Dec 24, 2012

Visiting Portland - the Rose City

Portland has been dubbed the “Rose City.”  There are several theories as to how it got its nickname but roses thrive in Portland so well that it is home to the International Rose Test Garden, which is free to visitors. It is where, as the name implies, they experiment and grow a variety of roses.

John and I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Portland which was a good deal because it included breakfast, free parking, a pool, and it was close to everything we wanted to do. The first day we headed to the 100-year old mansion, the home of Henry and Georgiana Pittock both of whom added to the development of the city.  Their home, beautifully decorated for the season, had some of the latest inventions of their time including a central vacuum system, intercoms, and indirect lighting plus a there was great view of the city of Portland.

We always search out museums to visit and love it when we find a unique one. Such was the case when we visited the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum, which is the personification of the heavily forested Pacific Northwest.  There are many interactive displays that explain the lumbering industry and how they try to preserve this resource. I found the display on the second floor especially interesting. It is set up so it seemed that I was traveling in Russia, China, and other parts of the world meeting people who are faced with trying to preserve forests in their countries.

The Japanese Garden is just one of several gardens in the area. I appreciated the free shuttle ride from the parking lot to the gardens. The much-acclaimed Japanese Garden has five distinct garden styles all creating a sense of peace, harmony and tranquility based on the essential elements: stone, water, and plants. It was a bit misty while we were there – cloudy days seem to be the norm – but I think it made us appreciate the colors more.

At the risk of sounding like a pre-teen I thought the Grossology Exhibit – “The Impolite Science of the Human Body” especially well done and fascinating. I mean where else can you learn that snot is so important that your nose makes a new batch every 20 minutes!”  I have to admit John was much more interested in touring the U.S. Navy’s fast-attack submarine, the USS Blueback.

We were told that Multnomah Waterfalls was a must-do. Around Portland the mountains, often snow covered, are spectacular and easy to see from many places in the city but it takes a 30-minute drive to these beautiful falls.  The 611-foot cascade can be viewed from the base or to enjoy an up-close perspective people can take the paved trail to the Benson Bridge. It is a popular site for wedding photos but in 1995 while the bridal pictures were being taken a 400-ton boulder broke lose and plunged 225 feet into the upper pool creating a 70-foot splash that made for some very wet bridal images. The hearty and fit may want to hike another mile up the steep path to the top of the falls. I passed on that.

Portland is a foodies’ paradise where a chain restaurant is hard to find. We had an inexpensive, delicious lunch at one of the many food carts, an authentic Moroccan dinner at Marrakesh Restaurant, and ate at the Kennedy School, now a restaurant and hotel.