Portland--First Impressions

We've been living up in Portland now for almost a month and I wanted to record some of my first impressions:

- It is definitely cloudy, cool and rainy--and it's been this way most of the time since we've moved up.  In fact, on several mornings in June (including twice this week when it's been in the high fifties!)  I've fired up our fake--but very pleasing and surprisingly realistic-looking--electric "fireplace" to get some heat and light into our place.  Fortunately, we like this type of weather but we can see why sun-fanatics would not.  It's probably one of the key reasons Californians aren't storming north over the border to take advantage of the less expensive housing.

- It's whiter.  There is less diversity here and more white people than in either the SF Bay Area or Southern California.  I'd guess the percentage of caucasians here is about 85%.  (Or maybe the "people of color" just get bleached out with no sun?...)

- You can't pump your own gas.  That's right, you have to pull up and wait at the pump for someone to come by and do it for you.  I believe the rationale is to preserve jobs.  At first we didn't like it, but now we like just kicking back and letting them take care of it.

- No sales tax.  Whatever you buy, it's exactly that amount when you check out at the cashier.  This is definitely a bonus when you buy bigger ticket items (e.g. a car).

- People are very friendly.  Ivy and I have both noticed that the vast majority of people are very nice in a small-town kind of way. We think this has something to do with the smaller scale of everything compared to California.

- The city and surrounding suburbs are very well-planned.  Ivy and I are able to walk to a grocery store, post office and a bunch of shops and restaurants from our condo.  The variety and quality of shops, along with freeway access and public transportation are all great.  We're within a five minute drive of three different supermarkets and we're able to choose from four different gyms within a five mile radius (we just joined LA Fitness yesterday).  It only takes us fifteen minutes to get from our condo over the hill down into the heart of Portland.  Buying a condo with similar proximity to San Francisco would be three to four times more expensive.

- A "different vibe".  In many ways, it feels like we're living up in Canada or even Scandinavia.  The architecture, the emphasis on eco-friendly living and getting outdoors, along with a vibrant art, music, pub and coffeehouse scene gives a somewhat "Euro" feel.  We like it a lot and are glad to be here.

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