On a recent trip to Portland, Oregon I got in touch with one of our newest guides for a wander around the city’s downtown – or, as it’s called on Joshua’s guide profile: “ A Walk on the Weird Side ”. I’ll admit to being just as interested in Josh’s personal history as I was in Portland’s: a veteran author of 13 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, and a fluent Mandarin-speaker, Josh is a well-traveled journalist with stories to tell!
We met up at Pioneer Square, affectionately known as “Portland’s Living Room”. Like ToursByLocals’ hometown of Vancouver, Portland is an active, social city whose residents do a lot of their living outdoors. Josh had planned for a walk that took us past many of the Portland’s beautiful, unusual and occasionally even ugly works of art. As Josh explained to me, he’s a collector and teller of stories, and quickly bits and pieces of the city that I would otherwise have walked right past took on cultural meaning.
For instance, the city’s ever-flowing water fountains: I appreciated them as relief from the heat of a 30 degree day, but had no idea they were the hundred-year-old legacy of Simon Benson, a local businessman and teetotaler aiming to provide the hard-drinking men of Portland an alternative lunchtime liquid to what was readily available in the city’s saloons. (While today’s Portlandia is full of socially progressive, eco-friendly, cycling locavores, the city was built on the backs of blue-collar industries.)
With Joshua, my kids found the best places to scooter through public fountains and echo-chambers, while my husband and I enjoyed the city’s farmer’s markets, coffee and food-cart culture. A walk around a downtown “pod” of food carts with Josh kept us focused on the best choices for lunchtime in a city known for the quality and variety of its street food. And he wisely shepherded us past the 30-minute line-up outside the 3rd Avenue Voodoo Doughnuts for its quieter (but equally pink and sweet) counterpart across the river.
Thanks to Josh for introducing us to the many charms and idiosyncrasies of his adopted hometown! Anyone traveling to Portland will only enrich their trip by spending time with this fabulous and learned local guide. You can contact Joshua through his ToursByLocals guide profile.