Portland’s rosy glow

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare’s Juliet makes an interesting point when talking about her Romeo. After all, we don’t choose where we’re born—or to whom. And names are something someone chooses for us—or for something—like cities. Take Portland…

Now known as the “City of Roses,” this Oregon town was named by its founding fathers Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove on a coin toss. Each wanted to honor their East Coast home towns. Pettygrove won the toss. This means the West Coast almost had a Boston.

Nicknames, on the other hand, are something we have a say in, or something we earn as the result of an event. Portland’s rosy nickname comes from Episcopal Church convention visitors—waaaaay back in 1888—enjoying the gardening skills of the newly formed Portland Rose Society. And now? Time to bring you up to speed on my recent adventures to Almost-Boston…

Rails

Wanting to opt out of a Friday night traffic jam via the freeway, my husband suggested we take the train. Great idea! He booked our tickets on the Amtrak Cascades Seattle-to-Portland route. We boarded at Seattle’s King Street Station, then sat back and watched the scenery while noshing on items from the dining car.

From Portland’s Union Street Station, we took an Uber to the Courtyard Portland City Center, our hotel for the weekend. After checking in, we headed to our room and closed our eyes for the night.

Saturday morning’s light of day revealed a wonderful convenience to our weekend residence: the MAX Yellow Line’s pick-up stop just across the street. Portland’s light rail system made our travels around town super easy, and at very reasonable rates. But one other discovery I made across the street lead to some additional—very rosy—activities for the day…

Roses

What caught my eye, exactly? Colorful roses in beautiful bunches, decorating an antique cart and wooden bench outside the Geranium Lake Florist—just waiting for customers like me to happen by. The gorgeous display did its job, drawing me closer for a better look. So pretty and fragrant! I couldn’t leave without making a purchase.

Inside the shop, Chris very kindly wrapped my selection—what instantly became a gift for my daughter—and asked if we were in town for the festival. Naively, I asked, “What festival…?”

After I let him know we were participating in a 5K event later that day, he let me know that Portland’s Festival of Roses was taking place all weekend. In fact, the Rose Parade was happening one block away. Wait-what? Right now?!

Collecting my family members, we headed up the street to the parade route, and found our vantage point. In addition to cleverly decorated, rose covered floats, we enjoyed the performances of local high school and alumni marching bands, and parade-waved back at dressed up dignitaries, costumed business people, and of course, the royal court.

Soon after, it was time to patronize local businesses by doing a little shopping. Clothes, shoes, souvenirs, and a city block of books…

Books

Some stores are like giant magnets, pulling you through their doors and lining up your purchases with amazing efficiency. Others fold you into their walls, displays and shelves, giving you lots and lots to peruse while you lose all track of time. And then there’s Powell’s City of Books. Inside its many floors, the world’s largest used and new bookstore manages to accomplish all these shopping options.

Traversing this travel destination’s many nooks and crannies requires stamina. Looking to boost our energy levels, we meandered our way between the bookcases to the World Cup Café. The coffee drinks and baked goods are excellent! And the tables are great for reviewing books while enjoying your chosen treats. This combination makes the café a veeeeeery popular section of the store, any time of day.

Lucky for us, my daughter applied her NYC skills for spotting available seating, and we soon had a place at a shared table. Freshly energized, we continued our bookstore shopping until our time pieces reminded us we needed to get going…

Bites

I’m sure you’re familiar with the word brunch (breakfast-lunch); maybe less so with the word linner (lunch-dinner). Well, you can have them both, along with breakfast, lunch, dinner or nightcaps—at The Original Dinerant.

An upscale diner-restaurant combo attached to our hotel, this eatery quickly became an addition to our list of favorites. Along with great food and excellent service, The Original has a vibe with a pep all its own. Locals and hotel guests alike packed this place.

For our brunch time meal, all of us chose one of the signature house dishes: chicken and waffles. This southern dish features an Oregon spin: the addition of Tillamook cheddar, along with fresh jalapeños, tossed into the waffle batter. Out of this world! The chicken was crispy, flavorful fall-off-the-bone stuff; sooooooo goooooooood!

For our weekend linner option, we went with a friend’s recommendation to try out the iconic Jake’s Famous Crawfish Restaurant. A mainstay in Portland since 1892, this locale has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. If you’re looking to sample seafood fresh from the Pacific, you’ll find it here, along with many other delicious options.

It’s a great place to celebrate special occasions too. Warm, friendly, professional service, along with excellent food in a fine dining atmosphere, we vowed we would return dressed at little more formal than we were. You see, we’d already prepped for our 5K. And it was time to head to the race…

Bubbles

Aquariums. Dishes. Bathtubs. Champagne. All see their fair share of bubbles. Sprinklers experience kids running through them, and cannons usually fire ginormously heavy objects, aimed at destroying a target of some sort. So…how is it these items come together? At the FoamGlow 5K of course!

These sudsy run-or-walk events, benefiting various children’s charities, are a blast to experience. Nothing like wading through mountains of foaming bubbles cascading down on your head to put a smile on your glowing face.

Taking MAX to the 5K’s location (Portland International Raceway), we arrived a little early to pick up our registration packets. The crowd gathered as the pre-party began, just before sundown. All of us enjoyed the cannon fire of colorful bubbles raining suds onto our noggins. Many participants accessorized their white T-shirts, adding a little bling or glow paint to their 5K gear.

Once the race began, black lights illuminated the waves of people as they ran or walked by. The foaming stations assured all that the opportunity for head-to-toe bubble coverage was possible. Too fun! Crossing the finish line, we happily received our medals of participatory honor…

While taking MAX back to our hotel, we realized there was just enough time before The Original closed to have a nightcap. Bellies up to the bar, we enjoyed a fancy Bloody Mary, a whiskey on the rocks—or rather one big rock—and for me, my first boozy shake. Yummy stuff!

I always enjoy weekend trips to the City of Roses. Forever something new to discover and something tried and true to revisit. If you plan to spend a little time in Almost-Boston, be sure to try the chicken and waffles, then pick up a bunch of roses. And a good book or two…J🌹

 

a-MAiZE-ingly FUNd day!

Harvest time—‘tis the season to be

  1. shopping freshly picked—beautiful—fruits and veggies
  2. falling in love with the red, orange and yellow leaved trees
  3. Getting lost in Bob’s Corn giant 10-acre corn maze

A dear friend of mine, one of Bob’s Corn employees, says that she doesn’t go to work; she goes to play. Driving tractors, giving tours, picking corn and just being outside… it’s too much fun to be called work!

I just had to see this place for myself. Lucky for us, my family and I were able to time our visit to this farm with a very special occasion: the memorial 5K fun run, Adventures of a Lumberjack.

Located in the town of Snohomish, Bob’s Corn honors the memory of Alex, a former employee and local high school athlete, with this annual scholarship fund event.

The course

Because this was our first visit to Bob’s Corn, the 5K gave us an excellent opportunity to take a walking tour (of sorts) around the property.

The start-finish line was just outside the Country Store. Set up to be a little like an obstacle course, our path lead us between the farm’s buildings and around the corn fields, then across the street via an underpass.

Signs and guides were posted along the way, helping us continue on the designated route. Pumpkin patches, wooded trails and sunflower fields provided beautiful backdrops to our course. But the “obstacle” that actually gave me a bit of trouble was the one that got stuck in my hair… 🐝

In the end, my noggin took on three stingers. A friend helped dislodge the flyer still tangled in my ponytail, and the race EMT at the finish line, along with my daughter, removed the mini daggers from my scalp.

Just prior to the race, Alex’s former cross country coach let everyone know that—in the spirit of competition—Alex wouldn’t want the race to be too easy. So, while bees were not an intentional obstacle, they served as an interesting reminder to me that obstacles can pop up anywhere (and any time), falling in the category of “when you least expect it…” 🙃

The fields

  • Not just fields but walls of corn, eight feet tall!
  • Rows and rows and more rows of sunflowers, soaking up rays of light.
  • Or how about a 40-acre u-pick pumpkin patch featuring over 60 types of pumpkins to give your eyes a treat?

Along the race course, I couldn’t help stopping to take a photo or two (or more) of these gorgeous crops.

Also, there’s a fenced-in playground field for the little ones, and a big slide that could take adults. Nothing small about this place.

The store

Open mid-July to the end of October, the Country Store sells the farm’s fresh produce, fresh dairy products, fruit preserves and pickled eggs and veggies. So many different flavors!

Honey items, handmade soaps, tractor toys, even sweatshirts and T-shirts featuring the farm logo. Lots of other specialty items too.

Along with 13 ears of corn, we left with fresh eggs, pickled items, preserves, and yes, a tractor toy…

After the race, The Dancing Wick Candle Company sold their Lumberjack candles, featuring a scent designed especially for this 5K event. Such a wonderful fragrance! I picked up two.

I can see why my friend has so much fun working at Bob’s Corn. I’ve come to think of it as an agricultural playland.

Before the season ends, I’ll be back for Halloween pumpkins, more Country Store items (early holiday shopping!), and a walk through the infamous maze; but maybe this time I’ll wear a hat… 🐝🌽 😁

 

Scenic San Juan

How is it that a popular tourist destination at the height of tourist season can seem so…unpopulated? Welcome to the San Juans.

Enjoying a couple of three-day August weekends here gave me the chance to explore this archipelago’s namesake: the island of San Juan itself.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed prior visits to San Juan, as well as trips to Orcas and Lopez islands too, and I always reach the same conclusion. Once we leave the ferry, where does everyone go?

The town

Inches from the dock, Friday Harbor greets ferry passengers as they disembark, ready to take them into its many unique stores, restaurants, inns and other attractions. And so much can be accessed via colorful, well maintained shop allies.

Pedestrian friendly, even near the dock, this town takes walkable to a whole new level. Plenty of sidewalks and crosswalks accommodate visitors. And the drivers exhibit patience I usually witness only in Canada.

The beaches

When you’re ready to get outta town, you won’t have far to go. Just a few minutes from Friday Harbor, we found ourselves driving along the island’s byways through farmlands, forests and hilly terrain on our way to the not so distant shoreline.

San Juan island is home to several beachfront state and local parks, all very nicely maintained. But if you’re looking for one that features a few extras—like whale watching from rocky cliffs—Lime Kiln Point State Park topped our list.

Truth be told, the Orcas that happened to be swimming by just as we reached the cliffs were the highlight of our park visit. Watching the pod make its way through the channel, so close to the shore, was a treat I’ll remember forever. Lucky for us, we could hear some of their calls too, as well as hear—and see—their blowholes in action. A few of the whales even popped their heads out of the water for a bit, as if to sneak a peek at us too. Talk about cool!

Near the cliffs, we found lots of illustrations and information posted about the Orcas, which was helpful in understanding more about these magnificent marine mammals. Lime Kiln also features an interpretive center near its picturesque lighthouse, and a snack stand.

If you’re looking for a beach where you can feel the sand between your toes, well… we discovered one of those too: Jackson Beach Park. A long stretch of beach, driftwood and sand awaited our arrival. And for anyone who’d like to have a picnic complete with a bonfire, Jackson Beach provides the necessary amenities.

Cattle Point—part of San Juan Island’s National Historic Park—features a little of both: rocky cliffs, and sandy beaches. And trails too. Such a pretty place! It’s worth a stop, just for the scenery.

The activities

A little more inland, we found fields of purple at the Pelindaba Lavender Farm. Approaching the end of the season, their plants still offered plenty of color and fun photo ops. The gift shop and treats counter provided ample shopping and munching opportunities, and the looping video programs and attractive displays made learning all about lavender fun and fragrant.

The winner here for me was the deliciously different lavender ice cream sandwich. Locally made vanilla lavender icy goodness squished between two double chocolate cookies…YUM! 😋

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If you’re in the mood for cuteness overload, check out the Krystal Acres Alpaca Country Store. Well, the cuteness is actually behind the store, roaming the fields. Alpacas—over 50 of them—didn’t seem to mind being photographed as they grazed, sauntered and otherwise enjoyed the day in their own mellow way. Some even seemed willing to strike a pose for our cameras!

Inside the store, we found beautiful wool garments (many imported from Peru), as well as yarn produced by our wooly photo models out back. As yarn is my weakness, I made a purchase. The yarn’s tags featured the photos and names of the Alpacas who provided the wool—how fun!

When we were ready for a sip of vino, we made our way to San Juan Vineyards. Under new management, this quiet, beautiful location features a brand new wine bar that runs the length of the historic school house—a structure featured on all their wine labels—with several stand up tables to accommodate many patrons.

After completing a wine tasting, my friends selected a bottle of their favorite. San Juan Vineyards also sells their wines on the ferries that service the islands; nice to see the success of their efforts expanding off the island.

Time to stretch our legs! The annual IslandRec 8.8k loop fun run celebrated its 41st year this month! And we were lucky enough to be a part of the event. Also lucky (for me), walking the route was perfectly acceptable. So I did, along with a friend who didn’t mind not competing for a placement ribbon…

A quiet yet well supervised course, water stations and event volunteers greeted us at almost every mile marker. And at the finish line, another annual event awaited our arrival: the San Juan County Fair.

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I love fairs! The exhibits, the animals, the food—and the competitions. Like chicken races. Nothing more adorable than watching young handlers release their fierce competitors at the words “Ready, set, GO!” Equally adorable is watching said handlers chase down and recapture their feathered friends, post race. (Okay, maybe more amusing than adorable…)

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The cuisine

Having a total of six days on San Juan allowed me the glorious opportunity to visit several eateries. Here’s a highlight of my favorites:

Vinney’s. When you’re in the mood for Italian food, this place tops my list—as in I wish it were closer to home! Excellent cuisine, great service and very popular with the locals. We dined here twice during one of my weekend trips.

The Cheesecake Café & Bakery. A dangerously delicious place. I enjoyed the ham & cheese croissants, lattes, and Nutella Rice Krispie treats. My friends enjoyed the cheesecakes—two of the many flavors, anyway. Tables available inside and out, in full view of the ferry dock, which just happens to be next door.

The Bean Café. Yummy lattes, cookies and more—just a very short walk from the dock. Seating inside and out, this location also features a TV displaying a live feed of the ferry dock; a noteworthy item for anyone timing an arrival or departure.

Blue Water Bar and Grill. When you’re up for seafood and wine, nachos and beer or something in between—all in full view of the dock—this is a great place to be.

McMillin’s. Located on the other end of the island in Roche Harbor, this place is worth the drive. An extensive menu and a wonderful view of its marina make it a great choice for an upscale lunch or an elegant evening.

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Downriggers. Facing Friday Harbor’s marina, very near the ferry dock, this is one of my favorites for a nice evening out. Excellent food and service; and excellent views too! We enjoyed watching float planes land behind arriving ferries, as well as dining in a lively—but not too loud—atmosphere.

From lively restaurants to quiet beaches, from Orca whales to wooly Alpacas, we enjoyed every inch of San Juan Island. And with plenty of elbow room too.

So are you ready for an island getaway? Come check out San Juan. The Orcas just might wave hello. J 🐳