Along the coast of Oregon, in a place infamous for sneaker waves and unpredictable currents, where the perpetual repetition of the surf could just as easily be the restless beating heart of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, is the seaside village of Yachats, one of the most beautiful places on earth.
My husband and I “discovered” Yachats more than twenty years ago. We’d recently moved to Oregon from Maine and were homesick for Schoodic Point, our favorite coastal haunt in Winter Harbor, Down East–a singular place to experience Maine surf pounding rugged basalt outcroppings with stunning views of Cadillac Mountain. For several years, we’d explored Oregon’s northern coastline and enjoyed the broad sand beaches—beautiful, but a world apart from the Maine Coast. So when we headed south on Highway 101, we expected more of the same. But the moment we drove into Yachats and meandered along Ocean View Road to the scenic lookout, we knew we’d found our Oregon version of Schoodic Point.
The seaside village of Yachats has somehow managed to keep its dignity. There are no cheap boardwalks crowded with tacky souvenir shops or tourist diversions, but we dependably find more than enough in the way of simple creature comforts to keep us happy. If you spend time in Yachats, you’ll find a mid-size grocery store and several good restaurants, a place to buy ice cream, a small used book shop, a couple coffee shops, a library with wi-fi, a chamber of commerce, and a Community Commons that will even let a stray walk-in use their telephone to make local calls. Best of all, there’s an array of magnificent walking trails, every one with scenic views. And if you pay attention, you might see migrating whales, pelicans, herons, sea lions, deer, and lots and lots of seagulls (one year we actually saw a river otter). Trust me—it’s pretty close to paradise!
I’m a nut for live theater, and there’s no better place to indulge than at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. Every year, OSF serves up a diverse slate of productions that always include Shakespeare, works from established playwrights like Tennessee Williams & August Wilson, and cutting-edge world premiers by up-and-coming talent. And you can buy tickets at prices that don’t break the bank.
There may be more glitz on Broadway in New York City but theater in Ashland is every bit as satisfying, and the city of Ashland has small-town charms that make it a special destination of its own.
Springtime (April & May), before the summer vacation crowds descend, is our favorite time to visit Ashland. The weather is mostly sunny and mild, wisteria and the dogwoods in Lithia Park and in the landscaping around Ashland’s historic homes are in full bloom, and theater tickets are selling at pre-season bargain prices (though plays in the outdoor Elizabethan Theater don’t open until June).
Lithia Park is a 93 acre walker’s paradise in the heart of Ashland. Parkland trails follow Ashland Creek through a natural woodland landscape.
Stone bridges, two duck ponds, a Japanese garden, and a formal rose garden invite thoughtful contemplation. And when you are feeling more socially inclined, you’ll appreciate Lithia’s picnic areas, children’s play structures, lawns perfect for tossing a frisbee, tennis courts, the sand-pit volleyball court and Butler Bandshell for events.
This year we saw four plays in five days (The Tempest, Cocoanuts, The Comedy of Errors, and A Wrinkle in Time), and I left wishing we could have squeezed in one or two more performances, but then we wouldn’t have had time for all those leisurely walks in Lithia Park or been able to browse the one-of-a-kind shops that make Ashland feel like a time warp back to the 1960s before franchises began gobbling up America’s local color. Go if you get a chance. It’s is one of America’s special places.
My husband and I are private people, content with a small group of friends and generally averse to crowds and traffic – but at least once a year, sometimes twice, we crave
a big city fix, and nothing, absolutely nothing, fills that want like a bracing dose of New York City. We’ve traveled enough to anticipate the creature comforts and conditions that will tip the scales of our big city binges toward perfect. Give us clean pleasant digs located no more than a stroll or a subway ride from the places we’re
longing to go, a decent kitchen (we have a fussy gluten-free, low fat, and mostly vegetarian diet, so we choose our dining events judiciously and balance mostly lunches at carefully chosen restaurants with doing a lot of vacation cooking ourselves), a great map, and our trusty tablet.
This trip we found Whole Foods at Columbus Circle, a bright and bustling market full of
beautiful produce, a diversity of interesting people to watch, and nearly unlimited culinary possibilities. Most evenings we popped down the shopping mall escalator and grabbed our supper from Whole Foods’ fabulous selections of prepared offerings and salad bar then zipped home (just a short subway ride away) to enjoy our dinner alone in our perfect little apartment.
Restaurants this trip (all recommended)
Blossom Café at upper Westside 466 Columbus Avenue
Village Natural at 46 Greenwich Ave
Candle Café West at 2427 Broadway (between 89th and 90th Streets)
Favorite Sights & Events
Broadway & the Barrow Street Theater in Greenwich
I’ve been known to plan an entire trip to NYC around a single cultural event (one year Thornton Wilder’s Our Town at the Barrow Street Theater, another year we went to see an environmental repertoire by the Ailey II Company of Dancers). I start months ahead reading reviews and advance publicity for plays, musicals, opera, dance and concerts, savoring the possibilities. This trip we chose four theater productions: Pippin, Beautiful:The Carol King Story, Buyer & Cellar, and After Midnight.
The High Line
The High Line is an elevated city park created from the remains of a defunct rail line that
runs along the lower west side of Manhattan. It’s a beautiful walk or jog (almost a mile and a half) with amazing views of both the city skyline and the Hudson River. Pebbled concrete walkways that, in places, still reveal tracks and railroad ties meander alongside clumps of native grasses and other sturdy wild-looking plants. According to the literature posted along the High Line, the park’s artfully planned prairie-like landscaping was inspired by the plants that seeded themselves along the abandoned
tracks in the decades before the track was re-purposed as a park. We spent most of a morning walking the High Line, admiring the wild natural setting, the innovative architecture, and the great views. If you go, bring your camera.
American Museum of Natural History
We spent a leisurely afternoon exploring the Museum’s Hall of Biodiversity and took in the
IMAX Movie: Mysteries of the Unseen World by National Geographic. The experience was a wonder and now I can’t stop thinking about how to be a more respectful citizen of the earth. Sad, but pretty obvious, we humans don’t even know what we don’t know.
The Anders Zorn exhibit at the National Academy of Design
Anders Zorn was a Swedish artist 1860 – 1920. His oil portraits made him rich and famous, but it’s his luminous watercolors (especially his depictions of water and natural landscapes), and his etchings that my husband and I found profoundly engaging.
Even if you have to take a subway clear across town, a trip to The Strand & The McNally Jackson Book Stores are more than worth the trek – cherish the moments, like the black rhino and the loggerhead turtle, bookstores are becoming extinct.
Sight Blight/ or Yuck on the New Jersey Transit (let this be a warning)
The Amtrak train ride from Washington DC’s Union Station to Penn Station in New York was a model of cleanliness and comfort, and we spent a whole week traversing the city on a dependably clean and efficient New York City Subway. So what’s up with theNew Jersey Transit Train from Penn Station to Newark Liberty International Airport! We had to search the aisles to find a seat that wasn’t cluttered with wrappers, beer bottles and cans. The floor was so coated with the residue of spilled soda (or worse) that we worried about the bottoms of our shoes, and the air inside the train car reeked of old cigarette smoke.
Please Governor Christie! If New York City can manage a clean, pleasant, very busy transit system, New Jersey should be able to figure it out.
Crap begets crap and sometimes oozy sticky stinky crap, and that’s a shame.