Sense of Place – Astoria, Oregon

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With no destination in mind – but with a firm desire to road trip – I left my last meeting on Friday with only the open road before me.  I had to get home from Dash Point, Washington to Portland.  This is a quarterly trip so I was used to the routine of getting on I-5 south.  Part of me wanted to get home and be a responsible leaf-raking home owner.

For no reason that I can explain, just north of Centralia I veered off the freeway and headed to the coast.  Ironically – the retreat I had been just attending was all about decision making. My head was full of ethical discernments.  This was spontaneous – absolutely no discerning other than seeing a road sign saying “Aberdeen/Raymond” next exit.

Taking all the anticipation out of this road trip tale – I ended up in Astoria, Oregon for 2 days.  Best decision I have made in quite some time – I must have learned something at that retreat.

Some of the highlights:

Early morning photo shooting in Astoria and exploring this wonderful and historic town – founded in 1811!

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Early morning at the Cannery Hotel

Wave watching at Cape Disappointment (not disappointing!!)

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Buoy Beer for dinner

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And finally, there is this little church about 2 miles west of the Astoria Megler bridge on the way to Ilwaco, Washington that I have passed a hundred times.  It’s in the middle of nowhere but is beautiful in its simplicity and isolation.  I have regretted never stopping and learning the story of this church by the sea.  I stopped.

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St. Mary’s Church, McGowan, Washington

History fans (I am one!) should read Peter Stark’s Astoria – recently released in paperback – for a closer look at the early years of Astoria.

Astoria has transformed from river city with an economy and industry (most significantly fish canneries) reliant on the Columbia River – to an artistic corner of Oregon – focused on tourism and the two mainstays of Oregon – beer and coffee.

The Columbia River is still a strong force.  Cargo ships provide entertainment as their huge hulks pass by the waterfront. And the nautical history is never far away – including the Flavel House Museum (George Flavel was the Columbia’s first river pilot back in 1850).  But you are more likely to see Willapa Bay Oysters featured on area menu’s than Columbia River salmon.

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3 Places (out of many) I want to visit and why

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Many people I know have a version of what I have just decided to call “the list”.  The Bucket List, the List of 100, 1,000 places to go before you die (ugh that is singed with a reality I don’t really want to think about).  Inspired by A Wandering Memory – and his musings on the magical travel list – I thought I would share some places I want to go from my list.

  1. Camino – I have been dreaming about the Camino since 1995 (see my first blog post) – and I have been (for lack of a better word) totally lame for not yet going.  The providential rib-sharing moment this past Saturday with the director/producer of the Camino documentary – plus tales from my friend Sue’s recent trip – this trip for me is long overdue.  As part of my week away to review and plan for the coming year (back in June, more on that later) – I have put some baby steps in place to make this happen. Stay tuned.
  2. Visit a bakery in Malta.  Hmm.. that must seem completely random.  But back in 1976 – when I was a wee lass, I sailed around the Mediterranean for 6 months with my grandparents, aunt and two cousins.  We spent a few weeks in Malta and every day my grandmother would send my cousin Ian and I to the local bakery at the very moment that the bread would come out of the oven.  We would buy a loaf and run back to the boat for afternoon tea and delicious warm bread. It is one of the most wonderful memories I have of my grandma. I want to return to Malta for other reasons – but I am going for that afternoon bread moment.
  3. Myanmar – for obvious reasons (see my friend Steve’s blog stevievolz.wordpress.com).  Architecture, culture, lovely people – and a chance to see this relatively untrammeled country before it becomes overrun Thailand-style.

What’s on your list? Where are you going next?