All over the place

Because I had guests this week, I have been on the run every day and have lots of pictures. This was a particularly fun visit because of all the places we went.

On Thursday morning, my friends Ray and Karen and I left for Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, picking up Deb in Clackamas on the way. I thought it was going to be interesting, because none of these people had ever met each other before. They just all knew me. But everyone got along very well.

On our way down to Ashland, we stopped in Albany to have lunch. We had intended to eat a Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant, but they had had a fire and were closed. So, we ate at a restaurant where we stopped last year, Brick and Mortar Cafe. While we were waiting for our table, we walked down the street so that Karen and Ray could see the reconstructed carousel.

We arrived in Ashland about 5:00 PM and checked in. We stayed at the Tudor Inn, the same place as last year, but not in the old motel part of the inn. Instead, we were in rooms across the street, which were much more expensive because they were fancier and this was during the high season. Between my room and Deb’s and next to Ray’s and Karen’s was a little sitting room that seemed like it was just for us, even though it was open to the other guests and had an exit off one end. It was nice, but if we go next year, we’ll try to get in the motel again. The opulence isn’t really worth the difference in price since our original rooms were just fine and neat and clean, with everything new.

Then we went to get our tickets at the box office, had dinner early, and wandered around town until our first play started at 8:00. I thought that because it was high season, the stores might stay open later than 6:00, but just like before, most of the stores closed at 6:00 except the Bloomsbury Bookstore (a very good bookstore).

Our first play was All’s Well That Ends Well in the Elizabethan Theater. The reason we chose to go during the summer this year was so we could attend the open-air Elizabethan Theater. And now I have to confess to a certain amount of idiocy, because although I knew we were going to an outdoor theater, I didn’t put two and two together about the forecast temperature until I walked into the theater and saw they were selling blankets. I hadn’t even worn the layers I could have worn. And, although I had told my guests way back when that it was open air, they had apparently forgotten. What made it worse was that when Ray checked the forecast before coming, it was showing hot temperatures for his whole visit, so he didn’t even bring a jacket, just a fleece vest. (His only souvenir of the trip was an Oregon Shakespeare Festival sweatshirt, which he bought first thing the next morning.)

I had only read the play a few weeks before departing and noted it wasn’t one of Shakespeare’s best. Plus, I was curious about how some of the ideas would go over with a modern audience, particularly the ending, where, no matter how jerky the man had acted throughout the play, the happy ending was his marriage to the heroine, or more accurately, his falling in love with his wife. The play was entertaining, but we weren’t sure we liked some of the artistic decisions. The costumes were very weird, sort of a cross between Elizabethan and 19th century, with some 20th century thrown in. A very odd choice was made in Helena’s costumes to dress her like an Elizabethan boy at some times (well, a stylized Elizabethan costume) and in overalls at other times. I don’t mind the idea of placing a play in another time period, but I would like them to make up their minds. I thought the costumes were more distracting than otherwise.

The audience did boo Bertram during the course of the play, and of course, he was the reluctant groom who ends up in a supposedly happy marriage with Helena at the end. I guess the audience most likely would not have booed him in Elizabethan times.

The experience was a good one, but we froze our butts off, not being smart enough to buy blankets. As always, it was better to see the play for me than to try to read it, but this play is not one that has beautiful speeches in it.

These were the turkeys in the park that let me walk up to within four feet of them before they started casually strolling away

In the morning, we strolled around Limpia Park for a while, but we didn’t realize until we bought a hiking map later in the day, just how extensive it is. We could see there was a big gate farther in, but we didn’t go that far. In part of the park, they were preparing for two events, and in another part, we saw a bunch of wild turkeys. They let me go quite near to them.

The Elizabethan Theater with the first setting for Macbeth

The next day, we had two plays to go to. One was As You Like It, which took place in the larger of the two other theaters. As You Like It has never been one of my favorite plays, because it just seems disjointed to me. In addition, I seldom very much enjoy the humor of Elizabethan times, although like other things, I often find it funnier in performance. There were also some interesting costume choices in this play as well as some annoying stylized movements at times, including at the opening of the play.

We all went to see Macbeth, which was the final play for me and Deb, the one I was most excited about seeing. This play was more traditionally staged except that they moved some scenes around for no apparent reason. I don’t have the play memorized or anything, but it was pretty obvious when they started the play with a fairly boring informational scene (a discussion of what was going on with the king) instead of the witches. I am not sure what would lead them to make such a decision to start the play that way instead of eerily, as it was meant. However, the witches stayed on the stage for most of the play, observing and adding to the eeriness, and that was a good decision. We all liked this play much better.

The North Mountain Park Nature Center has paths and benches and deer grazing on the grounds.

The next day, only Ray and Karen had a play and that was in the evening, Alice in Wonderland, so we had the day to kill. Karen decided to stay in and write postcards, etc., while Deb and Ray and I went out exploring. First, we took a very short river walk. Then we went across the road to the North Mountain Park Nature Center. Finally, we walked a couple of miles on the Bear Creek Greenway, which is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, although at that point it was not in the mountains.

Recently, I heard of a new movie by Kenneth Branaugh about Shakespeare. I found out it had come out in 2018, but I couldn’t find it playing anywhere in our area, although I looked for it several times. To my delight, it was playing in Ashland. So, Saturday afternoon we all went to the movies. It was a very good movie, and I was happy to see it in a theater, because it had some nice panoramic shots.

Deb and I decided just to hang out in our rooms on Saturday night, although we went for dessert to Mix, a delicious bakery in Ashland, where we made a point to stop several times. We always split our desserts so didn’t feel too guilty about it. So, a quiet evening. Ray and Karen reported that they enjoyed their play and thought particularly that the costumes were very inventive. They also said that the few degrees warmer temperature made it much warmer in the audience, and they didn’t put their coats on until intermission.

Crater Lake

Early on Sunday morning, we got started, because our plan was to visit Crater Lake on the way home. We found out that only one road is open so far into the park, and that was the south one, which meant that we would have to backtrack on our way out rather than being able to come out farther north. The lake is simply breathtaking, so we were happy to have come even though it meant that we got home rather late. We took a picnic lunch with us. You could only drive up to the Rim Village and a bit beyond to Discovery Point to view the lake, although if we had had more time, we could have hiked farther.

We got home after 9:30 and discussed our plans for the next day, which turned out to be another long driving day. It was to Seattle, where we wanted to visit Chihuly Gardens and Glass. I have been wanting to see a Chihuly installation since I first looked at one online years ago. I have seen a couple of pieces of his in Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids but have not been in a city where a garden was installed.

We met up with my brother and his son for lunch at Chinook’s. Delicious. Then we went to the gardens.

One of the exhibits in the Chihuly gallery outside the gardens. To give perspective, this was two full-sized boats (you can only see part of the second one on the left) filled with objects resembling sea life.

The work was beautiful, but I was a little disappointed because the garden was so small, and he only used a few different shapes of items. Particularly, there was no water installation, and I think the things he does with fountains and ponds are among his most interesting work. However, the gallery, although only of a half dozen or so rooms, was very beautiful.

After we left the gardens, we wandered around Seattle Center for a bit, and had a cool drink. Then it was time to hit the road, at about the very worst time possible. I ended up in a traffic jam for about an hour on the way to Tacoma, but after Tacoma, the rest of the way was fine. I think it took about twice as long to get from Seattle to Tacoma as it did to get from Tacoma to Seattle.

On Tuesday, my guests opted for a visit to Portland. We drove to the Cascades Station of the Max train, took the train into town, and walked to Powell’s books. I bought a handful of books. Then we had lunch at Deschutes Brewery and took the train home. For once, we were home by about four, so we had a lazy evening, just going out to dinner.

Wednesday morning I took my friends to the airport. Later in the afternoon, I went over to visit my brother and sister-in-law, who are now moving in to their new home in Amboy. They moved up from Berkeley a couple days ago.

So, it was an exciting week with lots going on.

 

The play’s the thing

After a week of cancellations, there was a big one on Friday. As I reported last week, first my husband said he wanted to go to Portland on Saturday, then he wanted to go to Harbor Freight instead. Then he wanted to go to Portland on Sunday, then he didn’t. Then he wanted to go to the movies on Tuesday, then he didn’t. Well, this was the pattern all week until we got to Friday.

Unfortunately, Friday was the day we planned to leave for Ashland, Oregon, to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. My friend Deb and I have had tickets since January or February. I was initially surprised when my husband said he would go with us and visit his friend from Air Force days in Medford while we went to the plays. I should have known something was up on Thursday because he was mopey all day and at one point he asked me if we had already paid for the tickets. (Of course I had, and they were very expensive.) But I did not pay attention.

So, I got up on Friday and started to get ready to go, and he told me he wasn’t coming. I had some choice thoughts about that, as you can imagine, but I just packed up and left. In fact, I was able to leave early and tell my niece she didn’t need to worry about feeding Hillary. We didn’t get off to a good start. There was my husband’s cancellation and the rainy, dreary morning, and then we got a half hour away from Deb’s house when I realized my purse was sitting in her living room, so we had to go back. Thank goodness I realized then, though, rather than later, and after that things went fine.

We stopped for lunch on the way down and ate at a place called Addy’s Diner in Springfield. I was trying to behave myself for Weight Watchers and found we had picked a place where that was almost impossible. At one point we saw a guy receive a pancake that was served on a platter-sized plate, yet was too big to fit it without being folded in half. My guess is that the pancake was a good two feet in diameter! Deb said I should take a picture of the pancake, but I didn’t have the nerve to walk over and take a picture of his food.

We passed a huge accident on the north side of the freeway just outside Grant’s Pass. First, we saw the wreck. Then we both remembered, after the initial backup, a gap. But then we suddenly saw cars everywhere, parked all over the exits, parking up the freeway, and people getting out and walking around. The cars stretched back for miles and miles. We learned later that the traffic was stuck there for at least four hours.

We arrived in Ashland at about 4 PM and checked into our motel. It was the Bard’s Inn, an old-fashioned roadside motel that has been remodeled and is comfortable, clean, and quiet. Not fancy at all, but it was just fine for us. The Bard’s Inn has other, fancier accommodations, and we looked at a lot of B&B’s when we were trying to decide where to stay, but many of them were already booked, and most were expensive. Because we thought my husband would have the car, we were looking for something right near town, and this place was just a few blocks from the theaters.

The first thing we did was go to the box office to pick up our tickets. We had bought tickets for two plays on Saturday, Sense and Sensibility in the afternoon and Henry V at night. Deb suggested we see if there were any tickets left for Othello that night. Now, if you read my review of Othello, you’ll know it isn’t one of my favorite plays, because I don’t like the main character. However, we asked, and they had the last two seats together for $34 apiece (cheap), so we bought them.

The Elizabethan Theater on the hill behind Lithia Park

Then we had time to look around town and have something to eat. Ashland is a small town tucked into the side of foothills, with a mountain nearby. It isn’t super picturesque, but it is a nice town. It has a lovely park right next to the river downtown, with the Elizabethan theater on a hill behind it. The park offers lots of woodland walks, and is beautifully landscaped. It was a little rainy on Friday afternoon and evening, but most of the time we had perfect weather.

The pastry case at Mix. A little problematic for someone on a diet

We ate dinner at a nice restaurant called Greenleaf and then made our greatest culinary discovery of the trip—Mix, a bake and coffee shop. We split a lemon meringue tart, and it was delicious! We returned there several times during the course of the trip, buying bread, coffee, lunch, and delicious pastries.

In the evening we went to Othello. The town has three theaters devoted to the Shakespeare Festival, during which they perform all kinds of plays and musicals. Othello was in the middle-sized theater, which seats about 600 people. The play was performed in modern dress with most of the men in military uniforms, but it was otherwise done fairly traditionally. However, doing it in modern times provided some opportunities to use media. For example, instead of having servants deliver messages, the characters got calls on their cell phones, which raised a laugh.

I have to tell you, Othello was terrific! It was really dramatic at times, funnier than I thought it was when reading it, just a revelation. I was really glad I went. I have often had it demonstrated to me that theater so much depends on who is doing it and how they do it. I have had occasion to see the same play be, when done by one company, depressing, and by another company, hilarious, for example.

The Elizabethan Theater from the inside during our tour. That’s our guide’s hand on the left. The Elizabethan theater, which is an open-air reconstruction of a theater in England, is not open until June and only for evening performances.

In the morning we went on the backstage tour, which was very interesting. I heartily recommend it. Our guide was enthusiastic and knowledgeable. He took us all through all three of the theaters, backstage and underneath, talked about the history of the festival, told us funny stories. It was a great tour. I told Deb that if I lived within an hour of Ashland, I’d be volunteering to work there.

Ashland on the way to downtown from our motel. Of course, it would have been nice if I’d found a shot without so many streetlights in it. I was trying to get the mountain, which is just barely visible in the middle of the picture. That hump with the clouds over it.

The play I was looking forward to the most was Sense and Sensibility, being a major Jane Austen fan. I had very mixed feelings about it, though. It was performed in the middle-sized theater again. The set and costumes were of the period, but they did the play as a farce! Now, if you like Austen, like I do, because she is funny while being very delicate, as reflects her culture, this is not the play for you. I think  that some viewers were shocked by it. I had to admit it made very good theater, though. The audience shouted when it was over. But was it Jane Austen? It was not. They just used her story. Still, I had a good time, so the whole issue was very complicated for me.

Our last play was Henry V, performed in the smaller theater, which was configured in a horseshoe. This theater seats 300 people. It was very intimate, and they tried a lot of symbolism in the performance, not all of which worked. For example, the play started with players turning this huge wall around and around for quite some time. It must have symbolized something, but we didn’t know what. The only scenery for this play was that wall and a bunch of boxes. For the fighting, since Henry V is mostly about a war with France, they had red undershirts that they flapped vigorously or wrapped around themselves to signify wounds. Hmm. The acting seemed a little less practiced than in the other plays, and Henry was uneven. Of course, he has all the best speeches. Still, we enjoyed the play very much, but we both decided that Othello was our favorite. In fact, after the first play, we were already talking about when we would come back and saying that we would like to see a play in the Elizabethan Theater.

After breakfast in the morning, we skipped down to Mix to buy bread to take home with us, and that bread was yummy. If you ever get to Ashland, do not miss going to Mix!

The carousel in Albany

On the way home, just as a topper to our great weekend, we stopped for lunch in Albany, Oregon. The lunch was fine, but on the way back out of town, we happened to notice a building with the word “Carousel” on it. That made us both remember that we had seen an article and program about a historic carousel that had been thought lost but had been discovered in pieces stored away. The town had raised money to restore it, and this was it! Needless to say, we had to stop and look at the carousel. I’m sorry I didn’t get good enough pictures to show you that the animals are very imaginative. Instead of just being colorfully painted, they have crazy touches. One horse has a mermaid tail, making it a seahorse. Another animal might have a monkey crawling on its neck or fish on its side. It is all beautifully done and restored.

So, that was the highlight of my week, and I’m champing at the bit to go back. We are already planning a trip back next June, and my friend from Denver said he would like to go with us. My sister has also expressed an interest and my husband says he’d like to go to the Elizabethan theater (I’ll believe that when I see it), so if we all go, we may have to caravan next year!

In other news, my neighbor and I found a beautiful trail last week. It’s in Whipple Creek Park, which is right jammed up next to Vancouver. It is very close to where I go for my art class. We didn’t expect much from it, but in fact found ourselves in a lovely oak forest. The trail had ups and downs and was mostly in very good condition. It is a park used by horses, and although we did not see any horses, we saw lots of things to walk around, if you get my drift, and lots of hoof prints. I got very tired in the 3.1 miles, because of all the ups and downs, but I’ll improve.

P. S. After I published this post the first time, Deb sent me the attached link to an article about the carousel with much better pictures than the one I posted.