The next stop on my West Coast trip: the city of Portland, Oregon. I was SO excited about this as visiting the Pacific Northwest has always been #1 spot on my bucket list and being in Oregon meant I would finally be there! I’d also heard so much good stuff about Portland, from its quirky vibes to its incredible vegan food scene.
Monday 30th April
My flight with AirAlaska from San Francisco to Portland was super fast and easy; in my opinion this is definitely the most time/cost efficient way to travel between the two states. I’d heard that Portland airport was meant to be really nice and it was! Lots of glass overlooking the pine forests outside, and pretty trees and sculptures depicting the local area inside. It was easy to buy my ticket for the light rail into the city centre and it was only a short wait for the train to arrive. I used Google Maps on my phone to navigate to my hostel and this worked perfectly, until I almost missed my stop on the bus! In the interest of full disclosure, as I was on my way out to the hostel I was messaging my mum saying I’d made a mistake booking it, it was too far out and the neighbourhood looked dodgy. I told her I’d stay one night and look for somewhere else in the morning… famous last words. As soon as I stepped into Travelers House I felt welcomed, the staff were so friendly and informative, the hostel was gorgeous and homely and my room was PERFECT, including them allocating me the single bed in the corner as I was staying for longer so could have more of my own space. I had some dinner, unpacked my things and went to bed.
Tuesday 1st May
After a quick breakfast and some directions from the guy on reception, I was on the bus heading into Portland city centre. First stop? Voodoo Doughnuts, of course! Luckily it was early on a weekday so the queue was non existent, and I was able to buy my huge, sparkly purple doughnut very fast. I then walked through the streets towards Powell’s City of Books, an iconic bookshop that covers a whole block! I spent the rest of the morning browsing the multiple floors and zones of this shop, including contemplating buying a book for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail… (I knew I’d fall in love with the PNW fast)
I gave myself some time to browse a few shops I wanted to visit in America, including Free People and Patagonia and generally just get a feel for Portland. Then it was time for (a late) lunch. I’d already done my research after hearing of Portland’s reptation for incredible food and had decided to visit Vtopia for lunch. It was quite a long walk out of the town centre and looked incredibly underwhelming from the outside; I was also the only one there for lunch. HOWEVER, this place is probably in my top five USA experiences. They specialise in homemade artisan vegan cheeses, and their menu is full of deli sandwiches and MAC AND CHEESE. I had a mac n cheese toastie on thick, crusty sourdough bread with salad and honestly it was the best food I’ve possibly ever eaten. If you are ever in Portland, consider this my number 1 recommendation.
Wednesday 2nd May
After getting directions from reception I was back on the bus, heading out of the city to St Johns at the north end of Portland. From here you can cross the iconic St John’s Bridge to access Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in the United States! I stopped at Safeway to buy some picnic lunch and then headed over the bridge. Whilst I was admiring the views downriver on the Willamette to downtown Portland, I witnessed the most incredible sight on the skyline. As a mountain lover from England, I have never actually seen ‘real’ mountains on the scale that larger countries such as America have. Seeing snowy Mt Hood towering over the city in the distance honestly almost brought me to tears, words can’t describe how amazing it was. It then got even better when I turned in the other direction and saw Mt St Helens as well. Eventually I continued over the bridge to Forest Park and took the path signposted as ‘Ridge Trail’. I enjoyed a long hike through one of the greenest places I’d ever been, eventually getting sightly lost.
When I found my way out of the forest I got the bus to East Portland to visit the iconic Next Adventure shop. I then pushed my feet to their limit to walk to SE Division to visit Eb & Bean for some incredible vegan froyo. Luckily a bus back to the hostel went from almost outside the froyo store so I explored the neighbourhood and soaked up the sun until the bus arrived.
Thursday 3rd May
A pretty impulsive decision led to my favourite day in Oregon. I had booked a tour of the Mt Hood/ Valley/ Columbia River Gorge area pretty much the night before through Tripadvisor. I got an early bus out to the Courtyard by Marriott hotel and waited to get picked up in the minibus. When it arrived I was the second person to join the trip so got my pick of seats; the company bought the buses from musicians who used them on tour so they were super comfy with huge, armchair style seats. We did a little tour of hotels on the outskirts of Portland to pick up everyone else then set off. We drove straight towards Mt Hood and up to the Timberline Lodge where we had an hour or so to explore and take pictures. Then it was back down the gorgeous snowy peak and into the Hood Valley area, famous for its fruit production. We had a quick stop for lunch and ice cream before moving onto the iconic sights of Rowena Crest, Bridge of the Gods and Multnomah Falls.
(I am going to do a whole post for this day so more details will be given then!)
Friday 4th May
After such a busy day the day before, I had a pretty laid back morning at the hostel. I got the bus into the city and crossed the river to SE Hawthorne Blvd to try some of Portland’s famous street food. I chose Potato Champion and ate their vegan poutine on a picnic bench in the sunshine, just soaking up the atmosphere (and vitamin D!) I had a short stroll up the road and looked in a few shops but got bored quite fast. After a quick look on google maps to see what was nearby I saw that just next to me was a crazy road pattern that I was intrigued by called Ladd’s Addition. I hired one of the many Nike bikes scattered around Portland and spent the next hour or so cruising the streets of this area. Spoiler alert: it’s GORGEOUS. The houses are all beautiful colours with nice porches, the streets are lined with sweeping green trees, and at the street corners and roundabouts there are incredible flower gardens overflowing with roses. School had just finished and there were plenty of kids and families around, who were all so friendly. From the beautiful neighbourhood, to the incredible surroundings of Oregon, the campervans on the driveways… I definitely had a case of lifestyle envy!
Eventually I dragged myself away and cycled to the huge Goodwill store near the banks of the Willamette. Goodwill is an essential part of visiting America to me so naturally I found the biggest one I could! I definitely regretted this when it came to trying to repack my bags to leave Portland though…
Saturday 5th May
Yet another impulsive decision and early start (carpe diem and all that) saw me at Portland’s Union Station waiting for my Greyhound bus to Cannon Beach. The bus was very comfy and not too busy, and I enjoyed another trip out of the city to see the surrounding beauty of Oregon. When we arrived I spend a short while getting my bearings before taking a short walk along the high street to see what was there. I visited a few shops before stopping at a small restaurant for lunch (I can’t remember the name and can’t find it on google!!) where I had some bruschetta and a bowl of carrot and ginger soup. I spent the rest of the day exploring the town, including all of it’s little back streets and walking right down to Ecola State Park (which unfortunately I didn’t have the time to visit). It wouldn’t be a visit to Cannon Beach without visiting the namesake beach and iconic Haystack Rock, which was amazing to see in real life.
As the evening drew in I tried to find something to do before the bus arrived, and stumbled upon a small art gallery which had it’s seasonal opening that night. It was an open event so I walked right in, despite looking very out of place in my Rab jacket and sandals compared to everyone else’s smart-casual. There was live music, free food and incredible artwork to admire so I happily spent the rest of my time in Cannon Beach here before getting back on the Greyhound to Portland. The bus got into the city quite late and I was very ready for dinner at this point, so I headed straight for Virtuous Pie pizza, which I ordered to go and ate back in the hostel kitchen that evening.
Sunday 6th May
I was starting to feel pretty rundown from all my early starts and busy days, so gave myself a long lie in and a morning of watching Netflix on my tablet in bed. Around midday I got the bus into the city to see the classic ‘Keep Portland Weird’ mural which I hadn’t yet gotten around to finding. By this point I was so hungry and couldn’t be bothered to trek somewhere nice for lunch, so took advantage of a nearby Wholefoods and their nacho bar (which in all honesty was super good). I then got the bus back out to the hostel and took advantage of the empty room to get all my packing done.
After a while I decided to head out again and explore the neighbourhood where the hostel was located called Mississippi. This area was gorgeous with loads of independent shops and cafes, and restaurants crowding the ‘sidewalks’ with outdoor seating. I treated myself to some vegan sorbet from Ruby Jewel- their variety of flavours was incredible; I had blueberry lemonade and strawberry-basil!
Monday 7th May
Somehow this was my earliest day so far, with my bus leaving from Downtown Portland at 6:30am!!! Luckily some of the lovely boys also staying at the hostel were driving to Yosemite that day, and also leaving early and they kindly offered me a lift to the bus with them. We got to the bus stop just in time (as the bus pulled in behind us!) and after saying our goodbyes, I boarded the bus to my next stop… Canada.