It feels like T-ball all over again… In fact, it has for the past two years as my wife Sue and I have traversed the Northwest to attend every, stress the “every,” Whitman College women’s lacrosse game. Whitman is one of the top western liberal arts schools located in Walla Walla, Washington (think sweet onions and spectacular red wine…but that is all for another post) and my daughter Kenna is back at it again for her Junior season. So of course Sue and I, stress the “Sue,” and I are back at it as well, stalking these young athletes all over Washington, Oregon and Idaho, just like we followed our t-ball and soccer midgets around the local parks of Tacoma oh so many years ago. The difference is that now the Missionaries of Whitman (yup…honest to goodness, they are the fighting Missionaries) play other small colleges as well as the behemoths of the Pac-12 like the University of Washington and Oregon State University all over the northwest and all under the umbrella of the NW Women’s Lacrosse Association. Who knew?
I could complain about the long drives or trips to the airport for short flights just to watch a sport I am still struggling to understand, but the reality is that these weekend tournaments take us to some fabulous cities and great college towns. They have become our late winter/early spring mini-vacations and the perfect excuse to avoid yard work!
This past President’s Day weekend took us to Portland, OR for the first tournament of the 2012 season. Located about two hours south of our hometown of Tacoma, WA, at the confluence of the mighty Columbia and Willamette rivers, the “City of Roses” has both a rich history and a great deal to offer the modern traveler. Founded in 1843 when a Tennessee drifter, William Overton, and his buddy, a Boston lawyer named Asa Lovejoy, were canoeing down the Willamette and beached on a rocky shore to soak in the magnificence of the water, the mountains and the old growth fir trees as far as the eye could see. The two purchased two 640 acre land grants for 25 cents each and started logging, building roads and constructing the first few buildings. After a few years, Overton sold out to Francis Pettygrove and got the heck out of Dodge…I mean Portland. The name is actually the result of an 1845 wager between Lovejoy and Pettygrove. Having won two out of three coin flips, Pettygrove, a Maine native, elected Portland as the moniker of choice over the name Lovejoy’s would have designated…Boston!
When it was incorporated in 1851, Portland was the second largest city in the northwest, with some 1,500 loggers, fishermen, farmers and cattlemen. Portland was then and remains today a transportation hub, due to its proximity to major waterways, the Pacific Ocean, rail and major highways. The Union Depot, built in 1894 and still standing today, served a daily volume of more than 90 trains per day at the turn of the 20th century. But it was the Lewis and Clark Exposition and World’s Fair that put Portland in the national and international spotlights in 1905. More than three million travelers visited the banks of the Willamette River that year, just 100 years after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark floated on the Columbia past modern-dayPortland on the final legs of their transcontinental expedition commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson.
The “City of Roses” acquired its nickname as a result of the first annual rose festival held in 1907, an event that remains the city’s quintessential bash of the year still today. While Portland had its initial commercial roots firmly planted in logging, farming and other agricultural ventures, it became an early adaptor of the textile, paper and metal manufacturing boom of the industrial age. It was and remains a blue collar town, though it is also now home to Nike, Adidas, Doc Marten, and huge Intel campus and many other high tech corporations.
OK, so you have your history lesson, but what the heck do you do when you are in town for a couple of days on business or for pleasure? The downtown core was designed with walking in mind, though it also boasts a world class public transportation system comprised of buses, vintage trolleys, light rail and even peddle taxis. You can easily walk or ride to OMSI (a world class science museum), the Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Garden (with more than 8,000 bushes of course!) or the Portland Art Museum (the 7th oldest in the country and oldest in the Pacific NW!).
Of course you can and should visit all of these attractions, but if you only have a little time and want to quickly soak in Portland, head to the Pearl District. I am a man of the streets and want to “feel” the history and vibe of my cities. OK, in truth I just love great food, spectacular architecture, cool neighborhoods and trendy shops and art galleries. Bingo…the Pearl District, an award winning, internationally recognized leader in urban renewal that began in the early 1990s. Born out of the ashes of the city’s dilapidated warehouse district, the Pearl is now synonymous with the word gentrification. A quick stroll from any of the downtown hotels lands you in the heart of old bricks, mortar and steel that is now home to chic condos, ethnic restaurants, designer boutiques , a brewery district and the world’s largest bookstore.
If you are the outdoor type, or just want to look like you are, you can shop at REI, Patagonia, NorthFace and Keen all within a stone’s throw from each other. Remember that fleece is the primary staple of NW fashion! Boutiques and home décor shops are on every corner and sport, or more likely set the latest trends. Sure there is a Starbucks on one of the main corners, but indulge in one of the 15-20 independent cafes to be found in the Pearl. Seattle may have Starbucks, but Portlanders know coffee and love their cafes. LoveJoy’s Bakery, just north of Johnson Square Park is a must for breakfast or lunch. Try an egg, butter and Fontina cheese sandwich served on a cibatta roll or perhaps a fried egg, Blue d’Auvergn cheese, bacon, butter, tarragon and frisee concoction along with your exquisite espresso drink or mimosa. For lunch it could be a roasted beet, frisee and citrus with Cypress Grove cheese salad or Mozzarella di Bufala, eggplant and tomato jam sandwich on rustic peasant bread, paired with a smooth Oregon Pinot Noir that tickle your taste buds.
If you are a fan of beer, the Pearl offers an abundance of local breweries and taverns serving the best of Portland’s 25+ microbrewery beers on tap. The first and perhaps most famous was Henry Wienhards, established in 1864 at the south end of the Pearl. The current buildings date back to 1908 and legend has it that with business so popular by the late 19th century, Mr. Weinhard offered to pipe his beer directly to a nearby public fountain. Local civic leaders appreciated, but declined the offer. For a more upscale dining experience in the evening, consider Andina (haute cusine from Peru), Giorgio’s (fine Italian) or Copia (a wonderful wine bar with great food).
Finally, any visit to the Pearl District would not be complete without a stop (or perhaps and entire day) at Powell Books, quite literally the largest bookstore in the world according to the Guiness Book of World Records. From its humble beginnings on a derelict street corner in 1971, the store envisioned by Chicago transplant Michael Powell has grown into a 68,000sf “city of books.” This literary fortress, at 10th and Burnside, occupies an entire block and is divided into ten “rooms” on four floors. It is so
mammoth in size that a detailed map and concierge service is provided to get you around. The rare book room on the fourth floor houses signed first editions, extraordinary art and history books and tomes dating back to the early 17th century, all ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands! It is almost worth traveling to Portland just to experience Powells!
So if you find yourself in the City of Roses and do not have a whole lot of time, make sure you find the hidden gem that is the Pearl!
OH YEAH, I ALMOST FORGOT!!! Those fighting Missionaries came back from a three goal deficit in the last two minutes of the game to tie the dreaded Beavers from Oregon State University 12-12…apparently no overtime in lacrosse.
See you on the road!!!
When you go, consider the Embassy Suites at the Multnomah Hotel, the Benson or the Heathman if you enjoy luxury historic hotels or the Hotel Lucia, the Hotel Monaco or the Vintage Plaza for upscale boutique experiences. For downtown dining outside of the Pearl District, try Mothers (comfort food with a gourmet twist), Mamma Mia’s (fine Italian), Laurelhurst Market (meat), Paley’s Place (French) or Grumer (Alpine/German). For a truly bizarre experience, line up with the crazies to indulge in a Voodoo Doughnut topped with Skittles, Fruit Loops, bacon or just about any other topping you can imagine…or do not want to. You can even wash your treat down with a maple bacon brown ale brewed specially for Voodoo by local artisan Rogue Ales. Yuck!