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Seattle vs. Portland: Portland a 'worldly experience,' right here in U.S.

By Christina Blaisdell, CNN
updated 7:15 AM EDT, Thu May 31, 2012
CNN's Christina Blaisdell says Portland is an international city within the U.S.
CNN's Christina Blaisdell says Portland is an international city within the U.S.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • As part of our Destination USA series, we pit rival cities and let you vote on which is best
  • It's the battle of the Pacific Northwest: Seattle vs. Portland
  • CNN's Christina Blaisdell says Portland is an international delight right here at home
  • Show us why you think Seattle or Portland is better on CNN iReport

Editor's note: This piece is part of a series of "city smackdowns" pitting rival cities against each other and letting you decide which one's best. Read an equally passionate article about Seattle, then visit CNN iReport to defend your city of choice!

(CNN) -- Some of my most memorable travels have been abroad. But I can forgo the passport, lack of Wi-Fi, wading through customs and calculating currency exchanges and still experience all my favorite international elements right here in one city: Portland, Oregon.

City smackdown

They're the pearls of the Pacific Northwest. Which city wins?

With Portland around, there are few reasons to leave the continental United States for a worldly experience.

Portland has a wine region that, according to Departures magazine, is reminiscent of the South of France. The brewery scene proudly earns the title "beer capital of the world" and the nickname "Munich on the Willamette." And if you're in the mood to travel to the Far East, there's the Lan Su Chinese Garden, an authentically built Ming Dynasty-style garden.

For the more domestically minded, there is terrific, tax-free shopping in the Pearl District and along North Mississippi Avenue. The Pearl District is known for cutting-edge art galleries, designer boutiques and Powell's Books, the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world. On North Mississippi Avenue, you can find independent boutiques and a variety of welcoming, low-key yet scrumptious restaurants and bars.

Speaking of restaurants, to talk about Portland and not mention the food would be a travesty. My top three culinary takeaways from the city:

1. Veggie variety: A foodie's nirvana, Portland restaurants offer outstanding farm-to-table dining options, and I personally reveled in the volume of vegetarian fare on Portland menus.

2. Voodoo Doughnut: "Where the magic is in the hole!" Voodoo Doughnut is a little slice of heaven on Earth, at least for those of us who never outgrew breakfast cereal and lunch pail food and still fantasize about having sizable helpings of it heaped upon our baked goods.

3. Farmers Market: Be sure to check out the amazing Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University. I can't think of a better way to start a Saturday than an outdoor market filled with fresh-brewed, caffeinated beverages, delicious fruits and nuts and aromatic baked goods.

And since no dining experience would be complete without liquid pleasures, it's worth mentioning that many restaurants employ top mixologists to hand-craft cocktails with seasonal fresh ingredients and house-infused spirits.

The proverbial icing on the cake is that, while Portland makes it easy to indulge, it also makes it easy to do so without guilt.

The city is active and facilitates walking, jogging and biking, providing a plethora of areas and paths to do so. My favorites are those along the Willamette River.

Plus, there's endless potential for more adventurous outdoor activities, given the proximity of Mount Hood, the aforementioned Willamette River and the Pacific Coast. (You can only imagine my delight at spotting the rock from "The Goonies" along the coastline!)

If you're more of a city person, you can use public transit to get around town. Portland has dedicated bus lanes in the clean downtown area, which stays immaculate partially as a function of the "waste cans" that not only accommodate trash, but recyclable disposables.

It's the most charming of places, and when you visit, you'll think you've died and gone to, well, Portland.

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