Sunday, October 2, 2011

Back from Portland

I'm back from a weeklong trip to Portland, OR with friends who want to move there, and it's easy to see why they love it. The city lives up to its stereotypes. It's like Brooklyn - with hipsters and bikes and second hand clothing stores and quality locally sourced food and craft beer everywhere - but in a smaller, more manageable size and more beautiful and spacious setting. Instead of dense apartment buildings, it's cute house after cute house with small but green lots.

When I saw Portland's quiet, bike laned streets, I understood why it's good for biking - the city is laid out in a grid, appeared not-too hilly and has plentiful side streets that look much safer than NYC's busy streets. I could see myself easily getting around primarily by bike there. But while Portland's public transportation is much lauded and some of our friends there do get by without owning a car, I found that it's more of a car city than you'd think. The light rail doesn't even go to southeast Portland and the rail and buses stop running around 12:30 nightly. Somehow, you can always find street parking, so it's often easier to just drive to your destination, especially when you're with a big group of people who include tourists who don't have bikes.

This one speaks for itself.

Food not lawns!

There are movie theaters where you can enjoy pizza and beer while watching the movie, all for only slightly more than the price of just a movie ticket in NYC.

Food trucks! Unlike in NYC, where they are mobile and elusive and require twitter to track down locations, food trucks in Portland get permanent devoted areas in parking lots called "food truck pods" so you always know where you can find your favorite late night pizza or breakfast sandwich.

The most memorable meal of the trip was at Pok Pok, a Thai street food restaurant with a a James Beard Foundation award winning chef and amazing spicy fish sauce chicken wings.

We got to enjoy two hot springs - Bonneville Hot Springs in the Columbia River Gorge just across the border in Washington, which was more of a resort and was unfortunately treated with chlorine.
Columbia River Gorge

Much better was Bagby Hot Springs, where a 1.5 mile hike into the woods leads you to an old wooden structure where you can soak in carved out logs.

When people warn you not to go to the coast because it's rainy and windy, you should listen, because what they really mean is that there will be driving rain with gale force winds that rock your car and threaten to blow you over so you won't be able to hike or see any of the beautiful views.

Also, everyone we met was super nice and willing to make time to hang out and make introductions to other people. Very refreshing compared to New York. Here are some new friends having fun climbing the columns in Cathedral Park in North Portland.

I also heard a lot of complaints about the rain and unemployment problems, so just make sure you have a job lined up and don't mind wearing a raincoat if you plan on moving there...


  1. Yay! I'm so glad you blogged about your trip - I've been meaning to go there!

  2. interesting to see a visitor's view of my hometown :) portland is much more diverse than the stereotypes shown - yes we have a great green culture but there is suburbia and there is the hood and there are upscale condos and new developments, just like any city. as someone who has been car-free for 3+ years, i would definitely disagree about needing a car to live here and get around. we have zipcar here and just like nyc, cabs after midnight if you're out that late. there is unemployment here like most of the country, but it's been exacerbated because so many overeducated, underskilled people keep moving here who have no skills beyond being a barista. we love visitors but always want them to understand that portland is not a stereotype. :) ps - it rains more annually in NYC and Miami than it does in Portland, and there is nothing better than the oregon coast this time of year - it's real, it's rugged, and it's absolutely amazing to cozy up in front of a fire at a beach house and watch the storms :)