Portland, The City of Books

The NYTimes travels to Portland, OR.

It says a lot about Portland that Powell’s City of Books (1005 West Burnside, 503-228-4651; www.powells.com ) is one of the city’s prime attractions — a store so big that it provides maps.

AMEN. Powell’s also has a Technical Bookstore a few blocks east of the main store. It’s loaded with Geek Material (It’s easy to blow 4 hours, no joke). The Lore is, whenever a Guest Mathematics speaker comes to the Math Department here at Portland State University, on his lunch break they’ll send him over to Powell’s Tech … but only with a Grad student trailing to make sure to drag him out at the right time, kicking and screaming, as he has a lecture to give.

Truth is, Portland doesn’t want to be Seattle, its highly caffeinated neighbor to the north. With less traffic, better public transportation and Mount Hood in its backyard, this self-styled City of Roses doesn’t stand in anybody’s shadow.

Seattle has this reputation as being highly caffeinated, because of the ubiquitousness of Starbucks in this country. But, in fact, those of us who live in the North West, know better. While Starbucks is the “good” coffee in most cities, in Portland it’s the “well-if-I-can’t-find-something-else” standby coffee. It’s not bad (it often tastes like they burn their beans), but the local bistro’s do it better.

Seattle certainly has some good coffee beyond Starbucks, but Portland is brimming with little independently owned coffee shops in numbers that are down right staggering. I can count 7 coffee shops that are within comfortable walking distance from my house.

What makes Portland stand out, is the fact that it has the liveliness of a bigger city, but the community feel of a small one. It isn’t as spread out as Seattle, and it’s far more bike/pedestrian friendly. Some have called it the most European of American Cities. And that title makes a good fit.

The NYT’s Slide Show.

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3 responses to “Portland, The City of Books

  1. Powell’s is one of my favorite places in Portland. It’s about the only thing I don’t regret about moving here.

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