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August 8, 2017

USA Travel Diaries: Portland

Better late then never, or so they say. It has taken me four months to get around to editing and posting my USA travel diaries from April. お待たせ...

I've gotten used to travelling with my husband, so it was a good challenge going to America by myself. I found parts more tiring than usual, but in general I enjoy exploring new places with only the company of a trusty camera (or two!) As soon as I arrived I felt the buzz of travelling in a new place kick in - the joy of having something new for your eyes to take in at every corner - the sharpening of wits and paying closer attention to things.

First impressions of the USA? It was quite surreal to see America with my own eyes - to confirm that it is a real place after a whole lifetime of watching television shows and movies set there. All of a sudden I was handling dollar bills and receiving pennies as change (delightful)! Everyone I encountered spoke in a TV accent (to-be-expected yet somehow still thrilling)! I had to get used to tipping at restaurants (less than thrilling, but a cultural experience nonetheless). 

Following the kind suggestions I received on Instagram, as well as my well-earmarked Cityx60 Portland guidebook, I visited loads of different clothing, design and vintage shops, food trucks, markets, gardens, donut shops (Blue Star lived up to the hype), and cute neighbourhoods of Portland in the short four days I had there. 

On my first morning I took a local bus across one of many bridges, to have brunch with a friend who lived in Kyushu at the same time as me. It was great to start the trip with a familiar face and a delicious corncake stack topped with eggs and bacon that looked just like emoji food. Afterwards, I took a stroll down N Mississippi Avenue which is full of excellent little shops and its surrounding streets full of sweet, colourful houses. Later that afternoon I became acquainted with the famous Powell's Books. I could have stayed there for hours had it not have been for the jet lag kicking in. 

Note: Jet lag is a very real part of travelling from Australia to the States. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it's worth it. I took full advantage of my newfound access to Netflix US (which is a million times better than its Australian counterpart) to rewatch Leslie Knope and the Parks & Rec gang when I was awake at strange hours of the night. 

My second day was a dream. I started at the Portland Farmer's Market at PSU, browsing the stalls selling fresh produce and other yummy treats. I got a delicious red apple and a slice of rhubarb pie. That afternoon, I had a rather nostalgic visit to a place I'd never been (modelled after the place I spent my last five years in) : the Portland Japanese Gardens. I cried a few small tears as I roamed the gardens alone - it was so authentic, it felt like I was back in my second home. The cherry trees were still in bloom, the architecture was beautiful, the atmosphere was peaceful. I was so happy to be there. I soaked it in, replenished my 日本 supplies. 

On Easter Sunday I enjoyed walking the quiet suburban streets of the Hawthorne neighbourhood. The streets were practically deserted and the colourful rows of houses and perfect, overflowing springtime gardens were straight from a movie scene. I haven't seen "Pleasantville" since high school, but that's what I found myself thinking about as I wandered.

SE Boulevard was home to plenty of good vintage shops, which shattered all of my previous conceptions about vintage shopping. It's so cheap and good in the US! I cursed myself for only bringing a backpack on this trip, and made a little promise to return one day with a very empty suitcase. I walked to SE Division St., checked out the Tidbit Food Farm cart pod and had delicious Thai at PokPok. Big オススメ!

Earlier that day, the man making my bagel at a food truck asked if I'd run into much weird Portland stuff during my stay. I said "Yes, a little," (thinking of the steam-punk couple at the Japanese garden, a 7-year old ordering kombucha at a specialty tea shop etc.) but that I was almost expecting some of that from being a fan of Portlandia (the TV show which lovingly pokes fun at the idiosyncrasies of Portland life). I asked what he thought of the show, as a local. He said he thinks it's funny and some of the scenes are so true to life, but that not everyone in Portland is a fan...

Overall, Portland was an extremely friendly, pretty, safe, and delicious city to visit as my first experience in the States. That little bit of "weirdness" is like the little bit of "weirdness" in the people you love. The good kinda weird.

Sorry for the essay - enjoy the photos... 

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