17 March 2010

Portland, Oregon: My Second Favorite City

I don't especially enjoy traveling, though once in a place -- whether Washington DC or Cleveland OH -- I manage to enjoy it. I love my adopted city of Butte, Montana, the way Socrates loved Athens. And like Socrates I would rather drink the hemlock than leave it. There are a few other cities that I like and could even imagine living in--Goettingen, Germany, is one, and Portland, Oregon, another.

I love these places because they provide what I deem to be the necessities of life: friendly, liberal people; good beer & food; art both in museums and on the streets; and ready access to Nature. On a recent trip to Portland for the annual American Society for Environmental History conference, I was thrilled to discover a little hole-in-the-wall brewpub, the Tug Boat Brewing Company (711 SW Ankeny St):
Truly excellent beer that lives up to the name "MicroBrew." Friendly bartenders and patrons that make you feel like a local in about 15 minutes. Though not a destination place to eat, there is a food and a few real treasures like the olive plate.

No visit to Portland is complete without a meal at the Dan & Louis Oyster Bar (208 SW Ankeny St):
My apologies to North Atlantic and Gulf Coast friends, but the oysters of the North Pacific coast & its cold, clean waters really are MUCH  better: sweeter flesh, firmer texture, and downright tastier. D&L serves a number of great varieties. The family has been involved in oyster farming for a century, and was instrumental in the great oyster restoration projects (which included halting pollution) of the 1970s (for more on this, see Oregon Oyster Farms):
Books are also a huge part of Portland culture, and for a wide variety of rare & cheap used books, nothing beats Powell's Books. They have a great website now, but it's still nice to browse physical atoms instead of virtual electrons:
Shopper types will also like the Saturday Market (also open Sundays). They're a little hard to see against the bright sky, but check out this pic of the cherry trees in full bloom next to the market:
Portland loves Nature, both in art and reality. The free light rail transit system and friendly streets make it an easy city to walk and explore, and you'll be greeted by public sculptures of playful otters:
Salmon-loving bears:
Busy beavers:
And watchful coyotes:
For inside art, Roughrider Teddy (he hated that nickname) Roosevelt will welcome you to the Portland Art Museum:
Take a boat tour of the Willamette River. It will cruise around the incredible Ross Island restoration project (led by Aududon and other groups), where you will be treated to bald eagles, a blue heron rookery. They don't call it "The City of Bridges" for nothin':

It's a working waterway, too, with tug boats:

Dry docks:

And other ongoing work (here, pouring cement for some dock structure):
Ready for a hike? Visit Tryon Creek State Park, an urban park within the city. As you'd expect, a meeting of environmental historians included a group tour:
We enjoyed the luscious cedars (this one with branches that became trees after the old tree fell over the creek):
Liked the lichen:
Were stunned by the Wake Robins (White Trillium, Trillium ovatum):
And could imagine the Steelhead Salmon (sea-run rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss) that still spawn in the tiny creek each winter:
A century ago, Oregon Iron Company logged the park and dreamed of making Portland "the Pittsburgh of the West." You can still find evidence of charcoal making:
One of the company's furnaces has been rebuilt at a local park/visitor center at Lake Oswego:
After a hike in the park, if you want to get high, everyone in Portland does it. Rides the Aerial Tram, I mean:
Music. Did I mention music? Great clubs & bars as well as street musicians, including the phenonmenon of "flash bands"--bands that assemble mysteriously on a street corner, with 60 or 70 avid fans (the band sends out a "tweet" to alert them), play for an hour or so, and then pack it in. [Sorry no pic of this--the one evening I went out without my camera.]

In conlcusion? YES:


Should Fish More said...

Agree, ER. Portland still has distinct neighborhoods, the way Seattle had once, and more brewpubs than you can shake a shamrock at...nice pics, brings back fond memories.

Max said...

Yes, Portland has the perfect blend of culture, history and nature and it looks like you sampled it all. Now that my wife and I are officially residents of the city, we could not be happier.