24 Hours in The City of Roses (USA Day 104)
Portland is more a city of bikes than roses. It’s taken cycling under its wing better than any city we’ve been to in the USA, with constant bike lanes and separated traffic lights to make easy work of navigating busy roads. Through the gridded suburbs, the many intersections make for a stop/start ride, but they’ve wiggled the priorities so that certain ‘greenways’ give you an uninterrupted, traffic-free route through town without having to stop more than half a dozen times. Bike shops dwell every mile or so. Gears or wheels adorn the sides of random buildings. Some license plates even feature little bikes. It’s a good place to be a cyclist.
This afternoon, after walking our host’s lovely dog, Sam, we ventured out to another of Portland’s trendy neighbourhoods, this time Belmont, for coffee and doughnuts, a warm place to read, a cheap place to eat. After trying (and loving) the shamelessly garish Voodoo Doughnuts, we’d been recommended Blue Star Doughnuts by a bunch of you as a classier, less famous alternative. Well, no doubt they’re delicious, but it’s all in the presentation. For double the price, we had passionfruit and cocoa nib tinged with chilli, a crispy apple fritter and a maple bacon fellow whose meatiness was frankly offputting (but that was on us). OK, I respect the classy establishment, the posh ingredients and the writing on the walls, but these aren’t better doughnuts, guys. They’re just doughnuts with a sense of shame.
Portland’s skies did a great impression of London about that time, so we took cover. Our dinner was a single, tiny, overpriced but delicious BBQ brisket taco, courtesy of a food truck whose owner in some crafty sleight of hand made them out to be enormous until the moment he handed them over. One juicy mouthful later, dinner was done. We didn’t mind too much: as the rain grumbled down and the smoker out back puffed delicious greasy smells straight up our noses, we watched the people of Portland make their soggy way home after a long, wet Saturday.
Once the rain stopped and the sun set angrily behind confused clouds, we rode downtown through quiet, puddled streets, just for the sake of exploration. The waterfront doesn’t have much life straddling it, but the bridges are beautiful and the backdrop of black, forested hills added a cuddly comfort to the scene. Portland isn’t a sightseeing city, so our usual city break sensibilities needed fine-tuning. Today, instead of old churches or pretty hidden squares, we appreciated street art, good coffee, flamboyantly-dressed locals. This city’s fun.