Showing posts with label stair walking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stair walking. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Perfect 24 Hours in Portland (and Some Travel Tips You Can Use Anywhere)!

I grew up in Michigan but moved to California at 22 and lived there for over 30 years. But when we decided to move North, we couldn't decide between Portland and Seattle.  Portland had yet to be "glorified" on the TV show "Portlandia," but we were already aware of its virtues:  Powell's Books, it's a foodie's paradise, a bastion of liberalism, wine country, gorgeous parks, beer...

But Seattle won out because of its closeness to Canada, Victoria and Vancouver, B.C. being two of our favorite cities.  And, best of both worlds, we were still only three hours from Portland.

And Portland has always been a destination.

Recently our daughter visited us in Seattle prior to a library conference in Portland (yes, my daughter is also a librarian - I wrote about our parallel careers in my post "Passing the Baton."). After her visit with us, we thought it would be fun to drive her down there and spend the night, which we did. 

And it was a wonderful 24 hours.

Perfect, in fact.

How do you spend a perfect 24 hours in Portland?

I will now channel Anthony Bourdain and his wonderful series "The Layover," where he shows the viewer all of  the cool things you can do in 24-48 hours in exotic locales:  where to stay, where to eat, and what to do.

So in the spirit of Tony (I am such a fan he lets me call him Tony) - here is how to have a perfect 24 hours in Portland with some of my astute travel tips that you can use anywhere.

First, where to stay?

We like the old world charm of The Benson, right downtown in the heart of the action.

It's a venerable mainstay that has been around since 1913 and with its hand-carved Circassian walnut paneling from Russia and the Italian white-marble staircase, it reeks of First Class.  Every sitting president beginning with Harry Truman has stayed there.  If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me!  It's classy Palm Court Lounge is also a destination (I'll get to that later).

Travel Tip #1:  If you like quiet rooms, booking a room in an older hotel is for you. The thick walls and high ceilings block out the sounds of the other rooms.  Who wants to hear people flushing their toilets, taking showers and doing god knows what at 3am?  In an old hotel, you won't hear a peep.

Travel Tip #2:  Also if quiet is your thing (it's definitely mine), book the top floor.  Even if you are in one of those hotels where you can hear everything going on next door, why add people stomping around overhead to the mix?  Also, the higher up, the better the view.

Travel Tip #3:  It never hurts to ask nicely when checking in that your room be away from the elevator, maid's closet and ice and vending machines.  We once had a room with the elevator going up and down next door.  Ugh.  Likewise, the drunken laughter of other guests getting on and off the elevator can get annoying.  And who wants to hear the maids getting ready to clean rooms at 6am (as you know, I am NOT an early riser)?  And I can't even bear the thought of an ice-machine running next door. So be sure to check on those things.

Next, where to eat?

After checking in at The Benson, we were hungry.  Nonstop in a car for three hours, one works up an appetite.

So off we went to Higgins for lunch.

Owner Greg Higgins was an early champion of local and sustainable foods and this restaurant has been winning awards since 1994.  It is most known for its charcuterie platter (he was one of the first to offer such a thing) and it's burger is considered by many to be the best in town.  So naturally Daughter and I ordered the charcuterie platter and it did not disappoint.

I am still salivating over the duck rillettes.  And Hubby's burger lived up to it's reputation. But with accolades come high prices.

Travel Tip #4: Dine at high-end, high-priced restaurants for lunch rather than dinner.  You get the same good food often for less.

Travel Tip #5:  Order the specialty of the house.  There is a reason why it is the specialty.

While Hubby and I like the grand gesture that old hotels make, Daughter opted for an Airbnb

In case you are not familiar with this concept, Airbnb is a website where regular folks rent out lodging. It all began in 2008 when the founders could not afford the rent on their loft in San Francisco.  So they made their living room into a Bed and Breakfast, with air mattresses and breakfast to accommodate three.  Since then it has grown to over 800,000 listings in 33,000 cities and 192 countries and you can expect much more than an air mattress these days.  The listings range from rooms to entire houses, modest to opulent.

So off we went to the Mississippi neighborhood, an up and coming trendy area in Portland just perfect for Daughter, so she could check into her Airbnb.

She fit right in.

(When our daughter travels, Airbnb has been her accommodation of choice and it has worked very well for her). 

Mississippi Avenue is the main drag running through the Mississippi neighborhood, thus its name.  Hubby noticed another street, Failing Street, and remarked that it's a good thing they didn't name the neighborhood after that street.  Hubby is astute like that.

While our daughter was checking into her Airbnb, we checked out the neighborhood.  She was just one block off the main street which was filled with coffee houses, restaurants and boutiques and it was only three Max stops from the conference center.  After we checked out the little house she would be staying in, we looked for a place to have a glass of wine.  It was Happy Hour, after all.  We settled into Equinox, a lovely little restaurant and bar.

Travel Tip #6:  A Happy Hour in a fine restaurant is another way to save some money while still enjoying the restaurants fine food and drink.

Next, what to do?

NW 23rd Ave, also known as "Trendy-Third" is a fine walking destination because of its hip shops, bars and restaurants, many of which are in old Victorian houses, thus lending the street to a quaint hippyness reminiscent of what Union Street in San Francisco used to be like about 30 years ago.

We got our 10,000 steps in (see my blog post about Fitbit for more info) and headed to Paley's Place for dinner.  Paley's Place is situated in a lovely old house with a cozy bar and dining room.  It's a James Beard Award-winning restaurant with a French influenced seasonal menu. 

Now I am a firm believer in making reservations, even when dining at an unfashionable day or time, but since it was a Tuesday night and we were feeling lucky, we waltzed right in, only to discover WE SHOULD HAVE MADE A RESERVATION!  But the maitre'd did not shame us, which I appreciated, and he said if we wanted to wait in the bar, he would see what he could do.  Well, what he didn't realize is that we actually LIKE sitting at the bar. We like the casual atmosphere chatting with the bartender.  So when the maitre'd came back to say he had a table, we were perfectly content right where we were.

Travel Tip #7: You can often find seating in the bar at popular restaurants (though I have noticed in recent months a tendency at some restaurants to require reservations for the bar as well), and often you can walk right in and take a seat.  The full restaurant menu is almost always available at the bar, you get good personalized service, and can chat up the bartender if you don't have anything to say to your partner.

After a lovely dinner (I had the asparagus bisque and the halibut),

we made our way back to The Benson to enjoy some cocktails in the beautiful Palm Court Lounge.  Even if we were not staying there, it's always a destination for a drink and to soak in the beautiful, cozy wood paneled bar.

Unfortunately, this time sitting at the bar we were accosted by a local who wanted to regale us with his knowledge of the hotel.  He was obviously a barfly.  But he was rather amusing.  It was the OTHER guy, a fellow barfly, but this guy was making the rounds to every hotel bar in town and you could tell.  He was conversing with the bartender and Hubby said something conversationally and he turned to Hubby and said, "I didn't see that you were part of this conversation," or something equally rude.  So, OK, you don't want to talk, but when he started making wise cracks at the conversation our daughter was having with someone else, we decided to move.

Travel Tip #8:  Don't be afraid to move away from a drunken idiot at the bar.  We actually enjoyed sitting at a table better anyway.

After our drinks, we bid farewell to Daughter, sending her back to her Airbnb in a cab (another nice thing about a downtown hotel:  there is someone to hail a cab for you).

Travel Tip #8:  Don't be afraid to stick your head into the cab and tell the cabdriver to take good care of your daughter.

The next morning, Hubby went off to a local and famous doughnut establishment, Voodoo Doughnuts ("The Magic is in the hole!") while I slept in (we all know I'm NOT a morning person).

Travel Tip #9:  Find spots where you can hang out with the locals.

Then it was off to do a Portland stair walk.

Yes, people, Portland also has stair walks and if you have been reading my blog, you know that Hubby and I are avid stair walkers here in Seattle. I wrote about it in my blog post "The Joys of Stair Walks: Urban Walking Adventures in Seattle and Beyond," where we walked all 25 stair walks from the book "Seattle Stair Walks" by Jake and Cathy Jaramillo over the course of a year and a half.  

So we were so happy to discover "The Portland Stairs Book" by Laura O. Foster.

We chose the Nob Hill and Westover Streetcar Stairway Jaunt with 169 stairs up and 364 stairs down.  We were in stair walking heaven.

And Spring had already sprung in Portland!

The fun thing about these stair walks is that you experience parts of town you might never see otherwise.  Here we were led to what is considered one of the prettiest streets in Portland.

And to a tree that seems to defy gravity.

After our stair walk, we wanted to grab some lunch before beginning our three hour drive home. We were over in the "Trendy-Third" area again, so started looking for a place to eat lunch. 

Not really having anything in mind and my getting crabby because my knee hurt and declaring if we didn't find a place to eat immediately I would start screaming, we happily found Lela's Bistro, a Vietnamese spot in a little house.  We had bahn mi and soup and it was delicious.

Travel Tip # 10:  Don't be afraid to try something new, especially ethnic restaurants.  And I will say right now, you never can go wrong with Vietnamese fare:  bahn mi, bun (pronounced boon), pho (pronounced "fa"), spring rolls - yum - and usually at very reasonable prices.

So we headed home with the bonus that it wasn't pouring down rain.  In fact it was a lovely day.

But since it's a long drive, I was happy to have content on my IPad especially when (yawn) Hubby was listening to sports broadcasting on the radio.

"Keep Portland Weird" is a popular slogan you see around Portland.  And Portland can be weird.

But I like weird.  That's perfectly Portland.

Now I know there are many Portland sights I didn't mention here.  I am not new to Portland.  This was just a perfect moment in time.  And I will be back.

But what made this visit perfectly perfect?

Spending it with our perfectly beautiful daughter.

In the Palm Court Lounge at The Benson Hotel

Now I hope I have inspired you to create your own perfect 24 hours -
in Portland or anywhere. 

Thanks for Reading!

See you Friday
when I will be reviewing

the new movie
"Kingsman: The Secret Service"
as well as some
DVD's to see or avoid

and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before

I Die Project."

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Top Ten Things to Do This Summer and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new film "Lucy," DVDs "The Beautiful Person," "Le Weekend" and the book "The Untethered Soul" by Michael Singer and I also weigh in on how I am doing with my project of shaking up my life by instilling a new habit every month for the next year. Check out how I'm doing]

But First

Top Ten Things To Do This Summer

Ah, summer.  We are in the midst of a gorgeous summer here in Seattle.  Sometimes it arrives kicking and screaming-but when it does get here, it is glorious. 
Now we get to enjoy our two months of nice weather before hunkering back down into the gloom.
But let’s not think about that right now.  Let’s talk about fun and (mostly) cheap things you can do to enjoy what Seattle and its environs have to offer this summer. 

And if you don't live near Seattle, hopefully you will come out to visit or some of these ideas will spark your enthusiasm for your own part of the world.

My daughter and her husband are coming to visit this month, so I am thinking about all of the fun things we can do together.
All of these activities have been personally tested by yours truly,  so I can attest to the fun you will have!

Seattle Stair Walking.

I adore outdoor steps, especially the hidden little gems that populate Seattle (San Francisco has them, too). 
If you have been reading my blog, you know that Hubby and I climbed and descended all of the steps in "Seattle Stair Walks" by Jake and Cathy Jaramillo.
It took us a year to do all 23 walks, but it not only helped us learn more about Seattle, it was fun and healthy alone time for us.  Well, the Happy Hour after was probably not so healthy, but we had to have some kind of reward for all of those stairs.

Eat Your Way Through Pike Place Market.

Granted you can do this any time of the year, but on a sunny day it’s just that much more fun.  Get there early to watch the Market come alive.  Grab an espresso at the original Starbucks (before it is full of tourists) and a piroshky from the Piroshky bakery a couple of doors down.  For lunch, restaurants abound, and later have a martini on the deck at the Pink Door and take in the view and the sun. There are a wealth of options for dinner, but a personal favorite is the Steelhead Diner (can’t resist the poutine).  Walk past the gum wall to the Alibi Room for a nightcap and some people watching.  If movie people are in town you might catch a famous face. In between eating at the Market, you can watch flying fish, shop for produce and crafts, listen to street musicians, and take a picture with Rachel the Pig.

Take the Clipper to Victoria.


“More British than Britain,” Victoria is one of my most special places. 

I have my little rituals – mussels at Santiago’s Cafe, buy a supply of tea at Murchies, head over to Munro’s Books (one of the last great independent book stores) to buy an autobiography of some obscure British television actor who only I have heard of published only in the UK, take the “putt putt boat” across the Inner Harbour (note my British spelling) to Barb’s for the best fish & chips, tea at the James Bay Tea Room (locals laugh at you if you have tea at the Empress, but you have to do it at least once), but definitely drinks at the Bengal Lounge in the Empress, take in the lights that outline Parliament at night and walk, walk, walk.  You don’t even have to spend the night if you don’t want to. You can get on the Clipper at 8am in Seattle and be in Victoria by 10:30 in the morning and have the whole day to enjoy Victoria and then go home in the evening.  A little bit of England just a few hours away.

Water Taxi to West Seattle.

Hop the King County Water Taxi over to West Seattle for killer views of the City. There is a free bus to take you to “The Junction,” the heart of West Seattle and then you can wind your way back on foot to Alki Beach (more stairs, too!)

Ballard Locks and the Fish Ladder.
 I will never forget the first time I visited the locks.  My husband, my children and I were visiting Seattle for the first time and went to the locks to see the salmon make their way up the fish ladder.  There we were, noses pressed to the glass awaiting the leaping, flying salmon as they made their way up the ladder. We waited and waited and waited.  Nothing.  Finally, along came one lone little minnow who reminded me of Don Knotts in "The Incredible Mr. Limpet." 

On a recent visit, however, Hubby and I were rewarded with a salmon jumping so high it almost hit Hubby in the head. However, salmon or no salmon, the locks are situated in a beautiful park and as you walk across the locks, you can watch a lock fill up, chat with the boat people as they wait and then make your way over to the Magnolia side for a pleasant walk around the neighborhood. 

Take your dog to an off-leash dog park.

Or if you don’t have a dog, go anyway.  It’s a hoot.  Or should I say a woof!

You can watch a Yorkiepoo try to provoke a Great Dane, a white fluffy Bichon Frise roll around in the dirt and German Shepherds chasing Frisbees into the water and then shaking the water off onto their owners.  A personal favorite is the scene around the communal drinking bowl.  Have you ever noticed that when a dog looks up after drinking out of a bowl, water continues to ooze out of both sides of its mouth. They are so ridiculously unselfconscious! (Particularly noticeable with a collie, and she knows who she is). And along with the canine shenanigans, dog parks are often in prime locations. Edmonds has one right on the Sound; and the one at Magnuson Park in Seattle is ginormous.  Your little Fido could think he was a free dog there.
(And for you etymologists, yes, ginormous is a word and made it into the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2009. It’s definition?  Humongous. )

Snoqualmie Falls.
Lovely drive into the foothills. For those of you who are of a certain age, it is difficult to not think of the TV show “Twin Peaks” when standing near the Salish Lodge overlooking the Falls.  As the mist rises, so do images of the dancing dwarf and FBI Special Agent Cooper drinking his cup of “damn fine coffee.” If you snag a seat by a window in the restaurant, you will have a wonderful view while dining.

Wine Tasting and Concerts in Woodinville.

When I moved here eight years ago, there was Chateau Ste.Michelle and the Columbia Winery.  And the tastes were free.  Now there are something like 300 wineries populating the Woodinville area and tastings are anything but free unless you are a member.  But on a lovely day, there is nothing finer than a stroll on the grounds of the Chateau, discovering a new wine tasting room or a new wine.  Just be wary of “palate fatigue,” if you know what I mean. 
The Chateau also hosts music concerts in its outdoor venue, a gorgeous setting to listen to music while drinking that wonderful wine.


The last time my daughter and her husband visited we rented kayaks at Aqua Verde and ventured out into "The Cut" toward Lake Washington.  Not long into the trip, Hubby lost control of the foot rudder and we had to manage on our own. We were sharing the waters with much bigger boats.  I think they could hear me yelling at Hubby all the way to Bellevue.  My first and last kayaking adventure.  But I know you all are much more brave than I.
A mere 20 minute ferry ride and you are in a rural paradise (though in the summer, lines to get ON the ferry can be long.  Plan accordingly). Miles of beaches, wineries, good food and lovely, historic towns like Langley and Coupeville.  You know those Penn Cove mussels you love you much?  They are from here.


No Matter Where You Live, Visit Your Library. Make it a destination.
Your local public library has all kinds of summer activities.  Take your child or grandchild and have some fun summer adventures sharing the joy of reading.
 What summer fun are you looking forward to?

Now on to The Week in Reviews
***In Theatres Now***


This Sci-Fi thriller explores what could happen if humans were able to use 100% of their brains while juxtaposing that with drug-smuggling Taiwanese gangsters.

Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), currently living in Taiwan, finds herself involuntarily involved in a drug smuggling operation.

Her boyfriend of about a minute, Richard, forces her to deliver a briefcase to a Mr. Jang by handcuffing her to the briefcase. Jang and his gang of thugs then turn her into a drug mule by planting a bag of CPH4 into her and three other men's stomachs (CPH4 will be explained in the film, so I don't need to do it here).  When Lucy's bag of drugs is dislodged by an over amorous and brutal goon, the drug starts to leak into her system and takes her brain from the usual 10% usage we humans supposedly and arguably only use to an ever-increasing amount as the film progresses and eventually to 100%, turning her into a superhuman, capable of unimagined strength and knowledge.  With that as her weapon, she goes in search of Mr. Jang to seek revenge.  But when she realizes the drug will also kill her, she seeks out the preeminent mind on brain function, Dr. Samuel Norman, played by Morgan Freeman (what movie ISN'T he in?), to help her make sense of her gift and whose lecture about the human brain parlays back and forth from the action at the beginning of the film.

Writer/Director Luc Besson ("La Femme Nikita," "The Fifth Element") has combined a bit of Quentin Tarantino (I had my hands over my eyes for the first half hour)  and a bit of "2001: A Space Odyssey" to create a tense thriller with an examination of what constitutes existence and humanity. He has created another strong female like Nikita and Scarlett does not disappoint.  She starts out as a sort of air-head slutty girl and turns into a mental superhero. The film is all about her. It is a tour de force.

True to his "Transporter" roots, Besson also treats us to a fantastic car chase through the streets of Paris that can only be imagined as CGI or some other special effects - if not, how could Paris officials agree to a car chase like that?  The sequence through the pedestrian arcade was amazing - I think I walked through that one - and when Lucy was driving against traffic, it was spectacular.

My one irritation was the montages of animals mimicking the action and during Freeman's lecture.  I'm not a fan of that stuff and I don't need to be bonked on the head to know that our Lucy is a reference to the "famous Lucy fossil."

Rosy the Reviewer says...whether or not you think this is believable, you will be gripping the arms of your chair while you try to decide.  Thrilling.
 See it in Imax.

                                   You Might Have Missed
                        And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
                         (I see the bad ones so you don't have to)



La Belle Personne (The Beautiful Person) (2008)


Sixteen-year old Junie changes high schools mid-year, following the death of her mother, and goes to live with her cousin Mathias, who introduces her to his friends. All the boys want to date Junie, especially Otto, but her real attraction is to the lothario Italian teacher, Nemours. 
This French film, adapted from the classic French novel “La Princesse de Clèves,” by Madame de Lafayette (1678 ) and directed by Christophe Honore explores the illusion of love and whether or not enduring love is possible.

When we first meet Nemours, who looks young enough to be one of the students, he is having an affair with another teacher and a student.  Junie's cousin, Matthias is having a secret affair with Martin and they fear exposure from a love letter that fell out of Martin's pocket. Otto, another student, loves Junie and when he is rejected by her, jumps off the third floor balcony of the school, all the while lip-synching the lyrics to a French pop tune.  Strange.

When Nemours becomes love struck with Junie, he breaks off his other affairs to concentrate on her, but Junie fears that love won't last and gets the hell out of Dodge.

If you are a fan of French films, then you get how they roll - all very New Wavy, not a lot happens, but it's all very deep and moody with French pop tunes playing in the background while people look off into the distance.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I can tell I am getting to the bottom of my Netflix queue.  You can pass on this one. (subtitles)

Le Weekend (2013)

A British couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary return to Paris to try to rejuvenate their failing marriage.

Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan play Nick and Meg, a married couple who you can tell right away have "issues."  They have fallen into a pattern of insult, boredom and taking each other for granted.  This weekend is meant to be a time to find each other again.

It begins with Meg objecting to their room because the bathroom is too beige.  So Meg impulsively changes hotels to one very much more upscale than the original and when Nick tells Meg he has been forced to retire from his professorship for saying something inappropriate to a black student, it becomes apparent that they can't afford this hotel.  The weekend continues with their running out of a restaurant without paying and other shenanigans, all of the while Meg insulting Nick and Nick trying to get Meg to love him.  Meg seems to have great contempt for Nick.  These are not pleasant people.

Both Nick and Meg have had teaching careers and they have two sons.  But when Nick runs into an old school chum, Morgan, (Jeff Goldblum, who overdoes it a bit here), who appears to be everything Nick is not - successful, optimistic, and he has a young, pregnant wife - Nick is moved to deliver a dinnertime soliloquy about the disappointments of his life.  But the film ends where it began.  Nick and Meg are still together.  A long marriage can be a strange dance.

Hanif Kureishi ("My Beautiful Laundrette" and "Sammy and Rosie Get Laid") wrote the screenplay, and I know he's edgey, but with Roger Michell ("Notting Hill") directed so, I was expecting the charm of "Notting Hill" and instead got "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." 

This film is a testament to what a long marriage is:  tender, cruel, boring, exciting, recriminations and reconciliations, but this film is not exactly an endorsement and not exactly entertainment. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...Broadbent and Duncan are wonderful actors and they do a great job showing the ups and downs of a long marriage.  But that doesn't mean this is a pleasant film to watchIf you are expecting a "mature" version of "Notting Hill," you will be disappointed.
***Book of the Week***
The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer (2007)
 More on the quest for inner peace.

I first heard of Michael Singer when Oprah interviewed him on her "Super Soul Sunday" show.  I was so impressed I had to buy his book as I continue my own journey to enlightenment.

It's not an easy concept - that your thoughts are not you.  He likens the voices in your head to an unruly roommate.  Would you really be friends with someone who says the crazy things your mind says?  Would you listen to that person?

Singer hopes to free us from those voices that cause us so much pain.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Learn how to put an end to the habitual thoughts and emotions that hinder you by tapping into meditation and mindfulness to dwell in the present moment. It's only 181 pages. A small price to pay for enlightenment, wouldn't you say?

UPDATE: If you have been following my blog, you know I wrote a post on my 66th birthday called "Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life," where I talked about wanting to shake up my life a bit and instill some new habits.  For July, I said I would NOT order my usual Starbucks drink, but rather anything but...try some new ones.  AND I DID IT!  I did not order a Tall Skinny Vanilla Latte once.  I tried hazelnut, caramel and my new favorite, cinnamon dolce. 

Now it's on to August, month #2, where I said I would moisturize every day! I know, but this new habit thing isn't easy.  Check back next month to see if I did it! 

That's it for this week!

Thanks for reading!
See you Tuesday for
"It Seemed Like a Good Idea At The Time"

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 
Here is a quick link to get to all of them.  Choose the film you are interested in and then scroll down the list of reviewers to find "Rosy the Reviewer."
Or you can go directly to IMDB.  
Find the page for the movie, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list. Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."