I’ve spent the last few weeks in the Portland/Vancouver area of the Pacific Northwest (for non USA residents, think map of the USA top left hand corner, just a little bit in from the side), and it has been delightful!
For a start there are trees, lots of them. Autumn is a real thing here. Leaves go from green to red or gold, and they fall off the tree, it’s terribly exciting when it happens en masse. Also somewhat treacherous. I had forgotten about the slip and slide nature of wet leaves on pavement. To combat this I have purchased boots with more grip than a toddler in a tantrum who does not want to leave the swings in the park.
Oh alright, I purchased two pairs of boots, but surely this living in debt is good for my credit score, yes?
Secondly, the people are really friendly. They say hello to you on the street, they chat to you in the supermarket, and they’re not talking about trivial stuff. The guy who sold me my boots – the second pair – gave me his life story, I know about his relationship with his parents and his friends; his mother’s near-death experience; where his sisters are going in their lives; what his grand master plan is. The cashier at the supermarket spotted the brand new shoebox and asked to see my boots. The lady in the chocolatier’s and I bonded over our immigration history and common politics. I fit in with these people. A pal of mine back in the UK refers to me having Crocodile Dundee moments when I cheerfully greet strangers sharing the same patch of asphalt as me, instead of doing the decent things and not making eye contact with them… you know, Crocodile Dundee ended up with a lot of random friends that he could call on when he needed to blow stuff up, or take down evil corporations, just saying.
Third up, sociable, artsy lifestyle. Portland in particular is littered with art galleries, and small businesses that provide social hubs for the community – essential in a rainy place because ‘let’s go hang out at the beach’ is not a feasible option. Coffee shops, bars, tikki rooms, food truck courts, farmers markets, craft markets, co-op gardens, vintage theatre, you can’t turn a corner in Portland without finding some comfortable venue perfectly suited for you. And it’s cheap! There are still bars where you can get a beer for a dollar, I haven’t experienced that since the 1990s.
Fourth, the neighbourhoods. Every house in Portland makes you want to pick it up and put in a snow globe, it’s so full of cutesy charm. Even the ones that have three vehicles up on bricks in the drive, and a washing machine on the front lawn, have a certain rustic quaintness.
To be fair , numbers 3 and 4 are not so prevalent in Vancouver (sorry Vancouver but it’s true). Vancouver feels like the little sister who cursed the gene pool lottery for giving big sister the glossy hair and alpha programming; but now little sister is holding her head up high and making the best of everything she’s got! Personally I rather like Vancouver, it feels less crowded than Portland (I do love my space), and there is stuff going on here, you just need to work a little harder to find it, and by work harder obviously I mean type a question and hit search.
So is there a downside to this area? Other than the droves of people moving here from all over the states. Well.. Portland in particular has a remarkably industrial feel to it that flows throughout the city. I was not expecting that, I’m used to my industrial areas being just that – areas. Not an integral part of the city layout. If you thrive on city life – wicked! You’ll love the intertwining of mass manufacturing, and the devotion to enjoying your every day existence, interspersed with forest covered hills and rivers. If that’s not your thing, not to worry, Oregon and Washington have plenty kooky more places for you to discover.