By George Christopher Thomas, Travel Writer & Food Critic
ASHLAND, OREGON — When I think of a great American town, and everything that comes with it, I always think of Ashland, Oregon. This is the place to go for a family vacation, to get away from it all, and to get your fair share of Shakespeare.
My family and I recently went on vacation in Ashland, Oregon, and had the most wonderful time. The town could be anywhere in the USA, but it happens to be in Southern Oregon just off the 5 freeway. There is just something about Oregon for me, maybe it’s because my dad used to sell lumber, maybe it’s because we went to Oregon every summer when I was a kid, or maybe it is just because it is a great place to stay and play.
As a kid, I remember golfing, fishing, canoeing, horse-back riding, and playing ping pong, and that was all on the first day. There are activities galore in Ashland, and when we arrived for our family vacation, the first thing I wanted to do was chop some wood.
However, we were staying at the really nice “Cowslips Belle Bed & Breakfast” and there was no need for me to make some kindling out of some blocks of wood. The Cowslips Belle is one of Ashland’s original bed and breakfasts, and has even expanded their business into vacation rentals.
The accommodations are quite luxurious and fancy, and they did not miss one beat taking care of us. After we checked ourselves in, there was wine in our room waiting for us, as well as a personal note welcoming us to this fine establishment. With such hospitality, and a general feeling of home, I proceeded to challenge both mom and dad to gin rummy. After I dominated the older folks in such a cerebral game, I posed the question if slapjack or go fish might be better suited for them.
The gardens at the Cowslips Belle are beautiful, and they even have a koi pond. The atmosphere lends itself to relaxing, and perhaps reading some Shakespeare. That is one of the big draws for Ashland; they have an ongoing Shakespeare Festival that rivals even plays put on in Stratford upon Avon.
The B & B is a bungalow and carriage house build in 1913. It has all the modern-day comforts of today’s technology lightly sprinkled with old-fashioned hospitality. The property is just three short blocks from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, historic Ashland Plaza, the natural beauty of Lithia Park, and all the restaurants and shops in downtown Ashland. It is easily walkable to all the main attractions, and you will find the Cowslips Belle just right to your liking.
There is something about Ashland; it feels kind of similar to what a real life Mayberry might be. Everyone is happy and says hello and good bye, please and thank you. Almost like they were raised properly, like in old time America, where children were seen and not heard.
We walked around town, looking for something to buy and to get our appetites up. After strolling through a really cool magic shop, and a yarn store to die for, we decided to have lunch at Pangea. Now I thought this was what they called the Earth and all the continents a really long time ago, but it is also a restaurant called yum. I had the “Wrap Of Khan,” a lightly spiced chicken wrap with artichoke hearts, grilled zucchini and creamy roasted red pepper cheese with lettuce. I could have one of those every day, it was amazing. Joanne had the “Hummus Wrapture,” which was Mediterranean hummus with carrots, sprouts, fresh tomatoes and cucumber. I can’t remember what Mom & Dad got, but one of them had the “Soup Of The Day” and I wanted to dip my wrap in it. (Which would have been a bit much, considering it was not my soup, but the place is that good). Whatever you are eating, you will want to try, test, and eat everything else being enjoyed as well.
After lunch we were off to go wine tasting. This is another great thing about Ashland, there are wineries all around the area, and this makes for a great afternoon. After about the fifth winery, and the world’s greatest wrap, I was ready for a long nap. All of us needed to go back to the Cowslips Belle to recharge before painting the town red.
There are many great restaurants in town, something over 80 within walking distance, and they all have something special to offer the foodie. We chose to walk around the park before dinner, and that in itself is a fun activity. There is a stream that runs right through the park and the town, and you could wade in there and splash around. Believe me when I tell you, the water is cold and not for the faint of heart.
We had a light dinner as tomorrow was going to be a big day, not only were we going birding with Harry Fuller, we were also off to the Green Springs Inn, just outside of town. The following morning we met with world renowned bird expert, Mr. Harry Fuller, and his knowledge of birds was thoroughly informative. He knew their scientific name, their mating habits; if they flock or are solitary birds, you name it… he knew it. I had never looked at birds in this light before, and from that day forward, I always take some time every day to do some birding. Thank you for caring so much about birds Harry Fuller.
After our mind expanding look at our feathered friends, we were off to stay at the Green Springs Inn. Now they do say they are located in town, but maybe they are just talking about their post office box. It was quite a haul up a really scary mountain, but once we got there, it was perfect. The Green Springs Inn is run by a family that has built each cabin they rent out by hand. They have their own lumber mill and saw, and it is quite the operation. We met with the father, son, and the rest of the cast and crew. It was really neat, and very far away from what some people would call civilization.
Once we got to the cabin, I schooled everyone in cards again, then had a soak in the hot tub. My parents enjoyed the master suite, while Joanne and I camped up in the loft. It sure brought back memories, and was just plain old fun. I definitely recommend checking out the Green Springs Inn, for solitude and peace of mind.
I really can’t say enough nice things about Ashland, Oregon. It is just over the California border, and not that far a drive from Mt. Shasta. When visiting, be sure to bring some hiking boots, golf clubs, fishing rods, and anything else pertaining to outdoor recreation. I had a blast visiting this beautiful little town, and plan on returning very soon. I give Ashland a high five and two thumbs up, get there as soon as you can. (For more information, please visit www.pangeaashland.com, www.cowslip.com, and www.greenspringsinn.com)