On a recent return flight from Miami for my cousin Merrilyn's wedding, I got bumped off of my flight due to a combination of overbooked and delayed flights. The best part was that I got 300 Delta Dollars out of it. Now, it just so happened that I had been speaking with my friends Jake, Michelle, James and Rebecca about planning a trip to Portland, Oregon, which is where Jake and Michelle live, not long after obtaining said Delta Dollars. It also turned out that that was the going rate for a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Portland was roughly $300. Booked.
Portland, along with the rest of the Pacific Northwest, is notorious for it's depressing, overcast and drizzling weather. However, in the summer, the weather is perfect. As Michelle (more or less) said "if it were this clear and beautiful year-round, Portland would be the best city in the world." The temperature is a perfect mid-70s in the daytime, with nighttime lows in the 50s or 60s. There's a bit of overcast in the mornings, however it likes to clear out at around noon.
One of the first things I noticed was how amazingly clean the city center was, it can stand toe to toe with the cities of Japan. There are parks and public squares scattered all over downtown, with lots of tree cover in these areas. You can tell the city really comes alive in the summer, with people taking full advantage of the great weather. There are farmers markets, music festivals, beer festivals, people sunbathing and the like.
Food Trucks. I know that they are everywhere in this country now, but Portland is doing it right. There are food trucks everywhere, I can't imagine you ever being more than a mile from at least 5 food trucks in the city. All over, and especially downtown, there are a ridiculous amount of parking lots that have turned into food courts made up of food carts, as seen above. There are your staple foods, Thai, Asian-fusion, hot-dogs, burgers; but than there are also your unique specialty carts. Traditional japanese festival food, Montreal style poutine, Polish, egg sandwiches, gypsy food and new trucks pop up with different fare all the time.
Portland also serves as a model to any city in regards to public transportation and bike usage. A light-rail, named the Max, runs from the airport to, and throughout much of, downtown. There are bike lanes and paths that can take you safely and quickly from rush hour traffic in the middle of the city to the suburbs, past amusement parks, hotels and wildflowers with amazing views of the city from any of the many bridges that cross the Willamette river, which bisects the city's east and west sides.
The very first thing I noticed, before the clean and before the food carts, was the green. So green! Trees everywhere! No doubt that is has a lot to do with the constant drizzle the region experiences. But on top of that, the city and its citizens seem to be much more keen to maintaining these green aspects.
Just a short drive outside of Portland in almost any direction will bring you to a lot of beautiful pieces of nature. Jake, James and I went on a camping trip close to the Pacific coast. We took a ninety minute drive, past farms and Paul Bunyon, to Saddle Mountain State Park. In the morning we climbed to the top of the 3,283 foot (1,001 meter) tall Saddle Mountain for some spectacular views. From there it is was only a short drive to Canon Beach on the Pacific coast, where, despite the freezing water there was quite a lot of surfing going on.
30 miles in the other direction of Saddle Mountain is Multnomah Falls, sitting on the south side Columbia River Gorge and is the largest waterfall in Oregon. The sight of the falls isn't all there is to see in the area, there are also dozens and dozens of miles of hiking trails up in the mountains behind the falls with streams and smaller waterfalls aplenty.
All said, Portland and its surrounding areas are fantastic, fun, delicious and beautiful. There's a lot more to say about the city, it's certainly one of my favorites, so check it out yourself. Also, be sure to go into Powell's Books in downtown, it is the best bookstore I have ever been to.