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For the first time ever, I’ve gone somewhere without actually seeing the city. I’m guessing some business travelers may be used to this feeling, but as a leisure traveler, it’s a first for me. I spent five nights at the Courtyard Marriott Portland City Center, which has a really convenient location for seeing Portland (Oregon), and yet I saw very little of the city itself. While most of my time was spent on day trips, I did get a few chances to explore the different neighborhoods for breakfasts and dinners, so for starters I’ll share my observations on what I liked in the city itself.
You knew I’d start with this one, didn’t you? One of the reasons we specifically chose to day trip from a base in the city rather than stay out of town was for the chance to try out some good eats. The food scene in Portland is pretty amazing considering the size of the city. Not only are there restaurants everywhere, but the scope of ethnic cuisines, cooking styles, ambiance, and price range is impressive. Anything you want is easily found, whether that’s an incredible breakfast sandwich from a food cart or melt-in-your-mouth black cod at a Japanese restaurant. Vegetarians and vegans will have plenty of selection as well. Two thumbs up for diverse experiences.
In Portland, anything goes. I looked just as much in place wearing muddy North Face pants as I did in a halter top and heels. The whole attitude of “whatever” is really refreshing, especially since it means you don’t have to feel self-conscious when a raincoat completely deters from your style.
Ease of Getting Around
We used a combination of public transportation, walking, taxis, and rental car to get around and all of it was easy. The city is easy to navigate, with public transportation maps and bus schedules at dozens of stops and a grid system perfect for walking. A rental car was essential for our trips out of town, and we found driving to be pretty low-stress and parking reasonable on nights and weekends.
Portland has quality offerings on three drinks that I appreciate: coffee, beer, and wine. I loved that no matter where I went, the house coffee would be a step up from Starbucks, which usually meant I was over-caffeinated… My favorite local beer was the Deshutes Doppel Bock and my wine of choice was a 2007 Arygyle Spirithouse Pinot Noir. Good thing most brewpubs, wineries, and even some restaurants offered flight tastings so I could sample several. Not your thing? Try out Distillery Row instead for more local drinks.
Everywhere you go, Portlanders have strong beliefs. They get excited about their interests and feelings, and I love it. I don’t agree with half of it, but I love it anyway. You’ll find people standing up for everything from unflourinated water to music. It makes for some great people-watching, well-attended debates, and all-around interesting neighborhoods.
All in all, Portland is worth a visit and there were obviously parts of my vacation that really stood out for me. I know I missed out on other parts of the city, but I’ll still chalk this up to a good visit.