Street walking in Portlandia

By Richard White, Community Strategist, Ground3 Landscape Architects

Portland is a flaneur’s delight as there is always something to discover just around the corner or on the next block up.  As our visit evolved, our Portlandia mantra became “just one more block” as it seemed just when we thought there was no point in going any further we’d find something that captured our interest on the next block - especially on Alberta Street and Hawthorne Boulevard. 

Perhaps Portland is good for flaneuring as its mantra is "keep Portland weird"  and to some extent flaneuring is looking for those weird off the beaten path places that are fun, quirky and on the edge.  Flaneuring is kinda like staring in your own  Portlandia TV show.  

I thought it would be interesting to share with you our top 10 flaneuring finds (FF).  “What is a flaneuring find” you ask?  It is a place you discouver while wandering aimlessly that you didn't even know you were looking for.   For me it is urban places, but it could be anywhere depending on what your passion is.  

Flaneuring is a great way to travel and explore a new place as you are open to enjoying the place on its own term and not based on someone else's preconceived suggestions.   It is about being open to the moment. 

Our Portlandia Flaneuring Finds were:

#1             The Good Mod, Downtown

#2             Axe Records, Alberta Avenue

#3             Bookwerks, Alberta Avenue

#4             Tonalli’s Doughnuts, Alberta Avenue

#5             House of Vintage, Hawthorne Boulevard

#6             Powell Books, Downtown

#7             William Temple House Thriftstore, Hoyt Street, Northwest District  

#8             Sunlan Lightbulbs, North Mississippi Avenue

#9             Lodekka Vintage Bus, North Williams Avenue   

#10           Zenka Street Artwork, Alberta Avenue


I have also added one extra spot at the end, but I haven't listed it so you will have to read to the end to find out what it is.   

Rationale for choices are in the captions accompanying the photos below.

Love to hear your comments about these finds, what have been your finds or your flaneur experiences. 

The Good Mod was an amazing find.  Just saw a sandwich board on the street and was waiting for Miss B so thought I'd take a chance and see what it was all about.  Flaneuring is about taking chances!  It wasn't easy to find and then there was an old elevator that looked pretty "iffy" but once you got up to the fourth floor of the old, almost empty warehouse building it was WOW!  The enormous entire floor was full of vintage furniture, hardware (numbers/letters) and artifacts.  We thought next time we are bringing a truck we could have filled it with finds.  You won't find this place in the tourist brochures. 

Little Axe Records is located just off Alberta Avenue but you could easily miss it as it is just a small cottage house that is hidden behind the garden.  It would be easy to dismiss, but for record hounds it is definitely a find.  Lots of listening stations and friendly knowledgeable staff.  

MONOGRAPH Bookwerks is across the street from Little Axe and it just as quirky. Open very limited hours, so best to check before you go.  Lots of art and architecture books, art and artifacts.  

Tonallis Doughnuts was a great find. No designer donuts or should I say doughnuts here, just good old fashion deep fried dough.  This is the real thing.  

Tonallis Doughnuts was a great find. No designer donuts or should I say doughnuts here, just good old fashion deep fried dough.  This is the real thing.  

House of Vintage is the gateway to the Hawthorne Boulevard experience.  It is packed to the rafters with vintage artifacts.  The entire boulevard is full of vintage shops selling mid-century modern clothing, home accessories, records, books and furniture. There are lots more flaneur finds that we could have included. 

Powell's Books is probably technically not a find as everyone knows about it and it is in all the must see and must do lists.  However, I did find a 50th Anniversary edition of the Jane Jacobs "The Death and Life of Great American Cities." I have been looking for a copy of this book for ages and then to get a 50th anniversary edition that was a find.  

William Temple Thrift Store was a great find a few blocks off of NW 23rd Avenue.  Had a good selection, including books and art.  It was our first day in Portlandia we found a nice piece for our thrift store art collection of unknown artists. 

Sunland Lighting Inc. on Mississippi Avenue has the most amazing windows I have every seen, each is a work of art.  This one features hundreds of different light bulbs, which is exactly what you would expect of the largest supplier of light bulbs in North America, maybe the world.  Who knew that there is such a thing as an artisanal light bulb store. The other storefront windows are just as visually exciting.  Three feature Star War collections and another is full of pencil sharpeners. 

The Lodekka bus is parked on a plaza on North Williams Ave. complete with its own garden outdoor living room.  Inside it is packed with vintage clothing.  It doesn't get much more bohemian that this.  The bus' nickname is "Ginny" and she operated in Liverpool from 1965 to 1982.  

Unknown artists artwork.  As we came out of the Blue Moon Cafe I was taking a photo of the alley and at first didn't see the two people at the corner.  Then realized they were working on an artwork that also had a QR code which animated the bug i.e. turned it into a sci-fi video.  I wish I had gotten her name. She was visiting from Columbia.   

Located  in the lobby of the historic Heathman Hotel is the tiny Cacao "bean to bar" chocolate maker.  You can easily miss it.  I learned that their is a difference between a chocolatier  who uses somebody else's chocolate and a chocolate maker of which there are only a handful in the US and two are  in Portland.  Try the decadent Classic Hot Chocolate and take home some Xocalatl chocolates.  

This blog is sponsored by Red Lion Hotels

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