Study Abroad Term in Italy

One week to go until my daughter comes home from the most memorable and worthwhile months of her young life. She’s been studying abroad this term in Florence, Italy. In my mind there was no question that, of course, she needed to study abroad. It is a life changing experience. She took advantage of her central location and traveled almost every weekend throughout Western Europe. Sitting at home on the couch, I was of course incredibly jealous, but mostly happy for her. Very very happy.

Hallstatt Austria
Copenhagen Denmark
Venice Italy
Cinque Terra, Italy
Verona, Italy
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Brussels, Belgium

Lisbon, Portugal

She also was able to visit Vienna, Nice, western Germany, Paris, Lucerne Switzerland, Budapest, and other parts of Italy. So many beautiful photographs, I can’t wait to hear all the stories when she returns home for Christmas. She’s already talking of getting her masters in maybe Switzerland…or maybe Amsterdam.


Living Vicariously in Europe

This fall I have been living vicariously through my daughter as she studies abroad this term. She is a junior in college and had a chance to study in Florence, Italy.  Taking full advantage of her location, she is traveling almost every weekend, seeing as much as she can while there.  I could not be happier for her, as I am a firm believer that travel is good for the soul, and good for society.  The more we interact with our fellow inhabitants of this world, the better we all will be.

She has shared some photos with me and everything just looks so beautiful.  As an architecture student, she is in the right place!


Tourist Tuesday: Skamania Lodge

An offer to take my daughter out for a farewell dinner before she heads off to college morphed into a day trip with lunch at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington and stops at two parks on the way home.  She loves to travel, and a simple dinner at Red Robin or Gustav’s just wasn’t on her radar.

She and I had lunch at Skamania Lodge a month ago or so and she wanted to return with Dad and brother in tow.  When she and I went, we practically had the place to ourselves mid-week.  But on 8/18/18 (which turns out is a very popular wedding date) and being the weekend, the Lodge was filled with a large wedding party, as well as summer weekend guests.  Our timing wasn’t good, as the main dining room closes between 2-4, so we ate in the more lively sports bar area.  The Lodge itself has a mini Timberline Lodge atmosphere with large stone fireplace and lots of wood, terrific views of the Columbia River Gorge, has a golf course and zip lines, and plenty of outdoor seating (although the waitress warned us the bees were being aggressive if you ate outside, so most everyone opted to eat indoors.)  The food was pretty standard brew house fare.  I had pizza which was good.  My son had pulled pork sliders which he said were fine. My husband had a veggie burger which wasn’t his favorite he’s ever had, and my daughter had a vegetarian pasta dish which she enjoyed.  I will say we were a bit disappointed there weren’t more walking paths to wander upon (I like to wander in gardens.) It’s more of a lodge for sitting and enjoying the view.  They do have activities for hotel guests available, but as we were just day trippers, there were less options.  Because I wasn’t really planning on a blog post about the lodge, I didn’t take any photos and had to borrow the two images from Google.

the lobby/lounge

The drive from Vancouver is a scenic one along SR 14 on the North side of the Columbia River. Unusual this year were the incredible number of tent caterpillar webs hanging in the trees along the highway. In all my life, I’ve never seen such an infestation!  It looked like every other tree had been TP’d by miscreant teenagers.

Tent caterpillars everywhere!

On the way home, we stopped at Beacon Rock State Park where the kids skipped rocks, and we sat in the shade at a picnic table playing a game of Uno.  We really have epic Uno card games.  They can go on for hours.  We combined two decks so we don’t have to shuffle the discard pile so many times.

Beacon Rock
Across the Columbia you can see the burn scars from last year’s wildfire

Next stop was St. Cloud park, which is a small park easy to miss as you drive past at 50 mph, which is why it was so quiet there.  It must be an old homestead, as the park is made up of an abandoned apple and pear orchard.  The state has added gravel walking paths in a circle around the perimeter.  There is an uneven path you can walk down to the River.  During August, the River is pretty low, so you are able to walk out further along the rocks.  It’s not a relaxing beach atmosphere, but we had the place to ourselves. I was happy to find not a single piece of trash on the ground either. The kids had a ball having a contest to see who could skip a rock the furthest, while mom and dad found flat rocks for them.  My two kids are fairly competitive in that way.

at St Cloud Park
St Cloud Park – an old orchard
at St Cloud Park
skipping rock competition

All in all, an enjoyable afternoon trip much better than a meal at Red Robin.

Day Trip: A Visit to Mount Angel Abbey

Mount Angel Abbey is located in Mount Angel, Oregon in the beautiful Willamette Valley.  My daughter is studying architecture and was on an assignment following her summer internship, “you must visit the library at Mount Angel Abbey!”  The library was designed by a world-renown Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto.  The architect is well known for his modern style. The library was completed in 1970 and itself is a well known theological library.

Visiting the Abbey, one must respect that it is a working monastery and seminary, and not a public park.  Visitors should be respectful. 

The Abbey sits atop a hill with outstanding views on 3 sides.  They have benches set in perfect spots for viewing.  DSCF5194I could have sat on one of those benches for hours, but we continued on to tour the library.  Voices are kept at low levels, as this is a working library, and you will find monks doing research while there.  The library has some Aalto furniture pieces on display, and copies of Aalto’s famous glass vase design, as well as posters available for purchase.  The library’s architecture is modern in a circular, curving format with good natural lighting, and consistent style using vertical light wood pieces – even covering the panel holding the emergency fire hose.  The design takes advantage of the library’s position on the edge of the hill and has a stair-step 3 level design.


Adjoining the library is a room of rare books which fascinated even my two teenagers and is worth a look. DSCF5185

After leaving the library we headed for the church to take a peek.  It was closed due to construction but we could still peek inside at its unusual design.  It is perhaps an homage to the Monastery’s roots based in Switzerland.DSCF5199

Around the corner and below the Monastery rooms, is a basement entrance with a small sign “museum” that I’m sure is missed by many.  But don’t miss it!  I have no doubt my kids were “ugh…a church museum?” but as I overheard a monk explain, it is like the Abbey’s attic.  And what an attic.  The last thing I expected to see as I walked in the door was a still life taxidermy scene of a cougar pouncing on a black-tailed deer. Then a full size moose.  And a goat.  And a polar bear. And an eagle. And a bison.  And so much more.  Tiny preserved birds in tubes.  Insects large and small.  Other cases contained a wild variety of items loosely displayed by region – the Pacific Islands, European, and the Holy Land ranging from 1,000 BC to a can of Coleman’s Mustard in the vintage case.DSCF5201

It is a small, free museum and well worth the visit!

Our last stop was a lovely little coffee and gift shop called “The Press” with is definitely worth a visit.DSCF5209



Daytrip: Oregon Coast and Devil’s Punchbowl

Last weekend my family and I made another day trip.  This time we aimed for the Devil’s Punchbowl.  It is a circular outcrop at the base of a cliff where the center has eroded.  At minus-tide, you can walk into the center of it.  At high tide, it fills about half full.  During storms it can fill all the way to the top.  The viewpoint directly overhead was rather windy, but what a view! My husband and teenagers ventured down inside while I stayed up top to take photos.


My kids looking at the sea anenomes inside the punchbowl.


There are many viewpoints at which you can stop and take photos along the Oregon Coast hwy 101.  We stopped at a viewpoint just north of Devil’s Punchbowl and had a spectacular view overlooking Otter Rock and Devil’s Punchbowl.

My favorite view overlooking Otter Rock
Overlooking Agate Beach with many brave surfers


A bit further north we stopped at another viewpoint with great views.  A group of college aged boys were joking as they headed into the Lookout Souvenir shop “I must buy a refrigerator magnet!”

DSCF5023DSCF5008bridge oregon coast

As we headed north, we stopped for a frisbee-break at Tierra del Mar beach.  We tried stopping for lunch at Pelican Brew Pub in Pacific City, but couldn’t find parking.  We don’t usually go to the coast on the weekends, but wowza! Large crowds there.  There was extra excitement as a group of good samaritans helped lift a Subaru stuck in the sand as the tide was coming in.  They literally had to lift it out of the water and to dry land.  There are just a few beaches that allow cars on them.  (I’m not a fan of cars on beaches.) From Tierra del Mar we headed north all the way to Cannon Beach where we headed back to the heat and traffic of the Portland Metropolitan area.

Tierra Del Mar
Neakhani mountain
Neakhani Mountain
Tide’s coming in…
beach exercise


Tourist on Tuesday

A trip to Oysterville

Last weekend I made a day trip to Oysterville.  What a great name.  I originally took my kids there several years ago on a day trip just because it was a fun name.  What I didn’t realize was that I would fall in love with the tiny place called Oysterville, Washington.

You can’t even call it a town.  It is more like one street.  One historic street.  It is on the National List of Historic Places.  Founded in 1854 (which is pretty old for the West Coast) it once was the county seat.  Located near the very northern tip of the Long Beach peninsula, it is only about 15 miles from the city of Long Beach, Washington, but worlds away in time.  Long Beach is a lively, summer carnival atmosphere.  Oysterville is peaceful. Serene.  There is nothing really to do there except walk the mown grass paths, admire the Willapa Bay, study the wildflowers, and dream of retiring there.  The old school house is now used as a well-kept community building.  There is only one shop in town, who sells their own artisan foods, as well as local seafood and a glass of wine or a bottle of beer.  You can sit out on their deck and look out over the bay. You can enter the beautiful old church if there isn’t a wedding in progress.  In this world of needing never-ending entertainment, many would find this place boring.  I find it beautiful.

The beautiful church
The church door