Staying at the Hotel Monaco in Portland, Oregon

By Shandelle Battersby

Shandelle Battersby checks into an historic boutique hotel in the heart of Portland and never wants to leave.

The fireside lobby in the Hotel Monaco Portland. Photo / Kimpton Hotels
The fireside lobby in the Hotel Monaco Portland. Photo / Kimpton Hotels

Location: Built in 1912, this historic boutique hotel housed in the former Lipman's department store, now part of the Kimpton Hotels stable, is right in the heart of Downtown Portland - one of the best cities to visit in the United States for sure. I arrived by river on Un-Cruise Adventures' ship S.S. Legacy, and could walk to the Monaco from where we'd docked near Hawthorne Bridge in about 10 minutes. The hotel has a valet parking lot if you arrive by car; if you're on the excellent light rail service, there's a line directly outside on 5th Street.

Check-in experience: Unlike any other I've experienced thanks to all the cute pooches hanging about in the spacious lobby and lounge area. This is a very dog-friendly hotel - there are doggy treats at reception, retired guide dog Timmy, the Director of Pet Relations, is on site most days, and there's even a pet-sitting service available. A chalkboard welcomes each canine guest by name.

If you're allergic, there are three pet-free and hypoallergenic floors. The welcoming Fireside Lobby, just off reception, has a big fireplace, oversized board game tables and lots of chic seating - this is where you'll find the popular complimentary daily local wine, micro brews and canapes reception, which is accompanied by live lounge music. Staff actually wheel a keg contraption into the room. It's amazing.

The decor: Quirky, and one of the Monaco's best features. Recently renovated to reflect the diverse palette of the surrounding Oregon landscape, there are plenty of bright colours and crazy patterns that somehow work well together. There is interesting contemporary art everywhere and the furniture and lighting is an eclectic mix of modern styles (one lamp in my room stood on two golden duck legs). Designer Gino Castano's specially designed wallpaper is worth a mention here - black and white drawings of Oregon birds in flight in the bedroom, and schematic versions of local landmarks and cityscapes in the bathroom. Accentuated with high ceilings and picture windows, the overall effect of the decor is superb. I particularly liked the hotel's logo that features the elegant blue heron, Portland's official bird - there are nods to the area everywhere you look.

The Hotel Monaco Portland. Photo / Kelly Marshall
The Hotel Monaco Portland. Photo / Kelly Marshall


Room: A King Corner Room, with a huge desk/dining table and plenty of charging stations close to the bed (yes!). The big flatscreen telly has a system that offers on-demand movies, music and Nintendo 64 games (for a fee).

Price: Rooms start from NZ$240. This is a deal, trust me.

What's in the neighbourhood? Portland is a very accessible, compact and flat city to explore by foot. Close by are the waterfront park, Pearl District (which is home to Powell's, the largest bookstore in the world), several concentrations of food trucks, Pioneer Square, the weekend markets, and the Old Town historic area. The zoo and other attractions are not far by streetcar or Uber.

Toiletries: Atelier Bloem, a line that uses fragrant ingredients such as mandarin, white fig, tuberose and orange blossom in its products. If you've forgotten something, housekeeping can provide everything from hair straighteners and stain remover wipes to microwaves and lint rollers, and there are a few items such as razors and plasters for sale in the room.

Food and drink: The on-site Red Star Tavern is all about seasonal local produce and regional cuisine, and is also known for its wide whiskey selection and hand-crafted cocktails. Set up around the exhibition kitchen and its wood-fired brick oven, rotisserie, smoker and grill, the food aims to invoke rustic flavours and approachable dishes designed to be shared - think "Iron Skillet" corn bread with lavender honey and "Ranch Brisket" with bourbon glaze.

There's a complimentary tea and coffee service in the lobby each morning hosted by local coffee roasters (there are no facilities in the rooms), including, of course, cold brew. During summer, you'll also find Squeeze of the Day hydration stations (chilled fruit-infused water), and green and black iced tea.

Other facilities: There's an on-site spa and business centre, but if you just need to print a boarding pass or something, you'll find a computer and printer in the lobby.

Recycling and sustainability: This is a big thing in this part of the US and the Monaco takes it seriously. You'll find recycling bins everywhere and there's the option to opt out of housekeeping service for incentives. Bravo.

Free wi-fi? Yes, if you sign up to the Kimpton Karma rewards programme.

The bed: After a week in a narrow bed on the S.S. Legacy I was ecstatic to find an enormous king with a plush pillowtop base, and starfished to my heart's content.

The bed too is visually impressive, with an ornate checkered headboard, colourful tartan throw pillows and valance, and crisp Italian Frette white linen.

A room with a view? Downtown Portland high-rises.

Bathroom: A shower over the bath featuring a custom tile made from an 18th century illustration of the famous Portland Rose Festival. The cool bathrobes are animal-patterned.

Noise: I was there on a weekend so the Saturday night was a little noisy with enthusiastic revellers on the streets below. There's also traffic noise, but that's what you get if you stay right in the middle of a city, right? Pack some earplugs if you think it will bother you. The air-conditioning noise was barely discernible, even at full throttle.

Exercise facilities: There are yoga mats in all the rooms and on the 9th floor is a very well-equipped gym which I actually used. No pool. The hotel also offers free bikes - Portland is awash with cycle lanes and many residents get around on two wheels, so make like a local and get in amongst it. Staff can suggest routes.

Bikes at Hotel Monaco Portland. Photo / Kimpton Hotels
Bikes at Hotel Monaco Portland. Photo / Kimpton Hotels

Perfect for: Urban exploration, dog-lovers and those who want a little more from their accommodation than a standard hotel room. As a sign in the elevator says, Happy Portlanding!

CHECKLIST

Hotel Monaco is at 506 S.W. Washington at Fifth Avenue, Portland, Oregon. Phone: +1866-861-9514.

- NZ Herald

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