Friday, February 24, 2006


We had what I'm calling our "travel section" know, the kind that they write about in the travel section of the Sunday newspaper, where everything is just perfect, and you spend time doing things that are wonderful and not any time wandering around looking for something to do in vain? That kind.

I found the Columbia Hotel online and I thought it looked cool. I worried beforehand because I couldn't find much info about it--did it have a coffeemaker? Did it have a microwave? But when we got there we found just old-world charm, and nothing to mar that (like a microwave). They serve coffee in the lobby. Usually when we go away for several days we try to get a room with a kitchen, to spare expense and because it's often hard to find vegetarian and vegan food. But this hotel room was so reasonably priced ($79 winter rates) and there were so many yummy restaurant options that we had no problem with eating out for all our meals.

We had meant to do lots of walking around, but we really stayed within a two-block radius of the hotel, because there was so much right there. Our first evening we found good kale/white bean soup, risotto fritters, and a cheese/fruit/bread plate (a nice light dinner) at the Ashland Springs Hotel restaurant, called Larks. We also found a great little bookstore just four doors down from our hotel, and bought some vacation books. The kids found some spy handbooks (they are really into spying) and Paul found a book about an Orthodox family living in India (can't remember the name of it just now). I found _The Patron Saint of Liars_ by Ann Patchett, and have thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'll have to carve out time to finish it now that I'm home and have real-world stuff to deal with, not to mention Zac's birthday coming up on Sunday. =:-O

Next morning, we went out to find somewhere to eat, and saw that the bookstore had a coffee shop upstairs. They had wonderful breakfast breads, bagels, and quiches. Coffee was excellent, and outside the bookstore we found the San Francisco Chronicle for sale. Yay! What a great way to spend breakfast. Of course, we had to look at books again after that. Then we walked across the street to the Alchemy Botanicals shop, a cool little place that sells all kinds of things related to herbs. Paul bought some bath salts that smelled wonderful and a new journal, as the one we gave him on his birthday is filled up. Then we went to the art gallery next door and saw lots of local art. Then to a locally-made clothing store. We ate lunch at Pasta Piatti, where we had absolutely amazing fare. Paul had a tomato/basil soup, with a big crouton in it, that left me wondering where in the world they get such tasty tomatoes in winter. I had a squash ravioli with sage brown butter and biscotti crumbs. MMM! We had leftovers, which we saved and ate for dinner.

Finally, we got into the car (!) and drove to the Dagoba Chocolate factory and sampled chocolate, and then to Weisinger's vineyard to sample wine. Yum!

Back to the hotel for a rest before a quick dinner and a play. Paul used his bath salts and thoroughly enjoyed the old-fashioned (and just plain old) claw-foot tub. We ate leftovers, then went to the site where _The Diary of Anne Frank_ would be shown. We went to the gift shop and enjoyed looking around there, then went to the theater. What an absolutely wonderful play. So well-casted. So well-acted. So moving. I had tears streaming down my face at the end. I don't think I ever knew exactly how the end of life in the Annex happened, and I don't know if they have this version from Otto Frank or not, but it was different from how we'd have imagined it. As Paul said, we kept waiting for the officers to come storming in, but that's not what happened in the play. You see life with two families and a single man as it would, of course, be, being so cramped together. But finally they have worked out some kind of peace and are enjoying a moment together--the adults downstairs, eating a few strawberries (we haven't seen a strawberry in two years!) and the teenagers up in the attic eating a bucket full. We are caught up in the teens' joy, enjoying life together, when the officers creep up the stairs silently. They first silently get the adults into line. There is the hope that they won't realize there are more upstairs. But then loud laughter is heard from the attic, and of course that hope is banished. It was heart-rending. So much more terrifying than how we'd imagined it.

The woman who played Anne did such a good job with showing the whole range of Anne's emotions, and she perfectly epitomized the playfulness of an adolescent trying to turn woman. Very powerful. Paul and I looked at each other in the middle of Anne's obstinacy, and said "that's Hibi!" I think they definitely have resemblance.

Next day, with just a few precious hours left in Ashland, we ate at a great little coffee shop that had vegan biscuits and gravy (which Hibi enjoyed while trying to fend off our forks), coffee, scones, and a breakfast burrito. Then it was over to the music shop, which we'd been to the day before to look at guitars for Hibi. She's interested in learning to play and up to now has struggled with Paul's full-sized one. But we bought her a 3/4 size which I think is just right for her, and it's not a bad guitar, either. Now that everyone has an instrument in my family except me, I am starting to think of taking up violin again (I played from 4th to 9th grade). I gave away my violin to a family in need a couple of years ago, so I'm beginning to look on Craigslist. I did pick one up in the shop and played it. While it wasn't exactly pretty, I was a bit surprised at how much I still know, like how far apart to finger the strings to get certain notes.

Then over to a used bookstore where we found the new translation of Diary of Anne Frank and a book of Maya Angelou's poetry, then to a cool toy shop, then back to the herbal place to have a pot of flower pearl tea (I bought some to bring home, too, along with a beautiful mug). Then into the car to come home, reluctantly. We sure had a great time, and can't wait to go back!


Mimi said...

Yikes, that does sound scary. I love Ashland so much, and it sounds like you got to experience it.

I could spend (and have) a pretty penny in the Tudor Gift Shop ;)

Welcome home!

Susan said...

Sounds like you had a great time away. I love Ashland too:)

Dawn said...

I'm glad you could get away, sounds like a fun trip.