I'll just say it, I needed a break from making maps. To see real trees and mountains instead of the ones on my computer's screensaver. I set my sights on Portland and Seattle, two cities I've never visited. In six days we saw a lot, including great food, incredible natural beauty, and fun roads to drive. So here's Portland. Next week, Seattle.
Where to Stay in Portland:
Hotel Eastlund 1021 NE Grand Ave
First, we got very lucky and found the Eastlund Hotel - it's brand new. Cool contemporary interiors, pleasant staff and a great rooftop bar. They did not know Red Maps, we stayed and paid like any other guest.
Where to Eat:
Argentinian rustic fare. We heard Ox recommended over-and-over again as we asked around. Great entrées and savory side dishes were generous portions.
What to See:
Mt. Hood At Mt. Hood, an hour-plus drive outside the city, we visited its historic lodge, then hiked a little up the mountain's lower trails. With little to no trees, it was an arid desert-like environment.
Columbia River Gorges The drive back to Portland from Mt. Hood took us along the Columbia with its picturesque gorges and dramatic bends in the road.
Cannon Beach About 1 1/2 hours from Portland, the drive along Route 26 winded through pretty hills and farms. The road reaches 1,500ft/458m in altitude. It then descends to the spectacular Cannon Beach and its namesake picture-perfect town.
Rose Garden Set in Washington Park above the city, the garden and nearby paths are lovely to get out of the car and stretch your legs. We saw the gardens in late August, so check the park's calendar to see when peak bloom time is. Even without the blooms, Washington Park itself is worth you visiting.