To Portland on the train

By John Owen | Nov 10, 2011

We probably looked "quaint" or "quirky" or "peculiar."   

We would probably prefer "practical" or "parsimonious" to describe the sight of  my wife and me marching down Main Street in mid-morning, pulling our roll-on overnight bags.

Actually it should be a common sight in Edmonds where residents scurry downhill for waterfront busses or ferries or, in our case, a passenger train, the Cascade.  

We were embarking on one of our favorite rail journeys, to Portland.  

The track follows the Puget Sound shoreline to Seattle and then, after a short wait, pulls out again headed across farmlands in the Green River Valley, then past Tacoma's downtown, the seaside "restaurant row"  and on under the Narrows Bridge with views of nearby islands, a wind-blown golf course and seaside communities, then past Chehalis, Olympia, Kelso and along the Cowlitz and Columbia Rivers to Portland.

The Cascade leaves Edmonds at about 10:30 a.m. and arrives in Portland in mid-afternoon.

We'd recommend the trip to anyone, especially since PCC Markets are now offering two-for-one train trip coupons to locations like Portland or Vancouver, B.C, between November and May, while supplies last.

We had decided on a three-day excursion to Portland and selected an historic, almost 100-year-old Pearl District Hotel, the Mark Spencer.  

It's about a $6 cab ride from the depot, a block away from Powell's Bookstore, surrounded by excellent restaurants.  

The first night we ate at Jake's Crawfish, just about as old as the Mark Spencer, with autographed photos of former customers like Sophie Tucker, Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Cagney.

For lunch the next day we walked across the street from our hotel to one of the best Jewish delis in the city, Kenny and Zuch's.  

And we tried a recently opened and excellent German restaurant the next night.

If you choose to economize be informed that many of the rooms and suites in the Mark Spencer have full kitchens.  

And a Whole Foods Market is just two blocks away.  

Plus there is a free continental breakfast at the hotel, and a gratis wine tasting in the evening.

You can travel the downtown square on a free trolly which passes right in front of the Mark Spencer.

Or  for a few coins you can grab one of the commuter busses to outlying residential areas, another part of the efficient rapid transit system.

Over a glass of wine one evening in the hotel we met a couple returning to the U.S. after a few years in Ireland.  

They had decided to settle in a downtown Portland apartment and wanted to know where we were from.  

When we told them they looked bemused.  They didn't want to live in downtown Seattle but they wanted to settle in a neighborhood offering basic services and entertainment.  

They briefly considered Ballard but when we mentioned Edmonds their eyes lit up.  We described all the shops, restaurants and services  within  short walking distances.

And then we added the clincher.  An authentic Irish pub is about to open in downtown Edmonds.

Our new friends from Ireland didn't actually exclaim, "Faith and Begorrah"  But they were obviously impressed.

Wouldn't be surprised to see them alight from the Cascade some day, after the ride up from Portland.

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