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USA: Oregon: Baker City, Hood River, Multnomah Falls, Pendleton, Portland, The Dalles,
Portland with Eastern Oregon, USA: Weird, wine & waterfalls
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
“Keep Portland Weird” is a city slogan. Nobody knows how it all started, but the statement hangs around there nonetheless. The city is far from being weird – known as the city of roses and the most sustainable city in America, Portland boasts of world-class public transport, gardens & parks, gourmet cuisine, destination shopping, its neighbouring counties houses some popular vineyards and over 77 waterfalls.
I arrived in Portland late afternoon. For the next 3 days I would be the guest of Travel Oregon and Travel Portland authorities. We would explore Portland and some regions of Eastern Oregon as we drive our way to reach Boise, Idaho to attend a trade show.
Portland’s MAX light rail is an excellent way to reach downtown from the airport. In fact, visitors can avail to buy daily and weekly passes to enjoy unlimited travels on the light rail system as well as the streetcars. Travel within downtown area is free!
My home for the next 2 days was Hilton Portland and Executive Tower. The hotel is ideally located in the heart of Portland’s city centre, financial and entertainment districts. It’s just a couple of blocks away from Portland’s best restaurants including Jake’s Famous Crawfish and Higgins Restaurant.
It was a 34 hour door to door journey for me from home. I deserved to take it easy for the remainder of the day, save for a nice dinner at Higgins – a restaurant that was an early supporter of Portland Farmers Market and local growers. The menu changes every week reflecting what’s in season. Don’t forget to ask for their day’s special for that may not be on the menu!
Generally speaking, Portland has great weather all year round. But as luck would have it, it was cloudy for the two days that I would be there. Which meant, I will have to miss the view of Mount Hood – otherwise a prominent landmark of Portland. The other landmark that I gave a miss was a visit to Powell Book Store – the world’s largest. The book store occupies a full city block and has over 1 million books – new and used. It’s a destination for locals as well as tourists. By the way, I am told that a book store in Beijing, China has surpassed the size of Powell thus making it the second largest. Well, it’s still worth a visit, if you have time on hand.
Breakfast the next morning was hosted at Benson Hotel now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also a Portland landmark. Located in downtown, its opulent interior lined with warm wood panels the hotel is a timeless tribute to its founder and designer Simon Benson, one of Portland’s founding father. Simon was a timber trader and his fancies for wood become quite obvious as you tour the hotel.
Thanks to the huge timber trade in the region, Portland was actually called Stumptown prior to getting its present day name. The city fathers had an option to choose a name for the city – either Portland or Boston. A toss of coin decided the fate!
The next 3 hours we would explore Portland using the local experts Hometown Advantage. We discovered Downtown, Cultural District, Pearl District, Old Town, Chinatown, Waterfront Park and Washington Park that’s home to a zoo, the Japanese Garden and the world famous International Rose Test Garden. We had at our disposal a nice van.
I must make a mention of an unscheduled visit to Kidd’s Toy Museum located at 1301 S.E. Grand Avenue. There’s no fee to visit but donations are welcome. Make it a point to call ahead to ensure that they are open to take in visitors. It’s F E Kidd’s personal collection of toys – a passion that began 35 years ago. Toys include trains, planes and automobiles, character toys, police badges, railroad memorabilia, locks, lanterns, china and related items. Highlight would certainly be the collection of antique mechanical banks. While the collection is priceless, it’s said that just 3 toy banks fetched enough monies to the owners to buy 2 big condominiums! Old man Kidd is still around and takes pride in quietly overseeing his guests enjoy the exhibits.
Downtown Portland is the financial and commercial centre of Portland as well as the hub of retail activity. Downtown’s Pioneer Square is known locally as Portland’s ‘living room’. Quite unique to the area are food carts that occupy a block with each one selling specialty cuisine – from Asian to Western you will find it all. Offering value for money these eating joints are very, very popular with the locals. Give it a try.
The city’s major cultural institutions and elegant high-rise residences border one of downtown’s parks, prompting the area’s name: the Cultural District. This stately neighbourhood offers block after block of ancient elms, rich green lawns and parks. Flanking this green space are auditoriums, theatre complex and museums.
The Pearl is Portland’s well-known arts district. Many of the old warehouses have transitioned to loft-style condominiums and row houses. The district has retained its industrial flavor where many loading docks reveal elegant cafes, boutiques and fine art galleries.
The original Portland, Old Town, has a mysterious past. Tunnels below the streets are reminder of the days when unsavory characters shanghaied thousands of unsuspecting sailors, loggers and ranchers. Thankfully, today Old Town is a bustling art and entertainment district and a site for Portland’s best music spots and comedy clubs. Old Town is home to Portland’s Saturday Market (open on Sundays too) and is said to have largest collections of cast-iron buildings in the United States, second only to New York’s SoHo District.
Chinatown makes up a significant part of Old Town and is defined by traditional facades, Chinese restaurants, red lamp poles and cherry trees. An elaborate ceremonial gate given to Portland by its sister city of Kaohshing, Taiwan, marks the entrance to Chinatown. Highlight of this district is the Lan Su Chinese Garden. This elegant walled garden, the result of collaboration between Portland and Suzhou (Portland’s sister city in China) features ornate carvings, a lake, rockeries and several garden pavilions. Open year round, the garden is an authentically built Ming Dynasty style garden.
Portland was already known as the City of Roses when the International Rose Test Garden opened in 1917 as a safe haven for European hybrid roses in danger of being destroyed in World War I. In 1940, Portland’s rose garden became an official test garden for the all-American rose selection. The garden features over 8,000 bushes representing over 550 varieties. Since we are on the subject, it’s good to know that the name given to the rose variety is the key feature for its popularity and commercial success and not the shape, colour, fragrance or the stem as you might believe. Lady Diana variety of rose has been the best selling yet!
The Portland Japanese Garden located in Washington Park in the city scenic west hills is a haven of tranquil beauty that has been proclaimed one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. The five and half acres of premise offers 5 separate garden styles, meandering streams, intimate walkways and unsurpassed view of Mount Hood – which of course was not to be due to overcast skies.
It was almost 1 PM by the time we finished the whirlwind city tour. For lunch, we would drive towards Chehalem Mountain slopes that houses Ponzi’s newest winemaking facility Collina del Sogno – Hillside of our Dreams. It was a picturesque drive of about 30 minutes from the city centre. I had the opportunity to understand the nuances of wine making; visit the cellar and interact with the owners – the Ponzi Family. Their wine tasting room is open for public everyday from 10AM to 5PM.
By the time we reached the city it was 5PM. Time for a little rest before we got ready to visit Cascade Brewing Barrel House to savour some award-winning barrel aged and sour beers! You will be pleasantly surprised at the variety this brewery offers. To accompany the sinfully good beer was delicious, finger-licking pub food!
The next morning I would leave Portland but not before having my morning coffee and a doughnut at Voodoo Doughnut. 24 hours a day, Voodoo’s downtown location serves up to dozens of anything-but-standard doughnuts. Among the top sellers: The Memphis Mafia, an enormous glazed doughnut festooned with peanut butter, banana and chocolate chips; The Voodoo, a doll shaped doughnut with raspberry ‘blood’ filling and a pretzel-stick stake through its tiny heart! I was ok with my simple plain glazed doughnut we all so very well know off. I can bet that this doughnut joint must have been a certain contributor to keep Portland weird.
We began our journey to explore the Columbia River Gorge and the Historic Columbia River Highway. 14 miles east of Portland the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area offers unparallel scenery and outdoor recreation options. Historic Columbia River Highway is a popular way to experience the gorge. The road was completed in 1922 and is the nation’s oldest highway built for its scenic appeal. We made a brief stop at Portland Women’s Forum also known as Crown Point / Vista House en route to Multnomah Falls. The Crown Point offers staggering view of the Columbia Gorge.
By 9 AM we were at Multnomah Falls. Plummeting 620 feet from its origins on Larch Mountain, the falls is the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States. Over 2 million visitors a year come to see this waterfall, making it Oregon’s number one public destination.
After spending about 20 minutes at the Multnomah Falls, we continued our journey for the next 45 minutes to reach The Columbia Gorge Hotel for breakfast. A popular destination for travelers along the Historic Columbia River Highway in the early 1920’s, the hotel has been restored to a new opulence. Frequented by celebrities, the hotel sits atop a bluff overlooking the Columbia River.
After a hearty breakfast, we drove towards Hood River – the wind surfing capital of the world. Always known for growing luscious apples, pears, cherries, peaches and other fruit, Hood River has become the destination of choice for wind surfers and kite boarders. For an hour I roamed the streets of Hood River visiting their many boutiques and curio shops.
At around 1 PM we were at Shilo Inn Suites Hotel in The Dalles located along the Columbia River overlooking The Dalles Dam. The unpainted buildings between the motel and the Columbia River are the remains of the Lone Pine Tree Indian Village and the Shaker Church. All of the village and the Shaker Church are on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Our journey continued. By 4PM we arrived in Pendleton. Our hotel for the night would be Red Lion Hotel. The hotel is ideally located off the I-84 at Highway 11 just a mile away from the city centre. The hotel offers an excellent panoramic view from most of its rooms. I was lucky to have one.
In a late summer of year 1910, a group of area ranchers and farmers gathered in Pendleton to celebrate the end of harvest. This was the beginning of the world famous Pendleton Round-up. Come September and thousands of visitors from across the States and the world will come to Pendleton for the annual extravaganza.
Local tourism authorities and select invitees got together for pre-dinner drinks at Crabby’s Underground Saloon. In the good old days, almost an entire town existed underground. In fact the Pendleton Underground Tours are pretty popular with visitors. The Saloon is intact and functioning even today. The saloon was founded by Joe Crabb in 1862. He was known as a Sporting Man (read gambler) and was county’s first saloon license for ‘Refreshment of Travelers’.
Dinner that evening was just next door at The Hamley Steakhouse. Wood paneled décor took us back into old world charm. The food was simply delicious.
The next morning after breakfast we left for Historic Baker City. Rich history and grand events have been a hallmark in Baker City since gold was discovered. By noon we were at the doors of The Geiser Grand Hotel who would be hosting our lunch. Known to be the finest hotel between Salt Lake and Seattle, the hotel features ornate mahogany, crystal chandeliers, beautiful stained glass ceiling and northwest food. This is indeed the place for those who appreciate historic preservation and timeless luxury.
After lunch we made a stop at The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Centre. The center offers living history demonstrations, interpretive programs, exhibits and multi-media presentation taking the visitors back in time. An hour quickly passed by.
At 3 we left for our final destination – Boise in the State of Idaho. By 7PM we were at the doors of Hampton Inn & Suites – my home for the next 4 days.
Portland with Eastern Oregon Image Gallery Photo viewer
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