Christmas Celebration in Oregon
Three days before Christmas, Don and I gathered with our 2 kids and their spouses at the newly renovated Heathman Hotel.
We were ready to start celebrating!
The 10-story, concrete and brick hotel was built in 1927, as the New Heathman Hotel. There was much fanfare at the grand opening.
The modern hotel was expected to be even more high end than the first Heathman, built just a year before, about a block away.
Fun at the Door
The 50-dollar valet parking fee was a little steep, but we were getting a well dressed doorman, after all. He wasn't dressed in the Heathman's, traditional, red, beefeater's uniform. But, I kind of liked the new Portland look, with green jacket, gold knit cap and turtleneck.
Our doorman was able to give us a little scoop about the bronze statue near the entrance. Zelda the bulldog, was wearing her own little beefeaters costume. Her job was to remind folks that Heathman's is a pet friendly hotel... and to offer water from her bowl to passing pooches. The real celebrity dog, of Zelda Wisdom was born in Portland and evidently visited the hotel on occasion.
Bowler Hats and Beer
After we passed through the revolving door, we headed through the lobby towards the curious map mural.
The Double H, check-in desks were quite fun, with little hat stands, holding black bowlers.
One check-in stand was more fun than the others.
It held a metal tub of iced beers. We were invited to grab one, or come back later.
While the 6 of us gathered and got checked in, I took a quick peek at the holiday decor.
The lobby's tree sparkled, right between two glowing pillars. The stairway heading from the mezzanine down to the library, was filled with greenery and lights.
The view from the stairs was pretty snazzy. It was a Saturday afternoon and Heathman's traditional Russian Tea was finishing up.
There were silver tea services, tiered trays of pastries and lots of people decked out for the holidays. (Decked out for Portland, not New York)
Heathman's Headwater Grill was empty at 4:00, but it was full a couple hours later.
The chef is one of Portland's best.
I loved peeking at the sleek Grill and imagining the Aloha Room from years ago, when the square columns were painted blue and an impressive mural of King Kamehameha covered one wall!
We're used to a lot of double letter stuff, coming from Texas. Seems like every ranch you pass is a Double R or Double D, with a branded looking image on the sign.
I spotted plenty of double H images in Heathman Hotel, from fireplace screen to door handles. I should have had my daughter pose with a few. Heidi's initials went from HZ to HH, when she married.
Extra Perks at the Gym
Don and I made sure to have a look at the gym, since we'd heard there was a speed bag.
That's something Don is actually quite good at. Unfortunately, the bag was a little deflated so he wasn't inspired. I however gave the climbing wall a try... since the music playing in the gym encouraged me, with Girls just want to have fun...
We were given 3 rooms on the 10th floor, none of which was 1003, which is evidently the most haunted. (Something about a suicide!?)
The elevator doors opened to a nice piece of art. The hallway was filled with more art. Nothing looked a bit haunted.
Our room was not huge, but it was freshly remodeled with a giant TV and comfy bed.
The window offered a view of Broadway, with Christmas lights, here and there. Portland Theatre's neon sign, festively reflected off the glass building across the street. I wish I'd taken a pic.
There were lots of Heathman packages with food and champagne that we could have purchased.
However, we didn't see any packages for "Celebrate your son's recent passing of the California Bar!" So we iced down our own champagne and had a little surprise toast with "the kids" a couple hours later.
Odd and Small
I had to get a photo of the artwork in the corner, near the window. I would love to hear the stories, behind each of those curious faces.
There was art in the bathroom also, but it was hidden behind the door. In fact the bathroom was so small there was no room to brush your teeth, unless you closed the door. Clean, lovely and new, but very small for such a nice hotel.
At 5:00 we gathered in the lobby, for complimentary cocktail time.
I can't even remember what the special holiday beverage of the day was, but we had a fun time clinking glasses and catching up. We were excited to spend the first night of our Christmas holiday, at the festive hotel.
Moving into the Library
At one point, I peeked in at The Library and realized the tea crowd was gone.
With no guests, I could get a better look at the place and imagine the 2-story room, back when it was called the Tea Court Lounge. Back then, there were no books, but it looks like there was a mighty fine organ.
View From Mezzanine
The mezzanine was part of the hotel long before any renovations. Now the upper walls are covered with art.
But the view from above was extra fun, with chandelier, more art and holiday decor.
Sitting in the Library
Our small group moved into the library and found a perfect spot by the bookcases.
I grew up when people whispered in libraries and certainly no one drank cocktails. So we broke a couple of my childhood library rules. However, there was something so peaceful and relaxing about the space, we weren't tempted to misbehave. I was too busy looking around to act up.
Behind me, I noticed a collection of lovely teapots displayed on the steps.
There was a real library table, with lamps for reading.
Across the room was the wall of windows and art.
The sun had already set outside, but the glowing (fake) windows warmed the room. I didn't learn about these 3 stunning pieces of art, but I did read that there are at least 250 original pieces of art in the hotel.
The library collection began over 30 years ago. Today there are about 3,000 books, all signed by the author. I had a little fun with the sliding ladder. I behaved. Chali checked the shelves until she found a book she recognized. "My dad has this one!"
What we didn't find on the shelf was the erotic romance novel, 50 Shades of Grey. None of us had that book on our radar, so we weren't exactly looking for it. However, it probably was there somewhere, since I learned later that the book mentions the Heathman Hotel about 18 times. I guess a few scenes from the movie, were filmed in the hotel, also. Hmm? Maybe it's time to read that fine piece of literature.
One of the best parts about the hotel was the location.
Even though the weather was cold and damp, we wandered down Broadway and enjoyed posing with the 75-ft Douglass Fir, in Pioneer Courthouse Square.
A Good Night in Downtown Portland
We ended up walking to Portland City Grill and having an appetizer dinner on the 30th floor.
I wish we had experienced the hotel's restaurant, but we might have missed this beautiful view. The drizzle just added to the scene. I pretended it was snow.
The Heathman gave our family a perfect start to our 4 days of celebrating. The decorated downtown location, got us in the holiday mood. The rooms were cozy and comfy. The doormen and library gave us just enough formality and class, to make our stay feel special. Most of all there were hints of Portland that welcomed us... from quirky art to welcome beers, to beret wearing guests with dressed up doggies!
A good visit.
Forest Grove, Oregon
The sight of this building was indeed grand, when we arrived on December 22.
It was especially impressive to have a blue sky background, since we'd driven through some rain to get there.
Once a Masonic Rest Home
Don and I parked and walked towards the rambling structure, built as a Masonic Rest Home in 1922.
In 2000, the complex reopened as one of the many, creative hotel properties, owned by the McMenamin brothers in the Pacific Northwest.
Before reaching the main building, we spotted the Children's Cottage. It opened in 1926 and housed about 30 orphans.
That sounds like a good plan to me, but evidently the elderly lodge residents had a "less than harmonious" relationship with the children. The orphanage closed, a year later.
Lots of Green!
After driving through farmland and vineyards to reach the lodge, it was fun seeing the soaring pines, on the grounds.
The Christmas greenery that decorated the buildings, was welcoming. The gardens and pathways looked a little wintery, but I could imagine them in summer, with flowers and leaves.
We headed towards the main building with its formal, Ionic columns. The strict exterior gave way to a warm and cozy interior.
The sweet little sitting room off to the left, smelled like Christmas! We don't often smell live Christmas trees and wood-burning fireplaces in Texas!
Just past the check-in counter, we spotted a cozy bar and another decorated tree.
The Ironwork Grill
Just past the tree, we peeked in the hotel's main restaurant.
The colorful Ironwork Grill was quiet at 4pm, but lively by the time we dined at 7:30. It was fun to know guests could eat in the very same dining room, where lodge residents ate meals for over 70 years.
"The Aged and Infirm Masons"
The original residents belonged to the fraternal Masonic Lodge organization. I know little about Masons, but they definitely provided for their own. Even the orphans, wives and widows of Masons were cared for.
Here is a photo we spotted in one of the halls. It shows some of the aged gentlemen who ate their daily meals in what is now the Grill. It was fun to spot some familiar details, from windows, to pillar decor.
After checking in, we did a little exploring on the way to our room.
Each wing, had its own sunrooms and sitting areas, with comfy chairs and library tables. But where were the old wicker rockers?
Compass Room Theatre
Just off the lobby, Don and I followed a long, 2-part ramp to the second floor. I'm guessing it was original, for folks in wheelchairs. I wish I'd gotten a better photo of the amazing mosaic wall, at the landing.
As we traveled further up, I smelled popcorn! The Compass Room was getting ready for its afternoon movie showing. I was tempted to follow two grinning little girls as they headed in with parents, to watch the recently released, Mary Poppins movie!
Finding Our Room
We had no time for movies, since we were expecting a visit from our daughter and son-in-law. We headed up to the second floor to find our room and unload bags.
The dimly lit hall, had the feel (and a bit of the smell) of the old institution. Luckily Don and I are fine with that sort of thing. I loved the blending of old and new. Original pipes, light fixtures and woodwork, along with decorated walls and colorful artwork.
The Gerry Hysmith Room
We found our modest room at the end of the hall. A corner room is always a perk, with two window views... but our bed blocked the second window. Instead of gazing at the view, we read our wall instead. The room was named for a woman who once lived in Grand Lodge. We learned a bit about her.
Questions for Ms. Hysmith
It was a little eerie having Gerry's face gazing down at us, while I read the words on the wall. I learned that Gerry was one of the residents in later years.
She liked to write, so I imagine she could tell good stories. I wish I could have asked her to tell me some secrets about life at the lodge. I'm guessing there weren't many women living at a Mason's Home, so she probably had some strong opinions about that. I asked her. But she didn't answer.
Little Has Changed
I don't think too much has changed in the accommodations, since Gerry lived at the lodge.
We had a radiator by the window and pipes above the bed. There was a nice little nook with sink. Just like the elders long ago, Don and I had to go down the hall to find the restrooms.
Once we opened the thick drapes, the room felt much brighter!
First of all, we could actually open the windows and that was refreshing. I loved the holly bush, just within reach!
And what incredible trees! The lowering sun added a little drama to the scenery. I'm guessing we were looking at some of the pines that survived the Columbus Day Storm in 1962, that uprooted 20 trees on the property.
My Marble Bathroom
Most of the 90 guest rooms at the lodge, now have private baths. But sometimes, Don and I are up for a bargain room, with the shared common bath experience.
Lucky for me, the Ladies Room was just steps from our room and robes were provided. Even better luck, I had the whole marble bathroom to myself every single time. The showers were huge! Maybe, they were made to accommodate wheelchairs?
No Porch Time
Since our room was at the end of the hall, we had easy access to the porch. I love porches, but it was a little chilly.
I also love curious porch additions. Was that a playful slide, or a fire escape for wheelchairs?
Around 4:00, Heidi and Jamie arrived from Portland, to enjoy some McMenamins fun.
We started our fun at the cute little cottage style building, just across the lawn. It was named in honor of the McMenamin brothers' mom.
By the Fire
We passed a roaring fire pit on the patio and took a seat inside, by the fireplace. 4:00 was the beginning of Happy Hour, so we went for it.
Beneath the ceiling covered in old album covers, we settled in to make drink decisions. Jingle Juice? Christmas Vacation? Mason's Cocoa? They all had good names.
There were drinks with cocoa and candy canes, Schnapps and spiced rum. I was pretty darn happy to see 4 different Wee Drink options, for $4. each. Yay for my tiny little mason jar with ginger syrup and rum!
Off to Wander
After warming up with drinks and fire, we were off to explore the hotel basement.
Earlier, Don and I had explored the space when it was eerily quiet. The mosaic columns and painted pipes revealed many surprise faces and images.
At the base of the stairs we found a water fountain and lots of small tables and chairs that made me think of an elementary school. Later on, a musician livened up the area with his guitar.
Art and Doors
Before 4:00, all the doors were closed, but there was lots of art on the walls to study.
What is Behind the Doors?
The Women's Room was obvious, but the Doctor's Office made me wonder.
Later when we wandered with Heidi and Jamie, the office door was open and we found a bar with a pool table and other games. Years ago, this room had been a dentist's office for the residents.
Coming to Life
All the doors were open when we wandered at 5. We wandered a bit and stepped inside Bob's Bar, named for the McMenamin brothers' dad.
From there, we traveled through small rooms, connected by arched openings. The cozy spaces were fun, with their original porcelain sinks and tables tucked into corners. But we were ready for something less claustrophobic.
If only we all had swimsuits, we could have skipped the bar scene and spent some time visiting in the saltwater soaking pool.
We did at least find the somewhat hidden pool, after spotting a sign painted on cinderblock, in the basement.
Billy Scott Bar
I developed a love/hate relationship with this sweet bar, named for a rest home resident who had been a poet. It was just down the hall from our room, on the 2nd floor.
The lovely little space was a delightful sitting room with large windows and a toasty fireplace. In the morning I grabbed some complimentary coffee from the closet-like bar in the corner. At night, we 4 let the bartender serve us some cocktails to take with us, while we did more hotel exploring. At bedtime, I liked the bar less, when sounds of roaring laughter, traveled down the hall, into our room!
Off to the Attic!
With our drinks in hand, we set off to explore the attic. Wandering with drinks, is something the staff actually encourages. "It's like adult Disney World!" We were told. So with our drinks in hand, we set off in search of the attic.
There were doors to the attic at each end of the hall. The old gentleman and woman painted on the doors, seemed to be standing guard.
The stairway, with blue walls and tiny stars was just the beginning.
When we reached the hallway, with its slanted ceiling, it became even more fun.
Art, Crazy Lights, Window Nooks...
It was like a little fantasy world up there in that attic! We wandered down a couple of halls, admiring the Dr. Seuss-ish lighting and framed art.
There were comfy little reading chairs, in alcoves... all too dim for my weary eyes.
Searching for Secret Rooms!
The real goal was to find the two secret rooms that we had heard about. That was extra tricky because there were actual hotel rooms up on the attic floor and not all guests probably wanted us testing their door.
But Heidi felt confident when she found a curious panel with a fierce-looking tiger. She pressed on the wall and suddenly we were inside a dark room with glowing mushrooms.
The second room was found and we found ourselves wandering through some kind of cave, with glowing stalactites and stalagmites.
We made it through the cave to some stairs, that were cleverly lit with glowing strips. We found ourselves coming out a door on the second floor, that was locked from the hall. What fun!!
After our oddball "bar-hopping" and wandering, we 4 had dinner in the Ironwork Grill. "The Kids" set off for Portland and Don and I grabbed the couch for a while before heading to our Gerry Hysmith room.
That was when we discovered the sound issues and found ourselves tucked into our tiny room with no TV to drown out the party sounds down the hall. Luckily the bar closed at 11 and the sound stopped promptly.
In the morning, I put on my robe and headed to the marble bathroom for a pretty darn luxurious shower! Then I grabbed coffee at the peaceful Billy Scott Bar.
With no one in sight, I was able to look around the room and out the window and imagine 90 years ago... being 90 years old and living here. I can imagine worse things.
We stayed in an historic Masonic Rest Home, filled with festive decor and happy people. By the time I'm 90, there will be a lot of Baby Boomers in search of safe and helpful places to live out their years. Hmmm. I'm thinking this might be what we all need!!
A McMenamins Hotel in Kalama, WA
Kalama Harbor Lodge is one of 12 hotels with the McMenamins name attached. That makes it sound like a chain hotel.
But all McMenamin properties are unique and curious. I don't associate those words with chain businesses.Don and I are addicted to McMenamins.
Other McMenamin hotels are in renovated, historic buildings. Kalama Lodge was built just a year ago, but its location is what makes it unique.
Where else can see ships in one direction and trains in the other? Where else can you walk over a bridge and visit the small Northwestern town, with a name that sounds Hawaiian?
Lelooska Totem Pole
I knew the history of Kalama, WA was linked to the Columbia River and the Northern Pacific Railway. But it wasn't until we saw the nearby totem poles that I was reminded about the Pacific Northwest Native American culture in the area.
These totem poles were carved in the early 1960's by Chief Don Lelooska who lived in town, just across the tracks. Recently, the 140-foot pole was lowered due to safety concerns. It still is the tallest totem pole in the world, carved from a 700 year old Western Red Cedar.
Don and I arrived at Kalama Lodge a few days before Christmas. We were eager to see how this hotel compared to the others.
I didn't care that the weather was cold and gloomy. It all seemed to add to the charm
As we came through the door, we were greeted by tropical designs and colors. The Hawaiian flavor of the lodge was linked to the town's namesake, John Kalama.
In 1837, he came to the area from Maui and worked as a middleman, between the local Cowlitz Tribe and the Hudson Bay Company.
Christmas and Beer
In the lobby we saw a few things that had no tropical flavor at all.
Just to our left in the lobby, I could see the brewery through the glass. (It wouldn't be a McMenamins property, without beer) I was happy to see there was a little Christmas happening at the lodge. The tree was festive and the Grinch (looking through the window) was humorous.
Finding Our Room
The staff at check-in was friendly and enthused about the new hotel. We were told we'd love our room.
We headed to the third floor and found room #306. All rooms are named and ours was called, Pioneer Room. The knotty pine walls made me think of a pioneer log cabin.
The Old Hickory furniture and lumberjack fabrics, felt cozy and lodge-ish. We opened the door to the balcony and felt a blast of cold. No worries. There were 4 cozy lap blankets, right beside the door.
Our room's name really had little to do with pioneers and cabins. It was named for an actual hotel in Maui.
When the McMenamin brothers were young, they stayed with their family at the Pioneer Inn, in Lahaina. They must have had good memories, because the old hotel inspired the design of the Kalama Harbor Lodge. The colorful hotel painting (over the couch) made me long for a trip to Hawaii!
Good to Have
It was a treat having a couch, as well as a table with chairs. It was an even bigger treat having our own bathroom.
Some of the McMenamins hotels have shared, European baths... down the hall.
Cozy at Night
I loved the mix of styles. The thick curtains and pine walls, felt like a cozy cabin in the Northwest.
The tropical feel of the painted headboard, made me feel like I was tucked into a boat or hut. I of course loved the little red bird... as did Don.
The corner porch had two sets of comfy chairs.
There were dividers for privacy, but I don't think anyone else was sitting out watching the boats go by. I made use of a blanket.
Besides the river, there were other things to look down on.
The riverside pathway and fire-pit were pretty quiet, on a chilly weekday afternoon. But at night, the fire was lit!
Early Next Morning
We were on Texas time, so we woke early the next day. It took forever for the sun to come up, but I finally got down there on the path and made use of my running shoes.
The wind blasted my face and made me laugh. I couldn't complain. I was running along the Columbia River... trying to remember Woody Guthrie's song as I jogged along. "...Roll Columbia, won't you roll, roll, roll..."
Wet and Cold
A light rain stung my face, but I couldn't complain.
I was running by a totem pole...
And... I got to see trains moving down the railroad tracks. I got to see the little Alhes Point Cabin, which houses a cozy bar for the lodge.
Breakfast in Harbor Lounge
When I finished my brief run, we headed down to the Harbor Lounge and served ourselves some coffee.
We took a seat on the couch, beneath a giant outrigger canoe. Soft classical and jazz music filled the homey space. We ordered an omelet and shared it right on the couch, kind of like we were having breakfast in bed!
Music at Night
That night the same lounge was transformed into a relaxed music venue.
A couple, sharing one guitar, sang in the corner by the wood burning stove. Locals and hotel guests took over the couches and comfy chairs, sipping cocktails and coffee.
With a 2-night stay, Don and I had time to explore. The 40-room lodge wasn't huge, but there were a few stairwells and floors to wander.
We found surprises when we took the stairs... chandeliers, painted stars, artwork and creepy pipes with faces!
Don and I knew there were two secret rooms in the hotel. We traveled down every hallway, trying doors that weren't "titled" as guest rooms. We enjoyed lots of artwork, hanging on the knotty pine walls. Each painting or photograph, shared a bit of history.
It would have taken a week to read about all the people and places who were spotlighted. Don suddenly noticed one piece of art hanging near a blue light. A slight push on the wall, revealed a surprise!
Rock & Opera!
We suddenly found ourselves inside room lit by a black light. (I never knew the laces on my tennis shoes glowed in the dark!) Sounds of Grateful Dead filled the tiny room.
I attempted a photo of Don with Jerry Garcia. I posed with Pavarotti, when the music changed to opera!
Room # 2
The grooves in the walls made it hard to spot the second hidden door. There was no blue light to signal us. Don finally found the moving wall and gave a push.
We were not alone in this room. Zach the Brewer, had set up a special beer sample station. The newly created brew was named, "Hidden Unicorn Glitter Beer". Zach used a light to shine into the cup so we could see the swirling sparkles... barely.
Luckily Zach gave us a hint that there was yet another secret room, off of the room we were in.
In the swirling artwork, we found an image that looked like a button. When we pushed the button, we found ourselves in a room filled with eerie images and glowing lamps. What a total hoot!
The Cloud Lounge
On the top floor, (not far from the secret glitter beer room) we enjoyed a drink in the Cloud Lounge.
There were plenty of clouds outside the window, but also a great view of the river. No one was outside enjoying the deck, but I imagine it gets a lot of use in warm summer months.
On our second night we had dinner in The Pub. It was dark, so we didn't care that all the tables and booths near windows were taken.
It was so crowded, that we were actually thrilled to find 2 stools at the wonderful bamboo bar. We shared a gigantic Kalama burger and a house salad. The menus are similar in all properties so there were no surprises, but the food was hot and tasty.
One of the coziest places on the property, is the little cabin just a quarter mile down the walkway. It was fun walking the lamp-lit path for a drink on our first night.
The place was tiny, but we lucked out with 2 seats at the bar. We had a memorable chat with a Portland baker and our wonderfully chatty bartender, Amanda.
Coming from Texas, we're thrilled to find wood burning fireplaces. It's also added entertainment watching the staff deal with the fires. Some were more skilled than others!
The inside fireplace kept us extra toasty on a cold night. I loved the whimsical mask. I checked out the deck fireplace, the next morning and had to chuckle at the angry mask, wearing a wreath.
New hotels don't usually impress me. They usually have a lot of kinks to work out and they also lack history and charm. I was glad we ended up absorbing some of the local history, after all.
And it was a nice change to sleep in a freshly created space, with new linens and paint and furniture... that looked old and cozy. We liked our hotel oasis! We'll have to try it during a sunny season, next time!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!