Portland – Day 2
Another glorious day in the Pacific Northwest began with what was to become my morning ritual while in Portland: a few hours at the cafe across the street. It was my time to myself where I could catch up with the real world, go through my photos, indulge in some delicious coffee (they brew Stumptown, just like Variety Cafe back home!), and people watch, before worrying about all the things I wanted to see and do that day. Obviously the coffee quality is paramount in determining whether or not I’m a fan of a certain cafe; however, what makes it worth visiting on a daily basis are the little things that separate it from any other neighborhood joint: the smell, the space, the clientele, the refill policy, the music, the seating, the baristas. And let me just say that World Cup Coffee & Tea was indisputably up to the task. Get this – refills were only 25 cents. TWENTY-FIVE CENTS!! That is unheard of in NYC! It might be one thing if the coffee were mediocre at best, but I’m telling you, it was definitely top-notch. I’d have paid regular price for a refill without hesitation. And it even gets bonus points for having a cupping room in the back, where you can book some time in there to hang out in private, or actually sample some brews. I’m still not over this place. I can only imagine it being my go-to cafe if I were a Portland resident.Â
This ritual of mine concluded with me getting another refill to bring back to the hostel for Lauren (with soy milk and about 4 sugar packets), who would profess her eternal gratitude for my enabling her obligatory morning caffeination process. Our plan for today was to rent bikes from the hostel and ride around the city all day. I agreed to it with a wee bit of trepidation, thinking back to the last time I rode a bike (in NZ – and it was not pretty!). But thankfully, Portland is not very hilly, and I had more of an awareness of the gears this time, so everything went much more smoothly. I actually LOVED bike riding through Portland, so much so that I decidedÂ I would invest in a bike once we returned to NYC. I felt so free, much as I do when I’m off wandering around on foot with the added bonus of covering much more ground on wheels. It felt so good having the sun beat down on me, and then being cooled off by a self-generated breeze. We were totally loving today!Â
Our first stop was the Saturday Market, which we’d deemed a must-do while in Portland. It’s a massive market filled with clothes, crafts, and food for sale. It was definitely refreshing to see different types of items than what we’re used to in NYC. I ended up buying a cheap summer dress and a sarong, and ogled tons of necklaces from so many vendors but ended up not getting any. I talked to one particular jewelry vendor about how she sells on Etsy and advertised on Twitter, and how now she barely has to advertise because she has so many Twitter followers. Oh the Internet!Â
I’d heard about this ‘famous’ donut place in Portland called Voodoo Doughnuts, which happened to be conveniently located just down the street from the market. Around lunchtime, the line to get in was around the corner; when I came back later in the afternoon, it was much shorter. They had all sorts of unconventional donuts, most of which looked enticing. Where else can you be tempted by the Triple Chocolate Penetration, Dirty Snowball, or Cock-n-Balls? (mind out of the gutter!). But I had to go with the Lonely Planet-recommended Bacon Maple Donut (a glazed donut with maple glaze and a piece of bacon on top). It may sound disgusting, but let me tell you – it was pretty freaking fantastic. Totally worth the hype.Â
We had to be in Belmont by 3:00 for a coffee cupping at Stumptown. We’d heard about this place in NYC because some local cafes there actually brew Stumptown coffee. It’s about as good as coffee gets. They hold cupping sessions twice each day where essentially you get to sample a few different types of beans. This involves smelling the beans, smelling the grinds, smelling the grinds in hot water, “breaking” it (tasting), & smelling and tasting it after the surface has been “broken”. Furthermore, there are 3 cups out for each type of bean and you’re meant to sample each one (it serves as a sort of control for this “tasting” experiment). When you taste the coffee you’re supposed to inhale it off the spoon, which I am pretty terrible at doing. Plus, my palette is not very sensitive, so I’m not usually able to describe a taste beyond levels of “good”. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what I’m tasting or smelling though! I definitely felt all sorts of caffeinated afterwards. We hung around for a bit post-cupping, chatting with the barista, and he told us about how cheap rent is in Portland (he pays like $500 for a 2-bedroom place, how is that possible?!).Â
We did end up going back to that thrift store we’d visited last night, and I tried on a million things but only ended up with a blue plaid shirt and gold ballet flats. Yes, that’s what I said. And they actually go together because the shirt has some gold sparkle to it. I think it might be the first plaid item in my wardrobe! And the flats were just so comfy and cheap and deliciously tacky that I had to get them.Â
We had a glorious bike ride back along the river and across it, riding along the promenade on the eastern bank in utter contentment. It was the perfect day. Our dinner destination was Blossoming Lotus, not too far from our hostel and recommended by the barista and my guidebook. And rightfully so, because our Vegan meal with fake meat and avocado was delicious! We ate outside on the sidewalk and pretty much decided we had to move to Portland. I don’t think I felt quite the undeniable connection with the city as Lauren did, but I definitely enjoyed it and could see myself living there. I love that it’s full of young people and good coffee/shopping, and that it’s so close to all sorts of nature. You can drive in any direction and within two hours you’ll run into beach, mountains, or forest. Amazing!