'Weird' Portland is a wonderful place to go

BY DIVINA INFUSINO Modified: September 4, 2012 at 11:30 am •  Published: September 4, 2012
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Lan Su Chinese Garden

Situated in Portland's old Chinatown, this series of traditional Chinese buildings, ponds, exhibitions and a tea house connected by traditional Chinese walkways creates an urban oasis and points to the diversity that helped create Portland's culture. The garden sponsors different monthly exhibits of Chinese artists and regular talks on Chinese methods for creating wellness: 239 Northwest Everett St., 503-228-8131.

Portland Walking Tours

Portland does a lot of things a little differently from anywhere else, so why should its walking tours be any different? The Best of Portland Walking Tour points out the quirkiest elements of downtown, including the world's smallest park (literally a small square of land with a tree and plants located in a meridian strip) and several views on the city's very low-profile yet very large (35 feet) sculpture, Portlandia, located above the entrance of the Michael Graves Portland Building.

Depicting a woman dressed in classical Greek clothing and holding a trident, the sculpture is one of the largest copper statues in the United States, second only to the Statue of Liberty. Few tourists ever see it and even most locals are unaware of its exact locale. For a grittier experience, Portland Walking Tours leads visitors through the seamier landmarks of the city's history, including the subterranean Portland Shanghai Tunnels. Flashlights are provided: www.portlandwalkingtours.com.

Distillery Row

Portland has acquired a national reputation for its 30 different craft breweries. Lesser-known but growing and equally as distinct are Portland's hard-liquor micro distilleries. Many of these distilleries, including House Spirits, which produces the wonderful Aviation Gin, host tastings on Saturday.

The best way to safely imbibe in your sips of rum, vodka, absinthe and other spirits is by booking a pedicab distillery tour. The company provides a "passport" for tastings at five different distilleries and transportation via pedicab from place to place: www.pdxpedicab.com/Portland_Pedicab/Distillery_Row_Tour.html.

Castagna

With a chef who trained at the famed Noma in Copehagen, Denmark, Castagna serves a menu that is equally creative and refined. The courses are composed from ingredients that are mostly locally grown and foraged. The dishes are artfully presented and configured for the ultimate in flavor and texture blending.

How about an entree of rockfish, variations of local onions, mussel jus and geranium? Or dessert of strawberries, black olive, licorice, almond and hibiscus? The best part is that the menu is relatively inexpensive for the quality and innovation of the food: 1752 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. , corner of 18th and S.E. Hawthorne.

WHEN YOU GO

The Nines Hotel is very Portland. Located downtown and built on the top floors of the Meier and Frank building, this stylish hotel at reasonable prices is a 331-room LEED Silver-certified destination with a luxurious decor in the rooms and public spaces that make it a hot spot.

The lobby is wide open, with great light and more secluded areas for privacy. The hotel's steakhouse uses primarily local ingredients. (Its menu credits its "foragers.") But what makes The Nines (as in "dressed to the nines") most unusual is its art, with hundreds of pieces, including sculpture, themed around fashion. Like Portland itself, The Nines is surprising sophisticated, fun and affordable: 525 S.W. Morrison, 877-229-9995 .

For general tourism information, visit www.travelportland.com.

Divina Infusino is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

(c) COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM

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