Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Portland, Oregon Gets the Green Thumbs Up

The overnight train from California to Portland is comfortable and easy. It leaves California in the evening so you get a whole day of visiting and touring in. You must have reservations. I boarded in San Jose after visiting the Santa Cruz, Carmel, and Monterey areas. I did not have a sleeper but rather a reclining seat (actually two seats since the train was not full). The Amtrak train is called the Coast Starlight and the cost is $79 from San Jose to Portland, Oregon - about a nineteen-hour ride. Not only is the carbon footprint much smaller by train than by air travel, but the scenery is not to believed! Once you wake up in the daylight in northern California you see Mt Shasta, and then onto the farm and wild lands of Oregon including Klamath Lake.

Portland is a fun and easy city - really not large at all by city standards and very accessible. Bikers predominate, while the public bus system – Tri-Met –seems too go everywhere and offers user-friendly web sites and maps for navigating the city ($2.30/ride).

There is no sales tax in Oregon, which is quite noticeable if you have just come from California or points east. The city is designed in a grid with the river as its center – so there is Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Southeast. The east to west dividing line is the river; the north south line is Burnside Ave., making it very easy to navigate.

Portland is a green traveler’s delight. Bike paths are everywhere, as is public transport, and there are loads of wonderful local foods and stores. Book lovers shouldn’t miss Powell’s Books. The main store takes up a full city block and you will need the free store maps that are provided at the counters to guide you. Powell’s sells new and used books intermixed and it is all somewhat overwhelming, but fabulous – booklovers will feel like kids in a candy store. There are smaller Powell’s outlets around the city including one at the airport. Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside Street (in the Pearl District), Downtown Portland; Tel: 503-228-4651; Open 9am to 1pm everyday.

You can walk through the Japanese Gardens that sit on a hill on the western edge of the city. You can also visit the Chinese Garden which encompasses a city block in the middle of Chinatown, creating a magical quality as you leave the city behind when you walk through the gates. You can enjoy the delicious and varied tea options at the Tao of Tea café in the gardens or go to their other restaurant on Belmont Street – a fabulous teahouse and eatery with what seems like hundreds of tea varieties. They serve delicious, vegetarian Indian food, with a store next door where you can purchase the organic teas ( The Tao of Tea, 3430 SE Belmont Street, Portland; 503-736-0119;
Portland Japanese Garden,
Portland Classical Chinese Garden, NW Third & Everett, Portland; Tel: 503-228-8131;

If you are in the mood for Yoga, studios abound. In the Pearl District you can go to Yoga Pearl. Open seven days a week with full daily schedules offering different types of Yoga and Pilates starting as early as 6am and ending as late as 8:30pm. There is also a Holistic Wellness Center where you can make appointments for massage therapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Naturopathic medicine and Cranialsacral therapy. Here you can also find the Blossoming Lotus raw foods café to refuel after yoga or walking the city. Yoga Pearl, 925 NW Davis, Portland; Tel: 503-525-9642;

For foot massages you can treat yourself to the innovative services at the Barefoot Sage where you can indulge yourself by sitting in large puffy couches while you soak your feet and drink tea and try one of the various foot and leg massages offered. The Barefoot Sage, 1844 SE Hawthorne, Portland; 503239-7116;