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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Trip to Ashland... And the World's Greatest Store

Lithia Park in the fall...
If there's one place that we know we'll have fun, it's in Ashland - a small, but very civilized, town in Southern Oregon.  I've blogged about it before, but want to focus on a few key things this time...

Ashland is famous for their Shakespearean Festival, and I am sure rightly so.  However, in the interest of full disclosure, I haven't been to a Shakespeare play for at least thirty years.  And, since I am just 38, this would suggest that I am not a huge fan of the Bard.  For us, Ashland has countless other charms.

First, there's the lovely Lithia Park.  This is what a park should be...  Beautifully landscaped, clean, bordering a rocky stream with delightful bridges that connect the park to the street before it.  Set at the base of a rather steep hill, Lithia Park is the perfect spot for a stroll, a picnic or a swing on the swingset.  It's the same place that I told you about earlier this year - sweet violets in the spring - but is now alive with vibrant fall colors.

Ashland's Main Street, which is block after block of charming stores and restaurants.  English pubs, Italian trattorias, ice cream shoppes, French bistros, Indian restaurants...  Ashland has them all and each one seems to be more inviting than the next.  Our favorite restaurant, Macaroni's, serves the most delicious, warm, butter-smothered bread, and Puck's is the place for an early morning doughnut run.  There are so many welcoming shops along, and just off, Siskiyou Boulevard...  you can shop for books, antiques, body care items, jewelry, fabric, Christmas decorations, stationary, and gifts galore.  Bloomsbury Books, one of what seems to be a dying breed of local bookstores that, despite their seemingly limited stock, has every book you could possibly want, and an enormous cat to admire as you climb the stairs.  Not only do they have fabulous books (a particularly good children's section), but the store is cozy and the staff knows books!

Here it is...  the world's greatest
shop!  Click HERE
(which comes from the Prize website)
to visit the Prize website!
Really, all of the above is just a prelude to the real reason for this posting...  Prize!  And it really is!  Prize is, perhaps, the best shop ever.  Walking under the cream and brown striped awning and through the always open door, you are made instantly happier.  A bright, welcoming space that looks like nothing more than a party waiting to happen, Prize is the place for beautiful and unique merchandise.  Just what is this merchandise you ask?  The list is enormous...  First, there is a table absolutely covered with the most delicious candy.  These are the candies you dreamed of as a child (and perhaps as an adult!) black and red licorice Scottie dogs, marshmallows of all colors and flavors, salted caramels, the world's BEST Gummi bears (really!), gum in every possible flavor, Jordan almonds...  No doubt I am leaving out so many other fabulous options.  This is the spot my children immediately flock to every time we visit.  And, that's another point...  Some shop owners would cower at the idea of a family with eight children entering their pristine store.  Not Jennifer, the owner of Prize...  Rather than fear the appearance of the Gariepy family, she's called us "the official Prize family".  Who wouldn't like that?

You'll also find amazing vintage books.  We once bought a book about the famed Beverly Hills Hotel, along with a guide and a notepad somehow acquired from the hotel.  We've also found many books on the likes of Tiffany and Co. (along with beautiful Tiffany blue boxes), Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, the Kennedy's, Parisian bakeries and hotels, couture designers and marvelous interiors.  There's dazzling retro Cartier costume jewelry, Chanel sunglasses, the thinnest, clearest glassware, Marvis toothpaste, old, French casino tiles, imaginative maps and globes, the softest blankets, handmade cards for every occasion, ribbon from Louis Vuitton and Lanvin, striped wax paper straws, French butter dishes, boldly colored leather passport holders, French seascapes...  I really don't know where to stop.  You see, Prize doesn't seem to specialize in specifics, unless that specific is "wonderful".  You never know what you'll find, but you'll probably want to buy it all.  They are also trendsetters...  Surely you've seen the endless stream of "Keep Calm and Carry On" merchandise...  We bought our perfectly framed print at Prize, long before anyone else had them. 

Of course, perfection comes at a price, but you will be delighted with the prices at Prize.  Although we are budget conscious to an extreme at times, Prize is the ideal place to splurge.  There hasn't been one purchase that we've regretted, in fact, we usually leave wishing we'd bought more!  It's just that kind of place.

Finally, one of the unfortunate things with many stores like Prize - haughty, unwelcoming staff who seem to feel that they are doing you a favor by allowing you to shop with them...  You will NOT find this at Prize.  What you will find are exceptionally friendly people who are delighted to help you and will remember you on your next visit.  They'll also wrap each of your purchases, no matter how few or how small, in tissue paper with their charming Prize seals.  And, quite apart from the fun of acquisition, just a leisurely browse around the shop will refresh and inspire you.  We always leave thinking of fun things to make, new ideas for home decorating and a determination to live our life with just a little more style.

If you ever have the chance, visit Ashland.  In our opinion, it's the very best place in Oregon...  In fact, I think we're waiting for our high schoolers to dash off to college so we can move there!  And, make a stop (or two) at Prize on your visit.  You will thank us if you do!

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