Nov 20, 2009 5

Referral Friday: Camas Hotel

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


When I was announcing to people in L.A. and environs that I was heading up to Portland, they’d invariably ask, “Why Portland?”

When I’d announce to people in Portland that for a big hunk of the time, I was actually going to be staying in Camas, they’d ask, “Why Camas?” Or sometimes, in the case of my car-free and/or bike-happy friends, “Where the hell is Camas?”

Camas is a tiny Washington town just across the Columbia River from Portland. It sprung up around an old mill that’s still in operation, albeit with far fewer employees (that’s automation for you) and a new name (ditto, conglomeration). It’s got a mid-sized city to one side and another tiny town to the other, and a whole lot of natural beauty every damned place you look. It’s also home to one of the most adorable small hotels it’s been my pleasure to stay in for some time.

The 100-year old Camas Hotel had fallen from grace when its present owners, Karen and Tom Hall, fell in love with her beautiful bones and decided to restore the rest of her. They went above and beyond, by all counts, I got the lowdown from the wife of the town’s retired GP, a 52-year resident of Camas who was treating her husband to a night in one of the Camas Hotel’s beautifully appointed rooms in honor of his 80th, or was it 85th?, birthday.

Didn’t get a chance to grill him on the history of the town or the hotel: he was out for his regular morning constitutional. (Note to self: time to reinstate the regular morning constitutional, and to add hills.) But everyone in the town whom I did speak to, and I spoke to pretty much everyone I ran into, as they’re a friendly lot, concurred: the new and improved Camas Hotel is every bit of both. I can personally vouch for the meticulously rebuilt bathrooms with their period-style mosaics and HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP the beds! The beds. I slept the sleep of the dead every night, which was just what I needed to do for that week.

Once there, you’re a walk away from the awesome in any direction. I got a fine, $45 haircut at a nearby salon, plenty of good work time in at the gorgeous new Camas Library (which recently won an award for being the finest in the state) and had delicious Chinese food from the shop around the corner. There were at least three spa-type places, for them of you what indulges, plus a high-end pizza joint, a wine bar, several other tasty-looking restaurants, scads of cute shops and an old-fashioned post office that still smells good. Oh, and the corner diner, with its floor to ceiling windows on two sides (and they is some high ceilings, boy howdy), makes a fine borscht. So you know.

The time I didn’t spend in the above I spent at the world’s greatest coffee shop, Piccolo Paradiso. I dropped staggering amounts of money there, considering I mostly just indulged in the phenomenal Americanos. Pam, the owner, fell madly in love with Italy some 16 trips back, and Italian excellence pervades the joint: delicious pastries and tasty-looking snacks, fine wines from Italy (natch) and of course, that old Italian stand-by, free wifi! I also picked up several bottles of well-curated, locally-produced wine to give as gifts; my hosts thus far have let me sample and, um, I’m planning one last swing by there to pick up some more on my way up to Seattle today.

Should you make a trip up to Camas just to see Camas? Your call. If you are a lover of hikes in nature (or Pendleton jackets, factory is one town away!), possibly. But if you’re in Portland, or Portland-bound, or doing a Portland-to-Seattle tour, by all means treat yourself to a day and a night in town.

And tell Karen & Tom “hi!” from me…


Posted in: The Useful Ones

Jeremy November 20, 2009 at 1:43 am

Wonderful recommendation. I’d be there in a flash. As for the free wifi here in Italy, I almost spluttered into my keyboard.

Karen Hall November 20, 2009 at 9:51 am

I had no idea you were such a great writer Colleen. I am really happy you enjoyed your stay and especially appreciate you sharing your thoughts online. I hope you will come again soon, as you will be a most welcome guest. Thank you for putting the word out!


Scott McMurren November 21, 2009 at 8:53 am

Heavens, Colleen. I promise Camas NEVER has been on my list. I’ve traveled several hundred times between SEA and PDX. I lived near PDX airport. And all I remember about Camas is that it’s the gateway to Washougal. W-e-l-l. Thanks to you, we know that a wrong turn off the 205 may indeed be time well wasted. HAHA…

Mike Manzano November 21, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Hey, @indietv grew up in Camas.

the communicatrix November 22, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Jeremy – Haha. Remind me never to come to Italy.

Karen – Aw, shucks. Camas inspired me—what can I say? Love your lovely little place, and hope to be back with The BF (and maybe Arno J!) sometime soon. Er, in the summer.

Scott – Don’t feel bad. Just get on over and make up for lost time. And lemme know how the wine bar and that cute fancy restaurant are, for next time!

Mike – All good things, right?

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