Friday, December 7, 2018

Oregon Shakespeare Festival: All hail a wondrous arts achievement

The Allen Elizabethan Theatre features a classical setting for three plays each season at Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Three theaters offer a dozen plays for the 2019 season, a far-reaching variety from "Macbeth" to "Hairspray."


The Allen Elizabethan Theater will feature "Macbeth"
while the Thomas Theatre features "How to Catch Creation."

View from a suite at Ashland Hills Hotel, a beautiful way to preface or
follow a play.  The Rogue Valley surrounds are peaceful and picturesque.
SEEING TEN PLAYS in a week can be a downright dizzying experience. But it's energizing, intriguing, and fun. Ashland, Oregon's world famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival brings out the theater buff in even the unwashed.  But for lifelong devotees, the festival offers a stimulating banquet of delights. For me, the festival represents a half-century plus of family trips to Ashland, to immerse ourselves in world class theater in a setting dear to our collective heart.
THANKS TO an enterprising visionary, Scotsman Angus Bowmer, we frequent the  festival in an arts-friendly, walkable town. Bowmer lived in the Rogue Valley long before World War II, championing theater and building interest in a small offering of plays.  Through his persistence and clever promotion, his 1934 dream became a flourishing festival. Thank the drama gods that clever Bowmer devised a way for the town's popular boxing matches to fund his deeper passion, theater. Today his name graces one
The Bowmer Theater lobby readies for a performance. 
of the festival's three very different venues. The Allen Elizabethan Theatre and Thomas Theatre are the other two venues. Ashland relies on theater to keep its impressive number of shops and restaurants afloat.
BELOVED LITHIA Park near the complex welcomes strollers, who find high-quality buskers entertaining and beautiful birds, trees and water to enjoy.
A quality pair of sister hotels leads the parade of fine places to stay: the historic and beautifully appointed Ashland Springs Hotel downtown, and the pretty Ashland Hills Hotel and Suites, a quick mile from the center of the action in a beautiful hillside setting.
Strollers in Lithia Park pause to enjoy Bach played by
a world class cellist, one of many treats in Ashland.
 The festival's first production, the bard's "Twelfth Night,"  has been performed many times and Bowmer's shoestring enterprise now boasts a budget of more than $40 million. The festival enhances the state's economy, last year contributing more than $128 million. Our family is part of the 88 per cent of theater goers who travel more than 125 miles to attend the Festival. We've chatted in the Bowmer, beneath a portrait of the founder, with friends from our two favorite hotels.  Fellow guests come from as far away as England and Canada, and many U.S. states to the Tony-winning festival.
AND WHILE Shakespeare is still offered -- this season a brilliant "Othello" and "Henry V" -- there are stimulating new plays, and fresh takes on old favorites for 798 performances. This year, we enjoyed a spirited, gay version of "Oklahoma" -- the romances featured two same-sex pairs.
Known for its daring casting, OSF's
"Oklahoma" featured two same-sex
couples. Here Curly talks to Aunt Eller.
Luna is a relaxing place to unwind
for a bite at Ashland Hills Hotel,
 with tasty food, pleasant environment. 
Curly was a woman and Ado Annie was a guy, Ado Andy. OSF thinks outside the box, pushes the envelope in gender-bending ways, expanding possibilities with interesting ethnic casting and a rejection of cliches and party-line interpretations.  Next season's line-up will offer the Broadway hit "Hairspray" for its musical, and "Macbeth" will be presented in the outdoor theater, along with "All's Well That Ends Well" and "Alice in Wonderland."
Cookie enjoys a sip of water from an iconic
fountain in the center of Ashland. The water
is supposed to be healthy, full of minerals.
A DARING AND inventive recent play, "Indecent," which we saw in its world premier at the La Jolla Playhouse, will be performed in the Bowmer along with "Between Two Knees" in the Thomas. "As You Like It" will play the Bowmer, too." Something old, something new, that's OSF. Backstage tours, lectures, forums, and a popular Green Show enhance the options.  
Oregon Cabaret Theatre offers a pleasant addition to the
theater scene in Ashland. For more than three decades,
the Cabaret has offered first-rate dinner theater. 
Shakespeare one afternoon, a classic drama that evening. Musical theater the next afternoon.  A new, cutting edge play at night, a bite to eat, a rest, another play or two. Members have a beautiful lounge in which to relax and enjoy a beverage and snack.
And don't overlook Oregon Cabaret Theater, which personifies Ashland's blend of sophistication and appeal.  It never fails to entertain and the food is delightful. This year's "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" featured a tasty French inspired menu.  The holiday show looks wonderful and the run has just been extended. The cabaret unfolds in a lovely, historic renovated church and like Ashland itself, satisfies both town and gown tastes, delighting all the senses.;;;

The gorgeous Amalfi coast comes even more alive with the right tour.
A well tuned tour and a lively, intelligent guide enhances the journey.
UP NEXT: So much to see in Europe, so little time. It's so important to choose the right tour.  We found a fantastic way to explore Naples and the Amalfi Coast through Can't Be Missed Tours.  Come with us and meet our lively guides, with special treats in Positano and the lovely villages that pepper the hillsides. CBM makes Rome, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast come alive in new exciting ways -- even for those of us who have been to Italy many times. Tips on finding the right tour fit -- and more. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, family and living outside the box.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Torrey Pines: perfect retreat with spectacular trees, ocean view

The magnificent Torrey Pine stands bent and endangered, but still glorious in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. 
Torrey Pines Reserve is a much loved part of the state.
The "Coaster" hugs the shore below one of the bluffs.
Below, another option for sport above the Pacific.




THE SPECTACULAR trees called Torrey Pines are located in a wild stretch of land in southern California appropriately named Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
Surfing is popular Torrey Pines
where the waves can be perfect.

Tourists and locals alike enjoy the sunsets at Torrey Pines.
It's become one of my favorite haunts, and I make almost daily visits with Nick and Nora, my aging but still sprightly Yorkshire terriers. We spend an hour or so each morning after I dance at Jazzercise in a nearby venue in DelMar. Then we have a snack and walk on this beautiful reserve located within San Diego city limits, yet a vast, wild stretch of land.
SETTLED centuries ago by the Kumeyaay people, this acreage achieved natural reserve status because of its importance in the plant and animal world.  It contains threatened plants, animals, habitats, and unique geological formations. Mostly, it is home to the rare and endangered Torrey Pine. So it is a protected area,  targeted for conservation.

Because of the efforts and foresight of the people here, this beautiful 1,500 acres of land is maintained much as it was before San Diego was developed — including the maritime chaparral, the rare Torrey pine tree, miles of unspoiled beaches, and a lagoon that is vital to migrating seabirds.
Cookie, Nick and Nora enjoy the coast line near home.
The world's largest Torrey Pine was
planted in 1888 and resides in
Carpinteria, California.

ONE CAN imagine what California must have looked like to the early settlers, or to the Spanish explorers, or even to the first California. No pine trees then -- but native chaparral and brush.
  All the trails here are all well maintained and I see hikers enjoying it daily.  A team of dedicated volunteers offers free guided tours at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The tour guides give a brief, interesting history of the area and toss in some geology and biology lessons.
My native San Diegan partner loves the pines and has told me that they are unique to the area and not found anywhere else in the world. It’s also rumored that Dr Seuss (Theodore Geisel, San Diego resident for many years) frequented the area and found it an inspiration for the drawings in his books.
After a day at the beach, these two enjoy the sunset.
THE TORREY Pine exists in another place in the state: Carpinteria.  The largest one in the world was brought from Santa Rosa Island in 1888.  Landowner Judge Thomas Ward planted it on his lawn, and when he passed, his widow, Florence, took meticulous care of it, watering and maintaining it every day. Once she realized how much bigger it was getting than the others in the area, she proposed making it an official landmark and eventually the tree received state protection. In 1968 the tree became Carpinteria's first official landmark and celebrated its centennial in 1988.

UP NEXT: The internationally known Oregon Shakespeare Festival recently ended an ambitious, near sell-out 2018
 season and plans are drawn for the spectacular  2019 season. It's been chosen and it is world class, following the tradition established by OSF's enterprising and determined 
founder Angus Bowmer in 1935.  What makes Ashland, Oregon, so special? Take a look at the town with us, and plan your 2019 visit.  The next season opens in March and extends through late October.

(photo at right, Cookie and Keller outside the
Allen Elizabethan Theatre, Ashland, Oregon.)

Friday, November 23, 2018

Thanksgiving transplant tale: joyfully marking 18th month post-miracle

Keller and Cookie
10 days post-transplant
at SeaWorld's media day.

New Yorker Dr. Jonathan Fisher was chief surgeon for the transplantation for Bruce Keller, right. The Columbia University trained physician said all went extraordinarily well.  Keller did not need the customary ventilator to leave OR for the ICU.


This daunting hike near Malaga was 
accomplished with joy by Keller & Cookie.
Editor's Note: By request, as we mark the 18th month post-transplant, we offer an update on photographer Bruce Keller's remarkable recovery from liver transplantation in May of 2017. Scripps Green Hospital physicians, nurses and transplant team helped us through a trying time.  We are grateful and celebrate this Thanksgiving with new appreciation.

Leaving Scripps a record
three days after transplantation.
Dr. Randolph Schaffer who assisted with the transplant
conferred with Keller along with the other liver specialists.

TWO YEARS AGO, we were in Europe, moving up the transplant list for major surgery at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, Calif.
We knew it would be our last big international foray for a while. As we dealt Transplant's first few days
with Keller's liver disease and need for transplantation, we continued our arts driven life on the road.
The couple has made several international
 trips  since the transplant. Good news.

PLAYS, CONCERTS,  sailing, museums, weekend trips and close-by "staycations" were a balm as we waited for a donor.  We couldn't be more than two hours from the hospital, in case we
got "the call."  So this big trip to our beloved southern Spain was important.
Torrey Pines Reserve near Scripps became a regular
hiking ritual for the Yorkies and the recovering couple.
IT WAS a fabulous trip -- we have never had a bad one in our nearly 11 years together.  And less than five months after our return, we did get "the call." It was nearly 10 p.m. Friday, in Adjusting to transplant challenges
May of 2017. (Lucky Friday the 13th, and we'd just enjoyed dinner and the beach on our Friday date night.)   Surgery was performed at 4 a.m. May 14 by a brilliant team led by highly regarded specialists in transplantation.
The award-winning Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, Calif.
DR. CHRISTOPHER MARSH is head of the
Nick and Nora and Montana are part of the healing process.
team and his highly ranked associates take turns being on call for transplantation.  Chief surgeon for our early-morning transplant was Dr. Jonathan Fisher, a New Yorker from Columbia Medical School. When he met me shortly before 11 
 a.m.  that next morning, he told me everything had gone smoothly.
THE GOOD luck continued the next couple days.  Keller moved quickly from ICU to the regular wing of the hospital and on the third day, got his walking papers.  This shocked me because the literature had indicated nine or ten days in hospital would not be unusual.  Adjusting to transplant takes time 
Keller was back in the water 
to pursue his beloved scuba diving.
Five days would mean he was recovering with speed. A support group helped me through those first trying weeks and in less than two months we got the green light from our primary hepatologist to travel out-of-state. That late June trip included our niece's wedding on the Oregon coast and a dozen plays at Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Keller and his chief hepatologist,
head of Scripps liver transplantation
team, Dr. Catherine Frenette.
We even stopped at a casino for a couple nights to give me a gambling fix. (Non-smoking room for Keller and a little blackjack.)     
There are scans every three months, and the daily doses of anti-rejection drugs.  The blood work must happen every two weeks.  But we are able to travel, dance, sail, resume our life of theater, work and live music.
we both have life, and we live it fully.

Proud sentinel of the southern California coastline is the stately Torey pine.
UP NEXT:  The revered Torrey pine, whose name comes from its botanical reference, is a stately but endangered part of the southern California coastline.  Find out about its history and precarious future, and how it has graced some of our favorite times during our treasured outings near San Diego. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays for a novel look at travel, the arts, nature, family, pets and general fun.  

Friday, November 16, 2018

Hitting the highlights of southern Europe is a delight off-season

Here in late November, Paris streets are not jam-packed as in the summer.  Here, the boulevard by Notre Dame Cathedral. 


Boulevards are less crowded off-season, as this pretty street
in Toulon, France, attests.  Air is crisp, you can set your pace.

Planning an off-season trip
is a great idea and can be
a time and money-saver.
TUNE IN, TURN on to off-season travel.
If you don't mind wearing a jacket and layering up for the occasional chill, you'll find better prices and far fewer tourists to contend with if you travel off season.
Restaurants are less crowded,
and your calamari arrives hot!
The cache and glamour of famous cities is still there, but particularly in southern Europe, you'll still enjoy sun and pleasant temperatures.
SOUTHERN EUROPE in particular has much to offer off-season-- and we're hitting some of our favorite spots off-season this year, including Malaga, Madrid, Rome, Venice and Barcelona.
Now's the time we love southern Europe -- when the crowds are gone and the natives are reclaiming their sunny, leisurely autumn.
In travel-industry jargon, the year is divided into three seasons: peak season (roughly mid-June through August), shoulder season (April through mid-June and September through October), and off-season (November through March).
Cookie and Keller have made
a 10-year tradition of late-
autumn travel in Europe. 
Tuscany off-season can be warm
and still lovely and sunny. 
Much of Europe's southern cities have history dating before  1,000 BC when the Romans were exploring and building their famous aqueducts and theaters.  Archeological research reveals evidence of human life in the Neolithic and the Iron age.  So there's plenty to see -- and having the leisure and space that off-season provides is a bonus.
We've also had wonderful trips to Iceland and Scandinavia in autumn -- with only a jacket necessary, not muck
Lisbon is sunny much of the year, here in early December with a rainbow.
lucks and snow gear.
Vineyards and meadows enjoy
off-season sunshine.

Keller and Cookie have made a decade-long tradition of
traveling to southern Europe in late autumn, here Tarragona.

Wearing a coat is a small price to pay
for off-season bargains and delights.

time touring Cannes, perhaps the loveliest and most pricy city on the French Riviera. But we love southern Spain as much -- Malaga is a delight. Portugal is pretty off season.  It's friendly, less expensive and equally beautiful. Many cities offer hotels for as much as half-less than in high season.
And you'll have better options for air and cruises. We always recommend a half-day city tour to orient yourself, and those are lovely in autumn and early spring, when the bus lines aren't long and the vehicles aren't jam-packed.
No lines for souvenirs and artwork.
This Roman theatre in southern Spain, near Barcelona,
is beautifully open and uncrowded in November. 
The lovely streets and winding alleys are all yours off season.  We visited a 12th Century village on our way to Figueres in Spain, to see the Dali Museum, and had it virtually to ourselves.  We thought the restaurant was closed -- but there was just no one there, so the proprietor greeted us warmly.
YOU'LL STILL find sandy beaches, upmarket boutiques and palatial hotels off season.  You'll also find quiet little B&Bs and flea markets where you can stretch your dollar.
And there's nothing like visiting a Roman amphitheater with only a half-dozen others!

Dr. Catherine Frenette, left, chief hepatologist at Scripps Green Hospital,
with her "poster boy" patient, Bruce Keller, looking at one of his scans.

UP NEXT: As Thanksgiving approaches, we celebrate 18 months post-transplant
for Bruce William Keller.
  His remarkable recovery from a May 14, 2017,  liver transplant at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, Calif., has set
records at this internationally known medical center. The miracle has thrilled Cookie and cheered Keller's many other loved ones all over the world.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live
and catch us Fridays for a novel look at travel, the arts, nature, family, fitness, fun.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Star of India takes to the high seas for gala two-day celebration

With her sails unfurled, the world's oldest still functioning sailing vessel will soon take to San Diego Bay.



The beautifully maintained Star of India at sea.

FOR AS LONG as I've been a part-time San Diegan, the Star of India has been a beacon on the waterfront. She's a beautiful sight to behold, built in 1863 on the Isle of Man, and with many miles around the world under her majestic sails.
The mint-condition, full-rigged iron windjammer will make a sail in San Diego Bay and out around Point Loma. "Royal" is the operative word, for the Star of India is truly sailing-ship royalty.
She spent the first of a many-decades career transiting the sometimes rocky seas from Great Britain to India and New Zealand, hauling freight and whatever else was trading. Years later, she became a salmon hauler on the route from Alaska to California.
With her sails unfurled, Star of India is
a gorgeous sight to behold on San Diego Bay.
THE STAR of India was built in 1863 at Ramsey in the Isle of Man as Euterpe, a full-rigged iron windjammer ship. Sometime in the last century it was sold for a pittance to San Diego and languished in the harbor until 1957 when activists launched a movement to save her from further neglect.
For the past decades she has sailed sometimes as often as once a year, with a crew of 60 and no more than 150 passengers.
California recalls sailing's glory days
 Five years have elapsed since the last time Star of India sailed, so the opportunity to join her under sail this November makes for a unique experience
 Star of India is a lovely sight at night.
On two days, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17 and 18, the Star of India sailing celebration takes place, including the rare opportunity to view the world's oldest active sailing vessel from aboard three other legendary sailing vessels. The trio of escort ships will join "Star" on the historic occasion as she sails through San Diego Bay and heads out off Point Loma. Guests may reserve tickets aboard the other vessels visitors find at the Maritime Museum for passage on:
Keller was delighted to help keep the Californian
sailing, since he has sailed for all his life and loves it!

• Californian, the official tall ship of the state.
• San Salvador, the 1542 Spanish galleon replica built in San Diego by staff and volunteers.
• America, a replica of the historic yacht which won the America’s Cup in 1851.
Tickets are $249 per person for all ages and includes a catered breakfast, lunch, drinks, and celebratory champagne. Each ship will carry an on-board historian to enhance guests’ understanding of Star of India, the history behind all vessels and the city's world famous Maritime Museum. Check-in is at 9 a.m. and ships will return to the Museum at 5 p.m.
The San Diego skyline is the backdrop for the Maritime Museum.
The museum sponsors many other activities and educational events throughout the year, including school tours and concerts.  The Hausmann String Quartet is on tap Nov. 11, the weekend before the Star of India companion sail.  The San Diego based quartet will play Haydn aboard the Berkeley, an
San Diego's Hausmann Quartet is on tap, too.
1898 steam ferryboat which operated for 60 years on San Francisco Bay.  It -- like the Star of India and Berkeley -- is a national landmark, also part of the city's proud Maritime Museum fleet kept largely afloat by a devoted group of sailing enthusiasts and volunteers.
Space is limited and includes admission to the Maritime Museum.  Haydn, known as the father of the string quartet, is an ideal choice for a pleasing afternoon in San Diego harbor.
For more on the concert or Star of India sail, go to

Cookie, left, and one
Of  Rome's top guides, Lucilla Favino.
UP NEXT: Southern Europe beckons now that summer is over and it's off season. Come enjoy Rome and other wonders when the air is crisp, the streets are not crowded and the monuments are open and welcoming. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look on art, travel, music, theater, nature and family.