles made in Texas. Somebody working there complained on how difficult it has become to them to import to Canada.

Portland has the coolest used and new bookstore ever: Powell’s, it is just something else. I could have spent my entire vacation there. I bought the lonesome traveler from there. Maybe I wanted to pretend I am one.

Days raced by and I had to leave. A very common, almost daily occurrence was “now renting” near every coffee shop or store I liked. By the end, what I hated most about Portland is that it is actually affordable, I could live there, but there is a complicated system of legal, financial, emotional and geographical barriers between me and this decision, whether or not my rising spontaneity and sense of adventure beat? I guess there is only one way to find out!


3 thoughts on “Why go to Portland?

  1. It sounds an ideal place to live in so many ways, and I would much rather live in a city where I could basically walk everywhere, where people are more aware of community, and the rents are low! I enjoyed my month in NYC but I couldn’t really fantasise about living there because I knew it was too expensive – although everything else is cheaper than in Ottawa, rent and health care are prohibitive.

    What were the actual people like in Portland though? I am generally met with such friendliness everywhere I go in the US (I have now travelled in 17 states) and Canada I imagine it must a nice bunch of people who would live in such a city.

    • I did not particularly notice anything different about the people in Portland. Generally, people nice and friendly and would actively ask you if you need directions if they see you holding a map, but so are people everywhere else. I sensed a general sense of pacifism though.

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