Saturday, 3 December 2011


The train to Portland was salubrious enough, but Portland itself is brimming with salubrity. One of the USA's most livable cities Portland is much to my liking. Like Seattle there is an element of free transportation within the downtown area- free trams (the buses were free too until a few years ago). It's also a very walkable city, which for North America is high praise indeed. There is even interesting architecture.

We've been staying at the nwhostel on the edge of the Pearl district, an area where many warehouses have been converted into upscale shops and fancy residences. The hostel itself is in a grand old wooden house and has a bright roomy feel to it, aside from the cramped kitchen. One of the most famous stores in the district is Powell's City of Books- the largest independent bookstore in the US. It was hard not to while away our entire stay in Portland perusing the many shelves and multiple floors of the bookshop. Open most days until 11pm (when it is still rather busy!) about 3,000 people walk through the store's doors each day. There are more than 1,000,000 different books on the shelves. Pam the Jam's new River Cottage cake book graces its shelves of course! On my second visit I came prepared with a notebook to write down all the books I want to get out the library and read one day. It took at least an hour to get through the environment section. Ironically these books shared their isle with hunting and shooting, and on the other side the fine art of golf. There seemed to be many locals browsing the shelves as well as tourists, one of whom declared to his wife 'Who works in this place? Must be Gods.'. I managed to leave with only one book, but was sorely tempted to buy 'the joy of cooking' which Joanne has at the blueberry farm.

Portland is a very wealthy city, or at least there are lots of really rich people that live here. Many company headquarters are based in the city including Vestas (the windturbine company), which we discovered near the university. Other less savory companies such as Adidas and Nike are also here. We've been walking around a lot and stumbled upon, while walking in Washington Park, and then purposely sought out some of the most salubrious houses of Portland. These often pompous homes are found in an area known as the West Hills where the roads are filled with sparkling new BMWs, Volksagens, Rangerovers and some of the largest SUVs known to man. These should be known as the West Hill combine harvesters as a Portland alternative to the 'Chelsea tractor'.

This superfluous wealth is such a stark contrast to the poverty that can be observed in the downtown areas of many North American cities. In Portland however it actually feels safe to walk around in the dark. And although there are some beggars they are a rare species and do not seem very threatening.

I do seem to think though that there are a lot of people in North America that talk to themselves. Jenny points out though that I don't often go to public places or sit on a bus to witness this phenomenon in England (and that time she wasn't talking to herself, I was listening!). Anyway, on the bus the lady next to me was saying in an accusatory voice 'you're fired. you're fired. Man you're fired'. I gather she wasn't talking to me because neither am I a man nor do I have a job to get fired from. Well not at the moment, but perhaps one day..

No comments:

Post a Comment