Posts Tagged ‘Oregon coast’

tiger lily, Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City OregonA few blocks west of busy Highway 101, at the north end of Lincoln City on the Oregon coast, I step from the car and suddenly I’m in an oasis of calm. It’s the Connie Hansen Garden, a lush hideaway I go to when I want a quiet moment, or to check again which plants grow happily near the ocean, where the climate is cool (usually) and the air salty and damp.

The 1-1/3 acre garden isn’t exactly a secret, but you have to watch for it, tucked into a residential neighborhood behind shrubs and trees. To get there, I turn west from Highway 101 on NW 33rd and find the entrance gate half a block down the road. There’s a donation box, a stack of brochures, and a table with a few plants for sale, and then paths winding through grassy gardens with more than 300 rhododendrons and azaleas. In spring, it’s an overflowing bouquet of red, pink and purple. Every season has its blooms, from splashes of primrose and purple iris to pink cyclamen, sweet-scented lilies, and a patch of multi-colored heather. Magnolias and maples archheather Connie Hansen Garden LIncoln City Oregon above them.  Wooden bridges cross a stream, and benches are strategically located for stopping to admire the scene.

Connie Hansen moved to the coast and started gardening here in the early 1970s. She was a botanist and expert gardener, interested in rare plants, who dedicated herself to creating a place of beauty. After her death in 1993, a conservancy took over to keep the place vibrant, and now a host of gardeners continues Connie’s legacy. They operate a shop where you can buy seeds, plants, t-shirts, notecards, even hand creams, and every June they host a festival that draws garden-lovers from near and far. I’ll be back to admire the rhodies next spring and maybe purchase an exotic plant or two.

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beach at Lincoln City, with Cascade HeadCasinos, outlet stores, heavy traffic–that’s how I pictured Lincoln City, on the Oregon coast, and it’s not what I look for in a vacation. But I’m singing a different tune now, and it’s “Here be treasures, me hearties.”

The treasures start with a wide, sandy beach, rocky tidepools, and a rolling surf. Of course, you get those everywhere on Oregon’s coastline, which is totally open to the public (thanks to Governor Oswald West, who declared it so in 1913.) In town, I start with the remarkable Jennifer Sears Art Studio. From the sidewalk I can see someone with gloved hands holding a long tube with hot molten glass at the end, turning it in an open, roaring furnace. An expert glass blower? tourist glass blowing in lincoln cityNo, it’s a tourist, creating his own glass float. For $65, anyone can, with the help of an artist, make a piece of glass art to take home. The studio also sells artists’ glass creations.

Next I drop anchor at the Historic Anchor Inn, another offbeat place of charm. historic anchor inn lincoln cityTo say this little inn has a sense of nostalgia doesn’t begin to describe it. The front porch holds maritime memorabilia and a diver mannequin with a welcome sign; inside, dozens of posters of 1940s movie stars grace the walls. From the lounge ceiling hangs a life raft, a canoe, and an upside-down bicycle, along with a few hundred other things. Books cram the shelves, copper pots glint on the fireplace. I’d stay here just to soak up the atmosphere.  However, we’re lodging at the cozy Sands Condos, on the north end of town. The rooms are clean and comfortable, we have a fine ocean view, and we’re welcomed by cheerful, smiling Lynn, the capable manager.

Lincoln City has some good restaurants. I’m told that Mo’s is still serving classic chowder, and for the best in the sausage realm go to Beach Dog Cafe. For me, the top two spots are Blackfish Cafe and Fathoms.

We start at Blackfish for lunch with a generous plate of delicate, crispy calamari and move on the clam chowder and perfectly cooked fish and chips. Delicious. Later, as the sun lowers over the Pacific, we head for Fathoms. This 10th floor restaurant in the Inn at Spanish Head gives a whole new meaning to oceanview dining. While we watch the evening sky turn red in the west, we feast on great food, served by a fast and helpful waitress (thanks, Pam). Garlic shrimp with pilaf, medium-rare blackened ahi tuna, grilled prawns on mandarin orange and arugula salad  . . . beach food isn’t supposed to be this good. Dessert is a cappuccino mousse thing on a chocolate brownie with nuts, and a scoop of ice cream on top.  (Fathoms is expensive, for the coast, but serves cheaper Early Bird dinners.)

These, plus some intriguing gift shops along Highway 101, are all good reasons to visit Lincoln City. But the final piece that changes my outdated tune for good is Robert’s. Robert's book shop, lincoln city oregonThis book shop, in an unassuming blue building on the south end of town, is heaven for readers looking for used, rare, and out-of-print books. “How many?” I ask, after browsing among the filled floor-to-ceiling shelves, the stacks on the floor, the warren of nooks and crannies. “Not sure,” says the clerk. “Maybe 200,000? That’s probably about right.”

Needless to say, I’ll be back to Lincoln City. This is the stuff that keeps Oregon unique.

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Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, OregonCannon Beach, on the northern Oregon coast, is tourist heaven.  Happily, this sweet town has a lot more than souvenir and ice cream shops. Who wouldn’t love the wide, sandy beach, with Haystack Rock rising 235 feet just offshore? At low tide I walk the wet sand to this seabird sanctuary and look for the sea stars and anemones that live in the tidepools. (Keeping an eye on the tide, of course–don’t want to get stuck on Haystack with waves rushing in around me.)

Some people build sandcastles, fly kites or go surfing or boogy boarding (brrr, that Pacific water is cold). I prefer hiking the woodsy trails of Ecola State Park, on the north end of town, with the roar of the rolling surf never far away. Then I window-shop with everyone else. The last time I counted, Cannon Beach had some 60 shops and galleries: gifts, cards, candy, fine art, photography, wines, handblown glass, you name it.  It has an active theater and at least 30 places to eat, from pizza parlors to high cuisine restaurants. Good bakeries, too. All this in a town with a population under 2,000.

I always head for two places. First, Cannon Beach Book Company, a 30-year-old bookstore with great reading choices. I browse for hours and invariably find something I’ve got to read. This time it’s The Mine, by Daniel Cobb, an Oregon science and technology writer. His thriller is the story of a young biologist who discovers fraud, corruption and murder in a mining company, and the disaster that follows. It’s a page-turner and a must-read for anyone concerned about the environment.

My other favorite is a restaurant, Newmans at 988, restaurant, Cannon BeachNewmans at 988. Dinner is expensive, and it’s worth it. I’m not going out on a limb here; almost everyone is wowed by Chef John Newman’s fantastic way with French-Italian food. A few have complained about the service, but I find it just right, attentive but not hovering. Newmans is small, in an unassuming yellow house on Hemlock Street. Its carpeting and low ceiling keep the noise level at a pleasant hum, and the background music (Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett–old standards, but stil the best) goes well with white linens and candlelight.

The seared scallops appetizer is melt-in-the-mouth wonderful. It’s served with sweetseared scallops, Newmans at 988, Cannon Beach, Oregon corn, mushrooms, and a parsley/carrot reduction, with a touch of truffle oil to add a light smokiness.  Delicious. The duck trio entree has duck in 3 ways: delicate liver in a light crust along with slices of dark and light meat and served with perfectly cooked polenta and vegetables. There’s a balanced wine list, with a number of Pacific Northwest wines, and delectable desserts created by pastry chef Nancy Williams.

Chef John has won a number of awards and will be a part of the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction, Nov. 10, 2010. These auctions, held in about 200 U.S. cities, have raised more that $132 million for the March of Dimes effort to save babies. The Portland auction will be held at the Marriott Portland Downtown Waterfront hotel.

The final touch, after my excellent dinner, is a stroll around Cannon Beach with the festive crowd. With maybe just a taste of chocolate and a sip of espresso to end a fine day at the beach.  See you at the tidepools.

For more of the world’s interesting beaches, try Flightster and Travel Channel Beaches. 

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