The top photograph is an outside shot of the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. The shot below is the sign of the Joyce hotel across the road. Apparently, the Ace Hotel used to be as run-down as the Joyce and was, in fact, used in the filming of Drugstore Cowboy. Perhaps one day the Joyce will get a facelift too.
I travel a fair bit in my job and there are many places that, to this day, stick in my mind simply because they were so fantastic. I thought I'd share a few of these with whoever reads this blog of mine.
Back in January 2008 I travelled to Portland, Oregon, for a convention. Alright, a potato processing convention. I decided to stay downtown rather than at the dreary hotel across from the convention centre. Just prior to flying off from Heathrow, I checked out an article in the Travel section of the Saturday Guardian and there I found Beth Ditto talking about Portland and why she loves it so much. She singled out the Ace Hotel in Portland as a place to stay so I took her up on her suggestion and booked myself in.
I've never met Beth Ditto, the singer in a band called Gossip, but if ever I do I'll thank her for pointing me in the direction of this great American city and such a fantastic hotel. For a start the hotel has an amazing website (just key Ace Hotel, Portland into Google and you will see what I mean). The hotel is arty and a bit leftfield, the rooms are a joy to behold with murals on the walls and low beds. It's a bit like the hotels you might expect to find in an episode of The X Files – a kind of safe, clean and tidy version of the slightly ill-at-ease Joyce across the street. Key 'Joyce Hotel, Portland' into Google and check out the comments on a website called Hostelz.com.
My room on the third floor of the Ace, afforded me a view of the Joyce and some of the strange people populating the rooms. Directly opposite from me was a man living in a room with walls and furniture covered by red graffiti. It didn't matter what time of day it was, the television and a light, were always on. It's more of a hostel than a hotel, according to those who have supposedly risked life and limb and stayed there; and, from the comfort and safety of my hotel room, I often considered nipping over there and spending just one night among the pimps, prostitutes and drug addicts who, apparently, occupy the place. There have been reports of fighting in the corridors, while others have said its fine if you keep yourself to yourself. Best, it has been argued, to get your own room as there is an option of dormitory accommodation. One comment on the Hostelz.com website said it was fine if you wanted to live out your Jack Kerouac On the Road fantasy, but otherwise stay well clear. Fortunately, my better judgement won through in the end, but there's an experience I guess I didn't have.
As for the Ace, well, what can I say? The food and beverage operations downstairs are not run by the hotel but are franchised out – or that's what I was told. There's a restaurant and bar with its own microbrewery and there's an excellent coffee shop, ideal for breakfast as, thankfully, the Ace doesn't have the traditional hotel restaurant that doubles as a breakfast room in the mornings.
The hotel is ideally located on First and Stark and is literally a stone's throw from Powell's, the biggest bookshop in the world. I recommend you go there and check out not just the books but the seemingly hand-made magazines that must be produced in students' front rooms in and around the Portland area. Alternatively, there is Portland itself. First and Stark is no more than a ten-minute walk from anywhere and there's an excellent tram system too.
I loved Portland and I loved the Ace Hotel. In fact, I booked in to the Ace in Seattle on my way home and that was just as good but a little smaller. The staff are friendly too and, dare I say it, the place is considerably 'hip'. It's a cool hotel, put it that way. My only regret is that I didn't take the train from Seattle to Portland on my inward journey; or, for that matter, my return trip. Instead I flew Horizon Air on a particularly stormy evening and I hate turbulence more than anything, bar a soft pickled onion. The train, I was told, follows the Pacific coastline for a while before veering inland to Portland. If I get the chance to go there again, I'll take the train and perhaps I'll check in to the Joyce for a night too, but I'll make sure I have my reservation at the Ace, that's for sure.