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...