48 hours in Portland.
Leaving all your cares behind in Portland.
Coming in to land at Portland. Beneath us, the Columbia River meanders through the snow-capped Cascade Range towards the Pacific. To our right is stratovolcano Mount Hood; at 3500 metres, it is the highest mountain in Oregon. Portland itself nestles in a huge carpet of forest. The area is known as “the Great PNW”. The grandiose Pacific Northwest. At the airport we take the tram – Portland is one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the USA. A day ticket for all public transport costs 3.70 euros and takes us straight to our accommodation. Our hosts Maylene and Charity give us a warm welcome and tell us about Portland’s heart and soul. They do not seem to be aware of how well they embody it themselves.
The two women are daughters of military parents and met at school in Japan when they were 14. Today they are married and rent out part of their house cheaply to people visiting Portland.
Brightly painted road junctions.
After a snack together, we set off. We pass small houses and wild gardens, beehives, brightly painted road junctions and numerous cafés on our way into the city centre and the waterfront. Here the “Saturday Market”, the largest flea market in the USA, is in full swing. You can buy just about anything there: from home-made truffle fudge to knitted earmuffs for pets. A few hundred metres further along the lengthy river promenade, Dale Acelar is waiting to take us on a short tour of the city in a brand-new CLS 550. Dale is a former child film-star who owns a bowling alley and is now Finance Manager of the local Mercedes-Benz branch. The journey takes us towards Portland’s old town and into Pearl District, where one gallery after another can be found in old factory lofts.
Vintage in new light.
Old shop fronts and retro-style neon advertising give the whole city an utterly charming vintage feeling. On Burnside Bridge directly in front of the legendary White Stag Sign – a neon sign that bears the inscription “Portland Oregon” under a stag – Dale drops us off.
We are about to set off into the wooded mountains of Portland which rise above the downtown skyline. But first we switch to a form of transport typical for Portland: in Pearl District we hire two bicycles. Our destination is Washington Park, a huge urban forest with a zoo, delightful gardens and professional hiking trails.
7000 rose bushes.
On the way there, we stop briefly at Floating World, a Mecca for comic fans: perhaps also because the inventor of “The Simpsons”, Matt Groening, comes from Portland. You could stay in this treasure trove for hours and hours, but we have a mountain to climb. 250 metres above the city lies Washington Park, and the 6 km uphill by bike are far more tiring than driving in a CLS 550. At the zoo, we lock up our bikes and take a signposted hiking trail to the rose testing garden, one of the largest in the United States. Here, visitors can sniff their way through more than 7000 rose bushes and 550 different types of roses. Or they can simply get away from it all, enjoy the view of Portland and – with a bit of luck – capture the snow-capped peak of Mount Hood on the horizon on camera.
Squash pyramids and braised peppers.
Our second day in Portland begins at Voodoo with its avant-garde doughnuts. The selection is staggering, and choosing what to order is a real challenge. The slogan is true: the Magic is in the Hole. With our blood sugar raised, we set off in search of Portland's famous foodies.
Not a difficult task, because the place teems with chefs and gourmets enthusing about culinary delights. There is fantastic food literally at every corner, as Portland is famous for its foodcarts. Mobile huts and little caravans, converted into kitchens. There are now over 600 of them.
Organic certificate close to the pacific.
Portland’s foodie culture goes hand in hand with a strong sense of sustainability. For many people, healthy food is the central aspect of their daily life. One of the first organic certificates came from Oregon, the Pacific is not far away, and the next organic supermarket is around the corner. Andrea and Taylor Bemis set up their own farm last year – Tumbleweed Farm. And the very first season was surprisingly successful. We met the two of them in a bar for a beer. On their blog dishingupthedirt.com, Andrea posts stories about life as a farmer and publishes dishes she conjures up each day with their own products.
As the day draws to an end, it becomes obvious: Portland is inexhaustible. In terms of ideas, creativity and wonderful places and people that the city has to offer. And if the small-town feeling should get too much for you in the city, just over an hour's drive away there are fantastic Pacific beaches, endless forests and majestic mountains.
“In the woods” without a WiFi connection. 48 hours in Portland were definitely great but – despite the clocks turning slowly – far too short.