Day #27 - Photographic Portland

"Portland? Why do you want to go there?" That's a common response we got from several people when we told them where our next stage of our journey was. As James talked about in yesterday's post, one reason was the spectacular waterfall and sunsets over the river. However, Portland does have one or two other delights that we wanted to experience, plus it's always great to go somewhere that's not the usual tourist trap. 
We started the day making full use of the facilities our budget hotel had to offer. A satisfying breakfast, a descent workout in the gym (yes James did follow one of my workouts!) and a relaxing soak in the hottub afterwards. 
As we hit the road the sun was shining and the sky beautifully clear as we headed to the big city. Our first stop was one that has become a bit of a pilgrimage for some members of the gay men's community for reasons I won't go into here. It's a family fun business that makes motorcycle clothing that is renowned throughout the world for it's quality.
Riders order made-to-measure garments that are handmade in the store's own workshop by a talented team. Such is the demand, customers are currently on a 12 month waiting list! As with all the people we have encountered so far, the staff in the shop were more than welcoming and we had the opportunity to take a look around the workshop. Sadly our luggage allowance meant we couldn't purchase any jackets (neither did we have the spare funds!) but we did buy ourselves some t-shirts as a momento.
As a contrast to the heady world of motorbikes, our next stop was the famous Portland Japanese Gardens. Nestled in the hills of Portland, these gardens are a tranquil urban oasis that transports visitors to the heart of Japan. Founded in 1963 as a symbol of healing between World War II adversaries, the garden today is one of the most authentic and acclaimed Japanese gardens outside of Japan. Visiting on such a beautiful day, the vibrant colours of the garden shone brightly and the sunlight danced in the tree canopies. It was beautifully serene.
Covering 12 acres, the garden features eight distinct garden styles, each with its own unique character. The Strolling Pond Garden, for example, evokes the feeling of wealth and prosperity, with its winding paths, koi-filled ponds, and cascading waterfalls. The Tea Garden, on the other hand, is a place of serenity and reflection, with its moss-covered stones, bamboo groves, and authentic tea house. We loved them all.
I was fascinated by the bonsai trees on display. Having always thought of these as a naff thing executive has on their desk, the ones on show here were in a different league! They were beautifully manicured and the shapes classic. I couldn't believe one of this tiny marvels was over 300 years old!
James as many of you know, is a keen gardener having trained as a landscape architect and one of his dreams is to have his own Japanese garden - so this was a perfect reason to visit Portland. 
Next up, having seen a garden, it seemed only fitting to go and see a house - a mansion to be precise; Pittock Mansion. If the Japanese garden was an example of James' dream garden, the mansion we visited was an example of his dream house. In fact we both fell in love with this house - who wouldn't?!
Perched atop a hill overlooking Portland, Pittock Mansion stands as an elegant testament to the city's rich history and the legacy of its founding family. Built in 1914 for Henry Pittock, a prominent businessman and pioneer, the mansion embodies a captivating blend of architectural styles, from French Renaissance to English Jacobean. Its grand exterior, adorned with intricate stonework and graceful turrets, hints at the splendor that awaits within. We loved the way the house was centered around a circular core with two wings coming off at an angle each side. 
Stepping inside, visitors are transported to a bygone era, where lavishly decorated rooms showcase the refined tastes of the Pittocks. Oak-paneled walls, marble fireplaces, and stained-glass windows create an atmosphere of grandeur, while period furnishings and personal artifacts offer glimpses into the family's life. The mansion's crowning jewel is its sweeping staircase, a masterpiece of craftsmanship that winds gracefully through the heart of the home.
It was magnificent, but not too over the top! We found a floor plan and photographed it - you never know, it might be useful if we ever get the chance to build a house of our own!! haha
Oh! I almost forget to mention the view from the back garden. Take a look at this for a view...
After such grandeur, we heading into the city centre for a simple lunch at a bar/restaurant before taking a tour around the downtown area in the car. We did park up and walk around a bit - we came across the Mark Spencer Hotel which warranted a picture of course - but we felt we wanted to see more of the city than walking alone would allow. 
My middle name is Mark, if you didn't know. Cue M&S jokes...!
On our way back, we stopped off at the Outlet Village that is across the highway from our hotel for a spot of retail therapy. I am on the lookout for a new pair of jeans and wanted to look at replacing my suitcase (the zip has started to split). Luckily there was a Samsonite luggage shop who were able to sort me out with a sexy black, four wheeled number!
For the evening's entertainment, we decided to venture into the town that sat right next to our hotel, Troutdale. They call it a city; it definitely is a town! We were looking for a nice bar to have a quiet evening drink and some food. However, things weren't to be as straightforward as that. Firstly, after we parked up, James reminded me about our passports. You see, Oregon state has this ID rule with alcohol. Everyone - and I mean everyone, regardless of how old they look, must present valid ID. For us, the only ID they will accept is a passport. A driving licence does not suffice. So while James remembered, I didn't which meant a drive back to the hotel to pick them up!
When I returned, out of the four or five bars that were along Main Street (not sure if it was called that but Troutdale appeared to be a one street place, so I'm going with that!) only two seemed to be open. One then shut on us at 9pm so our choice was made for us. We wandered into "Bandits"....
...and we had the best time! The barman was really friendly and we had a great conversation with him, telling him about our grand trip. He was genuinely stunned and excited I believe by our plans. The bar itself was very rustic and almost homemade with a partitioned off area for slot machines. And guess what? He didn't ask for our passports. Typical!