Welcome to Portland airport where our most important connection is you.
the cute airport announcement said. Free wifi and an artist singing and playing guitar selling his CDs in the waiting area. I was pretty sure I was going to like this place. I was just surprised by how much I did eventually.
The first thing I notice about the city is that its beautiful. It manages to look elegant in spite of the fast pace and its just really green. The interesting art on the street slows you down if you are watching.
The public transport system might seem intimidating for someone coming from California (because we don’t have much of a system here) but one ride and you will get the hang of it. A bus driver I ask for help tells me about the transfers I have to take, makes me recite the entire trip and drops me off on the side of the road next to the transfer station. Compare this with (some) drivers in SB who close the doors in spite of seeing people running in front of them to catch the bus. See what I mean by happy place?
The people are also very creative and amusing. Don’t miss out on the Saturday market (which I first mistook for a farmer’s market). The things local artists bring over to sell are pretty cool even if not always worth buying. This is also the perfect place to get all your hippie shopping done.
I see a ‘recycled’ skirt made out of an old worn out shirt in one of the stalls, with the collar and buttons still on, running across its length. I want to buy a dozen because they do look aged and cheap. But they cost around $70 due to their high hippiness quotient. Meanwhile, the food trucks sell ‘free range chicken’ meals for 8 dollars. The place definitely has a character.
The Conference bit
Meanwhile I find the best single serve coffee I have had in a while in the hotel I’m staying at. Peet’s coffee pods, straight from California. A money settling session with bunch of Europeans leaves me (intentionally) with quite a few euros, pounds and francs.
The Italian says
I’m sure someone is losing money in this, I just don’t know who..
The magic in the hole
Not a big fan of donuts myself, I go to Voodoo donuts because that’s what you do when you visit Portland. The place looks worn out and intriguing. I see the longest line I have seen for donuts. I get donuts with names such as butterfingering and triple chocolate penetration, not bothered to read the flavors. They are actually quite nice (though arguably over-hyped), especially the ones filled with Bavarian cream.
City of roses
I get to visit the Portland rose parade which has been happening for over 100 years now. I’m beginning to love parades because they are great for local people watching. The most excited people watching the show aren’t children or tourists. Old nostalgic people seem to be having the most fun.
The Washington Park is a great change from the fast pace of the city. I see my dream house. In the middle of a wonderful city but surrounded by woods. Then I see bigger and more lavish dream houses.
The Rose Garden in the park is a must see. There is also a small Japanese garden next to the rose garden but I resist my overachiever urge and stick to the roses. And they are so lovely, you can spend all day strolling and seeing all the variations.
The park has a free bus service. The buses run every twenty minutes but that’s fine because the place is beautiful! I don’t mind waiting in the middle of tall firs and chirping birds. I hear the bus before I see it. I have to get this one or wait another twenty minutes. I envy the dandelion seeds taking their sweet time floating through the park.
Seen in Washington Park. Question: What are these mesh bags filled with wood chips doing on the side of the road?
The IKEA conundrum
I end up in IKEA accompanying my host. In the long wait at the home delivery station after the cash registers, I notice a bag of straws appear out of nowhere on the bench I’m sitting on. Already paid for, no one to claim. Should I leave it to IKEA to put it back for sale, let someone else have it, or take it myself? I really need straws. Not really, but I can figure it out. If you know me, you will know what I did.
stolen treasures: lucky penny or shop lifting?
Then on the way back to the airport, I meet a half homeless full hippie woman on the MAX line who is telling me and anyone else who is listening about an iPad she found on the street which she isn’t planning to return. Some folks tell her about tracking systems on tablets which will link to her, trying to change her mind. But she won’t have it. And while I’m trying to take a picture of the street behind her, joking that I’m not taking her picture instead, she gets too paranoid and gets off early. Yeah, someone isn’t getting their forgotten iPad back. I feel a little better about my two dollar IKEA straws now.
Portland is a very pedestrian friendly place. Pedestrians don’t heed much to the road signs and cross roads whenever they feel like it. And just as I get used to this freedom its time to leave. Doing this in California will get you the most unfriendly stares.
I guess the only annoying thing about the place is the slow free way traffic. If you want to pull your hair out diving behind a Prius going at fifty miles per hour in low traffic in the fast lane, this is the perfect place for it. Second is the smoking! You are sitting in the park admiring the roses and breathing in the fresh air when you sense that familiar stink and see a perfectly fine looking person smoking here too. Not in McDonald’s though.
There are many more touristy things to do in the place. I found the Pittock Mansion quite interesting especially since I have been on this spree of visiting historic houses wherever I go. The Lan Su Chinese Garden is peaceful and cute. It complements the laid back pace of the city. Usually an obsessive person, this city gently slowed me down and kept me curious at the same time. Every place I went to was great and the people just happy.
We land in SB on a cloudy day. I’m happy with the sense of familiarity I get when I come back home. Similar to the one I did walking in the brown tiled corridors of Sharav. SB is home.