Thursday, July 17, 2014

Trip Report - Portland, Oregon - July 8, 2014 - Sky Tram

One of our group had departed and we had one last breakfast at the Pearl Bakery before the other two departed. Harry and I were on our own until our plane left that evening.

We took public transportation to the Sky Tram to the the Marquam Hill campus of Oregon Health and Science University.
At the bottom.

At the top platform

View from the top
Tram descending
At the top of the tram ride you are inside the Oregon Health & Science University where tourists walk through the hallways past clinics.  We walked through some of the buildings to a farmers' market that was being held in the north part of the 113-acre campus. At the farmer's market we had a Columbian sandwich called an arepa followed by oatmeal ice-cream while we listened to a small band.

Arepa, from Columbia, with cornmeal 'crust'. This version had a chicken filling.

 At the bottom of the tram I noticed the large "bicycle valet" parking lot. I guess most of the bikes belonged to OHSU employees.

Part of a large "valet bike lot". Bikes are popular in Portland.

Then, back home. I enjoyed Portland, and I'd like to go back. While I don't think you can judge any city by one visit (or any restaurant by one meal)all in all it was a good experience. I especially love the great public transportation, the good food (mostly), the parks, the people, and the climate. We might even move there. Who knows?

Trip Report - Portland, Oregon - July 7th - Farmer's Market, Mount Hood, Timberline Lodge, Hood River

We hadn't planned anything for the day, so consulted one of the excellent staff of the Tourist Information Center located in Pioneer Square. She mapped out a route to Timberline Lodge near Mount Hood. There was a farmer's market in the square, and I bought some wonderful cherries.

We decided to drive up to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood.  First we had lunch, then visited parts of the lodge. This is an historic building, and there are lots of interesting features, like wonderful wood carvings on the end of the bannisters.
Lunch was excellent. A beef stew with parsnips.

Carving on bannister.

A lower practice ski slope.
I wanted to take the ski lift up the mountain, but by the time I had gathered information and convinced my husband he would like it they had finished selling tickets for the day. Oh well.

Windsurfing and parasailing on the river.
We drove around the mountain to the town of Hood River, where we stopped to watch people engaged in different water sports like windsurfing, kiteboarding, and kayaking.

Dinner in the Pearl District at Tasty n Alder, where everyone else had great burgers and I mistakenly ordered Goat Cheese Dumplings with Arrabiata (hot pepper) sauce and burned my mouth. Live and learn.

Trip Report - Portland, Oregon - July 6th - Mount Saint Helens, Ape Cave,

When Harry and his siblings were younger, one rule on family vacations was that everyone could choose one thing they wanted to see or do. For this trip, one of the group wanted to see Mount St. Helens. I confess that this was on the bottom of my list. Part of my reason was that it was a minimum of an hour and a half drive each way, and the other reason was because I didn't particularly want to see the scene of devastation. It turned out to be very interesting; however, and I'm glad we went.

Because it was a long drive and none of us knew the territory, I suggested that we take a package tour - this time with a small company that had a ten-passenger limit. As it turned out, there were only the five of us, so it was almost like having a private tour.

The Mount Saint Helens area contains multiple parks and visitor centers. Our first stop was at Ape Cave. (Named after the group that discovered it, not because there were actual apes there). This is a long lava tube formed around 2,000 years ago during an earlier erruption from Mt. Saint Helens south flank. Then, about 450 years ago, there was another erruption and more lava flowed through the tube and blocked the cave at its lower end.
Our guide furnished headlamps for all of us, and explained different features as we hiked along.

This is what happens when you all take photos at once.

The Meatball

The inside of the lava tube was DARK. How dark? Well, I had the miner's headlamp, a small travel flashlight, and the 'flashlight' on my smartphone, and it still was dark. Even though it was July above us, the cave was so cold you could see your breath. It was also damp, and the floor was uneven. Since taking this particular tour had been my suggestion, I was chiding myself for not being better prepared and worried that I would fall and break or twist something and ruin everyone's trip. For some reason the phrase "in questa tomba oscura" ("In this dark tomb") from Verdi's Aida kept going through my mind.

This is not a cave with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites like the Carlsbad caverns, but it had some interesting features like the ‘Meatball’ formed when a blob of lava dropped off the ceiling, floated down the running lava, and got stuck at a narrow section of the tube. I found it interesting to think of that ancient erruption when Mount Saint Helens spewed a stream of lava. The the outer shell hardened but the molten basalt interior kept flowing until it had formed the lava tube.
I was so glad to see sunlight again!

Next we walked the "Trail of Two Forests". Ah, sunlight, warmth, and level footing!
Sign for "Trail of Two Forests"
Horizontal tunnel formed by lava covering fallen trees, which then decayed. Great for kids!
A visit to the middle visitor center.

Mount Saint Helens in the distance.
We visited another park where lava had fallen in ancient times and covered standing and fallen trees, which then declayed and left tunnels and wells.  Then we stopped at one of the first visitor centers and took a walk around while our guide put out a healthy lunch. We're getting closer! 

Mount Saint Helens from the second visitor center.
The second visitor center had a unique video explaining the history of the volcanoes and what happened during the most recent eruption. There was another visitor center closer to the volcano, but then the mountain wouldn't have fit into the viewfinder of my camera...

Apparently this is still considered an active volcano, and it is closely monitored. Actually, there are several active volcanoes in this part of the country, including one near Seattle.

After more than 30 years, the landscape recovers slowly.
Another thing I learned was that while the public lands around Mount Saint Helens have been allowed to evolve naturally (except for removing dead wood) the land that is owned by the timber companies have been planted and are covered with trees.  We took a walk from the second visitor center through some 'natural' landscape and I was happy to see the wide variety of shrubs and flowers that were reclaiming the landscape.

Back in Portland our guide offered to drive us over to "Restaurant Row". This is an area on Division Street, east across the Willamette River, where there are more restaurants than food carts.

After walking up and down the street looking at restaurants, the majority voted for Block & Tackle, a seafood restaurant. With my usual talent for choosing the wrong menu item, I chose the fried cauliflower with pecorino, fennel, olive, currant, chilli, and aioli. What I got was fried cauliflower in which the lemon in the aioli totally drowned any of the other flavors.

Then we took the bus back to downtown.

Trip Report - Portland, Oregon - July 5th - Voodoo Doughnuts, Saturday Market, Washington Park and Japanese Gardens

We started the day by taking the MAX (light rail) to the area near Voodoo Doughnuts and the Saturday Market.
Voodoo Doughnuts
This doughnut shop is famous for its unique selection of doughnuts. You will see people carrying the distinct pink boxes everywhere in Portland. One guy told us that people have been known to stand in line for over three hours. Fortunately, our wait was not that long.

The signature doughnut, with a gooey red filling.
I only bought two doughnuts. I pretended that the little guy above was someone who annoys my sister-in-law, and bit its head off. I also bought an apple fritter, which I ate later. I swear it was one of the best apple fritters I have every eaten.

One of the haiku in the memorial garden
While part of the party stayed at the Saturday Market, Harry and I walked to the Main Post Office to mail some things. On the way back we walked past this small park near the river dedicated to those Americans of Japanese origin who had been interned during the war. The rocks were carved with haiku written by those who returned home.

A young lady selling handmade jewelry.
The Saturday Market is a large area with market stalls selling everthing you could imagine. We were only able to explore a small part of it. I should note that 'Saturday Market' is also held on Sundays.

Then we took the MAX to Washington Park, and from there a tram to the Japanese Gardens.

Koi and iris
A small tram took us up the hill from the shuttle stop to the Japanese Gardens, where our group joined a tour led by a an expert in Japanese gardening. This is really a lovely place.

After dinner at a so-so restaurant near our hotel, some of our party went back to the Blues Festival, while some of us called it a night.

Note on Portland Public Transportation: Some years ago when Harry and I visited Portland transit was free in the downtown area.  Although this is no longer so, the price was extremely reasonable. Those of us who are seniors ("Honored Citizens") can get an all-day pass for $2, which will take you almost anywhere on a bus, tram, or light rail. Wonderful!

Trip Report - Portland, Oregon - July 4th, 2014 - Columbia River Gorge, Waterfalls, Salmon Ladders, Fish Hatcheries, Fireworks

View from our window
The day started early, as we had elected to take a bus tour to visit the Columbia River Gorge. The scenary here is spectacular, with multiple waterfalls (why the area is called 'The Cascades') and great views of the Columbia River.
Multnomah Falls

Fish ladder
We visited an area where fish ladders allow salmon passage up the river, and also a fish hatchery.

In the afternoon we went to a cemetery for a memorial service for my husband's sister, who has passed on. I miss her.

In the evening we wanted to go to the Portland Blues Festival, but the fire marshall had decreed that no one more could go in unless someone came out. We were able to hear the music from outside, though.
Part of Portland Blues Festival
Later there were spectacular fireworks.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Trip Report, Portland Oregon - July 3rd 2014 - Pearl Bakery, Powell's Books, First Thursday

This trip was a mini-reunion for my husband's siblings and their relatives by marriage.  My husband was one of four children who grew up and scattered across the country.  Nearly-annual reunions gave them a chance to get together.

Now the group is diminished, as two siblings have passed on.  More unfortunately, one of them was the Information Gatherer, who researched restaurants and things to do, and the other was The Decider, who kept us from spending a lot of time asking each other "What do you want to do?"

Now we five resemble a group of ducklings without their mother as we start out our morning looking for a breakfast place 'someone' had recommended. Of course we have five different navigation systems and five opinions on how to proceed. Finally we reach our destination, only to find that the restaurant is closed for renovation. Fortunately, we are near Pearl Bakery, and it turns out to be excellent.
From wonderful bread they make excellent sandwiches. Pastry is also very good.

Next stop is Powell's. This place is huge and well-stocked and entitled to its title of "City of Books". Fortunately, there are friendly staff to direct people to the right shelf, aisle, floor, or building.  I could live here.
The Rare Book room at Powell's.

Lunch is at Lardo's, home of all things pork. I have a cucumber salad.

Then my husband I head off on our own, because one of us has forgotten some of his pills. We take the Max(light rail) to a branch of our HMO and spend about three hours exploring the Overlook Park area in Northeast Portland while the red tape needed to refill the prescription is tied up in a neat bow. My husband reassures me this sign was not for pedestrians.

Heading back we walk pass the crowd waiting outside of Voodoo donuts and decide to skip it for now, although we couldn't resist a brief stop at Leonida's chocolates.

Then back with the group for a visit to "First Thursday" an evening event in the Pearl District where many art galleries stay open late and put out refreshments. There is a lively street scene and an outside art mart for local artists..

We visit a few art galleries and head over to Deschutes Brewery for dinner. Good beer, nice decor, middling food.

End of July Third Day

A note on Portland Guides: The widely-distributed Portland Visitor's Map put out by the Portland Concierge Association relies on contributions from some of its 'featured' restaurants and attractions, and concentrates on the downtown area, so be warned. lt is better than nothing, but you would be much better served if you just asked a passing stranger for recommendations. Better yet, go to the Tourist Information Center in Pioneer Square. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Trip Report - Portland, Oregon

Our first stop was a visit to some of Portland's popular food carts.