Where should we stay in Portland, the self-styled capital of cool? A luxury hotel or an international brand somehow don’t seem appropriate in a city whose maxim is ‘Keep it Weird’. This is after all a place where beard trimming shops seem to outnumber barbers, weed is legal and music on vinyl is probably more popular than by download.
It is also a city that is less reliant on the car than almost anywhere else in North America. Portland centre is easy to stroll around, and full of coffee shops, indie bookstores, art galleries and cool shops whilst the vehicle of choice for travelling outside the city’s heart is the bicycle (use one of the hotels if you wish). Should you get thirsty, other than enjoying a coffee at one of the ubiquitous roasters, there are over 70 microbreweries, more than any other city in the world in which to pick up refreshment.
A natural choice therefore seems to somewhere somewhat different, and where better than the Jupiter Hotel. This is a quirky renovated motel located in the east of the city but still within walking distance of downtown. The key thing to note is that this is a renovated fifties style drive-in motel, with exterior corridors along low-rise concrete blocks. Once you realise – and expect – this, then you are one big step closer to having an enjoyable stay in a funky hotel that pretty much encapsulates the local vibe.
The historic motel structure has benefitted from a thorough revamp. The bright white lobby is staffed by young, trendily dressed staff that are seemingly always cheerful and keen to assist. It doubles as an art gallery where the artwork on show actually seems rather good.
Adjacent is an outdoor ‘lounge’ – it is cool and shady area with comfy outdoor seating. There are pots of bamboo and it is overhung with white canvas sails. Hotel bikes are hung on an adjacent wall.
The rooms are set in two L-shaped blocks. Some overlook the outdoor bar area of the adjoining, and affiliated, Doug Fir Patio & Lounge and are ideal for those who want to take advantage of the buzzy nightlife and live bands (underground). Others should ask for a quiet room, although anyone who wants a peaceful hotel would be wise to book elsewhere as the noise does travel, not just from the bar, but the outside walkways, adjacent rooms and loud air conditioning units.
Interiors are bright with wall size murals or colourful stencils and plenty of mid-century retro style furnishing. Predominantly in grey and white, a yellow spot colour comes via cushions, throws and wall decor. There is a flat screen TV, free wifi, iPod speaker and a chalkboard with chalks for you to let your creativity loose. In pleasant but simple bathrooms there eco-friendly bath products. Free parking for the 80 rooms is available outside the rooms or in an underground car park.
Substantial breakfasts are served in the log cabin style Doug Fir at an extra charge. This is good value country fare, big portions and mugs of filter coffee. Not a flat white or avocado in sight but adventurous choices like Crab Cake Benedict and Peruvian Scramble make this a better than average breakfast joint.
In the evenings, as we have already hinted, the Doug Fir morphs in to a popular night spot. There is more than an occasional wisp of fragrant smoke from the lively bamboo-fringed patio – a popular hang-out around a big log fire.
Food is straightforward with burgers, tacos and potato skins. Downstairs in the lounge you are in for a real treat – this is a music venue that has been on Rolling Stone’s list of USA’s finest. There is daily live music from top bands – often from within the very active Portland music scene – in a beautifully lit room.
Our first excursion out we sat indoors a cafe next to a lady in a vintage pink wedding dress as a pensioner on a Segway swished past us to the counter. This quirkiness seemed to be part of what the city is all about. The Jupiter Hotel is not the smartest, newest, most central or best designed in town, but is surely the most ‘Portland’, and isn’t that what we all should want?
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of the Jupiter Hotel
For more information visit www.jupiterhotel.com
For information on the Doug Fir Lounge visit www.dougfirlounge.com