If you’re searching for a lush, decadent and vibrant city, look no further than Portland, Oregon. Yes, “Portlandia” where locals will tell you the parody is not that far from the truth.
Last week, I visited Portland for the first time…also my first encounter with the fresh air of the Northwest. The city is incredibly green in multitude of ways, from its bountiful local parks to bike culture. They also have a citywide composting program that’s so thorough that they have composting in hotels!
My first stop in the city was Washington Park to visit the International Rose Test Garden. One of Portland’s nicknames is the “City of Roses,” and although there’s no one clear origin to this name, you will notice roses growing plentifully in people’s gardens, rose murals painted on walls and businesses using the word “rose.” I’m a lover of city parks, particularly gardens, so I was in my element. The rose garden is literally breaktaking with rows and rows of roses in vivid pinks, corals, red, yellows, and purples. They also have curious names ranging from “Betty Boop” to “Desmond Tutu”, from “Heart Song” to “Voluptuous”, from “Remember Me” to “Strike It Rich.” It’s easy to spend hours reading the names, breathing in thescents and marveling at the colors. It’s also a great place to read, relax and certainly people watch. Admission is free and there’s restrooms and an adorable gift shop.
A short walk from the rose garden is the Portland Japanese Garden which formally opened in 1967. In the 5.5 acre park, there are five gardens including the Strolling Pond Garden, Tea Garden, Natural Garden, Flat Garden, and Sand and Stone Garden. There is a lot of running water meant to symbolize the life-giving force, along with stone (the “bones” of the landscape) and plants (the “tapestry of the four seasons’). Even with the numerous tourists, there is still a feeling of zen and there are many nooks where one can meditate, journal or daydream. One of my favorite parts was the Zig Zag bridge from which you can get up close and personal to the many koi fish swimming towards the Heavenly Falls. Admission is $9.50 and the garden is open daily to visitors.
Speaking of falls, no nature loving trip to Portland would be complete without a trip to Multnomah Falls, a 611-foot cascade located about 30 minutes outside of town in the Mt. Hood/Columbia River Gorge area. The photo above shows a view from the bottom and a quick walk will take you to the bridge in the photo for a closer look of the falls. For those who want to see spectacular views and see the origins of the falls, there’s a mile hike up the mountain on a paved trail. It gets chilly because of the altitude and the shade but you will work up a sweat because it is steep! Once you get to the top, there’s incredible views of Mt. Hood and a pond that you can wade in or just dip your toes in. Let it be known that even in July that water is cold! But it’s refreshing and invigorating if you like a little shock to the system and to frolic in nature.
After that hike, there’s so many incredible food options back in Portland! I only got to sample a few but I recommend B Street Coffee House in the southwest section because of their local ingredients and tasty gluten-free waffles. I can safely say I had the best chai ever there, complete with coconut milk. Step your game up Starbucks! I also tried a gluten-free waffle sandwich with egg, spinach, tomato, onion and cheddar. It was an excellent way to start my day and cure my jetlag! Another favorite was Porque No?, a taqueria with two locations and some of the best Mexican food you’ll have in the city. They also use local and hormone-free meats, seafood, produce and dairy, and are committed to sustainability in all facets of their business. They even use rice bran oil which is recycled to fuel their errand vehicle. Good for the earth and your belly!
There’s so much to see, do and eat in Portland. There are so many city parks including Forest Park, over-the-top desserts at Voodoo Doughnuts and Salt and Straw’s farm-to-cone ice cream shop, bike lanes and bridges (the Tilikum Crossing, Portland’s only pedestrian and bike-only bridge will open soon!), and of course the famous Powell’s Books where you could get lost for a day. There’s also infinite murals and food trucks representing the city’s diverse communities. Portland is a thriving city tailor made for us Green Feminine Hygiene Queens!