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Monday, 30 May 2011

A Weekend in Newport

Due to a rare bit of benevolent scheduling I recently had a weekend free, so Beth and I decided to treat ourselves to a weekend by the sea. We booked two nights at the Grand Victorian B&B, in the Victoria Suite which covers the whole of the top floor.

The building is not Victorian at all, built only 10 years ago bit in a Victorian style. Thus it has all the modern comforts in terms of heating and hot water, while being decorated with old photographs, paintings and artifacts. It was comfy, and we were well looked after by the owner Terry who cooked us a huge breakfast each day and supplied muffins, cookies and ice cream if we got peckish.

We arrived in bright sunshine, and after unpacking took a stroll along Coast Street through the heart of the Nye Beach district of Newport. The red Mazda 2 in the foreground caught my eye (I drive a Mazda 3), but  you can see the top of our B&B in the distance. On the opposite side of the road is a purpose built row of shops with apartments above - whether rented or owner-occupied we did not ascertain. The population of Newport is only around 10,000, doubling in the busy tourist season. Nye Beach is one of four delinated areas of Newport, three north of the Yaquina Bay Bridge and one to the south.

After buying a new windcheater at one of the stores we strolled down to the beach. There are several parking areas with beach access; this one we visited several times during the weekend. We dropped in at a secondhand book shop where I bought some old detective novels, and an art gallery where I didn't buy a driftwood walking stick.

A lighthouse is visible on the end of the promontary to the North. It can be visited, though we've both seen lighthouses before so didn't bother.

Some carved sculptures are dotted around Nye Beach, adding a nice touch of interest. I'm not quite sure what this one is supposed to represent, but I liked it.

The beach in May is still not a great draw, being chilly and windy. We had a couple of brief strolls on the beach, but just seeing the sea and smelling the ozone was enough. The sun went in soon after we arrived and never reappeared during our stay.

Near our B&B we found a curiously dilapidated block of houses, this one in the worst repair but all of them clearly abandoned and in need of attention. Nearby new houses are being built with sea and beach views, and presumably available for a pretty penny, but these ones, whence you'd need to walk 10 yards to get a sea view, are falling down. Hmmm.

Same block of houses from Coast Street. I asked the B&B owner Terry about these, and he told me that they're on commercial land, and are in the process of being bulldozed and replaced, but like everywhere else the global economic crash has slowed progress. Hopefully something attractive and profitable will fill this block eventually.

After a rest in our room we went for a night time stroll on the beach, and a meal at the Chowder Bowl. We loooked in at a couple of different restaurants before settlign on this, but they were too noisy and crowded for our taste. The Chowder Bowl was half full, the staff welcoming but not stifling, the prices reasonable and the menu sufficient without being overwhelming. We ate here again the next night.

The near-constant wind had carved the packed layers of sand into sculptures and patterns. I liked this oil-on-water effect and have it as my current desktop.

Next day we dropped in on the Saturday Farmers Market. My need for cheeses, bread, jewellery and tie-dye clothing having been fulfilled, I diverted to Sandcastle Toys Toys Toys Toys, A splendid old-fashioned toyshop that we had visited during our Summer 2009 pre-move trip. I bought a few small Playmobil pieces to encourage trade.

On to the Bay area, a distinctive mix of shops, restaurants and tourist attractions on the North side of Yaquina Bay, interspersed with fishing industry infrastructure. Several times during the day we stopped to watch shrimp being dribbled out of a hopper into an open truck, and eventually spilling over onto the tarmac as nobody seemed to be supervising the process.

This picture shows the notches formed by generations of crablines, looking west towards the bridge. The feel of this bay area, and indeed Nye Beach as a whole, reminded me of holidays on the Norfolk Coast.

Lobster pots piled next to the road.

Sealions bask on the docks, and a seal is swimming around, denied access to the dock by the barking sealions. These three gentlemen had a group of admirers all day long.

We didn't bother with the Ocean Life displays, Wax Works or Ripley's Believe it or Not on this trip but did stock up on Taffy. Salt Water taffy is to Newport what sticks of rock are to the English coast, and there are two taffy shops on the Boulevard, both of which we visited. This one has the taffy machine in the window to show that the taffy is made fresh on site.

I bought a pound of taffy in each shop, Beth's haul being much more modest.

In the evening we strolled right to the north end of Coast Street, and noted the sad state of several other buildings in Nye Beach. Many American houses are wood framed, wood panelled and cheaply built, so they presumably fall apart quicker when left empty. The quick and cheap building system used at least means that when an owner can be bothered, repairs are also quick and cheap, with many repairs being somethign the owner could tackle themselves if so inclined.

My small bowl of chowder at the Chowder Bowl. We weren't especially hungry on Saturday evening, so stuck to small helpings.

A last look out from our room's balcony before we headed home. Nye Beach is a curious mixture of neglect and obvious money, with a couple of big hotels dominating the view to the South, fantastic homes with great views on every rise or clifftop, but patches of neglect and disarray tucked away in odd corners. The US tourist industry must be hurting in the current economic climate, and the NW Pacific climate will eat away at buildings quickly if given a toehold.

We chose to live in Eugene so we would be within easy reach of the coast at a reasonable cost in time and money. Newport is slightly further than Florence in straight miles but a much easier drive, and a slightly bigger more vibrant community. They offer different entertainments, and I'm sure we'll revisit both many times over the coming years.


  1. Looks well worth a visit. I really enjoyed some of our weekend jaunts in the "old" days, to relatively easily accessible B&Bs for a night or two. Just to see something different.

  2. I found some information about that sculpture! It's called "Some However" and was carved by Juergen Eckstein from Germany.

  3. Fun weekend, it looks like! Nice and relaxing. What on earth is a "windcheater"???