A couple of out-of-town friends are coming to visit in February, and I’m already thinking about the things I want to show them in my beloved home city. Every guide book and travel story about Portland will surely send visitors to Powell’s, the Rose Garden, and Voodoo Doughnuts, which are all fun, but there are other sweet spots on my mental map of the city that I think make Portland Portland for me. Here’s a little virtual tour of some of them which, with the exception of one, also happen to be somehow or other sustainability or nature-related.
1. People’s Food Co-op. This is the grocery store of my dreams. Not only is it community-owned, sells mostly local produce, features green building practices such as an eco-roof and cozy cob benches, and sells spices, flour, oils, molasses, and even shampoo and lotion in bulk, but it also hosts community events and Portland’s only year-round farmers’ market. AND there is an organic juice and smoothie bar in a tiny silver-colored vintage trailer in front of it. What else could you ask for?
2. Cacao. For chocoholics. Not that I’m one, of course. Ahem.
3.The Rebuilding Center.
An amazing source of used building and remodeling materials. This is where Dan and I have headed for fencing and trellising materials, and old windows and scrap wood for making cold frames. While you’re there, you can also wander among rows and rows of used-but-usable cabinets, toilet bowls, bathtubs, bricks, doors, doorknobs, windows, furniture, tiles, and all kinds of other treasures you didn’t know existed. It’s an outing that brings out your inner handyman.
4. Reed Canyon. One of the best-kept secrets of Portland: a carefully restored wildlife habitat in the midst of the city, with a lake, fed by five springs, with the purest water in the county. The ducks are always having a good time. And, thanks to the newly installed fish ladder, the salmon run here. The last time I checked, the beavers were busy building a dam.
5. Bike paths. Okay, so technically not a place — but rather a feature that makes the move from one place to another a lovely experience in itself. My favorite bike ride is along the Willamette River past downtown, and then back down south on the opposite riverbank all the way through Oaks Bottom Wildlife Reserve and the Springwater Corridor (unless I’m feeling lazy and would rather head to a coffee shop in Sellwood!).
6. Japanese Garden. This is where I came on my very first day in Portland. It’s right next to the famous rose garden, and transports you to a different place and state of mind. Sounds of flowing water, every imaginable shade of green moss, gentle shadows, every stone placed intentionally where it is. It’s a good place for a bit of walking meditation, literally minutes from the bustle of the downtown.
7. The Farm Café. A farm-to-table restaurant operating in what looks like an old farmhouse in the middle of the sleek industrial-looking buildings of East Burnside, serving some of the best food I’ve had in my life. Yes, yes, and yes.