(a long post, you may need coffee)
Our trip to Portland (Oregon) did not start well. Storm Gareth delayed our flight from Newcastle to Schiphol and we only managed to board the connecting transatlantic flight by running. Luckily the departure gate was in the terminal we had landed in, so we did not have far to go.
Naturally our luggage did not make the flight so, once landed and out of the airport, we had a stop-off at a shopping mall to collect a few minor requirements (I always carry some basics in my hand luggage – husband, not so prepared)
Well, there is always an up-side and for us it meant waiting in the apartment the next morning for delivery of the luggage. I think the enforced slow start really helped cope with the time-change. We are visiting our eldest daughter and her partner who have recently moved to Portland for 12 months. Waiting for the courier in the ground floor lounge-area near the gym and ‘doggy parlour’ (and pretending to read my book) I was able to casually observe normal life. A busy and popular area for the young professionals, there was a lot of activity – many dogs being walked, runners with various tracking devices and earphones, the occasional ‘elderly’ couple (by that I mean over 50) and the non-stop delivery men. Although the building has nine floors – each with approx. 8 apartments – it really felt like a village.
In the entrance area (beside gym etc.) there are 3 seating areas where residents can meet. I sat near the Cribbage table which is used in the evening by a group of enthusiasts. There are also a number of ‘interest’ groups – Running, Book Club etc. On the top floor is an open area with BBQs, tables and fire pits. An indoor area provides a meeting area with TV, a kitchen, dining area and games room (with, of course, a Pool table) As I said – a little village, communal living at its best.
Once unpacked and feeling refreshed we wandered out of the building to view our new surroundings.
As we expected the area was a mixture of new apartment blocks, old original wooden houses and many restaurants, coffee houses and quirky shops.
The next morning, after a hearty USA style breakfast (I really should start asking for child portions) we walked the first half of the Lower MacLeay Trail. I was constantly surprised, throughout our stay, how soon you could be ‘in the wild’ by just stepping off an urban pathway.
A good stretch of the legs and we were off to conquer Mount Hood – well, in a small way. We stayed in a cabin near The Meadows ski area https://www.skihood.com/the-mountain the ski area was busy with plenty of snow to enjoy. The cabin, in reality a 4-bed detached house, was set in a small forest along a bumpy track. As you can imagine, waking up on a morning to watch deer grazing in the backyard was magical.
Having skied on Saturday (well, they did, I walked) we headed to the Timberline Lodge for Sunday morning coffee. A hotel worth a visit, if only for its history, www.TimberlineLodge.com and www.friendsoftimberline.org have more in-depth information. It was built as part of the Works Progress Administration project in the late 1930s offering work to many following the economic depression. It not only provided employment but an opportunity to maintain/regain skills and crafts. The building, inside and out, is a tribute to the high level of ability of the craftsmen, apprentices and their families. Many of the replacement fittings and repairs are undertaken today by local craftsmen using the same hand worked techniques.
Aside from the historical features the hotel itself is set within a popular ski area with picturesque tree lined runs – but, today we were hiking so off we went to the Mirror Lake Trail. Walking through woods and over many bridges (some with snow higher than the safety rails!) was both calming and exciting. We didn’t reach the lake, deciding after an hour we would have to turn back – will try again in the summer.
In the car once again, we headed back to the city stopping at Skyway Diner for lunch and then – a seat in the sun to recover. I would fully recommend a visit – a diner as I imagine them to be and the food was really good. https://skywaybarandgrill.com/
Although we had only travelled for 2 hours from the ski area back to the city, once home the evening temperature was so warm, we took our ‘cuppa’ to the roof to bathe in the sun.
Next morning the workers were up and off at dawn returning at sunset to catch up on paperwork, domestic chores and finding time to eat – oh, I remember those days! We spent the next 4 days looking after ourselves in the city. We had considered visiting Seattle and other nearby towns, but our purpose was to spend time with Emma and Chris, so we stayed put. It did help that the weather was sunny and warm – which is not typical of Portland, so I’m told. Apparently it normally rains, it would have felt like home I guess.
Portland is not what I would call a touristy city – in the manner of London or Edinburgh – there are no obvious historical sites or buildings. Yet, there is plenty to do, many walks to follow and nearby trails within easy reach. (e.g. Walking Portland, Becky Ohlsen Wilderness Press). The transport system was easy to use, although we mainly walked as the city is not big.
Walking meant we became familiar with the layout and also noticed more than if we had been in a car. Homelessness, especially of young men, is an obvious social problem. I did notice ‘Walk-in’ Social Support centres as well as ‘Social Services Support Workers’ in Hi-Vis jackets so perhaps this is a concern the authorities are attempting to address.
When shopping we were frequently asked how we were coping with Brexit – apparently there is a lot of genuine concern for us Brits and how we will manage in the future!
Our average daily walk was 14Km so I will just pick out the highlights. We set off one day to walk to the Willamette River following one of the walks in our book. It took us past the Union Station (a Victorian red brick building) built to accommodate the growing availability of railway travel and an increasing internal migration.
Street art, definitely not graffiti, was tastefully done on the sides of buildings – representing events and charities. We noticed many as we walked the city.
The first ‘surprise’ was the Lan Su Chinese Garden in the Chinatown District. https://lansugarden.org/ We were not going to go in at first, it looked small and our walk had many other points of interest. As we walked towards it we noticed that, whilst there was not a queue, there was always someone at the gate so decided to ‘drop-in’ – and so glad we did. An oasis in the city, beautiful set out in a traditional style with explanations of the motifs and selected plants. And joy of joys- the Teahouse was real and so naturally we had to stop and sample the mooncakes and one of the many varieties of loose-leaf tea.
As well as the street art we noticed many sculptures placed throughout the city – some representing events although many seemed to represent values and aspirations of the citizens.
Lunch was another highlight of the day – nearing the river we came to ‘Huber’s’, one of the oldest restaurants in the city and famous for its Roast Ham as well as its Chowder. https://www.hubers.com/ I chose a small bowl of the Chowder (yes, I’m learning about portion size) and a Caesar salad. Both were very good; in fact the salad was the nicest Caesar salad I have ever tasted. Huber’s setting and deco reminded me of ‘Betty’s Tearooms’ in North Yorkshire. We then walked along the riverside and back to the apartment passing many of the micro-breweries and coffee-roasters that Portland is renowned for.
Another day we ventured on a tram towards Washington Park, a comparison to NYC Central Park would not be out of place. Our first stop was Oregon Zoo, https://www.oregonzoo.org/ which is currently undergoing a major renovation. At times it was like being in a building site. All will be complete and re-opened in 2020 so a visit then will be worthwhile. The Zoo’s involvement in a variety of conservation programmes is encouraging. We walked from there to the Japanese Garden https://japanesegarden.org/
The route took us further into Washington Park through the Hoyt Arboretum along the Wildwood Trail. The Garden, once we arrived, provided a sense of tranquillity which, in a way, prepared us for what we next witnessed. Walking back to the city we walked through the Holocaust Memorial, sculptures of abandoned belongings telling their poignant story.
The following day we walked the rest of the MacLeay Trail and up to Pittock Mansion. It was a tough uphill 3 mile walk and, compared to the lower section, not for the weak-hearted. You can drive to the Mansion and park outside the door!
The Mansion itself is worth a visit especially if you are interested in history – the building and it’s artefacts tell the story of Portland’s early days using the life of Henry Pittock, publisher of The Oregonian http://pittockmansion.org/ Take a camera as the views from the garden are fantastic.
Our final day of city walking was forecast to be rainy, so we had planned indoor activities starting with a visit to Powell’s City of Books – it is reported to be the largest bookshop in the world. https://www.powells.com/locations/powells-city-of-books/ Accept the store map on entering – you will need it! I am an avid reader and really looked forward to this visit. To be honest there was just so much to see, read, digest I was overwhelmed. I think visiting regularly and having some idea of what you are looking for is the better way to understand the content.
We then moved on to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry https://omsi.edu/ There were so many schoolchildren (I mean – hundreds!) on a City Educational Day. So, there was only one thing to do – jump straight in and attempt all the tasks in the exhibitions. Mixed successes, truth be told the children had a much better idea than us, although I did manage to build a boat that sailed and James used cogs and cables to generate enough electricity to power one house.
The main challenge of the day was to collect a birthday cake and deliver it to the restaurant we would be dining in that evening.
Walking and using the tram whilst carrying the cake-box was successfully achieved – despite bumps, sudden turns and bizarre ‘spaced out’ fellow passengers on the final tram ride.
The second weekend of our trip was spent on the Pacific Coast and our luck with the weather ran out, although not too wet the sun disappeared and the stormy clouds rolled in. this was disappointing as it was national Whale Watching weekend and we learnt that whales do not come as close to the shoreline in such conditions. That said we did see ‘shadows’ and the water ‘blows’ so we knew they were there. Emma was lucky enough to see the tail end of a dive. https://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=thingstodo.dsp_whalewatching The State Park Rangers based at ‘Lookout’ points were very friendly and informative so do stop by and ask them questions (and look at the footage on their webcams).
We visited Newport, Depoe Bay and Canon Beach in our search for the whales and each stop had its own charm. Depoe Bay had the feel of an English Seaside resort and our Fish and Chips lunch confirmed my thoughts – freshly caught and cooked with crispy batter, yummy. We had a late afternoon walk along Canon Beach, so picturesque with the sun setting and the sea, at last, calming.
Then it was back to the city and packing of suitcases. Portland is not the easiest of cities to travel to from Europe as there are few direct flights (and not a daily event). Our return journey required 3 flights with a total of 7 hours sitting in 2 airports so learning that Delta are commencing daily direct flights from London is good news. We left Portland midday Sunday and arrive at Newcastle upon Tyne at 6.00pm on Monday (even allowing for the time difference it was long and exhausting). We collected our luggage, met the minibus to the car park, collected the car keys and placed suitcases into the boot. Turned the ignition key – nothing! You just have to laugh.
(PS – we arrived home at 8.00pm thanks to the RAC and their jump leads)