Portland – Vancouver – Seattle with a side of poison oak

What a beautiful and friendly area! I don’t think I heard a single person honk at someone in Portland. Everyone is just genuinely friendly. We got really lucky – it was sunny and low 70s most of the time bought a raincoat and only needed it to keep warm in the evenings. Down side was I apparently am allergic to poison oak because it was nasty. Some of the hives were pancake sized, blisters, and then when the swelling started I went to the ER. Then a follow up trip the next day to an urgent care that finally diagnosed the poison oak. It sucked but didn’t let it mess with the awesome time we had.

For starters 7 days in 4 cities was a little too tight. I was happy to have seen Vancouver, the suspension bridge was really cool (more on that later) and the food was great but I wish we had just headed over to Seattle after Victoria we really didn’t see any of Seattle.
Just means another trip.

2016-05-02 Portland - next to our hotel

So Portland has different areas to explore. We stayed downtown near Pioneer Square. No matter where you stay it’s easy to walk everywhere and there was only one place near the Burnside Bridge where I started to feel nervous. The downtown area has lots of restaurants, hotels, office buildings, parks the usual.

Our hotel The Heathman was lovely. The original hotel was across the street and is now The Picnic House. 2 brothers built the first hotel and made so much money the first 2 years that they built a second hotel across the street. The second and now current Heathman was more lavish than the first so people stayed there instead of the at the first one and they put their first hotel out of business. The current one stayed open. Check in and out was easy, they had help when we needed it. The front desk was friendly and happy to suggest restaurants and areas to check out. The rooms were a little small but as to be expected in an historic hotel. In the lobby they had a little chocolate shop that had drinking chocolate (with shots of espresso) – so good.

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Chinatown is just to the north of downtown –
there’s the beautiful Lan Su Chinese Garden there
where you can have tea over looking the koi pond.
We didn’t have time to go but it’s on my list for next time.

Just to the west of Chinatown is The Pearl –
really cute trendy area converted warehouses,
restaurants, shops, parks etc.
We walked there from the hotel and had lunch and
a snack while exploring.

Daily Cafe in The Pearl

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Every place has crazy flowers – stuff that would cost $12 a stem here are like carnations to them. Loved the big rolls of paper they used for the daily specials and the serve yourself cucumber or plain water. Menu was a little bit of everything but all of it local and fresh. The lady at the counter was so friendly – these people are just happy.

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Cute shop in The Pearl – can’t remember the name.

2016-05-02 Portland - The Pearl local shop

Afternoon snack at The Pearl Bakery ok first not so nice guy.
But the other guy was awesome, went and found
fresh out of the oven brownies for us.

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Back downtown to The Nines Hotel where we had drinks at Departure – this place is a very modern bar on the roof of the hotel. When you get off the elevator it looks like you’re in queue for Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom. Fun cool music that’s not too loud because they get you are there to talk to your friends, the music is just background. Once again, everyone is friendly and happy. Bartenders were on top of it. Most people were sitting outside on the rooftop but believe it or not it was too hot and sunny for us!

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Then on to dinner at The Picnic House, mentioned earlier as the original Heathman Hotel. It was pretty good. A little too pricy there were things with the décor that were cool and other things that were just off. The food was good but felt like they were trying a little too hard. But once again great service.

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Remnants of the old lobby of the original Heathman Hotel. Not pictured are the Lion House rolls with pistachio and thyme butter and the edamame and pea hummus with ricotta, mint, sunflower seeds, and pickled onion. All really good. Above is the smoked salmon mousse with duck rillette and pickled onions.

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buttermilk fried chicken with hot honey, chicken gravy, and
pineapple slaw that was really good

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Bacon and beef meatloaf with a tomato jam,
mashed potatoes and green beans – delicious
White cheddar, roasted broccoli, pickled apple mac and cheese
with a potato chip crust also really good.

 To the west of The Pearl is NW 23rd –
upscale shopping, restored old homes, lots of restaurant
options and it’s right next to Washington Park.

We had breakfast at Besaws – a 100 year old restaurant
in a brand new building. Once again outstanding service
and delicious food and drinks.

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Blake had The Continental – vodka, cold brew coffee,
strawberry rhubarb puree, fresh lime, and cava it sounds crazy
– crazy good.

Cider braised oatmeal with poached rhubarb, lemon curd, and walnuts
Avocado toast with feta, sunflower seeds, radish, and cilantro

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The farmers hash with bacon, asparagus, onion,
roasted potatoes and garlic, cheddar, greens,
and a scratch biscuit
Zucchini French toast with basil anglaise and granola
– so stupid good!!

We stopped at the City Market and grabbed a picnic lunch
for later then headed to  Pittock Mansion – built in 1914,
the home, view and gardens were beautiful
Now after you’ve walked all over town you’re going to
realize things are closer then they appear on the map.
So you’re going to feel all like
– Oh we can easily walk up to the mansion.
Except the sidewalk runs out on Burnside St which
is a pretty busy highway and not only is it a pretty steep climb
and very windy road there’s only a  small shoulder to walk on.
Just call Uber, trust me.

But it’s awesome once you get up there!

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After the tour we took the Wildwood Trail from the mansion’s parking lot down the mountain across Burnside Street and continued through Washington Park to the Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden. The path is natural but very easy to walk in regular sneakers (this is probably where I got the poison oak). We passed several other hikers but it wasn’t crowded with people. The trees are moss covered giant pines with fern and ivy everywhere.
It couldn’t have been more picturesque.

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Washington Park is huge there are parts that are just wild trails like above and parts that run next to neighborhoods. Follow the signs along the path to the Japanese Garden and you’ll come right off the trail to the garden. Originally Portland Zoo was built in the spot on the hill where the Rose Garden is. Then is was moved up higher and they built the Rose Garden. Then they moved the Zoo again up higher and built the Japanese Garden. The Zoo is still there along with several other gardens. The park would take days to see everything.

Japanese Garden in Washington Park

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Then we walked over to the Rose Garden and had our picnic lunch.
The rose garden unfortunately wasn’t
in bloom yet but lovely anyways.

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Lunch on a bench –

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From the garden it was an easy walk back to the hotel.
We walked through several really pretty neighborhoods.
If you have a car drive around King’s Hill – Park Place dead ends
into the entrance of Washington Park.

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Oven and Shaker is definitely a favorite in The Pearl –
the best mint chocolate chip ice cream I’ve ever had.
But everything was just so good.

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Honey Basil Collins
Cazzilli potato, salami and parmigiano croquettes with chevre aioli
Arancini wild mushrooms risotto, smoked mozzarella,
and tomato ragu

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Maple Pig, apple butter, bacon, ham, mascarpone,
and ricotta – arugula added
Wild fennel sausage, tomato, smoked mozzarella, potato,
and mama lil’s peppers

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Then holy crap the desserts –
which aren’t on the menu so I’ll try to remember…

Mint chocolate chip ice cream with the freshest mint ever.
It tasted like you were biting into a mint leaf.

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Chocolate olive oil cake with fresh ice cream
espresso fudge and cherries
Strawberry rhubarb with shortbread cookie,
olive oil and pistachios

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The next day we explored the Columbia River Gorge. We used Sea to Summit for the tour which I really recommend because they will tell you all about the history of the area and take you to spots others might not know about. Our guide was really nice and the pace was easy. They pick you up at Pioneer Square and you can get your tickets in advance online.

Breakfast before the tour at Public Domain, across from Pioneer Park.
There is coffee everywhere in Portland in fact you just smell
it all the time which is so nice. So really it’s not hard to
find a good place for coffee. This place also had
nice pastries to choose from as well.

2016-05-04 Portland - Public Domain

The tour took us along the Historic Columbia River Highway. The highway was built 100 years ago to be scenic so people in their model T’s could travel along and enjoy the view. All along the highway were rest stops and little inns. Most have burned down but a few are still there. The first we stopped at was Vista House. Just a rest stop but it’s exactly the same now as it was in the original pictures.

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Then onto Latourell Falls – an easy hike to falls from the street.
All the falls are on Google maps.
You could just take the highway yourself
and stop at each fall. They are pretty well marked.
But you won’t get all the cool history like you would in the tours.

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Then Multnomah Falls – there’s a restored historic lodge there as well.
Definitely the busiest of the falls we stopped at but I will still stop.
You can really see the moss on the trees here.

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Our last stop was the dam and salmon hatchery which was very interesting. The guide stopped at a little place on the island where you can see the sea lions. The sea lions eat about 20% of the salmon when they are spawning. Which apparently is unacceptable because the hatchery tries to catch them, tag them, then move them.
But the sea lions figured out that if they block the opening
of the cage the automatic doors won’t close.
So instead they lounge around on the platforms.

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After the tour we were starving – the lovely staff at the Heathman Hotel recommended South Park Seafood perfect,
it was just a few blocks from our hotel as well.

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Oysters fresh from the bay – beet, fennel, watercress,
pistachio brittle salad
Shishito peppers fried with lemon and sea salt
Brussels sprouts with gochujang, cilantro, and peanuts
Spicy shrimp and grits – and a juicy burger with fries

Then for dinner – it was a pre-fixe 6 course dinner with a little something to start and end the meal. They have 2 seatings and 2 community tables so you get to meet new people. The chef creates there right in front of you in the cozy space. The waiter did an excellent job explaining what we were eating and was happy to answer my many questions.
Everything was just over the top.

Beast

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2016-05-04 Portland - Beast 2

House made ritz cracker with local sausage for the amuse bouche

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Mesquite grilled tuna, shaved porcini, black garlic
vinaigrette with hazelnuts
Spring ravioli house made ricotta, green garlic verte and parmesan

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Harissa rubbed lamb roast, new potatoes, carrots, peas, with
preserved lemon and mint
Roasted beets, shaved turnips, smoked yogurt, watercress,
and Japanese ginger

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Cow’s milk burrata, compressed green strawberries, shaved
asparagus with aged balsamic
Chicory semifredo with dark chocolate sorbet, puffed rice,
and espresso crème

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Foie gras on peanut shortbread with sauterne gelatins

This meal was heaven.

Next stop was Victoria and Vancouver BC

We drove from Portland up to Port Angeles to ferry across to Victoria BC. For this ferry it’s pretty small and they only have 2 times a day they travel to Victoria so probably a good idea to reserve a space online in advance. You have to get there an hour ahead of time, pull your car up and park it. Then you can leave the car until 30 minutes before the ferry leaves when they start to load the cars. There were several small restaurants in the area. I don’t suggest Downriggers on the Water. Let’s put it this way the place was huge and we were the only ones in there. Not a good sign. The other spots about a block away on the main street were busy. Probably a better bet.

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Once you drive off you’ll drive through customs.
They just need to see your passport it was very easy.

Victoria was a cute little town all along a bay. We were able to easily walk from one end to the other. We stayed at the Fairmont Empress. I’m going to show you a few pictures but I really wasn’t happy with this place. They charged 5 star rates for a 3 star experience. It was very disappointing. I know the outside looks impressive but the rooms were really small, no a/c, and half the hotel was under construction.
The service was not up to the standards of a hotel like that.

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The tea was in a balcony area that overlooked the temporary check in area, the waiters were like waiters in a diner not a high end restaurant, the menu for tea was nothing special and the quality of the food was C+. Also, very expensive. I’ve had a lot better, a lot of other places. So aside from the poison oak (which by the way just started to show up the morning we left here) this was the only other negative part of the trip. With all that said I would still have gone to
Victoria, the gardens were well worth it.
I just wouldn’t stay at this hotel or waste money on the tea.

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The bay area has mostly hotels and government buildings. On the opposite end from the Fairmont is a little fisherman’s wharf area that is definitely touristy but interesting at the same time. It’s a bunch of floating buildings. Some are places you can stay and some are restaurants and shops. The sea lions swim right up and beg. Cute. Most of the restaurants
we passed were very touristy and nothing I’d like.

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This was an apartment building along the bay instead of a lawn
they had a pond. It was pretty cool.

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View from our room at night.

Our breakfast at Jam Café was delicious. There’s usually a wait, but weekdays and early you should be ok. We sat at the counter.

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Regular breakfast with bruleed grapefruit –
beautiful bowl of fruit with not one melon in site

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Scratch biscuit with mushroom gravy and tomato jam –
house made granola with yogurt and fruit

Now on to the reason we were in Victoria. At Epcot in the Canadian pavilion they have the Frontenac Hotel (which we’ve been too) and Butchart Gardens. My grandmother loved Epcot and really loved those particular gardens. I wanted to see the actual gardens the replica at Epcot is based on. It was spectacular. No matter where you stood or looked every nook and cranny of that place was tended to. The Butchart family built there home there over 100 years ago and had a cement factory near by. They traveled and loved bringing home specimens from their travels. Mrs. Butchart first built a Japanese garden then a formal Italian garden, then a rose garden, then a large lawn so guest could enjoy music on the lawn and picnic, then when the quarry next to the cement factory was exhausted she turned it into a sunken garden which is what the Epcot garden is fashioned after. People are just wandering around silently admiring it all.

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 If I lived there I would visit this garden every week. We talked to a lady who does and she says the beds change almost daily. The family still owns the house and gardens and run it.
They take spectacular care of it.

We left the garden and took the ferry to Vancouver. Here’s where I would have changed things. If I had to do it again I would have gone straight to Seattle so we could have had a couple of extra days there. Vancouver was nice and the Capilano Suspension Bridge
was cool but I wish I had seen more of Seattle.

We stayed at the Georgian Court Hotel in Vancouver. Very nice hotel. Didn’t take any pictures. But I would stay there again.
It was a good location as well.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge was built 1889 by George Mackay who owned land on both sides of the river and had a cabin on one side and built the bridge out of hemp rope and cedar planks. It soon become a destination for adventurous friends. In 1914 Edward Mahon built a Tea House and improved the bridge. The bridge has only been rebuilt a handful of time the last time being in 1956 in just 5 days. The bridge is so strong a 75 ton tree fell on it during a storm and it didn’t budge. Now there are sky walks along the cliffs, nature trails, and it’s all done with nature in mind. Using logs and stones
instead of plastic and concrete. Very well done.

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potato and leek pastry with cane cola – yum.

Dinner was at the Homer Street Café – once again a delicious dinner. Outstanding service. Everyone is just so friendly in that whole area.

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We all got fish – steelhead salmon, cod, and trout but apparently their rotisserie chicken which you could see cooking in the open kitchen is what they are famous for.

The next day is was lunch at Small Victory Bakery
just more of the same  really good fresh food with great service.

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The very kind ER doctor suggested we go to Vig’s for dinner. An Indian restaurant that doesn’t take reservations and you’ll have to wait 2 hours but the bar is fun to watch and Vig personally greets everyone and passes out appetizers while you wait. You felt like you were a guest in his home. The wait staff was outstanding. The food once again delicious. A little spicy though. I did notice if you don’t want to wait just come at 10pm and you’ll get right in. But then you’ll also miss all the fun in the bar.

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The mixed drinks were great with names like Sari not Sari

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Raw sugar and ghee braised squash with mushrooms –
Khoa paranta with tangy tomato-onion chutney

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endless naan bread that they just seemed to show up at the table
just as we needed it

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Garam masala sautéed mushrooms in a porcini cream curry
Lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on turmeric
and spinach potatoes

What a great evening.

Brunch was at Wildebeest before we headed to Seattle.
One of the best brunches I’ve ever had.

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Wild mushroom and house cured bacon omelet –
Croque Madam with greens

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And then there was the Dutch Baby – a German oven baked pancake. Holy hell it was good. I’ve heard of them but never had one. It’s lighter than a regular pancake but not eggy like a crepe. It’s very similar to Yorkshire pudding or a popover. Inside was a light layer of raspberry jam, citrus segments, granny smith apples, fresh ricotta, and bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. I will be making this at home.

Full of wonderful food we drove to Seattle for the last leg of this trip.

Checked into our hotel – Hotel 1000
downtown Seattle a few blocks from Pike’s Place Market.
Beautiful large room with a huge bathroom.
Perfect service and priced really well.
Next time we go to Seattle I’m staying there.

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 That night we ate at The Walrus and The Carpenter
I use Eater.com to look up cool places to eat when we plan a vacation. It’s really hard to find stuff that isn’t touristy. If you ask anyone at the hotel they tend to send you to what they think a tourist wants instead just the really good local places. This place was on the list at eater.com. Then after looking into it I also saw it featured on Andrew Zimmerns’ show Bizarre Foods (not sure why it was on Bizarre Foods not really very bizarre just really fresh) It’s in a little neighborhood about a 10 min Uber ride from downtown in an old converted building. There’s another restaurant in the front. You walk down a long hallway to the back of the building where Barnacles (their bar) is and The Walrus and The Carpenter. They have an outdoor balcony area on nice days. As with everywhere else exceptionally friendly people. Even in the hippest trendiest places. Also so happy you are there and so ready to make your time there awesome. No reservation, they put our name down and said they’d come get us in the bar. As soon as we walked into the bar someone was helping us, and it was packed with people. The bartender showed us where to hang our jackets and handed us a little plate of Lays chips and asked what he could get us. Table was ready in 30 min so we just had enough time to finish our drinks but they have appetizers in the bar too if the wait is longer.

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The kitchen is open so you can see all the activity.

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Marinated olives – fresh bread with whipped sea salted butter

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Toasted baguette with local honey and black pepper
and Freya’s wheel cheese

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An assortment of fresh oysters from local bays – Salmon crudo

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Artichoke, fresh yogurt, pine nuts – Steak tartar with rye toast

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Fried oysters with cilantro aioli

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Maple bread pudding with espresso butter sauce and whipped cream –
Roasted dates with vanilla oil and salt

Nothing crazy just really really fresh and assembled
in an interesting way.

The next morning we had to head to the airport but before we did we managed to stop by Pike’s Place Market, get a piroshky from Piroshky Piroshky – the original is potato and onion, my favorite was the beef and cheese, we also tried the fresh rhubarb and the ham cheese and spinach. All really good. Don’t let the line fool you. It’s out the door but it’s a really tiny place and the line moves really fast.

Also got to stop in the original Starbucks.

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And then sadly we headed home. We were really lucky to have had amazing weather while we were there. Not one drop of rain. When we go back I’ll be sure to bring our rain jackets again and this time we’ll see more of Seattle.