As unbelievable as this sounds, there’s more to Portland than donuts. I know it’s hard to get enough of those fried gems, but alas, for those of us trying to reduce our gluten, we need to find happiness elsewhere. Lucky for us, Portland has many places where we can embrace the small pleasures of life. Among these places, the Lan Su Chinese Garden tops my charts.
A Sensual Experience
The name Lan Su could be translated to mean “Garden of Awakening Orchids.” I don’t know about the orchids, but my senses awaken when I visit. The sights, the scents, and the sounds of the garden, all so different from what I experience on a daily basis, transform me into a soul capable of appreciating the moment. A friend has told me that she enjoys walking barefoot along the cobblestone paths because the stones hit all the major acupuncture points in the feet. Hmm, I’ve no idea if that’s intentional, though it does sound kinda Chinese, albeit a little weird. But hey, it’s Portland; we like it weird! If Neil Simon can go Barefoot in the Park, so can we.
Tea and Cosmic Reflections
If you thought I’d write about the hundreds of native Chinese plant species in the garden or the colorful koi swimming in the pond, then you’ve never read my blog. Don’t get me wrong, the plants, which change appearance seasonally, daily, and even hourly, are beautiful, and I find watching koi mesmerizing, but for me, a trip to the garden isn’t complete without a visit to the Tea House inside the Tower of Cosmic Reflections. (Okay, let’s pause a moment to reflect on the awesomeness of that name! Just the idea that sipping tea allows you to contemplate the cosmos…sigh.)
Each table in the Tea House differs in height and shape, and some are surrounded by chairs while others are surrounded by benches. Yet all the furniture and decorations work together to create one cohesive space in concert with the feng shui of the garden, which you can view through the large windows.
They offer a choice of white, green, oolong, puer, black, and herbal teas provided by Tao of Tea, a Portland based company. I tend to order green tea while my husband favors the oolong and my son the puer, a fermented dark tea from Yunnan province. They serve many of their teas loose in gaiwan, lidded bowls. Those of us unschooled in drinking tea from gaiwan need not worry; the servers are happy to instruct each tea drinker on proper gaiwan technique. They’re also happy to refill your cup with hot water as often as you like. Yea! Along with tea, you can order some light snacks including rice noodles, tea eggs, moon cakes, and my favorite, turnip cakes. Both the noodles and the Lo Bo Gao (turnip cakes) can be served gluten free, insuring for me that a trip to the garden remains a guilt-free pleasure.