The city of roses and bridges

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Portland roses

Thinking about Washington, DC streetcars made me think about Portland – and how easy it was to get around without a car. The Portland Streetcar, which opened in 2001, is the first new streetcar system in the U.S. since WWII. Combined with the network of MAX light rail it makes for a great public transportation system – unfortunately a pretty rare thing in this country. Portland is just such a friendly and pleasant place! Public transportation that works is just one element of it. The city also consistently ranks as one of the “greenest” in America based on a variety of economic, environmental and clean tech categories.

Portland is called the City of Roses – quite deservedly. There are several theories as to where that nickname came from but the undisputed fact is that roses have a long tradition here. Back in 1888 the first show of the Portland Rose Society took place and Portland Rose Festival has been an annual tradition since the early 20th century. Not surprisingly, the place not to miss on a visit to Portland is rose related: the International Rose Test Garden. Founded in 1917, the garden is open to the public and for years has been creating some amazing hybrids. But you don’t have to be a rose expert to enjoy strolling among hundreds of them on a gorgeous sunny day. I could go into long and flowery descriptions here (pun intended) but sometimes pictures speak much better than words:

Right nearby there is another must-see: Portland Japanese Garden. Considered the most authentic such garden outside of Japan, the 5.5-acre green expanse is a truly peaceful, relaxing space with panoramic city views in the background.

Portland panorama from the Japanese Garden


Portland is also the City of Bridges. Given its location at the confluence of the Willamette and the Columbia rivers, bridges are an essential part of the urban landscape. And the best way to explore the most interesting ones is on a Spirit of Portland river cruise. Here are my two favorites, plus a nearby fountain to supplement the water theme:

Hawthorne Bridge

Steel Bridge

The city of water

My other favorite memories of Portland include sumptuous crustaceans at Jake’s Famous Crawfish, drive-thru Pacific Rim Espresso, urban oasis of the Lan Su Chinese Garden, and an unmatched view of the city and the Cascade Mountains from the 30th floor location of Portland City Grill. Then there is of course Powell’s Books – 68,000 square feet of book lover’s paradise that occupies a whole city block and claims to be the largest independent bookstore in the U.S.

And finally there are the views of Mt. Hood like these that make Portland unforgettable (ok, I actually took these pictures in Vancouver, WA right across the Columbia River from Portland – still counts =)

Majestic Mt. Hood


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