A Day In Astoria

Until a week ago we didn’t know much about Astoria, Oregon. However, with our vacation rental being located just over the 4 mile long Astoria–Megler Bridge we have spent a great deal of time these last two weeks getting to know this city of just under 10,000 residents. Situated on the bank of the Columbia River, Astoria is designated as being the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific Coast. Since the early 1800’s the Port of Astoria has been vital in the shipping of goods to and from the area. However, not all of Astoria’s attractions have to do with the fishing or shipping industry and on a recent overcast day we kept ourselves busy by exploring some other sites of interest that Astoria has to offer.

The Astoria Column
There is no better place to get a view of Astoria, Oregon than the Astoria Column. This monument stands 600 feet above sea level and offers a 360 degree view of the surrounding area. The column was constructed in 1926 and is decorated with a hand-painted spiral frieze that depicts historical events of the area. While the 164 step climb to the very top of the column can be a bit dizzying (the staircase is a spiral the entire way up) the view from the top is remarkable. In addition the visitor shop sells small wooden gliders that can be thrown from the top. The Younger Fives really enjoyed launching their gliders from the top and were given several gliders to toss by older visitors to the tower. The boys would have happily spent the entire day going up and down the tower to throw and retrieve gliders.

Flavel House Museum
We made our way down from the Astoria Column and headed to the large Queen Anne style house on the corner of 8th and Duane streets. The beautifully constructed house was owned by Captain George Flavel who was a bar pilot on the Columbia River and a prominent businessman in Astoria. After being very successful in a variety of business ventures over the years he had the house built in 1886 for his wife and their two daughters. The house was eventually left to the city in 1934 and has since been transferred to the Astoria Historical Society who have restored the house and property to reflect the Victorian period and the history of the Flavel family. The history of the family was interesting, but we especially enjoyed the architecture of the house and the variety of trees planted in the garden including a very large Sequoia Tree.

Astoria River Walk and Sea Lion Dock
After being on our best behavior around the antiques in the Flavel House we needed to let off some energy. Thankfully the Astoria River Walk trail offered the ideal location to run around and view all the activity along the Columbia River. The paved path is about 6 miles long and follows the old train tracks. Starting in the spring a passenger trolley makes its way along the route. Unfortunately the trolley wasn’t running during our visit, but we had a wonderful time exploring the River Walk from the Maritime Museum all the way down to the Sea Lion Dock. While there has been a lot of controversy in Astoria about the presence of Sea Lions on their docks we all really enjoyed watching the large group of male sea lions trying to find a dry patch of dock to relax on. Their barks are so loud that we could hear them about a half-mile before we reached the docks. Watching the younger sea lions try and muscle in on the much older and bigger males was a very interesting end to our day in Astoria.

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Pancake (and Pelican) Picnic

Note: We apologize about the recent string of picture posts (and post titles alliterating with the letter “p”— likely one-too-many times viewing Mr. Popper’s Penguins). Our internet connection has been tenuous at best these last few weeks, and we are trying to catch up on work. While this post may not be chock full of words, if you look at things from a different picture perfect perspective, it really has thousands.

A Spirited Valentine’s Day

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Five String and Five Spice are romantics at heart, and for Valentine’s Day we wanted to do something special. Although the thought of a candlelight dinner with the kids asleep in the other room was quite tempting, we decided to take a more, shall we say, adventurous approach to celebrate Cupid’s arrow. What could be more romantic than riding an hour and a half out to an uninhabited island with 3 kids on a 12-person boat ? 

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Love is in the air (and the sea).

For our trip out to the UNESCO-protected Isla Espíritu Santo, we decided to use Marlin Adventures. They offered a full day tour of the island, including snorkeling at the sea lion colony and relaxing on the beach, and we found their price to be one of the best in La Paz. Having spent a day out on the water with them, we could not have been more impressed. The ride itself gave us a chance to get a different view of La Paz than we ever could have gotten from land, and it certainly didn’t hurt for the kids to have a little down time before and after such an exciting day.

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Our two crew members really went above and beyond to meet both our needs and that of the surrounding wildlife. Our guide Arturo was very knowledgeable and passionate about the island’s wildlife and history, and he pointed out many interesting features in both English and Spanish. In addition, our captain maintained a great balance between being respectful of nature and getting us close enough to feel like we were a part of things. On our way back to La Paz a plastic bag flew out of the boat, and our guide and captain circled the water for 5 minutes, scanning for the litter, until they finally found it and brought it back aboard. This commitment to protecting the natural beauty of Isla Espíritu Santo really speaks volumes about the great service that Marlin Adventures provides.

Exploring the Sea of Cortez by boat has definitely been one of the highlights of our time in La Paz. It is fitting that here in Mexico, Valentine’s Day is known as  El Día del Amor y la Amistad (Day of Love and Friendship). We could think of no better way to celebrate our bond with one another and with the larger planet than by dwelling in the stunning natural beauty of Isla Espíritu Santo.