astoria, oregon

After a good night’s sleep at Ashore Hotel, a charming, modern motel right by the water, we venture outside and, seeing the downpour of rain, immediately decide to cancel our plans to bike along the boardwalk. Instead, we cozy up in Ashore’s reception area, where we purchase some scones and enjoy the free fair trade tea and local coffee.

We’re all pretty confident we’ve exhausted all there is to do in Seaside (given the rainy weather, at least), and drive North to the town of
Astoria. This town was named after the American investor John Jacob Astor, whose American Fur Company founded Astoria in 1811. There are a few museums to choose from in Astoria, including the Heritage Museum, the Film Museum and the Flavel House Museum. We opt for the latter, because as my mom puts it “it’s always fascinating to visit other people’s homes and see how they lived”. It’s also vaguely voyeuristic, but I guess they’re dead so that somehow makes it OK.

The Flavel House was built in 1885 in the Queen Anne architectural style, and while most homes in Astoria were built in the Queen Anne style in the past, today the Flavel House is the best preserved one. George Flavel was a bar pilot in the Columbia River, as well as a millionaire who made his fortune in a variety of other ventures across multiple industries. Flavel was also one of the most influential residents of Astoria in his time.

The house was completed in 1885, and Flavel lived there for only seven years before his death. In 1934, George and Mary's great-granddaughter gave the property to the city, and during WWII, the house was used as an office by the Public Health Department, the Red Cross, and the local Welfare Commission. In 1951, after talks of tearing the house down to make a parking lot, locals fought to preserve the Flavel house, which was then made into a museum.

What’s quite impressive is the fact the house is equipped with indoor plumbing, central heating and gaslights, which was pretty revolutionary for its time. The first two floors of the house are completely open to visitors, so unlike in other museums where there are those annoying red velvet cords, in the Flavel House you are free to walk about and get close to the furnishings. This is perhaps made possible because many of the furnishings are not original. The ground floor features the public rooms, including the music room, the library and the kitchen. On the second floor you’ll find five bedrooms, each with its own distinct personality. I highly recommend you visit the Flavel House Museum - it’s perfect for a rainy day!

Another must-see is the Astoria Column, located at the top of the town, on Coxcomb Hill. Built in 1926, the column was modeled after the Trajan Column in Rome, and as such, features a painted spiral frieze that would stretch to over 500 feet if it were unraveled. This mural depicts 14 important events in the early days of Oregon, including (you guessed it) the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The column is 38 meters tall, and you have to climb 164 steps to get to the observation deck. I have vertigo and I was pretty fine on the way up and on the way down, but I was trying very hard not to think about the solidity of the staircase. Even if you decide not to climb to the top of the column, you essentially get the same view Young’s Bay, the Coast Range and the Columbia River from the bottom.

We then leave Astoria by taking the Astoria-Megler Bridge, also known as the “Bridge to Nowhere”. Astoria-Megler is 6.6km long, and is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America, whatever that means.

For lunch, we stop at a local Mexican place on the road, where mom orders her usual huevos rancheros, I try a pork torta and the other two fellows get burritos. Olympe fights to keep her personal side order of guacamole to herself.

After a few more hours of driving, we arrive in Sequim and get some rest at the hotel before heading out for dinner. Everything closes early in Sequim, so we find a hip-looking spot in Port Angeles, the second nearest town. Next Door Gastropub is clearly the place to be on a Tuesday night in Port Angeles, though I will say the bar emptied out by 9pm (maybe these folks were just pre-ing - who knows). Mom strongly recommends the citrus crab salad ($22), which she found very tasty. The place also offers a variety of burgers and sandwiches, as well as a BYO mac ‘n’ cheese (which Olympe didn’t pass out on, obviously).

Back in our room, we are able to borrow Ocean’s 12 from the hotel DVD collection, and end the day with a little bit of Casey Affleck. Mustache Casey Affleck, but Casey Affleck no less.