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Destination Dispatches: A Night at The Nines

- Kate MacLennan, Guest Blogger

It has been compared to Florence, which shaped the Renaissance, for how it will influence the future of North America. Its culinary and craft brewpub scene is attracting foodies from far and wide. It’s known internationally as the “City of Roses.” But Portland, Oregon, is also gaining a reputation for defying Kermit with its proclamation that, actually, it’s easy being green.

Portland was no stranger to green hotels when The Nines opened in 2008, though it certainly upped the ante. Perched atop Portland’s historic Meier & Frank building (once the largest retailer west of the Mississippi, Clark Gable was a tie salesman here prior to his segue into Hollywood in the 1930s), this LEED Silver-certified, 331-room hotel recycled 24 million pounds of the construction debris during its $115 million renovation. And the result is as aesthetically pleasing as it is environmentally so.

The Nines is situated in the heart of downtown Portland, steps from Pioneer Square. Its entrance is modest—you might even miss it, though that would be a mistake because when the elevator doors open on the sixth floor (the hotel occupies the top nine floors of the hotel), you find yourself in what is aptly billed as a “contemporary homage to the edifice’s storied past.”

A mix of modern art and nostalgic touches marry seamlessly in the guest rooms, each of which boasts a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows (don’t worry, there are black-out drapes, too). Plush linens on the bed beckon the weary traveler, though a settee upholstered in soft velvet the color of a Tiffany box is also tempting for a catnap. Bathrooms that are uncommonly large for a historic building save 500,000 gallons of water a year with low-flow faucets and showerhead, as well as dual-flush toilets. You’ll be tempted to stock your suitcase with the organic BeeKind products provided.

While restaurants from outside the hotel will tempt, there’s no need to leave the building to experience Portland’s renowned gastronomic scene. The Urban Farmer is a modern steakhouse with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. Ask the bartender for a Moonshine punch, mixed with locally crafted moonshine whiskey and blended with grains from a local brewery.

At Departure Restaurant, on top of the hotel, the Northwest Asian-fusion menu includes grilled kushiyaki creations, gorgeous sushi rolls and the city’s largest sake list. I recommend heading up before sunset for views of the sun setting over downtown Portland while night rises over the Willamette River, Mt. Hood and Mount St. Helens.

As you wander “home” to your room after dinner, stop to check out some of the hotel’s dynamic local and international artwork, including Andrée Putman’s three mannequin collections, The Olympian Goddess, The Husband and The Mistress, which he collaborated on with Ralph Pucci. And you will see that, indeed, this is a hotel dressed to The Nines.

Kate MacLennan is a Vancouver-based writer whose interests run the gamut from surfing to social enterprise. To read more of her work, head to katemaclennan.com

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