Got a chance the other week to visit Portland Oregon for the first time and had a blast!
We took The Coast Starlight train
and the ride up was every bit as uncomfortable as I had been warned about! After a sleepless night we were delayed for several hours in the beyond sleepy town of Klamath Falls Oregon.
And what appeared to be their tallest
We arrived in Portland five hours late. Go By Train!
If the sum of my experience in Portland had just been the Ace Hotel I would have left an amazed man! By far the coolest hotel I've stayed in: The Ace Hotel
At the bottom of the Ace are two excellent establishments, Stumptown Coffee Roasters
for the best cup of coffee in town (though it was no Blue Bottle) and Kenny & Zukes Delicatessen
which was the best deli I've been to!
The next day, we rented a Zipcar
How cool is that sign? Way to be progressive Portland!
Drove out to Multnomah Falls
The countryside there was so mystical that we think it might have had
something to do with all the pagan/renaissance fair patrons we met
there. For example:
I had heard a lot about Portland's biking infrastructure and how
pro-bike it was, so I rented a Jorg & Olif
(from the ace hotel) to see it for myself!
Portland from a bike
Lots of bike corrals around town (and built on sidewalk bulb-outs nonetheless).
They had these nifty neighborhood maps that were cool for tourists but
probably embarrassing to the local population.
Close up of the legend from above photo
Another cool thing was the "Bike Box", which was an area were you could get ahead of traffic safely at red lights.
Overall, I found Portland a great place to bike, but not the most exciting place to walk outside of downtown. Which actually works in favor of it's pro bicycle agenda; a city just dense enough to warrant bike transit. Still a lot of streets were left over from a more suburban time.
here you can actually see one half of the block is old school, and the other has the sidewalk extended, trees planted, and a bike path added! From the looks of it, Portland is moving in the right direction.
This photo is of another great idea: a rain garden. Portland has been augmenting its street drainage system with a series of rain gardens that catch storm run off and naturally filter the water as it seeps through the root system of the plants. It requires no added pipes, takes the place of an ugly on street parking spot and can drain just as much water as a traditional storm drain.
Still, Portland was a small town and many people still relied on cars. Most everyone we talked to owned a car, which made me wonder if there has been any conflict or backlash from the locals against all these measures that remove street parking and give incentives to those who bike. Maybe that's why the city was giving out pamphlets on transportation options and how to use them correctly.
It's hard to see in that photo, but that pamphlet (and it's attached to bike rack) were sponsored
by Whole Foods. And I noticed this a lot. The streetcar stops were all sponsored by advertisers and I'd be interested to know what others think about this. Do advertisements have any place in publicly funded transportation? Speaking of PT, Trimet
Waiting for the streetcar
I rode the streetcar to its southern most end and then jumped on the Portland Aerial Tram
for some great views
The tram terminals were both designed well
While we were at Oregon Health and Science University
we wondered around and found North America's longest pedestrian sky bridge
Portland had a very leafy and clean looking downtown. Even though we didn't find much to do there, I enjoyed walking around
Parts even reminded me of New York (well, some of the buildings did at least)
There were so many new buildings there too!
One of our favorite new buildings is in the background of this photo. Anyone know the name of it?
Here are some modern row houses that despite having garages (yuck!) still had stoops and and blended in nicely with the urban environment.
Some parts of the Pearl District were so new that as far as the eye could see every thing was within a couple years old, right down to the pavement on the roads, the sidewalks, the lampposts, and the parks! And these new parks were nice!
Besides being one of the coolest parks I've ever seen Tanner Springs Park
also had this cool wooded sidewalk which not only looked good but produced less runoff and pollution. Not sure if it will age well though...
All of the new buildings there were well done. Lots of brick (why can't we get any new brick buildings in San Francisco?) and where other cities would have towers on top of parking structures, Portland always seemed to be building towers on top of townhouses.
However, I did notice a lot of pedestrian only alleys and walkways and I'm not so sure those do well in urban environments.
All in all, I loved the Pearl District and it will be very interesting to see how it ages. Still, I prefer an older neighborhood.
I really liked "nob hill" (but portland needs to get a more original name for this hood)
It was an amazing trip, and on the way back we upgraded our Amtrak
tickets to get the sleeper car and it made all the difference!
Keep Portland Weird