Last year, I headed down to Portland for a Whitecaps away game with my friends Stuart and Ian. We met Ian's cousin who lives in Portland, and had a great time checking out the city and attending the game. This year, the corresponding fixture was held on the SUnday of the May long weekend, and coincided with my birthday quite nicely. Justine was jealous of not coming last year, and so we decided to come down again.
The drive from Vancouver is a long one, and depends very much on the border and traffic through Everett, Seattle, Tacoma and Portland. We ended up doing really well, getting down in about 7 1/2 hours, including a short stop in Bellevue for Justine to do some shopping. It was a miserable, grey day, and so driving wasn't the end of the world.
We decided to drive about and hour south of Portland, to go to our favourite winery, Brooks. They make amazing pinot noirs, and great whites. It was worth the extra hour down. For whatever reason, Google Maps routed us on a route that required us to take a cable ferry across a river. Not what we were expecting. We've been to this area a number of times, and never found this ferry!
Eventually (actually exactly when Google predicted - a bit scary actually...) we arrived at the new winery. I say new, as it's been two years since we've been down this way, and they moved into the new winery, officially, the week after we visited the old winery. We were there for their last official day in the old winery. The new winery is amazing, perched over the vineyard, with views out to the mountains. Not that we could see anything that day.
We sat at the bar and did some tastings. The wine was amazing, and the tasting room is awesome. Service wasn't great, but I'd still recommend the place. We ended up buying a few bottles, and went out to wander the gardens a bit before heading back. We met one of the gardeners, who happened to be a big Portland Timbers fan, as we were wandering. There was some good-natured bantering, and we took some pics of us in our Whitecaps jerseys, for him to share with the people in the supports group he was part of.
It was about an hours drive back to the city, mostly on some nice back roads before meeting back up with the highway. It was still relatively early when we got checked into the hotel, and settled in. We were pretty hungry so we headed back down, and got a recommendation from the front desk. We ended up a couple of blocks south in another hotel, but this one had a restaurant/bar on the roof. The food was really good, and we hung out on the roof bar after dinner for a little bit. It was a bit colder than you would have liked, but fortunately wasn't raining. During the summer, in nice weather the bar would be amazing.
Once we finished out after dinner drinks, we headed back out to explore. Our hotel, and most of what we did that weekend was in the Pearl District. This was also the main area we hung out in last year, so I knew a little bit of where to go, and what to check out.
Our first stop was at Deschutes Brewpub, which was packed. We managed to find a spot at the bar, and had one drink before giving up on the place.
After that, we wandered a bit further, and ended up at Rogue. The night was nice, we sat on the patio and had a couple of drinks. They make both their own beer and spirits, and I really liked their gin. They sell it by the bottle (but not after 10 p.m.!), so I planned to come back and pick up a bottle to take home.
After that, it was time to call it a night. It had been a long day, with a lot of driving, and we were pretty wiped. We skipped going into the iconic Powell's bookstore, and instead headed back to the hotel to get a good night's sleep.
Sunday was soccer day, and with the game starting at 1:30, we had a bit of time to fill before heading over to the game. We slept in a bit, then had a nice breakfast at the restaurant in the hotel. On Saturday's and SUnday's during the summer, there is a big arts and crafts market not far from the hotel, so we decided to walk over and check it out. Along the way, we passed by Voodoo Doughnuts - a Portland icon. There was already a huge line up outfront, so we passed on sampling the doughy monstrosities.
The market opened at 11:00, and we were about 20 minutes early, so we walked up the riverside path for a while. There are a ton of bridges over the river, and they all seem to open one way or another to let bigger ships through. We caught them lifting one, as we walked by.
The market was in full swing when we wandered back. It's a pretty big market, with lots of interesting vendors. We wandered the whole thing over the next couple of hours, and bought a few gifts for some friends. It was a cool experience, and well worth checking out. They even, in true Portland fashion, served beer at the market.
The hotel was between the market and the stadium, so we stopped off at the hotel to change into our jerseys, drop off our packages, and walked over to the stadium.
It's really a great stadium, and the Timber Army represent really well - in force and loud! We got there pretty early, and after making one quick stop in a shop across the street, headed inside as the skies opened up and it started to rain.
We spent a bit of time walking around the stadium, something I didn't do last year. The Whitecaps supporters were already there in full force, and our away supporters section was already pretty full. You could see them from across the stadium.
Before too long the game was underway. The best thing ever was the huge banner that the Timber Army unfurled at the beginning of the game - Destroy the Canadian Menace! Hillarious - it seems us traveling Whitecaps fans are making an impression!
The game itself was a disaster - I don't even want to think about it, and certainly am not going to recap it. Let's just say we left unhappy. The early start to the game meant that we had lots of time to have an evening out in Portland!
After swinging back to the hotel to change, we walked back into the Pearl District, and up to REI. Justine needed a new bike helmet, and they were having a big sale that weekend. We both ended up with some new bike gear, as there were good deals to be had. After that, we walked back down and stopped at the River Pig Saloon for a drink. The basketball game wa son, and we wanted to catch the second half. The place was pretty cool, and we ended up staying and eating at the bar.
Our next step was back to Rogue, where we had a drink and I got my bottle of gin to take home with us. We only had the one drink there, then popped across the street to 10 Barrel Brewing. We had noticed it the night before, but weren't really up for it that night.
They had a pretty cool looking patio upstairs, and a great bar on the main level. The bartender was pretty engaging, and we tried lots of different beers. I had a 10 tasters for $10 sample, and the bartender added two more samples for free. The last one was this amazing fortified beer, that was so tasty. And at 11%, a bit strong. We grabbed a couple of last pints, and headed up to the roof to enjoy the evening.
It was getting past midnight, and it was time to head back to the hotel. We decided to make one last stop, at a bar the bartender from the River Pig Saloon recommended, called Pepe le Moko. Cool name, cool bar - built underground in an old bomb shelter! We had to wait for a bit to get in - the place was tiny - but it was worth the wait. We had a drink, be we were both a little past our limits at that point. It was a fun evening, and we stumbled back to the hotel for a good nights' sleep!
We slept in Monday morning, knowing that we had a pretty long day ahead of us, with the full drive back to Vancouver. We checked out around noon, after having grabbed some breakfast and getting packed up. The drive back was pretty good, and we were making good time. As we were heading up through Washington State, we decided to make a side trip detour to Mount Rainier, and do the drive up to Paradise.
We had really enjoyed our trip up to Mount Rainier a couple of summers back, but this time of year the park and the mountain look completely different. It was cold, rainy and overcast, and we only really saw a view of the mountain once, through the clouds, towards the end of the day. On the drive up we saw a few deer and one marmot, along with quite a bit of snow, and lots of meltwater waterfalls.
There was still more than 10' of snow at Paradise, and they had just opened for the season a few days earlier. We walked around a bit, marvelling at how much snow was still around, and checked out the Paradise Inn for old times sake. Such an amazing place.
On the drive back down, we stopped at Narada Falls and Christine Falls, to take a few pictures. While it was a short visit up to Paradise, it's such a beautiful spot, any time of the year.
On the way out, we got our one slight view of the mountain through the clouds. it peeked out briefly, just as we were close to the park exit.
After leaving the park, but before heading back to the main highway, we made a late lunch/early dinner stop at the Copper Creek Inn, this cool little restaurant and Inn just outside the park.
We had eaten there before, and it has a great feel to it, and the food is pretty good as well. After that, it was really all about the drive back. We had timed our side excursion pretty well, which meant that by the time we hit Bellevue/Seattle/Everett, the traffic was actually not too bad, and we only had minor slow downs in a few places.
Once past the bigger cities, it was a smooth shot up the highway to the border. The border was a mess (as we expected), even arriving late. It ended up being an hour wait, which was annoying. Still, it was a fabulous birthday weekend! Portland is a lot of fun, and we had a lot of great adventures!