Ever since I saw my first episode of Portlandia, I've been more than a little intrigued by the city. Though the characters are clearly exaggerated, I find them all to be so much more interesting than the cookie-cutter, suit-wearing east coasters I'm so familiar with. (I'm also a little bit in love with the idea that the dream of the '90s is still alive in Portland, an aspect that gives me some weird sense of hope.) Last week I was lucky enough to travel on business to Portland, and it was such a wonderful experience that I had to share it with all of you!
I'm a huge fan of the west coast. Maybe it's because I grew up on the east coast and am just over it, but, for whatever reason, I love the vibe that seems to radiate up and down the left side of the USA. More laid back, more creative, more mysterious. The vibe that greeted me in Portland was just as I expected it would be: AWESOME. The people were interesting, the shops were unique (okay, there was a mall that was just like the one at home, but I loved it away because it was in Portland), and -- bonus! -- there were tons of dogs around. Though I only spent a few days there and only had the opportunity to enjoy the Downtown area, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite places.
The Nines: The hotel where I stayed was beautiful. I really enjoyed the teal accents and the lobbies and common areas were filled with beautiful art -- gigantic necklaces, portraits, sculptures. I've stayed in a lot of nice hotels, but this was one of my favorites. Just wandering through the halls, I felt as if I were in an art museum. Though I didn't, I was tempted to visit various floors and check out the art selection. Atop the hotel is a fun-looking club called Departures. Though I didn't check it out personally, I caught a sneak peek when my elevator key didn't work and I was escorted up to the rooftop. It looked like a good time!
Powell's Books: Definitely my favorite stop on the trip, this bookstore was filled with level after level of new and used books. Had I not been on my lunch break, I would have spent hours in this place, just wandering from level to level and exploring the bookshelves. Instead, I scurried through the levels trying not too make too much noise with my east coast heels, (Note to anyone visiting Powell's: do not wear heels. Mine were incredibly loud and distracting while I was perusing the shelves and caused heads to turn. In fact, I think I may have been the only one in Portland wearing heels.) and finally settled on purchasing a wonderfully used copy of The Grapes of Wrath for my boyfriend.
(About Today - Lizzy Stewart)
Reading Frenzy: Another favorite spot on my Portland tour, this bookstore was awesome. In it, there were all kinds of hand-crafted books and zines featuring offbeat or local writers. It was hard for me not to want to buy everything in the store, but I managed to control myself and snagged only a copy of Lizzy Stewart's Living Things Series Volume One. Though it was the wolf above that initially caught my eye, I'm now smitten with Lizzy's work. If you enjoy that wolf print as much as I do, check out the rest of her stuff here. Lizzy's artistic expressions are just a small sample of the wondrous things you can find nestled in the shelves of Reading Frenzy.
Portland Sign: When I arrived (at nearly midnight east coast time!) in Portland, this sign greeted me as I traveled sleepily from the airport to the hotel. Though I couldn't see much of Portland, my face lit up with excitement when I saw this sign lighting up the night and assuring me that I was somewhere far, far away from home. Apparently the sign used to read "Made in Oregon" and was recently changed in November 2010 to say "Portland, Oregon." Seeing it was definitely the defining "I've arrived in Portland" moment for me.
All in all, my trip to Portland was a success! I'd like to give a special shout out to Nubby Twiglet, who gave my some tips on places to check out in the Downtown area. She also took the photo at the top of this post. Beautiful, huh? Even though I was confined to the Downtown area, with Nubby's suggestions in hand, I did get the sense that the dream of the '90s is still alive in Portland. Tattoos, groups of people hanging out on the streets, coffee shops, flannel, bikes, records, cool art, weirdness. There was so much weirdness -- and I loved it! It's by far one of my favorite places in the country. So if you ever have a chance to check out Portland, do it!