Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hotel deLuxe Is A Portland Playground

Hotel deLuxe in Portland isn't really in the thick of things but it's close enough. And if you've already stayed on the wilder side (a.k.a. Jupiter Hotel) then the bigger rooms and quieter comfort will be welcome. The staff are friendly and attentive without being a bother.

As a contemporary tribute to the Golden Era of Hollywood, the hotel pulls mostly from the Art Deco and Art Moderne designs of the early 1930s and 1940s. The building's history is even older. It was built in 1912.

The rooms alone make the stay worthwhile, with high-thread linens and soft pillowtop mattresses, but the Driftwood Room also has a sophisticated vibe that has remained mostly unchanged since it opened in the 1950s. Unless, of course, you count the Czech crystal chandeliers.

The Driftwood Room and Gracie's at the Hotel deLuxe Portland. 

The entire bar has a dark and cozy feel, even if you are more likely to meet overnight guests than the few cocktail-savvy Portlanders. The music doesn't feel right though, with too much emphasis on crooners. There needs to be more jazz, blues, or beatnik, which is what the Golden Era stars likely preferred.

That said, it's not hip or happening and the martini and food prices are best around their extended happy hours (2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to closing), but it is the kind of place you want to come back to when everything else is done. The lighter food served is made by the hotel restaurant, Gracie's.

Gracie's is mostly contemporary cuisine with a Pacific Northwest twist. While the fare has received some mixed reviews, it was always perfectly prepared during my stay. The best menu item was the pork ribs, but many guests will likely be taken in by the small plate menu items.

There is plenty of playground around Portland. 

The hotel is located on the eastern edge of the downtown area, about five blocks from the Pearl District and home to many Portland icons. Most notably, Powell's Books, the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. It might be. They sell four million new, used, and rare books every year.

The Pearl District is teeming with art galleries, boutiques, small clubs, and bars. The district got its name at the forefront of the renovation in the 1990s because the buildings still looked crusty, but the creatives who populated them were pearls. Originally, the area was a warehouse and railroad yard district.

For what isn't close, its easy enough to catch the TriMet Max light rail line, one of the better planned mass transit systems in the country. Some people have suggested to me that since the rail connects to the airport, you can skip the car rental. It's an ambitious idea, but I wouldn't want to try it especially because there is too much to do.

A little longer than walking distance from the Hotel deLuxe.

Portland carries a sort of casual take on cosmopolitan. Everything that other places think of as trendy just happen to be matter of fact, like enjoying a microbrew at the movies. Many of the theaters do it. Called "Brew n' Views," most are renovated or restored from their heydays in the 1920s and 1940s.

These are also the places to go for indie flicks, art films, and cult classics that run alongside first run theaters. The idea of it only scratches the surface of what makes Portland work.

This is the land of the microbrew, music, books, and gallery walks. But nobody here seems to do any of it because they think being well-read or experimental is cool. It's just what people do. And maybe they do it because everything used to be something else.

Already known for its music scene, Portland is slowly adding arts.

Take the Aladdin Theater for example. Its dubious history makes Portlanders proud but with the pomp. Originally built as a vaudeville house in the late 1920s, the theater morphed into a porn institution during the 1970s until Steve Reischman and Sally Custer rescued it in the 1990s. What's especially crazy is the concerts draw must-see acts (e.g.,  Richard Thompson, Indigo Girls, Gillian Welch) to play a remarkably intimate venue with only 620 seats.

It's not alone as an attraction. There are dozens of venues around. The Roseland Theater only holds 1,400. The Wonder Ballroom holds 750. And the Jupitor Hotel I mentioned earlier is also home to the Doug Fir, which hosts an eclectic mix of music almost every single night of the week with table seating for 125 and a room capacity of just south of 300. Almost all of them help discover local artists and attract a high volume of touring acts.

And even then, none of it begins to touch the vibrant music scene and part-time venues like pizza parlors, cafes, and book stores that abound in Portland. The same can be said for art galleries and museums. Sure, the Portland Art Museum is worth visiting, but so are places like the the Winslow Homer Studio. There's an ever-growing art scene there and a surprising number of alternative spaces.

Just keep in mind that Portland's art scene is still very much a work in progress. For all its eccentricities, many of the art galleries are still catering to colors that might match the sofa. You have to look a little harder to find it, but you will eventually find it. And what's cool about it, most Portlanders will deny it.

Hotel deLuxe In Portland Washes In At 6.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

If only the hotel was a little less on the fringe and more toward the center or eventually hosted some entertainment that would help coalesce its vibe (they sometimes host rooftop movie nights), Hotel deLuxe would be looking at nines. Still, the price is right, the rooms are clean, and the atmosphere is classic. Room rates start at about $200 per night for the smaller but comfortably appointed deLuxe Queen rooms, with valet parking around $28 per night.

You can save up to 60 percent from Fare Buzz to Portland. There are some additional discounts offered by the company during the summer. Portland itself is especially cool in the summer (temperatures rarely reach 80), and it's also the driest season of year. For comparisons, start with the top travel deals at
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