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ACE-ing Portland at The NINES

Thanks to a flurry of emails from one of my four brothers, my husband and I decided to make Portland, Oregon the first stop on our Pacific Northwest tour. When I told him we had booked our flight from Toronto to Portland.  He sent me a notice of a hotel special from Hotwire and urged me to book at The NINES.  Which I did.  We were not disappointed.

The Nines Hotel, Portland

The Nines, a place for you and your honey bunny.

The Nines is located within a former mega-department store in the Meier & Frank Building.  There is still a downsized Macy’s within this landmark building but the hotel takes up floors seven and upward to the eighteenth, top floor.  The name, is a reference to the glory days of the building, “dressed to the nines” with various decorative elements reinforcing this theme.

The Nines

Rooms, all dressed up at The Nines

The price of the hotel at $129 was within five dollars of what we paid for a very basic room at one of Juneau’s top hotels shortly after. We were very “down” with that to borrow a youthful expression. The rooms were comfy and chic, the location superbly central, with the light rail transit system footsteps away and just a few blocks away from the ACE Hotel.

Ace Hotel

Coffee & good food flank the Ace Hotel

While in Portland my brother and I exchanged several text messages via Blackberry messenger, including one where he asked if I loved the lobby of the ACE Hotel as much as he did.  Just off the lobby is a Stumptown Coffee Roasters Cafe, so when you get your coffee there, you can then hang out in the ACE Hotel lobby.

ACE Hotel Lobby

Casual Corner at the ACE Hotel

What did I love about the lobby?  Was it the offhand chic, and truly casual atmosphere where you felt perfectly comfortable rearranging the modular sofa to your needs.  Perhaps that comfort level was an offshoot of the duct tape repairs on the immense coffee table with cactii and succulents as the centerpiece.  Lining the passage to the lobby were to-the-ceiling bookshelves and in the lobby itself were bikes for hire and an icon of instant photography, a vintage four shot, photo booth.

Ace Hotel

Duct tape detailing carries the day

I held back on professing love, mainly because I wondered if we, who seemed to always be the oldest pair “in the house” were entitled to “love” the place.  The creative and hip ambience had me wondering if the Drake Hotel and the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto drew inspiration from the ACE.

While the Drake is far more “sheeshy” or “chi chi” and self-consciously arty it is not quite as inviting and cozy.  We stayed at the Drake Hotel one night, even though it is only one mile from our home just a couple of blocks off my running route.  We were the successful bidders on an overnight stay there at a silent auction fundraiser for our local YMCA.  The room by the way, was a lesson in good, functional design and the food at the Drake is always terrific, with fried chicken on buttermilk pancakes a pleasant brunch memory.

Stumptown Coffee at the Ace Hotel

Stumptown coffee at the ACE, yes, I love it!

As for the coffee, Stumptown Coffee Roasters is acknowledged as giving Portland the edge over Seattle as best coffee town in North America. In Canada, Stumptown is only available at two LIT Espresso bars in Toronto. One of the locations is a few blocks from us and our attention was drawn to the Stumptown difference and our good fortune in our proximity to LIT by the same brother who directed us to visit the lobby of the ACE Hotel.

In comparison, the atrium style lobby of  The Nines is of mammoth proportions, with a restaurant, pool room and several seating areas. I never made it to the fitness area but my husband reported that the treadmills had a screen where you could view a visual of a track. We also never made it to the highly recommended Asian inspired, rooftop restaurant.  You know there’s a lot going on in your hotel when you don’t have time to enjoy or even peek at all its amenities. And there is so much to do in this city with Powell’s the world’s largest, independent, used and new bookstore, a fabulous weekend market, fresh and unique take-out food in abundance at the many street vendors and easy access to running routes by the river.

Willamette River Walk, Portland Oregon

Nothing beats a river path for reducing the risk of losing your way while on a run.

p.s.  We don’t normally travel with a stuffed rabbit.  The one pictured in this post was purchased as a gift at the Japanese garden in Washington Park.

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Pitching Portland

Japanese garden, Washington park

Until recently, I had a vague notion that I might like to visit Eugene, Oregon one day being a famous runner’s city but Portland was just a name.  I asked my brother who lives in the Yukon whether he thought we would enjoy visiting Anchorage, Alaska and I received a flurry of emails detailing the wonders of Portland.  We spoke on the phone and he assured me that I would love it and if I didn’t love it, he would give me my money back.

Early morning hang-out, THE NINES lobby

And that is how we ended up sipping coffee in the lobby of the ultra-hip THE NINES hotel.  My brother sent me a Hotwire alert that was offering rooms at THE NINES for nearly half price.  The same price as what we will pay for a very modest rooms in Juneau and Haines in Alaska and where the internet will probably not be free.  So we arrived mid-afternoon on Thursday and fly to Juneau, late Sunday afternoon through Seattle, touching down in Juneau around the time the sun will set.

In pitching Portland to me, Jack described the city as being very Lynn-esque.  Hmm, my husband and I have been mulling this one over, and he says, “Well, not my Lynn particularly.”  The key elements, I think are a bike, runner friendly place with great coffee and bookstores, extensive public transit and casual outdoorsy feel.  But, the birthplace of grunge and a skateboarders haven, not really.  I’m definitely into low-risk sports and if pressed, would have to name jazz as my favourite music.  On the other hand I was a huge fan of Patti Smith when in art school and her bio was the top seller at Powell Books, which is a far better showing than on the NYT best seller list.

So, so good . . . going back for more.

Highlights so far have been; Powell Books, which far outstrips the Strand in New York City, the Japanese gardens in Washington Park, the amazing light rail transit, Stumptown coffee at the ACE Hotel and the best cheese blintzes ever at Kenny and Zuke’s deli just a door away from the ACE Hotel.

A time to blog and a time to RUN!

So much to do, and so much to report but I have a run to get in so gotta go . . . adios!


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Postcard from Portland

Wish you were here and hope the young men minding the homestead have good weather for barbequing.  Hoping the rain here will let up a bit to allow a dry run tomorrow.  It was raining when we left Toronto, pouring at our stopover in Calgary and then when we arrived in Portland, letting up about an hour ago.

Was up at 4:15 a.m. Toronto time.  Thank goodness that we are in the hometown of Stumptown Coffee . . . ole!

Staying awake in Portland