The great secret of the Oregon and Washington coast is that in the summer, they’re quite sunny. Portland and Seattle receive little to no rain for months. Indeed, the region around Portland became so dry this past summer that wildfires broke out, damaging treasured landscapes along the picturesque Columbia River Gorge. During our road trip, we had planned on hiking in that very area, but our stay coincided with the worst of the fires.
Fortunately, Portland itself provides a wealth of diversions. Powell’s Books’ travel and rare-book sections alone occupied me for hours. We toured art galleries in the surrounding Pearl District, and across the river, stylish urban wineries beckoned. The city’s gardens, too, are world-class, providing tranquil escapes minutes from downtown. In particular, the International Rose Test Garden, a fragrant terraced hillside bursting with color, is superb.
On the face of it, Portland has gentrified dramatically, its property values soaring and a multitude of upscale restaurants and shops opening in recent years. Concern that this change might make the city boring or bourgeois has resulted in a campaign to “Keep Portland Weird.” But the campaigners can take heart. Locals have not flagged in their efforts to maintain the city’s quirky individuality, as a brief walk almost anywhere in town will illustrate.