Portland, Oregon By Train
The Emerald City vs. The City of Roses
It seems like you can’t mention Portland without being countered with a comparison to Seattle and vice versa. “Seattle is more beautiful”…”Yeah, but Portland has a better food scene.” “Mt Rainier!” “Mt Hood!” It can go on and on. These stars of the Pacific Northwest are very competitive but each has its own distinct personality.
The Amtrak Cascades from Seattle to Portland is a 3 1/2 hour ride, which takes longer than driving. But on a train you can travel with your eyes closed, Danny’s favorite mode. It’s a comfortable and relaxing ride and the perfect opportunity to catch up on podcasts, play cards, nap, and enjoy beautiful views of Washington and Oregon. The train is also convenient because upon arrival, you don’t need a car, as the city is incredibly pedestrian and transit-friendly.
Sapporo’s sister city
The Portland Japanese Garden is located on a hill above the city with views of Mt. Hood, far enough away to completely disconnect. Peaceful and beautiful, it’s the perfect spot for wedding, graduation, or other types of photoshoots and I’m sure they could make a fortune, but I admire the fact that none of this is allowed in this tranquil non-profit. It was probably really annoying of us, but Danny and I couldn’t stop comparing The Garden to a previous trip to Kyoto. I guess that’s the whole idea; It’s said to be the most legitimate of its kind outside of Japan. Human scale is factored into the design so you’re made to feel you belong there. That’s so considerate of the garden. (Not that considerate of the guy I spotted vaping.) There’s an impressive 150 year old bonsai tree and an authentic tea house. The Kashintei (“Flower-heart Room”) tea house was shipped in pieces from Japan and carefully assembled on-site. Green tea and Japanese delicacies are served during a traditional ceremony within. It’s a comforting way to continue the meditative state created by this environment.
Tambourines and elephants playing with the band
Just across the way from the Japanese Garden is the Oregon Zoo. Always having my Beatles feelers out, I’d heard that Rain, the ultimate Beatles tribute band, would be performing at the zoo that night. Beatles. At the zoo. Attending the show were Beatles fans of all ages. I met an adorable 4-year old admiring my Abbey Road tattoo who proudly told me Ringo was her favorite. I was with my people.
I think the major difference between this and an actual Beatles show is that you could actually hear the music, which was all played live. I love how their music continues to lift spirits and make people so happy. The costumes were on-point and the songs were performed to perfection, but the setting made it special. The stage was situated next to the elephant habitat and I’m pretty sure this is one concert the elephants will never forget.
The dream of the ‘90s is alive in Portland
The Portland Saturday Market is the largest continuously operating open-air market in the country, running from March through December. You’ll find food stands, street performers, and vendors selling exactly what you’d think when it comes to Portland — Organic dog and cat treats, upcycled this and that, crowns, masks, handcrafted musical instruments, art, and they’ve figured out how to pickle just about everything. Portland is just so on-brand.
City of Books
You’ve got to love a city who can claim a bookstore as a top attraction. Powell’s City of Books is the largest independently owned new and used bookstore in the world. Powell’s acquires around 3,000 used books per day. It’s all very well organized with good signage and a map, and yet, it’s all so overwhelming. The store occupies an entire city block and houses around a million publications. Plentiful staff picks and local selections were helpful to hone in on what we wanted. Danny and I set a limit of 2 books each before entering and somehow managed to actually stick to it.
Dining in PDX
Two words: Food trucks. With over 6000 licensed carts, you’ve got plenty of options. Food Truck Village at SW 9th and Alder is the largest lot in the city with over 60 carts and is the largest concentration of street food in the country. Portland is probably the only city where it’s socially acceptable to eat while walking down the street. Our favorites include Altengartz for authentic German bratwurst, tacos at Taqueria El Rodeo, and Bing Mi for the jianbing (a Chinese crepe).
Life is what happens
Something is bound to go wrong on any trip and we were spared until the very end. We hopped into a taxi at Seattle’s King Street Station and were greeted by an eccentric driver. Boasting that his vehicle had clocked over 350,000 miles, he turned the corner to drive us up Queen Anne and smoke started billowing out of the hood. The cab had overheated and refused to travel any further. We were less than thrilled at the bottom of a very steep hill with luggage and a guitar (Danny always travels with one). Don’t judge, but we called an Uber to take us literally a quarter of a mile…. first world problems.