Are you ready? This summer Team Mago is coming out with a City of Portland IOS app. Yes, it’s really happening. One of the exciting features of our new IOS app is that it’s going to include a set of itineraries to help guide you through the Portland.
In anticipation of this grand release, we are publishing the first itinerary “Getting to Know Portland” on MudGuide.com. Check it out below and let us know what you think.
When we first got to Portland we were wandering around downtown looking for Chinatown. We were in the mood for some authentic oriental cuisine after the culinary desert that is County 7 back in ol’Montucky and what better place to go than Chinatown, right? While standing on a corner and debating, map in hand, a couple of very nice women stopped and asked if they could help.
This is typical Portland. Time and again folks have stopped and offered assistance. Having lived here for a while, we find we now do the same. On this day one woman explained that Portland’s Chinatown had fallen on hard times and we had no business wandering through that area. After asking what kind of food we like, she recommended that we try out Andina, a Peruvian restaurant. We did, it was definitely not Chinese, but it was wonderful.
What this taught us, though, was that without the help of locals, it’s kind of difficult to know where to start in Portland.
So, MudGuide to the rescue.
What’s in a Name?
Portland’s history is written in its street names
We had walked along Lovejoy street in NW and enjoyed passing the old homes on Pettygrove. Other names such as Burnside, Kearny, and Davis reminded us of Civil War-era luminaries and given the timeframe of its founding, the Civil War influence was a good guess.
But we were wrong. The names of Portland streets in general and those in the Northwest Alphabet District in particular reflect the founding fathers (no mothers thank you) of Rose City.
Boston lawyer Asa Lovejoy was one of the first Portland settlers, coming down the Willamette River in a canoe with his Tennessee friend William Overton in 1843. Both filed land claims and Overton eventually sold his to Maine native Francis Pettygrove. The story is famous on how they flipped a coin to decide on the settlement’s name, Lovejoy for Boston and Pettygrove for Portland after Portland Maine. Pettygrove won the toss.
Burnside divides the north of Portland from the South and was named after Davis W. Burnside, businessman, city council member, and member of the city’s volunteer fire department. Irving was named after Captain William Irving, captain of the first steamship to serve Portland. Hawthorne was named for Dr. J.C. Hawthorne, known for his work with the insane.
One of our favorite streets to walk is Everett, named after Colonel Edward Everett, commander of the 3rd Oregon infantry regiment, and insurance man. And so forth.
Get more information about how Portland’s streets were named
You can see volcanos all around if you’re high enough
Portland lies west of Mt. Hood at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. You can not only see Mt. Hood looming to the east, but on a clear day and from certain special viewpoints, you can also see Mt. St. Helens with its cropped off top to the north, Mt. Adams to the northeast, and way off in the distance you can even see Mt. Rainer in Washington. In other words, you’re surrounded by volcanos. Portland even has its own extinct volcano right in the SE neighborhood of Mt. Tabor.
Portland had a front row seat
Many of us remember the eruption of Mount St. Helens. Named after diplomat Alleyne Fitzherbert (1st Baron of St. Helens) in 1792, Mount St. Helens experienced a 5.1-magnitude earthquake on May 18, 1980 that resulted in a landslide that killed 57 people and distributed ash and rocks 15 miles into the air that eventually settled over 11 states and within 11 days made a complete circuit of the globe.
What we didn’t realize until we started talking with older Portland natives, though, was just how personal that event was for the folks living here. Being only 50 miles away, folks in Portland had a front row seat for this historic event.
The 1980 eruption was preceded by a two-month series of earthquakes and steam-venting episodes, caused by an injection of magma at shallow depth below the volcano that created a huge bulge and a fracture system on the mountain’s north slope. Mount St. Helens is clearly visible if you know where to stand and which way to look.
From the Balch Gulch Bridge on Thurman Street (over one of the entrances to Forest Park), hundreds must have watched as the mountain smoldered and grumbled leading up to the eruption. And when it erupted, the entire city was covered with thick ash. The mayor eventually threatened businesses with fines if they failed to remove the ash from their parking lots. One fellow we spoke with on a bus told us how his automobile was ruined because volcanic ash overwhelmed the air filter and trashed the whole engine.
Confused by the different names?
We were confused. Many cities have names for their neighborhoods, but Portland seems to have names for sub neighborhoods and sometimes two or three different names for a place. Let’s begin with North and South. That’s north and south of Burnside. Then there’s East and West. That’s east and west of the Willamette River. Thus, Northeast, Southwest, etc. That’s the easy part.
Then there are districts like the Pearl, Goose Hollow, and Downtown. Goose Hollow and the Pearl are in the Downtown. And Northwest is also called Nob Hill and the Alphabet District. It’s very typical of Portland that locals don’t worry about the internal inconsistencies of their district naming scheme. They just sit back and enjoy. They know what they’re talking about.
Check out this site that gives you all the neighborhoods
Finding a place to stay in Portland is easy
When we first came to explore Portland we knew that we wanted to be central, downtown, but we didn’t want to stay in a hotel. Morgan got busy on the internet and found Michelle Rabin and her beautiful apartment “Luxury in the Pearl” right in the heart of the Pearl District. We can’t recommend it highly enough.
But it just goes to show that with the resources available today, you don’t have to settle for a hotel. Portland has plenty of short term leasing opportunities.
Waiting in Line
Friendly faces everywhere, humble folks without temptation
The Portland natives simply love to go out. They also never mind standing in line to get into their favorite restaurant or ice cream shop. In fact, they embrace a line as an opportunity to chat with friends and strangers alike and build the anticipation of whatever delight awaits them at the end.
They never get grumpy, so neither should you. Take it as an opportunity to ask questions and get some hints from the locals on where you should go and what you should do.
Walking is the very best way to see the city
Portland is simply a very walkable city. The sidewalks are shady and cool and the drivers go out of their way to make certain that you cross safely. If you are enjoying a walk in Portland, but something seems slightly amiss in a good sort of way, do not become alarmed. You are subliminally noticing the virtual absence of car horns. We like to count the number of horns that honk during a stroll through Portland’s neighborhoods and follow up the occasional beep to determine its state of origin. More often than not, the perp is from out of state.
On more than one occasion we’ve walked to a corner where a car was blocking the crossing lane in order to see out into traffic to make a turn. In any other city, say New York or Chicago, you the person on foot would be expected to simply walk around the back of a car in such a situation. Not so in Portland. Without fail, the driver will carefully look behind to see if backing up is possible, then throw the car in reverse to get out of your way.
More people commute via bicycle per capita in Portland than any other major city in the U.S. And like Rose City’s automobile drivers, the vast majority are both highly skilled and unfailingly polite. Indeed on the city streets or on the trails of Forest Park, the most frequently uttered phrase is “on your left”, inevitably followed by a “thank you” upon compliance. Unlike other bicycle friendly cities in the U.S. and Europe, however, there is a social detente between riders, drivers, and pedestrians that is as rare as it is welcome. Even long boarders display a modicum of deference unknown elsewhere in our experience.
Here is a link to the City of Portland’s walk and bike info
Public transportation is clean, friendly, and very convenient
You’re probably tired of hearing by now how nice everything is in Portland, but that’s because it is. One of the nicest things about Portland is its public transportation. You can get anywhere, it’s easy, and it’s clean.
OK, you’re going to run into some interesting characters on the bus, but that’s also a part of Portland. See if you can, spot the natives and get them into a conversation. They love to talk about Portland and are ready and willing to give advice. You can always start a conversation by talking about the weather, often cited as Portland’s serious down-side, but in Team Mago’s humble opinion, a bit of disinformation aimed at controlling immigration from California and Montana.
One of the best things about the Portland Public Transportation is the TriMet smart phone application. You can order up tickets, get notices about when the bus/tram is going to arrive, and all sorts of information from this wonderful website. You can also get public transportation directions from wherever you are to whatever MudGuide place you want to go by using our map (see our Portland map). Busses and trams are specially equipped with lifts for mobility challenged riders as well as bike racks for weary cyclists.
The entire fleet of busses is being gradually upgraded with Selective Catalytic Reduction technology that scrubs nitrogen oxides and particulates from the exhaust, innovative cooling systems, and automatic snow chains (be still my Montana heart!!).
Get more information about TriMet and get riding
Do I Smell a Skunk?
Retail cannabis is legal and folks are taking advantage of it
We had a friend come to visit. The moment she stepped out of the car she asked “do I smell skunk?” We said yes indeed.
The purchase of cannabis is legal in Portland for anyone over the age of 21. You just need a valid id. Where you can smoke cannabis is a bit tricker. Apparently an automobile is OK as long as you’re not driving. In your home is OK too. But it’s not exactly legal to smoke in public spaces. It happens, though. And as you walk through the city neighborhoods, you’re occasionally going to get a waft of weed.
Is this a great city or what? Check out Farma, a most impressive cannabis shop
The best place in the world that we know to get a beer
Finally, a “getting to know Portland” wouldn’t be complete without a quick word about all of the wonderful craft beer that is available for your enjoyment. They have breweries with restaurants that focus on serving their own beer, brew pubs that serve draft craft beer from all over the northwest, speciality bars that maintain ten plus taps of, say, Belgium beer, beer festivals, craft beer on draft in the coffee shops, grocery stores, even some barber shops… you get the idea.