I had a week off of work and I thought very carefully about were I wanted to go, since I wanted to leave the country. Europe was definitely out due to time and budget constraints. Then I thought about maybe Vegas or San Francisco, but I couldn't afford both a plane ticket and food. Stupid airlines, why do they charge so much?
So, I finally settled on Portland, since it was the furthest city south that I could easily get to. And for a $150 round trip ticket from Amtrak, it was quite a deal.
I stayed at the hostel in the Hawthorne district, which was rather cozy and in a lovely century old house. I didn't know until the night before I left that there are a large number of vintage shops in Hawthorne, so I thought I was in trouble monetary wise, but more on that later.
I much prefer staying in hostels than in hotels. You meet such interesting fellow travellers there and the atmosphere is much more home-like and friendly. Plus you get to share tips and meals and wander off sight-seeing with new friends.
I only wish that the beds were more comfortable.
With the Canadian dollar actually worth slightly more than the American dollar these days, I found the prices to be the same as the ones in Vancouver. Although I was disappointed to discover that the Portland thrift stores were much more expensive, but I suppose that because thrifting has been "discovered" and the prices raised accordingly.
However, restaurants were so very much cheaper, especially in Hawthorne. And the portions were huge! That's probably the best thing about travelling in America, you can eat a cheap large breakfast and not have to eat again until a late supper. I don't even think that I finished one meal there, but I don't normally eat very much anyway.
What I was surprised by was just how much alcohol was readily available and it was so cheap. You could even get a drink in the breakfast places, so you can start your day off right with a beer. I never noticed this before, since I haven't been to the States since I turned 21 and could drink down there (seriously, what a stupid law).
The most touristy thing that I did was to order the local micro brew taster, although it came with larger glasses then I imagined. I really don't like beer, but Portland is very proud of their local brews and it seemed like the thing to try, even though I couldn't finish.
I met a girl at the hostel who was also from Vancouver and we went down to the local grocery store to check it out, cause that's what cool people do. We spent a good ten minutes laughing at finding beer and wine on offer there. Canadians are the only people who find the sight of a booze section next the the dairy section hilarious.
I only explored the Downtown/Chinatown and Hawthorne areas. I would have loved to explore Portland further, but I found the transit system to be infrequent, particularly the light rail and streetcar system that serve downtown and I didn't have access to a car. For a city that prides itself on being "green" they should have a light rail system that runs more frequently then every twenty minutes in the downtown area.
I also spent an entire morning and part of the afternoon in the Art Museum.
Here are some of my favourite shots that I took. I love that Portland has made an effort not only in restoring their old building and signs, but also not tearing them down in favour of walls of glass. Yay for Portland!
I prefer train travel to all other types of travel. Obviously it's more scenic, but it's also much more comfortable. There's leg room and you can get up and walk to the lounge car, have a coffee, read a book, look at the little towns whizzing past, chat with your neighbour and get out to stretch your legs on the platform.
The trip was eight hours each way and it was much easier to pass through customs and the border then by air or car. Plus, I got a window seat on the way back and was able to see the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean.
Ok, I can see that every day in Vancouver, but it looks so much more beautiful on a moving train.
I was pleased that vintage was the same price as it is here, since that meant that I wasn't tempted to buy even more clothes for full closets. But I did buy two dresses and a skirt from Red Light Vintage, which was the cheapest vintage store that I've ever come across. I also went into the Perfume House, which is a very dangerous store. I love wearing perfume and was so happy to find a big bottle of "Je Reviens", which is my favourite and dashed hard to find, for only $50 and a much better deal then buying more clothes.
Portland is of course famous for having Powell's, the largest independent book store possibly in the world. Fortunately, I was limited by what I could carrying. And I forgot the list of books that I wanted at home.
You can see more of my photos in this set on Flickr.