Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Summer Catch-Up (August Second Half)

I am back and finally ready to finish the month of August! It was so action-packed that really it deserved these two blogs. So, where did I leave off? Ohhhhh the 3 Amigos reunion!

Well, a few days after that, my sister Alex and I headed down to Long Beach for the annual Kite Festival. Not only were we going to see some kite action, but this specific evening had night kites with lights and fireworks. I never pass up fireworks!! We drove down in the afternoon and dumbly only brought light jackets. Obviously when going to the coast in WA, you should bring more than a light jacket. We grazed around the little trinket booths, posed as Jake the Alligaor Man - the famous half man/half alligator celebrity of Long Beach, listened with smiles as a large group of 60 year-olds played in an xylophone band for the beach entertainment, dragged our feet in the sand and avoided getting it in our faces from the coast wind and dined on a delicious dinner of McDonald's before we settled into a spot to watch the sunset and see the show. I was curious to see how they would make the kites light up and was pretty impressed when I saw kites strewn with christmas lights! Who would have know they could support the weight? Not only did they have fabulous lit kites, but they actually had synchronized kite flying. This was something else I wasn't really aware existed but I insanely impressed! I can't fly a kite in the first place, so to see four guys flying them in the dark, choreographed to music and not run them into each other was pretty fantastic! They all had blue christmas lights all over them, so as they were skimming through the sky with flips and dips it looked like four brilliant shooting stars! Towards the end of thier routine, they commenced with the fireworks and the combination was a great light show!

A few days later, Grammy and I climbed into the car for a 5-hour journey to Ashland, Oregon. My cousin, Cathy, and her husband, Paul, live down there and we headed down for a little visit. I'm sure about the same amout of people who knew about San Sebastian before my blog know about Ashland, Oregon haha. It's a picturesque town in southern Oregon where they hold the best Shakespeare Festival! I had been looking forward to it since before I came home (remember I mentioned it in my last blogs before I left Spain?) because in high school, Shakespeare had never been really too exciting. When you are reading the play in class with people who could care less and don't put any emotion into the words, the plays drag on. Having read about the Shakespeare Festival here though, I was estatic because I had only heard great things, and Cathy and Paul were sweet enough to get us tickets! After our long drive we found our way to thier new house (which was gorrrrrrgeous) and had some time to catch up before we headed off to the play. Cathy and Paul do quite a lot of travelling, so it was great to hear thier favorite places in Europe or share what we liked best about certain places we've all been. With a wealth of travel books for Europe, they helped me brainstorm amazing trips for this coming year! Highly recommended is Krakow, Poland...so maybe you will see that in future blogs!

After a tasty dinner and wine, we hurried down the street for our show - Much Ado about Nothing. I'd never read this play in school, so Paul briefed us on what to expect, but it was even better than we could have imagined! The Festival puts on more than 750 shows this year, but the actors were SO good, you would have thought they were only performing one show and it was ours! The outdoor stage even made you feel like you were actually watching a performance from Shakespeare's time. If you are reading this from the Northwest, I honestly suggest going - it was one of my favorite things of the summer! Here is the link if you want to check it out! Our Shakespeare experience didn't end with just the play; Cathy and Paul also set us up with a Backstage Tour. This gave Grammy and I a behind-the-scenes look at what actually goes into the Festival. Led by a set designer, we saw the Festival from someone who actually lives it every day! From learning about set changes for the multiple plays that are peformed in each theatre during the same weeks or intricate costume designs that cost thousands of dollars, we really saw how passionate everything that goes into the Festival is - which is why it shined through so much in the play we had seen! Shakespeare would be proud! Although, I did hear a little theory that maybe William didn't even write any of the plays! GASP! One thing I know he would be suprised to see is that his face adorns packs of playing cards in the gift shop...something I bet he wouldn't have imagined in his time!

With the afternoon to check out the rest of Ashland, Cathy showed Grammy and I around the area. With deer and baby fawns grazing in people's front lawns and homemade Noble Coffee, to the restaurant (Gepetto's was it?) that Grammy remembered so fondly of Ashland, I loved the adorable little town. People were actually nice, went the slow 25 mph speed limit and seemed to enjoy the day. Grammy and I followed suit, filling up the early evening with shopping (no ornament to be found, sad sad) and sight-seeing! The evening ended with a tasty steak, salad and wine from New Zealand (where Paul is from) and sadly the next morning we had to leave.

Without as much as an hour break, we drove home to Kelso, I changed clothes and headed north for another hour and a half to Seattle to meet a friend! Driving, driving, driving! My friend Brett had come to town for the weekend, and being the good WA tourist guide that I am, I happily agreed to show him my lovely state. Being tired as I was, we didn't do anything too spectactular the first evening, but the next morning we headed out to Mt. Rainier to hike! With good weather on the forecast we were pretty excited. You would think that living here for so long, I would have been to Mt. Rainier, but I hadn't! After the scenic drive into the national park, we parked the Buick and started our trek from Paradise at 5,400 feet. The hike took us up through the meadows of the mountain, where were lucky to see thousands of blooms that just framed the mountain and made every picture I took look like a postcard. Starting with flowers, as the air got thinner we ascended into shale rocks until we were passing glaciers and made it to the base of the snow pack. With just tennis shoes and shorts we stopped there and headed back down, but not before we were able to take in the break-taking views. I think sometimes I forget how much I love Washington, and it's moments like this that make me remember how great my state is. After we made it down, we checked into the Paradise Inn - a lodge built in 1916. Our room looked like it - reminding me of outdoor school in 6th grade! Regardless, we bundled up in our sweatshirts and headed back to the main lobby for the Ranger Talk, where we learned all about ravens and sipped hot apple cider. The main lobby area was two-stories and from the ceiling hung massive lamp shades, each with a different flower from the meadows we had just seen. A massive wooden piano, a 14ft grandfather clock and rustic chairs and fireplaces were placed around the main area and it made me felt like I should be getting my skis on and heading out for a day in the snow. So, although the room was circa 1916 the stay was great! The next morning we headed out for another hike - although this was at a lower elevation, so the scenes changed drastically. With the morning dew still fresh on the trees, the misty hike led us past a goregous reflecting lake and through more Spruce trees than I had ever seen, sprinkled with vividly bright flowers.

With our hiking done, we made our way back to Seattle and to a Mariner's game. Brett is an avid Mariners fan, so we ended up sitting about 10 rows behind home plate, only to watch the Mariners lose! Shame! It was ladies night at Safeco Field, so I managed to leave the statium with a pink Mariners bag, so it wasn't all a loss! We made up for the loss the next day with a lovely ferry ride to Bainbridge Island - one of the many islands in the Puget Sound. Unbeknowest to us, there was a wine festival happening on the island, so of course we partook! Turns out there are about 8 wineries on the island itself, so they were all out with gusto about sharing thier wine! After the sampling we wandered around the little island. With our picture-perfect weather, the marina and flowers couldn't have a better waterfront walk. I was beginning to become very impressed with the weather gods - everytime someone had visited me this summer, I got to show them around in sunshine! The next day consisted of the regular Seattle sights again, but this time we stopped by the Sculpture Park, which I loved! I had been before with my dad, but seemed to forget the peice of work that was transparent and let you see the Space Needle through it. Awesome! With the weekend going quickly, we ate our fair share of sushi and managed to make it back to another Mariner game, that they happened to win! A great end to my last Seattle trip of the summer. It's kind of funny, because I have seen some amazing places - Madrid, Rome, Paris, NYC and others - but every time I go to Seattle, I just get a feeling in my heart that it is where I want to end up.

Come Tuesday morning, Brett went home and I drove home, shocked that my August was gone! Time was coming so quickly to leave and I kept wondering where my summer went! But, I guess if it took me two blogs to tell you about my August, that was a good indication my summer was going great albeit fast.

Next and last for the summer catch-ups is September and then I can fill you all in about being back in Spain and Oktoberfest!! Have a great day!


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