Right now I am sitting on a bus from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. It's been a pretty nice journey so far - until it turned dark all I saw was hills covered in pine trees and dark green rivers, as well as various mountains and volcanoes, such as Mount St. Helens! It has been a real treat. But now it is dark and all I can see are the other cars on the freeway. The bus ride isn't too long, maybe around four hours in total! But if you add that on top of our bus from Eugene to Portland this morning, it means Matt and I have spent seven hours on buses today!
We had a relatively productive day today! In Eugene we got really chilled out and only did a few things each day since we had so much extra time there. Whereas now, we are back in travel mode which involves hours and hours of walking, craziness trying to find our way around places, and trying to soak in as much of the place as we can.
We started off in Portland by heading to one of the markets near downtown. We noticed that there were heaps of markets around the city and along the waterfronts. I'm not sure whether this is a usual thing or if it is just because it's a public holiday weekend here! But I did notice that Portland has a lot of similarities with Eugene. They both have a real arty, hipster vibe about them! Portland is obviously on a far bigger scale, as it has a population of 500,000 in comparison to Eugene's 150,000. But that means it's also a lot less green in terms of trees, etc. They are quite mad about their recycling and environment programmes though! Portland is apparently known as America's Bicycle City or something - apparently they even have actual bicycle traffic jams. The bins too are very organised on the streets so that you are able to recycle or compost pretty much anything. So I thought that was impressive.
At the market I bought a vegetarian hot dog! Again, similarly to Eugene, Portland is very vegan and vegetarian friendly. Every single food cart I saw or shop had really great vegetarian options. I think I could go to Oregon simply just as a food tourist, because it's amazing for me having so many options to choose from! Honestly everything from hot dogs to cheese steaks to burritos etc can all come in vegetarian form.
There were a lot of arty things in Portland such as big modern statutes, fountains, and so on. The architecture was also crazy - so many contrasts. There are a lot of very old buildings but then a lot of fancy new shiny ones right next door. It was definitely a lot bigger than Eugene as there were heaps of tall buildings in the city centre.
I also noticed there were a lot of crazy people. I guess maybe being in Eugene sheltered me for a bit so being exposed again was quite harsh. We saw a lot of people who were always shouting at themselves or having a conversation with no one. Unfortunately we saw a lot of homeless people again - there was a whole street of them. There was something that really upset me after we went to Powell's City of Books - there was a very elderly woman sat in like a wheelchair/walking frame beginning people for money. It reminded me of the situation I had in L.A. when I told a homeless man I didn't have any change even though I did. At first I ignored the woman and kept walking. But then I felt so horrible and selfish because even though I had almost spent my budget for today but still needed to buy some dinner, I could definitely spare a few dollars if I chose to for this woman. I had this massive think about how money probably wouldn't solve her core issues, but it could feed her for now. I don't know, it's all pretty messed up and I got a bit emotional unfortunately. I absolutely, absolutely adore my grandparents and I would never, ever want to see them get in this position so it upset me a bit more than most of what I've seen so far. But anyway, I ended up walking back a bit later to give her a few dollars just to ease my own guilt. Except it didn't really help much - I didn't even bother to ask the woman what her story was and what had happened to make her beg for money on the street. Maybe if I knew her story, I could have done more to actually help her. Wah.
So - if you are coming to America. Be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster when seeing how some people crap have it there in comparison to New Zealand. If I ever hear a New Zealander moan about how bad the country is, I'm just going to shake my head and think you're a tool.
Um I mentioned it just before but we also checked out the Powell's City of Books. This place was mental and all my Woodford relatives would have absolutely LOVED it!! Nanny you especially! It is multiple buildings absolutely full of books - and they claim to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world!
Another cool thing we noticed in Portland is that water sports is pretty big on the Willamette River going through the middle of Portland. We saw so many people on jet skis, biscuitting, kayaking and so on. If I was in Portland for longer it's something I would definitely try out because it looked really fun!
Hmm. So that's my summary of Portland. Basically very similar to Eugene in the sense it has a very arty hipster feel to it and an emphasis on vegan/vegetarianism and being environmentally friendly. But is different because Portland is a lot bigger and more of a "city". Next stop is Seattle - I'm really looking forward to this one since it's a place I have always heard about growing up. You always hear it in movies, read it in books, etc!
I decided it would be cool to start doing a tip of the day for friends and families thinking about doing some travel!
Tip of the Day: INVEST IN A GOOD BAG. The good quality ones are pretty expensive - but it is better than ending up with a ripped bag and having to worry about it all the time! Mine ripped but I can't really afford a new one since I just had to replace my laptop. Instead I have tried sewing it up and placing a bit of duct tape over where the rip was. But I'm still kind of scared since you always hear of sketchy stories where people break in to bags and shove drugs in them etc. Argh! So if I could go back in time to when I was doing my planning for a round the world trip, I would definitely set aside a good amount of money for a strong bag.
P.s. you should all be double grateful that I wrote this in time. It meant that I had to write it on the bus and now I'm on the verge of vomiting. Gotta love travel sickness!
P.p.s. One of the things I forgot to write about yesterday is that whilst we were in Eugene we went to the Stadium Park Apartments which is where Matt and his friends lived last year! I got to see all around the complex and even was shown one of the model apartments so I could see what the insides look like :) Super flash.