Sunday, October 28, 2012
Boise – Portland, OR
Today’s drive was really long, not only because of the distance (over 400 miles) but because it rained most of the way. This is not the best time of year to visit the Pacific Northwest. Crossing the entire State of Oregon through the Wallowa Mountains, then the Cascade Range and along the mighty Columbia River is to pass through some of the most splendid scenery in our country. The irony is that today we couldn’t admire much of it because of the weather conditions.
Stopping next to some gas pumps in the town of Pendleton, Oregon, we were surprised when a young girl with crooked teeth and a friendly manner appeared and wanted to pump our gas. This is first time we’ve experienced this service during this entire trip.
Using our GPS, we arrived tired and strung out at the door of Mike and Judy’s condominium building in Portland’s Pearl District. Our friends were ready for us and helped us to bring our various bags of belongings up to their tasteful and spacious apartment.
For so many years we had been in the habit of staying with Mike and Judy in their home in Nazareth, Pennsylvania 75 miles from NYC.
Now, seeing much of their same furniture and art objects in this new setting at the opposite end of the country, gave us a curious feeling, one of the change and impermanence happening around us all the time.
Monday, October 29, 2012
Despite predictions that we would have rain today, it turned sunny and warm, dispelling yesterday’s gloom and revealing the city in all its visual interest.
We returned briefly to the apartment before setting out again by streetcar for Pioneer Square in the heart of Portland’s downtown. From there we walked to and along the Willamette River to the city’s railroad station.
Portland’s Union Station is active. Looking at the Arrivals/Departures board we noted that there are many trains serving the western U.S. I hadn’t realized how many passenger trains Amtrak still operates. It would be fun to take some of these trains.
It’s a pleasure to walk in this city. It feels smaller than it really is. It also has a reputation for trying to be ‘consciously hip.’ No matter; it looks and feels interesting. I took a number of photos of signs, buildings, and the bridges over the river.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
The highlight of the day was our afternoon visit to the Lan Su Chinese Garden, again a short walk from the Pearl District where we are staying. It’s interesting to note how the creation of this beautiful and authentic garden came about. In the mid-1980s a contingent of Portlanders went to China to make ancient Suzhou Portland’s sister city. Suzhou was known as early as the 16th century as a city of beautiful private gardens. These were serene places for their owners to withdraw from the stresses of everyday life and contemplate both natural and man-made beauty.
On returning to Portland, the group decided to create one of these gardens in Portland. The local gas company provided land that had previously been a company parking lot. A not-for-profit was started to raise money, and donations were forthcoming. The City of Portland participated in a big way as well. It’s an uplifting tale of cooperation between various constituencies to enhance their city.
The garden structures were built in China and shipped disassembled to Portland along with 500 tons of special rock. Then, 65 Chinese artisans and two cooks came and stayed for ten months to assemble the garden structures and create the pond, grotto, pathways, and plantings. The result is the most authentic Chinese garden in America and a compound of rare and exotic beauty.
Friday, November 2, 2012
This morning, we waited for a couple of contractors who didn’t show up. We had planned to visit Portland’s Japanese Garden. Instead, because the weather looked favorable around noon, there was a sudden decision to make a road trip to visit the Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, about a two-hour drive to the southeast.
The drive to this classically shaped, snow-covered mountain went fairly smoothly. The distant glimpses of the mountain against a blue sky were the best. However, by the time we reached the lodge, the sky had clouded over and there was almost no contrast between the mountain’s peak and the bald sky.
Visiting and dining in the lodge was the highlight of our trip. It was built in fourteen months in the years 1936-1937 as a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project. Local materials were used in its construction. At the lodge’s core stands a tall and very large chimney whose base contains cheerful fireplaces surrounded by sofas and armchairs. The supporting structure of the building is totally visible on the inside. Huge columns and timbers fashioned from the trunks of giant trees support the galleries and roof.
The newel posts at the base of the banisters are also made from polished tree trunks with animals carved into their heads. Everything, including the furniture is made of wood and is massive. It’s the epitome of how we imagined such a lodge should look. Outside the window next to our dining table we had a view of the mountain and an operating chairlift. We saw a couple of early season skiers walking around.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
The four of us took the streetcar to the Saturday Open-Air Market. All of us love markets, and Portland’s winter market is large and varied.
We ate a light lunch of bread, Cheddar cheese, and Judy’s parsnip soup. Then it was out again to drive to the Japanese Garden, one of Portland’s splendid natural features, located high on a hillside in the University District. The trees and shrubs, many indigenous to Japan, were the main attraction. We walked along the paths past running water, delighting in our surroundings.
Our visit ended, Michael drove the car home while Judy, Kay, and I walked down hill through Portland’s Rose Garden. We continued on foot all the way to Powell’s City of Books on the corner of 11th Avenue and Burnside.
By its size alone Powell’s is phenomenal. What’s more, it continues to be an independent bookseller in an age when the independents have nearly disappeared from the land.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
This is our last day in Portland. I don’t know when we’ll get back to Portland. However, if and when Kay and I feel the need to leave Turkey and return to the U.S., we would seriously consider this city as a place to settle. It is important for us to live in a place where we can accomplish our daily rounds on foot. Portland has classical music, theater, dance, film culture, fine dining, and ease of transportation. The states of Oregon and Washington are full of natural beauty to hike, bike and explore. We could be happy here.