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!

Modena. (Or is there ever too much chocolate?)

not sure why (bad Spanish Internet? But all the pictures in this post aren’t loading. So sorry but here is the text.

We left Milan early in the morning and headed towards Modena our next resting spot. But first we had a hilltop town, two more lakes and a castle to see.

Our first stop was Bergamo. Mike and I had visited here last June so when we arrived and found parking near the upper city (Alta Citta) impossible, I dropped Mike, Lowell and Peggy (hereafter M,P&L) off at the upper gate and I drove to the lower gate of this walled city and sat in the car while M,P&L walked through town. They went into the Duomo but otherwise basically did a quick walk through.

From there we headed to Iseo ( on Lake Iseo) for a quick stop on our way to Lake Garda.

Peggy had selected Sirmione as our next stop. This town is on a peninsula that extends into Lake Garda. At the midpoint is the peninsula is Castello Scaligero which was built in the 14th century.

The medieval town and lake surrounding the castle are beautiful and could easily be used for a Disney movie.

We had a delicious lunch. Mike and I halfed and halfed lasagne and a local cod dish with polenta. While tasty I was disappointed that the polenta was grilled and not more liquid. Unfortunately we were both apparently too busy eating to take any pictures. sorry.

After lunch we continued onto Modena. Due to parking issues in Sirmione we needed up leaving later than planned which meant it was after dark when we got to Modena. We had difficulty locating our airbnb (the holiday festival and one way streets only raised my frustration level) but after a couple of phone calls to the host we finally found the right address and checked into our lovely home for the next two nights.

The apartment was located within the historic center which made driving difficult and after that stress of the previous night my passengers suggested and I readily agreed to trashing our plans to visit Verona and some other nearby towns and instead spend the next day in Modena.

Of course, after we discovered that there was a chocolate festival literally at our doorstep with vendors’ stalls for the next eight or ten blocks we knew we made the right decision! For dinner that night we basically had chocolate albeit not shoes or handcuffs!

The next morning we visited the Grande Plaza with the Duomo and the City Hall. We also went inside to the the “historic rooms” of the City Hall. Including a very old organ.

From the main square it was only half a block to the city market. As usual incredible sights, smells and tastes-including porcetta and prosciutto!

It had started sprinkling as we left the market so we headed towards the Ferrari Museum. Along the way we passed the Ducal Palace which was covered in scaffolding-but here it is as well a the view from it across its piazza towards Duomo.

Enzo Ferrari was born in Modena and started his empire in the building below which houses a display about his life and various engines.

The old garage is surrounded by a modern building which was inspired by the boot of a Ferrari.

The main display has cars from all eras. The space itself is very interesting-sloped floor from top to bottom in a curve and with a huge projection system where they show a film on Ferrari’s life and the history of the brand and team.

Of course there is a gift shop and Cafe which was in the curved part of the building looking out on the historic garage.

As always I love the juxtaposition of ancient and contemporary:

After a wet walk in the rain Back to the apartment we called it a day and ate our market purchases for supper.

I am posting this from the Barcelona cruise terminal after a beautiful day. I’ll do a full Barcelona post in the future but here is a teaser of the inside of Sagrada Famila. OMG it’s astounding. What a change from when we were here in the mid 1990s and it didn’t have a roof or windows or full height columns! (Oh, no filter used!)

They had the hole in the ship repaired when we got off this morning and were in the process of painting it but Mike just texted from onboard and the rumor is we may not be leaving until tomorrow. No biggie-what else do I have to do?

Friday Market.

Went to Vila do Conde’s weekly market this morning. Quite a haul for only $20. Starting at 12 o’clock and moving clockwise: prosciutto-like ham, sausage, apples, olives, bread, carrot, big tomato,pastries, cherry tomatoes and figs right in the middle.

We didn’t get any of the flowers though I was very tempted by the protea. Nor did we get any of the salted cod but it is interesting to see it stacked up.