Portland, Oregon – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 14

Our 15th day of this road trip started out in Astoria, Oregon at the amusingly named Pig N Pancakes provided breakfast for us before going to the Maritime Museum to watch the ships on the river. Frame by a coast guard pilot ship sitting in the parking lot of the museum, the interior appears to displayed a coast guard rescue ship in the front window but we saw no more than that of the museum since it was closed until later that day and we were ready to move on. Docked behind the museum was a ’boutique cruise ship’ and a coast guard ship with crew at attention saluting the U.S. flag while “reveille” played over the speaker for first call. It seemed a bit late in the day for this at 8:30 a.m.

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It was time to refill the car with gas and in Oregon there is a law that bans car owners to fuel their own car. New Jersey is the only other state that has this same law. All gas stations have attendants who pump gas for you. It seemed very odd and old fashion so I always get out of the car to talk to the attendant each time while in Oregon because I don’t know what else to do.

We made it to Portland and found the Japanese Gardens despite the wacky directions given by our GPS system, entering the gardens by wandering the paths in Washington Park. For a wonderful hour we walked up and down steps and crossing bridges presenting ferns, azaleas, moss that completely covered hills and beds that looked like short grass.

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Temples, arches and monuments decorated the Japanese gardens as we ambled along the path lined with a decorative fence of red cedar and/or bamboo artistically carved and tied together. Water flowed among the paths to verdant shrubs and trees, finally leading to a Zen garden. The Zen garden was made of a few large dark rocks set in a floor of small white pebbles in perfect concentric circles. It was very peaceful sitting on a bench staring at the Zen garden wondering how each pebble was arranged so flawlessly.

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The highlight of the Japanese Gardens is the bonsai area where a few well sculpted trees were on display. A coastal redwood, the tallest tree in the world, was clipped to a three foot potted work of art. Bonsai means tray planting as these art forms live in shallow trays and need styled and restyled over time.

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Ryan Neil created his own American bonsai style for this exhibit. The setting on the patio of the Japanese house at the gardens in view of Mt. Rainier offered a beautiful atmosphere.  The bonsai were each framed in a custom modern wooden structure. Maple trees, red cedar, pine and juniper were used in the other bonsai art displayed.

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We continued onward through the park to see the rose garden. Portland is known as the City of Roses. The rows and rows of roses covered a large section of the park. There was a test garden, a master rose garden, and many more rose gardens of varieties, size, and color.

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Visitors from around the world were there to see the exceptional bright colorful flora. Another area of the park had a statue of Sacajawea and a tribute column for Lewis and Clark for their journey to the Pacific Ocean.

The Kimpton River Hotel near the harbor was our hotel of choice for Portland. While the hotel was very nice hotel, it turned out that our room faced the windows of the next wing of rooms. Oh well, we had mostly beautiful views on this whole trip and we spent little time in our room, heading back out to the riverfront that border the hotel.

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Soon we were on the streets of Portland exploring the city on foot, exploring the central business district, stopping for lunch at Joe’s Burgers. After lunch we did some shopping, going to the home store for Columbia outerwear. To finish our downtown walking tour we went to Pioneer Courthouse Square where the city placed hundreds of 4-inch pots of flowers on the square to make a greenspace in the urban hard space. We sat in the lounge chairs at the square enjoying a warm sunny day of 88 degrees. The humidity was low and the weather felt perfect.

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The highlight of the square was a visit to the Portland tourist bureau information center, where we met Arnie, who was extremely helpful in giving us ideas for things to see and do in the city  as well as recommendations for a day trip up the Columbia River Valley to the east of Portland.

After a brief stop back at the hotel to search Tripadvisor for somewhere to eat, we made dinner reservation for Higgins Restaurant and Bar on Broadway Street where we had an excellent dinner is what could only be described as a Portlandia like restaurant we had salmon and steak with water chestnuts and potato au gratin.

Finally we spent the sunset sitting on the hotel roof deck for a while sipping wine and eating a small appetizer. It was such a lovely day that we went for another walk along the harbor’s boardwalk and stopped for ice cream. The ice cream was not as good as Handel’s but the atmosphere was great on this charming evening.

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