By ROBERT ELIAS DEATON
Portland, Oregon, is the third most populated city in the Pacific Northwest (after Seattle and Vancouver). Its warm, dry summers and wet, cold winters are perfect for growing roses, and grow roses they do. The 4.8 acre International Rose Test Garden (850 SW Rose Garden Way) is world renowned and stands in the shadow of Mount Hood.
The garden c o n t a i n s over 7,000 roses from 550 varieties, making it one of the most i m p r e s s i v e displays of the woody p e r e n n i a l in the entire United States. Roses blossom in this vibrant city through Halloween, so travel now before the rainy season puts an end to your fun.
The most convenient flights from Fort Lauderdale airport to Portland are on United Airlines that makes a brief pit stop in Houston on the way. Current economy fares run around $320 round-trip. The Red Line of the Tri-Met Rail System can transport you directly in the walking-friendly downtown area were a rental car is not required.
While Portland has its share of luxury hotels and budget bed-and-breakfasts, our favorite place to stay has always been The Nines (525 SW Morrison St.), an exclusive inn situated in the historic Meier & Frank Building, built in 1909 as the largest department store west of the Mississippi. The structure currently houses a branch of the Macy’s Department Store chain on the lower levels with the top nine floors remodeled as the 330-room The Nines Hotel.
Play, relax, and luxuriate in the sophisticated elegance of this luxury hotel where kingbedded rooms start at $199.
The Nines is conveniently located across from Pioneer Courthouse Square, a public space known as Portland’s Living Room, so popular is this bricked plaza. It’s also the site of the MAX Light Rail system, where the Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow lines converge, and can get you anywhere in the city within a few minutes, including to the array of gay clubs this illusive city has to offer.
The hottest dance club in town at the moment is C.C. Slaughters (219 NW Davis St.- – 1 block west of the MAX Red & Blue line stop on 1st Ave, Old Town), with a large packed dance floor, adjoining show lounge, and no cover charge ever. Sunday is swimsuit night; Wednesday it’s time for underwear. If you need to be more undressed than that, head over to Silverado (318 SW 3rd Ave.—Oak/SW 1st Ave. MAX station).
The Eagle Portland (835 N Lombard St.) follows the theme of most Eagle bars appealing to leather men and the boys who love them. Stop by Thursday and play naked billiards. That’s the one with the balls and the cue stick. At the other end of the club scene, Portland’s elegant piano bar and lounge is Hobo’s (120 NW 3rd Ave.) located in Old Town. The dinner menu is a diverse affair with a delectable Blackened Cold-Water Salmon ($19) that is seared and roasted with a cucumber wasabi tarter sauce that will clear your sinuses if not your wallet. Jim Blackburn is on the piano Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 8 p.m.
Hobo’s is also the starting location for the Shanghai Underground Tour, (503-622-4798) an hour-and-a-half guided exploration of the brick-arched tunnels that criss-cross under the streets of Old Town Portland (formerly the city’s Old North End), where white slavery was rampant during the early 1900s. Tours begin at 6:30 p.m., with extra tours scheduled for Halloween. An underbelly never looked so fascinating.