Portland was nice – people friendly, a very walkable city. Clearly, marijuana is very ingrained in the culture here, as there seem to be references everywhere. In places, it had a tiny bit of an Asheville vibe (but I like much Asheville better).
We loved our quirky hotel (the Kimpton Hotel Monaco is a re-purposed department store building built over 100 years ago). We even tried a beer flight to get in the Portland brewery spirit.
A must for me was a visit to Powell’s, the largest independent book store in the U.S. Covering one block and three floors, at first glance it is overwhelming. But the friendly staff and tips along the shelves made it a very comfortable experience. Tips on best sellers, special awards and staff favorites with detailed descriptions give the stacks an almost wine-shop ambiance. I needed much more time. Powell’s is located in the Pearl District, and it is jam-packed with all sorts of restaurants, taverns, and micro-breweries. While sampling local beers, we eavesdropped on a trivia contest being held on the patio below us and were very glad we were not competing, the music/”name a thing” category was a killer. For my trivia buddies: I only knew one – Wild (as in “Wild Thing”).
We enjoyed walking on the beautiful Willamette River-front and downtown area. What we didn’t enjoy was the number of homeless people who seemed to be living on the streets. Portland is known for many things, and one is the birthplace of the food truck craze, and it was fun to see the incredible array of food trucks scattered in clusters throughout town. Even the airport continues the laid-back vibe with live music to entertain, and a movie theater featuring short films by local film-makers (take note Miami).
A final word about our hotel. Every night from 5-6 they host a reception with local wine and some really excellent entertainment. We really enjoyed the musicians and singers during our two visits. The exceptional staff was also very pleasant and helpful. Combined with the ambiance and a few other special treats, it made the perfect place to stay.
Note: Although Powell’s is open till 11 PM, the Rare Book Room closes at 7 PM.
It’s wine country time as we wind down and prep to head home. Oregon is famous for Pinot Noirs, one of our favorites, and we didn’t miss the chance to check out a few wineries.
Leaving the coast, we headed to the interior towards Eugene, driving along the beautiful Siuslaw River and then north towards the wine country and eventually, Portland. We took off on one tangent* (in honor of our good friend Jim) to go through Corvallis, the home of Jim and the Oregon State Beavers. From there it was farmlands of golden, and occasionally russet, fields of grain, stacks of baled hay and the occasional flock of sheep. We learned this area is the grass seed capital of the U.S., and we saw endless fields planted with rye, as well as some with radish and pea seeds. Since I can only identify field crops of corn or tobacco you might wonder how I knew this . . . . well, there were a few small signs.
As we started seeing vineyards, we also passed groves of hazelnut trees, another huge crop in Oregon; they vie with turkey as the world’s leading producers.
The area surrounding the small towns of McMinnville, Dundee, Carlton, Yamhill and Newberg is home to hundreds of vineyards and wineries. After studying brochures about dozens of wineries, we selected a couple to visit. First stop, Anne Amie Vineyards. A beautiful setting that turned out to be our favorite Pinot Noir of the day. We also did tastings at Willakenzie Estate and Rex Hill before turning the car towards the imposing Mt. Hood and Portland.
* Only a local will know that, ironically, the town we turned off the I-5 to Corvallis, is Tangent.
What a great way to travel from Vancouver BC to Portland Oregon. The only downside is it does leave at 6:30 AM, but it gets you into Portland at about 3 PM, rested, fed and entertained. It’s an absolutely beautiful route through Washington, the water views are so pretty it’s not even hard to stay awake.
Business Class seats are worth the extra fee, and taking two single seats (one behind the other) on the right side of the train car is really the best for maximizing your viewing pleasure. It’s comfortable and on par with any first-class European train. This train did not have a dining car, but the Bistro service and quality was not bad once the train got underway. Prior to departure, there was quite a line.
It was hard to get an answer about what time we needed to be at the station (since we would also be going through customs). At one point, we were told by an Amtrak representative the station did not even open til 6 AM; that is not true, staff is there from about 5 AM. Business Class and Global Entry have a separate line for check-in with no wait. Customs officers board the train at the border, but it a quick walk-through and a quick glance at passenger passports.