Top Ten Cities No 10: Ashland
Finally I have arrived at my Number 10 city. There are many others out there which I considered writing about as they have captivated me such as Salzburg, Vienna, Krakow and Bath. I would like to visit them again one day and perhaps I will write about them eventually. But Ashland, being more recently delighted in, has been given the Number 10 spot here. It is not so glamorous or famous, but what a great time we had and I am looking forward to returning again soon.
The criteria for my ‘Top Ten Cities’ includes:
~ Attractive location, lots of green spaces for people to enjoy and a water attraction
~ The central area can be enjoyed on foot
~ Activities include historical sights and outdoor entertainment
~ Lots of coffee shops, pubs and culturally interesting food
Ashland is conveniently located near the Interstate 5 just north of the Oregon border and Mount Ashland. It is 2,000 feet above sea level in the Rogue River Valley of southwest Oregon. The lovely Lithia Park is in the midst of the many theater buildings, restaurants, boutique shops and coffee shops. Mount Ashland Creek runs through the park providing constant refreshening on hot summer days.
One of my precious memories of this first visit to Ashland was getting up early on Saturday morning and discovering trails on both sides of the full creek which were connected by many walking bridges. The creek, flanked on both sides by mature evergreens, runs north away from the mountain. As I hiked south I was going slightly uphill stopping frequently to enjoy the sound of the cascading creek from the top of many of these bridges. The cool morning gradually warmed up into a perfect summer’s day as I came to the end of trails and turned around to return to our comfy yet spacious shared cottage for breakfast. (http://www.abbottscottages.com)
Since Ashland is small, the central area can be reached and explored on foot. We were happy to leave the car at the cottage most of the weekend and walk into the center for our various events.
The first event of the weekend was a ‘backstage tour’ culminating at the first and oldest of the many theaters there. Each theater has a unique and intriguing history with varying advantages depending on its modernity. The many people working in the repertory have to consider such a huge number of variables. For my part, as a theater goer, I found the Angus Bowmer to be the most comfortable theater, but the oldest, the outdoor Elizabethan, to be the most interesting.
Going backstage there was fascinating. The stage hands were busy preparing for Hamlet, the play we were soon to see. The tour guide showed us where the props were stored and where actors would change costumes. She explained how costumes were created and the fact that most were uniquely designed for each play. We were also given inside information about how actors knew when to come on stage using a system of lighting on top of stage panels. Props and costume changes would be hidden behind these panels. These changes, along with wigs, might also be hidden under the stage or in other special entrances. Backstage crew members would assist with changes if needed. One of the most fun aspects of the tour was at the end to walk out from backstage onto the old Elizabethan stage and to imagine what it would be like to be in a play there.
The large theaters aren’t the only entertainment to be had at the OSF. There are also free, pre-play ‘shows’ on the ‘green’ and free talks given by actors or directors. We enjoyed both of these events throughout the weekend. My favorite entertainment on the green was a troop of Morris dancers and especially one cute guy who never stopped grinning from ear to ear as he ‘galumphed about’ with the bells on his legs.
The talk we attended, including questions and answers, was given by (Rodney Gardiner) who played Feste from 12th Night. (See review which follows.) This was great and I wish I had a recording. We were surprised when told us that he had learned to tap dance just recently for his role as Feste. He also provided us with insights as to how he interpreted his character as well as his feeling about being there at OSF. To paraphrase that aspect, he greatly appreciates OSF because he can focus on his roles while there and not have to think too far ahead about the next gig in another city somewhere. This is because, as a repertory theatre, actors are given roles in various plays keeping them fully employed. In fact, one of the amazing things we discussed in our group, was how versatile the actors were and sometimes it was hard to believe that a character was played by the same actor we had seen playing another – so very different character – the night before.
We also enjoyed sharing meals out at two different restaurants. One was the Greenleaf (http://greenleafrestaurant.com) located in the central area where we dined in their patio alongside of the creek before the evening green show and Hamlet. Everyone in our large group of about 15 enjoyed their meal. For breakfast place we went to popular The Morning Glory restaurant which was great fun and has excellent food. It’s located along the main road to the east of the central area. (https://www.yelp.com/biz/morning-glory-ashland)
Additionally there were two outdoor markets when we visited. One was a local farmer’s market replete with samples of many delectable delights and young musicians busking. The other was of local artisan’s unique wares. All the stalls were of high quality handmade items. (https://lithiaartisansmarket.com)
As you can imagine there are many other restaurants, coffee shops, tea houses, pubs and gift shops in the central area. I did not have time to visit them all and so I must return one day!
Besides the main attractions of the theaters there are many outdoor pursuits nearby including walking, picnicking and playing tennis in Lithia Park. I played a little tennis on Sunday afternoon until it became unbearably hot. Then we went up to the Lithia Park Reservoir for a chilling swim and a rest on the lawn.
As a final recommendation for a weekend visit to Ashland, if you are looking for some spiritual uplifting on Sundays, there are a number of places to worship. We were glad to have found our way to the Christian Church of Ashland. (https://www.facebook.com/ChristianChurchofAshland/?rc=p) We enjoyed a warm and lively time of singing and a challenging talk given by a humble guy speaking for one of the first times in his life. The usual pastor was away. I’m sure it would be a great place to return to any time.
I certainly am looking forward to returning to Ashland again next year!