The at times insufferable heat of Seattle had graduated to outright impossible in Portland – with forecast conditions above body temperature! As such, we abandoned existing plans – spending Alaina’s birthday at an open-air beer festival no longer seemed wise – and were reluctant to make too many new ones.
Encouraging this avoidance of the outside world was the extremely comfortable alternative of staying in at our hotel, the Kimpton Vintage. Things started well at arrival: I’d learnt of Kimptons’ secret social password scheme, and thus (slightly awkwardly) announced at check-in that I was ‘out of office’. I’d expected this to yield a drinks voucher, or perhaps a handful of points: instead, the desk staff dashed to the back office to receive a wheel-of-fortune contraption, with a variety of prizes to be won. Alaina’s first spin landed on free parking – probably one of the most financially lucrative, except we didn’t have a car. Impressively, they allowed us a second spin rather than taking a ‘you win some, you lose some’ attitude, and this time she scored a bottle of wine. We were also issued drinks vouchers in lieu of a ‘local wine welcome’, although these, like the evening wine reception, morning tea/coffee and use of the games lounge were financed by the guest amenity fee, charged whether you used these ‘free’ extras or not.
These turned out to be relatively minor perks, however. On reaching our door, we discovered that we’d been upgraded. Multiple times. From the entry level King Deluxe room I’d booked, we’d skipped over the other room categories, past the King Studio Suites, and into a King Reserve Spa Suite. This was incredible. As in, it didn’t seem credible. Having a reasonably common surname that has caused erroneous assignments to undeserved rooms before, I actually returned to the front desk. They confirmed that yes, it was for us – although what warranted the upgrade was not disclosed. I doubt it was the social password, but I had no status in IHG Rewards and am not even a member of Kimpton Karma. That said, I used to stay a lot in IHG properties and have since focused elsewhere, so may have ended up on some sort of win-back strategy. Perhaps they were just overbooked and we were in the right place at the right time.
Regardless, with possession confirmed – and that bottle of red delivered – we happily settled in. As well as two to three times the floorspace, our enhanced living area featured a dining table that would seat eight; a small kitchen area with fridge and sink plus bar seating; a huge corner sofa; and a second television to make up for the one in the bedroom being so far away. The real star of the show, though, was in the bathroom – the ‘spa’ description corresponds to the addition of a huge deep-soak tub.
Our one dedicated sightseeing day lead us far away from the city, in search of cooler climes on the slopes of Mt. Hood. Otherwise, our explorations were short, and arranged at the edges of the day. An early start for the Rose Test Garden still saw temperatures clearing 30C by 9am – which made ice-cream from Salt&Straw a perfectly valid choice for breakfast. We also made a quick visit to Powell’s city of books – despite restricting ourselves to a single floor, we still emerged with armfuls of novels, and a boardgame.
Whilst we found plenty of streets that were half reiki practitioners, half artisanal popcorn makers; and were passed by a band of skater-musicians whose green-haired leader favoured an electric unicycle and keyboard; our exposure to ‘weird Portland’ was minimal. But that was probably due to limited time, the hotel’s city-centre location and our reluctance to wander far in the heat: from our tour guide to the menus at a diner, there seemed to be no shortage of tales of local quirks. So it’s hard to sum up Portland – whilst I expected somewhere different, what I did find, I liked; and I’d happily return to seek out its oddities more thoroughly in less extreme weather. Although I’d also accept another heatwave if it came with another ridiculous upgrade!