This past week Victoria had a couple days off in a row so we decided we’d go see something in the area. I needed to go to Portland because I had eye surgery before we left and I needed to go to my last check up. In Jacksonville they told me they had an office in Seattle but when we were almost here I called them and lo and behold the closest office was in Portland! That was alright since on the way up here we were only able to spend one night in Portland after a long day of driving (truck problems in Coos Bay, it’ll be my next article probably). Even having only been there one night I could tell it was a town I’d like. The neighborhood we went to have dinner off Mississippi Ave. was full of old homes, young people, and good cheap restaurants you could walk to. In short it reminded me of my neighborhood, Riverside/Avondale, in Jacksonville. The park we stayed at was also only 5 miles from downtown and apparently only a mile or so from their excellent train system.
We decided not to bring the RV this time however because after the cost of diesel, campground fees, and just the hassle of setting up and breaking down everything we thought it best to just rent something. Doing so would also allow us to stay even closer into town. We ended up using AirBNB for the first time. For those of you who aren’t aware this is a vacation rental service. Where it differs from most other services, such as VBRO.com, that I have used is that you don’t have to rent by the week for most places. They also offer places where you can just rent a room in a house with other people or even just a couch. Not our thing but if you were traveling alone it would be a good way to meet others. Really not too much different from shared rooms in hostels but probably a lot nicer.
We ended up renting a one bedroom apartment in the basement of a nice older home. It was actually very similar to the apartments I rent in the basement of my historic home, lol. The process in general was similar to other vacation rental services but AirBNB seems to be a more in your business. I had to give them my social security number and they cross referenced that info against my Facebook page somehow. Then after paying the owner wanted an introduction. It all seemed like a bit much just to rent an apartment for two nights. I mean, I’ve rented 500k+ homes with a lot less hassle.
The apartment was called Pied-a-Terre; PDX and was very nicely decorated and stocked with everything from shampoo to coffee. It was immaculately clean, I thought, clearly the owners must be anal retentive. They confirmed this and their passive aggressive nature after we had left by accusing Marilyn(Marilyn!!!!!!) of scratching up their window sill. When I explained that although she is a dog, she is only a four pound chihuahua they cut off contact. I guess they realized that it would be physically impossible for her to even reach the 4 foot high window sill much less scratch it, lol. Not to mention Marilyn has never scratched up anything, she prefers to sleep :). Anyways, it was well worth the hassle and was cheaper and much much nicer than a decent hotel room. We were also only 2 blocks away from a train station that would have you downtown in 10 minutes or so. All in all I highly recommend it.
The first night we got in a bit late because the traffic in Seattle is outrageous, all day, everyday. Their rush hour apparently runs from about 7am to 7pm. So we decided to take the train a couple stops up and get some food and beer at one of the many micro-breweries in Portland. We got sausage and bread with fondue cheese and pickled onions and a pretzel. All of it was excellent. I’m not much of a beer drinker but Victoria gave it the thumbs up. Then we took the train up a stop and walked around the neighborhood a bit and got some pizza.
The next day we wanted to head downtown to check out the food trucks(of which there are hundreds) and just walk around. We went and had some excellent Hawaiian food and a gyro. The selection of trucks was amazing, Thai, Indian, Georgian(the country, not the state, lol), Polish, hot dogs, grilled cheese, Chinese, Mexican, etc. So much to try, not enough stomach to fit it into. I love when you get good, unique food for a reasonable price. We also had to go over to Voodoo Donuts to try out their famous and outrageous offerings. I had a bacon maple doughnut with a literal slice of bacon on it. Victoria had a pretty tame creme filled doughnut, both were excellent. Take a look at their website to get an idea of the crazy donuts they have. Besides the bacon there were pretzels, cereal, and much more as toppings.
Now for the bad. Portland is absolutely infested with homeless people. I don’t think it is any exaggeration to say that there was well more than a 1000. Now Victoria has never been to the west coast so she used to think Jacksonville had a lot of homeless people. I however have been to San Francisco so I know what the situation can be like out here. I think the people and cities are so overly generous and hospitable to the homeless that they attract them from all over the country. Portland is certainly right up there with San Francisco and it puts Seattle’s homeless population to shame. I don’t think they actually have more homeless people than Seattle, I just think Seattle does a better job of setting up homeless ghettos and keeping them out of the main tourist areas, in large numbers at least. Portland is the opposite of this. On every corner there is a band of ten homeless people smoking and begging.
What I find even more sad is that compared to the homeless out east the majority of the ones out here are young, under the age of 30, in good shape health-wise, and seemingly not bat shit crazy. Maybe the proper term isn’t homeless but vagabond? It seems they just do not want to work. In the nice several mile long river front park there were at least 200 homeless people sleeping. On top of all that, these were the most entitled, aggressive, and just plain rude homeless people I have ever seen, their attitude even put the ones in San Francisco to shame. While eating our doughnuts no less then three healthy but dirty twenty something homeless people came up, asked for us to buy them doughnuts, and then were indignant when I refused. It’s one thing to ask for change politely on the street or hold up a sign and another to come into a place of business and demand something(Either way they won’t get anything from me as I don’t think it actually helps them). Unfortunately someone sitting across from us got up and gave them one of her doughnuts, and that was after he had been rude and aggressive. That’s just causes more of that behavior. A bit later several others came and dug through the garbage feet from paying customers in the middle of the day.
Portland is a truly a very cool, urban, and artistic city but the severe homeless problem is going to scare off a lot of people, both tourists and potential residents. The sheer number and audacity of them compares to nothing I have seen before. There were much less homeless people in the downtowns of third world countries I have visited. However, I have to say that if Victoria and I had a choice we both would pick Portland over Seattle. The main reason for that is the traffic situation in Seattle and the amazing public transit system in Portland. It also helps that Portland has an RV park only five miles from the city center whereas in Seattle we are 20 miles out, through heavy traffic. Seattle seems like a great town but the suburbs of Seattle are just like suburbs everywhere else (Only with more asian stores) 🙁
TriMet – Portland Public Transit