When you’ve been living in Asia for a while the thing you really miss isn’t olive oil or good bread. You can get things like that… at a cost. What you really miss is nature, unpolluted, un-China’d, radioactivity free and empty and expansive.
Portland was a revelation for this. So clean. So green. So fresh. It was a full on Asia detox. No smog days, or yellow dust storms rolling off the Chinese plains, or watch out for sashimi if you still want to have children. No plastic bags or diesel oil glittering in the water or clumped up by the side of the road. And the best bit about it is it isn’t just the rose gardens of Portland, it is the Oregon coast, it is Mt Hood towering over the landscape, it is Hood river carving deep valleys through the countryside.
Manzanita and Oregon Coast
Just one to two hours drive out of Portland and you hit the Oregon coast. I come from an island nation but you would have to describe the UK’s coast line as ‘cute’ or ‘endearing’ compared to the Oregon coast.
It is vast; you are talking beaches which go on and on and on. And you walk for ten kilometres and you don’t come across a single bit of litter. And the best bit is that you can recreate your teenage fantasy from watching 90210, Baywatch or the OC (depending on how old you are) and have a wood fire.
You just go to the local lumber yard, buy an armful of wood logs, a bucket of micro-brew beers and go down to the beach and get burning.
And if you have a crab fetish from having lived in Asia for a while (or having a wife of Chinese descent) that can also be satisfied. Dotted along the coast are little tumble-to shacks selling live crabs, oysters and clams which are cooked right there beside you and you can go crazy on.
We managed 6 oysters, 1 1/2lb of clams and two 2lb crabs. It is the first place since Hong Kong where I have actually said… that is actually good seafood. And what I found quite funny is that the only other people who were there on a Tuesday were a big family of Canadians of Cantonese descent who obviously have a crab fetish just like us. And a cat.
When you are in Portland there is a mountain you can see towering over you at the back which even in summer is snow capped. This is Mt Hood and we drove up there for a look as it was also where the exteriors of The Shining were filled at a historic lodge called Timberline Lodge.
Once again it was the ease and the purity of the nature which was a shock to us. People were even using a few of the open lifts to get some summer runs in.
The final place we visited was Hood River where our friends got married. It is probably one of the more beautiful places I’ve been to and a great place to get married. The venue was up on a hillside looking down over Hood River which had carved out the landscape beneath us.
Like everything in America for a boy who is effectively from a “small continent” (Europe) the shock and awe comes from the vast size of everything. The landscapes are so much grander and overblown that our poor, bankrupt, over crowded continent can manage.
All in all I can see why people move to Portland. Shame it has 10% unemployment and they don’t want two refugees from London/ New York/ Hong Kong/ Seoul.