My wife and I visited Portland back in January, 2013 to see if it lived up to its ‘Portlandia’ hype. Was the spirit of the ’90s really alive in Portland? Was it a place where young people went to retire? And was it somewhere my wife and I could see ourselves living?
We weren’t really there long enough to answer the first two questions, but with respect to the last – and bear in mind that we came to this decision after 3-days of drizzly rain – it’s a resounding yes! Portland is cool, young and progressive. There’s no sales tax. It has all the big name hiking stores – Columbia, North Face, Patagonia, REI. There are bikes and bike lanes galore. The food is awesome and fresh tasting. Finally, there is a major league soccer team – The Portland Timbers. Why wouldn’t you want to live there?
TriMet MAX Light Rail in Downtown Portland
The MAX Light Rail has been a feature of Portland since 1986. It reminded me a lot of European light rail. It made getting around easy, especially to and from the airport.
Grey day on Hawthorne Bridge
Hawthorne Bridge spans the Willamette River by Waterfront Park in Downtown Portland. The path to the right is part of the half mile 'Waterfront Bike Trail'. Portlandians are crazy about their bikes. Not far from where this picture was taken, there is a Kerr Bikes free DIY fix-it station. Just stop by during business hours and you'll have free access to bike tools, an air pump, a wheel-truing stand and a work stand.
Nissan Leaf getting its 'Charge On'
There are approximately 25 electric quick-charging stations in downtown Portland. According to the Internet you can recharge a depleted Leaf battery pack to 80 percent of capacity in just half an hour. At a cost of $2/hr for a guest, that works out to a cost of something like $1.67 for 75 miles worth of charge. It must be true. You can't put anything that's not true on the Internet.
Lotus Cardroom & Cafe Mural
The Lotus Mural was first commissioned mural of now famous Portland artist, Karl Abramovic. Art is all around Portland, as are classic American bars. We didn’t spend any time in the ‘Lotus Cardroom’, but that evening we ate at Henry's 12th Street Tavern in the Pearl District. I'm not sure if it was real or imagined, but the food in Portland tasted less processed and more natural than other places I've been in the US.
A saturated Pioneer Courthouse Square
Centrally located and easy to get to (it’s bounded on all sides by MAX Light Rail), Pioneer Courthouse Square is described as Portland’s ‘Living Room.’ It hosts 'Travel Portland' (the offical visitor information center), a variety of artwork, and almost weekly events. It's functional, but kind of ugly. The red brick reminds me of a much hated bus station they built in Consett, Co. Durham England around 1980, and demolished in 1993.
Steph trying to take the Umbrella Man's cab
Pioneer Courthouse Square is home to several bronze artworks, including bears, otters, a scattered chess set, and this one, the 'Allow Me' bronze. Known locally as ‘Umbrella Man’, it one of seven created by John Seward Johnson II. From the wristwatch to the brogues, it's almost perfect in every detail.
Mist over Washington Park: A view from the Portland Hilton
One of the officers at Travel Portland took great pride in telling us that Portland's rainfall was less than that of Florida. The difference, however, is that in Portland it’s metered out as a fine mist that lasts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Weather didn’t seem to slow your average Portlandian down, though. Wherever we looked, there were always plenty of people walking, jogging, or biking.
Portland's Southern Skyline
If there was any cause for concern about a move to Portland, it was that it's a big city. Our current location, Flagler Beach, Florida, has a population of 4,500. Portland has a population of over 600,000. Ribbon roads, I-5, buildings over three stories; now that would all take some getting used to.
The Portland Aerial Tram leaving its Upper Station
The Portland Aerial Tram isn't just for tourists. Along with sightseers, it carries employees, patients, students, and visitors from the south waterfront to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) campus on Marquam Hill. A round trip cost us a economical $4 per person, but that fee is waved for anyone associated with OSHU.
East from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)
East of the Willimette River are the southeastern hipster neighbourhoods, like the ultra cool Sunnyside-Hawthorne. We spent two days wandering Portland's neighborhoods with a realtor, but soon realized that the funky northeast and southeast was 'where it’s at'. East of the river is highly rated for walking, with numerous small restaurant/shopping districts.
Spooled 2" cable at the Upper Docking Station
Each tram car travels on a pair of 2 inch (49 mm) 7000 feet (2100 m) steel track ropes (Thank you Wikipedia!). Along with being quite a marvel, it also makes an interesting photo.
Union Station Clock Tower
Anyone who has watched Grimm on NBC has probably seen the Union Station clock tower. It's part of one of those great, latter 19th century American railroad stations. On alternating sides, the tower signage is 'Union Station' and 'Go By Train'. At night they light up gold with a neon blue surround.
Lines of Amtrak Carriages, Union Station
Both Amtrak and Greyhound run through Union Station. If you feel so inclined, $24 will get you a one-way Amtrak coach seat to Seattle, Washington. And if the sitting for 4hrs bothers you, get a bed in a Superliner Roomette for $160.
World Forestry Center Museum, Washington Park
Washington Park is a large urban park west of the downtown. Using TriMax rail, it’s easy trip from the city. We got off at the station across from the Forestry Center's main building; a 20,000 square foot museum. The Museum is one of those buildings that makes you think, “I want a house like this.” That is until you see the building it replaced. From the photos on display, the original log cabin, constructed in 1905 for the ‘Lewis and Clark Centennial American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair’, was even bigger and more grand. Unfortunately it burnt down in 1964.
Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial
Washington Park is more than 400 acres, but we didn't stray further from the Forestry Center than the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial is a 1,200-foot (370 m) spiral path that details the progression of the conflict, as well as listing the names of Oregon residents who died. The only Vietnam Memorial I know of in Australia is in Canberra; however, they’re not uncommon in the US, even in very small cities. Pensacola, Florida has a population of only 52,000, but they have a half scale replica of the Washington D.C Vietnam Memorial Wall.
Converted Warehouses of the Pearl District
The northern end of the city is typical of much of Portland: The old and the dilapidated are making way to the new and refurbished. The Pearl District was once a center of trade and manufacturing in the city, but fell into ruin in the mid 20th century. The pictured Gadsby Building is typical. A retail furniture store for almost 50 years, it closed in 1953, only to be revived in the late 1980s.
Classic Beef Pie from Pacific Pie Co.
Jan 27th is close enough to celebrate Australia Day, right? I've missed my pies since moving to the US, and Portland gave me the opportunity to visit an Aussie owned pie shop. The menu touted 'Grass feed Beef' as one of the ingredients, which seemed nothing like the indescribable bits that go into piecrust back home. It was good, but at $6.95US it was quite expensive. Even with the current Western Australian mining boom, a deli pie isn't going to set you back much more than $4.
Craftsman Houses of Hosford-Abernethy
Near Hawthorne Blvd in Southeast Portland, the neighborhood of Hosford-Abernethy is one of my favourites. It is loaded with craftsman style homes. If I only had a spare $700-$900K, I would snap one up.
Voodoo Donuts One on 22 SW 3rd Avenue
Voodoo Donuts is a must see for anyone visiting Portland. It's one of the coolest shops around, and there's always a line round the block. As for the donuts… I'm not really impressed. It isn't their fault, it is just the way they make donuts here. Too much glaze and sugar, not enough real cream and real chocolate.