St. Johns Bridge Portland Michael FrenchSt. Johns Bridge, Portland, as seen through my hand made camera obscura.

After years of planning and much delayed gratification, we finally took the step of moving to Portland, Oregon this month. The timing was somewhat dictated by circumstances. The lease at our Superior, Colorado apartment was ending, I had just lost my job, and the summer heat of metro Denver was on our minds after last year’s sweltering, smoky summer. Plus, the thought of  crossing six mountainous states in a moving van any time when their might be snow seemed like a bad idea.

Initial Impressions

Though I’d never lived in Portland, I’ve visited many times during all seasons. I loved the city from the first time I saw it, when I came here for my sister’s wedding in 2000. The trees, the stolen glances of snow capped peaks rising above hills and tress when navigating about, the river, the bridges, the historic buildings, bike riders, and most of all the open, bohemian culture of acceptance and experimentation, called to me.

Despite the fact that we moved in on July 1 during an epic heat wave, Portland has been lovely so far. Most days are in the 70s, sometimes in the 80s, with cool nights and sparkling, clean-air mornings remind me so much of summers in Flagstaff, Arizona, where I lived for 17 years. Flowers abound, and people grow fruits, vegetables, herbs and even chickens all over town, in front yards, in medians, anywhere there are a few square feet of soil.

Our new Southeast neighborhood (Kerns or Buckman, just next to Laurelhurst) is profoundly walkable. Just two blocks to the east lies Laurelhurst Park, a jewel of a park with massive fir and redwood conifers and graceful magnolias, oaks and maples, centered around open meadows and a duck pond. Two blocks west of our place, the commercial 28th Avenue shops, cafes and food carts beckon, and so far, have not disappointed us. Laurelhust Theater on Burnside and 28th plays classic, art house and recent movies for just $4 and is an irresistible temptation during hotter days. People bike, walk, use care shares, and generally enjoy the outdoors, at least this time of year.

Transportation Revolution

In Portland, diversified transportation is normal, and though cars are still dominant in most areas, real alternatives exist. Ankeny Street, which our apartment building faces, is a major east-west biking route, and every day commuters come and go, in all manner of clothes and with all manner of bikes, from vintage single speeds to modified mountain bikes to high-end road bikes. For the first time, I saw people riding utility bikes with large cargo containers on the front, carrying everything from kids to dogs to potting soil.

Car sharing programs seem to have heavy use, with Car2go being the most visible. The neighborhood always seems to have at least one or two of the distinctive blue and white Smart cars parked by the curb, ready for the next app-powered user to pick up and drive off.

Our place is also a short bus ride away from downtown, making Powell’s Used Books, the Living Room Theater, Washington Park, 23rd Ave. and the other attractions of Northwest and Southwest all accessible, without the hassles of finding and paying for parking. And the Max light rail system is easy to get to. Using my iPhone Google Maps app, I found a simple route via bus to the nearest Max station at Hollywood an easy and enjoyable option. When I had to go to the airport, this was the easiest way to get there, and again, no parking to bother with!


I can’t skip over food when talking about Portland. Farmers markets. Blueberries. Food carts. Restaurants of every stripe, even movie theaters with real food. This is a food city, but one where the good food often comes at a reasonable price. We’ve just started to explore what’s here and already we’re amazed.

So Far, So Good

We like what we see, even more that we expected. So keep it up Portland.


I found these books useful when researching Portland while still living in Colorado: