I'm going to get this out of the way first: there are people who are 'train people' and there are people who are 'not train people,' and unfortunately you can count me in the latter category. Thirty plus hours (one way) is not what I hoped it would be. There is only so much awesome scenery you can see. The rest of our time was realizing we were stuck on this moving vehicle without fresh air (except for the occasional quick stops on other cities train platforms), no Wi-Fi, same bland train food, communal (and when I say communal, I meant to say communal without much cleaning during our trip, therefore my gag reflex was on full alert) air plane sized bathrooms and a sleeper room the size of my work cubicle.
Would I recommend a train trip again? possibly, if only for a maximum of three hours and during the day on a scenic route. But our mistake was doing it for over a day and a half ONE WAY (I won't even go on my rant for the thirty plus hours coming back to San Diego). But at least we can say we did it and now say we won't do it again.
But here's the good news, once we got off the train, we had an awesome time in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. We brought our beautiful San Diego weather with us: sunny and the temperature in the 70s. The people were laid back, accommodating and friendly. There was a whole hipster, granola, chill style here and I was loving it.
First of all, I saw so many bicycles in this city I thought I was back in my college alma mater at UC Davis (which is a proverbial bike town). Bicyclists here come in all shapes and sizes, young and old. Second of all, they weren't kidding when they said Portland was the food truck capitol. But amazingly, we didn't eat at any one of them.
We had only about a total of 24 hours in Portland, so we treated it as a Anthony Bourdain Layover episode: (1) picked up rental car; (2) checked in and recuperated at our hotel; (3) got lost trying to find the Sellwood District (which is a neighborhood known for it's antique shops sprinkled throughout in adorable Victorian homes), by the time we got there only a few shops were still open - but we did see our first of the many food trucks we would see during our stay here; (3) Ate at Pok Pok. I highly recommend this place. Anthony Bourdain wasn't wrong here. Their Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings isn't their signature dish for nothing. We also tried their special Fiddle Leaf Fig dish (which we heard if not cleaned properly, can be fatal if eaten) and survived; (4) Tried some donuts at Voodoo Donuts Too. Stella had Grape Ape, Milo had Tangfastic, Allan stayed safe with a Maple bar and I tried their Chocolate Vegan donut (none of us had their famous bacon maple bar, but we saw it and it was definitely tempting); (5) went back to our hotel and slept.
Next day: (1) ordered breakfast room service; (2) visited the Japanese Garden. What can I say, this place was gorgeous. So calm, serene, and beautiful at every corner. My favorite was their Japanese maple trees and since the weather was clear, we could see Mt. Hood in the distance - perfect.; (3) visited Hoyt Arboretum (free). I planned to hike the trails, but my allergies kicked in and Stella fell asleep (and Milo refused to leave the car). Allan ended up walking the trails alone but enjoyed it (no kids, no wife, just nature); (4) visited the Portland Children's Musuem. This wasn't even on our itinerary, but I'm glad we did it. The kids and us adults enjoyed it. The Museum was larger than we thought and had interactive areas wherever we looked. We especially enjoyed the children's size grocery/restaurant area; (5) Shopped the Pearl District and ate at Paragon Restaurant. Didn't find any miniature horses, but enjoyed our time wandering this shopping district; (6) Drove to Seattle, Washington.
We initially planned to make side trips to Mt. Saint Helens and Tacoma, Washington, but did neither. We didn't realize that Mt. Saint Helens observatory was only open during May through September, but we were able to view this famous volcano (along with Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt Rainier) during our drive up to Seattle. I'm such a history nut, that it was awe-inspring to see these volcanos in person.
We didn't arrive in Seattle until 8pm, so we pretty much just checked into our hotel (which was a stone throw away from the Space Needle) and ate dinner at the hotel's restaurant and then slept early.
Next day: (1) Visited Pike Place Market. I'm a Starbucks addict - no secret there. I figured why not drink my tall iced cinnamon dolce latte at the first Starbucks ever; (2) ate at Le Panier; (3) saw the fish fly; (4) walked the Embarcadero and shopped Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe: saw shrunken heads, 2 and 3 headed animals; mummies; skulls/skeletons and enough things to give our kids nightmares for a few days, but nonetheless interesting and Allan bought his share of skulls and skeletons to keep his curiosity at bay; (5) lunch at Collection Cafes and took 10,000 photos of the Space Needle (didn't go up the needle, but viewed it from the bottom). (6) Visited Chihuly's Garden and Glass. This was my one request to visit and it didn't disappoint. All the exhibits were mind-blowing (glass-blowing) and just beautiful. I couldn't stop taking photos. The kids also enjoyed it, but the security guards kept a close eye on my kids (kids and glass, not a good combination). Told Allan to buy me one of Chihuly's glass vases at the gift shop and he said he would, until he saw one lil vase costs $7500 and he bought me a pack of notecards for $20 instead (he saved about $7480); (7) Saw the gum wall. Yes, a wall full of gum stuck to it. It's a tourist attraction and I could see why. Not the most hygienic place, but my son enjoyed it because it was gross; (8) ended our time in Seattle by eating dinner at the famous Ivar's Acres of Clams. Had our clams of course.Good-bye Pacific Northwest! I definitely wouldn't mind re-visiting these places (by plane that is).
(Sorry, this post was a bit long - my nutshell is more like a walnut size, but there was so much to mention)