One sunny and insanely hot afternoon, I arrived to Portland by train. This place that I had heard so much about! Supposedly packed with fancy coffee shops, hip brunch places (Portlandia ftw!), plant-based food, stunning nature and creative people. I felt like I had a pretty clear picture of what this place would be like. But the one thing you can’t read your way to is the vibe. Regardless of how much research you’ve done, a city can surprise you with its rhythm, its people and the quality of the light.
In case you missed it, here’s the first post about my solo trip to the US, starting in Seattle!
Though I had scribbled down a long list of places to visit, I had no idea about the actual layout of Portland. After a slight, initial confusion as to where I was going after getting off the train (not realizing I had to cross the water to get to my neighborhood), I finally found the right bus.
When the bus turned onto the bridge to cross the Willamette River and I could get a brief overview of the city, I thought ”Holy s*it! This looks exactly like Gothenburg!”. The city on the Swedish west coast where I used to live for a couple of years. All along the Willamette River are high bridges, cranes and tank ships. Lots of green and a large nature reserve called Forest Park, located on a mountain ridge right next to the city. In the distance you can catch a glimpse of the hazy sea.
Sitting on that bus for a good half hour, I got to see all kinds of neighborhoods. It struck me how one street could be super tidy with fancy houses, and the next completely run down with demolition sites and ”no trespassing” signs. It was all kind of mixed up and arbitrary. My interpretation is that these neighborhoods that I passed through – Mississippi, Alberta, Woodlawn etc – used to be pretty cheap but are now going through a heavy gentrification process? You Portlanders, what would you say?
I had found a super cute house in a quiet neighborhood on airbnb, where I would be staying with the couple living there (Lisa & Kostas) and their very friendly dog Tucker. Compared to the house in Seattle, this house was much more modern and comfortable. Both Lisa & Kostas was so helpful with recommendations and offering me a ride to the supermarket etc, so I feel like I couldn’t have picked a better place!
The first day I went for a morning coffee at Coava Coffee Roasters, located in a very awkward industrial area and kind of tucked in between highways. I asked the staff for recommendations on cosy neighborhoods, and one of the guys suggested I’d go to Division Street. So I started walking in that direction, peeking into shops and stopped at a Food Cart Pod for lunch. It was so cute with all the minivans and busses converted into little shops! There are so many food carts in Portland, serving everything from salads and smoothies to vegan tacos and falafel.
I also noticed some really cute portable bars around Alberta Street. One evening, when there was the monthly ”last Thursday” going on (a sort of market/block party), I stopped at one of them for a really delicious dry cider. Which btw is also something I noticed about the Pacific Northwest – there are so many cider producers! The options are endless and you can find all kinds of flavors. Some are sweet and alcohol free and some are stronger and almost champagne-like.
During my Portland stay, I did some more touristy explorations like visiting Multnomah Falls and hiking in Forest Park. But mostly I spent my time in various coffee shops, writing, planning and ”dreaming & scheming” as I like to call it. This is when I sit down with my dreams (for my business and in my life in general) and try to make them as concrete as possible. What does my ideal work day look like? What do I wanna do more of in life? And how do I make this happen? Then I brainstorm ideas and create to-do lists. So that I don’t get stuck just dreaming about things, but actually convert them into goals and start working towards them.
I wrote a long blog post about my plans for Cashew Kitchen in the future that I was actually planning to include in this post, but it got so long that I decided to make it a post on its own – going live next week! So stay tuned for that.
I cooked most of my food at home to save some money (below is the local Co-op where I bought my produce) but one evening I went for a solo dinner at Blossoming Lotus. I was a bit nervous to sit at a restaurant all dressed up by myself, but it turned out to be a really nice experience. When dining alone, I could focus on enjoying the food and do some writing while sipping on a glass of wine. One thing I noticed though is how fast you’re done when you’re not busy talking to anyone haha. I think I was out of there only an hour later.
Another evening I went for a solo drink at McMenamin’s Kennedy School. It’s an old elementary school from the early 1900, converted into hotel, bar, spa etc. I think there are 8-ish different bars in the buildings, all with different themes. I went to a very tiny and kinda scary one called ”Detention room”, where they played classical music and made impeccable cocktails 👌🏽
Here are some snaps from my mobile! Above is the cute house I stayed in, and the St Johns Bridge seen from Forest Park. During the weekend I took a break for all my brainstorming and planning, and spent Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market, sipping a very delicious mulberry & nettle kombucha (picture below). Sometimes markets can be so busy and stressful, but this one had a very chill vibe and lots of little things to sample, like fresh organic fruit, kombucha, artisan caramels, vegan ice cream, juices etc. I wish we had this in Sweden!! I also included a snapchat selfie for you guys 😜
In the afternoon I was invited to a Disney themed birthday BBQ (!!) hosted by a friend of a friend. I didn’t know a single person there, but I dressed up best I could out of my suitcase, bought a couple of beers and headed out to Gresham. There was karaoke, brilliant costumes, hummus and tortilla chips. And everyone at this party was so friendly and funny! Needless to say, I had a great afternoon.
The day after, Shannon (the birthday girl) dedicated her entire morning to driving me around to see various viewpoints and mountains. So nice of her!! We went to McMenamin’s Edgefield, the Vista House to look out over the Gorge and Sandy, to get a good look of Mt Hood in the distance. Sometime in the future I’m gonna come back and do a proper hike there!
Everyone I met in Portland was so genuinely helpful and eager to get to know me, which made my stay feel so much more meaningful. I’m really grateful for this, and it inspired me to be more open, helpful and supportive at home. Be it for friends or strangers.
One day I took the Columbia Gorge Express to Multnomah Falls. I knew it would be pretty touristy, but I still wanted to see it. At first I had a hard time enjoying it, since the paths were so packed with people. But the further up I went, the less crowded it got. Eventually I hit the top of the falls and found a quiet spot to eat my lunch. I dipped my toes into the ice-cold water, when suddenly I heard loud cheers and hand claps. Turns out this guy had gone down on his knees to propose to his girlfriend!! She was so happy and touched to tears. They didn’t seem to care at all that they had an audience.
While up there by the top of the falls, I couldn’t help but to continue up the trail towards Larch mountain. I wanted to experience this incredible forest and its streams and waterfalls on my own, away from the tourists. So I hiked quite far up the mountain, passed more waterfalls (picture below! Can you see how huge the trees are in comparison to that tiny person?) and massive pine trees. When I came to a bridge with a warning sign that said ”Engineers have concluded that it’s only safe for one person at a time to cross this bridge” I turned back… Perhaps it’s not such a good idea to hike far into the mountains alone heeh 😬
Somehow, this entire trip has been impregnated with positive vibes and generosity. I have only encountered genuinely kind-hearted people, love, patience and free-spiritedness. It made me think a lot about how I can harbor this and bring it with me back home. Offer some of the same calming and positive energy to others around me. So – if you are traveling solo to Stockholm, let me know and I’ll figure out something fun for us to do! ;-)
Places I loved in Portland:
Coava Coffee Roasters
Case Study Coffee (bonus points for friendly staff & work environment!)
My local coffee shop Woodlawn Coffee & Pastry (BEST almond latte so far + quiet work friendly vibe)
Grocery shopping at New Seasons & Alberta Co-Op
McMenamin’s Kennedy School
Shopping (clothes) at Wildfang
Powell’s Books (it’s massive!!)
Ice cream at Salt & Straw
Plant based dinner at Blossoming Lotus
The area around Sandy (endless fields, farms, forests and stunning view of Mt Hood)
Long walks or hikes at Forest Park (you can easily spend a full day there)
Portland Farmer’s Market (at Shemanski Park)
Division Street, about 20th-30th
Hawthorne Blvrd, about 20th-30th
Alberta Street, about 10th-33rd
Aaah there’s still so many places I would like to visit in Portland! You guys gave me TONS of recommendations on instagram :D But I only had time to work my way through some of them. Next time I visit I’ll make it a priority to visit all the awesome plant-based restaurants here!
Until next time,
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