Stormy Weather

“Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky.” Oh yeah, it’s because we’re in Portland, which I’m starting to think may have the worst weather I’ve ever encountered.  And I say that having lived in Saskatchewan, which has very difficult winter weather about eight months of the year.

Here we are, in Portland in mid-July and it “keeps raining all the time.” Rain is good, sure, it’s why everything’s so green here, it makes things grow, yeah, yeah, but actually, it really sucks when you’re trying to do something other than grow algae on the trim of your car. We happen to be visiting Portland to see whether we might want to live here, and I’m finding the weather to be a huge deterrent, not to mention a disincentive and a depressant. I’ll admit, there have been rare moments of sunshine and I’ll think “oh yeah, man, Portland’s groovy” but those moments are so fleeting that I scarcely remember them an hour later.

“I walk around, heavy-hearted and sad, night comes around and I’m still feeling bad, rain’s pouring down.” Well, not all the time, I shouldn’t exaggerate.  But when it’s not actively raining it’s busy threatening to rain, and it’s hard to say whether that’s better or worse. It’s not making living here an appealing prospect, even though Portland’s a hip town, full of cool little shops and restaurants and friendly people, most of whom are apparently half my age. Or possibly even younger than that.

We’re not giving up yet, but we’re getting very discouraged. So if you know of a town where you can walk to everything you need, by which I do not mean to get a latte and a bagel, but really everything, the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker, where there’s a lot to do, where people care about community, and where it it doesn’t “keep raining all the time,” please post about it here, because we’ve pretty much run out of ideas. On a day like this, moving back to France seems like our only option, and that’s kind of sad. We’d really hoped to find a new home in America. “Stormy weather, just can’t get my poor self together.” So come on folks, help us out here, please.  If such a place exists, a European-style town in America, we’re all ears. Unless, of course, the algae has already started growing in them too.

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27 Comments on “Stormy Weather”


  1. I’d like to know too since I am also relocating. After 50 years I’ve had enough of overpriced, overcrowded, overhot Southern California. Good luck with your search!

  2. Wendy Miller Says:

    I think you are looking too far, Capitol Hill would be perfect. Melrose Market, the farmers market, restaurants, wine shops, cafes, news stands, libraries, etc. But of course it’s not going to be European as it is American- you can live with that, I know you can!

  3. Paula Says:

    If you don’t mind winter, try Northampton MA, Saratoga NY or Burlington VT.

  4. Nancy Says:

    Abra, it’s just a terrible summer. It’s always sunny here after the 4th, I don’t know what’s going on. I am certain our weather is a touch better than the Seattle weather, we are a little bit warmer with a little less of a marine layer. It’s getting to me too, but once the sun comes out and stays, it’s usually here until October. 🙂

  5. Margaret Says:

    Hmmm might want to go further south, what about Eugene, or Ashland, OR? Small town though, but very walkable to everything. What about northern Cali? could possibly find a good community there with all requirements.


  6. I like the Capitol Hill idea, because we’d get to visit, but honestly, I don’t think you’d like it here. West coasters generally don’t fare well here unless they lived here in a previous life (or maybe BECAUSE they lived here in a previous life 🙂 If you come east, I’d go with Paula’s suggestion of a small New England town. Of course, if you want the French influence, there’s always Québec!

  7. lifethymehealth Says:

    I agree with Nancy…Portland gets these wierd weather fronts every 10 years or so and this IS one of those 10 year cylces…and look at what the rest of the country is going through-rain is better than 95-100 degree heat waves for days/weeks on end, in my opinion anyway :-). If you want the true small town feeling maybe Ashland? But I think Portland is the best of both small town and Big city rolled into one…and I think there are a few more folks who are our age than you think…it’s just that the moisture in the air keeps us looking so youthful…

  8. Diane Darrow Says:

    How about Greenwich Village? It’s not truly European, but it’s more like it than the rest of NYC. It’s got a lot of charming places. You can walk to absolutely everything, the butcher, the baker, the fruit and vegetable stands, hardware and drug stores, parks, gardens, theaters, restaurants . . . The climate’s as good as anything’s is these days. I can’t imagine living anywhere else in the USA.

  9. Stephanie Says:

    Washington DC. If you can stand the humidity. Free museums, farmer’s markets, butchers, bakers, policymakers. I’ve only driven a car 3 times in the last year.

  10. Abra Bennett Says:

    Thanks for all the suggestions, and we’re open to even more!

    Mark, Wendy means Capitol Hill in Seattle, which is very interesting but Beppo and Zazou woudn’t approve, I fear. They need at least a garden.

    Paula – Burlington, VT might be on the radar if it weren’t for the winters, which I think are very Saskatchewan-esque.

    Margaret – I think I’m one of the few people who doesn’t like Eugene especially, but I do love Ashland, and we have talked about that several times. It’s awfully remote, but otherwise charming.

    Diane – Greenwich Village is an interesting suggestion that would never have occurred to me because I’m generally allergic to big cities.

    Stephanie – I spent one year living in the D.C. area when I was a policymaker, or rather, a policybeaver, and I just couldn’t get into it, much as I adored the museums. I’m sure it’s changed in the interim, though.

    And thanks, Portlanders, for reassurance that the weather isn’t always terrible here. I can see blue sky at this very moment, for example, for which I am profoundly grateful.

  11. Steve Roth Says:

    Doesn’t solve the weather problem, but Jesse mentioned the other day that Wallingford nicely fits the walkability bill.

    Ashland’s a good idea!

  12. Me Says:

    Just wondering, if you would like to share, why you’d leave Seattle and why you don’t move fully to France???? Seems like France REALLY suits both of you…….

  13. Marion Says:

    Carrboro, NC? Not as far fetched as you might think – adjacent to Chapel Hill, NC. Relatively compact, decent weather, good food/markets stuff associated with UNC-Chapel Hill (including major medical centers). Carrboro in decades past was the poor relation of Chapel Hill, but no longer. Maybe not entirely walkable but certainly bikeable.

  14. Abra Bennett Says:

    Steve – I’m looking at a map of Wallingford, but I don’t really see where you can live and walk to get groceries. Do you know? My knowledge of Seattle is sketchy.

    Me – Well, we haven’t left the Seattle area, we’re just thinking about it, and as to why not just move to France, it’s complicated. I’m not sure if you’ve been reading French Letters for a while, but Shel has cancer, and that adds a lot of different considerations to the mix of what we do, both short and long term.

    Marion – Chapel Hill is nice, as I recall, but I’ve never heard of Carrboro. Thanks for the recommendation.

  15. Steve Roth Says:

    45th and Wallingford, whatever that grocery store is (used to be Food Giant)– pretty good — also (very) close is tru value, dry cleaner, good shepherd center, tilth gardening people (and tilth restaurant down by stone way), all the stores in wallingford center (and nice, literally old-school huge-windowed apartments upstairs), bartells, a whole load of restaurants, city cellars, a fancy beer store, tea shop, assorted coffee places, bunches of restaurants…Wallingford farmer’s market (at Good Shepherd?) Wednesdays 3:30-7 p.m. thru Sept., Chefs Only: 3:00-3:30 p.m….what am I forgetting? 11 blocks north is what’s now called Tangletown (aptly named), which people who have been around still refer to as “the neighborhood where Honey Bear used to be.” (What, twelve years ago?) Includes Zoka, which I think is the best coffee shop in town except maybe Allegro which wins for sheer staying power.

  16. Me Says:

    HI Abra…I have some ideas for you re: places to move. Please email me directly.

  17. Abra Bennett Says:

    Thanks for all that, Steve and Jesse!

  18. Margo Says:

    Allentown, PA. Seriously. Really good health care (I was treated for breast cancer here). Year round farmers’ market, plus growers’ markets in season. At the farmers’ market, about 8 unique bacon producers. Winter isn’t too tough. I’m trying to get my parents to move here as they contemplate their options (70s, she has metastasized breast cancer, his heart has been an issue….).
    Plus it’s not just Allentown, there’s Bethlehem (more arty) and Easton (closer to NJ). There’s a bus to NYC several times a day, 2 hours each way, and Philly is an hour away.

  19. Margaret Pilgrim Says:

    Shouldn’t be a surprise coming from me….

    “San Francisco, open your Golden Gate
    You’ll let nobody wait outside your door
    San Francisco, here is your wanderin’ one
    Saying I’ll wander no more.

    San Francisco, I’m coming home again
    Never to roam again…”

    Outside of quotes, we can and do walk to all services, food, household support (laundry, cleaners, hardware, vets, etc.,) cultural, medical.

    Y’all come on home here. 🙂


  20. It *has* been a fine adventure introducing you to Portland neighborhoods and homes, from the peace of Share-it Square to the hubbub of Hawthorne and the stately homes and floral wallpapers of Laurelhurst and Grant Park. Thanks for letting me share the journey. Our blueberries and raspberries have managed to ripen with the sketchy bits of sun. When the weather’s weird like this, we just try to be grateful we don’t have to water the veggies and berries, and to hang on until the next wave of clear and gorgeous days comes cycling through. My mom used to say with amusement, “Portlanders are so *happy* when the sun comes out!” Best wishes to you both.


  21. I would second San Francisco if you like the foggy weather. I personally LOVE San Francisco. But having spent all of my life in the Bay Area and up around Sac Town and Grass Valley, I can truly say that the walk to the stores thing is a vanishing thing in any place except the city. That’s why San Francisco is so great, and I imagine that there are similar places in other big cities.

    However, I now live in Colorado Springs. From our suburban house tucked into the trees on the back side of a rocky bluff that is a public open space and park, we can walk to King Soopers (no candle stick maker there but just about anything you can want), 24 Hour Fitness, the liquor store (important here where you can’t buy it at the market), an Ace Hardware, several restaurants including an Old Chicago, a store that sells only chocolate (gotta love that), and a mattress outlet. A short walk further gets you to thrift stores, a quilt fabric store, and the list goes on. I could live here without a car if I didn’t need to go to work every day.

    But here’s the thing. Our weather is FANTASTIC! There are more sunny days here than just about anywhere in the country. When it snows, the flakes are so light that you can hardly make a snow ball and you can blow a pile of snow away with your breath. It melts, generally, in a few days, leaving us high and dry and sharply cold with brilliant sunshine. Now it also rains goose egg sized drops that can turn major streets into rivers for about an hour, every once in a while. And it can hail quarters in the middle of July for about ten minutes. And it can occasionally blizzard so incredibly that every body stays home for a week, but then it all gives way to that famous dry clear Colorado sunshine.

  22. Abra Bennett Says:

    I was born in San Francisco, so it really would be returning home, in a sense. And there are so many other wonderful ideas here, it makes me wish I could clone myself. For now, though, French Letters is returning to France. All of your suggestions will still be here, immortalized, when we come back and are once again on the hunt for home.

  23. Marya Globig Says:

    I’ve been to Seattle several times in the past two months and it rained each time. This has been the strangest year in my 15 in the Northwest. Makes me want to pull up stakes and move my tent…where? Has it been pleasant anywhere else?

    Now, about Portland. Given the option of living anywhere else that is not prohibitively expensive (NYC), polluted, humid, scary, it would still be my choice. We have extraordinary bakeries, farmers markets, specialty grocers, hospitals (OHSU is in the forefront of cancer treatments), you name it. It’s not unlike living in Seattle, without the more constant rain and annoying traffic. The Park strip near PSU reminded my mother of Vienna, her beloved city. If I can’t set roots in a vital European city, I can live here just fine. Come back. We now have glorious weather.

  24. dominique Says:

    We lived in Seattle in Wallingford so I can vouch for its European
    feel/walkability/food accessibility. I’d also put a vote in for Asheville, North Carolina, and Hanover, NH (not a city, but food friendly, community-oriented, great hospital nearby, merely a bus ride to
    Boston for a city fix, several really good farmer’s markets, and accessibility to great cheeses (being right next door to Vermont).

  25. Gail Carter Says:

    Abra, Carmel, CA. Heaven on earth…
    Gail

  26. Abra Bennett Says:

    Gail – we used to live in Carmel, and it is indeed heaven. It used to also be about $1,000,000 per bedroom!

  27. Gail Carter Says:

    Yes, it is in the high rent area. There are many places for sale now, but *very* expensive. Being just the two of you, maybe a small cottage type place would work.
    I get the Pine Cone via email. If you like I could forward it so you could peruse the real estate section which also covers PG, Monterey, Carmel Valley (quite affordable) and Pebble Beach. Let me know.
    Gail


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