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Vacation in Portland, Oregon

Erci and I continued to have a lot of fun on our recent vacation to Seattle, Portland, and Cupertino.

Portland details after the jump…

Saturday, November 21st:

After our picturesque drive from Seattle, we checked in at the Hotel Vintage Plaza (Kimpton) in downtown Portland. I was feeling a little ill, and suspect the lunch we had at Red Robin earlier might be to blame. We had not had time to figure out what might be nearby for food, so we did the lazy and simple thing and ate at Pazzo right in the hotel. Pazzo has rave reviews, and it probably is quite good, but every portion seemed huge to me, and every dish far too rich because I was not feeling very well. I feel safe recommending Pazzo only to the very hungry. I was supposed to meet my uncle Bob and perhaps his daughter Michelle, but I fell asleep before 8pm and slept right through the night.


Per arrangements with Andy, we made a short walk to Pearl Bakery to meet Andy, Susan, Merritt, and Rene for pastries, coffee and chai. The bakery is one of those neighborhood gems that is both comfortable and charming; everyone seems to know each other and even strangers are cooperative. I had not seen Andy in something like 34 years and we immediately reconnected, and resumed as if there was no interruption. He and his family walked us across the street to Powell’s City of Books (on Burnside), the first brief visit of many this trip. Merritt had a girl’s volleyball tournament, so they had to leave Powell’s about the time we were ready to check out with our first batch of treasured books.

We walked to the Classical Chinese Garden, and as we arrived it started to drizzle a little rain, which set the mood for amazing contemplation in such a beautiful garden setting during alternating sunshine and drizzling rain. The Chinese garden is right in downtown portland, accessible to both Max (light rail) and busses. It is essentially one city block in size, nearly flat (easy to navigate even with walker or a wheel chair), and spectacularly beautiful. Worth every penny of the entry fee. If I lived in or near Portland, I would become a member and visit with every seasonal change because the colors and plants probably reveal different beauty every few weeks, perhaps even multiple times a day on peak days because of changes in the sunlight. By the time we left I felt refreshed and renewed.

Maple in Chinese Garden in the Rain

MobileMe Gallery of pictures of the Classical Garden

Gazebo and Pond in Chinese Garden

We walked back to our hotel, picked up the rental car, and (on recommendation of the hotel staff) headed for Andina for the best meal we had in Portland by far. Andina is a Peruvian restaurant, but done Tapas style. The food is different than I am used to and absolutely delicious, I could live here… I am so ready to wash dishes just to stay at Andina for weeks. It is at the other end of the Pearl district of Portland, which looks to be a very interesting place to walk around and shop.

We finally connect with and kidnap my uncle Bob for a drive through the Hawthorne district to locate the pub I am supposed to meet my cousin Michelle at later in the evening (easier to find things in daylight). We made a brief stop at the Hawthorne Powell’s, but I was so busy talking to and re-connecting with my Uncle I have no idea what was in this store (though Andy and Michelle both rave about it being one of the better branches of Powell’s in the city). The entire Hawthorne district looks like a fun place to live, work, shop, and play. Very walkable, lots to see and do; proximity to Reed College. Heck, the entire city of Portland looks to be a wonderful place to live without a car at all; everything is walking and cycling friendly, the light rail system is splendid, the buses easy to use, and they have a large fare-free area where no money is needed to use the system. Trimet has most of the information online, and that is important to visit, as there is a new Max line right by our hotel that is not yet on the free city maps the hotels are giving out (I think they are depleting old stock before hitting the new maps with the new rail lines). I wish I had paid more attention, as the new line was key in getting around.

We dropped off the rental car, and hung out at Pazzo’s bar to seriously catch up with Uncle Bob, then dragged him over to Red Star Tavern (in the Hotel Monaco lobby). The steaks and venison chops were excellent. Uncle Bob declared it the best steak he’d have in five years, for which we teased him about that being because he’d been in prison all that time (a joke).

Bob went home and Erci rested, so I drove over to the Sapphire Hotel in Hawthorne to meet Michelle and Nevada to catchup with her (same ~34 years since I saw her last). Had a wonderful visit and really liked the Sapphire a lot.


We woke up not feeling our best, so we did a simple breakfast at Pazzo in the hotel, and it was delicious. We went to Powells city of books again, for some more serious exploration this time. We had a quick lunch at Pearl district’s Noodles Company (reliable, vegetarian friendly chain) and then drove out to Portland’s Japanese Garden. This is an impressive site, with five different Japanese style gardens spread out over several acres of sloping hills a few miles West of Portland. The hills are substantial, so be prepared to walk a lot, and many of the better views are not wheelchair accessible. The dry zen garden is perhaps a bit disappointing if you have already seen any of it’s inspirational source gardens in Japan (which are amazing), but the other four gardens are spectacular. The natural garden rivals any of the best in Japan in my opinion, and the clear day views of mount Hood are breath-taking (apparently this is a mostly Winter treat, as Summer haze hides the distant mountain from view we have heard). This is another spiritually refreshing site and if I lived near Portland I’d be a member and revisit every time the seasons change, though I’d recommend finding days when it will not be mobbed. We were inspired to try adding more Japanese garden elements to our own property when we get the chance, and the book shop the garden captured a fair amount of our money for books on how to do that.

Mt Hood from the Japanese Garden

MobileMe Gallery of pictures of the Japenese Gardens

Gate to Tea House in Japanese GardenLantern in Natural Japanese Garden

Erci was having knee and back pain, so we took a small driving tour of the city, accidentally touring some of the warehouse area just East of the river then driving through Belmont and Hawthorne.

Later, we visited Pioneer Place, and got called by her Dad asking when we’d be landing tomorrow… which surprised us, as we’d both been thinking we had another full day in Portland before flying to Cupertino. Turns out we were wrong and suddenly it dawned on us that our last day in Portland was already mostly gone! Yikes… We did not get to see the Raphael exhibit at the Portland Art Museum! There goes our opportunity to have the full quartet of ninja turtles viewed in a few months…

We got to ride Max for free to Persian House for an excellent dinner of Fessenjan (Persian chicken with pomegranate sauce) and amazing Persian Baklava (pistachios), then we rode Max back to Pioneer Square (where I finally saw the beaver statues) and another free Max ride back to the hotel.

Have I mentioned how excellently cool it is to have free public transit in a downtown area?


We started packing for the next leg of our trip, then had a full breakfast at The Original Dinerant, a classic American diner with attitude. We dropped off a box of books at the post office for shipping home so we would not have to lug them around, then we picked up some Voodoo Doughnuts to take with us on the drive back to Seattle. The drive back was picturesque and we flew out of SEATAC for San Francisco.

We certainly have to go back to Portland, as we missed the famous art museum and many other sights. It was fantastic to reconnect with Bob, Andy, and Michelle after many years.

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