Stuff I Liked in Portland, Oregon

We forget how easy it is to buzz down I-5 to our sister city to the South. But I had been invited to check out the Governor Hotel’s “Sherlock” package — a night in the hotel, a credit at the restaurant/bar downstairs, a deerstalker cap, and passes to the Sherlock show at OMSI — the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Since the hotel’s PR crew offered an additional night at another one of their properties — Hotel Lucia — at a discounted media rate, we stayed an extra night, ate some additional pastry (as one does) and caught up with some Portland based family and friends.

Much has been published about Portland’s hipper than hipster culture, I won’t bother to do that here, but if you need that, there’s probably nothing better than Geraldine’s post, Why Seattleites Love Portlandia on her excellent blog, The Everywhereist. Instead, I’ll just tell you what we did, where we stayed, what we ate, and how it rated. For clarity, our first night, our museum passes, our hotel and OMSI parking, and the deerstalker hat I’ll be wearing when I open the door for the kids this Halloween were provided by the PR company. We paid for meals, travel, the other stuff.

The Governor Hotel: Oh, I love old hotels. This one is just coming to the end of a very pretty refurbishing. We ducked into the freshly repainted ballroom after hours to take a peek and it’s gorgeous. Our room was small but quiet and comfortable and we had a nice view.

UntitledThere are some cool details still in place in the building like the rotary house phone in the hallway and the brass counters (missing the “what floor” arrow) over the elevators, the gorgeous sculpted ceilings in the lobby. Also, the bar and restaurant downstairs, Jake’s, has high ceilings with box molding and spinning fans and pours a generous drink. It’s classy, the whole property has old school style. My only complaint? Fake creamer with the coffee service in our room. I hate that stuff.

The Sherlock package starts at 269.00 and doesn’t include parking — that’s an additional 36.00. The deals are on Sunday and Monday nights if you just want the room — ours would have been 169.00 with a AAA discount — that’s a good price for a downtown hotel. (More on the Sherlock exhibit below.)

The Bijou: I can’t stop thinking about the veggie hash at this place, it’s the best breakfast I’ve had in a good long while, and I do love going out for breakfast. J. had your standard omelet and toast — he liked it but didn’t love it, but I fairly swooned over the hash. 10.00 plus another 3.00 for coffee and I was full until afternoon coffee and snack time. I watched people walking past with their pink boxes from the city’s famous Voodoo Donuts and I thought, “I’m having the better breakfast.”

Come at once if convenient — if inconvenient come all the same. — Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock at OMSI: It took us a little while to get into what, exactly, was happening with the exhibit, but once we had it sussed, it was really fun. First, you get a look at how the character of Sherlock Holmes was created, how he’s a product of his time. There are some hands on exhibits about forensic and police history, and it’s steampunk coolness all over the place. Then, you head downstairs to a staged crime scene and using what you learned upstairs, you set to solving the crime. Thing is, you have to solve how the exhibits work, first, and that’s a little confusing. Unraveling your evidence requires a visit to each of the exhibit’s stations, and that wasn’t clear to us from the start. Once we’d figured that out, though, we got really into it. It requires some patience and sometimes, you want to cover your ears to keep the other visitors from giving away spoilers. The resolution isn’t totally satisfying, but I feel like that’s often the case with Sherlock stories — it’s more about the method than the solution. My indulgent Watson is still calling me Holmes two days later, it was that kind of fun.

Tickets are 18.00, parking is another 4.oo. The streetcar goes quite nearby — if you’d rather not drive, you don’t have to. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I adore the new BBC Sherlock, but I’ve also listened to all of the Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone radio theater versions of the Sherlock stories.
Lovejoy Bakers: I had a pine nut and honey tart that made me a little bit crazy with how delicious it was, I’m not going to lie. Also on the table, something called a Bavarian, that I found a little strange, and a standard fruit tart. I think I paid 20.00 for lattes and cake for two, I just don’t remember because I was hypnotized by my pastry. Man, that was good.

Hotel Lucia: We had a gorgeous corner room with big windows on two sides. I asked because when I looked at the floor plan, the room all appeared to be about the same footprint, but the receptionist confirmed our room was bigger than the standard. I was impressed with how efficient the space in the tiny bathroom was. If I was a hotel reviewer, I’d probably say something about how it’s a old property with a hip new finish, but that’s not how I roll. Rooms here start at 152.00 on the low occupancy nights, not including parking. There’s a great collection of black and white photos in the public spaces by photographer David Kennerly — I actually wandered down the halls to look at them. My only complaint? You guessed it. Fake creamer. I hate that stuff.

Downtown Food Cart Pod: We got takeout from the schwarma guy on the corner for reasons totally unrelated to food. I liked the amused face of the guy behind the counter, I liked the two Englishmen who’d met at a bowling alley the night before and had been hanging out as travel buddies. Plus, the Georgian place? It was closed. The schwarma was okay, not the best I’ve had, but the hummus was nice and it was a pile of food for nine dollars, more than the two of us needed. We might have found a better meal, but the sidewalk experience could not have been improved upon.

Nuvrei Fine Cakes and Pastries: We stood in line with the locals to get our coffee and baked goods from this well reviewed pastry counter. It was good, but I’m terribly spoiled by my hometown bakery and the almond croissant didn’t stack up. I liked the cherry brioche well enough, and I enjoyed the coffee, but I wish we’d taken our treats to go, the space is a little awkward for hanging out while it’s crowded. I got a pretzel and a bagel to take with — the pretzel wasn’t what I expected at all, being kind of fluffy and sweet. The bagel, however, offered exactly what I wanted from the pretzel, go figure.

Portland is just down there, you should go.

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6 thoughts on “Stuff I Liked in Portland, Oregon

  1. The Sherlock thing sounds like great fun. And I”m SO with you on corned beef hash for breakfast. But only when its done well. A little further down the coast in the tiny town of Gresham Oregon, we found home made corned beef hash cooked by a real Irish woman at the Irish Cafe. In Bandon Oregon we found great breakfast places on every corner–the place to go for breakfast lovers.

  2. Pam, I always love reading about Portland from people who aren’t from Portland. I grew up in the area and left Oregon when I was 18, so I actually know very little about the city, aside from jaunts downtown with my family to see the fleets come in for the Rose Festival, visiting Pittock Mansion, OMSI (natch) and visits to my knee surgeon. I’ve never had a grown-up viewpoint of Portland and I loved reading this, as it makes me want to visit Portland–a place I’ve never visited before.

  3. I think it would be awesome to travel to Oregon and experience a different side of the country, since I live clear in Ohio! Also, I would love to try the different “food cart” experiences that are known from there!

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