Monday 22 June 2015

Road Trip Diary: Astoria > Florence, Oregon

Day 39
Port Angeles to Astoria
Thursday 11th June 2015

Port Angeles was the most northerly place we would visit this on trip (sorry Canada but we will visit one day, it's just the Ferries are too expensive!) so it was now the beginning of our return trip south. It feels a bit peculiar to think that, after around 1000 miles over the course of the next 7 days, we would have journeyed all the way to just north of San Francisco.
Washington was a definite highlight of the trip for us. The 9 days were some of the best so far, but we were excited to be returning to Oregon and the picturesque beauty of Astoria.
The drive down passed without incident (lunch at Subway and another lovely chat with a local lady about Manchester after she heard our accents) and we crossed the border in to Oregon via the magnificent Astoria–Megler Bridge that spans the Columbia River.

This was our last Airbnb until San Francisco and although we're at risk of repeating ourselves, we found another gem in the heart of the town. The studio at the back of Alex and Ian's home was large with a beautiful antique wooden bed, a balcony, a lounge area and a set of windows along one wall that gave a full panoramic view of the river and the bridge.

We decided to spend the next day exploring Astoria, so tonight we just wanted some good food and drink. We stopped at the Fort George Brewery, a micro brewery well thought of by locals, for a few pints of pale ale, some pratting about taking photos and a couple of burritos, then left feeling suitably content.
Walking around the streets and the hills that rise above downtown, it's easy to see what Astoria has to offer and it is pretty obvious why so many movies have been filmed here. It's a beautiful place, wide sidewalks, houses with kerb appeal and plenty of excellent eateries and bars. The houses and the bridge instantly transported us back a few decades and to a certain film in particular, The Goonies, but more on that tomorrow. We stopped for a couple of excellent scoops of ice cream from Frite & Scoop, a little handcrafted parlour on the river front with flavours like Dirty Vanilla and Pretzel Crunch, and headed back to get some kip.

Day 40
Friday 12th June 2015

Today marks our halfway point of our trip! Crazy stuff. We've seen so much and met so many great people over the past 40 days, it feels like only yesterday that we arrived in Vegas.

We had a busy day planned so, after devouring the warm lemon and poppyseed muffins, coffee and orange juice laid on by our hosts, we headed out to one of Astoria's biggest tourist attractions- the Goonies house. We parked up by another location from a film, the Astor Elementary School featured in Kindergarten Cop. We were walking the same hallowed ground Arnold Schwarzenegger had once graced with his stature. We took the short walk over to the Goonies house, situated up a short dirt track, feeling lucky that we hadn't been here the weekend before when thousands of fans had descended on the town to celebrate The Goonies 30th anniversary. We were told by a few people over the course of our stay how chaotic it had been and what a nightmare it was for locals trying to get on with their normal lives.

Following a quick trip to Safeway and buying lunch for later, we took the winding road up to Astoria Column, a 125 foot tower that has 164 steps ascending to an observation deck with great views. However, the column itself was closed when we got there and the $2 charge for the car park was a bit cheeky considering but the views it offered of Astoria, the Columbia River and the surrounding countryside made up for it. We also learnt the story about the legend of the Thunderbird and how it has been seen by locals for hundreds of years, alas no sightings for us during our stay, save for a few pretty impressive Bald Eagles.
IMG_4035 IMG_4043 IMG_4046 IMG_4061 IMG_4063

Cannon Beach is another location from the Goonies movie, remember the bit at the end when they all reunite with their families on the beach? That's this beach. We ate our lunch as the sea mist blew in off the gusty Pacific and took a walk down to Haystack Rock, a massive hill of stone jutting out of rock pools. Ellie loves looking for treasures in the sand, her head always looking down for something shiny. The beach was covered in these small transparent jellyfish with blue appendages we later learnt were sails. According to the National Geographic they're called velella velella and millions of them have been washing up on the west coast due to natural phenomena.

Suitably wowed by another natural location we took a walk around the thrift and book shops in downtown Astoria and walked down to Buoy Beer Company on the waterfront. The beer was suitably epic as most of the beer we have tasted in the Pacific Northwest has been. We took our leave and spent the evening enjoying our room and watching the sun set behind the bridge.

IMG_4076 IMG_4079 IMG_4094 IMG_4098 IMG_4108IMG_4033
Day 41
Astoria to Florence
Saturday 13th June 2015

We drove on Highway 101, otherwise known as the Oregon Coast Highway, for nearly 4 hours today towards Florence- our next stop and our last in the state and the Pacific Northwest in general.

We couldn't help stopping several times to take in the scenic sea views and some sea lion spotting so our journey ended up being a little longer than it should have been but we were in no rush. One of the big aims of this trip has been to live slowly and soak up experiences like this.  Though the sun was out, the winds were keeping the temperatures down and it seemed like an age ago we were enjoying a drink in the heat of the Seattle evening sun.
Our motel was cheap and had a very basic room and bathroom, a big change from our stay in Astoria, but this is why we mixed up our accommodation. When we're itching for some anonymity, a motel is a relief and when we can't stand any more impersonal beige rooms, a warm and friendly Airbnb renews us.

Florence was an odd place, a small main high street with some nice independent shops and a pretty marina but there didn't seem to be much life there. No bars or nightlife to speak of and someone told us afterwards that it's a retirement town, which sort of explains it. We didn't have anything planned for the evening and having walked the length of downtown Florence there wasn't a massive amount to do but luckily we noticed a cool-looking independent cinema, City Lights, just down the road from our motel. Since we had arrived in the States we couldn't wait to watch Jurassic World so we bought ourselves a couple of $9 tickets (can you believe we pay nearly double that in Sterling in the UK?) and some snacks and settled in to watch the film. The screening was intimate, with nearly every one of the seats taken and people seemed to get really in to it, even clapping at the end! Can't imagine that happening in the Swiss Cottage Odeon! We gave it 7/10 if you're interested, entertaining fare, needed more substance, rushed ending.

We had a chat with the manager and he told us the story of how he came to the town as a tourist, spotted the neglected and abandoned cinema and decided it would be his new project. He bought the building and totally refurbished the cinema, reinvigorating the old space and providing a much-needed culture hub for the town. They show quite a lot of indie films, get involved in film festivals and funnily enough, stream a lot of live broadcasts from the National Theatre in London. Random conversations with strangers produce the best stories!

And so, with heavy hearts, it's time to say goodbye to Oregon. We'll be back one day, I'm sure of it. Crater Lake was unforgettable, as was the whole of Washington State so I know this won't be our only visit to the Pacific Northwest. For now though, we're on our way back down the coast and we're going to California!
  IMG_4128IMG_4131 IMG_4147 IMG_4153 IMG_4156 IMG_4160

Saturday 20 June 2015

Road Trip Diary: Port Angeles, Washington


Day 36
Seattle to Port Angeles
Monday 8th June 2015

Our drives from place to place have varied between an hour to five hours, so we're getting used to long car journeys but we try and do a bit of research to see if there are any interesting stops on the way.  One of planned spots, Port Townsend, received a glowing thumbs up from our Seattle Airbnb hosts Melissa & Abil.

Port Townsend's downtown area is full of Victorian buildings remaining from its gold-rush heyday and have all been restored to a beautiful standard. The town is a beauty of a thing and we spent an hour so walking by the bay, taking in all the independent shops and stopped off for lunch and ice cream at Nifty Fifty's, a retro-style Soda Fountain. The ice cream was some of the best we had so far, huge dollops of mint and cookies and cream.

We arrived in the afternoon sun to meet our next Airbnb host, Sharon, and her early 20th century house overlooking the port of Port Angeles. The view was something else and we could just see Canada rising in the afternoon fog over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, plus we spotted a deer resting in her garden a couple of days later. We had the whole upper floor of the house including a cozy lounge and Sharon made us feel at home with her kind nature and the delicious breakfasts she cooked us.

After a quick rest in our room and a perusal of the internet to see what was going on in Port Angeles, we took a quick walk to the main street downtown. It's a small place with a few antique malls and a little fantasy gaming store called Anime Kat for my inner nerd. We stopped off for the happy hour at a really busy bar called Next Door and ordered a burger and tacos, luckily we got there early as soon there was a queue out the door so we came to the conclusion it was a local favourite. We had a couple of pints of craft beer and took a tipsy stumble around the waterfront, marvelling at the huge murals, spotting a couple of seals and taking in the quiet evening streets in the setting sun.

IMG_3664 IMG_3674 IMG_3682 IMG_3704 IMG_3692 IMG_3978 IMG_3977

Day 37
Port Angeles
Tuesday 9th June 2015

Can you get bored of epic scenery, of snow-topped mountains and views that stretch for miles? Nope. That's my assessment after everything we've seen so far and today we saw some of the best. Olympic National Park in the Olympic Peninsula encompasses nearly a million acres of forest, shoreline and peaks, the most famous of all being Mount Olympus.

The drive to Hurricane Ridge, where the visitor centre is based, was winding and narrow at points but reaching the top felt like being on to of the world. The ridge looks out over the mountain range and after a little hike, from the opposite side you can see the shoreline and the cliffs of Canada. The steep sides of the ridge are also covered with black-tailed deer, which gave the whole place an air of calm and Ellie thought it was quite magical, especially when we spotted one of the famous Olympic Marmots, a fuzzy little rodent that is exclusive to this national park.

We decided to drive to Lake Crescent afterwards as it was another of the local sights on our list that Sharon had recommended we see. That's another great thing about Airbnb hosts, they usually know the area like the back of their own hand so they can give you the best tips on things to see! We made the hike to Marymere Falls, an incredible waterfall amongst the forest that you reach by climbing some very steep steps. Definitely worth it though, we just stood and watched it for a while as the mist rose from the pool.

IMG_3725 IMG_3739 IMG_3764 IMG_3786 IMG_3813 IMG_3815 IMG_3821 IMG_3826 IMG_3840 IMG_3886 IMG_3896 IMG_3871

Day 38
Port Angeles
Wednesday 10th June 2015

When I first met Ellie, almost 8 years ago, she was into Twilight and though she isn't the fan she once was she instantly recognised Forks, the small town where the saga is set.

After another amazing breakfast from Sharon, an omelette, fruit and a smoothie, much better than another motel 'buffet', we set off on the 90 minute journey. Forks wasn't quite what we thought it would be. The town has taken Twilight to heart, nearly every shop and cafe had some sort of reference to it but sadly we also noticed that half of these had closed down and the whole main street looked a bit neglected. It seems as though the vampires have finally lost their dazzling allure and Forks has taken the economic brunt of it.

We left Forks to visit our next Twilight location, not that we were doing a tour or anything. La Push Beach features heavily in the books and films, but the stunning First Beach is more than worth a visit for the stunning rocks and the rugged beach.  The La Push Quileute Tribe have lived here for over 1,000 years and on Wednesday evenings they invite locals and visitors alike to the beach for a traditional storytelling session but we were sadly too early for it.
We sat on the beach on a huge driftwood log as Bald Eagles circled overhead and juvenile sea gulls gave us pleading looks whilst we chomped onto our Safeway sandwiches hoping for crumbs. A lot of the beaches we have visited so far, including this one, have been eerily empty because it's still a bit chilly on the coast. We practically had the place to ourselves, just us and the crashing waves.

We headed back for a night in writing blog posts, drinking beers, reading our books and packing up our things ready to move on again in the morning to Astoria.

IMG_3932 IMG_3935 IMG_3953 IMG_3940 IMG_3960 IMG_3944 IMG_3942 IMG_3970
© HOME AND HIGHWAYS | All rights reserved.
Blogger Templates by pipdig