Another Christmas in Portland, Oregon….by train!


King Street Station, Seattle 2016. Photo by Yelp.

From the East Coast, (Wilton, Connecticut and New York City) to the West Coast, (Seattle and Portland Oregon)…Thanksgiving to today – has been a bit of a blur. Filled with family, fun, flavorful food and fantastic adventures!

My writing on Harlem remains in the works…so much to write about! Portland was a great 2 days away. The Amtrak train is a good way to travel, relatively inexpensive if you book in advance (2 weeks). There are other promotions that make it a bargain, as well. We did this trip two years ago and that version is here.

Day One of Away: We traveled at 7:25am Christmas morn and had a great little home-packed breakfast. It required only hot water from the café car! Instant oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, bacon, granola bars, tangerines, and hot cocoa (with peppermint schnapps…the little bottle we got in our stockings!) tea and Trader Joe’s instant coffee, my husband loves it! The Starbucks Via instant peppermint mocha would have also filled the bill but that got left behind in the emptying of the stockings midnight shuffle.

We spent a happy time with Jacob and his gang feasting and fooling around Christmas Day. The Embassy Suites Downtown is an ideal, reasonably priced place to stay with its wonderful breakfasts and afternoon receptions included. Tripadvisor agrees. This is a hotel for families, and there were many in their Christmas pajama’s turning-up for breakfast. Walking distance from the train or you can catch The MAX, Portland’s public light rail transportation.

We walked to the hotel. Light rail came in handy during our visit, also. After checking-in and taking a short rest before for the day’s activities – Jacob came and brought us to his home for Christmas excitement and eating!

Elisabeth carried the Christmas dinner (a very heavy box)…glad she did not complain or give up when we hoofed it to the hotel…treats we lugged from home – that made a great Christmas Day meal. We brought our home grown potatoes and a spiral cut ham – a 5 pound manicotti (save yourself the cooking of the spinach or the noodles in this recipe – use the fresh spinach chopped finely and the manicotti noodle uncooked -so much easier to stuff- and, just cook it for an hour using extra sauce and some extra swigs of wine, tented with foil, test doneness with a fork) with a bonus jar of my homemade red sauce (the best present Jacob got!) and Russian Tea Cakes …my Christmas cookie of choice! (I use chopped walnuts…and roll twice in powdered sugar…when they are still slightly warm and again when served…a paper or plastic bag with powdered sugar to shake them in, works well.) Audra mashed the potatoes with plenty of butter, Jacob made the olive oil and vinegar salad, Veda added her homemade sugar cookies.

The gifts were all opened with glee. We played a game of Heads Up! – a fun game sent by the East Coasters – Jen and her gang. You can download it in app form if you desire, here is a review. We examined our new books, art supplies and special treats. It was a crazy, loud, fun Christmas Day…and, we went back to the hotel full and ready for a long winter’s nap.

Day Two of Away: We woke late, 10ish. The hotel had extended breakfast hours for the holidays which suited us well!

Warhol’s Mao Zedong series. Photo by Elis Wooton.

This day after Christmas, The Portland Art Museum made the brilliant decision to open – even though it was their traditional Monday to be closed. The place was hopping. The entrance fee is a bit steep but this museum is a wonder and worth it! The Andy Warhol exhibit (just closing I am sad to say) was wonderfully curated. I am not a fan; but, after seeing his range and subject matter I was very glad I saw it. It is a comprehensive show taking us from the tin-foiled walls of his Factory days to the attempted assassination he barely survived in 1968 to an unexpected early end in 1987 of his life. (If you have time to read about it, it is an intriguing, odd and interesting one!). His work is very colorful and contemporary…he is one of the penultimate artist of the 1950-60’s pop art movement and a consummate leader, consumer, constructor of pop culture and capitalism as the exhibit shows in a very effective way. His endangered species series is brilliant (pun intended!). He is known for his openly gay, life style and interest in sexual behavior and his art relating to this, in this exhibit, is relegated to a small room to the side.

This photo set up in a museum window speaks to Warhol’s voyeuristic tendencies, obsessive documentation by photograph – the Polaroid being his favorite camera choice. And, self-promotion…Photo Elis Wooton.

The rest of the Museum is a great collection of art from Native American art, a few old masters like Van Gogh to modern and avant-garde work. Some of it is simply beautiful, some interesting and evocative and some you scratch your head and move on… But, it is all engaging and the space is plentiful, the hangs are well done and the collections robust. It is a bit of an architectural wonder as well with its windows overlooking courtyard sculpture and its winding galleries – some in the old wing, the contemporary art in the new wing. Upcoming exhibits.

This from Wikipedia: The Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon, United States, was founded in 1892, making it the oldest art museum on the West Coast and seventh oldest in the United States.[4] Upon completion of the most recent renovations, the Portland Art Museum became one of the 25 largest art museums in the United States, at a total of 240,000 square feet (22,000 m²), with more than 112,000 square feet (10,400 m²) of gallery space. The permanent collection has more than 42,000 works of art, and at least one major traveling exhibition is usually on exhibit. The Portland Art Museum features a center for Native American art, a center for Northwest art, a center for modern and contemporary art, permanent exhibitions of Asian art, and an outdoor public sculpture garden. The Northwest Film Center is also a component of Portland Art Museum. Read more.

The ride home was smooth and uneventful…we got seated in quiet upper car. We had sandwiches and salads from Safeway and cookies and tea. And, whiled away the hours working on projects or reading.

I highly recommend a train trip to Portland and when you are there a must “to do” is a visit to the excellent Portland Art Museum.

We are off to Campbell River, BC and the islands of the Inside Passage tomorrow and at that so darn cute Dolphin’s Resort…report to follow on that few days away!

Seattle Symphony’s Messiah THE antidote to the hustle and bustle…

Simply majestic…my recommendation: go ahead – get your hustle and bustle on before you go to the Seattle Symphony’s The Messiah by George Frideric Handle ; but, go to this Messiah! Go see it snow inside Pacific Place (6pm), get a great bowl of minestrone at Il Fornaio, watch the Santa photo’s in the iconic Santa’s workshop on the corner of 6th and Pine. Stop by Nordstrom’s Rack for a pair of Christmas pajama’s, walk by the city Christmas tree and carousel at Westlake Center Plaza, marvel at the Macy star and stop for a box of dark chocolate Frango’s (and the women’s department of Karen Scott, second floor, to get ridiculously low prices on wonderful sweaters and turtleneck’s – the white one with polka dots and little black Scottie dogs with tiny red bows about their necks was one I had to get – $7…and, Santa if you are reading this…).

BUT, then, absolutely go to Benaroya Hall and enjoy this gift of tradition and great music. The Seattle Symphony and Seattle Symphony Chorale are outstanding as is the award-winning and amazing conductor Stephen Layton (have a listen) and the principal’s all have international reputations, especially great – the tenor Gwilym Bowen and soprano Eleanor Dennis. This is truly something special. The written program is full of fun facts and the history of this composition by Handle (this piece was composed for Easter not Christmas!) plus contains the full text. In the first act the trumpets are playing from above…and, then the Hallelujah chorus! It is what you need right now!

Tickets for the performances today – 1pm and 8pm and Sunday 2pm remain. Don’t be particular, any seat will do…it is just about perfect timing to be the best gift you can give yourself or others this holiday season! I could go on and on…better you stop reading and get going…and, then ease into your seat and sit back and enjoy this magnificent concert!