Portland’s Hotel Modera reviewed

Portland, Oregon, knows it’s pretty damn cool, which is why the city has garnered a rep for having a bit of a ‘tude. Let’s just say you should study up on your coffee order before getting in line.

Blissfully free of hipster snark, however, lies downtown’s funky Hotel Modera, a two-year-old addition to the area’s eclectic mix of venerable and boutique properties. Another selling point: Modera has ($27/day in summer)) valet service, removing the pain from downtown Portland’s notoriously scarce parking. Check-in was prompt, and every staff member I encountered during my brief stay was genuinely friendly and helpful. The twenty-four hour concierge service and business center are useful for night owls, businesspeople, and insomniacs. Asthmatics like me and healthy types will appreciate that it’s a 100% non-smoking property.

A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, a group of which I am fond,
Modera’s butt-ugly, nondescript, colorless exterior is deceptive. Built in 1962, it was originally a Days Inn, and then the Portland Inn City Center. But ah, inside lies a colorful, groovy oasis full of local art, Italian marble, and polished walnut floors. Fusion jazz emanates from hidden speakers.

Modera’s decor may not be to everyone’s taste. Done up in textural and tonal variations of white, orange, chocolate, and red, it looks kind of like the love child of Ikea and the Brady Bunch house. I’m not a Danish Modern person, but for some reason, I found this hotel fun, without trying to be. It just suits the utter weirdness and iconoclastic nature of Portland.My premium suite room, while small by some standards, had a nice, open layout, filled with light and glam trappings, and sensor-controlled heat, AC, and entry lights. The front room contained a dining table, LCD 32-inch flat screen TV, and a nice little desk/office area, with an iPod docking station and free Wifi. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any electrical outlets in which to plug my laptop.

The sunny bedroom featured a comfy King, with quality linens and loads of pillows; another flat screen, and a great view of downtown. The faux lynx bed throw and gigantic polka dotted carpet were a bit over the top, but the spacious, spotless, marbled-tiled bathroom made up for it. The open shower had two heads- one a European-style, and I loved the yummy, blood-orange-scented Tarroco bar of soap, shampoo, conditioner, and bath gel, which somehow found their way into my duffel bag.

Room rates vary seasonally and according to local events, but nightly averages per person for summer are $179/Premiere City King room, $189/Premiere Garden King, $199/Premiere Double Queen, and $289/Premiere King Suite.

What’s nice about Modera’s location is that it’s centrally located (but safe), yet a few blocks off of the retail corridor of Pioneer Square, and about 20 blocks from the boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and bars of the vibrant Pearl District (the free Portland StreetCar is one block from the hotel if you want a lift). Parts of lower downtown and Pioneer Square are like running a gauntlet of panhandlers and obnoxious, punky street kids. Ignore them, and focus your attention on the collective of glorious, multi-ethnic food carts clustered nearby, as well as other locations downtown.

The 174-room hotel is a peaceful oasis from all the bustle, made more so by an attractive courtyard that provides outdoor seating for the hotel’s Mediterranean-influenced restaurant, Nel Centro (helmed by acclaimed local chef David Machado). The eye candy, however, is Portland’s first “living wall,” a verdant, sustainable backdrop covered with ferns, moss, and other native plants. At night, fire pits light the courtyard, which is packed with guests and locals, who come for Nel Centro’s screaming deal of a Happy Hour. From four to six, cocktails and wine are five dollars a glass, microbrews are four, and three to seven bucks will get you pomme frites with harissa ketchup, a lamb burger with peppers and feta, or a seasonal pizza. If it’s chilly outside, seat yourself at the lively square bar, where you still have a courtyard view.

Modera is walking distance to the many arts and cultural events held within the downtown area, such as the Portland International Beer Festival, as well as the Portland Art Museum and Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The city has a great public transit system, MAX, and is very bike-friendly, so get out to explore the Hawthorne District and Mt. Tabor, the Alberta Arts District, and the spectacular Forest Park. Even if you never make it past downtown, there’s plenty to see and do (and Modera offers complimentary passes to the adjacent 24 Hour Fitness if you want to get some exercise in). All just groovy to me.