So, ummm…why don’t we all live in Portland? I mean, I haven’t been to every city in the United States, but Portland has to be one of the absolute coolest, right? And I don’t think it’s just because they *have* to be cool to make up for the supposedly-crappy weather, either. I think Portland is just genuinely that cool. Fight me if you disagree!
(Just kidding, please don’t fight me. I’m not very strong and none of my six brothers ever taught me how to throw a good punch, so it would be really embarrassing for me!)
My sweetheart and I rolled into Portland on a dreary afternoon and promptly jumped into our super cozy bed at the Kimpton Monaco for a post-travel nap. By ‘rolled’ I mean we had a very easy, uneventful flight, then took the MAX train downtown, where we rolled our suitcases into the Monaco in hopes of stashing them until check-in, but instead were told by Nick at the front desk that our room was ready early, woo hoo!
Approximately eight minutes into said nap, there was a knock on the door, with a woman bearing gifts on the other side. Some Willamette Pinot, local popcorn and a sweet welcome note? I LOVE THE MONACO!!
My boyfriend usually does all of the research and plays tour director when we travel together, but since I’ve been traveling by myself a lot more lately I’ve been honing my skills in the research department. Namely: I go to the Atlas Obscura website to see what weird things I can find to do.
I’m not going to say who picked the most fun activities to do while we were in Portland, because it’s not a competition. But I will politely suggest that it was definitely me. Wait. What? Ignore that.
We started out doing a scavenger hunt around downtown (him), but quickly realized it was probably meant for children. We took a ‘tour’ of the underground Shanghai tunnels (me) which were really talked up as being this spooky dangerous warren of ill-repute, but mostly it seemed like someone’s basement, rearranged to seem like it was once tunnels. I could be wrong!
We saw some movies – first: Die Hard (him) at the Mission Theater. Second: Roma (him) at the Hollywood Theatre, which still shows movies on actual film. Both of these places are so cool and grand and beautiful and made me swoon. Can all theaters everywhere please get on board and sell food and cocktails while also being charming as heck?! Thank you; I’ll wait.
. . . *still waiting* . . .
Well. You can’t win ‘em all. We also checked out different neighborhoods, even though it was raining and miserably cold. In the Hawthorne hood we found a ton of cool little shops and places to stop in for coffee, and a food truck called ‘Fried Egg I’m in Love’. I don’t even like fried eggs, but I DO love puns, and their menu was full of them: Huevo Mutilation (ha!), Sriracha Mix-a-Lot (ha!), Smells Like Protein Spirit (hahahaha!). I could go on. Needless to say we bought both a t-shirt and a mug, just out of sheer appreciation for their clever menu.
With only a little bit of attention to the famous Pearl District, we also spent some time on Division, where we found Best Friends juice and coffee in the Ford District…yes, more coffee, it’s everywhere, I know! I got a Golden Milk but noticed they offered shots of all kinds of crazy healthy things, and CBD addition options, and the whole gamut. Very cute, very Portland.
Around the corner from this place is a fantastic, huge mural of a woman with a living wall element as her hair. Living wall hair! Everywhere we tried to peruse, however, we eventually got rained out, even after giving it the old college try. As in: we stayed out waaaaay too long in the cold rain, but not long enough to see everything.
In this city’s defense, I know I said above that the weather in Portland is ‘supposedly’ crappy, and I stick to that. Every other time I’ve visited has been fairly pleasant, even sunny at times!, so I’m not going to base my final decision on this one completely frigid and terrible-weathered trip. We even got some moderately not-bad weather this time, too – perfectly timed for walking across the Hawthorne Bridge! If that isn’t an already rad city at work in our favor, I don’t know what is.
Frankly, it was never so bad that we weren’t willing to suck it up and head out (as obviously made clear by our determined neighborhood strolls). Other reasons to brave the cold were times when I was getting grumpy from hunger. Uh oh! Watch out: nobody likes to be around hunger-grumpy Amanda. Am I the only one who feels much hungrier on vacation than at home? Yes? Just me? Okay.
We’d usually just walk the few blocks from The Monaco to the Alder Street Food Cart Pod – otherwise known as my dream come true – and then circle the entire block of them approximately six times before I could decide which snack to get. There were so many delicious-looking options! How does one possibly choose? The Bao Bao Steamed Buns spot was a winner, I ate my weight in Gyro, but I resisted the Grilled Cheese…only because they were closed every time I walked by.
Side note: Eggy Pocket is the yummiest thing of all time. Can someone please start an Eggy Pocket truck and park it outside my house? K thanks!
On our last night in town we found The Zipper (me), which is essentially a very Portland-esque ‘food court’ but is also surrounded by a bar and other random businesses (for example, a nail salon called Finger Bang – genius – which is open until midnight. Midnight!!). Can someone please open a fantastically-named nail salon close to my home that is open even past 7pm?! Please??
Inside is a main eating/drinking area and what we’d come searching for: a super cool vending machine. Operated by The Venderia which, if I’m not mistaken, is basically a one-woman show, these machines dot Portland at various locales which you just have to seek out when there, but they’re totally worth it. Filled with tiny zines, Garbage Pail Kids and other nostalgic memorabilia, random snacks, tarot cards, wacky patches, VHS tapes of old movies like “Splash”, and so much more. It was the best vending machine I’ve ever come across, and I’m from the Midwest, sooo….
Long story short (haha just kidding I realize it’s still kinda long), I might need to move to Portland. Also, now that I’m reviewing, I guess my guy came up with just as much fun stuff as me. Did I mention the pinball bar, High Score? Oof. I’m going to say that he had help from his son who now lives in Portland, so it kind of wasn’t fair…? Also, yes, I realize I’ve created a completely in-my-head competition for no reason whatsoever. But I…can’t…stop…!
If I can just tip the scales for a sec: I suggested Hippo Hardware, an insane building filled with light fixtures and old door knobs and old windows and lots of wires and old bathtubs, toilets and sinks; basically anything you could ever possibly need to outfit your house from the ground up, especially if you are a bit eccentric.
I also took us to the adorable Window of Wonders display by Bunny With a Toolbelt, made of tiny little animals doing various things in various settings. In hindsight, I guess this wasn’t terribly exciting, but it was absolutely cute. That counts for something.
With all of that tallied up, I guess I’ll have to reach way back to my camp days of fairness and teamwork (replacing VBYC with Portland, of course) and say here that EVERYBODY’s a winner in Portland!
And, you’d better believe we will be back.
**Big shoutout to the Monaco – we had such a great time! And thanks so much to Nick, RJ, Johno, Ray, Lo, Griffin, Stephanie, Byron, Travis, Jason and everyone’s names I’ve forgotten – sorry about that, I’ll do better next time! – you all were the best!