Books & Street Food

I’ve been to Portland.  Twice now.  I’ve spent maybe 36 total hours there.  Now this is a shame because Portland seems like an amazing city.  So I apologize and hope to spend many years getting to know it better.

The first time I went i was 19.  It was my first adult road trip.  I worked at a video store at the time (when they still existed), and made a colleague a friend when we discovered our mutual love of Russell Crowe (hold back the judgment).  He had a band called 30 Odd Foot of Grunts (I’ll save you googling it – here is one of the biggest hits), and of course, we quickly became fans.  We heard he was coming on tour in North America, and of course the closest all ages show we could find was in Portland.  So we drove down, saw the show, stayed the night in a cheap motel, and drove straight back home, broke as could be.  We saw nothing.  Except Russell Crowe.  And he was an ass.

So my second visit was bound to be more interesting than the first.  Of course, we didn’t spend much time in Portland again, but at least this time we wanted to see something more Portlandian than Australian.  So that meant 3 things – Powell’s Books, Street Food and VooDoo doughnuts.

I LOVE bookstores.  All types.  And I especially love book stores with character.  I could spend the whole day wandering the stacks.  Well Powell’s has character in spades.  It is the world’s largest used/new bookstore, taking up an entire city block with 9 colour coded rooms, 3500 sections and over 1 million books (including a Rare Books room for the bibliophiles among us).  So it’s pretty much book heaven.  We spent a few hours wandering the rows, until I dropped a few hundred dollars on book and the back seat of the car was full.  If you love books, this place could take up an entire day alone, and would be well worth it.

After we have sufficiently shopped our way through Powell’s, it was off to the streets for lunch.  Portland has one of the greatest number of Food carts of any North American city – over 600 to be found, grouped together throughout the city.  We walked past well over 200 between the bookstore and our car, and the park/square in between.  It makes choose what to eat a daunting task.  While i settled for Polish food, and Vanessa went for the Grilled Cheese, I was temped by New York Egyptian, Syrian Hawaiian, and about 100 other combinations that I wouldn’t have thought of.  I could spend a week just wandering and sampling foods in this fine city (deemed the best street food in America by CNN).

Lastly – VooDoo.  Notorious for line ups going around the block, today was no exception.  It was 35+ degrees, and that line up was a good hour long – and in the sun.  Could not convince myself to put up with that for a doughnut, no matter how tasty.  Sorry VooDoo – next time.


Add in a visit or two to some local shops and distilleries, and our 5 hours in Portland flew by.  A short stop on our drive through to the ocean was not nearly enough, but my courtship with Portland will continue in the near future.  I would love to know, what do you love most about Portland?

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