My husband and I just returned from a five-day romantic vacation in Portland, Oregon. Full Disclosure: This is the first time in twelve years my husband and I have gone away together without the kids. A couple of questions may jump to mind. For example: Why did you pick Portland as a romantic destination? And, why did it take you twelve years to get away without the kids?
First, about Portland...
My husband and I were hoping to go somewhere unique, with quirky culture, gorgeous scenery and cool stuff to do. Thanks to social media, Portland popped up. I had no idea about their food trucks, stunning beaches or the fact that they have wineries. Boom—we were sold.
We booked our stay at Hotel Deluxe, an elegant retro chic hotel which exudes character and style. From the minute you walk through the front doors, manned by young valets eager to chat, I felt like I had walked into another era. Large black and white stills from classic films, chandeliers and retro furniture evoke the Golden Era of movies of 30's and 40's. Ultra "swelegant."
What we learned very quickly is that Portland is a walking town, and Hotel Deluxe was a casual walk to most destinations. The front desk staff served as our concierges, mapping out our days, booking our tours and suggesting great restaurants. The elegant lobby also doubled as a casual restaurant serviced by the bar. Each night my hubby and I headed to the lobby barefoot to enjoy delicious local wine with fantastic appetizers. Sizzling mushrooms and the crab salad in avocado were sumptuous. By the end of our stay, my husband and I agreed that Hotel Deluxe was one of our favorite hotels ever, based on vibe, value and customer service.
The city of Portland is eclectic, which I love. Many of the buildings in the downtown area seem to drip history—lots of art deco on the exterior of the buildings—but inside there are a ton of trendy stores and great restaurants. I'm guessing the fact that Nike and Dell have their world headquarters in Portland has helped up the youthful vibe of the city. When you walk around the Pearl District, you never know what kind of cool shop you're going to find. Galleries, awesome coffee shops, trendy clothing stores popped up on almost every street.
Food. Is. Good. In. Portland.
We had breakfast at a couple of delicious cafes. Isabel's has a decided modern vibe and their breakfasts are big and eclectic. I ordered chocolate chip pancakes with peanut butter (Don't judge, I was on vacation!). My husband went Tex Mex with scrambled egg avocado mishmash. Both of us devoured our meals.
Another morning we showed up at a retro hip greasy spoon called Byways Cafe for breakfast. The food was yummy and the kitsch covered walls were fun.
There are blocks filled with food trucks—with any kind of ethnic food you can think of. Unfortunately Portland was experiencing an extreme heat wave while we were there, so it was way too hot to eat outside in the sun and 100-degree weather. We'll have to come back another time to sample all the awesome street tastes.
Another regret was not making into the uber-famous Voodoo Donuts. Seriously there was a huge lineup outside—I'm talking at least a half hour wait just to get inside - so I'll never know what kind of crazed, bohemian donuts I missed out on.
Vacations are all about food, right? So dinner had to matter. We chose carefully since there are so many spectacular restaurants in Portland. If you're a foodie, yes you should go. Our first night, our hotel concierge raved about Andina's, an upscale Peruvian restaurant. It did not disappoint. Even though it was extremely busy, the owner came by to thank us for visiting her establishment. The menu has a Spanish flair to it. The salmon ceviche was to die for. We ordered an appie of grilled asparagus which was out of this world yummy. My main dish had an Asian feel: local fish soaked in soy, bok choy and mushrooms with a side of fried rice and quinoa. Our only complaint, there was way too much food for my husband and I to finish.
Our last night we visited Jake's Famous Crayfish, one of the oldest establishments in downtown Portland. All dark wood and big old-fashioned fish dishes, this is as traditional as it gets. The food was delicious but, again, there was too much on our plates to finish. And then the server showed up with this huge tray of sweets. We shooed her away even though they desserts looked decadently delish.
Aside from eating, we held hands a lot and played tourist during our three days in Portland.
We spent a couple of hours at the Lan Su Chinese Garden—a beautiful, surprisingly sprawling installation of Chinese plants and architecture that makes you feel like your in China. My husband and I had fun playing with our iPhone cameras pretending we were photographers. I even read my Chinese horoscope with these sticks.
We got a serious cardio workout walking up a huge hill to Washington State Park to see and smell the enormous Rose Gardens.
We discovered a Holocaust Monument in the park which was kind of surprising but extremely moving. I had no idea there was such a large Jewish population in Portland.
We rented a car and drove to Cannon Beach on the Pacific coast to see the famous Haystack Rock. Even the hour long drive through the mountains past farmland and huge trees was magnificent.
We spent a day with Sea to Summit tours for a day of Waterfalls and Wines. Highlight for us was walking a mile and a quarter up a mountain to the summit of Multnomah Fall, which is North America's tallest year round waterfall. My legs ached for two days after the climb up and down.
Then we headed to the Mt Hood area to visit a couple of wineries. The Marchesi Vineyard was picturesque and had a great vibe. The wine tastings were served with gorgeous white cheese and Italian meats. The Cabernet went down very smoothly. We brought a bottle home.
Not bad for a three days in Portland, huh?
And now to answer the question: Why did we wait 12 years to do this?
Well, life gets in the way. Between having babies, working commitments, schlepping the kids to programs and other familial obligations, a romantic getaway hasn't been in the cards. This year I planned it so both kids were at sleepaway camp at the same time. It was so worth it to finally spend quality, uninterrupted time with my life partner. We had time to chat, laugh, and be adults rather than parents. It did feel kind of weird. After a decade being mom and dad, were weren't used to being carefree and self-centred for so many days like we used to be.
My kids come home from camp tomorrow. We're all going to have great stories to share!
Thank you Portand.
I love you Terry.
Children weren't born Olympians. They were raised that way.
Adam van Koeverden was getting into trouble as school. At 13 years old, her son was highly intelligent, he challenged his teachers and provoked the school. He was a teenaged boy looking for trouble. His mother, Beata Bokrossy, a single mom, decided Adam needed some male role models. She spotted an advertisement in the local newspaper for the Burkoak Canoe Club in Oakville, Onatrio that said, "Future Champions Wanted." Adam agreed to check it out. He was hooked. Thanks mom!
Beata was thrilled that her son found a club and a coach who was so supportive, and taught him not just about paddling, but how to be a man.
She never expected him to become on Olympic athlete, Olympic Flag Bearer or Canadian hearthrob.
Beata and I flew to London together, both of us guests of P&G's Thank You Mom program. We had time to chat candidly about raising an Olympian. When I asked her what she thought all moms of elite athletes had in common, she didn't hesitate to answer. "An understanding of what is required to be around when your kids are struggling. These kids are all type A's. They all have their ups and downs. None of us are stage mothers. We help them to be the athletes they are by shlepping, making pasta, doing laundry. We all know how to dry tears. Getting to this level, we've all had to deal with disappointment."
Beaty was anything but a stage mom. She never pushed her son to go further with this paddling. You know the images in the make-you-cry Thank You Mom Commercial where the moms gently shake their kids to wake up? Not Adam's mom. When I asked her mornings at her home, Beata laughed. Adam woke himself up, got himself organized, made his own lunch for school, made his mom coffee and woke HER up so she would drive him to his early morning practices. "He was a devoted little bugger," she says with a smile.
For her, sport was a means of teaching Adam responsibility. By excelling on the water, Adam began to understand hard work and dedication.
Today, Adam has become a role model for so many kids. And his mom tells me he takes this very seriously. In fact, Beata is even more proud of her son's deep commitment to philanthropy than of she is of his winning all those medals. To her, it speaks volumes about her son's character that no matter how tired Adam is, he'll never disappoint or ignore a kid who wants to chat or get an autograph. That selflessness is what impresses her the most about her son.
"How do you teach a child responsibility?" asks Beata. "Give them responsibility"
Wise words from a mom who should have won a gold medal for parenting.
Want to meet some other Olympic Moms?
I chatted with Sheila Findlay, mom to Olympic triathlete Paula Findlay.
I also spoke with Christiane Despatie, Mom to Olympic diver Alexandre Despatie.
P&G Proud Sponsor of Moms.