By Simon Phillimore
For the Hollywood Star News
In the May 2016 Star article “Travelers’ House hones hospitality,” 22-year-old Simon Phillimore, a resident of Britain, is quoted as saying that “at Travelers’ House, they take care of the little details.” Since then, Phillimore sent the Star this detailed description of his trip.
When I told my friends I would be going to Portland as part of my travels around the world, I was greeted with replies of ‘Portland? What’s in Portland?’ If I’m completely honest, it was difficult to answer this question. I had heard of it, and the proximity of the beautiful Oregon coastline seemed ideal. But I had no idea what to expect upon my arrival. Little did I know that Portland would turn out to be my favourite destination in the USA.
What struck me at first, even before arriving at PDX, was the sheer amount of greenery in the Portland area. From my flight, I could see so many different shades spreading themselves across the landscape. My hometown region on the south coast of the United Kingdom also has areas of forests, but nothing on the scale of what Portland and Oregon has to offer. I found it quite incredible that it is not just the beauty of the Portland that amazes, but also the sheer diversity. About an hour and a half to the west is the wild Pacific coastline. Drive the other way and you reach Mount Hood and excellent hiking locations. And even in the city centre itself, there is greenery almost everywhere, which makes a refreshing change from the usual concrete jungle metropolis.
Culture wise, Portland also has a great deal going for it. It’s impossible to walk around without encountering interesting shops or cosy cafes. I knew Seattle was supposed to be big on coffee, but it turns out that Portlanders have a lot of love for a cup of Joe. The quality of coffee was excellent everywhere I went, but I guess when the competition is that good there’s no room for bad coffee! I was pleasantly surprised to find a tea bar as well, containing a huge selection of teas from a variety of sources. As a Brit, I can confirm we do drink a lot of tea, so this felt like a home from home when I visited on a rainy Portland afternoon.
From caffeine to alcohol, I must mention the brewing industry in Portland. My impression of US beer was mainly the watery Budweiser that is plastered over billboards and stocked to the rafters in supermarkets. However, the Portland brewing industry proved to be a stark contrast to my preconceptions. I visited the Saturday Market by the riverside and was pleasantly surprised to find varying pale ales as well as ciders, all from local brewers. I think I shall have to time my next visit with one of the beer festivals.
After a few days in Portland, I became acquainted with the legend of Voodoo Doughnuts. I kept seeing these pink boxes being ferried around in people’s arms, until I finally stumbled across the source – the magic is in the hole. However, no amount of magic was going to shift the enormous queue. Some would say the Brits love a good queue, but whilst yes, we are good at queuing, you would struggle to find someone who genuinely enjoys it. So I gave Voodoo a miss, but luckily I came across Blue Star Doughnuts on Mississippi Avenue, where there was no queue and the tastiest doughnuts I’ve ever had.
My favourite shop, or maze as I would describe it, has to be Powell’s City of Books. They don’t lie about the city part. I was amazed at the size of the store (an entire block!) and the number of books piled to the ceilings. Perhaps the most interesting thing, was that because it was so big, there were different types of people in different sections. Whereas most bookshops are too small to distinguish this difference, in Powell’s you could see the history buffs browsing in British history, the bakers looking for new cookbooks and sci-fi fans checking out the latest stories set in a “galaxy far, far away.” What better way to encounter like-minded people, in your preferred section of the bookshop.
People. I think that may be one of Portland’s greatest assets. Wherever I went, I was met with a friendliness that I did not find elsewhere in the USA. There is a defined community vibe in Portland, which creates the feel of a small town despite being the size of a city. Maybe that is why I felt so at home there, coming from a small town back home in Southern England. To go into more detail, I noticed during my time in the States the obligatory “have a nice day” whenever I bought something. This does happen in the UK, just not as often as in the USA. However, I found that in other areas of the USA, in particular the East Coast, this phrase was much more forced, whereas in Portland I more often than not felt it was a genuine phrase.
It is safe to say I will definitely be visiting Portland again, and if I had to choose one place to live in the USA it would definitely be the City of Roses. Perhaps it’s the above reasons, or maybe it’s just the rainy weather is a lot like the UK. After all, we Brits love to moan about the weather – Portland sounds perfect for that.