We just returned from the
dreaded eagerly-anticipated family vacation. This year our daughter has an internship that sadly prevented her from joining us (I don’t really think she was too broken up about it). Each summer we look to vacation somewhere that has significantly cooler temps than Houston, and this year we headed to Oregon, spending a few days in Portland before heading to the coast. Unfortunately, Portland was in the grips of a heat wave with record-breaking highs, so that kind of sucked.
But this was vacation, and we weren’t going to let a little hot weather ruin our fun. We stayed at the Hotel Vintage, where we enjoyed our reasonably-priced spacious suite, nightly wine tastings, and convenient downtown location (also Ryan, the concierge, was very friendly and helpful):
Our first stop was the Portland Japanese Garden, “a haven of serenity and tranquility” for more than 50 years. It’s considered the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. It was beautiful:
I was especially enamored with these tiny-leaved maples, which looked like stars against the sky:
We spent quite a bit of time just looking at the Sand and Stone Garden, referred to as a karesansui garden, which translates to “dry landscape.” The aesthetic principle underlying these dry landscapes is known as yohaku-no-bi, meaning “the beauty of blank space” (a principle I’d like to see some of my more wordy opposing counsel adopt). This style of garden is intended for contemplation, not meditation, and so we sat and contemplated. (My son informed us that every principal’s office he’s ever been in has one of these gardens on the desk, complete with itty bitty rake.)
Our favorite part of the garden was the Strolling Pond Garden. The huge Japanese Iris were unlike any iris I’d ever seen before, and of course, now I must have some for my garden:
Directly across the street is the International Rose Test Garden. The garden has been there for about a century, and features more than 10,000 roses (Portland’s nickname is the City of Roses). The garden is stunning, with the biggest, most perfect, gorgeous roses I’ve ever seen, and although we were wilting in the heat, the roses were not.
We spent the better part of the next day at the Portland Saturday Market, an arts and crafts open-air marketplace started in 1973, which is held every Saturday and Sunday from March through Christmas Eve. All of the items sold at the market are made in and around Portland, and are sold by the people who make them. We found so many interesting and unusual items there, including jewelry, purses, apparel, woodcrafts, paintings, and handpainted scarves:
Gotta have tie-dye!
Purses made from coffee bean sacks and vintage fabrics
Beautiful soaps — eucalyptus mint was our favorite
Star Wars art
The next day we headed to Mt. Hood, about an hour-and-a-half drive from Portland. First, a quick stop at Vista House at the Crown Point State Scenic Corridor, to take in the scenic (and very windy) views from 733 feet above the Columbia River.
Continuing on, we stopped to see several waterfalls. First was the 249-foot Latourell Falls:
Next we stopped to see the 242-foot tiered Wahkeena Falls:
From the Wahkeena Falls we followed the short (unpaved and rocky) trail to hike to the Multnomah Falls, which took about 15 minutes (but seemed like an hour). The Multnomah Falls are split into an upper falls of 542 feet and a lower falls of 69 feet. There is a short but steep paved trail up to Benson Bridge, which spans the upper and lower falls.
In addition to being the tallest waterfall in Oregon, Multnomah Falls is also the “most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest with more than 2 million stopping by each year to take in the views.” Now, I’m not saying it was crowded . . .
Snow-capped Mt. Hood was a welcome sight on this hot day:
We threw a few obligatory snowballs at each other, and then went to poke around the historic Timberline Lodge, a Works Progress Administration project built in the late 1930s. “The lodge’s design mirrors the lines of the mountain, and was constructed out of stone and wood from the surrounding forest.”
The lodge is filled with art and crafts, including wrought iron features:
And oil paintings and mosaics:
We enjoyed lunch at the lodge’s Ram’s Head Bar, centered around a huge stone column with giant beams, and which had a great view of Mt. Hood.
Highlights of our lunch were a grilled cheese sandwich made with fromage blanc, Tillamook cheddar, and Swiss cheese on sourdough with a cup of cream of smoked tomato soup, and cheese-stuffed kasekrainer sausage on a pretzel bun with beet sauerkraut, pickled mustard seeds, and potato salad:
The next day we left Portland and headed to the coast, which you can read about in Part 2. But before leaving Portland, I have to say that we were excited to discover that Portland is a foodie town. We had great meals in Portland, highlights of which were lunch at Grassa that included radiatore with beef and pork Bolognese, pancetta, and pecorino; and chicken cacciatore with rosemary pappardelle, pancetta, tomato, and nduja ricotta (seriously delicious):
Dinner at Nostrana that included antipasti di mare (ahi tuna crudo lettuce cups with avocado crema & crispy spring onions; pink shrimp fritters with green goddess mayo; and grilled octopus and potato salad with capers, oregano and mama lil’s peppers); grilled copper river sockeye salmon with aioli, spring onion and green garlic risotto cake, sautéed spinach, fava greens, and morel mushrooms); and tagliata flat iron steak with arugula and garlic-rosemary oil:
Great Thai lunch at E-San Thai Cuisine (recommended by one of our Lyft drivers) — we had som tum (papaya salad); gaeng kiew wan (green curry with beef); and Mao special (rice noodles with red curry):
Dinner at Higgins, where we swooned over a beautifully composed salad of summer greens, toasted hazelnuts, and herb vinaigrette; charcuterie board; halibut over quinoa with lemon vinaigrette; summer vegetable fisherman’s stew with sauce vert; and cherry pie:
And an inventive and outstanding dinner at Irving St. Kitchen of meatballs over mashed yukon potatoes with green peppercorn sauce; black garlic butter steamed clams with chicken liver mousse toast; chicken fried oysters; pan-roasted porcini with ricotta blinis, zucchini, shaved porcini, and peas; carrot butter poached halibut with green garlic pure and pickled ramps; buttermilk fried chicken with collard greens, smashed potatoes, and tasso bacon gravy; and dessert of cherry sorbet gel,, almonde tarte, meringue, salted honey chiboust, and red wine syrup:
Before we left Portland, my husband went and stood in line for about an hour at the much-hyped Voodoo Doughnuts:
Although they were fun to try, I think we all agreed that they were too sweet for our tastes, as in make-your-teeth-hurt too sweet. Reeling from our sugar high, we departed Portland, having thoroughly enjoyed the city and looking forward to returning again one day.