Portland Week 1

Portland is the City of Roses (sorry Pasadena!) and boy are there roses and other flowers galore. Walking around our neighborhood everyone has roses, sunflowers and hydrangea like crazy. I guess the relatively temperate climate and the abundance of rain are what the flowers like.

Several have asked how we decided to spend a month in Portland. As longtime readers will know, we have fully embraced the slow travel movement. We enjoy staying in a place for three or four weeks at a time as it lets us see what living in a place is like.

Given we had been spending no more than four or five nights anyplace for over a month (since we left Sarnia in June 26th), we decided we would be ready to be still for a bit. We have always wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest and I tried to get transferred to Heery’s Seattle office several times. Unfortunately when they wanted me, I had a project or family commitment that kept us back east and when I was available, they didn’t need me. So we thought staying in Seattle or/or Portland would be fun. Unfortunately, the Airbnbs available in Seattle were out of our price range (or located so suburban we weren’t really in Seattle). So rather than splitting our time between the two cities we ended up in Portland.

Finding an affordable place here with parking and air conditioning wasn’t easy either and we ended up using VRBO instead of our usual airbnb as we found a place that would rent for longer than 30 days which meant we didn’t have to pay the high tax that Portland has imposed on short term rentals.

Our Apartment here is liveable but sometimes you get what you pay for. It’s in an older building at the edge of one of the trendy districts. Some houses on this block are in dire need of a savior while some have found theirs and are now priced in the upper $600k for a 3/2 renates house. Our apartment is the upstairs unit of a house that has been subdivided into three apartments. Basement (thank goodness we aren’t there!) first floor and us. While it is air conditioned it isn’t exactly what I envisioned!

The poor thing does fine when it’s below 85° but when it’s above that it gets warm. Luckily there are several fans so we can move the cool(ish) air into the bedroom and kitchen. Anyway, enough about our accommodations-#FirstWorldProblems

After our usual first day activities of grocery shopping and laundry we did explore our neighborhood a bit. We found the all organic free range whole grain granola-y supermarket across the street too expensive so we ended up at Fred Myers (think Kroger) and found lots of good things so we could cook in. Poké bowls are our new go-to quick and easy dinner!

Later in the week we headed out to explore the Oregon Coast. It was about an hour and a half drive to Astoria which is a port near the mouth of the Columbia River. It is the site is the last bridge crossing to Washington state

We had a delicious lunch on the waterfront. We shared some chowder and I had pan fried oysters for the first time they were so much better than deep fried ones. (Mike had fish n’chips).

From Astoria we head south along the scenic beach road stopping several places along the way.

The first was in Sunset Beach where after 7710 miles (and 81 days) we finally made of fully across the country to the Pacific. Of course we had to get our feet in the (cold!) water.

We continued down the coast through the little vacation villages stopping several times to get onto the beach.

We noted how differently folks here dress when on the beach. Of course one of the reasons we had come on the day we did was to stay cool. 67° at the coast vs. 94° in Portland made for a much nicer day.

After continuing down the coast we turned east at Seaside and head back to “home”. It was a lovely day and the following week we went back to the southern section. More about that in my next post.

We went to Portland’s Saturday Farmer’s Market which is held downtown on the University of Portland’s campus. It is huge-both sides of a boulevard (so four rows of stands) for three or four blocks. Portland has a farmer’s market somewhere in town everyday (some days more than one) except Tuesday. In a later post I will share pictures about what has become “our” market. But we enjoyed this big one. Lots of veggies and fruit along with prepared food, organic everything including your CBD and other marijuana products. Each vendor had a beautiful display of their wares.

We bought some heirloom tomatoes and had ‘mater sandwiches (on white bread of course but no Dukes so had to use Best mayo instead) for supper! Yum. Not quite as good as those grown at Lois’ church but that might be because these cost big bucks rather than being free for the picking!

So that wraps up our first week in Portland. Be back tomorrow with week 2!

Curaçao.

We had a great day in Curaçao on Saturday. We had never visited this island before and joined Peggy & Lowell (who had been there before) on a day tour aboard a school bus that took us to the western part of the island.

This is the more rural part of the island and is rocky and still mostly natural and undeveloped. It is quite a contrast to the area near the pier and especially to Aruba.

Our first stop was at a volcanic formation of caves. The surf was rough and while I would have loved to go in, we were warned it wasn’t safe.

We also tasted iguana soup at the snack shack here. It tasted like really good chicken stock. Eddie our guide promised it would make us look 20 years younger. He said it would take a day or two to do so…it’s now day three and no difference. Think I can get my $2 back?

Curaçao is relatively arid so the island is covered with cactus which is strange to see on a tropical island.

Our next stop was a beach beside a fisherman’s pier. The fish remnants draw sea turtles and the turtles draw tourists. It was great swimming with them. The ones we saw were all pre-adult-under 25 years or so. Apparently they become vegetarian as adults and go elsewhere to find sea grasses. They ranged in size from 18″ Long to over three feet. Sorry I don’t have an underwater camera but the picture below is of the pier taken from our next stop. You’ll have to trust me that the turtles were incredible. Mike hadn’t been excited about this mostly beach trip (he burns so easily and hated sunscreen) but after our 30 minutes with the turtles he said any sunburn (there wasn’t any thankgoodness) would be worth it.

The next stop was for folks to jump from a 40′ high cliff into the beautiful water below. Given my unfortunate cliff diving incident in Cozumel several years ago, I declined the offer! LOL. The two (out of 23 on our bus) who did it said it was great.

Our next stop was at the #8 beach in the world as ranked by someone. It was beautiful. The title picture was from there as are these:

We stopped for a late lunch at another beach. The seven of us who were on the ship really only had time for a quick dip and lunch while the other guests from hotels got an extra hour of beach time. We loaded up and headed back towards town.

On the way we made a picture stop at the salt ponds to see the flamingos. These birds fly over everyday from their nests in Venezuela (42 miles) to eat the more tasty shrimp in Curaçao. Talk about foodies!

We arrived back to town with plenty of time to spare so Mike and I walked the 5 minute into the old part of town. To get there, you go through the old fort which had now become the home of restaurants and shops. Our goal was to see the floating Queen Emma bridge. This pedestrian only bridge crosses the bay and joins the two parts of the original town. Because all the industry is upriver, it has to move. We luckily got there just as a barge was coming in so it opened up (it becomes shorter by moving the floats closer together and swings parallel to the water flow) to let it go by. It is apparently the oldest and longest floating bridge in the world. It was originally built in 1888.

We then headed back to the ship. Viking was docked in front of us today (she had been behind us yesterday). It’s always fun to see ships we’ve sailed before. This morning (after a sea day on Sunday) we awoke to have Celebrity Summit sharing our pier in St Maarten. We sailed her in 2003 for Mike’s 40th Birthday cruise to Alaska. That was the trip that made us realize how much we enjoy cruising.

We are staying aboard the ship today enjoying having it almost all go ourselves. Tonight we celebrate Peggy’s birthday in LeBistro. Tomorrow we are in St. Thomas and are likely to stay aboard there too. Then two sea days before we disembark in Miami on Friday morning and fly to Raleigh that evening. Hard to believe this first adventure of our retired life is coming to an end…really doesn’t seem like it was 10 months ago that we were packing up that U-box in Houston starting out on it!

Aruba.

Had an uneventful sail from Miami to Jamaica where we didn’t leave the ship and then after turkey for Thanksgiving yesterday arrived in Aruba this morning.

We took the public bus $5 roundtrip per person to the beach at the lighthouse. We had a couple of beers a piece and shrimp ($25) and a swim in the beautiful blue water. Lots of folks snorkeling alas we have no mask.

Now on the bus headed back to the ship. Got some leftover turkey, cranberry sauce and dressing for a lunchtime sandwich!

Tomorrow it’s Curaçao and a full tour of the islands beaches.