This city was rather anticlimactic for me. I guess it was hyped up by a friend and word that it was a super hipster city. One thing that was helpful was the lack of stupid tax on items which really screwed me in the other U.S cities. You would see the price of $2 then get to the till and suddenly have to pay $2.20, which doesn’t sound like too much but in the airport headed for our final flight, we had the last of our change in coins, not even notes. My boyfriend went to buy fried chicken and had to ask the cashier how much the full meal would come to in the end, just to ensure that he had enough. People stared at me quite often as a number of times I had to hold my hand out and ask the tellers to count the coins they needed because I never really got the hang of nickels, dimes and quarters.
I digress. One of the important things I need to mention is that when booking accommodation in multiple cities, so to be sure to account for the night of the day you arrive. Everything was smooth sailing for us until the last day in Seattle when we checked our Google calendars and were horrified to see that we had forgotten that night.
As we were on Wi-Fi and had to leave the house for the train station, it was an extremely stressed hour that we spent scouring Air BNB, asking various people if they had same day accommodation at the fee we could afford. I made sure not to lose my temper because it was an easy mistake to have made but I did feel a little anxious when we headed out without a place to sleep that night. Another factor that may have made me grumpy may have been the heavy bag I was lugging. One would have thought that I had learnt my lesson in Europe. But no, my enormous purple bag was dragged through four cities and I tried not to complain as it was self inflicted. Even my attempt to pack light didn’t make much of a difference as I ended up buying things I believed I couldn’t find at home.
The train ride was lovely, comfy chairs and much to our relief – WIFI!!!!!!!
Me and my enormous bag
As we sped through the beautiful countryside we scrolled and scrolled until we hit the jackpot. Well it felt like the jackpot because it meant that we wouldn’t have to spend the night in the train station.
A sweet man with a gift of the gab agreed to take us in for the night. It was slightly more out of town than we would have liked (meaning more bag dragging through suburbia) but I did love the feel though. Like a typical upmarket American area with kid’s bikes on the front lawns and lovely veggie patches as well as an enormous sunflower that towered over me that was worthy of a photo op.
We were pleased when the host offered to make us a meal because we were tired and hungry with no desire to venture too far out. A short walk was enough exploring for the evening and we retired to the squeaky wooden floored house. I think he may have given up his bed that night and was also kind enough to take us to our next accommodation the following day on the basis that we would help him move a heavy cupboard and drop it off at Goodwill. He did most of the lifting so I couldn’t quite figure out what the point was but once more we were eternally grateful to not have to carry our luggage all the way to another bus stop.
Unfortunately due to our hurry, we didn’t get all of the coordinates in time or contact the new host so when we arrived outside what turned out to be a huge apartment building, we got a little snappy.
All was saved when my boyfriend discovered a Starbucks and messaged the host who came out about fifteen minutes later. He was very abrupt and didn’t greet us. He only held open the door and even in the elevator did not introduce himself. Immediately I felt all happiness dissipate and began to wish that we hadn’t left the talkative guy. Inside we were told to take our shoes off and were shown to our room. It smelled a little of boiled goose and slowly the picture began to form.
He was first generation Iranian. Both his dad and step-mom lived there and it being a two bedroom place, I wasn’t certain where he slept. His father was exceedingly nice and we didn’t meet the step-mom until two days in. We immediately set out to explore the city as well as escape the boiled goose scent and upon our return he had done a complete 180. He was jovial and talkative, asking questions and smiling and I was confused beyond all measure.
He didn’t have a job, lived with his family and had put the second room on Air BnB for a basic income that they could all live off of until he found new work. Our arrival with bags was indicative of this fact which he obviously didn’t want anyone to know about which was why he had acted aloof and not as though it was the first time he was meeting us. A strange and interesting last few days in the USA.
The absolute first item on our itinerary was Powell’s city of books. I was not disappointed. A literal city block big and housing over a million books, it was as though I had stepped into a fantasy universe. Home to new and used books, nine colour-coded rooms with 3500 sections housing rare books that I would never have found back home, multiple Piers Athony novels, works by Frans Kafka, Joe Hill and even Dean Koontz’s older fantasy fiction works. My boyfriend had to sit me down and give me a very stern talking to as I looked down at my basket containing sixteen or so books. Slowly and bitterly I returned a few to the shelves and instead bought some Harry Potter memorabilia. The amount of money I spent there is irrelevant because it was a once in a lifetime store that most certainly added to the appeal of Portland. They even had lovely bathrooms though on my journey back I got lost and muttered to myself that this was my new home.
Powell's city of books where I nearly made my new home
Very rare books that I didn't even know existed
We visited the renowned Salt and Straw where I paid over R100 for two ice cream cones. Way larger than I anticipated, eventually I was choking mine down expecting a sweet death.
The endless ice creams. Bone Marrow and Cherry flavour
Something I like about the States is that the store staff generally treats everyone as though they can afford their ridiculously priced items. I think the number of weird, tattooed hipsters with money made them realise that they could never discern who would buy or not.
Goodwill was more my vibe. I came away with an Alice in Wonderland costume and the ugliest Christmas jersey I think anyone has seen but I absolutely adore.
I don’t think that Portland had that much to offer. I mean, there was a lot to do but not as much as others had made it seem.
We visited Voodoo Doughnuts which once more nearly induced a sugary death and went to wash down the cloying sweetness with what may have been the worst beer I have ever tasted. The waiter sold it so well, describing the cherry blossom undertones and all sorts of bull dust. The first sip was like vinegar and it didn’t improve thereafter sadly.
The gross bitter beer and my newly acquired band shirt
We took a trip to the Pitcock Mansion which was more than disappointing because not only were the buses super staggered meaning a hella long wait, but there weren’t even any tours happening when we got there after the long uphill trek. The view from the top was spectacular. It was a grand building to see from the outside but thank goodness we had saved the map and managed to find our way out of there through a literal forest. I kept picturing an axe murderer coming for us but we were greeted only by a few joggers and dog walkers.
When we reached the bottom and crossed a busy road, we then made our way up some more hills in order to reach what was the second best part of Portland I think – the Japanese gardens.
I have always had a love for Japan and it was as though we had been transported to Kyoto.
There were Japanese style buildings, streamlets, plants and flowers native to Japan but unfortunately no cherry blossoms.
We were lucky on our trip there because the very last day was full of rain. There were delays and we were a little worried about missing our flight. Even more so, it didn’t stop raining after that day which would have ruined our trip entirely.
The USA was interesting and I learnt a lot about their culture as well as my love for South Africa.
As a more conservative country and people, I wouldn’t recommend a stay longer than three weeks though that may just be personal preference.