Marie Sutro, who sets her newest crime thriller, Dark Obsession, in the Pacific Northwest, loves the beauty and creativity of Oregon and Washington State. She shares info and memories of the best -- from Portland to Seattle, and all around the spectacular region.
We begin the episode talking of Portland and environs, including its creative "weirdness": the Oregon Coast and inland Oregon, including the Dunes; charming, artsy Ashland; Crater Lake, the bluest, deepest lake in the world, and the historic Gold Rush Towns.
In Washington State, we discuss Seattle and nearby beauty spots including Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula.
And we end with Lea's and Marie's two special memories of the PNW -- each very different.
Marie Sutro is an award-winning and bestselling mystery author, as well as a travel enthusiast. In 2018, she won the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for the Best New Voice in Fiction, for her debut novel, Dark Associations. She is a member of Sisters In Crime and volunteers with California Library Literacy Services.
Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the San Francisco Police Department, collectively inspiring her writing. She resides in Northern California and is currently at work on the next book in the Kate Barnes series.
Podcast host Lea Lane blogs at forbes.com, has traveled to over 100 countries, written nine books, including Places I Remember, and contributed to many guidebooks.
Contact Lea, on Twitter: @lealane ; on Insta, PlacesIRememberLeaLane; on Facebook, Places I Remember with Lea Lane.
Lea's Website: placesirememberlealane.com.
New episodes drop every other week, on Tuesdays. Please tell your friends, family and colleagues about us, and follow, rate and review this award-winning travel podcast!
[Due to an anecdote regarding Crater Lake, if you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
If you or someone you know needs mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.]
Lea Lane 0:06
Hi, I'm Lea Lane, an award winning travel writer and author of Places I Remember: Tales, Truths, Delights from 100 countries. On this podcast we share conversations with travelers about fascinating destinations and memorable experiences around the world.
In Episode 27, we talked about Maine and the Northeast Atlantic coast. In this episode, we're going to the opposite side of America to the Pacific Northwest. America's east and west coasts are both filled with character and beauty. And they both even have fabulous foodie cities named Portland. We're talking about the states of Oregon and Washington known for watery pleasures, Pacific coastline, islands, waterfalls, rivers and freshwater lakes and rainy weather. But surprise, the Pacific Northwest not only has one of the wettest rain forest ecosystems, it also has one of the driest deserts in the eastern areas. And it has not only mountains but one of the tallest mountains in the contiguous United States. And of course, there are the glittering cities of Portland and Seattle. Our guest is Marie Sutro an award winning, best selling author for her crime thriller Dark Associations. And her latest book is Dark Obsessions set in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, where Detective Kate Barnes, like so many other travelers, seeks to find some peace, and instead finds another murder case. Welcome, Marie to places I remember.
Marie Sutro 1:38
Thank you, Lea. I'm so happy to be here.
Lea Lane 1:40
Now you use the Pacific Northwest as a setting for your book. And we're both familiar with its pleasures. So let's talk about the region. We'll start with Portland, Oregon's largest city. It's on the Columbia and Willamette rivers in the shadow of snowcapped. Mount Hood., What are some things not to miss in and around Portland?
Marie Sutro 2:00
As you alluded to Lea, the entire area, entire Pacific Northwest is so very special. And part of what makes it special is that natural beauty. But the other part that makes it special is this sense of independence and creativity. And there's really no better place to find that. Then in Portland, I think it was back in 2013, they came up with the tagline of Keep Portland Weird.
Lea Lane 2:28
Oh, yeah. Well, they've succeeded.
Marie Sutro 2:32
They have succeeded. And really that sense of independence of creativity, uniqueness, individuality, it's on display everywhere, all the time. There are unique cafes, unique restaurants, there are folks walking down the street that are just being their best self, whatever that means. If it means that they want to get up and dress in Full Movie regalia as a zombie, that's what they do. So it's really a fascinating place. And just going there, you feel that sense of independence,
Lea Lane 3:07
Just walk around the streets, right? Just take a walk, and you'll feel Portland.
Marie Sutro 3:11
Absolutely. Or sit in a cafe and just people watch and pick up that vibe. And I think the more you're there, the more you start to unleash your own inner weird too.
Lea Lane 3:22
That sounds like fun. Now, what are some of the places we can do it, specifically some of the pretty places and natural places that are so well known about Portland?
Marie Sutro 3:32
Well, one of the biggest features for me is the Columbia River Gorge area. It's just about a 30-minute drive outside of Portland. And it's where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascades on its way out to the Pacific Ocean. And it is absolutely a phenomenally beautiful area, just like all of the Pacific Northwest, full of vibrant ecosystems and wildlife. And it's also full of some really magnificent waterfalls, some really great lookout spots. And one of my favorite things to do is there's an old scenic route that they built back in the time when cars were first getting on the roadway. And that route kind of takes you through all the great spots with the waterfalls that you want to see lots of the Wildwood trail, it's part of that whole region through there and the the Latourell Falls are beautiful. Like I said, there's so many falls but Latourell stands out because it is just a large continuous drop of hundreds of feet. Absolutely breathtaking. One of my other favorites is Multnomah Falls, which is over 500 feet, but it steps down gradually. And there's a beautiful bridge that spans in between one of the steps and it's just an absolutely magnificent place. There's also Vista house; if you're only going to be able to run outside of Portland for a few minutes during the day, and you have to run back, make sure you go to VISTA house. It was built in, I think 1918. It's a completely round building. So you really get to walk around and enjoy the vistas. And it sits up on the rim overlooking the Columbia.
Lea Lane 5:19
It sounds like a perfect area to just get away. You can work and then you can have a day trip or a half day trip and see this gorgeousness. And tell me about Washington Park.
Marie Sutro 5:29
The beauty that's on display, the nature, the festivals and events that they hold. They're definitely a major draw. And again, a great place to people watch.
Lea Lane 5:39
They've got four acres of roses, I was there. During one time they were blooming in June and it was a spectacular thing. And one of the things I loved about it was the tea plaza in the garden, I guess you would call it, and I've noticed that that while Seattle is known for coffee, Portland has a lot of tea rooms. You can have Japanese tea ceremonies, Chinese tea ceremonies, English high tea, and you can have all types of tea and often in the garden.
Marie Sutro 6:05
You know, I use that little fun phrase of keep Portland weird being a tagline but they also call it the City of Roses. So absolutely for fans of flora and fauna, you can't go wrong in Portland.
Lea Lane 6:18
How about Powell's bookshop? Is that still open?
Marie Sutro 6:21
Another favorite. Obviously, as a writer, that's a huge favorite of mine. For people who don't know it's the world's largest independent bookstore. And it's multiple stories and the carry used and new books and have amazing authors.
Lea Lane 6:36
I know whatever they do, it's going to be special people love Powells. Absolutely. There's a whole creative scene, as you mentioned; so great. There's something called the Forest for the Trees festival every August, where artists sort of help to paint a mural. They may not be mural painters, but they are given a wall and then their designs are blown up to a massive scale, maybe 100 of them all over Portland. So it's really grabbed on to that one; and the food scene, of course. Tell me about something called Voodoo doughnuts.
Marie Sutro 7:03
Okay, so Voodoo donuts is so fun. Not only they're some of the best doughnuts that you'll ever get -- obviously maple and bacon draws a lot of folks in -- but their signature little voodoo doughnut looks like a voodoo doll. And he's got the little eyes etched out, and unfortunately there's a little spot where a pin goes into. Oh my god. Yeah. But again, some of the best donuts you'll ever find.
Lea Lane 7:30
I like the markets there. There's the Portland Mercado, which is a Latin- American Public Market. There's the Jade district, which is a very vibrant community of immigrants where you have all these interesting foods. There's a great food scene. We all know that -- from five-star chefs to street foods, street carts. I know there are lots of food carts.
Marie Sutro 7:48
Yes, absolutely. And one of the fun things for me is when I travel, I always like to do the mix. I mix between being in the city and being out in the countryside. And then with the food. I love to go anywhere from a food truck all the way up to a five-star restaurant. So you're right, you can get it all in Portland.
Lea Lane 8:05
The same with hotels, you know, I used to do a lot of hotel reviews for Fodor's and lots of other guidebooks. So I appreciate noteworthy lodgings, and they are all kinds of interesting lodgings in Portland. There's a company called McMenamins, which restores historic buildings. It has over 50 properties. One of them is the Kennedy School on Portland's east side; it's a converted 1915 Elementary School, where you can see a movie in the former school auditorium. I love it. That's Portland Weird.
Marie Sutro 8:33
But it's also Portland. Great. And the diversity like you said. One of the fun things is to go out and stay at one of the resorts out along the Columbia River Gorge, or any of the great little B and B's or just rent a house, you know yourself. It's an amazing variety of perspectives. And you learn so much about not just what keeps Portland weird, but what are your own little quirks. And it brings out so much in you as a person, to be there.
Let's talk about the Oregon coast along Highway 101; it's called the People's Coast because most of it has been kept accessible to all people. The Northern California coast may be more dramatic. We describe it in Episode 32. It's world known. But what are the special things about the Oregon coast?
If you look at the area, some of the things that define it is obviously the natural beauty. But there's also this sense as you travel to some of the small towns along the coast. And they do range from more casual, traditional small town environments to things that are more upscale -- if you think of maybe Carmel in California, where it's pricier art galleries and pricier restaurants. But there's also this interesting sense of history. And it's kind of around the maritime history, whether it's Cannon Beach, which is about 80 miles outside of Portland, which is one of those more upscale communities. But it's named Cannon Ah, because a cannon washed up from a shipwreck. So there's this sense that while it's laid back, and it's fun, and it's artsy, there's also this sense of import over just what it means when humans venture out onto the water and how dangerous it is. And there's a lot of World War Two history. As you're exploring and looking at these beautiful things, you'll come across a landmark, commemorating something profound. And there's a variety of wonderful museums dotting that entire coast.
Lea Lane 10:29
I know there are many lighthouses there, shipwrecks, lots of history, as you said, you can feel it. It's a palpable feeling when you go clear and clean and lovely and not very crowded. And when you go certain times of the year and certain times of the day, it's a good place to get away. Let me ask you about the Oregon Dunes. That's another region that's kind of surprising.
Marie Sutro 10:52
Yeah, really phenomenal, like something cinematically out of, I don't know, maybe George Lucas would have created his desert planets. Really phenomenal. And there's events that are held around there that draw people from all over the world to go and experience again; you think of the Pacific Northwest and you're thinking all these lush trees and forests, but then you have this amazing almost desert scape.
Lea Lane 11:19
It's a high desert and you don't expect it. It's so close to the coast. What are a few highlights of inland Oregon, Ashland is one of them. Tell us about that little town.
Marie Sutro 11:28
Ashland is one of my absolute favorite spots in the Pacific Northwest. If you're coming out of Northern California, you drive up and over the Siskiyou pass. As you come down, you drop into this picturesque little valley and it's absolutely adorable. And up to the West is a mountain range kind of going up into Mount Ashland, at the highest peak. And there's just like the rest of the Pacific Northwest, there's skiing, there's hiking, there's whitewater rafting, but the little town of Ashland is nestled right up against the foothills there, and it is extremely artistic and eclectic. And my favorite reason for going to Ashland is that every year from April to October, they hold the Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which has been going on since the 1930s. Wow. And there are some phenomenal there's three main venues two of them are indoor, and one is called the Allen Elizabethan Theatre. And it is an outdoor theater and the entire stage. And the areas adjacent are all decorated to look like Tudor row houses from London back in Shakespeare's time, and I cannot explain what it feels like to sit there outdoors. Feeling like you're living back in Shakespeare's time breathing and smelling the air and having Henry the Fifth put on -- and this is one of the best parts: It's won a Tony in the past. It attracts actors, amazing caliber actors.
Lea Lane 13:14
Absolutely, the beautiful places always do. They know where to go. Just perfect. Another piece of perfection is Crater Lake; that also has to be one of the most beautiful, clearest bluest lakes on Earth. Tell us about it.
Marie Sutro 13:30
Phenomenal spot. You know, there's so many glacier fed lakes around the world that people take photos of: Moraine Lake, up in Canada and some of these other places and, and the water is always beautiful, but it's not completely transparent. And Crater Lake has the distinction of not only being the deepest lake in the United States, but it was Mount Mazama. It was a volcano. And it collapsed in on itself 7000 years ago, and has been catching clear, pristine rainwater ever since. So the water is sapphire blue, and it's absolutely magical.
Lea Lane 14:06
I was told you can swim in it, but it's very, very cold. Have you heard of anyone who's done that?
Marie Sutro 14:11
It is very, very cold. And Lea, if I can share this little tidbit. It's a little bit out there. But it's a really fun, interesting tidbit. When you talk to some of the park rangers up there, they will explain some of the a little bit darker history of Crater Lake. There have been a lot of folks, unfortunately, who have committed suicide there. And the way that they do it is they literally walk into the lake and they don't come out.
Lea Lane 14:39
Oh my, I can see your crime thriller. It's coming out.
Marie Sutro 14:43
But what's interesting is even the indigenous peoples who've been there for 1000s of years have talked about this dynamic and they say that the water draws you in. And when I've been there, the two times I've visited if you're up at the rim, looking down, you get some severe wind up there, as you can imagine, and the wind chill itself goes right through, you might as well be in Chicago. On the lake it goes right into your bone marrow. And it is just amazing the amount of treasures that are waiting. And there is a beautiful lodge up on the crater where you can pop in, it was built turn of the last century, and you can pop in -- beautiful, massive fireplaces, and grab a grilled cheese and some soup and cuddle up and warm up before you head back in.
Lea Lane 15:33
My goodness. Sounds delicious. How about Jacksonville? That's a Gold Rush city. Tell us a little bit about that.
Marie Sutro 15:40
Jacksonville is very fun. It's about 20-30 minutes outside of Ashland. And it's kind of running along that same mountain range that's separating the inland from the coast. And it is a magical tiny little town. A lot of people miss it. They head up to Medford or Portland wherever they're going. But it's well worth the stop. There's only a couple of blocks of historic 1800s buildings. And just on the periphery of the town is a little theatre that has drawn amazing acts from all over the world. I think Steve Martin went there on one of his tours with his banjo. And it's because the acoustics, the natural acoustics of the land formation, create one of the best sound systems really well.
Lea Lane 16:30
I know there's there's a music and art festival in here that helps. Yeah, sounds like a gorgeous place to do it. I sometimes when I'm doing these when it goes so badly, I want to get right off the podcast and go run and travel to these places. They sound so wonderful. I've been there, but I want to go back. Now I did go to a cave, the Oregon caves National Monument is at 4000 feet and it's a marble cave. And it's lots of twisting passages, spelunking, I guess the name would be, or just walking in a cave. There's so much to see and do in Oregon. But let's move northward a bit to Washington State, the smaller of the two Pacific Northwestern states we're talking about. And it includes Greater Seattle, which is the largest metropolitan area in the Pacific Northwest, with a population of almost 4 million. Now I know from the classic comedy series Frasier that Seattle is rainy and has lots of coffee houses. But what are some of your favorite Seattle things?
Marie Sutro 17:33
So in the city, no trip is complete without the visit to Pike Place.
Lea Lane 17:38
Oh, yes. We all do it.
Marie Sutro 17:40
Yes. And it's so funny. For those who've never been it's literally you walk out and you can see the water. So there's this natural vibe with the fresh air coming in, you know the fresh breezes, and then it's everything you can imagine. Of course, there's a predominant lean towards fresh seafood. And it's amazing. But there's flowers, and there's cheese being made and fresh pastas, and everything is displayed. Everything everywhere you look is eye candy, I think back to the pasta shop that I walked by. And just walking through the sights, the smells, the little artisans who have you know, sculpted characters out of volcanic rock or painters, you name it.
Lea Lane 18:24
Well tell us about the famous fish throwing.
Marie Sutro 18:27
The fish throwing was something I kind of stood back from literally, because I cannot imagine; I tried my hand at fishing. I was not good at the whole "How do you hold this slippery creature thing," but it is impressive to watch. And there is so much energy, and always draws crowds and and these are not small fish that they're throwing.
Lea Lane 18:48
They're big. Yeah.
Marie Sutro 18:49
I mean, there's like some three foot fish getting tossed up and over counters out into the audience and back and and sometimes they do let the audience know. Did you do that? Lea, did you?
Lea Lane 19:00
I did. I actually caught it. I caught it. I remember that very well. Yeah, it's something that I guess you might want to think about doing if you go to Seattle. How about Pioneer Square? That's one of the most interesting neighborhoods because it's very historic. It has a lot of Renaissance Revival architecture. But the main thing that's interesting is the underground. There's a absolutely interesting subterranean city, really, it was buried after an 1889 fire. So there's lots of ruins there and all sorts of interesting shops and ruins of things that you can visit.
Marie Sutro 19:37
Yes. Little silly side note: When I was a little girl I watched, used to watch Scooby Doo with a cartoon. And there's an episode that takes place where they go into the Seattle underground. So that was always something that was on my to-do list. The fact that it's subterranean, just like any place if you go -- to the catacombs in Rome or wherever you are -- there's this hushed sense and presence again. So there's the sense of curiosity, "what is this?" And how did they build above it? But then on the other side of the coin, it's a profound experience being where people used to live, and they are no longer there, and why?
Lea Lane 20:16
Well, Washington's on Puget Sound, which is a beautiful inlet of the Pacific Ocean. And it's one of the places where you can watch whales and walk along; and then there's Snoqualmie Falls. Am I pronouncing that correctly? Yes, very famous.
Marie Sutro 20:32
Yes. Snoqualmie Falls is absolutely gorgeous. Again, one of these cliffs scenarios where there's this epic amount of water rushing over hundreds of feet. And what's fun is there is a lookout point, but you can also take a trail down to the base of the falls, which is beautiful, and you get that sense, that absolute rush, when nature is sending, how many gallons
Lea Lane 20:58
Marie Sutro 20:59
And there's also an amazing resort. They're up on the top, and wonderful food. But they also if you stay there, they have an entire room where you can do yoga, which has a glass wall looking out over the falls.
Lea Lane 21:13
Oh, wow. So downward dog with a view? Yes, I like it. Well, you can't see Mount Rainier, as I'm sure it's pronounced. But I've been told that on a clear day, you can see it from most parts of the city. And that the best view somebody told me it's from Kerry Park, just a little tip.
Marie Sutro 21:32
Absolutely. Kerry Park is tiny. It's not necessarily the the park that you want to have on your list. Because you want to see things you know, there's things to do. It's very small. But the view and like you said, if you can hit Kerry park at night, on a clear night, the view of the city is spectacular.
Lea Lane 21:52
And on a moonlit night, I would assume the best, right? Absolutely. Well, the Space Needle is another place where there's a great view; it was built 60 years ago for a World Fair. And it's recently been updated with tilting glass benches. So it's a little bit more exciting than just going there. There is a revolving glass floor. It's the world's first and only revolving glass floor. Have a little lunch or whatever. So I think that's still something. It's a mid-century modern, beautiful icon of the city and and you can't miss it. So we should mention that one. Surely, now Seattle is on the Olympic Peninsula where your crime thriller Dark Obsessions takes place. So you know this place upside down and backwards. It has forest it has coast, it has mountain ecosystems. What's your favorite part of this gorgeous Peninsula?
Marie Sutro 22:40
My favorite part is the land that is part of the reservation. The McCall reservation is is a large area and there is a town there called Neah Bay, which is beautiful, tiny little town. There's a little Marina and it is active. You're seeing the ships come in and out every day. And what's so fun about it is when we talk about the United States and we go from one coast to the other. This is the spot that is the North West most contiguous point of the United States. And that actual spot is called Cape Flattery, and it juts out. So on one side, if you imagine the peninsula, on the right or east side is the Puget Sound. Then up along the top is the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, and then on the left side of the west side is the Pacific Ocean. So Cape Flattery is literally jutting out into the Pacific and into the strait.
Lea Lane 23:36
With tall pines and wonderful evergreens and mountain backdrops. The whole area is one of beauty. Fine food. Well the name of the podcast Marie, is Places. I Remember. I have a quick memory before I ask yours, because we're talking about all this food. And I remember an ice cream cone I had in Portland, Oregon. Forget plain vanilla. I still remember the description of the ingredients which I had written down in a journal: strawberry, honey balsamic vinegar with cracked black pepper, double fold vanilla and freckled woodblock chocolate.
Marie Sutro 24:09
Oh my goodness.
Lea Lane 24:11
Does that sum that up? You just described heaven. I just described the Pacific Northwest. Wonderful creativity and the love of good things. How about you? What special memory?
Marie Sutro 24:25
One of my most special memories was when I was in Portland and I went out to the falls that I mentioned earlier Multnomah Falls, whereas there's the stepping down of the water. And I went down to the base. There's this this huge area that nature has eroded away and there's rocks that have been worn smooth all over, and it's very dangerous goings. But I went out with my brother and we got really close and the closer we got to the falls, the more the spray and the pressure off of it. it. And we stayed there for a few minutes. And when we took the trail and got back to our car, we didn't talk the entire time. And when we finally got back to the car, he said, "How do you feel right now? How do you feel in this moment?" And I said,"If someone said it was my time to leave here, and I had to go, it would be okay." I feel I felt so at peace in a way that I just have never experienced.
Well, thank you for sharing, and for sharing so much information about this wonderful part of America. Thank you, Marie.Sutro, best- selling author of Dark Obsessions. I hope I go back and I'm sure you will, as well is a passion.
Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me, Lea.
Lea Lane 25:49
My book, Places I Remember: Tales. Truth, Delights from 100 Countries, is available in print, Kindle, and I read the audio version. You can follow me on forbes.com where I write five travel posts a month. Please subscribe to this podcast and consider giving us a review. And I'd love to hear from you on any of my links in the episodes show notes, or on my website placesIrememberLeaLane.com. Until next time, make some travel memories.