Sunday: Train was a little late to the station for our trip to begin.
Aboard the San Joaquin we sat back, chatted with a couple of other riders, and looked forward to our journey.
Monday: Made our switch in Sacramento over to the Coast Starlight around midnight. Tried to get some sleep in our seats, despite noisy (stoned) adults behind us. Tony managed to get some zzzs, me, not so much. Between sleepy eyes, I say some amazing scenery.
Sometime around early am, noisy adults were gone, but replaced by a very chatty older lady telling her life story to the young lady sitting with her. I remember having my eyes open as we rounded Mount Shasta and enjoyed the sights of snow and beautiful trees around us. Breakfast and lunch on the train were pretty basic choices from the snack bar. There was a dining car, but we chose to eat at our seats. The best place to spend time was in the observation car.
Once we were in Oregon and I was more awake, I really enjoyed the views of the engrossing green forests everywhere I looked. There were peaceful lakes and spots of bright yellow flowers that made me want the train to stop so I could step off and sit among the natural beauty. We did have a couple of stops, one in Klamath Falls and the other in Eugene that gave riders a chance to get off the train and walk around a bit. I always make it a point to touch my surroundings as well as explore, that way I feel like I’ve really been there, I’ve felt there. The weather was refreshingly chilly and the air was noticeably fresh, even as I walked among the smokers. Our ride ended around 3:30pm as we arrived in Portland at their historic station.
Our car ride arrived at 4:30ish to take us to our hotel Comfort Inn, and I took visual notice of streets and places I would hope to come back into Portland to visit. Our hotel was located in Hillsboro (a suburb of Portland) where Tony’s conference would be at the Rodger’s Organ Company factory. Hillsboro apparently is also home to many top technology companies and is considered the Silicon (Valley) City of the North. By the time we checked in, I was too tired to go out for dinner, so Tony went with his fellow conference attendees and would bring back dinner for me. I settled in, took a long hot shower, rested and planned for my next day when I would venture for the first time (by myself) into Portland. Our hotel room, although small, was adequate and the bed was very comfortable, squishy and soft. I miss that bed.
Tuesday: Complimentary breakfast at our hotel, plus Tony and I had bought snacks at the vending machine so we always had something in our little fridge or bedside tables. After an actual night’s sleep, I felt recharged for a day of taking in the city. Admittedly, I was very nervous about venturing out on my own. Not knowing the ways of etiquette for public transit in Portland and not really completely sure I knew where I was going and how to return, I was afraid I might get lost and stranded in Portland, but I was determined to get the most out of this trip. So as Tony left with his fellow organ dealers to their conference, I prepared for a day of new adventure. What I found was my hotel was just a few blocks of walking to a Tri-Met Max Light Rail, specifically the Blue Line, which would take me into Portland and several stops within. I had done some homework enough to know that I could ride this to a stop that was just 4+ blocks to the Portland Art Museum. I also knew that a one day pass was just $5 and that I could buy this at the station. I had hoped there would be someone there to whom I could ask questions, but no. I pretty quickly found the ticket dispenser myself and followed the easy instructions to purchase my pass, but I did wonder how I would need to show or validate this before or during the ride. With no one to ask, I just walked to the rail seating and waited for the train. There was one other lady there and I did ask her if I would be able to catch this same train back to this point and she was nice enough to tell me just to make sure that I get on the right one (my fear to begin with) the one I wanted right now was the Eastbound to take me into the city and to make sure I caught the Westbound (to Hillsboro) to bring me back. I was so glad she shared this with me as I hadn’t even thought of that, but as she was telling me this, the Eastbound had arrived and before we finished talking the doors shut and I missed it. Another woman even tried to push the button on the outside of the train that would reopen the doors, but to no avail. I said “Oh that’s okay, I’ll catch the next one” since they come along at 10-15 minute intervals, it wouldn’t be that long a wait. And besides that gave me a chance to review my print out of the Tri-Met map so I could make sure to find the stop where I could catch the return train.
There was wonderful scenery along the light rail line, first in the Hillsboro urban areas and then through tunnels to the foresty sides of Portland before the city proper. Beautiful forest everywhere around the freeways. No one ever asked for my ticket and I watched others getting on and off the train to see what they did, but I never say anyone doing anything with their tickets/passes. As I watched for each stop to make a mental note in case I needed to find other stop locations, I saw so many people using this transit, from all walks of life and with dogs in tow too. People would come on with bikes (and there were handy bike racks by the doors), wheelchair bound riders had convenient places to park alongside other seated riders, and as the train became more crowded, people were very accommodating to others. I came to my stop at Library/SW 9th Street, got off and was immediately immersed in the busy of the city. I immediately found a sign pointing the way to the Portland Art Museum and feeling confident about where I was headed, I enjoyed the sights along the way. So many shops and restaurants beckoning me to step inside. I made a mental note of some and promised myself I would return. Beautiful trees and parks were nearby the museum and with so many people walking the neighborhood, it all felt very friendly and welcoming.
The Portland Art Museum is an impressive 2 buildings with several sculptures outside to greet you. Once I found an entrance I made my way in the doors nearest the museum gift shop and coffee shop (which are open free to the public). I was lucky that because today’s weather was sunny, I didn’t need to carry an umbrella (and therefore need to check it in). After being handed a map, I chose to head downstairs first to start from the bottom and work my way up. Wow. The building with contemporary art was listed as 4 stories, but there was also a Lower Lobby (which is where I started) and smaller offshoots of floors in between each floor – so a 1 1/2, 2 1/2, etc. to also explore. So much to see. Everything from Van Gogh, Degas, Monet (a spectacular and large water lilies piece from the series) to Calder, Picasso, Warhol, Basquiat and beyond. There was glass, wood, installations, video, sculpture, fabric, steel, and every other mixed media represented. It was a lot to comprehend. And I was not alone. It is a good idea to visit museums during the weekdays to avoid a lot of tourists, but what I hadn’t anticipated where the number of school tours that came through. I am so glad to see so many young minds being exposed to and carefully studying the importance of art, but it was a bit difficult to not become absorbed into one of the groups. I was sandwiched between opposite extremes. One group was filled with earnest high school students, some bigger than me, which made it difficult to see the work around them, so I stepped back a bit, but then found myself dealing with the loud screeches and somewhat scary activity of a kindergarten group. These kids were unsurprisingly wild and I really felt a little impressed and compassion for the female adults who were trying their best to manage them. There were constant shouts of “Don’t touch that” and “Sit/stand quietly” but the teacher in charge did have good plans in the form of activities where they stopped and drew what they saw and our placed colored string on the floor in front of various pieces to point out which colors they most recognized in the piece. This group was a burst of 5 minute intervals throughout the many levels. After visiting every space on the Contemporary art side, I ventured to the other building and took in the early American and other cultures historic art. There were amazing examples of Chinese and Native American artifacts and there was a special exhibition of Vienna art/music/culture. Suffice to say I spent most of the day at the museum, and when I finally felt I needed to eat something, it was late in the afternoon and a good time to take a sit down break. I walked outside and found a great little restaurant a couple of blocks away called South Park (no, not the cartoon, but I’m guessing it’s named after the nearby park). I found this to be a very nice restaurant in décor and they were playing real jazz (Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, etc.) on their sound system, and then I noticed I was underdressed. Probably because most diners were taking a break from nearby work, but then as I looked around the streets, I also noticed regular locals impeccably dressed. No t-shirts. The staff here treated me very nicely and seated me at a very good table. I had a South Park Burger with bacon and fries. The burger was huge and very tasty. The fries were a very large helping as well. After my leisurely eaten meal,
I tipped well, left a kind note on their visitor survey and set off to see what else I could find in the neighborhood. Walking around the area I noticed the street signs labeling this as the Cultural Arts District and enjoyed the amount of dogs I encountered (with their owners) along the way. This is a very dog friendly city, with dogs allowed to ride on the public transit and plenty of green spaces to take them. I also found the Guide Dogs training van parked in more than one location and witnessed several trainers working with their eager students. They all seemed so happy. I did go back to the museum to check out the gift store and see if I wanted to purchase anything, but after a long time looking and finding some fun things, I just didn’t feel like I found anything definitively Portland. After confirming with the museum entrance attendant for the closest return stop to Hillsboro, I walked some more and enjoyed the trees. I found my return station just one street north of my entrance stop, at SW Morrison Street. I would have stayed later in the city, but Tony had shared with me the previous night that I would be picked up at our hotel by someone to take me to the factory in Hillsboro at 6pm and from there we would be taken to a concert at a church. So I left the city at 4pm, took my scenic light rail ride back to my hotel in Hillsboro and had an hour to get ready for the night’s entertainment. Just a few minutes after 6pm, a lovely woman named Carol met me in the lobby and drove me to the Rodger’s Organ Factory. I met Tony there and he gave me a small tour of the facilities and we quickly boarded the bus that would take us to the concert. Our bus, filled with punchy conference goers, took us through Hillsboro, Aloha, Beaverton, then through Portland, where I could point out some of the things I saw that day to Tony, and then on to the Hollywood
District on the East side of Portland, past the Willamette River and many bridges. There were some interesting things to see in the Hollywood District too, lots of clubs, and a grand old theater; it really felt like even though I had come all this way to Portland Oregon, it felt like Hollywood, L.A. There were also plenty of medicinal marijuana dispensaries. I wish I could have taken a photo of their Hollywood street signs, but it was too dark. We arrived at the church to hear a concert by an internationally known organist. The church was beautiful and the organist was very talented. They even gave us cookies, fruit, punch and coffee at intermission. Following the concert and networking with the other guests, we boarded our bus and returned back to Hillsboro. We were lucky to be one of the people whom the bus took right to our hotel. Yay. Another long day!
Wednesday: Up early for breakfast at the hotel and an earlier start to my visit to the city. Today would be my day for visiting the Pearl District and as many galleries and other notable places along the way. I spent a few minutes back in my hotel room to plan the stops integrating the streetcar to take me into the Pearl District. I called the Tri-Met line to find out if I would need to purchase a separate pass for the streetcar – Nope – the $5 all-day pass works for ALL public transportation: buses, streetcars, light rail – amazing! Who needs a car? Really, out of this whole trip I was honestly most impressed with the availability of so many choices for transportation to and around the whole city. There was enough public transit to take you anywhere, with stops/stations always nearby and easy to find, well marked, with easy to understand maps and with plenty of friendly people to help you if you aren’t sure. Plus every street was very walkable, plenty of locals walking the streets too, so you never felt out of place. As a result, there were people in every part of the city and you always felt safe because you can get anywhere on the transit and there were plenty of people who were doing the same. And in addition to all this, there were rent a bike stations, rent a Segway stations, and even Car2Go points on every other block where if you just had to have a car you could simply swipe your card and take off in one of the fun little electric smart cars. There was plenty of parking for those who did use a vehicle and so many great places to stop in to eat, drink, buy stuff, look at great art, listen to music, see theater, dance, etc. All this in the previously downtrodden warehouse/train depot district that has been lovingly renovated and all because people could get there easily enough that businesses wanted to be there too. Imagine that!
So on to the Max Blue Line again to start my day into Portland. Disembarking on the same first station stop I took yesterday, I took a while to first walk back to the area around the Portland Art Museum again to take some photos and was pleasantly surprised to find they were having their outdoor in the park farmer’s market. Another wonderful sunny day in Portland, I knew I would get to cover a lot of ground.
I chose to stop in at Tartberry – a well known self serve frozen yogurt shop in Portland after I had seen it Tuesday, I knew I wanted to visit and sample their goods. Such a fun place! I was early, but they let me in and I helped myself to some Ghirardelli Chocolate frozen yogurt and then to the toppings. Okay, this is what they are known for and it was overwhelmingly impressive! From fresh fruit galore to every kind of candy including retro candies, and cereals a plenty, my yogurt was probably more toppings than yogurt in the end. I didn’t care. It was mine and it was delicious. I sat and enjoyed my creation as I watched people go by and read the many quotes painted on the furniture and sticky notes with personal notes from people who have visited before. I left one too. That was a meal.
Walking down the street I saw a familiar sight to even Fresno, a street filled with Food Trucks of every kind of food. I walked next to a venue I also noticed on Tuesday and wanted to return. It had the words “MAKE FILM” with an arrow pointing on the building, so I knew I wanted to check it out. It is the NW FilmCenter and although the staff was in the middle of a meeting when I popped in, an Admin Coordinator named Karen was nice enough to meet me and share a little about the place. It’s a movie house, film school, meeting place and all around center of activity for anyone interested in Film, making film and watching great film. I wish I could have toured the space, but at least I know a great place like this exists. On my way back to the train stop I visited the inside of The Real Mother Goose – apparently a big deal in Portland for arts and crafts.
I found my streetcar connection north to south, around the block and boarded to take my ride to the Pearl District, which I found wasn’t really that far away. I didn’t know which street I would get off on, but from the following evening a recommendation to visit Powell’s Book Store, I knew that I would see Powells from the streetcar and would just get off where ever was closest. Powell’s is the largest book store in the nation and an institution in Portland. It definitely lived up to the hype – it was huge – and it even had a portion of it closed (2 of the large rooms were being renovated) at that time, but all the books had been moved to other parts of this amazing place and there was another section located across the street. There were 5 stories (plus in between floors as well just like the museum) and countless rooms labeled by colors to search through endless books of every type. There were also sections of fun things other than books to buy, some were book related. I ended up spending most of my time settled into the 4th floor gray section where the music and art books were. They also had a rare books section behind doors where you could go into a dimmer lit room and with gloves on look through very old and rare books. I bought a couple of things from Powells and since this was my first official retail purchase in Portland, I was pleasantly surprised to find NO Sales Tax charged! As soon as I stepped out back onto the street, a wild and fantastically decorated car rolled by with the music of The Doors blaring from its outside speaker. Yep, a good sign and I knew I was home! For the rest of the day, I walked all through the Pearl District and visited Many of the galleries. I made connections, asked questions, took cards and notes so I could follow up and maybe someday soon show some work in this arts enthused city! There are A LOT of galleries in Portland and specifically in the Pearl, unfortunately I was simply unable to visit them all, but I made a good dent and really enjoyed the support of the arts that this city obviously has. Just like Fresno, they have a First Thursday Art night – they call the ArtWalk. During the day I also stopped in at Blick’s Art Materials, won a shirt and bought my mother a mother’s day gift. I also bought Tony a glass blown jellyfish that glows in the dark from the Dapper Frog. Of the galleries I visited: Gallery 114, Blackfish, Elizabeth Leach, PDX Contemporary Art, UPFOR, j. pepin, HAP (formerly Chambers@916), Dapper Frog, Gallery 903, Quintana, Annie Meyer Artwork, Pearl Gallery and Framing, Bullseye, Emerge 2014, Waterstone, and Mel’s Frame Shop.
After my feet were done, I found my streetcar stop back south (not the one pictured below), getting off at the stop just a block and 1/2 away from SW Morrison St. and my Blue Line ride back to the hotel. Relaxed, repacked, and ate dinner. I was lucky to have two full days of sunny weather to walk around Portland. The day we arrived and the day we left were raining. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little when their news weather person said they were excited because by the end of the week they would see 70′s!
Thursday: Slept in! (’til 8:30am) Leisurely ate breakfast and got ready to leave. We checked out just before noon and were picked up by a shuttle soon after. We were taken directly to the Union Station to catch our 2:30pm train home, so we had a little time to catch lunch one more time in Portland. Just a couple of blocks away was LoveJoy Bakers, we had a tasty fresh bread lunch and as I finished, the final full song I heard on their sound system was the Doors “When You’re Strange”, perfect.
And then as we were leaving, the next song to start was “Crazy Train”, too funny. We walked back to the train station in the rain, under umbrella, and I knew it was goodbye. Definitely hope to return. We caught our train, the Coast Starlight and we were still in the outer part of Portland when the train stopped for a half hour (while trains ahead of us cleared) and I had my last full look at the city from a distance, beautiful, busy and memorable. Ride home again not too much sleep with screaming kids, so we went to the observation car and enjoyed the views. This time we chose to eat in the dining car and found ourselves sitting with two very interesting people – a man from Slovenia who was traveling to the US west coast for the first time (and was a close twin for Nate Butler) and a woman who lived in the city we just left, Portland. We had a wonderful meal and dessert (3 layered chocolate mousse) and enjoyed conversation about other places to visit.
Friday: By the time we switched our mode of transportation in Sacramento we were tired, we ate breakfast and caught a bus to Stockton where we met the San Joaquin train home. We had one more meal, lunch, on the train and arrived home around 12:30ish pm. Whew! What a trip! I miss the public transit.
To return to the front page click here: www.aileenimperatrice.com