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.
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:
My aunt and I spent less than 24 hours in Fargo, N.D. (with the slight detour into Minnesota). It was my aunt’s 49th state to travel to and we spent the last day she was 49-years-old in the state. We had just enough time to accomplish all we wanted to.
Fargo is a great town and I actually have family who live there. It was fabulous to be able to have lunch with my grandpa’s sister and her daughter. I was even able to catch part of a holiday concert with Majorie Schlossman and Margie Bailey at the Plains Art Museum before walking to downtown to dine at Toscana, which has fabulous Tiramasu and tortellini pasta.
It was only during lunch that we remembered that Fargo was home to Federal District Judge Ronald Davies, who presided over the 1957 integration of Central High School in Little Rock. He was assigned after Arkansas’ judge asked to be relieved. My aunt now works as an interpreter for the school, which is now a national historic site. It was during a discussion of Central High that we learned that Fargo has recently named their newly built high school after Judge Davies. We had to go see it.
The other main item(s) of interest involved the Celebrity Walk of Fame where we also found the above painted buffalo. Pretty cute! It was neat to see who all the city had sign — it included government officials, children’s performers, athletes, actors, authors, sports announcers, musicians and sports legends. Here’s some of the ones I found interesting:
The Celebrity Walk of Fame is at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau so we were also able to catch a glimpse (OK and a picture with) the famous wood chipper from the movie “Fargo.” They even had a copy of the movie for purchase since we have never watched it.
In a nutshell, Fargo, population 105,549, is a great city. However, I will always think of the Fargo as the 98ish-member community in between Stuttgart and my hometown of Wynne.
“So it will go, the dream will move from dream to reality to memories.” – Robert Asp
Our first stop Wednesday was to see how one man’s dream translated into a reality and inspiration for others.
We traveled to Moorhead, Minn., to the Hjemkomst Historical Heritage Center to view Robert Asp’s ship, Hjemkomst (Norwegian for Homecoming).
Asp, a Fargo teacher, dreamed of building a Viking ship and sailing it back to the home of his Norwegian forefathers. It became a reality in 1972 when he began building the ship in a former potato warehouse in Hawley, Minn.
However, Asp was soon diagnosed with leukemia and was unable to complete his dream. He died in December 1980 just months after sailing his completed ship on Lake Superior for its first sail.
His dream still moved forward with family and friends sailed the 16-ton ship 6,100 miles from Duluth, Minn., to Bergen, Norway. The 12-man crew arrived on July 19, 1982.
The Hjemkomst is now housed inside the center, while nearby is the Moorhead Stave Church — the dream of a South Dakota man who donated the church to the Hjemkomst Center and the City of Moorhead.
Guy Paulson built the church as a replica of the Hopperstad stave church in Vik, Norway, which was across the fjord from the farmstead where his father was born and his ancestors lived.
The Hopperstad stave church is believed to be the second oldest remaining stave church, built around 1140 at the end of the Viking age.
The church served the Vik community until 1877. It was eventually sold to the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments. There are now only 28 remaining stave churches.
For Paulson, construction began in January 1997. It took Paulson a year and a half to raise the structure, although the finishing touches would take another three years.
A walkway of stones curve up to the church since it was believed that evil spirits could only walk in a straight path. The curved stone pathway knocked the evil spirits off course.
It also has 25,000 rectangular shingles and a window for leprosy victims. According to the center, it uses the Urness Style of using complex patterns of intertwined dragons, plants and other animals. Since the Hopperstad stave church was used for centuries, Paulson also had to recreate patterns from three different periods.
The medieval wooden church did get few modern details — nails were used during construction and it has a reinforced concrete foundation covered with a stone veneer to match the appearance of a Vik, Norway, structure. It also is handicap access, electric lighting, a sprinkler system, thermometers and motion sensors. Here are some more pictures from the church:
It’s finally time: We are now at the airport to head to Fargo, N.D. All is going well.
Should I be leery that our trip has gotten off to a really smooth start?
It’s never happened before. We checked in online and was able to go straight to security since we are only bringing carry-on luggage.
There was absolutely no line at security and we breezed through. The only real trouble was when I dropped my drivers license on the escalator and nearly lost it in the darn thing. Plus our gate changed, although that’s not a problem when you are a hour early.
Either way, I’m on the plane and have already ran into a former high school classmate. Pretty interesting!
I previously worked as a news and sports photographer. Recently I have been enjoying wildlife photography. My approach toward bird photos is similar to sports photography. I attempt to capture mostly action and hopefully a unique perspective.