A Travellerspoint blog

November 2015

Portland, Oregon

November 14th to 25th

After arriving late on Saturday the 14th on Sunday we headed downtown to visit a bookshop we had been told was worth seeing. Powell’s New & Used Books store, spanning an entire city block was our first stop. Powell's is not just a store – it’s an experience. This place is huge with multiple levels and rooms (red room, purple room, green room etc, etc, etc.). If you go with someone you need to have a strategy because just wandering will get you pondering whether you will both get out. I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland when she fell down the rabbit hole – which room would I end up in. It is difficult to put into words what the attraction of this store is - its atmosphere, contents and service are all factors, but the result is much greater than the sum of its parts. This place is a landmark that every book lover should visit at least once.

portland-oregon-sign

portland-oregon-sign


Powell Street books

Powell Street books

Voodoo Doughnuts. What lead us to a doughnut shop? Well, whenever we asked anyone from Portland or who had been to Portland what they thought we should see/do, they all kind of said something like this: ‘There is some big bookstore’ (see above) and ‘there is supposed to be a really awesome doughnut shop’. Ohhh Emmm Geee! They weren’t wrong. The line was a street long when we arrived (and it was drizzling rain), don’t fear though, the line moved quickly and we were inside in no time at all. Voodoo Doughnuts has some of the wildest, craziest doughnuts you will ever see. Crazy shapes and tastes make this a place to visit when you're in the Pearl District in Portland. With names like: Voodoo Doll, Pothole, and Bacon Maple Bar, how could we not ingest? Sooo, doughnuts we purchased and we carried the pink box with, ‘good things come in pink boxes’ written on the outside, only to be approached by a local saying that the doughnut shop had single - handedly been responsible for the heart attacks of several tourists! Apparently something to do with the high fat, low nutrition and the effect the bacon fat has on the heart’s arteries. Little did he know that we don’t scare that easy!

Voodoo doughnuts1

Voodoo doughnuts1


Voodoo doughnuts2

Voodoo doughnuts2


Doughnuts

Doughnuts

Saturday (Sunday) Markets. After purchasing our doughnuts, we wandered down to the Saturday Markets (on Sunday). Their Saturday market is on Sunday too. It is right on the river which is cool and there is everything from craft and food to entertainment. We went on Sunday, so it was only half of everything there, but we found out that on Saturday there is a little more hustle and bustle and it includes a farmer’s market. There were some areas where there were beautiful crafters and pottery artisans which make it a great place to just wander around, look at the art and people watch.

Saturday markets

Saturday markets

With school finished for another week, we celebrate by heading downtown Friday afternoon. Portland -- the city that started the street food revolution! As you walk about 10 blocks through downtown you can visit up to a selection of more than 600 food carts, most grouped in what they call pods and you can sample anything from Belgian-style waffles and Portuguese and Spanish-inspired cuisine to Asian-fusion and Mexican. Too much of a good thing you might think, but the fact is, you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at one of these 600 food carts. So, why not embrace the delicious dilemma?

portland-pod-food-truck

portland-pod-food-truck

After grabbing the rental car we travelled to Portland's Central Eastside for its first ever Portland Night Market. This market was a blend of food, culture, music, drinks and retail in the Industrial District, showcasing many unique businesses in Portland. The market took place in a Pelett Properties warehouse that is often used for film and television shoots and made us feel a bit artsy-fartsy with all the organic products and upcycled objects on display. There was even an art studio on the mezzanine level where you could walk around with wine, beer or hot cup of apple cider. What added to our experience was the fact that we had to wait in line for 30 minutes in 8 degrees (wind chill factor made it a tad colder) before we could actually get inside the warehouse. Worth it though.

Mobile Brew van

Mobile Brew van

On Saturday 21st November we had a relatively early 8am departure for Eugene, a little over a 2 hour drive south. The first stop was the Eugene Holiday markets (in its 100th year) with vendors selling all types of home-made articles. They also had an elf hunt where you had to locate certain elves amongst the hundreds of stall holders. This was a great marketing idea as it ensured you saw every stall which often led to a discussion and purchase. Next was a quick trip to Hayward Field for a little Track and Field history. Located at the University of Oregon (Eugene is also known as Track town) Hayward Field is the Carnegie Hall from American track and field and plays host annually to the nation’s finest single day track and field contest, the Prefontaine Classic.

Next we drove North to the small town of Corvallis, home to the Oregon State University Beavers. We had organised tickets for their final home football game against the University of Washington Huskies. Our tickets were close to halfway and about 10 rows from the field, an ideal location to see and hear all the action ….. only problem was the action was lopsided in the Huskies favour … to the tune of 45-0 at the half. We stayed for the concussion which was a slightly more respectable 52 – 7.

Beavers game

Beavers game

On Sunday 22nd November we decided to find a local favourite for breakfast. After consulting Yelp we found the Broader Café with 4.5 stars from over 860 reviews, though the pictures showing Swedish pancakes was probably the clincher. Alyssa chose the pancakes (which were incredible) as was the ‘Lost Eggs’.

After breakfast we drove to Mt Hood to take THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride. Yep! You read that right. Recreated to match all the sights and sounds of the beloved story, picture the excitement of children dressed in pyjamas with golden tickets clutched in their hands as they board a train and prepare to embark on their journey to the North Pole. And it all begins when the Conductor calls “All aboard” and punches children’s golden tickets.

Whilst on the train we hear the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack as the story reading begins and the book’s characters come to life, we see dancing chefs serve hot cocoa and cookies to all riders in a merry fashion, and even the doubting hobo wanders through the train. And of course, it wouldn’t be the Polar Express without Santa. The best part of this memorable ride is that every child is presented with the iconic silver sleigh bell (only believers can hear its ringing). This was probably the best way ever to end our short stay in Portland.

After what can only be described as a magical rail ride, we drive back to Portland via the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway. Any way you look at it, Scenic Byway is a marvel—for its visionary engineering, incredible scenery, and rich history. Internationally lauded for spectacular waterfalls, architectural gems, and magnificent overlooks of the Columbia River Gorge, it’s no wonder this Byway has been called “King of Roads.” Every twist and turn brings new vistas, from majestic waterfalls such as Bridal Veil Falls, Latourell Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Horse Tail Falls and Multnomah Falls, (a waterfall more magnificent and memorable than I think I have ever seen), to astounding views of the mountain ranges, forestry growth and more. We also stopped at Crown Point Vista House, built in 1916, the Vista House was designed for travelers to stop, rest and enjoy the splendid views of the gorge and Columbia River below. It is a beautiful historic building laid out on an octagonal footprint, the stone is covered in a honey, gold and green ceramic tiled roof which makes it quite unique and ornate in its own way. We didn’t stay long for two reasons. Firstly, Vista House was closed for the day due to hazardous weather conditions. Secondly, if the hazardous weather condition sign didn’t quite give you a heads up, Alyssa almost got blown away and all three of us found it difficult to walk in any direction because the winds were so strong.

Horsetail falls

Horsetail falls


Mutnomah falls

Mutnomah falls


Vista house

Vista house

Next stop ...... Los Angeles

Posted by V3USA 09:47 Comments (0)

Seattle

October 25th to November 14th

We drove to Seattle with Cappy and Yvonne with the hope that the American authorities would allow our re-entry. You may recall we were only permitted to stay in the USA for 6 months and there was no definitive timeframe for us to be in Canada before re-entering. After some research indicated that 3 months would be a minimum, we decided to stay in Canada for 4 months to be more certain.

After arriving at the border we were directed to the office to ‘show cause’ for our return. We were asked a few questions regarding where we have been, how long we were away and what our plans were, which is effectively 6-7 weeks in the USA before returning home. We even had paperwork to prove the date of our return flights. Anyways, the official stamped our passports with another 6 month stay and directed us to a cashier to pay a fee. Not sure what the fee was, but at $6 each and now allowed to stay for the remainder of the trip we simply paid, walked out and were back in the USA, Washington State to be exact.

Seattle had always been on our list to visit and we must admit it exceeded our expectations. Our accommodation is in the Downtown district. All our previous stays have been in neighborhoods to get a feel for how people live and generally about 30 minutes on public transport from the downtown. Of all the cities we could stay downtown, Seattle is a very much a worthy choice. Located only 10 min walk West to the Pike Place Market and 10 minutes East to the funky Capitol Hill area and Grocery shops, we were literally in the middle of everything.

Many would associate Seattle with not only Pike Place but the Space Needle. It’s worth noting that Seattle is home to many of the world’s most recognizable names such as Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Boeing and Nordstrom to name a few. All started and have Headquarters in Seattle. In fact, Microsoft has over 60,000 employees, Amazon 25,000, Starbucks has over 500 stores (virtually 1 on every corner), Boeing has over 70,000 employees and Nordstrom 7,000. That alone is a significant number even for a growing, expanding and increasingly expensive Seattle.

The Boeing factory in Everett just North of Seattle has the distinction of being the largest building in the world by volume, as accounted by the Guinness World Records. It is easy to see why when you could fit 55 football fields inside the factory that includes its own fire department, security force, fully equipped medical clinic and numerous restaurants and cafes. From high above the factory floor you view the assembly of 747, 767, 777 and the 787 Dreamliner where the airplanes are being outfitted and painted. We cannot recall all the facts provided and phones and cameras are prohibited on the tour, but we do remember that there are 3 million rivets in each plane. Oh and the mural on the retractable six factory doors is regarded as the largest digital graphic in the world.

Pike Place Market is one of the world’s most famous public markets. Located on the waterfront the market opened in 1907 and houses small businesses offering fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood, arts and crafts. With 10 million visitors annually it is easily Seattle’s most popular tourist destination and is actually the 33rd most visited tourist attraction in the world. The main reason for its popularity is the famous ‘fish toss’ where at one of the various seafood stalls the entertainment is fish being thrown between the shop assistants.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Nearby is Gum Alley, an area behind the Market Theater where patrons back in 1993 started to stick their gum before entering the theatre. Noted as the 2nd most germiest tourist attraction in the world (the Blarney Stone is the first) the Seattle council commenced the cleansing of the wall a couple of days after we visited. Probably a good idea since the area was truly disgusting and smelly.

Gum Alley

Gum Alley

A day on the buses, albeit a wet and rainy day (it rains almost every day during Winter in the Pacific North West) took us to the suburb of Fremont. The goal was to see the famous Fremont Troll, a scary looking concrete creation that stands over 3 metres high whilst crushing a Volkswagen Beetle in its left hand. Located not far away is the Fremont Rocket, found lying around in 1993 in nearby Belltown the rocket now sticks out of a building. The most controversial piece of art though is the Statue of Lenin which was salvaged from Slovakia after the 1989 revolution.

Fremont Troll

Fremont Troll


Lenin Statue

Lenin Statue

From Fremont we boarded the bus this time to the Ballard Locks where the freshwater lakes of Washington and Union flow through the 8 mile long Ship Canal dropping 22 feet into salt water Puget Sound. On the southern side of the locks you can view a fish (Salmon) ladder from underwater glass sided tanks.

Again on the bus and this time to the posh suburb of Queen Anne, specifically Keary Park for stuning views of the Seattle skyline with the Space Needle (built for the 1962 World’s Fair) in the foreground. Following we walked to the Olympic Sculpture Park hovering above train tracks and home to sculptures, art both permanent and visiting installations. The rain drizzle was still occurring but we lumbered on knowing that a warm apartment and shower awaited us.

View of Seattle

View of Seattle


Space Needle

Space Needle


Olympic Sculpture Park

Olympic Sculpture Park

Keen to see some local sport the Seattle Sounders Professional Soccer team was playing a Western Conference elimination game against the LA Galaxy at nearby CenturyLink Field. We called Cappy to see if he and Yvonne were interested in joining us. A few hours later Cappy calls to say that Yvonne had secured some tickets through her work Oberto, manufacturers of Beef Jerky. Cool, what could be better than free tickets. Well …. how about free tickets in a Corporate Suite complete with drinks, dinner and a dessert cart that blew Alyssa away. What a great night topped by the local team winning 3-2.

Sounders Soccer

Sounders Soccer


Thanks Oberto

Thanks Oberto


Final score

Final score

It was Halloween whilst we were in Seattle so we headed to the nearest Target to locate Alyssa a costume, Cat Woman to be exact. We were lucky enough to find that only 10 minutes walk away the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce was holding its Annual Hilloween carnival. The main hall of the Community Centre was full of games for the kids including toss the ghost doll through the haunted house, a spider web maze and balloon pop to name a few. For every turn the child received a piece of candy or chocolate. After about an hour of fun and games a brass band arrived, played a few up tempo tunes and then led the kids (and families in tow) down Broadway street just like the Pied Piper. What a fun and joyous time. Afterwards Alyssa trick or treated in our apartment building with residents dressed up, some playing Michael Jackson's Thriller and all full of cheer.

Hilloween

Hilloween

The guide book suggested a trip to Leavenworth, about 90 minutes West of Seattle. Once again we were joined by Cappy who offered to drive us as he too was keen for the visit. Our first stop though was the Maltby Café, famous for the World’s Largest Cinnamon Roll and probably the largest breakfast we have ever seen. Suffice to say when we left we were full and satisfied for essentially the remainder of the day. Leavenworth is an Alpine town in one of the few ski areas in Washington. Although a Sunday and technically not the tourist season there was still happening and we all noted that a visit during Christmas with snow on the ground would be quite magical.

Maltby's Cafe

Maltby's Cafe


Leavenworth

Leavenworth

On one of our final days we again joined Cappy and Yvonne, this time for a tour of the Underground. The tour commences at Pioneer Square, the birthplace of Seattle which is named after local tribal leader Chief Sealth. The Seattle Underground is a network of underground passageways and basements that were originally ground level. Seattle’s first buildings were wooden and a fire in 189 destroyed 31 blocks. Instead of rebuilding the city as it was, city leaders ensured all new buildings were of stone or brick and also to regrade the streets one to two stories higher than the original street grade. For the regrade, the streets were lined with concrete walls that formed narrow alleyways between the walls and buildings on both sides of the street. The tour was an interesting and informative 90 minute stroll, however will always be remembered for not 10 minutes into the tour a massive rat ran across both Ronnie and Yvonne’s feet soon followed by screams of surprise … or maybe fear. Following the tour we had a Brooklyn style pizza (biggest and best pizza I have ever had) and finally some Gelato before saying our goodbyes.

Underground Tour 1

Underground Tour 1


Underground Tour 2

Underground Tour 2


Brooklyn pizza

Brooklyn pizza


With Cappy and Yvonne

With Cappy and Yvonne

Posted by V3USA 16:15 Comments (2)

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