My favorite activity in Portland occurred on our last night in town. We attended the Festival of Lights at the Grotto. First of all, we got lost heading to the event so we ended up getting there an hour later than usual. We were still a little lost once we got on the bus, but the driver was super nice and dropped us off right in front of the Grotto.
The Festival of Lights has more than 500,000 lights, nightly choral performances, a petting zoo, carolers, wacky puppet shows and AH-MAZING hot chocolate (this helped since it was rainy and cold).
The Grotto is a Catholic shrine and botanical garden and the lights were woven around the entrance to give you a interesting view as you walked to the sanctuary and Our Lady’s Grotto, which has a life-size marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta at the center of a rock cave at the base of a 110-foot cliff.
Here’s some pictures of the event:
Our next stop was across from the zoo in the Hoyt Arboretum. The Garden of Solace is dedicated to the 57,000 Oregon men and women who served in Vietnam from 1959 to 1976.
It was a peaceful area and I loved the quote on the memorial — “So long as we are not forgotten we do not die. And thus this garden is a place of life.”
We ended up taking a time out mid-Saturday. We stayed at the Mark Spencer Hotel, which turned out to be perfect for us. It was near the public transportation and other sights we wanted to see as well as near plenty of restaurants and shopping.
The hotel offered breakfast, a tea time as well as a wine tasting. It also had spacious rooms so we were able to spread out after spending all day together. That helped. It was also super close to the mobile food vendors — perfecto. We visited this area for lunch, and my only regret was that we didn’t visit sooner. I ate at E-San Thai cuisine. It was perfect.
The lunch was a perfect ending to our morning. In between the garden and lunch, we stopped at the Saturday market. I found plenty of jewelry and other items that I liked, but the only thing to really tempt me was the stained glass windows. Unfortunately, these windows didn’t fit my trip’s budget or my suitcases (at least to make it back safely).
I’ll admit one of the most interesting parts of the market was the Santas. Yes, plural. Apparently there was a Santa pub crawl scheduled. We originally saw all the Santas at 11 a.m. and we continued to run into random Santas from the event 12 hours later across town. But it seemed like fun. And the people were creative.
We woke up bright and early today to take the TriMet MAX train to the Oregon Zoo. The zoo’s station was actually an interesting start to our visit. First off, I learned that the station is 260 feet underground and 450 feet above sea level.
It also had a core sample time line (see above) that told a history of the city’s soil.
My main attraction at the zoo was the days-old Asian elephant, Lily. However, Lily wasn’t ready to meet the public yet so we visited the other animals. Here’s a few of the ones that interested me:
Rose-Tu has finally given birth to a 300-pound calf at the Oregon Zoo! It’s great news, but you must be asking “why am I, an Arkansas girl, so excited about this?”
It’s easy: I’ll be heading to Portland in less than a week and I really want to see the baby Asian elephant. This is the second birth for 18-year-old Rose-Tu.
She first gave first four years ago and, despite difficulty adjusting, that baby was introduced to the public within a week. I’m hoping for a similar, if not quicker, time-frame for the new baby.
It’s actually a pretty fascinating event. The birth came after more than 30 hours of labor and 22 months of pregnancy. Yikes!
The new addition is the 28th baby elephant born at the Oregon Zoo, which is recognized for its successful breeding program for Asian elephants. According to the zoo, Asian elephants are considered highly endangered in their range countries due to habitat loss and conflict with humans. It’s estimated that fewer than 40,000 elephants remain from India to Borneo.