Friday, August 25, 2017

Oregon's Coos Bay delivers food, fun, forests and lovely water

Yorkshire terrier Nick enjoys the sun on a late-summer hike with us near Coos Bay, Oregon, a splendid retreat.
This quiet but active corner of Oregon offers fine food, a paradise for nature lovers and a pampering hotel casino.

If you are fascinated by bridges, make a drive through southwestern Oregon. 

OREGON HAS a special place in my family's heart.
And, like memories of family, Oregon's coastal towns have a timeless quality.  Coos Bay evokes happy memories of a bygone time. It's retained that small-town charm that means the cafe waitress greets you and knows how you like your coffee.
Yet it has big-city attractions and amenities -- a lovely resort hotel staffed by friendly folk, proud of the area and eager to share their knowledge. Fine shopping. Nature.
Mill Casino Hotel is a beautifully built, handsomely
 landscaped get-away in southwestern Oregon. Thumbs up!
PEOPLE GREET one another on the street. Yards are neatly groomed.  Pets are well behaved, there's an active artistic life. The scenery is lush.
We'd heard from writer friends about the Mill Casino Hotel and loved our gorgeous bay view from the hotel's pretty tower. There's also a cozy lodge with lovely woodworking.  My half-amphibian partner particularly enjoyed the water life, for the harbor is the largest deep-draft coastal harbor between San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound, and is Oregon's second busiest maritime commerce center after Portland, four hours north.
A variety of water activity unfolds from a room at Mill Casino Hotel. Pleasure
boats, freighters with lumber, sand, gravel and other goods provide activity.
The hotel offers free shuttle, parking and valet services, an attractive fitness room and welcoming spa, arcade and business center. We felt pampered with comfy pillows and some of the best hotel coffee we've had in hundreds of hotel stays -- Red Wagon Organic Coffee.  Were it not for my gambling penchant and desire to try a few of Coos Bay's fabled seafood restaurants, we'd have little need to leave the room, but we ventured downstairs to squander some fun money in the pleasant casino, and check out the hotel's excellent eateries -- one casual, one more formal.
THE VILLAGES of North Bend, Eastside, and Charleston cluster together near Coos Bay. You can satisfy your seafood yearnings in this picturesque part of southwestern Oregon.  It has more fish restaurants than one can
 Captain's Choice Family Fish House
offers pleasant, homespun ambiance,
friendly service and delicious seafood.
shake a pole at. Blue Heron, Shark Bites, Fisherman's Grotto all serve tasty fare and we made a second trip to Captain's Choice for its superb fish and chips. 
Keller, here, and Cookie, hiked
around and under several bridges. 
What we appreciated 
 about this pretty, quietly busy
part of Oregon was the mix of
sophistication and "laid back".
Oregonians, like my fellow 
Montanans, enjoy a lovely meal, and a top hotel.  They also love  nature.  Hiking, biking, birding are favorite hobbies in this little corner of Oregon. We also noticed posters for art and jazz festivals, and sampled many homemade goodies, from a fantastic berry pie to gooey cinnamon rolls. And, like my native Montana, there's no sales tax, so bring home a piece of Oregon's famous handmade pottery -- and some of her delightful wine and beer!;

Keller and Cookie celebrate his rebound from liver transplantation
aboard Hornblower, a favorite outing when they are based in San Diego. 

NEXT UP:  Answering the request of more than 5,000 readers, we bring you up to speed with our transplant saga.  All systems are go, including the green light to visit Montana this year, and make our  
autumn trip to southern Europe.  Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays
when we post our novel look at travel, nature and the arts. And
click this link to refresh your memory of the transplant story:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Beautiful Barcelona scarred in latest result of bigotry, racism, ignorance

A few blocks from Las Ramblas, tourists usually take in Antoni Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia.



SINCE I BEGAN traveling internationally, as a young girl, I've been lucky. I travel cautiously -- as much as one can -- but I've been fortunate in my timing.
San Franciscan Jared Tucker was not so lucky. He is among the dead in Thursday's terrorist attack in Barcelona.
Jared Tucker and Heidi Nunes Tucker
on their belated honeymoon in Spain
He was among the Las Ramblas victims.
Tucker was celebrating a belated honeymoon, enjoying Las Ramblas with his wife, Heidi, strolling, toasting, taking in the sunshine of a perfect late summer day.
A visit to Las Ramblas usually includes a stoll,
street buskers, flowers, cafes and music.
Also known as "La Rambla," the street in central Barcelona is among Europe's most beautiful.  I've strolled it dozens of time with tourists from dozens of countries, buying trinkets and flowers, sipping cafe con leche or vino blanco. Just as Tucker and his wife Heidi were doing when he went to use the men's room. They were separated as the van plowed into pedestrians; he died.
THE STREET-- popular with tourists and locals alike --is known as Las Ramblas. Its Catalan pronunciation is "La Rambla" but since the tree-lined pedestrian mall includes many smaller side streets, the plural has become common.
Cookie and a Spanish guide visit, with tourists from Italy
Austria, Australia, Israel and the Netherlands two years ago.
We've had pleasant lunches and dinner along the picturesque 1.2 kilometer-walkway, which connects Pla├ža de Catalunya in town center with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell and the sea where Columbus set off to discover the new world. I've been mugged on Las Ramblas, but, thank the gods, not injured.
I HAVE BEEN so traumatized by this latest attack that I am losing sleep.  While my grief isn't personal, I mourn with the Tucker family for the turn of fate and timing that took their loved one.
I lost my first husband on a Valentine's week trip in 1992.  I know the sorrow and trauma of leaving for a joyous romantic time then returning home with a canister of cremains.  "How could this happen?" Tucker's stunned father asked. "This was my son's first big trip to Europe."
Watch the crowds around you and be aware of suspicious movement. Don't
 hesitate to stop a policeman or make a phone call, here in downtown Barcelona.
The purpose of this departure from our usual travel-arts-nature pieces is to share my thoughts since yesterday, hoping in some small way I can contribute to a more peaceful planet.
FIGHTING TERRORISM is an overwhelming concept, but I'm wondering if we are doing as much as we can to protect ourselves and contribute some measure of good will and brotherhood to our troubled world.
Most of us know that ignorance and fear are responsible for today's terrorism.  Whether the Islamic State, ISIS,  the resurgence of the Nazi symbol, the shameful Virginia and North Carolina incidents with racial epithets and death, we are surrounded by intolerance, fear and ignorance. 
I may be naive in thinking that being more "global" could help.  It gives me a modicum of hope to write a check to a charity that fights global poverty.
MY PERSONAL CREDO -- to do what I can to prevent terrorism -- means fostering better social conditions and banging the drum for inclusion and tolerance.
Beautiful Las Ramblas from a hotel room perch.
When family and friends asked me today if we are still planning our annual Spain trip, I said, "absolutely."  We consider ourselves unofficial ambassadors, traveling proof that Americans are decent, good, people, that we are generous, polite, broad minded, curious, accepting.
As we go, we will be aware of potential threats, and alert to activity around us. 
My late husband, Bruce, and I were at the Athens Airport in 1973 when Arab gunmen opened fire in a nearby lounge, killing three tourists and wounding 55. We heard the shots and hit the ground.
I FLEW OUT of Incheon Airport in Seoul in October of 1979, the day President Park Chung-hee was assassinated. 
I left the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem in 1997 moments before a bombing that killed several people.
Keller and Cookie on a recent Barcelona trip.
Keller and I visited Cairo's Tahrir Square weeks after the uprising in 2011.
We were in Sydney, Australia, during a 2014 terrorist attack at Lindt Cafe.  We'd dined there the day before.
After Spain, we've booked a concert in Paris at the Bataclan, home of the horrific 2015 massacre. It's a gorgeous 1865 building and I've heard several fabulous concerts there.
WE MUST NOT stop traveling, as open-minded, curious citizens of the world.  That's giving in to the terrorists' dearest hopes: to disrupt and frighten. We must be vigilant, too. 

Coos Bay affords beautiful water views, here from a plush jacuzzi
at Mill Casino Hotel, which offers elegance, fine fare and gambling. 

UP NEXT: Oregon's wonders extend to the beaches, dunes and bays.  Coos Bay is on Cookie's list of favorite places, with its mix of scenery, sun, wildlife and a gambling resort, Mill Casino Hotel, to exorcise her demons! Join us for the fun, remembering to explore, learn and live.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Bold, beautiful, sometimes brash, Oregon Shakespeare Festival charms

Outside the Allen Elizabethan Theater, people take the summer night's air between acts. Next door, the Bowmer
Theater has a play underway, too, and across the street the smaller Thomas Theater also has a production. 




A back-stage tour takes one behind the scenes, here into the Bowmer Theater where
 two of Cookie's seats are pictured in the foreground, and the bed frame from "Shakespeare
in Love" awaits viewers. Patrons may purchase a chair plaque to honor a loved one.
AS A CHILD, theater cast a spell on me.
Its user-friendly witchcraft opened doors to travel and daring, shaping my imagination and enhancing my life.
For decades I've enjoyed the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, viewing hundreds of plays of every genre. Contemporary theater and Shakespeare's classics -- with the fest's famous gender bending, age defying, multi-racial, shake-it-up, spin.
Here in this small, village-like but hip
southern Oregon town, the festival and its three distinctly different theaters offer more than the bard's brilliant works.  A beautifully staged potpourri unfolds: new challenging work, time honored classics of both the American and European stages and the occasional musical take bows as well. This year's festival was a thrilling, exhilarating mix.
THE LINE-UP REFLECTS Ashland's blend of sophistication and earthy appeal, its ability to satisfy town and gown tastes, to bring together in the love of fine
Ashland Hills' Luna offers delightful fare and a fun happy
hour, with perfect small plates for before or after a play.
theater, both city folks and small-town dwellers who have chosen Ashland for its culture and proximity to the outdoors.
Nick and Nora enjoy the dog-friendly
atmosphere of the Neuman properties. 
To find a place that offers diversions both soothing and exciting render Ashland a jewel of America and the globe.
The renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival reaches an audience approaching a half-million and its budget is creeping near $40 million. The fest is the crown jewel
 Ashland Hills Hotel, just a pleasant few minutes from town
center and the plays offers tranquility, pretty landscaping
and attentive service, plus a fun restaurant, Luna. 
Ashland's main street at night shows off the beauty of
Ashland Springs Hotel, once the tallest building between
San Francisco and Portland. It is steps from fine theater.
of Ashland's attractions, which includes two splendid sister properties artfully run by the Neuman Hotel Group. Ashland Hills on the fringe of town offers a tranquil, rural setting, and Ashland Springs downtown offers old-world charm, sophistication and proximity to the action.  Both properties exhibit ambiance aplenty, friendly, efficient service, and fine dining in Larks at the Springs and Luna at the Hills.
THE FESTIVAL, now a world class enterprise, was founded by a Scotsman, Angus Bowmer, who called Rogue Valley home.
In 1934, Bowmer organized boxing matches to fund his deeper passion, theater.
Cookie strolls in the Allen Elizabethan
Theatre grounds, a beloved venue.

As the play- loving audience grew, so did the town's tourism.
Today's Ashland also offers a delightful dinner theater, Oregon Cabaret; a fun movie theater, the Varsity; many boutiques, pubs, specialty shops, bars, unique clothing stores and art galleries.  Ashland is also a foodie's paradise. We've dined in a bounty of fine eateries with family and friends from San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Chicago and Billings, Montana, my home for many years.
Actor Jennie Greenberry
plays Belle in "Disney's
Beauty and the Beast" and
took time for a photo
 with a young fan.
ONE ASSUMES that Bowmer's spirit is blessing the abundance. The clever, play-loving
Temperatures last week topped 110 degrees in Ashland,
Oregon as Cookie and Keller took in a raft of cool plays.
gentleman's dream that Ashland could support live theater came true. The boxing that funded the first plays was phased out, as audiences opted for Shakespeare, contemporary comedy and drama over pugilism.
This year's season has the "something for everyone" credo that Bowmer espoused.
In three complementary venues, and 10 productions, one may span centuries, styles and cultures.
FOR FANS of Shakespeare -- whose eloquence headlined the festival for decades -- four plays run in three venues. The time honored "Henry IV" pair -- parts One and Two -- is on tap in the Thomas Theatre, while in the Angus Bowmer Theatre, a magnificent "Julius Caesar" unfolds. "The Merry Wives of Windsor" is regaling crowds in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre. A gifted female actor delightfully renders Falstaff, one of the bard's most colorful creations. "The Odyssey" takes us on an unforgettable journey to ancient lands. The Green Show begins each evening with sprightly music. 
Oregon Cabaret Theatre presents entertaining theater and fine fare
in a beautifully restored old church in Ashland. Because it offers quality
productions and runs Monday, dark day at OSF, it is usually sold out. 
The season includes a memorable pair of world premieres, "Hannah and the Dread Gazebo," in the Thomas, and "Off the Rails" in the Bowmer. The Elizabethan also features a mesmerizing "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" with gorgeous voices. "Unison," with high-tech staging and versatile singers, honors the poetry of August Wilson.
EACH ACTOR  participates in at least two plays with three to five performances a week, usually a major role in one production and a supporting role in one or two others.
It's fun to recognize actors in the pubs and on the street, while on stage, observing them in multiple roles. "Hey, that guy played in 'Caesar' and now he's in an old-west hero." (Cicero is played by a female actor, too.) A player may headline in one production and join the ensemble in the next, since repertory means the shows run in rotation for the February to October season. There's an intense point each June when all shows on the playbill are either being rehearsed or performed.;;;

Barcelona's famous Las Ramblas is perhaps Europe's
best known walking street, beloved by locals and tourists.
UP NEXT:  The terrorist attacks in Barcelona and southern Spain -- beloved by Cookie and Keller, who will soon return -- have left Cookie depressed and determined to do something, even in a small way. What can we do -- as global citizens -- to halt extremism and take a stand against terrorism. Its most recent victims were simply enjoying a sunny summer day on Barcelona's famed Las Ramblas. What is our individual responsibility? Give it some thought, and travel safely -- with savvy and kindness -- remembering to explore, learn and live. Catch us Friday evenings when we post for each weekend, our take on travel, nature, the arts, famous cities, friends, family, pets and food. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Summer signs: a wedding, wading, water, wild fires and Shakespeare

Wading, not quite walking, on the water, sisters Cookie, left, and Olivia, make their way to the wedding on Beverly Beach.
Behind them, sister Misha and family friend Virginia join the wedding party for Kira and Mike.
Flower girls sprinkle rose petals along the sand,
making way for the bride and groom.

Gallavant: to go from place to place seeking out entertainment and amusement-- Oxford Dictionary 

THIS SUMMER -- more than any I've experienced in my decades on Earth -- hits home a profound awareness of the brevity of our spin on this wondrous planet.
We're celebrating, mourning, mending, toasting, feasting, seeing fine plays, greeting family, "gallavanting," as my Irish gran would have said, experiencing the joys and sorrows of life.
Friends are fighting illness and loss, a brother is just home from the hospital after four surgeries. We've sent cards of congratulations -- for birthdays, graduations and wedding anniversaries. We've also posted a dozen sympathy cards and attended a half-dozen memorial services since the holidays.
WE'VE 'WADED in the water,' fording the proverbial stream of  "Climb Every Mountain," and we're keeping an eye on the raging forest fires in my native Montana.
Gathering rosebuds: Newlyweds Kira and Mike.
Bride Kira Cosgriffe Hill, right, and from left, Cosgriffe sisters
Misha Minesinger, Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Olivia Cosgriffe.
We're seeing nine plays in Ashland, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a family tradition, and savoring memories of a splendid family reunion surrounding the wedding.
Groom Mike Hill, left, and master builder Bruce Keller, dismantle the
trellis under which Kira and Mike exchanged vows a few days ago. 
I'm thinking of a poem my late husband Bruce Meyers taught his writing students. "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" has stood the test of time and fits my mood today. Written by English Cavalier poet Robert Herrick in the 17th century, the poem is in the genre of my favorite saying -- carpe diem, Latin for seize the day. Herrick entreated: "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying...."
FOR US, this two-week odyssey epitomizes his verse.  For we are gathering rosebuds.  The trip represents a return to our cherished world of travel, after Keller's successful liver transplant of exactly twelve weeks ago.
We delighted in the picturesque reunion setting on the beautiful Oregon coast. Niece Kira and Mike love Beverly Beach, their choice for the wedding. (We didn't think we'd make it, until a few days before when

Cookie and Keller are celebrating, too.
Ten years together, a wedding, and
a raft of extraordinary plays in Oregon.
Keller helped photograph the wedding.
Raised on the ocean north of San Diego,
he is most at home near water. 

excellent scans and bloodwork convinced our doctors we were okay for travel, weeks earlier than originally dictated thanks to Keller's record recovery.)
Nick and Nora, above, make themselves at
home in favorite hotels, Ashland Hills and
 Ashland Springs, both pet friendly digs.
WHILE WE MONITOR forest fires in Big Sky Country, near Bozeman, we are thankful for safety of our Stillwater County home.  I spent the first weeks of my life in Bozeman, with my university-student parents, and we mourn the loss of wildlife and bird habitat in gorgeous Gallatin and Madison counties.  Neighbors along the Stillwater say the smoke is horrible.  We smell it even here in southern Oregon, where we're based for the Festival plays.
We're sad that my native state has had to spend nearly $30 million fighting the blazes.  As part-time Californians, we're proud that my adopted state has sent aid.
High Chaparral in Montana, is -- knock wood -- free of fire this season,
but much of Montana is sadly shrouded in smoke and flames.
As a longtime fan of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I'm thrilled to be back in Ashland -- for the fourth time with Keller.  Through the years, the festival has been a balm through good times and sad for the family.  I've purchased seats in the Angus Bowmer Theatre to honor both my late husbands, Bruce Meyers and Bill Jones, and am planning to honor my parents' memories there, too.
Some of several loved ones' ashes are sprinkled in Lithia Park and Ashland Creek, and memories of my late sisters and our mutual love of theater surround me as I sit in the three splendid theaters, thrilled with each

dimming of  the house lights.
A family reunion, spurred by the wedding of Kira Cosgriffe and Mike Hill.
I think of all I'm thankful for: family, fun, birds, friends, the Yorkies Nick and Nora, and of course theater.  I am grateful for a life of travel and the arts, for having some talents,  and for the ability to be generous, to take chances, to love.
I am happy to be again strolling the village of Ashland, reprising dozens of visits.  We make our way up the hill to hike around much loved Lithia Park. I listen to bird song, look for deer and squirrels, feed the ducks.
THIS BEAUTIFUL PARK opened in 1892, the year of my maternal grandparents' birth. They introduced me to the phrase "carpe diem."  And taught me the art of gathering those precious rosebuds!

Cookie and Keller today on the grounds of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, celebrating life!

NEXT UP: Ashland, Oregon, home to the internationally known Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is thrilling crowds with its stellar season of work in three beautifully designed theaters. Since the late 1950s, it has been part of Cookie's life. We share its wonders next Friday.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekends for a unique twist on travel, nature, family and the arts.