If you arrive in Portland by train – and you should, it’s a lovely way to travel – you will feel like you’ve stepped back in time. They haven’t updated the furniture, signage or even the stationery in 50 years, or so it appears. It’s a wonderful introduction to a town whose slogan is ‘Keep It Weird’.
On the way to the hotel, the taxi driver spoke with a strange posh accent and played old school jazz. We drove past a bike store, a massive book shop, and at least one brewery. In the hotel lobby was a lady with a French bulldog puppy. It was all a little clichéd and yet it was – because they were doing it first.
I thought I’d be cynical of Portland. I assumed it would have the same ‘you’re not cool enough’ vibe that Melbourne sometimes has, and which sometimes irritates me. But it doesn’t (or at least I didn’t encounter it) because the Portlanders are too busy getting on with living their interesting lives.
Here’s a few of my favourite things (some, but not all, yarn-related) from Portland.
The most amazing book store I have ever seen, bar none. It covers an entire (though small) block and has three floors. It’s so big, there’s a map available to help you find things.
Below is the knitting section. Just the knitting section. Crochet has its own section. And the sewing section is even bigger than those two combined.
It’s a mix of new and used books and the prices are awesome. Only the thought of having to carry everything home stopped me from going completely mental. As it was I bought a couple of books each on knitting and sewing.
Portland’s yarn stores seem to cater to a range of people. I feel bad making this statement the basis of only visiting a couple of stores, but a bit of research into the ones I didn’t get to visit lends seems to support my point.
The first store I went to was Knit Purl and, while it was lovely, it wasn’t for me. All the yarn was very, very soft and there was a lot of alpaca – neither of which I’m into at the moment. But I appreciate there are other knitters who would lose their minds in there.
Second I visited Pearl Fiber Arts, which was much more to my style. Lots of American-grown and processed yarn. (I bought bison yarn. Seriously, bison yarn.) There was a really friendly, community vibe the the place. Every Labour weekend, regular customers bring in unwanted stash and it’s put on sale, with the money going on credit to whoever bought it in. Apparently the first day of the sale (the day before I was in) is completely insane.
Built for bikes
Portland is built for biking. It’s written into local by-laws, is part of council policy, and more that that, is widely supported by the community (or so our brewery bike tour guide told us). The city has just finished building a bridge that private cars and trucks are not allowed on – it’s only for public transport, bikes, and foot traffic.
Again, only got a mere taste of this, but the city is so bike friendly that I was okay with the thought of navigating through town on the ‘wrong’ side of the road after a couple of beers.
Oh god, so much beer. A mind-numbing amount of beer and not because of the alcohol – simply because it was almost impossible to choose a place to drink and then decide on a beer. There are more than 60 breweries within the city limits – and a multitude of bars selling beers from the Northwest.
But hey, this is a knitting blog, not a beer blog.
Looking back on my lovely time in Portland, there’s so many regrets – five nights simply wasn’t enough for this lovely city. Also, I wish I took more photos – this post is a little bare – but I guess I was having too much fun!