So far the vacation is off to a perfect start. The weather is cold, specifically, forty degrees cooler than when we left Charlotte, and overcast with occasional sprinkles. But there could be a blizzard and I would still be happy. It’s vacation after all!

Last night, when we arrived in the Portland airport, I knew immediately that I would like the city. In the baggage claim area, there was a woman donned in full hippie attire, with a flower, literally, in her hair. We were off to a good start.

Our rental car company didn’t have a car for us, but assured us one would be ready by this morning. That was fine by me because it meant that I would get a relaxing morning. Otherwise, my husband is sighing, pacing around the room, and otherwise rushing me, usually by offering helpful suggestions like, “You can do that later,” until I’m slightly annoyed by the time we leave the hotel room. Vacations are for relaxing, but that’s not something that seems to get scheduled into our days. Not that I’m complaining. We always have a great time. It’s just that sometimes, one is grateful for the forced slow start.

Sometime after breakfast, at a perfectly reasonable hour, we procured our car and headed for downtown Portland where we spent the entire day. I liked it instantly when I discovered that we were following an Utz truck. A whole truck of Utz. Here! I foresee a recurrent theme during the rest of our vacation.

Once parked, we walked several miles (or what seemed like it) through the Historic and Arts districts. Characterized by brick sidewalks and privately-owned shops with quaint store signs, the area is tourist heaven. Numerous Irish pubs, clothing shops, interesting knickknacks, restaurants, a Life is Good (and way expensive, Dude!), bookstores, and a tasteful sex shop provide amusement for hours. There wasn’t a single chain store apart from Starbucks. For entertainment during rest stops for weary feet and old, aching backs, there’s plenty of people-watching. In addition to the tourists, the streets are lined with hippies, and sadly a few homeless people, making for interesting street scenes.

The first thing you notice about Portland, with gladdened heart, is the hippies. Then, the second thing you notice, is the smell of the salty ocean air. Portland is a peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides. While there isn’t a waterfront walkway or park, there are a few piers that afford a view of the very unaffordable parked yachts. It’s mind-boggling the amount of money some people have for recreation that the rest of us don’t have for our primary residence. And what I want to know is why I am not related to any of those people. Believe me, I’ve done a comprehensive genealogical search to verify this disappointing fact.

My favorite part of any vacation is the people I meet. Everyone here is friendlier than I think anywhere else I have ever visited. Case in point, today, utterly disgusted with my hair, I stopped in an Aveda hair salon and desperately asked if I could be fit in for a conditioning treatment. I don’t usually frequent fancy hair salons, especially on vacation. I’m a cheap, simple haircut kind of gal. The few times I have visited a fancy salon, I found the personnel to be snotty and regretted spending my money or time there. Today, though, was the best salon experience I have ever had, which is to say that it was downright enjoyable. My stylist Thomas was a hair genius. Not only did he fix my sad hair, but, a really good and kind person, he provided the most interesting conversation for the hour and a half that I was there. I loved him. Loved him. He refused my offer to accompany me home and straighten my hair every day, but nevertheless, I still loved him. I actually hugged him before I left the salon. I have never once been so overcome with a salon experience that I felt such an uncontrollable urge to hug my stylist. But there you go. That’s Portland for you. The other personnel at the salon were just as huggable, but I showed some self-restraint. I can, you know, on occasion.

We rounded out the day by enjoying a free “Live at Five” concert in a city square, and then split some fish and chips and a lobster roll. Now, we’re warm and cozy back in the hotel, resting aching knees and sore tootsies.

I’ll end with this tidbit of information. My husband checked the forecast, “We’re in the coldest place in the country right now.” There was unmistakable pride in his voice. There will be also an unmistakable charge on the credit card tomorrow when I need to buy a new sweatshirt.

Despite the cold, we’re loving it here and rate it two thumbs up each.

See pictures of this excursion here.