River Walking in Portland, Oregon

Genie Davis July 25, 2011 No Comments

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Sometimes the simple pleasures are the ones you remember longest, as a family. Sometimes you only need a place to walk along together for awhile in order to savor the beauty of the environment around you and the moment in time when you are together.

Willamette River Walking Paths

A view of the Portland river walking paths

The climate in Portland, Oregon can be rainy, but even in a light summer rain, walking along the walk-able byways of the city can be a pure delight. The Willamette River runs through the city and its pleasant paths bring in walkers, joggers, and cyclers on both sides. Our favorite strolls were along the recently built Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade, a one and a half mile floating walkway.

It’s green, it’s lush, it’s quiet, well-traveled enough for safety even on a twilight stroll, the river is lovely and there are peaceful spots to stop, take in the view, and just enjoy the misty morning or afternoon. There are ten bridges spanning the river, making for picturesque photo spots and a fun counting game no matter how long your route. Over all, Portland contains over 220 miles of regional trails which tie together to draw people through the city and its many green spaces. Portland lends itself to family strolling even outside the pleasant river banks.

We also loved Powell’s City of Books, a monument to all things written and the perfect place for a writer to take her kids. You can log a lot of miles inside this vast book store, containing probably as many titles in its aisles as Amazon.com features on line.  It’s a prime tourist attraction with over a million books, both new and used. Extensive children’s section, friendly staff, and the awe inspiring feeling of being in a vast library of books you can actually buy, make this an excellent afternoon activity.

Another great place for strolling and browsing are the streets that make up the Pearl District, once a run down section of Portland warehouses and now an artist’s enclave. On First Thursday (the first Thursday of each month), the forty plus galleries in this half mile “gallery walk” are packed with browsers, and the wine and cheese scene may prove too formidable for a family with small children. The galleries are there any day of the week however, and mid-week finds them quiet and receptive. We loved the mix of modern art, sculptures, craft-oriented displays and friendly gallery owners who responded to kid-questions about colors chosen and what some of the more ‘out there’ assemblages represented with alacrity. Along with the galleries and artistic shops, you’ll find the  stone turrets of the 1891 National Guard armory, to explore.

Abutting the Pearl District is the neighborhood known as Old Town. Here you’ll find a wonderful piece of gentrification – a former gas company parking lot is now the beautiful Portland Classical Chinese Garden. The garden was built as an urban oasis by designers from Portland’s sister city, Suzhou, China. We loved the peace and quiet behind the garden walls which seemed to offer an insight into a Chinese cultural mind set. When we were there the garden had twilight music concerts on tap, as well as offering the opportunity during daylight hours to participate in games such as yo-yo spinning and mah jong. Offerings, like the flowers in bloom, are seasonal, but regardless of the time of year, this is a great place for another walk that the kids will enjoy exploring.

Old Town Garden Washington Park

We loved exploring the beautiful walled garden in Old Town

And speaking of gardens, check out the fragrant international rose test garden in Washington Park. Portland is well regarded for its roses, beginning in the late 1800′s with the establishment of a rose exhibit in the gardens of published Henry Pittock and his wife Goergiana. By the turn of the century, Portland began to plant roses on many streets, until there were over two hundred miles of rose bushes during the Lewis and Clark Centennial celebration. The International Rose Test Garden we enjoyed exploring was founded in 1924, and became an official site to test All American Roses for growers in 1940. There are over ten thousand gorgeous roses growing here. There is also an iconic fountain, and plenty of pleasant paths to meander. Today the park is a pleasure to walk, and when the roses are blooming, the kids love smelling the varieties of floral scents and the riot of color everywhere. Just be careful not to touch the thorns!

We stayed in the recently rehabbed Hotel Modera, with smallish but trendy, modern rooms. It was a pleasant retreat to rest our slightly weary feet before dinner, enjoying the blazing firepits in the hotel’s commodious courtyard with sodas for the kids and some Oregon wine for those in our party of the appropriate age. The fire pits may be hip in style, but the allure of a damp night warmed by a glowing fire is as timeless as the river and the grassy paths we so enjoyed walking along.

Dinner was also relaxing at the classic seafood house Jake’s Famous Crawfish, a dining landmark established in 1892. We loved the fresh organic salads just as much as the crisp salmon and cod. Service was fast and efficient and the wait-staff was glad to split orders for the kids.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

Tags: , Reviews, Sharing Experiences, Travel Excursions

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