The Northwest Pacific region is highly revered for its lush surroundings sprinkled generously with volcanic mountain peaks and waterfalls in Oregon and Washington states. But little did I know that there is a city known for its fragrant blooming roses and it is none other than Portland, Oregon. I visited Portland, OR to kick off our summer around the memorial day week and much to my delight it was a city of wonderful surprises and yet not often do you scroll through its beauty in this age of viral visuals, seconds long stories and retweets. But then again our social media feeds us a diet of content based on our seasoned taste, perpetually overfeeding us on the same old rather than opening our minds to something that could invigorate our senses. Circling back to my weekend in Portland, Oregon, lets just say the noise around NYC, LA, SF, Chicago and LV is so loud that it drowns out the other great cities of America. Portland being one of the many underrated, lesser spoken or highlighted cities in the country. What I really appreciate about this city is that its not too full of itself (it could have easily been as I will detail it below in the post) but its down-to-earth and easy vibe really is built for every kind of traveler. I am going to list all the things I experienced during the long weekend and what I enjoyed the most in the city.
Best Public Transport System
I couldn’t stress on the fact enough to share how seamless and simple Portland’s public transport system works. There are essentially two lines of trains Red and Blue period. All you need to do is hop on it towards the city center or away from the city center and towards the suburbs and the hop off where needed. For the interior street connections the train stations have bus lines which take you the extra miles towards your destination. The city is so well connected without being a vertical grid for ease of navigation. The ticketing system is effortless and easy to choose from a one way, round trip or a day pass ( which only cost a round trip ticket but offers unlimited rides through the day). The city, without boasting or trying too hard appears quite welcoming to tourists and short stay travelers unlike many talked about major cities in the country that could learn from Portland. The system probably doesn’t take you that last mile or so, but in downtown it does take you practically every corner. Arriving to the city via flight and haven’t booked a rental car? Fret not the Tri Met Max System can get you to downtown or even the suburbs without a hassle. When I arrived to the city I had no car rental and I simply went from the internal connection of the train at the airport (which is so easy to find on your way out) and arrived at my destination train station where I was picked up by a friend. Even though we had a car eventually we really did enjoy the train ride in downtown where parking spaces can be a rare find.
Roses Growing Like Weed
Portland, Oregon as it turns out is a rose city of the United States. You’d think the city may have chosen rose as its flower to represent like an animal or building – No! Roses are practically the first thing you see in Portland, they are eve-ry-whe-re you look. Which is why I coined the header for this segment ‘growing like a weed’ because the front yard and picket fence of every home in Portland and the suburbs will invariably boast of large blooms of every shade of pink. It could be the climate of the region which is always leaning on the air conditioned side of our thermometers. The city never sees frigid temperatures like that in New England or Mid-West or Canada nor the burning heat of California. It’s like weather utopia every month. Roses burgeoning so rampantly throughout the city, it seems that the blossom is taking over the city. Rightly so it is symbolised by the Rose on every public signage including that on highways, street names and even on the road. The best way for you to experience it is drive a car around the neigborhoods or ride along a bike and enjoy the floral works at play so organically and untouched. When the city has these many growing like uncontrolled weed it better have a Rose test garden…. Oh wait but it does!
Rose Garden In Washington Park
After roaming around the town it became obvious that this city has an enormous acreage dedicated to botanicals particularly roses. With a smooth as silk network of public transport we gave our car some rest for a day and were excited to try the trains. We took the Tri Met Max train from Hillsboro to Washington Park Max Station and were transported to the Hoyt Arboretum by a free shuttle. After a long walk within the Arboretum and discovering many a species of flowering plants we could have in our yard, we finally arrived at the International Test Rose Garden in Washington Park. The garden was a meticulously laid out grid of roses. Every conceivable variety of rose plant was on display and had a row for itself. My current obsession are the climbing roses especially the pink variety for my home’s main window looking out to a lengthy lawn. If you love gardening or even wish to add roses to your garden or an apartment space this is a place you need to visit to draw your inspiration and get a good perspective on what you need vis a vis what you thought you wanted. While visiting the Rose Test Garden we also came across the Japanese Zen Garden and if Japanese gardens are your inspiration point a visit would go a long way.
Places To Visit in Portland
While Portland isn’t the biggest city by land mass it is quite a lovely one to go around to enjoy a laid back day. Pioneer Courthouse Square in the heart of the city is a great place to start your tour of the city’s attractions. The Food truck scene at the square during lunch hour is a must visit and a good spot to take pictures and boomerangs for your insta feed. The Pioneer Courthouse Square is historical and has a good vibe to it with many great spots for lunch and late night stops for a drink.
South Waterfront is another great scenic spot to visit with two bridges to cross on your morning run and have a healthy breakfast at The Flying Elephants just off the Tilikum Bridge. Just for fun you could take a round trip ride on the aerial tramway of the city and get some good view of downtown and some breathtaking cityscape captures.
Pittock Mansion is a historical spot to visit in downtown for its art and architechture. While rose is the flower of the city there is another bloom that makes its presence known in Portland – Rhododendron. There is an exclusive park dedicated called Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden which is recommended for the botanically inclined. The must visit stops to make in the city are the food stops. As underrated as the city is, I sensed its food truck and specialty food scene is highly unexplored and needs to be checked on the list.
Lush Life of Suburban Portland
Navigating through the downtown and suburbs was a daily routine as we were staying with our friends for the weekend. Lush is the word that rushed to my mind as we drove into the suburbs of Beaverton and Hillsboro with gargantuan coniferous trees towering over us forming a thick forestation where residences didn’t exist. It is amazing the kind of green landscape they held onto while developing the city which has seen a surge in its population in recent years. Suburban Portland is a great spot to book a vacation rental and call it home if you aren’t lucky to have a friend in the city.