The audience was in rapt attention while watching the play, "View from the Bridge," at the beautiful Angus Bowmer Theatre. Arthur Miller’s foreboding drama was in direct contrast to the sense of joy we found in the people of the theater’s hometown of Ashland, Oregon. After the play, we strolled among the fall-colored leaves that dusted the sidewalks.
In addition to leaves, the street was lined with art galleries, shops, inviting restaurants and a few pubs. The evening was comfortably nippy — sweater weather — and Ashland felt like a perfect vacation destination.
We stayed in Ashland, a town of 23,000 residents, for two nights before we began our tour of the region. Ashland is Southern Oregon’s cultural center where the internationally known Oregon Shakespeare Festival is held.
Home to Southern Oregon University, the small city has more art galleries than a place 10 times its size, 70 restaurants and many good-quality hotels, motels and B & B’s.
The Chanticleer Inn proved to be an ideal choice for our first night there. Just steps from the main shopping street and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival theaters, the inn is set in a lovingly restored Craftsman house. It’s like a home you would love to own, and is a great place to relax and enjoy Ashland. Innkeepers and hosts Howie Wilcox and Ellen Campbell are happy to share their extensive knowledge of the area with visitors.
The rooms are well furnished, and evening offerings include homemade chocolate-chip cookies, sherry, port and conversation with the other guests in the parlor. Breakfast is prepared and served by Ellen. Be sure to stroll the grounds to relax after a day of touring, and then sit and watch the koi fish and the uninterrupted view of Ashland peak.
We dined at Dragonfly, a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant that’s a few feet away from the theaters. Chef Donnely offered lettuce wraps as an appetizer, salmon for the main course with some great Oregon wine, and a splendid desert.
The Ashland Plaza Hotel was our dwelling for the next night. A large, locally owned hotel on Ashland Creek, the Plaza offers all the comforts of major hotel and includes a buffet breakfast, as well as an evening cookie feast. The rooms are large and well-furnished, the staff helpful, and a list of local events is posted near the front desk every day. That was how we learned about a wine-tasting benefit for African relief.
The wine-tasting benefit, complete with light food and acoustical Celtic music, was held at Liquid Assets, a wine bar ‘round the corner from the Ashland Plaza.
After tasting a couple glasses of Southern Oregon red wine, our thoughts turned to food, and we found an authentic Italian restaurant nearby: Il Giardino. The place is full of pasta redolent of the true taste of Southern Italy. Inspired by the music and food of Italy, our friend, an art director, purchased a mixed-media painting of Venezia from the display on the restaurant’s walls. After a stroll and some window shopping, we returned to our hotel to have delightful dreams of the day’s journey.
Everywhere we visited in Ashland, we found joyful locals: from the attendant who pumped our gas (Oregon state law requires gas to be pumped by an attendant), to those who served us wherever we stayed or shopped or ate; all had sincere smiles on their faces. Maybe it’s the water, sweet from the tap; maybe it’s the clear air, but everyone seemed to be happy to be living in Southern Oregon. Oh, and did I fail to add: there is no sales tax in Oregon — yet another reason to visit this great region, and maybe stay.
96 N. Main
5 Granite St.