An August 2001 trip
to Portland by Re Carroll
Quote: How could you NOT love a place that has the world's largest book store, the world's smallest park and the world's only 24 hour Church of Elvis? Our two day visit wasn't enough to see and do all that we wanted but we sure had fun trying.
We wandered through areas like China Town with its large colourful gate. One of our favourite places was the Saturday Market along the waterfront. It is a fascinating combination of arts and crafts, food and buskers that kept us entertained for hours.
We also discovered Portland’s
quirky side and some attractions that were definitely off the beaten path. It took about 10 seconds to explore Mill Ends Park, supposedly the smallest in the world. On the opposite end of the scale, Powell’s New & Used Books bills itself as the world’s largest and our feet certainly agreed after traipsing through numerous rooms checking out every type of book imaginable. Our most bizarre experience was at the 24 Hour Church of Elvis which almost defies description but was definitely a memorable experience.
Portland successfully combines a small town
atmosphere with big city attractions and amenities and has wonderful west coast scenery to boot. Definitely a place to return to!
There are lots of shops and restaurants nearby.
Hotel | "Best Western Inn at the Convention Centre"
The rates for this hotel were much less than many of the other Portland hotels I checked out. I think this is partly due to the fact that the
hotel is older and doesn’t have a lot of amenities. It is located in an area that seems a bit gloomy at night but we didn’t encounter any problems when walking around after dark. One real benefit was the MAX light rail line that was just across the street which meant we could leave the car at
the hotel. The hotel had a private parking lot near the entrance and there was no additional charge for parking.
Our room was decorated in rust, cream and green and had two queen size beds and a separate reading area with a table and a couple of chairs. Although a bit dark, it was
large enough to accommodate the four of us comfortably. As in most hotels, air conditioning was standard but the room also had large sliding windows that opened to let in fresh air and we had a good view of the large glass spires atop the Convention Centre.
The bathrooms facilities
were separated with tub and toilet in one room and the sink, hairdryer and large make up mirror outside the door. This worked well for us since there were four women and we could reduce our morning prep time because one person could do makeup, hair, etc. while someone else was in the
Each floor had a vending machine selling snacks and pop and ice machines were
located on every second floor. The hotel restaurant, called Marsens, was basically a coffee shop that was open for breakfast and lunch but we didn’t eat there.
The woman at reception was pleasant and helpful and didn’t bat an eye at our requests for extra pillows, change for the pop machine and information on tourist attractions.
Overall, the hotel had an almost institutional feel to it - not much of a warm and cozy atmosphere but as mentioned above, the location was ok and the hotel was very reasonably priced ($75. for 4 people). I’d recommend it as budget
lodgings but next time we’d probably pay more to stay right downtown at a hotel with amenities like a pool, sauna, etc.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 22, 2001
Inn at the Convention Center
420 N E Holladay Street
Portland, Oregon 97232
Attraction | "Portland's Parks"
Make sure you have your camera ready for a picture of Mill Ends Park. Measuring only two feet, Guinness has recognized it as the world's smallest city park. At one time, it was just a pole hole but an enterprising Portland resident lobbied to have it turned into a park and it now features a plaque that makes it official. I had one heck of a time finding this park and even the few residents I asked weren't quite sure. When you see the park, you'll understand why it's not easy to locate. It sits in the middle of the road, at the end of a traffic median on S.W. Naito Parkway but somehow people manage to hold weddings and other celebrations here. It is supposedly looked after by a resident leprechaun who seems to be doing a good job.
Although you can't stroll through Mill Ends (one step and you're out of the park), Portland has lots of other parks to enjoy. The three level International Rose Test Garden showcases hundreds of varieties of roses throughout the spring and summer and the Japanese Garden is one of the most authentic ones outside of Japan. Both these parks are on the MAX transit line at the Washington Park stop.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 22, 2001
Mill Ends Park
Median Strip of SW Naito Parkway & Taylor
Portland, Oregon 97204
It's in a rather seedy area and I wouldn't recommend visiting here at night, alone or on foot, but is was fine during the day.
Be warned: You MUST have a warped or unusual sense of humour since this place is like nothing you've probably seen or will see again. There is no rhyme nor reason to it but rather a bizarre mix of toys, memorabilia, etc. from the 60s right up to today. See the cardboard statues of Jennifer Lopez, Kathy Ireland...and Elvis, of course. Listen as the "curator" gives you a rambling, non sensical oratory on who knows what. See the vibrating tin can, watch the doll that actually bites into a Big Mac (it's magic!) and be prepared to be jovially insulted. There are no set times, you just walk in and join the loose tour at whatever stage it's at.
When I arrived, a couple from Texas were the only victims, I mean guests. Within 20 minutes, some people from Germany and other couples wandered in and our group grew to about 13. My nieces came to find me and they also got sucked into the Elvis tour void - definitely lost in space here. Sometimes, the guide would back track and go through part of her spiel again; other times, she changed topics like men change channels with a remote control. I was lost but judging from the bemused and befuddled expressions on the faces of the others, so was everyone else. So far, nothing had to do with Elvis but there was so much to look at, we didn't mind...or maybe we just didn't notice.
As we progressed from the clutter filled back room to the larger and more clutter filled main room, Elvis walked in; or should I say, Elvis in disguise? He sat down near an unfinished jigsaw puzzle for a few minutes, then got his gold lame cape and took off for parts unknown. We later saw him with his guitar chatting to people on the street and even later, busking for the crowd at the Saturday Market.
After about 20 minutes of the tour, and with no end in sight, we decided to make a break for it since we had to meet up with my sister. As we left, I noticed the others in the group still looked confused but all seemed to have goofy grins on their face. I have a feeling that this is a place they'll remember -I know I will!
There didn't appear to be any charge for the tour although they did have tee shirts, including glow in the dark ones, for sale - the perfect memento from the Church of Elvis.
24 Hour Church of Elvis
720 SW Ankeny St
Attraction | "Skidmore Fountain Building and Saturday Market"
The inside hasn't been modernized much. The floors are squeaky wooden planks and the interior walls are old exposed bricks. As well as stairs, there is an elevator for second floor access.
One store sells only clothing, food and other items from Australia and is called, what else? - the Australia Shop. If you're a fan of Marmite, the vegetable paste spread that Aussies are so fond of, you'll find it here. This is also the place to buy trendy Blundstone boots.
The small cafe just inside the entrance of the building does a booming business. It's open for breakfast and lunch and serves scones, muffins, bagels, sandwiches and on weekdays, soup. We tried the crumb cakes which were very moist and delicious. This is also the place for tea, espresso, Italian sodas and my niece's favourite, tangy strawberry lemonade. Prices seemed to be less than outside at the market.
If you leave through the back of the building, you're right into the market chaos but if you're still hungry stop, at Limey's. The owner is from England, hence the name. He sells take away pastries, sausage rolls, Scotch eggs (deep fried, crumb coated, shelled, hard boiled eggs), shortbread cookies and very rich and very large slices of cheesecake with fruit topping.
Most of Skidmore's stores sell clothes, mainly cottons made in Asia and the prices are very reasonable. Herbs, new age books and oriental gifts and ornaments are also available.
If you can tear yourself away from shopping and eating at the Skidmore Building, head outside to the Market for lots more of the same. You'll find stalls selling fish and chips, burgers, falafaels, fudge, Mexican food, etc. as well as what seems like hundreds of stalls where artisans sell everything from handmade jewellery to candles. You can even find artists who'll draw your portrait while you wait.
This is also a great place to watch the entertaining buskers. I was especially impressed with a woman who played the sax (and very well I might add) while expertly keeping her hula hoop in motion. Elvis was here too...taking a break from the Church of Elvis, I guess.
The Skidmore building is open seven days a week but the Market only operates on Saturday and Sunday.
Portland Saturday Market
108 W Burnside St.
Portland, Oregon 97209
Abbotsford, British Columbia