TRAVEL THERE: PORTLAND’S WATERFRONT DURING FLEET WEEK
Welcome to Oregon! Well, sort of. In June my husband and I spent twelve days traveling the state and now I’m sharing the experience with you. I’ll tell you about the attractions we visited, the meals we ate and where we stayed. Maybe you’ll decide you want to visit Oregon, too. Today’s focus is Portland‘s Waterfront on the Willamette River.
Strolling the Waterfront after the Parade
As we sat on the curb of Taylor Street watching the last of the Grand Floral Parade pass us by, we put the camera back in it’s bag and headed towards the waterfront with several thousand of our new friends in Portland. First, I’ve got to say that the Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park is splendid. A large swathe of grass divides the waterfront from the city, then Taylor Street meets the esplanade in a series of wide steps down to the river. We definitely felt we’d arrived someplace special.
The grassy swathe was completely filled with the City Fair and a big fence ensured that admission fees would be collected. City Fair is a blocks long party, complete with rides, food and exhibits. We attend the State Fair of Texas here in Dallas every year and we’d already lost a day to the airline gods, so we just enjoyed the Portlanders enjoying the fair as we strolled along the esplanade.
On the waterside of the esplanade were watercraft of every kind. Our first nautical sightings belonged to the Oregon Maritime Museum. The Museum is actually in a tugboat moored to a pier on the esplanade, but for Fleet Week, the museum area is filled with a variety of seagoing vessels, from river craft used in Viet Nam, to pleasure boats. Here are a couple of examples, but they were small beans compared to the big boys. We’d been enjoying glimpses of the big ships for a couple of days and now Bill was dragging me towards them.
Between the Maritime Museum and the big ships we ran into Portland’s Saturday Market, an extravaganza of craftspeople and their wares, but Bill’s eyes were on the fleet. I was only able to take in an explosion of color while we
stuffed down a falafel sandwich. The Navy was calling.
Visiting the Big Ships
If you ever doubt the might of the American Navy, you’ve never been to Fleet Week. Standing on the esplanade walkway gazing at the Navy ships we gained a new respect for our seagoing military. Shipshape and watertight, the gray ships define preparedness. Bill and I spent the next hour walking alongside the ships and then up over a bridge to look towards them.
Awe inspiring? That’s as close as I can get to the right word. I know nothing about ships, but it seems I heard someone say Destroyer Class. I know they weren’t aircraft carriers, because they didn’t have a flat top, but there were some ominous looking gun barrels wrapped in custom designed covers. I wouldn’t want those things pointing my way uncovered. People were lined up to the moon, waiting to get onto the ships where the white-clad sailors were giving tours, but we saw all we wanted to see from the shore.
Eventually, we headed back to the Saturday Market, but we were already on sensory overload and it was Bill’s nap time. We were on vacation after all. The booths spread out from the esplanade all the way to the train tracks next to the Skidmore Fountain. I would have thought with the City Fair and Fleet Week, the Saturday Markets would have been neglected, however it was wild. There was too much to take in. I know there were food stalls, because we’d eaten a sandwich from one. I remember jewelry and clothing, but the rest of the booths merged into a wild cacophony of visual noise. For audio distraction, there were several groups playing instruments, providing samples of the CD’s they had for sale. I looped a finger through Bill’s belt afraid one of us would get lost in the crowd.
One thing to love about Portland is their mass transit system. Downtown is a free zone. Reaching the Skidmore Fountain, we contemplated walking back to our hotel, but felt as if we had to try out the metro. I didn’t have a map or anything, just a general idea of where we were headed. We jumped on a train going in what we thought was the right direction and got off a block from our hotel. Marvelous!
I’ve already confessed that I lucked into Rose Week. I felt guilty when everyone else seemed to have come specifically for it. If you can work it out to be in Portland in early June I highly recommend attending the events on purpose. Portland is a great city with a lot to see, but it becomes one great big festival when the roses bloom and fleet comes to town. Next week we’ll turn the volume down (way down) and visit Portland’s Japanese Garden.