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Celebrating People, Places & the Good Life in SW Washington State
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Posts from — December 2010

Some of the Best Gifts of All

We have way too much stuff at our house. When we joke about moving to a boat (which won’t happen but we can joke about it, anyway), we ask “Will it fit on the boat?” The piano? No. More clothes? No. More furniture? No. New experiences? YES!

My favorite gifts are experiences — presents that get me moving, seeking, learning, growing or relaxing. The memories of those experiences WILL fit on the boat.

Here is a short but fun list of experiences (with gift certificates available) in Southwest Washington (of course!) that you can give this holiday season, or year round, to friends, family or to yourself:

Pacific County
Give a gift certificate to one of my favorite places, Shakti Cove Cottages. These cute little cabins are within walking distance of the beach at Ocean Park, include kitchens and are near some of the best areas of the Long Beach Peninsula including Oysterville and Nahcotta.

Entrance to Shakti Cove Cottages

Consider including a gift certificate to Nanci and Jimella’s Klipsan Market Café just down the road. Remember the famous and fabulous Ark restaurant? That was Nancy and Jimella’s before they sold it. Their tradition of wonderful food continues in Klipsan Beach. Call 360.665.4847 for details.

Clark County
The beautifully restored Camas Hotel offers a relaxing getaway that is surrounded by shops and restaurants including Oliver’s at the hotel. Call for details and reservations.

The charming Camas Hotel

How about a gift certificate to Magenta Theater? Their 2011 plays include classics Life with Father and You Can’t Take it With You. It’s a sweet deal to have dinner in one of the many restaurants in downtown Vancouver and then stroll down to Magenta’s space on Main Street, near 6th.

Cowlitz County
Speaking of theater, do not overlook the recently restored Columbia Theatre in downtown Longview. Upcoming events include ‘S Wonderful, The Fab Four, 39 Steps (4 actors doing 150 characters!) and more including performances for children. Call for a gift certificate!

The Columbia Theatre

What about a pre-show dinner? Consider a gift certificate to JT’s Steak & Fish House, which comes highly recommended. Call 360-577-0717 for a gift certificate.

Skamania County
A night or two in the beautiful Skamania Lodge would make anyone happy. You could include a gift certificate dinner or brunch at the lodge or Big River Grill in downtown Stevenson.

The view from Skamania Lodge

Dinner at the Big River Grill

Klickitat County
Maryhill Winery offers a beautiful tasting room overlooking the Columbia River. A gift certificate to the winery can be used on their wines and items in the retail store. It’s a wonderful drive out to the winery and can easily include the remarkable Maryhill Museum.

The stunning terrace at Maryhill Winery

One more suggestion
Okay, after purchasing “experiences” for your loved ones, you may still feel the need a gift in hand to fill a stocking or to wrap for under the tree. Stop by or shop online at the Fort Vancouver Bookstore for the 2010 ornament – Fort Vancouver Village by Paul Lanquist. You’ll find lots of other gift ideas related to Southwest Washington, too.

The Fort Vancouver Village 2010 Ornament


December 19, 2010   No Comments

Discovering Main Street: In Appreciation of Small Towns

Foster Church has it right. The Pulitzer Prize winner has published a new book of essays Discovering Main Street – Travel Adventures in Small Towns of The Northwest (Oregon State Press, 2010). I love it when he writes about visiting small towns in the introduction:

Usually we pass through them on the road to someplace else…Enjoying a small town is more than seeing the sights. Just as important is absorbing the culture of the place: having breakfast in a cafe, dropping in on local meetings, attending a rodeo, an ice cream social, a high school sporting event or a little theater production.

We all have choices. We can visit the places where tourists flock or we can explore the burgs that are ignored by the masses. It is our gain when we pull off the main highway. The richness of visiting a community that is bypassed for flashier locations is immense. The surprises, the conversations, the friendly people, the sincere interest in YOU not how much you might spend, create far more meaning and memories in my opinion.

Foster Church has written about more than 50 such communities in his book. Most are in Oregon, not surprising because he was a reporter for The Oregonian for years. But five are located in southern Washington State – Ilwaco, South Bend, White Salmon, Lyle and Dayton.

Of these small towns, ZEST has posted about Ilwaco (think cranberries, museums and bookstores) and South Bend. Future trips are planned to White Salmon and Lyle. Dayton is a little outside the ZEST geographic area but certainly worth a visit.

So what does Foster say about our Washington communities? Some favorite comments of mine:

Ilwaco – From his book: “Water is all around and the culture of water is everywhere—at the Ilwaco Marina, in the two lighthouses that beam warnings from the edge of Cape Disappointment State Park, in the oysters taken from the bay , the fish harvested from the ocean and in the river that surges past the town.”

Ilwaco is a favorite place of mine. Watching the marina from a harbor restaurant or bar as a storm blows is a fine pastime. Perusing the stacks at Time Enough Books where yellow lab, Harper Lee lounges, is a great afternoon. Picking up a fresh cooked whole crab at OleBob’s. Wandering through the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum. This is a town that no one should breeze through without exploring.

A small corner of the scenic Ilwaco Marina

South Bend – Foster actually writes as much about Bay Center as South Bend but the whole area is a great place to explore. He writes “You have to accept a gray-green world to live on Willapa Bay. You should also have a taste for oysters. Raw or fried, an oyster can make up for a lot of gray.”

It’s true, oysters are the stars of the area. We found that the Chester Tavern, which has been raved about in the New York Times, and River View Dining provided life-altering oyster dinners for us. We will never think about the bivalves in the same way again. They were that good.

Barbequed oysters at River View Dining in South Bend.

I would love to read Foster’s take on other SW Washington communities like Ocean Park, Longview, Centralia and Chehalis, Cathlamet, Camas, Stevenson and other small towns. All provide fertile ground for exploration.

Towns change quickly. Cafes and bars come and go. Some businesses close, others open. But starting with Discovering Main Street is an excellent way to get going, if not about specific sites, perhaps about cultivating an attitude of discovery. Your experience will be different than Foster’s or than mine. That’s just fine. These small, often overlooked towns, will make their own impressions on you, one community, one shopkeeper, one meal at a time.

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December 12, 2010   2 Comments