Portland, OR

17 May 2017 | 4 mins

After my first stop in the US in Seattle, I took the Amtrak train down to Portland for a couple of days. Given my slight obsession with coffee, it would almost be rude not to make a call in one of the coffee capitals of the world.

I arrived mid-afternoon on Sunday in Portland, a little behind my original schedule given that Amtrak cancelled their 09:30 service, meaning I had to catch the (delayed) 11:15 train. Regardless, I arrived in one piece, only slightly hungover from my last night in Seattle, and walked the 15 minutes or so from Union Street Station to my hostel. Like in Seattle, the first thing I did on arrival was go for a run - this time an 8km loop around the waterfront of the Willamette River, crossing both the Tilikum Crossing and the North Steel bridge. I also passed under or over four other river crossings on the run - it’s not hard to see where the nickname Bridgetown comes from.

Having only planned two overnight stays in Portland, I probably should have done more with my first night; as it was, I was pretty tired after little sleep in Seattle on my last night, plus a day of travel followed by my run. I stayed in the hostel instead of heading out, sampling a few of their Portland-brewed beers. Coffee isn’t the only thing this city does well.

Following my early night, I made it out just after sunrise the next morning, eager to make the most of my one full day in the city. I started by just quartering blocks at random in downtown Portland, open for something to catch my eye. I picked up a coffee at one of the many places downtown (the name escapes me, but it definitely wasn’t Starbucks), and eventually wound up at Powell’s City of Books on the corner of W Burnside and 10th. Typically, I’m not a massive fan of physical books, as it pains the minimalist inside me, but this place was mesmerising. I ended up picking out a couple of books that have been on my list to read for a while - Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, and Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Ralph Leighton and Richard Feynman. I had to put Ulysses back on the shelf, along with half a dozen computer science / software engineering-related titles. I just don’t have the space in my backpack.

I only planned to spend about one hour in Powell’s, but it ended up being almost two by the time I made it to the tills with my books and gifts, meaning I had to pick up the pace to make sure I reached Pioneer Square in time for the 11am free walking tour. The tour itself was great, lasting about two hours and encompassing a lot of Portland that I’d walked past already without noticing the significance - in particular, Raymond Kaskey’s Portlandia, the second-largest copper statue in the United States (after the Statue of Liberty), and Mill Ends Park, the world’s smallest park. Portland is a weird city.

Post walking tour, I ate lunch at one of the 700 food carts scattered around the city (a Greek place on 2nd Avenue), and went to Waterfront Park to people-watch for a while. Fully rested and satiated, I wandered back to the hostel to drop off my books and gifts, and do laundry before leaving Portland the following morning. Having sorted myself out, I walked back into town before sunset, a long loop across downtown Portland and over the Willamette River, ending up at the quirky and magical Voodoo Doughnut on 3rd Avenue. After selecting a doughnut (or two, shut up), I walked once again back to the hostel as night fell, thoroughly tired and ready for sleep.

The next morning, I woke early again and walked into town for more coffee, this time at Courier Coffee on W Burnside Street, and Stumptown Coffee a block south. Caffeined-up, I walked back to a sports bar near Providence Park, home of the Portland Timbers, to watch Arsenal play their penultimate game of the season before walking back two blocks to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, waving goodbye to the city as I joined the 405 out of Portland. Road trip time!

This post is part 2 of 4 of a trip I took in May 2017.
Part 1 covers my time in Seattle.
Part 3 covers my mini road trip through Oregon and Washington State.
Part 4 covers my time in Vancouver.

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