There are few American cities more friendly than Portland Oregon. We have been there twice in the last ten years and this April 2012 we returned for the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s big wing-ding – the SCAA 2012 convention. And what a show it was. Even better was the fact that it was being held in one of the most progressive, beautiful, accessible and liberal cities in America.
Portland, Oregon (for Canadians and Canadian lovers) feels more Canadian than many Canadian cities; super friendly and chill people, liberal, free thinking and socially progressive communities – art, culture, amazing food and drink…
And coffee? Enough great java to drown in.
And for a resident of the North West (up here on Vancouver Island) a very easy weekend get-away destination.
Getting there: Yea, you could drive, but why? Time is money. From Vancouver Island, the 2 hour Ferry ride, hour to the border and 3 – 4 hours South on the crowded I5 to Portland… not my idea of good times. Better yet: Alaska Airlines daily service from Victoria via Seattle – total of 55 minutes in the air (if that) and you are there. From the airport, light rail downtown $2.40 – or a 35$ 35 minute cab fare. The train takes a whopping 40 minutes worse case scenario. So, 32 dollars more gets you there 5 minutes sooner.
Staying: There are lots and lots and lots of great hotels – of every stripe and price point. We stayed at the Coast Paramount Hotel. 3 star luxury at a 2 star price. Moderately opulent, spotless, full service, free wi-fi, great bar and Asian themed restaurant, walking distance from all the main downtown shopping and a brief stroll to some of the best food carts in North America. Sadly, we did not sample any of the cart food but the plan is to head back in August (if we don’t go to Chicago… – another story). Anyway, top marks to the Paramount Hotel! If you are feeling hip by all means stay at the ACE (they have a Stumptown Coffee place off of the lobby…) Here is the thing: I am not that hip.
Eating: Portland has more restaurants and more culinary genres than any other city or town in North America. Fact. The food cart scene is like no other. Portland and Oregon is a tax free place – and for whatever reason, eating and drinking out is way cheaper than it is in Canada (and a few other American places) I could not get over the quality of the grub and the absurdly low prices; burgers and beers: $7 and $6 for buns and beers. $6 to 9$ for great pasta entrees at a local Italian place. Great breakfast items at the ritzy “Mother’s” a 10 minute walk away. The Paramount Hotel did a great all morning standard bacon and egg kind of breakfast for around $8. Loved it.
Getting around: Light rail, street cars, buses – all free in the downtown area. All zone travel to the airport: $2.40. That is crazy. If you are ready to explore (a GPS or iPhone or Android or B.B. with some Apps are handy and freely available) there is lots to see; galleries, art, music, industrial areas, cafes and brew pubs scattered hither and thither.
Summary: If you want to explore beer, food, coffee, great people watching, arts and culture, there are few places more eager to please and cooler than Portland Oregon. Give it a whirl. It will not let you down!
Colin and Andrea write and edit the coffeecrew.com blog and travel whenever and where ever possible…