Portland, Oregon, united states

Portland may well be the most hipster city in the United States.  Not that I've been everywhere but all signs so far point to 'yes'.  And it is all the more loveable for it.

Descending the plane stairs directly into the open air, Portland felt positively balmy following on from the frigid chill of the Rocky Mountains.  Sure, a coat was required clothing but the weather was quite mild for early winter.  It all felt very familiar, like putting on well-worn shoes.  Then came the light rail from the airport to Downtown, again so very comfortable and alighting at an open air mall, so uncanny.  I don't usually compare a place directly to Melbourne, 'Melburnian' is a term I use to describe a standard of quality, but it turns out my home city has more than a sister out there in the world, Portland is a twin separated at birth.  Add to the mix a dear friend who is a Melbournite-turned-New-Yorker and the next three days resulted in an immensely enjoyable romp; bouncing between cafes, bars, bookshops and delis. So, you know, normal life.

What intrigued me most about my short stay in Portland was that its culture writhes a layer beneath.  It's not all out there flashing before your eyes as it is in New York or L.A.  It appears when you emerge from a street of high rises onto an open square filled with bustling food trucks, or wander past some old billboards and suddenly the words 'I'm a fucking lady' leap out at you amongst the worn jumble.  It's when you sit down to eat lunch and look out the window and realise you are staring at perhaps the most graceful mural you have ever seen.  Shops like Made Here showcase the city's commitment to its uniqueness, to art and fashion and even chain stores like West ElmAnthropologie and Made Well just blend right in with the local flavour.

Even more than its numerous bridges, Portland's attraction is its coffee and food culture.  The birthplace of Stumptown, the city sits halfway on the spectrum between Melbourne's independent cafe style and the predominant US facsimile model.  Supporting a strong community of third-wave, independent roasters, most cafes and eateries doing well in Portland you can find replicated in two or more locations.  I loved the character of these venues and the coffee was spot on every time although I can't help but feel that each time a cafe is duplicated in another neighbourhood there is a little something that gets lost in translation.