Still, I'm a bit torn on Portland. The place obviously has some very cool things going on including a fantastic food scene, great live music, craft and vintage shops to die for, gorgeous residential architecture, however, I found the highly visible poverty and homelessness extremely challenging. I don't know if it's there because people in tough situations come to Portland because it has compassion on them, or whether it shows that under a veneer of social justice, actually nobody cares. I like to think the former.
That's all a bit drab and depressing, isn't it! Here's the touristy stuff we did in Portland...
Powell's Bookshop (if you don't like books, turn away now)When we mentioned that we were headed to Portland, people all over the place said 'You must go to Powell's'. So, ever obedient and since I've been known to enjoy a book or two, off we went. Poor Will. Powell's is the bookshop that there will be in heaven (except there all the books will be free). Firstly, it's huge, and it's a mix of new and second hand, so you have these beautiful vintage editions mixed in with the modern paperbacks. The children's section is bigger than most bookstores. That would be off-putting except that it's so well organised. I mean obviously, everything is done in alphabetical order by author, that's easy. But what if you don't know what you want to read? Well, when we were there, there was a whole section (like, more than ten bookcases) set up to highlight Newbery Award winning books. That's an award the American Library Association has been giving out since 1922, and I really like it because they recognise book genres that parents don't necessarily think of when buying for their children - for example, this years winners were two verse novels and a graphic novel autobiography. In Australia the equivalent would be the Australian Book Council Awards (ABCA). I can't tell you how many times I've gone looking in Australian bookstores for the ABCA winning and nominated books and have had to search all over the shop, knowing what I'm looking for and even then they don't always stock the short list! But that's not all that Powell's had done (after all, highlighting award winners must be fairly common practice in the book world). Then they set the display up with popular past winners, and highlighting lesser known winners you might enjoy. Like 'If you enjoyed Flora and Ulysses, they might like these four other books'. Given we were only a couple of weeks into our trip I was hardly going to buy a whole bunch of books to cart around for the next five and a half months but I am going to be buying up when I get back to Oz. Or maybe I'll just send a list through to the librarian at school (hi Karen, hi Cathy!)
|Will eventually went with Polish (oh pierogis, how I love you), |
I had something called F***ing Amazing Chicken Noodle Soup
Knit PurlI looked up knitting shops in the Portland area and this one kept coming up. It certainly wasn't the cheapest but I was looking forward to seeing (and feeling) all the yarns that I read about in my American knitting magazines in the flesh. It was beautiful. And there was a place Will could sit and go on Facebook while I went briefly mad, so it was perfect. Non-knitters will not understand the sensory joys of a knitting shop. Knitters will need no explanations. This store was filled with beautiful, soft yarns and gorgeous shop assistants for whom no question seemed too silly, and who knew what I was talking about when I enthused about Jared Flood or Cecily Glowik Macdonald. I left with the wool, needles and pattern for a lace cowl that is ridiculously complicated for travel knitting but it is giving me something to do on those long flights (they're very little, bamboo needles, but I do ask every time at check in whether they're okay to go on board before they take my big bag away).
|There's the maple, there's the bacon, there's the doughnut (but not for long)|
I wanted to search out a particular vintage shop that I had read about online (which turned out to be way expensive but had gorgeous cocktail dresses) and we decided to walk, even though it was quite far. I’m very glad we did because we ended up going through this section of town. It’s a residential area set out on a grid of squares connected by intersecting crosses and it is clearly the ‘nice part of town’. The architecture is too good. I can’t tell you with any reliability the era or the style, but to say that I loved it is an understatement. I took so many photos of peoples’ houses I’m pretty sure the FBI has started a file on me.
|Common, Dear in action|
All in all a lovely time in Portland. I haven’t written in here about the coffee shop that Will found online and that we walked a million miles to go to, because they literally only sold coffee and I don’t drink coffee, so you’ll have to ask Will about that one (he did mention them in the coffee post, and I think he said it was the best coffee he found in the US, but would it kill them to serve a pot of tea??) We also went to the most ridiculous pub on the first night for dinner that must have had hundreds of different beers you could try - that was a recommendation from our AirBnB hosts since it was their ‘local'. Too much good stuff anyway. If you happen to be driving past, I recommend a visit.