The Asia trip has begun for the full-time and second year part-time cohorts. The group has landed safely in Tokyo and is settling into the Asia time-zone while gearing up for three weeks of unforgettable experiences.
Meanwhile, the first year part-timers are enjoying a 4 week break from classes and a slightly less hectic schedule. As Ali mentioned in a previous blog, the part-time students go through the MIM at a more relaxed pace. Sadly, we do not get to go to Asia during the first year of the program, but on the bright side, we have a bit of extra time to enjoy this wonderful city!
Portland is a laid-back city with a little something for everyone. The city and its residents are nationally known for the unique culture and burgeoning food scene. As a long-time resident of Portland, I can tell you, it helps to be adventurous with your activities and your choice of food.
A few activities come to mind for newcomers looking for a taste of what makes Portland so unique:
First Thursday Art Walk, on the first Thursday of each month. takes place right in the swanky Pearl District in Northwest Portland, which is a quick Streetcar ride away from the PSU campus. There are countless art gallery openings, happy hours and local vendors right on the street. Many retailers in the area also have special promotions during first Thursday.
Last Thursday Art Walk, on, you guessed it, the last Thursday of each month, is up in the super-hip Northeast Alberta street area. During the Art Walk, much of Alberta street is closed off to cars, to let spectators, vendors and performers let loose. It is much more edgy than the refined Pearl District art walk and it is truly a unique experience that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else!
Are you bummed out that you’re not on the Asia trip yet? Check out the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Chinatown. This stunning traditional garden is an excellent destination in any weather. Much of the walkways are covered, so you can enjoy the foliage and water features in the famous Portland rain. There is also a traditional Chinese tea house on the property, perfect for relaxing on a rainy afternoon.
If you are inspired by the Chinese garden and want to stick around Asia, you can take a trip to Japan, and visit the Portland Japanese Garden in Washington Park. The Japanese Garden in Portland is said to be one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. Nestled in the tall pine trees, the garden is tranquil and simply beautiful. It’s also just across the street from Portland’s renowned Rose Test Garden, which boasts nearly 7,000 rose bushes and 557 varieties of roses, as well as a stunning view of Portland and the surrounding areas. On a clear day you can see Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens from the rose garden.
For a mellow afternoon out of the rain, check out Powell’s Books (also on the Streetcar line!). This Portland landmark is the country’s largest independent bookstore. It’s easy to get lost in their unbelievable selection, but you might just stumble upon your next great read. Bonus: there is an extensive collection of foreign language books, including Chinese and Japanese for those of you looking to practice your reading skills.
And how can I forget food? I don’t even know where to begin with the food suggestions! The restaurant scene in Portland is simply overwhelming. I’m pretty sure you can find food from any corner of the globe in this city, plus plenty of food that can only be found here. A good place to start is the increasingly popular Food cart pods. These clusters of food carts can be found all over the city. In fact, there is a pod on SW 4th Avenue on the PSU campus, as well as at least three others downtown! Pods offer a huge variety of food at reasonable prices. If you are having lunch with a friend who wants Indian food, but you are in the mood for Korean, you will both be able to get what you want if you visit a food cart pod. One of the oldest pods, on SW Alder between 9th and 11th is one of my personal favorites. Bonus: This is right on the streetcar line, which makes it an easy trip from PSU. For dessert (or breakfast) you can’t skip a trip to the famous Voodoo Doughnut. This iconic doughnut shop offers unusual flavors and a uniquely “Portland” feel, with eclectic doughnut names and oddball memorabilia throughout the tiny shop. Don’t want to wait in the long lines in their downtown location? They recently opened a shop on East Burnside, and have a cart at Last Thursday.
Portland offers plenty of entertainment as well. For local listings of films, concerts and other events, I like to turn to the two free weekly papers available everywhere: the Willamette Week and the edgier Portland Mercury. In addition, the Willamette week prints the free Finder and restaurant guide every year, with advice and suggestions for exploring Portland and the surrounding areas. These are also available at news stands throughout the city.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to explore in Portland, so take some time away from campus and check out a new neighborhood or restaurant!