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Trip Report Lcuy's Portland Trip Report

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Well, I had a great week in Portland. The official reason was to settle my daughter in school again. Of course, I could have hired a full time chauffeur and personal shopper for a lot less than inviting myself along! I admit it, I LOVE Portland. The shopping, the food, and I also have some friends and relatives to visit as well.

Those of you who follow such things know that I have been taking advantage of the deals offered through the Portland Visitors Association to try different hotels. I go there so often, I wanted to find my favorite. Their summer deals are not quite as good as the winter ones, but still include free parking and 2 breakfasts (or a monetary credit instead of breakfast). Last spring, I stayed at the 5th Ave Suites, the Westin, the Heathman, and before that stayed numerous times at Kennedy School and Edgefield.

This trip, I sampled 5th Ave Suites, RiverPlace Hotel, the Downtown Marriott, and the Benson. Ill go into the details below, but have to say that 5th Ave Suites is still my favorite hotel.

We got in quite a lot of good dining this time...Paleys, Higgins, ClarkLewis, Henrys on 12th, Noble Rot, Henrys Café (on Clinton), Bread & Ink, Elephant Deli, and Jakes.

I managed to do a bit of shopping for myself - NW 23rd, the Pearl, SE Hawthorne, Pioneer Plaza- but mainly spent time in Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot and Office Depot, as this is where college kids furnish their dorms. (And that WAS my reason for being in Portland! ;-) )

So, on to my reviews:

I decided to start my trip at the 5th Ave Suites, especially since I had my daughter and her friend the first two nights. We got a junior suite for $179 per night including 2 breakfasts and parking. I love their parking as it is right in the building and your car is available immediately.

Our room 321 was beautiful. Kind of a long trek from the elevator, but really quiet and had high ceilings so felt huge. We had a king bedroom separated from the living room by french doors. The living room had a queen sofa bed, and additional desk and tv armoire. The king bed was divinely comfortable with Frette sheets, a down duvet, a body pillow and teddy bear. I didnt sleep in the sofa bed, but the girl who did said it was very comfortable- not at all like a sofa! Wired and wireless internet access are both free.

One thing about here is that room service stops at midnight (or 11pm?), so since we checked in at that time, we headed out for dinner. Jakes looked good, but we got booted to the outside tables as Oregon won?t allow under 21's to eat in bar settings. We ate from the very limited night menu and had front row seats to some excitement involving fast cars and police in the next block.

The next day, we ordered room service breakfast, which came right on time, but the child who opened the door went back to sleep without waking us, so it was lucky we had no hot foods!

We did some wandering/shopping out on NW 23rd, then had a light lunch at Miso Hapi. This is a small Asian restaurant- not sure if Vietnamese or Thai...We love it as the sauces are very light and the vegetables incredibly fresh. Their sizzling soup with puffed rice is just perfect. They have another branch in downtown, I think.

For dinner, five of us went to Paleys. What can I say? It was one of my best meals EVER! We ordered a selection of starters, entrees, and desserts and shared family style. Their rose martini was memorable, as were the wines, the onion tart, the squash fritters, hand cut fries, and mixed seafood grill. The chocolate mousse was a dessert I will crave till the next trip- crisp exterior with hazelnuts and melted chocolate inside and honey vanilla ice cream.

The service was perfect, the room was filled with interesting people, Not too loud, and dim enough to be romantic without being too dark. Total bill for with tip was $165.00.

At the end, we had a fun chat with Kim Paley, who once taught dance near me in Hawaii. She told us about their Wine Wednesdays where each week has themed wine tasting and tapas. Ill be back for that next trip!

The next day we got up a bit earlier and did our college shopping in time to have lunch at Henrys on 12th Ave. This is a new place in the old Weinhard Brewery on Burnside (a block from Powells Books). It was pouring rain, so coming into this warm lively place was just perfect. There is a huge bar, and pool tables upstairs, but we ate in the main area. It is hard to describe the place...kind of Dave & Busters with much more elegant decor and better food? Glad we tried the onion rings. They are half onions, battered with something crunchy and come stacked up on a plate with a pole in the middle. Not greasy, and wonderful sauce.

Again we all shared our food- great soups, thick hamburgers, some vegetarian dishes, and a pad Thai. $66 for four of us. No dessert this time, and we took home lots of leftovers.

When we finished, it was still just pouring. Happily, the manager snuck us upstairs and down a hall thru the keg storage room to the employee elevator. It dropped us right into the underground parking lot, saving us walking a block outside!

As the kids would be staying in their dorms from now on, we headed over to check me into the Larkspur RiverPlace for two nights. This turned out to be a huge disappointment (sorry Kim!). On a positive note, the lobby and rooms are pretty. But...the valets were totally indifferent, the front desk clerks were snippy and make you sign ( in duplicate) a paper stating when you?ll leave and what time is check-out, etc.. Weird.

The room was poorly lit, and when my friend arrived for dinner, the front desk clerk sent her to outside saying I was out checking the river view (We were up in the room waiting for her).

The location is okay if you won?t be going into town, but too far to walk anywhere except along the river. The bottles of water left kindly on the bedstand are $3 each, but this is not mentioned on the minibar list.

The hotel restaurant (Three Degrees) was more like a dressed up Bobs Big Boy than fine dining. Despite only three occupied tables, the waitress managed to forget one dish, bring one that was entirely wrong, and bring all of them cold. The `gourmet` mac & cheese was inedible, the prime rib sandwich more like chipped beef. Our water & drinks were never refilled and we had to get up to ask for our bill.

To top it off, when I returned to the hotel about 11 that evening, there were some pretty scary guys using the cul de sac in front of RP to ride their bikes. I waited in my car for the valet for 4 minutes ( I could see him inside) then finally jumped out and ran in with my keys.

The nicest thing I can say is that they didn?t argue when I asked to cancel the next nights stay.

Wanting to be any place but there, I used Priceline the next morning for the first time. I ended up with a room at the Benson for $67 ( no parking or breakfast). This is one of those old elegant hotels. The location was good...right on Broadway. Not quite in the center of things, but certainly within walking distance. The staff were very nice, and reminded me of the free wine tasting from 5 to 6 pm. Room 918 had a decent view, and was nice with lots of bright lighting. It was comfortable, but old fashioned - no feather comforters, just a bed with blanket and bedspread. Internet access was $9.95 a day and only wired or dial-up. The carpet was very old and grey- one of those you arent sure if its dirty or just ugly. The bathroom was standard hotel style, but very clean and had lots of nice lotions and shampoos.

With no kids and no friends that day, I did some shopping . Had a great lunch at Bread & Ink out on 34th & SE Hawthorne.

For dinner, my girlfriend, her DXH, and I went to Noble Rot. I had the Willamette Pinot Noir flight (Three 2oz glasses for $13) and we got an olive plate, the bean salad, and a bread plate. We had planned to fill up on Tapas but the menu was much smaller than expected. It was a great wine bar, but we ended up getting food elsewhere that evening.

Next day was my last hotel sample. I had chosen the Marriott on Broadway, just to check out a cheaper hotel ($119 with parking and Breakfast). It was a block up from the Benson, so still a decent location. Room 513 was very basic though...no bathrobes, no internet, no mini bar, no hotel guide or room service menu...but nice staff and clean room with feather comforter on the bed. The cars are parked far, far away. Even with 10 minutes notice, I still had to wait 7 minutes for my car.

Ate lunch at Elephants Deli downtown, It is on the backside of Banana Republic (near Nordstrom). I always enjoy lunch here. It feels like a Parisian café. They have lots of pre-made gourmet sandwiches and salads, and a fresh soups and hot dishes made to order. I had a salami sandwich on Italian roll with pear/butternut squash soup, and a lemon bar. There are tables but lots of town workers order takeout.

This night was another great dinner, at Higgins. Ive been wanting to try this place for a while now, and I was not disappointed. The restaurant in beautiful. Lively without being loud, lots of suits, but we felt comfortable with more casual clothes.

The owner is very into supporting local, organic farmers and it showed. Fabulous heirloom tomatoes with buffalo cheese and basil, corn chowder, a huge pasta with pesto hazelnuts and tomatoes, fresh salads, risotto with shrimp, a mezze plate with hummus, baba ganouj and other interesting items.

The service was just awesome, really professional- always there just before you needed them.

Next day, had brunch at Henrys café on 27th and Clinton. Its one of those little hole in the wall places that are all over Portland. I had a BLT with salad and my girlfriend had a Crocque Monsieur with salad. Comfort food, but better. Total bill $12.

Later drove out to the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts. They have a wonderful gallery with art, ceramic and jewelry by students and Portland artists. Also have a great little café. Sunday brunch is worth the drive.

Spent the last two nights at my friends house in Portland. I would have returned to 5th Ave, but she has a new old house, so took advantage!

Our last night, we finally got into ClarkLewis. Despite some mixed reviews, we quite enjoyed it. They are in a renovated warehouse on the east side of the river, and so new they arent in the phone book. The menu is a bit confusing... you order small, large, or family portions and some are priced per person, others per plate. Our waiter was very good in not letting us over-order.

All the starter dishes were based on fresh, interesting vegetables. We loved the salad with figs and goat cheese, the seared scallops on heirloom tomatoes, and the fried green tomatoes. They had several pasta dishes; ours was a bit overcooked. You pay for any bread. There were two fish dishes, also lamb, suckling pig, or squab. No other meats that night.

This is definitely a place where yuppie types go to be seen, especially in the bar. Be careful to mention if you have under 21s in your party, there are limited tables where minors can be seated. The desserts here were also awesome. The panna cotta, the cobbler, and the lemon cake were all heavenly. Our bill for 4 with 2 martinis was $89.00 so it was quite reasonable.

So in the end, a very fun trip. Paleys and Higgins were the dining winners, and I still rate 5th Avenue Suites way over the rest of the downtown hotels.

Cant wait to go back!!

Lucy

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