Archive for November, 2015

Vancouver to Lytton, where it was a quiet
and peaceful night. (July/August 2015)

Saturday, November 28th, 2015


On our way to Lytton we had a whistle-stop for breakfast at Whistler. (Sorry I just couldn’t help that pun)

Whistler is one of North Americas favorite resorts with over 2 million visitors annually.  There’s alpine skiing and snowboarding in winter and mountain biking and hiking in summer.

There are magnificent views of the Rocky Mountains on the road from Whistler. While lakes graced the valleys as we wound our way through the mountain passes.

One of the few view points that we were able to stop at was on the shores of Duffey Lake.

The temperature steadily climbed until it reached 38°C just outside of Lytton.

Lytton sits on the confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers. The Thompson has clear water while the Fraser is heavily silted.

It was originally called ‘The Forks’ but in 1858 the name was changed in honour of the popular British Novelist and politician, Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873).

Lytton coined the phrases, “It was a dark and stormy night” and “The pen is mightier than the sword”

He also wrote The Last Days of Pompeii.

The name is mightier than the place as It’s a sleepy little town with two motels and a pub.

We stayed in the latter.

The Chinese have been here since the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway started in 1881. They still have a presence.

The Lytton Hotel was owned and operated by Chinese.

The restaurant served both western and Chinese cuisine. We opted for the Asian, it was very good and a real change from what we had been eating.

There is also a big indigenous community in the town and all the support groups that go with it.

Social Services, AA support, housing and medical services all had offices in the very short Main Street.

There were bush fires, or wild fires as they are known in North America, just across the Fraser River. Apparently they had been burning for several weeks and thought to be under control. Now they had flared up again.

Vancouver, the city of neighbourhoods. (July 2015)

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015


It’s only about two and a half hours from Seattle to Vancouver in Canada but we took a much longer route, via Highway 20, to the Mount Baker area.

The terrain was a complete change to what we had recently driven through in California. We were now on the edge of the Rockies and high pine covered escarpments dwarfed the valley roads. Except where there had been logging and their bald brown patches stood out against the verdant green.

In the valleys the greens were varied, a result of the huge variety of different trees.

We stopped for coffee in Concrete. This is not a typo but a small town surrounded by mountains, just off the Highway 20. Everyone there seemed to be passing through and asking directions to somewhere else.

We were no different.

After Concrete we crossed the border into Canada and the sun appeared.

We were back to kilometres, litres and a currency that was near parity with ours and also, like ours, made of plastic. The Canadian Dollar was just a few cents higher, which would certainly help the budget.

Vancouver was developed as a railhead of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. These days it’s the port that has prominence along with logging and film production.

Vancouver is sometimes referred to as ‘Hollywood North’.

We stayed in Mount Pleasant, south east of the city centre. Once a working class area it has now been gentrified. It’s Brunswick in the Pacific Northwest, with hipsters, organic restaurants, barber shops and everything arts and crafts.

The food was simple, imaginative and tasty and everyone ate with a knife in their right hand and a fork in their left.

We had been on the road for a month and felt that Vancouver and in particular Mount Pleasant was a good place to stop for a few days.

This however didn’t stop us from sightseeing.

We caught the Hop-on-Hop-off bus to Canada Place in downtown Vancouver. Our transport was an old converted trolly bus and the commentary was by a wisecracking local with a wonderfully sarcastic approach.

Vancouver has been voted as ‘The World’s Second Most Livable City’. Our driver was rather pissed off about that, especially when we told him we came from Melbourne, The World’s Most Livable City’.

We took the Green route to Stanley Park, 1,001 acres of what Vancouver used to look like in 1886, when it became Vancouver’s first official park. It isn’t a landscaped park, like most, but rather an evolution of the original terrain, with forests and open areas all set against the backdrop of Vancouver Harbor and English Bay.

Before there was Vancouver there was Gastown, a wild west settlement of hunters and lumberjacks. On July 1, 1867 ‘Gassy’ Jack Dayton got the locals to build his pub in 24 hours.

As our driver said there must have been a real incentive there.

The next day we jumped on the Hop-on-Hop-off bus again and did the City Route.

Our first stop was China Town.

The Chinese have had a huge influence on the demographics of Vancouver, especially during the building of the Trans Canadian Railway, where three Chinese laborers were killed for every mile of track laid.

Within China Town there’s the Dr Sun Yat-sen Park and the Classical Chinese Garden. Completed in 1986, the gardens were built with the help of many Chinese artisans who were brought from China to work specifically on the project.

The water in the ponds were made to be deliberately murky so as to enhance the reflections.

Next was Granville Island a strange place that has a freeway flyover going right over the top of the island. The main attraction was the farmers market, selling fruit, veg, meat and fish.

The quality of the products looked excellent.

Other highlights were the Marine Building, designed by McCarter and Nairne and completed in 1930. This is a very handsome office building in the Art Deco style with a beautifully detailed foyer.

Another classic Art Deco building was the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Waterfront Station.

The design of the Vancouver Public Library is based on the Colosseum in Rome, with an installation making an obscure reference to the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words”

We left the bus in the city and walked back to our hotel. On the trip we came across BC Place, a large stadium that’s home to the BC Lions, a Canadian Football League club and the Vancouver Whitecaps, a Major League Soccer club. It was also the stage for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The ethnic mix of Vancouver is interesting with 52% of residents not having English as their first language. Almost 30% are Chinese who originally came here as as laborers on the railroad, then the gold rush and finally when Hong Kong reverted to the Communists. There are also Italians, Greeks, English, Japanese and Indian groups within the mix.

We found Vancouver to be one of the most culturally diverse places we had visited.

From our motel room we could see a rather elegant Art Deco building on a hill, not far away.

On further investigation it turned out to be the Vancouver City Hall designed by Townley and Matheson and built in 1935-36.

It’s now far removed from the current downtown area of Vancouver, a result of the city spreading towards the waterfront.

We left Mount Pleasant on our last night and walked into Gastown for dinner. This involved trying to avoid Crazytown – the poorest area in Vancouver and all of Canada.

The street people go there because the temperatures only reach 0°C in winter. In the rest of Canada they go far lower.

Vancouver is yet another city that was once criss-crossed with tram lines. And, once again, backward thinking forefathers pulled them up.

At least they have been partially replaced and now the city has an efficient public transport system. Part of which is the the Vancouver Skytrain, the longest fully automated metro system in North America.

The car is still the main form of transport for the residents of Vancouver, resulting in a very congested downtown area. Another reason why they are only ‘The World’s Second Most Livable City’.

Vancouver has been called the ‘city of neighbourhoods’ with each one having a distinctly different feel and ethnic mix.

Without really knowing this we stumbled into Mount Pleasant and got a real taste of Vancouver’s suburban life.

Seattle, Tech City of the Pacific Northwest.
(July 2015)

Monday, November 16th, 2015


On the flight from Los Angeles to Seattle I read an article in Sky, the Delta inflight magazine.

Titled “Keeping the global skies open” it was a rant, by the Delta CEO, Richard Anderson.

What has got his back up is the growth of Qatar, Etihad and Emirates and the subsequent loss of market share by the US carriers.

He points out that these Gulf airlines are heavily subsidised by their governments. But what he fails to mention is that those subsidies go to provide better, roomier aircraft and a level of service that the US carriers have forgotten about, or never even had.

We have flown with a number of American Airlines and I don’t blame the public for deserting them in order to get a far better flying experience.

It’s a pity that the Gulf airlines don’t fly on a few more routes – especially in the US.

To quote Richard. “Fair and open competition internationally is in the best interests of airlines, their customers and their employees.”

I am sure that it’s in the best interests of the airlines, however not their customers and to claim their staff benefit might be dubious.

While many of the cabin crew on US carriers act like little more than high altitude wait staff, Emirates people are polite, attentive and well educated. They have badges on their uniforms informing you what language, other than English, that they speak – some have  a lot of badges.

I am sure that there is a direct relationship between happy customers and contented and fulfilled staff.

We were in Seattle to get a new car. In the US you can only have a rental car for 30 days before you have to return it. This is ostensibly for service and maintenance but it’s also so they can keep an eye on their vehicles.

We originally intended to have one car for 62 days but we were told this wasn’t possible.

Having done a loop out of LA we decided to return the car there and then fly to Seattle and pick up another one.

This was a bad move.

We had booked online with for the entire time and paid for it in advance.

When we returned the car in LA, Dollar, the rental company, unbeknown to us, closed our booking. To make things worse, when we arrived in Seattle we were told that the Dollar company there was only a franchise and we couldn’t take the vehicle out of Washington State. We were then pointed in the direction of Thrifty, the parent company of Dollar and a national network.

That’s when we found out our contract had been cancelled.

We were about to make another call to when the guy behind the desk, obviously feeling sorry for us, decided to take the issue to his manager.

She was a ‘can do’ person and resolved to help us out.

She did, and with the aid of the night manager, two hours later we walked out of Thrifty with an upgraded car and a waver of the remote delivery charge.

We had made arrangements to have brunch with Tim, a university friend of Hayden. It was at a funky restaurant in the downtown area of Seattle. The decor was ‘Industrial Grunge’ and the menu, as ever, was complicated, offering items that needed Tim’s translation.

After our rather substantial meal Tim kindly showed us some of the city sites.

Our fist stop was to gawk at the world’s first Starbucks. Yes, unfortunately for Seattle this is where it all began.

Having had a great cup of coffee at breakfast we weren’t tempted inside to have another one.

We wandered through the Pike Palace Market, which was more for the tourists than the locals. I was amazed by the Googie inspired neon signs that were everywhere. The market was opened in 1907 and is one of the oldest, continually operated markets in the US.

Under the market and near the Market Theatre box office is the Market Theatre Gum Wall*. It’s a strange tourist attraction with thousand of locals and visitors depositing their used chewing gum there every year.

We took the Monorail to the Space Needle, which dominates the Seattle skyline, and walked through the Seattle Center. Both the Space Needle and Seattle Centre, along with the International Fountain, were built for the 1962 World’s Fair. We then took an Uber taxi up to Kerry Park. From there you can get a great view of the city and the surrounding areas. Unfortunately the clouds were gathering and the visibility was diminishing.

Then it started to rain.

We left Tim to the rest of his Sunday and returned to the car. The remainder of our Seattle site seeing would have to be done from there.

Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest and fastest growing major city in the US. Its growth is driven, in the main, by tech companies and start-ups. Google, Facebook, Apple, ebay, Dropbox, Uber, Twitter, Amazon and Microsoft all have offices there.

*On November 10, 2015, the Gum Wall was cleaned for the first time in 20 years. This apparently was necessary as the gum was eroding the bricks in the wall. After the cleaning people will be free to stick new chewy up again.

The Pacific Highway part 2: Napa Valley
to Los Angeles. (July 2015)

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015


From Highway 1 we travelled inland to Napa, the Napa Valley and San Francisco, before returning back to Los Angeles.

We had visited so many craft breweries and brewhouses that we felt Thea deserved a little bit of wine culture.

The Napa Valley is regarded by many as the home of fine wine in the USA. The first commercial winery was opened near the outskirts of Napa by John Patchett in 1859. However around 1836 there was a private vineyard, built by George C Yount. This was before California became part of the United States.

When we arrived in Napa we wondered why there were so many buildings being renovated.

We then discovered that there was a magnitude 6 earthquake on August 21, 2014. One person died, 200 were injured, with an estimated damage bill of 1 billion dollars.

Twelve months on there was still a lot of evidence of the earthquake. The brick buildings seemed to be the ones most effected.

It’s little wonder that most of the houses in Napa are timber.

The next day we headed for the Napa Valley wine region.

Our first stop was the Robert Mondavi Vineyards. It was Robert Gerald Mondavi (1913-2008) with his technical and marketing skills that brought fame to the Napa Valley. He introduced the practice of naming wines by their variety and not generically.

This has since become the standard for New World wines.

Just down the road was Hall Wines, a contemporary concern with a wonderful mixture of wine, art and architecture. The vineyard contained some whimsical sculptures, the frolicking rabbit and grazing sheep were the standouts.

To complement their trendy approach, Hall Wines are certified organic.

Beringer is the oldest, continually operating, winery in the Napa Valley. They managed to survive the prohibition years 1929-1933, by making sacramental wine and selling it to churches.

It has been owned by Nestlé, the Foster’s Group and now the Melbourne based Treasury Wine Estates.

There are some elegant old homes on the Beringer Estate, such as Rhine House and Hudson House. The Rhine House was built by Frederick Beringer in 1884 and is a classic example of ornate Victorian architecture.

In a way prohibition still exists in the US, however this one is inflicted by Ford, GMC and Chrysler. The large auto makers in Detroit were strong proponents of the idea of decentralisation, making people reliant of the car.

The cities and even small towns are so spread out that you need to drive everywhere. You daren’t drink and drive as the laws are strict; and the public transport system so poor, again thanks to Detroit, that you have no alternative but to use your vehicle.

The automobile has also been blamed for social isolation, urban sprawl, urban decay and the rise of obesity.

As a general rule people in the USA don’t walk.

I am in no way religious, in fact I believe that religion, or the blind following of a faith, has caused more problems than it’s solved.

However when I see a good line, I can’t help admire it – no matter what cause it is promoting.

This line was outside a church on Highway 1, in California.

“You don’t have a hope in hell without God”

We spent a short time in Napa before driving to San Francisco. This was mainly an opportunity to get some snaps of this sleepy valley town.

As soon as we sighted the Golden Gate Bridge the sky changed from blue to grey as the San Francisco mist rolled in.

About the worst view of the bridge, in all of San Francisco, is ironically at Vista Point.

We therefore decided to walk over the bridge to the south side. There was a much better view from just near the Round House Cafe.

The Golden Gate Bridge was designed by Irving Morrow, Joseph Strauss and Charles Ellis in the Art Deco style.

It was opened in 1937 and connects San Francisco with the San Francisco Peninsula, bridging US Route 101 with State Route 1. It was an essential link in opening up the northern Pacific coast.

At the time of its construction it was a feat of modern engineering, with each tower held together by over a million rivets and the 93cm wide suspension cables containing 27,572 wires. It is famously painted in International Orange, which was originally the colour of the sealant. The US Navy wanted it to be painted with black and yellow stripes to make it more visible in the infamous San Francisco fog.

Not far from the bridge exit on the city side, is the Palace of Fine Arts. This was designed by Bernard Maybec and built for the 1915 Panama-International Exposition. It’s a rather strange structure, based on a Roman ruin that looks very out if place in a modern city. It was rebuilt in 1965 with renovation of the lagoon being undertaken in 2009.

The ‘New World’ seems to have a fascination with antiquity with a lot of architecture inspired by ancient Greece and Rome.

Capitol Hill in Washington is a prime example.

Armed with our US guide book we spent three days site seeing around the ‘Frisco’ area.

The Painted Ladies near Alamo Square are a number of beautiful Victorian and Edwardian houses. These have been lovingly detailed, in soft pastel colours, to enhance their architectural features.

We walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf and then took a ride into Union Square on the cable car. The iconic San Francisco cable car  is the world’s last manually operated system. There were originally twenty three lines, now only three remain with the vast majority of the seven million passengers being tourists.

In total disregard for OH&S you can cling to the outside of the cable cars as you ascend and descend the famous San Francisco hills.

Just like in the movies.

After our essential cable car ride we spent the rest of the day walking, which is a test of knees and thighs, given the terrain.

San Francisco is a truly international destination, full of tourists from around the world.

We spent a lot of time playing ‘Pick the Accent’.

The one we heard more than any other was English. They probably came to California for the summer weather. So how disappointed they must have felt when there was nothing but mist, low temperatures and cold winds.

You can tell the tourists in San Francisco, they’re the ones with shorts, T-shirts and bewildered looks.

The locals know better.

We passed the Chinatown gate, the ferry building clock tower and terminal and even got to see the Bay Bridge from near Pier 14.

Not far from our hotel was Lombard Street which is regarded as the world’s ‘crookedest’ street – it has eight hairpin turns in a one block section.

Another very popular tourist attraction is Pier 39, which is at the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf and close to North Beach and Chinatown.

After a very pleasant but energetic time in San Francisco, we continued or trip south on Highway 1 to San Simeon. This small seaside coastal village isn’t far from the Hurst Castle and is approximately half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Hurst’s monument to his wealth is about the only attraction in or near San Simeon.

Our morning coffee stop was at Santa Cruz, a much larger and more impressive beach resort than San Simeon.

A lot of the the time Highway 1 travelled inland but when it did hit the coast the views were spectacular. However, to my mind, the best part of the coast was still north of San Francisco.

After overnighting in San Simeon we drove the final stretch into Los Angeles.

Our coffee stop this time was at the Old West Cinnamon Roll coffee shop in Pismo Beach. The coffee was dreadful. Which isn’t surprising as most people were consuming large quantities of the cinnamon rolls and not there for a caffeine hit.

Our motel in LA was a strange place indeed. It was situated in a very dodgy part of the LA but it was close to the airport – this was it’s only attraction.

We have found that you can judge the socioeconomics of an district by the number of fast food restaurants.

We were surrounded by them.

Just to indicate the tone of the Crenshaw Inn Motel, there was a sign in reception indicating that no prostitution was permitted on the premises.

It did have some standards.

We were also surrounded by churches. I guess they were there to save the poor souls at the Crenshaw Inn Motel.

As we had to drop off the car, which was the only reason to stay where we did, we drove to LAX. Knowing that there were no suitable places to eat near the motel we took the hotel shuttle to the Sheraton, and in total contrast to the Crenshaw Inn, we dined at the Paparazzi, the Sheraton’s restaurant.

What we saved on the motel we paid for in the restaurant.

The Crenshaw Motel was probably the worst place we stayed at on our entire trip. In the morning I awoke to discover that Thea wasn’t my only sleeping companion.

The place was riddle with fleas and as I am a magnet to anything that bites, I had been mauled during the night.

I now understand exactly what people mean when they describe a place as a ‘Flea-Pit’.

The Pacific Highway part 1: Portland to Fort Bragg. (July 2015)

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015


We left Portland and headed west, via McMinnville, on Highway 99 towards the Pacific Highway and the 101.

Our first stop was at Depoe Bay on the Pacific. They claim to have the world’s smallest navigable harbor, measuring just 6.4 ha.

Just down the coast is Seal Rock, a huge tourist attraction with hundreds of the smelly mammals sunning themselves.

We continued our way south, past Yachats and on to the Heceta Head Lighthouse. It was near here, at Cape Creek, that we discovered our first Conde McCullough bridge.

In 1919 Conde Balcom McCullough (1887-1946) became head of the bridge division of the Oregon Department of Transport and was responsible for the design of over 600 bridges during his lifetime. His bridges were known for their architectural beauty and he embraced the simplicity and elegance of the Art Deco style.

During the 1930s the Pacific Coast was becoming more densely populated and the inland roads were not coping with the ever increasing numbers of autos that were being pumped out of Detroit.

Driving for pleasure was becoming a pastime of the American public and they demanded better roads with easier access to the coastal town and resorts.

Cape Creek Bridge was one of 14 bridges, designed by Conde McCullough on US Route 101 – a road specifically created to open up the Pacific Coast.

Florence is a delightful seaside town that also sits on the Siuslaw River. It is divided into two very distinct areas.

The Old Town, that runs along the river and the New Town that hugs the 101.

A feature of the old part is the Siuslaw River Bridge, opened in 1936 and also designed by  Conde McCullough.

Just over the river are the Oregon Dunes that extend 60km south from the Siuslaw River. In some placed the dunes rise 150m above sea level and provide entertainment to off-road vehicles, hikers, photographers and campers.

After Florence we continued south towards Crescent City in California.

On the way we stopped off at Umpqua River Lighthouse, which was the first light in the Oregon Territory and built in 1857.

Nearby is the Umpqua River Whale Watching Station at Winchester Bay. There were plenty of people looking for wales but none to be seen.

Within the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park is Lake Marie, a small freshwater lake with a sandy beach and again lots of opportunities for the outdoor type.

Formerly the North Bend Bridge, the Conde McCullough Memorial Bridge was dedicated to its designer in 1947, a year after his death.

We had a coffee at Jason’s Pacific Blues or the ‘Reluctant Cafe’ as we named it.

Jason was the antithesis of the over exuberant service staff we have come to expect. He was gruff, disinterested and, as the owner, not looking for tips.

We obliged him and didn’t leave one.

Our next river crossing was on the Rogue River Bridge or Patterson Bridge. Completed in 1932 and again designed by Conde McCullough it has a strong Art Deco feel in its detail.

We stayed at motels along the coastal route.

This style of accommodation is also frequented by the bikies, or bikers of the west coast.

These are mainly older guys, many with their partners who love to cruise the Pacific Highway on their Harley Davidson motorcycles.

In the main they are friendly, gregarious and very courteous on the road.

The next night we spent in Crescent City, which was a strange place, especially after Florence.

There seemed to be no town centre, the streets were empty and obvious places to eat were few and far between.

We stumbled, with the help of Triposo, upon Tomasini’s Enoteca, a very strange wine bar, cafe.

There was no real food.

It was a Friday night and the place rocked.

‘Warren and Friends’ were playing a mixture of Country, Jazz and Pop.

The locals came and went, consuming ‘sandwiches’ on the way. Some stayed, drank wine and some danced. Now a sandwich in the USA is anything that’s stuck between two pieces of bread. it could be a burger but there are many other options that also make up a sandwich.

Even though there were six beers on tap and many more bottled beers in the fridge, wine was the libation of choice at Tomasini’s Enoteca – even the blokes were drinking it.

This was the first real wine bar we had encountered, but we were now back in California, so I guess this was to be expected.

While the rest of Crescent City was dozing, Tomasini’s Enotec was wide awake.

The next day we drove from Crescent City to Fort Bragg, we were still on the 101 and still heading south.

Before leaving we went down to see the Battery Point Lighthouse. Built in 1856 it was one of the first lighthouses on the Californian coast. It’s situated on an isthmus that can only be reached at low tide.

Luckily the tide was out that morning in Crescent City.

Not far from Orick is the Redwood Forrest of the Prairie Redwoods State Park, a sanctuary for these ancient trees.

One, simply known as the ‘Big Tree’, was 1,500 years old. To put its age into perspective, this was less than a hundred years after the sacking of ancient Rome.

We left the 101 and joined the Pacific Coast Highway 1 and headed to Fort Bragg, another wind blown seaside town, with wide streets and no real city centre.

We again discovered another cultural haven, the North Coast Brewing Company. Founded in 1988 it’s a major sponsor of the Monterey Jazz Festival and the 42nd largest craft brewer in the US.

Good food, good wine, great beer and a very pleasant atmosphere.

There were 19 draught beers to choose from.

Before heading off for the drive to Napa we spent some time wandering around Fort Bragg.

Just near the museum was a section of an ancient redwood tree. This was the oldest known redwood in the area and was chopped down in 1943 to make flooring.

It was estimated to be 1,753 years old.

Now on Highway 1, we passed through through Elk, and then headed south to the Port Arena Lighthouse.

I was chasing bridges and Thea was looking for lighthouses.

The road had fewer twists and turns but the coastline was still spectacular.

We stopped for coffee at Jenner, one of the many small seaside towns along the coast.

It was the weekend and we were just far enough out of San Francisco to get the day-trippers.

The roads were crowded and made even slower by the large number of RVs.

We have seen these ‘apartment block’ size motor homes everywhere but it was now the summer holidays and the numbers had swelled.

The sluggishness of the traffic was exacerbated by the old codgers driving sports cars such as Corvettes and Mustangs.

It goes to prove the theory, that when you are rich enough to afford one, you are too old to drive it.

Portland, where craft beer began brewing.
(July 2015)

Sunday, November 1st, 2015


From Boise, the home of the late Maureen O’Hara, we drove west again towards Portland in Oregon. This time the morning coffee break was in Baker City, just off Highway 84.

Continuing west we left the freeway near The Dalles and took the old Lewis and Clark trail along the north side of the Columbia River. This was beautiful countryside with a winding road that rose and fell with the river on our left. We were in Washington State and looking over the river to Oregon.

In 1804 the Lewis and Clark Expedition was the first American venture to cross the western portion of the United States. Their main objective was to explore and claim US sovereignty over the west, hopefully before Britain and other European powers had a chance.

It was a long day’s drive, the longest yet – we covered 700 km.

Hotels in the centre of Portland were a bit like hen’s teeth, so we were forced to go east of the Willamette River. Fearing the worst, as far as places to eat, we discovered Hopworks, yet another gastropub and craft brewery. They had seventeen beers on tap and for Thea’s enjoyment a number of ‘draft wines’.

Hopworks pride themselves on their sustainability and serving wine direct from the barrel is their way of avoiding the waste of bottling.

I am not sure that drawing wine from a keg has the same allure, or taste, as beer.

I think Thea agrees.

Oregon is the Craft Brewery capital of the US.

In Portland alone there are 100 locations brewing craft beer and in the rest of the state there are another 150 doing the same thing.

In 1852 the first beer was brewed in Oregon and in 1985 the Legislature legalised Brewpubs – this led to their rapid growth.

Most of the Brewpubs serve food, with much of it being in total contrast to main-stream American cuisine. It’s usually sourced locally, the portions are smaller and the style is a fusion between US, European and Mexican flavors. With many claiming to have environmentally sustainable production.

The food and wine is as important as the beer in many of the Brewpubs.

The concept of Brewpubs or Gastropubs has spread with nearly 1,500 of them in North America offering a real alternative to a hamburger and fries.

They are revolutionising the food scene by hiring young innovative chefs who are embracing contemporary food culture.

Beer and food matching is widespread and they often offered a great selection of wines with their food. In the wine producing areas, like the Napa Valley, the Gastropubs support the small independent vineyards and vice-versa.

They are also breaking the model as far as the way they pay and reward their staff.

Unlike most restaurants and fast food chains, Gastropubs pay above the award to their wait and kitchen staff. This means the employees are happier and aren’t continually groveling for a tip.

Eating at the Gastropubs kept our food prices lower and gave us a great and tasty alternative. This was very important considering we were eating out 7 days a week.

It’s also a much more enjoyable dining experience.

Because they are not serving fast food you aren’t expected to be out in less than 30 minutes. In fact they encourage you to stay longer and many of them also provide entertainment.

The atmosphere is also an integral part of the brewpub charm. The pub space is divided into individual areas for eating, drinking and socialising. You can seamlessly move from one area to another according to your needs.

Portland not only has an abundance of microbreweries but it also has a disproportional number of beer festivals. Apart from the Oregon Brewers Festival there is the Spring Beer and Wine Festival, North American Organic Brewers festival, the Portland International Beerfest and the Holiday Ale Festival.

They love their craft beer in Portland, as they do in all of Oregon.

Is the success of craft beer in North America due to their large population?

The USA is home to over 320 million people and this gives a scale to production, markets and consumption that we just don’t have in Australia. However Portland only has a population of just over 600,000 with the greater area being nearly 2.5 million.

Yet Melbourne has a population of 4.8 million people and a fraction of that number of craft breweries.

Based on the 2012 figures beer consumption in the US is 77.1 litres per capita while in Australia it’s 83.1. Currently craft beer has 12% of the market in the US while in Australia it’s just approaching 6%.

In the USA most of the beer produced in the craft breweries gets consumed locally, with the national distribution being left to the big brewers.

There is something sadly lacking in the basic marketing of craft brews in Australia and that’s exposure to the product.

What the Brewpubs and Gastropubs offer in the US is not only a different eating experience but also an opportunity to try new and different brews. Draught craft beers are also available at local bars and restaurants, with many of them providing a wide choice.

Because we were a fair distance out of town we took the bus into Portland and spent the day exploring it on foot, and by the very efficient tram service.

Our first stop was the Pioneer Courthouse. Built in 1869 it’s the oldest federal building in the Pacific Northwest.

Just over the road is the Pioneer Courthouse Square with the Portland Visitor’s Centre. A quick visit there helped us to plan the rest of our day.

Just round the corner was the Farmer’s Market, with an abundance of natural, organic food and sustainable products of all descriptions.

Powell’s Bookstore, in the Pearl District of Portland, claims to be the world’s largest, occupying a full city block. It boasts 6,300 square meters of floor space.

Continuing our patronage of the craft breweries we visited Deschutes, Perl District Brewpub, for lunch. In 1988 Deschutes were one of the first craft brewers to open in the US.

As with many of the Brewpubs we visited this one was in an interesting location. Opened in 2008, it was in a converted auto-body shop.

Again the food, wine and beer were excellent, the only disappointment being that they didn’t serve an espresso.

Oh well you can’t have everything.

Like many craft brewers and Brewpubs, Deschutes have a very strong Corporate Social Responsibility Program. They are actively involved in local charities and received the 2012 Sustainability Award for their work in the Deschutes River Conservancy program.

By craft brewery standards Deschutes are large, with distribution to 28 states of the US.

After lunch we took the Aerial Tram to Marquam Hill, or ‘Pill Hill’ as it’s known, home to Oregon Health & Science University, Portland VA Medical Center and Portland Shriners Hospital. This vantage spot gave us a great view of Portland right down to the Willamette River.

Later that day we walked down to the river just as the evening joggers we coming out.