Bikes and Bridges, Baristas and Brews: Portland; a perfect place to spend 4 days.
Portland, Oregon. A beautiful old city bordered by two mighty rivers-the Willamette and the Columbia. Endless bike lanes weave throughout the city, mighty bridges span the rivers, multitudes of microbreweries cluster in the old warehouse districts and warm cafes dot the corners of the unique neighborhoods giving Portland such character.
We arrived on Friday and spent our first afternoon touring the Japanese gardens that are reported to be the most authentic outside of Japan. Even in late November, the gardens were filled with the warm fall colours of orange, red and yellow.
The area is made of up five gardens, each one weaving it’s way into the next.
We stayed in a guesthouse, a converted turn of the century Victorian home, in the Alphabet district, where each street name begins with the following letter in the alphabet. The neighborhood was filled with similar homes, sturdy brick apartment buildings with iron fire escapes lining their sides and stately grey stone churches. We were hooked!
We’d begin each morning at our favourite coffee shop in the neighborhood serving locally roasted Stirling coffee.
After which, we spent the days exploring the numerous interesting, beautiful and quirky neighborhoods of the city. Our mode of transport were bikes of course, Portland being rated as only second to Amsterdam as the best city for bike travel. We rented Bromptons, funny little folding bikes that look more like a small child’s bicycle rather than the sturdy, speedy, totally practical commuting bikes that they are.
After 3 days of riding the Bromptons around the city, under sun and rain, over pavement and mud, quickly being able to fold them up to the size of a duffle bag in a matter of seconds, we are convinced these are the perfect city commuter bikes.
On our spins around the city we checked out the many sights and tastes that Portland has to offer. Highlights included the Saturday Portland Market (showcasing the wares of local crafters); Voodoo Donut (throngs of people surrounded the shop waiting for their choice of some of the unique offerings); and Powell’s Books, the largest independant bookstore in North America. Truely huge, Powell’s has several floors filled with wall to wall books. We spent hours here; the first evening, in 2 hours, Jenn didn’t even make it out of the Cookbook section!
We also sampled some of Portland’s infamous Food Cart goodies. Over 400 mobile food carts cluster in various areas around the city offering everything from salads and fries to wood fired pizza and fresh baked pies-from the back of a food cart! We tried out PBJ’s Grilled, a spin on the beloved peanut butter and jam sandwiches. They offered numerous conctions including a Thai version of nut butter, shredded carrot, marmalade and basil and a pumpkin pie sandwich with pumpkin butter, nut butter, bits of pie crust and caramel sauce. Wow! yum! We settled for the “Cynthia” (jam, nutella and nut butter) and the “Joy” (nut butter, dark chocolate and coconut). Next time we’ll be more adventurous!
Sunday we were lucky enough to have sunshine! We pedalled up to Forest Park, a huge tree and fern filled park stretching across the west side of the city-one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. Our day of riding, under the canopy of coloured leaves was definitely our favourite day of the weekend.
We had a wonderful 4 days in Portland but easily could have stayed for another week. With it’s ever present bike culture, emphasis on local food, friendly neighborhoods and outdoor possibilities we instantly felt at ease in the city. Highly recommended, we can’t wait to go back.