Sunday, June 10, 2018

Fun in Portland Oregon

Our trip to Oregon/Washington for the Blooms to Brews Marathon was rather short. We flew in Friday night with enough time to catch dinner and a few drinks with Lee and Laura (they arrived hours earlier from San Diego).  We flanked the pre-race night with hotel stays at the boutique chain McMenamin’s.  We discovered this chain in 2012 when we spent a night in downtown Bend, OR at the St. Francis School.  McMenamin’s buys old buildings and repurpose them into hotels with breweries, soaking pools, concert halls, bars, wineries, and other fun things.  

Our Friday night was spent at The Kennedy School - an elementary school opened in 1915 that is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  Every corner of the property is decorated with paintings, concert posters, or other hand-painted touches.  Our room was named for the book Ireland and featured artwork relevant to the story.  The Courtyard Restaurant had to have had over 100 unique light fixtures.   We dined in the school’s Boiler Room which is now the pool hall/game room for the hotel.  We had a hard time picking another bar to drink at:  Cypress featured turntable reggae and rum, Detention played jazz, and Honor played opera.   We chose to have a drink at Honor because the bartender was lonely.   He gave us some insights on activities for our next day (none of which we ended up doing). 

The next morning we mulled over our plans at breakfast.  The waterfalls were too far out of the way of our final destination of Woodland, WA.  It was overcast, so the view of Mt. St. Helen may be limited from its visitor center.  We decided to do some things in Portland but did not know anything about the Portland sites.  The ladies at the next table heard our conversation and ended up giving us two free passes to the Portland Japanese Garden.  Why not?

The gardens were built into a hill overlooking the city. The $15 adult price gained us access to walk the grounds, see special displays (bonsai tree competition), buy gifts / snacks, or listen to the stringed instrument presentation.   We spent our time following the trails and taking pictures.    The weather was cooperating by not raining and giving us some sun for a few minutes.   We spent about 90 minutes walking the grounds.

How did we follow-up the Japanese Garden?  By taking a trip to the Chinese Garden.  The Lan Su Garden was in an up-and-coming area of town. That’s being kind.  There were several nice businesses near the garden, but the area was generally sketchy.   Lan Su is a walled-in oasis in the middle of some run-down areas.   For $10 each we could tour the gardens and dine in the restaurant.  We arrived in time to take a 30 minute (included in price) guided tour of the garden.   Our guide explained how all the components balanced each other and the significance of certain structural elements.  The tour was worth it.   It was amazing how much they squeezed into 2 acres.

For lunch we headed to the Pearl District (hip, clean, higher end than our last location) for lunch at a brewery.  Thankfully two of our favorites were across the street from each other.  Ten Barrel had a 35 minute wait for a table, and Rogue had no wait.  Rogue for the win!  Food was great and there were a number of beers available on tap. 

Before heading out of town for Woodland, WA we stopped at the city’s second Voodoo Doughnuts location.  Our wait here was only ten minutes - much shorter than the line we saw downtown. The people at Voodoo may have been the ones who started the gourmet doughnut craze. We picked up a dozen to eat over the next two days.


After the marathon we headed back to Oregon for a fun afternoon at McMenamins Edgefield.  Located east of Portland Airport the large property was once the county poor farm.  Hotel rooms were created in the main dormitory and the infirmary.  Our room was large, but some of the furnishings were really old and worn, plus we were next to the common bathroom for those choosing rooms without baths.   We heard the clicking of the lock all night.

We spent the day bar hopping the property.  We ate lunch in the old Power House, had cocktails in the stables-turned-distillery, drank wine made on property in the cellar while listening to live music, and had dinner at the main bar.  We enjoyed exploring the gardens and would have considered a round of pitch and putt if it wasn’t raining.   Another unique aspect of the property was the in-house glass blowing studio.  If we wanted to see a movie the theatre was showing the new Avengers movie released that weekend.   Edgefield was the kind of place you’d check into for the weekend to just relax and explore all the property had to offer.   We liked it enough to consider a return trip back to do just that, or use it as a stop-over for a return trip to Bend.

While Portland isn't famous for sites we found there were plenty of things to see and the best source for options came from talking to the locals.  Servers, housekeepers, bartenders were all very helpful and wanted to be sure we saw some of the best their city had to offer.

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