Wednesday, July 18, 2012


We have just returned from a 7-day spree in Portland, Oregon.  Though neither Markus nor I can remember who or when or why, it seems so many people over the years have insisted that Portland would be the ideal place for us to settle down, whenever we figure out how to settle down.  It is a city with an airport (critical) but it's not big, not fussy, fairly liberal and green and very outdoorsy.  We were told the lifestyle would suit us the summer.  Apparently, you have pretty much guaranteed nice weather from after the 4th of July until the end of August.  After that, you are pretty much guaranteed that your favourite pair of wellies and a good raincoat will be appreciated.  Hmmm.

Every other time we had considered visiting to check it out, the time of year wasn't ideal.  Now that we're in the States and subject to school schedules with Ellie starting 2nd grade in the fall, we figured this was our time!  We went just after the 4th of July, and do you know what?  The weather was every bit as wonderful as we had been promised!  Escaping from over 2 weeks of temperatures near 100F and humidity to less than 90F, low humidity and cool nights (below 60F) made it a double holiday.

ready to fly!

We rented a vacation home in Lake Oswego, a fancy suburb outside of Portland.  We found it via airbnb, and we'd say it was a cross between a bed and breakfast and a vacation rental in that we had the house to ourselves but the owner (Shela) was still there in the basement.  It was quite an unusual arrangement and not one we would seek again, but thankfully she was wonderfully nice and so friendly with the girls that it all worked out ok.  It was a lovely house, a historic home she had saved from demolition and renovated beautifully.  She had saved some of her daughters' toys and had them out on the sun porch for our family to use, which the girls loved!  Fashion Plates (which I also loved as a child) were the huge hit.  Thank goodness I packed lots of blank paper and our colouring pencils!

our vacation rental

We try to take it easy on holiday, meaning the girls aren't overtaxed but Markus and I are often under-taxed.  We want to do and see, and we try to moderate.  This time, we did a side trip on Sunday and Monday to Mount Hood and stayed the night in the historic Timberline Lodge (dedicated by Roosevelt as an icon of the Works Progress Administration).  The craftsmanship in the lodge is stunning, and I felt privileged to see it and thankful we could appreciate and enjoy it.  Our room had a king-size bed, a single and a roll-away, so there were plenty of beds to jump on sleep in.  The pool has a view up the mountain and snow comes right to the fence.  The biggest thrill, of course, was the snow!  The girls were over the moon to play in snow for the first time in memory, and we were all very happy that we could play and wander to our hearts' content because the air was quite warm (80+ degrees F).

I have posted a ton of pictures in our flickr account, but here are a few of my favourites:

family portrait

"the running thing"

Timberline Lodge craftsmanship

Timberline Lodge

On the way home, we drove a different way so we could pass through Columbia Gorge and see the magnificent Multnomah Falls.  There are many falls and a famous dam along that drive, but the girls couldn't have cared less.  They have no love for long car rides, so that when we stopped for Multnomah Falls and got out for a closer look, they insisted they could see it just fine and could we please go home now.  The perils of childhood in our family...sigh.

Multnomah Falls

One of my oldest friends, Quinn, and his wife live in Portland.  I hadn't seen Quinn in over 10 years (wow), but we were able to catch up on this trip.  They made a lot of time for us, showing us all around Portland on Saturday.  We met at the university farmer's market, ate lunch at a food cart (essential Portland fare), stopped in at Powell's Books (overwhelming!), played in Washington Park and relaxed with a beer and pizza at the Lucky Labrador pub.  Quinn met up with us again on Tuesday and introduced us to another neighbourhood for good food and the most amazing ice cream at Salt & Straw.  Then, we drove out to Sauvie Island so the girls could play at the river beach.

good times

Portland was a great place for food and small neighbourhoods.  I am a huge fan.  The Waffle Window was a must-stop for us, and we went twice.  I admit it.  If you have the chance to go, do yourself a favour and order the blueberry cheesecake waffle.  It's a Belgian waffle topped with homemade cheesecake pudding (amazing stuff!) and homemade blueberry compote.  Holy moly.  Is it over the top rich and decadent?  Yes, indeedy!  Order it and enjoy it because where else can you have that?  Yum.

 Waffle Window!

Wednesday was our last full day, so we visited the Oregon Zoo in the morning.  Our girls are bit rotten on zoos (Rotterdam, Sydney, Perth, Singapore, Bali, Thailand elephant rides...), so they are a bit tough to impress.  Markus and I, on the other hand, were very impressed.  The Pacific-Northwest section of the zoo is built right into the forest setting, and it felt very much a part of it.  The zoo was well-designed and accommodating to kids (you'd be amazed at how many zoos are not), building in steps up to high displays and even putting step stools at the toilets and sinks in the bathroom.  Afterwards, we went back to the Waffle Window for a snack and then to visit a bike shop we'd found online.  Being atypical tourists but tourists nonetheless, we bought atypical souvenirs: new bikes!  I found a bike I'd always wanted, and they are going to ship it to me here in Sewickley.  Markus found a very unusual adaptation piece that will convert his old mountain bike into a bike that can fit two kids on the back.  It will take two weeks before we see them, but I'm excited.

On Thursday, Markus flew home with the girls and I carried on to San Francisco, taking my mom there for a long weekend as a birthday present.  It's a big year this year, and we wanted to celebrate in a special way.  Now, we're all home again and trying to settle into some sort of routine.  The weather is still hot and humid.  The air conditioning in the bedrooms is still totally inadequate.  But we are so thankful we had such a fantastic holiday...and we can't help considering a move there perhaps someday in the future. As Markus said, at least you can count on the summers being fantastic, and that is his favourite time to be out anyway.

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