03 May 2010

I love a good vacation!

(Photographs copyright 2010, all rights reserved.)

I'm back! Despair not, for there will be SHADDAPS! all over the place in the next couple of weeks.

We went West this year.....ok, we usually go west, but this time we went to a city that I have never been before, namely Portland, Oregon.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I just like all things West. Westerners are more laid back. They're in less of a hurry. They don't seem to rush to judgment like people from other parts of the country. I should say continent, because Western Canadians are pretty much the same. In short, they just see fun in life a little quicker than most.

Portland is a gorgeous city. I have to sift through my photos and I'll post them for you later if you're interested - if not, tell me and I'll post them anyway. What the heck, It's my blog, right? The gardens are stunning. Washington Park is a wonderful resource for the city, a beautiful retreat for urbanites who need some green and downtime. We walked, we ate (Park Kitchen, Gruner, 23 Hoyt - all fabulous) we took some pictures, it was lovely.

There are craft breweries. Lots and lots of them. One young man told me that Portland is called "Beervana", and I can see why. The creativity of the brewers there is legendary. You cannot go wrong in a pub there - it's all good.

Our main goal was not the city of Portland, though. Always remember that we are Wine People, and that Oregon is the home of Pinot Noir. It was wineries we were after, and The Boy was determined to go to the people who produce some utterly spectacular wine and buy "from the farm gate" as it were.

See, many of the producers that we like are very small. They often make less than a thousand cases of wine in a season. Because of this, distributors aren't interested in dealing with them. The small producers have limited access to the markets and a lot of them aren't even interested in selling all over the place. Their entire production goes to certain restaurants and people who belong to their wine clubs as well as locals. You have to go to the winery to buy from them and everyone's good with that. (Westerners, remember?)

Doing this takes a little research. The last time we were in that area, about 15 or so years ago, there were maybe 20 wineries in the area. Now, there are over 100. Many of them have tasting rooms that are open to the public. Some of them are by appointment only. Research is in order, and phoning ahead is crucial. We went early in the year. A few of the tasting rooms were not to open until the beginning of May.

But going early was a good thing. See, there are a lot of people who do what we did. A LOT. During the summer, the Willamette (say it like Dammit) area is lousy with tourists, all tasting wine with some buying and some not. It's been a major economic boost to the area. Going early in the season, though, meant that the winemakers were free to talk, and they're happy to do it. These folks are passionate about what they do, and it shows.

Now the other thing you need is a place to stay, and there are a whole lot of B & Bs around. We lucked out and went here . Bruce and Susan were brilliant hosts. They went out of their way for us and made dinner reservations, appointments with some of the wineries we wanted to go to and Bruce's breakfasts are out of this world delicious. In fact, his scones are currency in some of the wineries. At Archery Ridge, when we mentioned where we were staying, the man behind the counter popped out with, "Got scones?"

It was a blast. Like I said, it was early in the year, and it's been a cool spring, but the weather just didn't matter. The people were terrific, and Bruce and Susan were so wonderful we're going back there again....maybe in the fall?

A couple of tips. Take a rain jacket. Don't bother with the fancy clothing or shoes. You will literally be walking in farmyards. Don't forget your GPS. Seriously - take your GPS. It saved our marriage....no looking at maps necessary equals a happy couple. Trust me on this one. The roads meander and the addresses and the maps don't coincide all the time.


  1. That's too funny, Messy, I spent part of my mini-vaca this past weekend in Portland, OR too.

    Meanwhile, what I really like to do is stay in a hotel near the beach and either spend time on the balcony peering at the water, or spend time sitting on the beach peering at the water. I don't do much exploring, usually. For me, mostly, vacations are a time to escape everything usual about my life (including running all over creation) and everything that makes the country girl in me cry about living in the city. Which means I go for out of the way places (as much as possible) for vacations, and then hide from the people that MAY BE in the same area, so I can pretend I'm on a deserted island (that's well provisioned) for my stay. I know. I'm weird.

  2. We walk. For miles. I don't think we could vacation with anyone else because of it.

    For example, and because I know you know Portland, the first day we got there, we walked from downtown to Washington Park, THROUGH the whole park, then back to the hotel. What was that? 7, maybe 8 miles? Needless to say, we took a cab to the restaurant (Gruner, yum), but then we realized that we were only 9 or 10 blocks from the hotels, so we walked back.

    Yup. A whole lot of walking. We did about the same distance the next day.... It's a good thing we drove through wine country. I don't think my calves could have taken much more climbing.

    We do the same thing wherever we go. I take my camera, The Boy points out great shots and we go where our feet take us. It makes for some REALLY interesting times.

  3. I bet it does! =-) And yeah, that sounds about right, mileage wise. =-D Glad you had such a great time!!

  4. Wasn't Portland where they shot the film "Drugstore Cowboy" ? I think it rains a lot there, doesn't it, but i wouldn't mind visiting. Looks like it's got a lot of character.

  5. Portland does have its share of oddness, but I can't help but wonder if the reason we SEE all of the oddnesses is that the city is small, so they're more in the open.

    The beer alone would have you bouncing around with glee, though.

    I have no basis for comparison on the weather. Less than Seattle. More than San Francisco. Does that help? They did have a long, cool, damp spring this year and I had to buy a warmer jacket than the one I brought with me, but thankfully it was on sale.

    The most annoying thing was that the roses weren't out yet. All those lovely gardens and test gardens and not one flower. We were a week or so early.

  6. Did you get to see the Underground? When I went there years ago, that was the one thing I was really interested in seeing. We couldn't find any touristy-type info on it, though, till the day we flew out. It is a very nice city, though a bit hard to navigate in.

    As to vacations, mine are so few & far between that I want to be pampered and self-indulgent when I go. Definitely a hotel, and squeeze in as many sites as posible.

  7. Nope, no Underground. We were only in Portland for a couple of days, but I definitely want to go again.

    You're right about navigation. In the entire time we were there, I lost North. We have a reasonable map, which saved us a lot of trouble, but the quadrant system had me completely flummoxed. I think it would take a couple of weeks before it all started to make sense.

    You have to be selective about B & Bs, too. In the valley, they're it. There aren't a lot of hotels because the whole district is composed of tiny towns. The Brookside, where we stayed, is famous for its food. I've never had more decadent breakfasts in my life. Definitely better than just about any hotel.

  8. We lived in Salem, OR several years ago and I loved it! We made it to Portland a few times but the only restaurant I remember is a teeny tiny Chinese place where they didn't speak English. The food was terrific.

    When we first arrived in Oregon we stayed in Eugene for a week. We asked for directions to the Willamette River and no one could tell us a thing 'cuz we used the French pronunciation. As soon as we learned how to say it correctly everyone knew what we were talking about. We still get a laugh out of those memories.

    It's been 30 years and my memories of the gorgeous rose gardens are still vivid. I'm glad you had a great time in such a beautiful area.

  9. Beckaroo Banzai - It's just one of those places where you have to go back, isn't it? Gorgeous. Lately (it's an age thing) we look at everywhere we go on vacation as a potential retirement spot, and the Portland area is definitely on the short list. The gardens...Just think of the garden I could have. Sigh.