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21 April 2017

Portlandia Is Nothing to This

As readers of this blog may recall, the proprietors of Books on First have a granddaughter Ruby Dunphy who is a student at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.  She just had her Junior Recital in the first week of April, showcasing her major which is Jazz Percussion.
We were honored to be invited to share in the fruits of all her hard work.

Before arriving in Seattle for the big performance, we took a little road trip through Oregon.  We landed in Portland, OR, spending a couple of days exploring the city, before going on a roadtrip.

We were very impressed with the area mass transit system.  We hopped the MAX light rail red line to the hotel from the airport (whose three-letter code "PDX" defines hip Portland in website URLs as well as brick-n-mortar stores' and restaurant's and publication names.  Want to find Portland?  Look for the "PDX.").  In the next paragraphs, you can see why that was the only time we rode.
Staying at the Mark Spencer Hotel, which is being slowly renovated, we were within walking distance of much of what makes Portland great:
  • Kenny & Zuke's Deli where they make their own bagels, bialys, smoked pastrami and corned beef and when we were there, were promoting a grand Passover Seder (with a rabbi officiating!) which patrons can come join  or take home
  • Blue Star Donuts where you have to go early or else not have a good selection of gourmet doughnuts like Matcha Latte and Mexican Chocolate (yum!)
  • the Willamette River and Tom McCall Riverside Park which is an incredible people-watching place where everyone from selfie aficionados to professionals were taking photos and making videos of themselves and their loved ones or for ads and YouTube (I once would have said MTV, but times change) and pedestrian bridges to the other side (the floating walkways were unfortunately flooded and not open while we were there)
  • Pioneer Square and a great Visitor's Center across from the Courthouse with eager, helpful volunteers and free publications including a printed full road map of Oregon (which you cannot get anymore from Washington state)
  • Al's Den in a triangular building below McMenamins Crystal Hotel in which there is free entertainment every night (definitely contribute to the passing tip jar!) -- We were there as Ashleigh Flynn finished her week with Jenny Conlee -- keyboard & accordion player and the fabulous all-women band currently called The Riveters (Carmen Paradise (bass), Kate O’Brien (fiddle), Nancy Luca (a mean guitar) and Rhonda Piasecki (drums) -- thank you for the webpage or else I would have gotten 1-1/2 names out of four)
  • no good seafood restaurant as we cannot count Jake's, an institution reminding us of Como Inn, but, being spoiled by Dixon's own Orom's perfectly done mussels, Oysters Rockefeller, fish fillets on a bed of risotto, etc., not someplace for good seafood eating (we are backed up on this from a Newport, OR, resident, but maybe that's only because Newport has its own really incredible seafood restaurant -- MORE on THIS LATER!)
  • the Cultural District of the City, including Portland Art Museum, Oregon State Historical Society Museum, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (which is actually an art complex with three stages and various performances from children's theatre to stand-up comedy), and ending with the urban campus of Portland State University
Just a word about the Mark Spencer.  Even as it's being renovated (and please, please replace the funky carpeting in the lobby and on the stairs), it is a lovely place with roomy, well-designed room and bathroom.  The continental breakfast is a great value (the coffee was not bad at all!) and oddly enough, all the newspapers -- New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today -- were free for the taking, but the Oregonian.

We got a lot of good ideas out of Fodor's.  Additionally, though, Oregon is very visitor-friendly, with the well-stocked Visitor's Center at Pioneer Square as well as an incredible website suggesting a lot of the scenic road trips we had hoped to take: traveloregon.com

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