Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Perfect Beginning

Our "big" vacation this summer was a return after three years to our favorite travel destination, Northwest Oregon. The big difference this trip was the knowledge that retirement and relocation are just around the corner, and so everything we saw had the flavor of knowing this: soon to be at home. On all our previous trips here we spent time in both city and country, traveling the length of the state from Portland to Ashland and all sorts of places in between. This time our new trip starter was fairly close at hand, about two hours north and west along the Columbia River, to the historic shipping port of Astoria. 

Whenever I research places to stay in a new town I go for the best we can afford (or are willing to stretch for). This time we let our gut reaction to the beautiful pictures on their web site lead us to the Cannery Pier Hotel. Built to resemble an old factory, the hotel rests atop 100 year old pilings and actually sits in the river. The rooms facing north have the feeling of being staterooms on a cruise ship and beside being beautiful and comfortable, have a front row seat for a busy schedule of all sorts of water traffic, notably huge international freighters coming and going right past your windows. 

Just arrived after a long travel day from Chicago, a quick change and a chauffeured ride to nearby Bridgewater Bistro in one of two classic cars owned by the hotel.

Our favorite kind of dining, sharing small plates. The river view seating and live pianist didn't hurt either.

The commons area in the hotel with the "cruise ship" view.


An elegant "state room" starts with a wonderful bed. 

A bathroom with a view (so you can soak in the tub and watch the river at the same time.)

The Astoria-Megler Bridge is four miles long as it crosses this mighty Columbia River, and prominent from many vantage points in town.

The first of many giant cargo ships that sailed by my window.

The "cruise ship" view from our own balcony.
After a restorative night's sleep and a great dinner, we set off to see the riverfront part of the town by walking several miles of the River Walk. We passed old and new, crumbling and restored. Because it was Sunday, and a holiday weekend, many businesses and factories were closed, but there was evidence of a vital economy in town (beside the tourist economy, that is.)

A mix of the old, the modern, and the return to nature.

A riverside town park with a viewing platform.


Factories...

Brewpubs...

All manner of wildlife seeking their living...

The heron posed for me, but the seals under the docks just barked, and refused to come out for photos.


There are still canneries in town.

But everything is a clean and tourist friendly, too.


Most of the length of the river walk is also traversed by a trolley car line, so you need to keep your wits about you when crossing bridges.

The hotel had free bike "rentals," but we decided to forgo the possible hazards of riding for a more simple mode of transit.

A view of the Cannery Pier Hotel.

Maritime Memorial Park

The Red Building (that's the real name)

On Labor Day Monday we decided to give up a planned trip to famous Cannon Beach and just continue to enjoy Astoria for a while more before heading off to Portland. One of the most famous sights is high up on the top of the hill town at an elevation of 600 feet (in a town that is at sea level), where you get to climb an addition 164 step spiral staircase inside to reach the viewing platform. This is quite a workout for a somewhat "older" person such as myself, but I set aside my trepidations and went for it.

The Astoria Column

The view Northwest toward the Pacific

This spiral "sgrafitto" frieze is seven feet wide and 525 feet long and tells the story of 14 significant events in the history of Oregon and Astoria.

Wearing a porcelain giraffe necklace that I bought at the Sunday Market from artist, Eric Berlin.

The view South to Saddle Mountain


Young's Bay

A beautiful topographic map of the region. The shiny spot is the hill we are on.

Back at he marina and cruise ship docks, we watch the morning's charter fishing tours bringing in their catches and having them cleaned and packed to take home.


A too short, but wonderful introduction to a fascinating town.

Don't I look relaxed already?

Ready to move on to Portland, but this lovely place is now on our short list of what will hopefully be just a weekend getaway.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Capturing a Golden Moment


Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

--Robert Frost
My favorite time of day, those few moments of golden light that one sees most commonly in a late August evening just as the sun makes its descent, feel both beautifully warming and ultimately sad. I am always reminded that the season of growth is drawing to an end, and that life itself is so transitory and precious. Frost's poem, made popular to generations of teenagers in the story, "The Outsiders," the coming of age novel by S.E. Hinton, speaks literally of spring and dawn, and yet, for me, just as appropriate to the year's wrap-up when the leaves begin to turn gold again, and the sky is awash with a fleeting magic. With each magic moment, I think, "This may be the last time I see this here for we may have moved on by this time next year." But in truth all moments are seen just once, and we never know when something like it will come again. So as always, I try to just be with it for a while. The heart will always want more, and "Again!" but it's probably wiser to count only on the moment, and see as much glory in it as we possibly can.

Pausing after a walk to see my everyday world in a different light.

Kitty wants to come out and be part of it.

The tea ritual: berry for him and ginger for me.

The fragrant leaves of the pineapple sage will soon be joined by brilliant red flowers. Such a feast of texture, color and scent.

The sunset sky reflected in the window or seen through it. This window has brought me much joy over the years.
The man says a bunny and a bear are having a conversation. Just enough clouds to bring the magic. It lasts but a minute, but the warmth lingers and inspires.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Last Chance

Haven't I been telling them for years? Come to Chicago! We've got a world class city here folks. People travel here from all around the world to see the grandeur, the art and architecture, the famous streets and stores, the lake that looks like the ocean, such that the city has actual sandy beaches right here in the middle of the country. But no, twenty-two years and I could count the visitors on just my fingers, no toes needed. Well this time, the suggestion was firmer: you are running out of time, because we have soaked up as much mid western love as we can, and we are ready to move on to a new coastal adventure. Not sure the exact date of departure, but sometime before the weather turns colder in 2015. So let's do this town together one more time.

This summer we had two sets of company in quick succession: reunion of high school besties on my side, and reunion of childhood besties/first cousins on his. I was so occupied with being hostess and tour guide and enjoying myself in the bargain, that the photos caught on the run or in a few quiet moments in the hotel room will have to serve as the evidence of what I said: this is a special place with a kind of energy that will either invigorate or suck you dry. Luckily for us, it has inspired and refreshed and now we are ready for a city of more personal dimensions. But that is a story for later.

The images here aren't necessarily in a chronological (or logical order), but represent moments on the fly of playfulness, companionship with company, strangers, and the city itself. It is a place that invites awe: so often you must look up to behold it, but also, it invites participation.

We see ourselves reflected in an iconic sculpture.

Sometimes we are lost in the image.

Sometimes the image seems illusive to capture.
The view in summer is complicated with foliage and people. Winter, though difficult on some levels, is the ideal time for broad expanses.


Unless you stand on a bridge high above the fray.

Short among the tall, but I can aspire to their heights.

From the river, a juxtaposition of old and new. The best way to view the history of architecture and commerce: a river tour.
Trump's tower was just as easy to spot without the monster sized letters. It was far more pure and beautiful a design without.

But this water garden in a plaza at its base is peaceful and low key, and  invites even those of us without the "bucks" to pause and reflect.

A typical architectural tour boat ready for a spin.


I can never get enough of Marina Towers, either day or night views.

Too busy enjoying my company and my food experience, this shot of a typical food station at "'Eataly" is the only one to survive the day.

Back at "Cloudgate," aka "The Bean," I take delight in images and the joy of other visitors as we each dance the same dance with reflection, distortion, and imagining.

For just a moment I feel so connected to the joy of art, the crowds, and the city.


The "Crown Fountain" by Jaume Plensa bears the images of hundreds of real Chicagoans on its two 50 foot towers with cascading water and a shallow wading pool that draws children and delight.

About every five minutes the face of the moment becomes a gargoyle as it "spits" water from its mouth onto the waiting crowd of little ones.

The Art Institute is a favorite stop and this summer we twice attended the amazing exhibition of works by Surrealist, Rene Magritte. But almost as surprisingly arresting was the free exhibit of sculpture and mixed media painting by local artist, Hebru Brantley, called "Parade Day Rain." It will be on display at the Cultural Center through September 23, if you plan to be in town.


A view of an apartment balcony along Wabash with the resident in residence brought out my longings for the soon to be relocation to city life.

In recent years we always stay at the Hotel Monaco with the pillowed window seat views of Wabash and Wacker, the Chicago River, Marina City, Trump Tower, the el train, and my favorite city clock with a winged father time, and his lantern.

The Water Taxi, an efficient way to travel in this city that seems to have enough roadway taxis to accommodate every person who desires one.

A magic hour.

Inside the room, a mellow vibe and a goldfish. Unfortunately, this one did not survive the night. Just like in the stories where parents don't wish to traumatize their children with the reality of dead pets, my "fixer" had the floater replaced while I showered unaware of the switch.

The elevated train performs its wheel squealing turn around this bend all day and (seemingly) all night.

The girl in her window seat, the man relaxing with his Internet browser and some mellow music from "Austin City Limits" on the tube. Perfect down time after a frenetic day.

Darkness descends on a beautiful summer evening.

In this bowl there is no real day or night.

But out here the magic begins. Standing at the base of the towers across from the famous "House of Blues," we prepare for a bit of ten pin fun.

A favorite restaurant, but not this evening.

A hotel that can't settle on a name or an owner, although seemingly it has kept the same identity through recent changes. The cool and modern lobby of what was for a time the Hotel Sax.

And just next door our destination, an upscale bowling alley with music, food and alcoholic libation, a party for rent (along with the shoes.)

And so ends the day, watching the pleasure boats, and floating parties as they pass below on the river.

Surveying the dramatic skyline and taking in the energy of this beautiful night.

Magic!


The company has gone and we are on our own, taking a breather at a local historical park. 

A profile I love and that brings me peace of mind.

This is a popular place for weddings, but today we are alone enjoying the mature plantings in and around the gazebo and gardens.

Pretty soon I will be surrendering my own personal gazebo and garden for the life of sharing public spaces. I am sure there will be some sadness and nostalgia, but I doubt there will be regret. My last summer of "suburbia" is almost under my belt now. Pretty soon we are off to pay a visit to our prospective new home. I look forward to sharing that story with you soon.