“I am giddy; expectation whirls me round.
Th’ imaginary relish is so sweet
That it enchants my sense.”
A guest used this quote from Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida to describe his experience in the guest book for A Midsummer’s Dream Bed & Breakfast in Ashland, Oregon. “Your B&B enchanted our senses and exceeded our expectations,” headded in his own words. “We will be back!”
Among theatre aficionados, Ashland is renowned for its celebrated Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the oldest and largest professional regional repertory theatre companies in the U.S., and home to the oldest existing full-scale Elizabethan stage in the Western hemisphere.
But among romantics, Ashland’s equally celebrated as one of the best places in the West to kiss. Especially on the secluded bridges of historic Lithia Park, the city’s 93-acre “crown jewel” famous for its formal rose garden, duck ponds and Japanese garden.
Just ask Chris Williams, a local well versed in all things Ashland romantic. “There are a couple of bridges overlooking the creek in the lower pond where lots of couples get engaged or even married,” she says. “To find it, you have to take a long, leisurely walk under a canopy of trees; it’s not a spot you can just drive to. We were standing on the last bridge looking upstream at the moss covered boulders, holding hands, and listening to the weight of the water singing as it goes down. And that’s the moment and the place that my boyfriend chose to kiss me!”
In the Mood for Love
For a day that ends with the perfect kiss, and perhaps even the perfect marriage proposal, start with a tour of the area wineries. You may be surprised to discover that Southern Oregon’s cool climates produce an intensely flavored variety of wines like Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc, while the warmer regions are noted for their unique reds like Albarino, Marsanne and Viognier. Many of the wineries are independent operations which limit their distribution to their own premises.
Stacy Jarvis, a wine lover from Sacramento, admits the uniqueness of Ashland’s wines impressed her so much she’s returned for the second time. “We don’t get many Oregon winesin California, so when I come to Ashland I really seek out the smaller, more individual wineries like Weisinger’s of Ashland. What excites me is how adventurous the winemaker is with blending grapes. You get a very sophisticated wine like their Barile, a ruby port style of wine made exclusively from Cabernet sauvignon grapes, that easily holds its own with those from Napa and Sonoma.”
At small wineries like Weisinger’s, you’ll sample and even buy wines that aren’t mass distributed. “Ninety-five percent of our wines are sold on site through our wine club,” says founder John Weisinger. “We often showcase featured wine events in our tasting room where you can meet the winemaker, and have him sign the bottle that you buy.”
The best way to savor the grape and discover what few outsiders know is to take one of Ashland’s many wine tours offered throughout the year.
Come to the Cabaret!
If you’ve already popped the question after kissing on a bridge in Lithia Park and picked out the wines for your rehearsal dinner during the Oregon Wine & Farm tour, celebrate your impending nuptials or just the deliciousness of a sexy weekend liaison with dinner and musical theatre at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre (OCT).
No heavy intellectual challenges here; just a chance to dine on unexpectedly great food in an intimate 140 seat space and tap your toes to some catchy tunes performed by semi-professional (non Equity) actors. That said, note that some past performers have indeed transitioned from cabaret to Broadway. Megan Helton, who showcased in OCT’s 2000 production of SUDS, went onto star on Broadway as Glinda in “Wicked;” James Iglehart (Five Guys Named Moe, OCT 1997) appeared in the Broadway production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” as of January 2008. Karl Mansfield (“The Holiday Broadcast of 1943,” OCT October 1988) served as associate musical director for Xanadua & Dracula on Broadway.
Since 1986, audiences have been enjoying the romantic ambiance of OCT. It’s staged in a remodeled 1911 church with stained glass windows, glorious chandelier and other period pieces rescued from a 1927 Pennsylvania movie palace. The Art Deco lamps light the red linen tablecloths seductively. Seating is tiered with excellent sight lines from the orchestra and balcony (upper level seats are less expensive). From the tables, the stage looks huge but intimate.
Though much of OCT’s fare is vintage cabaret, the company does take some risks in developing and staging some 15 original shows since its inception. A kitschy complement to Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival just a block away, OCT’s year long run offers light-hearted entertainment from early February to December 31 with 270 performances of five shows staged six days a week. During the Christmas holidays, it mounts British pantos, playfully termed “fractured fairy tales” such as Ali Babato delight your inner child.
Dining isn’t obligatory; you can buy tickets for the show alone, but the food is so temptingly prepared and modestly priced ($11 – 22 for an entrée with salad), the wines and beers smooth and well-priced that missing what many consider OCT’s main attraction would be a mistake.
And Now To Bed!
Stay at Midsummer’s Night’s Bed & Breakfast and all your lovely needs to pack is a little black dress, perfume and lots of lingerie. The B&B features an extensive line of locally sourced organic toiletries, perfectly sensual accompaniments for its couple-sized showers and spas.
The B&B appointments are truly elegant. For example, the bed in the Juliet room gives new meaning to the term B&B. The $1000 plus king size mattress is so exquisitely sprung that when you whisper “Good night, sweet prince,” you both will really enjoy one!
If You Go
Where To Stay
A Midsummer’s Dream: For more information about the ultimate in elegant lodgings, visit www.amidsummer.com; (877 376-8800) toll free.
The Ashland Springs Hotel: 212 E. Main Street, Ashland, OR 97520; 888-795-4545; www.ashlandspringshotel.com
If you prefer a larger property, check out this Victorian landmark on the National Register for Historic Places. Perfectly positionedwith the Oregon Shakespeare Festival abutting the hotel parking lot and surrounded by the buzz of downtown shops and eateries, the property has just completed a two year redecoration program and is smarter than ever. The downside is that it has just one elevator, so getting up and down at peak times can require patience!
Where to Dine
Lela’s Café, 258 A St., #3, Ashland, OR 97520; (541 482-1702) www.lelascafe.com;
The perfect place for date night, customers love the restaurant’s elegant simplicity, and “the magical things chef Lela does with seafood. Her pastries are unparalleled.” Some brag that they’vedevoured as many as three for dessert, “only to be surpassed by a friend who managed four at one sitting!” Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
What To Do
Oregon Wine & Farm Tour,www.oregonwineandfarmtour.com
Oregon Cabaret Theatre,
, (541-488-2902) box office
Weisinger’s of Ashland, www.weisingers.com, 541-551-WINE (9463).
For more details about Ashland accommodations, dining, and entertainment visit www.ashlandchamber.com (541-482-3486).
Sheila Sobell and Richard N. Every are professional travel writers and photographers. Visit them at www.writersobell.com
@copyright 2008 by Sheila Sobell
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