Monday, September 10, 2018

Visiting a Cathedral: Astoria OR

A great thing about Pacific Northwest destinations is that no matter how many times you visit them, you can always experience something new.

That holds true for Astoria, an easy two-hour drive from Portland on Hwy. 30 along the Columbia River. 

So for the umpteenth time I set out for this historic port city. Once I arrived, I had the urge to see a sweeping view, which led me to the Astoria Column. From the top of Coxcomb Hill, I admired the iconic panorama where the Columbia River meets the Pacific. 

A toll booth employee was on break, and we struck up a conversation. She proceeded to clue me into to a short hike right off the parking lot that leads to the Cathedral Tree

This charming woodsy hike descends into shady greenery and leads to a hollowed-out tree that does indeed resemble a hobbit-like cathedral. 

And just a few feet away is a weathered wooden bench – a kind of pew I guess – where one can sit quietly near the Cathedral Tree and soak up the restorative energy of the forest.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Along the River and Through the Woods: Salmon River OR

On that particular day, hiking along the Salmon River was pretty magical. Puffy white clouds floated above, occasionally covering the sun to create a lovely play of shadow and light, adding to the woodsy wonderland experience.

And let’s not forget the swiftly flowing whispering river just a stone’s throw away. Or the tangled moss in various shades of green dangling from old growth Douglas Firs. Or the delightful sunny spots nestled between fallen trees and lush ferns.

Pardon my descent into purple prose, but seriously – on that April afternoon, Mother Nature did not disappoint.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Society Hotel: Portland OR

It was just one of those days. Light winds and clear blue skies – a perfect day to visit the rooftop bar at the Society Hotel, a small, hipster-ish boutique hotel in Portland, Oregon’s Old Town.

And the Society Hotel is equally appealing on a cold and rainy day. On the ground floor is a very inviting cafĂ© and lounge area. Its high ceilings and large windows let in tons of natural light and provide a lively view of the surrounding street life, plus there’s a cozy hearth complete with fireplace.

IMHO, it seems the Society Hotel has struck a pleasant balance between old and new Portland. Although the patrons are predominantly millennials and the interior is low-key industrial chic, the building’s historic feel is enhanced rather than overshadowed by trendiness.

I also like the coffee, plus the baristas are always friendly and helpful. I often pop in after I meet a client that's a block away.

I am a bit concerned, however, that the spanking new Starbucks kitty corner to the hotel might steal some of the Society's coffee business. Don’t get me wrong – Starbucks has its place (Speed! Convenience! Consistency!) But if you have the time, I encourage you to skip McStarbucks and settle into the Society Hotel for a more personalized and intimate experience. 

The Society Hotel, Cafe, Bar & Lounge

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Back to the Christmas Tree Forest: Buxton OR

Once again I attended an annual U-cut Christmas tree party in Buxton, Oregon. It was another cool and misty day. Perfect tree-cutting weather!

Here's a post from a couple years ago about the magical hidden Christmas tree forest.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

1856 Bottle Shop & Bar: Portland OR

Now that we’ve officially entered into the Dark Wet Tunnel (i.e. short days and lots of rain), I think back to sunnier days, particularly places where you can sit yourself down and soak up some sun.

The "lizard wall" at 1856

I’ve scoped out a few of these sites around town – usually they face south or west – and are often connected to food and drink. One of my favorites is what I have fondly dubbed the "lizard wall” at 1856 – a comfortable, relaxed and well-stocked neighborhood bottle shop and bar located in northeast Portland.  

OK, so why a lizard wall? Because it’s perfect to rest against and warm yourself – just like a reptile would do. This red (concrete?) wall faces west, and gets quite toasty in the afternoon, which makes it an ideal spot to enjoy a glass of wine or a pint of cider. 

And note the handy window: if you decide to run a tab, the drink tender can slide out the next round without you having to forfeit your spot.

The wall even feels great on a chilly afternoon – as long as the sun has had a chance to warm it up.

When we get our next sun break, you know where to find me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Hobbit Walk in the 'Hood: Portland OR

By now, the vibrant red, yellow and gold leaves of October have pretty much blown off the trees and are bunched up against the curb (or floating around in puddles). The transition into the austere part of the year is in full swing.

However, if you keep your peepers peeled there’s still lots of unexpected beauty – not exactly in plain sight – but just outside the frame as they say. It’s often hidden under piles of wet leaves, broken branches and hearty shrubs.

And the great thing about Portland is, that despite the new construction explosion, you can still tap into the “hobbit vibe” that's pervasive throughout the Pacific Northwest. The unexpected woodsy, mossy, moody moments that surround us…hidden between skinny houses that sprouted overnight, or condo complexes that were once empty lots.

You just have to look a little harder.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

(Almost) Guilt-Free Comfort Food: Chickpeadx, Portland OR

Falafel Salad at ChickPeaDX

When I think of comfort food, it usually conjures up images of gooey mac and cheese topped with toasted breadcrumbs, fettucine alfredo generously sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan, or pretty much any other main course where butter and/or cheese plays a starring role.

However, on the lighter end of the emotionally satisfying food spectrum, I am happy to report there’s a comfort food salad to be found at ChickPeaDX, located at The Zipper, the new-ish hipster food court on NE Sandy at 27th.

ChickPeaDX at The Zipper 

This salad has successfully taken the ubiquitous and-not-always-great falafel to new heights by presenting it in a fresh, crunchy and colorful bowl of vegetables plus fried eggplant, topped with your choice of slightly exotic and tasty sauces.

Let’s talk about the falafel: they are hot and crunchy on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, pleasingly seasoned – and bear no resemblance to the tired, boring and flat-tasting falafel I’ve experienced at lesser establishments.

As for the salad, it is a festival of color and texture that perfectly compliments the falafel balls, and the carrot “ribbons” have made me view my vegetable peeler with new found respect.

So if you are seeking comfort food with less guilt than, say, mashed potatoes, meat lasagna or fried chicken, head on over to ChickPeaDX. They’ll hook you up.