Oregon, or the Beaver State, (no sniggering at the back) is a special place. Larger than Washington but with half the population it’s a little wild, very wet; blessed with lush forests, spectacular mountains and a beautiful coastline. Here good coffees and fine microbrews rule. With the drizzle it’s easy for a Brit to feel at home; although nowhere in Britain does it feel quite so mellow.
We began our Oregon Odyssey in Portland. I am pretty sure that anything I could say about this place has already been said, better, by Portlandia. So I won’t dwell on the prevalence of amazing coffee shops, high density of men with beards, explosion of foodcarts, or ease of being able to find a trinket with a bird on it – but you can trust me that the cliches are true. And it doesn’t matter as Portland is a gem. Laid-back and quietly gorgeous – surrounded by forests and mountains there isn’t all that much to see, it’s more a place to be. And yes, I do realise how pretentious I sound.
We walked a lot, taking in the Steel Bridge, gawping at the ‘Portland, Oregon’ sign, strolling through Pearl District and over to the beautiful International Rose Test Garden where we spied Mt Hood and smelt at least a thousand flowers each. We also took in the awesome Multnomah Falls; the tallest waterfall in the state.
We visited some lovely bars – the Tugboat Brewery and Deschutes Brewery were especially good fun. We saw a (suitably indie) film at the Laurelhurst Theater where we ate gorgeous slices of pizza during the movie. We wished we had a Powell’s City of Books at home – as we wandered around the largest independent bookstore in the world tying not to buy more than we could carry.
We ate really really well. From maple bacon donuts at Voodoo donuts (where you can order a coffin full of donuts should you wish), to truffle fries and blue-cheese little big burgers and tender wagyu beef steaks at Laurelhurst Market: part butchers, part steakhouse, it was all good.
We stayed in two different places in Portland and both are worth a visit. The Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco was central and great for its free beer and wine hour, is dog-friendly and gave us a tonne of free booze as it was our honeymoon. We also stayed in the Kennedy School – a McMenamins run former elementary school where we slept in an old classroom and drank microbrews in the old boiler room.
We spent a night at Crater Lake National Park – a beautiful spot in Southern Oregon. The lake itself is very very deep and very very blue. The deepest lake in the US it is spectacular at any time and especially at sunrise and sunset. Make sure you look for the ‘Ghost Ship’ – a spooky rock formation. We stayed in the Crater Lake Lodge where we drank cocktails by the blazing fire and watched bats dance around at night. It was peaceful and we spotted deer and tried and failed to see a bear.
Saying goodbye to the state as we headed to California (the last stop of our honeymoon) we realised that Oregon, and specifically Portland, was in our list of ‘Places We’d Love To Live’- we can’t wait to go back.
Rate the State:
Good for: beer, coffee, organic food, forests, music, a laid-back alternative vibe, liberal politics.
Bad for: if you dislike the sound of all of the above.