· Cycling · Pearl District · Willamette River · Barista · Powell’s Bookstore · Bridgeport Brewpub · Blue Star Donuts ·
Exploration is something that is so incredibly important to my way of life now. I have developed a love for spending time alone in places I have never been, and slowly finding where I belong in all of it along the way. Because of this, my line of work feels more like a vacation half the time. That’s why I was ecstatic about the chance to visit Portland, Oregon for a day. Below I share the places I was able to uncover in my short 18 hour layover!
The view outside of my airport shuttle to the hotel provided my first glimpse into the Portland scene. If you have any preconceived notions about how you think it would look, you’re probably exactly right. It’s the cutest, most laid back town I have ever had the privilege to see firsthand. Coming straight from the east coast, I was very aware of how slow paced everything seemed, and it was incredibly refreshing. (Disclaimer: I love my fast-paced NYC, but diversity is always welcome). It was fully stocked with cute shops, restaurants, and the like. There’s also probably some of the most pristine people watching opportunities in Portland, which is always a big plus in my book. Eager to get out and explore, I immediately rushed to my room and made a quick itinerary (in my perfectionist fashion) to take advantage of my 18 hours.
As you can tell from the photo, I came ready with my Portland uniform, a flannel top and beanie. Rule #24380 to successful solo travel, always dress to blend in with your surroundings. Also, the hotel let guests rent bicycles (because OF COURSE they did), so I took full advantage. Snagging a pretty purple number with a basket and bell, I was officially ready to take on the day.
**In the support of full disclosure, I’m actually terrible at riding a bike when there is any sort of obstacle present. This includes but is not limited to sidewalks, streets, and other humans. So please don’t miss the opportunity to picture this all through that lens. I will also say that I have no shame in this regard, because we all have our strengths (and inherent weaknesses). PS, I feel it is important to include that I never actually fell!
I took off with my GPS rolling me towards the Pearl District, a super hip area that had my beanie with a magnetic pull from the moment I put it on. I very soon found myself crossing the Willamette River, which provided the beautiful view you see in the photo. It was nice to get a full glimpse of what I was about to conquer.
First stop, a legendary cappuccino from Portland’s own Barista. I needed a pick me up after the early flight and multiple time zone hop, so this provided the perfect antidote. It was here that I first started noticing how stinking nice everyone was, and more importantly how seriously they take their coffee. I settled down to enjoy my cup and continue my journey through Middle Earth with Bilbo Baggins (obviously reading The Hobbit), when I became distracted by a very enthusiastic conversation about Starbucks. Between a few of the customers and baristas, it was very clear that America’s beloved Starbucks didn’t make the cut for these coffee connoisseurs. In the spirit of debate, I normally would have questioned this standpoint, but my coffee was too delicious (proving their point) and I was warming up to the Battle of the Five Armies. All was well in my world, and I was more than pleased to remain a bystander in their discussion.
I leveled up a few energy notches, finished my perfect little coffee, and made way to my next stop. Powell’s Bookstore is one of the biggest claims to fame Portland has. With the world’s largest collection of new and used books, I knew I was about to enjoy getting lost between the shelves. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. There were mountains upon mountains of incredible books, organized and separated into several rooms. I happily got lost a couple times navigating between all the sections. A few times I even wanted to climb one of the ladders and bust out in Beauty and the Beast’s “Belle,” but I digress. It’s daunting to see laid out in front of you so many things you don’t know. I had to pry myself away eventually, with three books in hand, because I started to work up an appetite.
If you plan on keeping up with my travels, you’ll soon begin to notice how much I love to try new foods and drinks (purposefully avoiding the term “foodie” here, because it has gained a reputation of pretension). Craft beer has a huge place in my heart, so I set out to find some of Portland’s best local brews. I found myself sitting at the edge of the bar at Bridgeport Brewpub, and the following conversation ensued:
Bartender: “What kind of beer do you like?”
Bartender: “Well why not try it all? How about a flight?”
God bless her.
This was not your normal ‘pick three or four beers off our menu’ type flight. This was the magnificent chance to taste all of their craft beers at one time. I was presented with nine (yes nine) of Portland’s best. I was in my hoppy place.
Accompanied with an order of cheese fries and my continuing adventures with Bilbo, I was happily content. I will say that I got a few questions about why I was drinking at a bar by myself in the middle of the afternoon, but after short explanation, the inquirers became helpful tour guides in ensuring I experienced all the best Portland had to offer.
At that point, all that was left to do was drop by Voodoo Doughnuts, where I had heard the best donuts in town were. Much to my surprise, upon hearing this plan the Portland natives were cohesively against the idea. Apparently Voodoo is where the ‘tourists’ go, but not where you can find the best donuts. Of course that wouldn’t do for me. I tapped into my inner hipster, and sacrificed popular interest for the recommendation of the locals.
That turn of events led me to the most adorable street, lined with lights and an assortment of unique shops. This street was home to the critically acclaimed Blue Star Donuts. Apparently it takes 18 hours to create their French brioche recipe, and I’m always inclined to be impressed by lengthy food preparation (I repeat, not a self-proclaimed ‘foodie’ here). With their donuts made from scratch every day, this store’s listed closing time is when they run out of supply. Per my usual method of trying someplace new, I always ask what the best thing to order is. I was immediately ushered towards the tiramisu donut, and then additionally ordered the raspberry rosemary (huge fan of berries and alliteration here). They were packed in a box and placed in my bicycle basket, along with my books from Powell’s. When in Portland, do as the Portlanders do.
My day ended with an upward incline bike ride home, which not only furthered my clumsy reality, but provided the workout I had so masterfully avoided that day. Oh! I forgot to mention that in Portland bicyclists wave at each other in recognition, which is really sweet and all, until I have to maintain my balance while zooming past another on a bridge’s sidewalk… I’ll just let your imagination run wild on how that all went.
From my short exposure, Portland is a perfect paced town with lots of niche outlets and wonderful people. Definitely a place to put on your to do list if you’re looking for some rejuvenation (and apparently no sales tax).
I would love to hear about your experiences in Portland, and maybe some advice on places that I missed. Feel free to share below!
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