It was strange. Anita and I knew instantly that we liked Portland even before reaching the city centre. Our first impressions proved to be right too, as we actually ended up extending our intended two night stay to five!
When we first arrived we had to find a McDonalds for wifi so that we could find a trusted local mechanic. Under the advice of our previous mechanic in Vancouver we only cleared the “check engine” light without actually replacing the thermostat, just to see if the problem would return. It did.
We finally found an honest, reliable and affordable mechanic so shot over to have the problem again diagnosed and quoted. We booked it in for the next day then found a quiet nearby street to park, going for a short walk around the somewhat grungy area before jumping in the back of Fuego to tuck in for the night.
The next morning we dropped Fuego off at the mechanic and walked into the city to explore. The weather was stinking hot, sitting at around 38°C. We first stopped by the already packed Voodoo Doughnut, deciding we’d return later in the day for an afternoon delight. We then walked via the famous “Keep Portland Weird” sign to Powell City Books, one of the biggest and best bookstores we’ve ever visited. We continued to walk around the city, coming across some very colourful characters along the way. Like the woman who kept madly signalling to Anita for attention from across the road. We first ignored her, thinking she might have been a sandwhich short of a picnic, but when we crossed the road she stopped and yelled “MATCHING DUNGAREES!”. We laughed as Anita high fived the overly excited woman, then continued on our way.
We returned that afternoon to a fighting fit Fuego and decided to escape the afternoon heat by driving high up to Council Crest Park to read a little in the shade. The park had the most beautiful view out across the city to the iconic Mt Hood in the background. We then unpacked our stove and heated up some soup for dinner before finding another shady and inconspicuous spot to vanp for the night.
The following morning we woke bright and early and hit the road to Bridal Veil Falls, escaping the city for the day and seeing what else the beautiful state of Oregon had to offer. After making the short hike down to the view spot we returned to the road, crossing the Bridge of the Gods and driving the incredibly scenic Lewis and Clark Hwy along the Columbia River. We continued our scenic drive through the mountains to Trillium Lake, but without a parking space in sight we just took in the view and got back on the road to Portland.
That night we decided to visit the hip area of Kerns to see a movie at the Art Deco and very cool Laurelhurst Theatre. We thought it would be a good way of escaping the heat while also giving us an excuse to go out. We chose to see Kedi, a documentary about the thousands of stray cats that inhabit Istanbul, a city we still have a special spot for in our hearts. Although not exactly cat lovers the documentary was done in such an excellent way and really just gave us a chance to reflect on our time there.
The next day we decided to check out more of the surrounding area of Portland so visited Hawthorne, an area which quickly became our favourite. The main strip is filled cool restaurants, cafés and bars, as well as a tonne of interesting shops. After some lunch we headed to a local pool to not only escape the summer heat but to shower after four days of wet wipes (#vanlife). After leaving the pool feeling fresh we drove via Portland Mercado, a Latin American market space, to check out what was on offer. After a quick look around we continued on to the closest Walmart, a chain of supermarkets with several locations that allow overnight stays.
The following morning we were supposed to start our journey down the picturesque Oregon coast but the clouds had moved in overnight. We decided to spend one more day exploring Portland so that we’d have perfect conditions for the drive; a decision that was in no way a problem for us. We decided to walk down the trendy Alberta Street before heading back to Hawthorne to spend some more time in the neighbourhood we liked so much. Anita even stumbled on a second-hand clothes shop which was supposedly the biggest on the west coast! At 13,000 sq ft, I’d certainly believe it.
After four days in Portland we realised we hadn’t been to one brewery; shocking given that this beer lover was in the city that has more breweries than any other in the world! We visited nearby Hopworks Brewery for a obligatory pint of craft, ticking that off our list of “must dos” before heading back to Walmart for our last night in town.