Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sightseeing in Portland

Dear Lucy,
After my night of debauchery at the hostel, I had a few hours before I needed to be at the train station. Not wanting to miss at least seeing something of Portland before I left, I chose to go to the Portland Classical Chinese Garden.

I had some of Steve and Phillip's French bread and "dirty sock" cheese for breakfast, grabbed my camera and little map and set off.
The weather was with me again as it had been raining earlier but stopped on my walk to the garden. The area was "old downtownish"; one way streets, old brick buildings, Victorian style homes, and of course the odd homeless person.

I will copy the blurb from the AAA guide about the garden as it tells it in better detail than I can.

"Designed in the 15-Century Ming style, the urban garden was built by artisans
and craftspeople from Suzhou, China, Portland's sister city. The garden features
a bridged lake, open colonnades and stone paths that wind through courtyards and
nine pavilions where visitors can relax.
"The freestanding rocks framing the garden's waterfall are limestone (called Tai Hu rocks) mined from Lake Tai, a freshwater lake near Suzhou. Trees and shrubs, many indigenous to China include, maples, pines, dogwoods, wintersweet, plum, wisteria, hibiscus, bamboo, tree peonies, magnolias, camellias, orchids and water plants. A teahouse overlooks the gardens Lake Zither."

When I entered the garden there was a group of college students from an architecture class having a lecture from their professor. I stood and listened for a few minutes as he explained the intricacies of the buildings and the stones that made up the pathways. I would have stayed and followed them had I had the time!

Next I came across a man teaching Tai Chi to some visitors and when I stopped to watch, invited me to join in. While I have been interested in learning Tai Chi for several years, doing so in an open courtyard with a hangover and little time to even see the garden, prevented me from joining in. It looks like it takes quite a bit of balance, something I am not known to have!
Later, as I sat alone in one of the pavilions overlooking the pond, it started raining. It actually sounded tranquil as it hit the leaves of the various trees on its plummet to the lake.
I was soon surrounded by another class of students on a tour: A group of young teenagers probably around 15 years old. As the teacher talked of the garden, relating it to the philosophy of the Chinese culture, I was having a great time. The students, as students will be at that age, were bored and fidgety. I wonder if Chinese teenagers visiting an English Garden would be so bored and fidgety...
I finished my walk through the garden not having spent enough time to my liking, I had to get back to the hostel to check out and go to the train station.
The rain stopped again as I made my way up the street (the street that had the traffic lights in my favor and which I used to ride to the station) the rain seemed to abate somewhat and so I was still fairly dry when I got home.
All in all, a great way to spend a couple of hours in a big city when one is trying to relax.

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