Sunday, March 6, 2011

Travel stories: Peddling it out in Portland

As a tourist in a foreign country there's always that feeling that you only get to scratch the surface. Staying in hotels, taking guided tours and consulting your travel guide can give you fantastic experiences, but does it show you the true face of that place your visiting? When planning our last trip to the american west coast we discussed this a lot. Having three road trips behind us we felt we wanted to not only see all these places but also meet the people who live there. 

While planning for the trip in the spring of 2010 I got to know a guy from Seattle. He suggested when hearing we were heading to Portland to contact an old friend of him who lives there. Initially I e-mailed T to get some ideas about what area to stay in Portland, T replied with a good number of places to stay but also invited us to stay in his house with him and his girlfriend A. We felt a bit intrusive at first but this was the possibility we've been waiting for so we gladly accepted their invitation.

Portland is the largest city in the state of Oregon, located in the north west of the U.S.A. It has a population of roughly half a million and has been referred to as one of the most environmentally friendly cities of the world. 

We arrived in Portland at the end of June on a perfect summer day. T & A set us up with a great directions on how to find their house which didn't stop us from getting lost at least once on our way there. We were welcomed with open arms and to this day I'm still amazed that their are people like them who like it was the most natural thing in the world opened there home to us two worn down travelers with bags enough to fill an entire room in their apartment. T & A live in a great apartment in a two story house with a awesome back garden in north east Portland. 

Back to the story then, T & A have a huge interest in design which showed in their house. Honestly one of the coolest homes I've ever  been to. They had prepared a barbecue for us with Veggie-patties ( me & M are Vegetarians) which was awesome! When Swedes think about american life we picture barbecues with neighbors drinking budweisers and talking football. Except for the football this was pretty spot on. Since T like me is a nerd when it comes to tech stuff I got a chance to feel out the Ipad which wasn't on sale in Sweden yet at the time. After dinner we went out with T for beer in the Mississippi area. I sent T an e-mail asking for the story of the Mississippi area and his answer was so good that i'll quote him directly. 

"Yup, the mississippi ave area is officially the Boise neighborhood in North Portland. It has a pretty awesome history as it was the main "black" neighborhood in the city (portland is probably the whitest city in america) - so it has seen the full spectrum of american history in a lot of ways...from being the hub of the civil rights movement in Portland to being the center of the jazz and blues explosion in the 50's and 60's to finally being the one place in town you really didn't want to go to in the 80's and 90's for fear of being chased out by the gangs and drug dealers. Now the neighborhood is filled with white yuppies like myself, but the community infrastructure has remained intact so there is a good mix of races and cultures here. "

The area is great. Myself growing up in the alternative scene I found myself right at home among all these tattooed bohemian people roaming around the main street Mississippi Ave. Our first stop was a crowded bar called Moloko. Kinda with a trendy hipster vibe but in a chilled out way. Nice staff that also knew their way around mixing cocktails. They also had a nice indoor patio. Next stop was a german  style bar called Prost. I found this place really cool cause they served almost the exact beer types which we serve in the bar i work in Stockholm. Another must see if you're in the area is Amnesia brewery. A micro brewery right in the mississippi area with a great variety of standard as well as seasonal beer. I'm picky when i come to beer but the seasonal I.P.A i had was near perfection. They also have a great outdoor patio where the serve barbecue bar food. All in all the mississippi area is a fantastic blend of shops, coffee shops, bars and restaurants with a great laid back vibe. If coming to Portland I would strongly suggest making this area your priority and even try to find a hotel in the area. 

Next day we explored on our own for awhile until T finished work. After that he set us up with bikes and took us on a guided tour to downtown Portland. M was a bit worried cause she's not a big fan of bike riding but this fear was soon overcome much to the fact that Portland is one of the most bike friendly towns I've ever been to. It actually seemed like more people where riding bikes then in cars. After an amazing tour we crossed over the Willamette river to downtown. We started of in the Pearl District. Old factories and warehouses turned into trendy shops and boutiques. We walked around for a good while in downtown and though it is a beautiful city surrounded by high mountains, downtown pretty much reminds me of a typical american city and didn't really do it as much for me. Maybe because i was so blown away by the Mississippi area. A cool stop however was Ground Kontrol, a barcade sporting all those awesome arcade games from the eighties. I could have stayed for hours but at least i got to play an old star wars favorite. This is the best idea ever. How can there not be a barcade in every town in the world?

We had a great few days with T & A and I cant start to explain how grateful i am to them for the experience they gave us. I could go on forever writing about Portland but this is already a too long entry. I'll leave you with one last tip a vintage shop we visited while driving out of Portland thanx to A. Vintage Pink is a awesome vintage shop with everything you can think of from the 50's to the 80's. We got some really cool stuff that might be another entry in this blog.

Now to finish this off i'll share my homemade music video tribute to Portland. Starring T on guitar and vocals!

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