There Stands the Glass

by Nancy Bestor

I must admit, I have mixed feelings about museums. I always have really good intentions. I tell myself I want to see all the best paintings/sculptures/exhibits on offer and I am excited to do so. But my enthusiasm often peters out before I make it to the third or fourth (or second) gallery. I’m here to tell you though that Chihuly Garden and Glass is, from start to finish, fantastic. Every single exhibit is stunning, and if I lived in Seattle I might just buy a season pass.

Located in the shadow of the Space Needle at the Seattle Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass houses a wonderful collection of the sublime glass-blown art of Dale Chihuly. Eight galleries, an outdoor garden with glass works scattered throughout beautiful matching flowers, trees and shrubs, and the centerpiece of the museum, the 40 foot tall Glasshouse, gave me a new and enthusiastic appreciation for this art form. From the suspended sculptures to the vase-like pieces, each is extraordinary. Even the videos detailing Chihuly’s process and his international shows in such far-flung locales as Venice and Jerusalem were fascinating. Admission is $29. That sounds a bit steep, but I promise you, it is $29 very well spent.

Bob, Emily and I wondered many things as we toured Chihuly Garden and Glass. How often and how easily are the glass sculptures cleaned? The outdoor pieces must get pooped on by birds every now and then right? They were in perfectly pristine shape when we visited, so someone is taking good care of them. I would be too nervous for that job, let me tell you. None of the sculptures are behind glass (get it?). But all kidding aside, anyone can touch these pieces. Has one ever been broken? And what sort of home is grand enough to house a large Chihuly sculpture? I’d pay money to see that too.

It’s hard to do this museum justice in words, and perhaps even harder in photographs. But here are a few of my favorite pieces, from an amateur photographer’s perspective.


Age is Only a Number, Or is It?

by Nancy Bestor

I celebrated a milestone birthday earlier this year, and although most of my real friends tell me I don’t look a day over 39, every now and then I get a not so gentle reminder that I am no spring chicken. Take a trip to LA earlier this year for example. I was meeting my daughters for a long weekend, but since we were flying from separate locations, and their plane was late, I had several hours to kill, so I went to a fancy Los Angeles movie theater.  The theater was lovely, with a full bar and restaurant, a gift store, and every kind of candy you might imagine available for purchase. When I bought my ticket, the young man behind the counter hesitated a moment before asking me if I was buying an “adult” ticket. Yes, of course I was, I’m not trying to get the kids’ price, I thought. I’m sure you all know where this is going. He proceeded to ask me if I was a senior, so I could get the senior citizen discount. I was 49 years old at the time. Forty. Nine.

Then last week Bob and I were looking at trips to Patagonia, thinking that next fall we might like to travel to Argentina and see some glaciers, walk on the ice, and hike some fabulous trails. The only tour company that actually takes folks for hikes onto the Perito Moreno Glacier itself has two options; a mini-trek, and a longer “Big Ice” trek. Of course I immediately wanted to do the Big Ice trek as it goes right to the middle of the Glacier, as opposed to just on its edges, and then I found out that the age limit for the Big Ice trek is 18-50. Yep. Bob is already too old for this trek, and I will officially be too old after April 2018.

I don’t often feel old. I’m figuring that I’ve got oodles of time to take adventurous and active vacations. And that’s just what Bob and I are planning to do. At the time of this email’s release, we are on a week long walking tour of the Southern Algarve Coast of Portugal. But the truth of the matter is, life is short. Eat dessert first. Buy the shoes. Smile while you still have teeth. And hike the Perito Moreno Glacier when you’ve got the chance.

Life Is A Journey, Not a Destination

by Nancy Bestor

I’ve always thought there is something extra exotic about a destination that you can’t get to by plane or car. Those places that you have to go the extra mile and make the extra effort to see, whether you’re hiking, taking a boat, or even riding a donkey, just seem more exciting to me.

On our five-month honeymoon around the United States in our old Volkswagen bus, Bob and I spent a few days at the Grand Canyon. This is truly one of the most awe-inspiring spots I have ever been fortunate enough to visit. We didn’t limit ourselves to the view from the Rim though. We took a day to hike to the bottom, where we camped overnight, and then we hiked back out over the next two days. We packed all our camping gear and food in and back out with us. I remember my pack being very heavy, and I remember the hike being exhausting, but I also remember feeling like it was all worth it.

I had to repeatedly remind myself of these beliefs when earlier this year my girlfriends and I were on a less than delightful 45-minute boat ride on our way to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta. Yelapa is a sleepy village south of PV, that is only accessible by ferry (and I use the term ferry loosely). While the boats run several times a day, we just barely made it for the day’s final crossing. Our flight arrived at 4pm, and via email with the manager of the ferry boat, we had arranged for the 5pm boat to be held for our arrival. The crew and about 30 passengers were all waiting for us when we arrived by taxi, but we still needed to get cash as there are no banks or ATM’s in Yelapa. After a hurried ATM stop we stepped aboard.

We foolishly thought we would have time to buy beers before boarding. Beers that we would leisurely sip on what was sure to be a relaxing and picturesque boat journey to Yelapa (insert laughing/crying emoji here). There wasn’t time to buy beer, and as it turned out, we were hanging on for dear life, and our beers would have quickly gone overboard anyway. Apparently, boat rides later in the day are pretty choppy, and that is an understatement. We donned life jackets and held on to whatever we could. I was worried about our luggage, which was stacked haphazardly at the front of the boat. Fortunately the luggage did indeed stay in the boat, as did all 30ish passengers. And while I’m sure the views of the coastline were beautiful, I quickly realized I had to keep my head straight and my eyes looking ahead, for fear I would toss my cookies overboard. A friendly six-year-old boy sitting next to me kept me entertained by telling me this “ride” was the most fun he has had since he rode a roller coaster at Disneyland. I kept to myself the fact that I did not agree.

Yelapa was indeed delightful, and just as sleepy and charming as we expected. And once my feet were on solid ground—and I was sipping a cold beer while taking in the ocean view, as opposed to bumping on a boat in the ocean—the ride became worth it. Especially since I didn’t throw up.

I Been All Around This Great Big World And I Seen All Kinds of Girls

by Nancy Bestor

I was born in California. I’m not ashamed. I spent the first 26 years of my life there. I even owned a red convertible Volkswagen Bug when I was in college. I’ve now lived nearly as many years in Oregon, and no longer consider myself a “California girl.” (Just a thought though… At age 50, can I consider myself a “girl” of anywhere? I digress.) I do, however, have family and friends still living in The Golden State, and am always happy to drive across the border to visit them. And the food, music and scenery of California, from north to south, doesn’t disappoint either.

Thus when my only sibling suggested a long sister weekend in Southern California this past summer, how could I say no? My expectations were for long walks, cocktails, and good ethnic food—not necessarily in that order—all in lovely and smoke-free California sunshine. (August and early September were smoky months in Southern Oregon, due to extreme wildfires throughout the state.) And that is exactly what we achieved.

We knew we wanted to be in a beach city and not too far a drive from LAX. Our first choice was Huntington Beach, but lodging was difficult to find there, so we chose nearby Seal Beach. And that, in my opinion, worked out perfectly. Seal Beach is much quieter than Huntington Beach, our hotel (Pacific Inn at Seal Beach) was reasonably priced, and there were blocks upon blocks of beautiful and unique houses that we could stroll by every day.

On our first afternoon we meandered our way past dozens of these homes before finding ourselves at a bar and restaurant (imagine that?) where we stopped for Moscow Mules. Because we were pretty sure it was five o’clock… somewhere.

On another day we left the car at the hotel and rented beach cruisers at Main Street Cyclery ($5 per hour). We rode our so-cals from Seal Beach down to Huntington, briefly along the Pacific Coast Highway, but mostly on a bike path alongside the beach. It was a lovely expedition, and, in our opinion, earned us more Moscow Mules.

My only complaint with this trip was the traffic. When we drove to visit a longtime friend in Newport Beach, the traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway was pretty nasty. What took us 30 minutes in the morning, took two hours returning in the afternoon. I don’t think the traffic was bad specifically because we were in Seal Beach. Traffic in Southern California is just generally bad. Particularly when you are an Oregon woman, and are used to no traffic at all. Never fear, we managed to spend a lovely afternoon with our girlfriend, eating and shopping our way around Newport, and of course, found time to sample a few beverages too.

We also spent a few hours on Balboa Island, a man-made island filled with vacation rentals, boat docks, shops and restaurants, and, most importantly, home of the world famous Balboa Bar at Balboa Beach Treats. My sister had been to Balboa several times before, and wanted to make sure I tried one before we left. My Balboa Bar with toffee crunch did not disappoint.

We walked on the beach a few times, with its quintessential Southern California beach lifeguard stations, and one morning we briefly watched an extremely fit group of people who were doing cross fit exercises with a trainer. We didn’t watch long, as we had more important things to do, like eat food.

On our many strolls through various neighborhoods in the area, I swooned over the wide array in styles of beach cottages and homes. But I can’t see myself returning to live in California, even if given the opportunity to live in one of those great beach locations. My California roots run deep, just not deep enough to fight traffic.


Wait Until That Deal Come Round

by Nancy Bestor

Last month a friend looking for travel advice told me about Travelzoo, an online site that publishes offers from thousands of travel, entertainment and local companies. They had found a package deal for a five-day trip to Barcelona for four people that included round trip air out of SFO and hotel, for under $4000. While that did sound like a good deal, I decided to do a little research myself (because I vainly often think I can do better), and came up with a significantly better deal: roundtrip from SFO and 7 nights at a charming, highly rated airbnb, all for under $3000.

I don’t share this story to brag (okay, maybe just a tiny bit), but rather to report that if you’re willing to do the legwork, package deals are rarely—in my humble opinion—offered at a better rate than if you piece a trip together on your own. Granted, their Barcelona deal was at a “five star hotel,” and the suggestion I put together for my friend was for lodging at an airbnb. But frankly, I’d choose an airbnb any day over a hotel, especially if I’m traveling with more than one person. Even if I don’t plan on doing any cooking, it is so much better to have room to move around a whole apartment or house, as opposed to a hotel room. I also feel like I am “living like a local” when I stay in a residential area as opposed to a hotel zone. And our experience is that an airbnb is almost always cheaper than a hotel. You might have to provide your own soap and shampoo, although they are often included, and you won’t get clean sheets and towels from housekeeping every day, but it’s still worth it.

I’m not suggesting Travelzoo does not have great deals. In fact, I’ve signed up to get their emails for travel offers all over the world. I like to see what is out there, and if nothing else, it will get me looking on my own to see if I can put something together for cheaper. Perhaps there are some package deals out there that are great bargains, but I’m kind of particular—some (ahem, BOB) might even call me picky. But I want to choose the lodging that is best for me, which is why I can spend way too much time looking at hotel reviews online. Plus, I’m always just a little bit suspicious. If Travelzoo can find an outstanding bargain, what else is out there? Apparently, I’m willing to surf the internet for hours and hours to find out.

It’s A Marvelous Night for a Moondance

by Nancy Bestor

When Bob suggested that we make the trek up north last month to see the total solar eclipse, I have to admit I was feeling a little ho hum about it. Astronomy and the cosmos have never really been my thing, but they are definitely Bob’s, and because I’m always usually sometimes willing to compromise in my marriage, I agreed that we should go. We were fortunate that our daughter Sarah is currently living in Corvallis, attending Oregon State University (go Beavs!), which was directly in the zone of totality. Being the kind young woman that she is, she offered up her college house for us to stay. Summer classes were cancelled at OSU that day, and the University opened their fields for eclipse watchers to see the moon completely cover the sun. Additionally, they gave out free eclipse glasses for all (I wish we had known they would do that when we were panicking to find some glasses the week prior to the eclipse, but I digress).

We drove the 222 miles from Ashland to Corvallis late on Saturday night (the eclipse was Monday morning). We were worried about traffic, as for days and weeks leading up to the big event, we read reports that traffic was sure to be gridlocked on all roads leading to and from the zone of totality, including Interstate 5. However, the road was clear as can be on Saturday night, and we arrived in Corvallis in our usual 3 ½ hours.

The city seemed fairly quiet on Sunday. We brought our bikes in case traffic around town was too hectic for driving, but we never used them, as there was none. Monday morning dawned clear as a bell, and by 9am we were sitting on the OSU intramural fields, along with perhaps 1000 other people. As the moon began covering the sun, we donned our glasses and watched the amazing phenomenon.

When the moon covered the sun completely, it was indeed dark at 10:17am in the morning. We could see stars and planets, and the temperature cooled noticeably. It’s hard to describe how amazingly crazy and wonderful the total eclipse was. And this coming from someone who’s “not into astronomy.”

When the moon had covered the sun about halfway, many people on the fields started clapping. Sarah rolled her eyes and said “ha ha, these people are clapping.” As the moon completely covered the sun, Sarah too started clapping and said, “I’m clapping now too!!!!” Because what else could she do? It was worth every clap and oohh and ahhh, and then some.

Bob and I headed back to our car very quickly, and were on the road for Ashland by 10:40am, and thank goodness, because we avoided almost all traffic, and were home in about 4 hours. Friends who left just a little later were stuck in I-5 gridlock for hours. But I’m guessing they’d say it was worth it. I’m so glad Bob and I experienced the total solar eclipse. I should compromise more often.

Be An Actor My Son, But Be a Comical One

by Nancy Bestor

Having been to my fair share of live entertainment, I think I can safely say that show business is tough. A few instances of public speaking in college, which led to sweaty palms and even sweatier armpits, proved that I am not cut out for the stage. Because the truth is, whether you’re singing or dancing in front of a crowd, or even reciting the Gettysburg Address, you have got to have cojones, and I (both literally and figuratively) have none. Bob and I were fortunate enough to be in Christchurch, New Zealand last year during the annual World Buskers Festival. In its 24th year, the 10 day festival draws more than 200,000 attendees and boasts more than 60 acts from 13 nations that perform in tents, on outdoor stages, in downtown Christchurch venues, and on the streets. The acts range from acrobats to magic shows, and from slapstick comedy to burlesque. There are shows on just for kids (or kids at heart), as well as 21 and older shows at night inside tents. Many shows with official seating inside of tents sell out before hand.

While some of the shows we saw missed the mark, the majority were pretty darn amusing, even laugh out loud funny. One of my favorites was Victor Rubilar, Argentinian football performer and comedian. Rubilar combines soccer ball juggling and tricks with a fun comedy show. Another great act was Moira’s Wheel of Fortune, where Scottish fortune-teller Moira Mackenzie predicts your future or at least, her idea of it. Theatreview NZ calls Moira a cross between Mrs. Doubtfire and Professor Trelawney. She was a hoot.

After seeing six different acts at the Festival, I’ve decided that every one of these buskers has cojones. For what I’m guessing is fairly little money, they all work incredibly hard. Sometimes they get big laughs, and sometimes they get no laughs, but they have found a way to keep on going. I couldn’t tell if their armpits were sweaty.

The majority of Buskers Festival events took place in North Hagley Park, a lovely spot on the outskirts of downtown Christchurch. Since the devastating 6.4 magnitude earthquake of 2011, Christchurch has struggled to rebuild. We were stunned to find so much of the city still in rubble, condemned, or only in the very early stages of reconstruction.

I was glad that the Buskers Festival was in town, as otherwise two full days in Christchurch would have been one day too many. We strolled through the lovely Christchurch Botanic Gardens, and visited Cathedral Junction, where restored heritage trams start their journey.

We also stopped in at the Re:Start Mall, an outdoor shopping area made from shipping containers, which were brought in as a temporary solution for retailers after the earthquake, but became so popular that they have become an internationally famous icon and Christchurch destination spot.

The main sites of Christchurch are easily walkable, and although our accommodations – Pomeroy’s on Kilmore — were on the outskirts of town, we enjoyed walking to and from downtown and seeing what the city had to offer. Pomeroy’s is mainly a pub and restaurant, housed in a beautifully restored historic building. But they also have charming “boutique accommodations” right next door to the pub: five different rooms in a guest house, with breakfast included at a nearby restaurant. Our room, the Canterbury Room, was about $120 a night.