Portland is a city we couldn’t miss on our road trip to Oregon.
After all the national parks we visited, and as we were heading towards the west coast, we finally arrived in Portlandia (one of its many names), the strangest city in the United States. By the way, its slogan “Keep Portland Weird” is not to be proven anymore…
Portland is a strange city, in every sense of the word
The city has a reputation. It’s a trendy city, full of hipsters where you can find the best coffee and beer in the country (hence its other nickname Beervana).
So, as hipster lovers, you’d expect a lot from them. And Portland is a bit like Ushuaia when you go down South America. It’s THE city you have to go and see, the one you’ve always heard about. Good for you.
Portland hasn’t been an easy city for us to get to know, and it would be wrong to think that we can appreciate it after only a few hours.
Which led us to a somewhat mixed feeling about the city. It must be said that we arrived in the rain, under big grey clouds and with a lot of clichés in our heads, which didn’t take long to shatter.
A short tour of the most fashionable city in the northwestern United States, from its Chinatown to the Alberta District, district by district.
Like the city, Portland’s Chinatown is the “weirdest” in the world. Simply because nowhere else in the world will you find an empty Chinatown… of Chinese (except maybe at < a href=’/peru/return-to-civilization-visit-of-Lima’>Lima, but that’s another story). Still, in Portland, Chinatown is sad. One or two small streets, a Chinese restaurant, a lifeless neighborhood, (and without Chinese!!), at most a very nice door that opens the neighborhood.
It seems that the Portland Classical Chinese Garden is worth a visit, but we didn’t have the courage to go there on this one…
Downtown, the city center
Much like Atlanta, we were particularly disappointed by the center of the city. Not much to see there, if not a lot, then a lot of homeless people in a bad state. Add to that the fact that it was floating, and that the streets were particularly empty, and it gives you a picture worthy of The walking dead series. We were beginning to seriously wonder how Portland could have become such a famous city in the US.
Well, we went to Pioneer Courthouse Square, a large square where a whole part of the city seems to gather regularly. Not much of a memorable experience on that side of town either. That’s when we decided to go a little further north, across the Willamette River.
And finally, the trendy Portland and weirdo revealed itself a bit.
North Mississippi Avenue and its bars and coffee houses
So we drove up the town a little, crossing Willamette River, to find ourselves 2 or 3 kilometers north of Downton, in one of the trendiest streets in the city, North Mississippi Avenue. And there, surprisingly, the sun appeared, as much as the cool Portland.
Here it’s musicians, bearded men, trendy home improvement stores and bars every 100 feet. And then foodtrucks on just about every kind of food there is, from organic markets to art galleries. The neighborhood is very nice, and so are the people you meet there. So we stopped for coffee and a beer, just so we could judge if Portland’s reputation wasn’t being stolen.
And in the end, I guess you could say it was pretty cool. In fact, we’re talking about it in more detail here.
Alberta Main Street and its art galleries…
Much like North Mississippi Avenue, Alberta is a pleasant place with countless trendy restaurants, bars and shops, where even the most difficult can find their happiness. The shops are always beautifully decorated.
But there are plenty of art galleries here, once again true to the Porland image.
Some bars and shops not to be missed in Portland
By following our guides and the few addresses that we had been recommended, but also by letting ourselves be carried along on our walks, we appreciated these few places, quite representative of Portland.
Stormbreaker is a bar in the purest style of the city. Here you buy homemade beers, whose alcohol and bitterness levels (Bitter Unit) are specified, because in Portland we don’t joke about beer… that the locals drink with Whisky, by the fire. Cool atmosphere, especially at nightfall.
Random Order Coffee House, conveniently located on Alberta Street where tattooed chicks serve you great homemade coffee.
Powell’s City of books, in the heart of Portland, would be the world’s largest independent bookstore for new and used books. Indeed, it’s huge, and it’s a testament to the local people’s love of culture and art. Very nice to visit after a good coffee…
The shores of the Willamette River, which are quite pretty when the weather is nice, are nice to visit, with those old boats at the dock and the superb bridges such as the Fremont Bridge.
How was Portland?
Portland is one of those cities that we visited and that left us with nice memories, without making us want to come back there at all costs. Maybe we expected too much, maybe we missed out on its charm, but we will especially remember a city with certain attractions, the sea and the mountains (for skiing) are only a few miles away… but it is unfortunately not as lively as we expected…