comments: 64


There's something about Astoria I can't put my finger on, some feeling I have when I'm there that I can't describe. I'd only been there once before yesterday, and I'd had the feeling that first time, too. In some ways it reminds me of Rock Island, Illinois (but then everyone always thinks that the city they are visiting is "just like" that other city that they know — why do we do that?). Andy and I both went to college in Rock Island and we agreed that it does share some similarities with Astoria. To me, they both feel like small towns in the shells of bigger cities — working, vaguely Victorian-ish cities on water, cities taller and bigger than the towns themselves really are, anymore. If that makes sense. Astoria only has about 10,000 people now. But about a hundred years ago it was the second largest city in Oregon, and it feels like that, like it had been bigger (relative to the world as it was then known) before.

Well, like I said, it's hard for me to describe. I never could describe my feeling about Rock Island, either, but it seems like the same elusive thing. I was always left, looking up the tiers of the hazy blue hills, thinking of Miss Havisham's wedding cake, trying to put my finger on it. I wrote a short story about the Quad Cities once, and it wasn't a very good short story, because I couldn't get it right then, either. I wish I could because it's interesting and just the kind of thing I like to think about and over-analyze and wax thoughtfully over. But I can't find a way to say it, about these places. They're very provocative. They sort of exhale history on you. It's an atmosphere thing. It's not that it's around you, really — you're in it.

Astoria1 We had such a beautiful day yesterday — thank you Kathleen, and Shelly and Andy (who came with me from Portland). I wish I hadn't totally pooped out before we could stop by Wende's, but by 2 p.m. I was actually beat. This is Shelly and Andy on the swing-set at Shively Park. It doesn't look like it was 92 degrees there, does it? That was a record high in Astoria yesterday.

Astoria7 The sun was so bright! Not a cloud in the sky. This trompe-l'oeil was from the rooftop garden at the Hotel Elliott. They have several different seating areas with those little fire bowls up there. You can just picture what it's like at sunset, with a drink in your hand, looking out at the water. Lovely.

Astoria9 I didn't get a lot of pictures, I have to say. Taking photos at noon on an incredibly sunny day — you feel too hot to lift the camera to your face. The harsh shadows make it hard to see. I was worried that everyone was going to throttle me for dragging them around in the sun. But the blue sky was quite amazing against the blue water and the blue hills.

Astoria5 There are amazing blues in Astoria. So many layers of blue, and aqua, and turquoise, and green, and blue-y greens. My favorite colors, of course. This teal photographs like a dream, and looks so good with so many other colors.

Astoria8 Kathleen's sweet house is blue, and she loves blue too, I think.

Astoria10 Her porch is so pretty. Isn't it funny how the straight lines and the curvy scrolls echo the hotel and the coffee shop? I didn't notice that until now.

Astoria4Kathleen's style is feminine, colorful, Asian-tinged. Elegant. Peaceful. It has a lovely, delicately textured feel.

Astoria3 It was so great to get to the coast. I need to get out of town more, in general. I hereby make my official plea to anyone who Decides These Things to reinstate a permanent passenger-train route between Astoria and Portland. A train to the beach? Please! Don't you think, in some ways, that if there were a train there, Astoria could be the second-biggest city again? Or maybe no one wants that? Like I said, I can't figure it out. But I want to go back again and try. On a rainy day. I'm so intrigued by you, Astoria. Who are you, girl? Who were you then?



Wow! What amazing colors and great photos - makes me feel like I am there (which I wish I was!).

My heart feels like water and air when I look at these pictures.

angeljoy says: July 11, 2007 at 10:24 AM

Blue is so cool. Don't you think? It just cools me to think of it. Thanks. That was refreshing for this wrung out southern girl.

That is deep-sigh-beautiful. You know you got off easy with 92 degrees though, don't you? It was 102 in town! Blah.


Hi Alicia! I'm so glad to hear that you "get" Astoria, even if it is impossible to put "it" into words. We spent the fourth of July in Astoria watching the fireworks from bed (yes, we are old!). The reflections on the river were so spectacular... like getting twice the show for free! All fireworks should be shot off over water. I hereby decree it! Won't someone please obey me?

nita from red tin heart says: July 11, 2007 at 10:57 AM

Alicia,I love the way you write. You put so much feeling into it. I love your blog and your creativity. Nita

oh, I love love love Astoria. My profile photo on my blog is one of me looking out at the Astoria bridge. My parents are from Portland, so summer vacations were spent visiting relatives in the area, and always included a trip to the coast. Trying to relive some childhood memories, I took my husband to Seaside last summer, and we also drove through many of the coastal towns. Juneau (where I live) is a coastal town, but so not the same as the Oregon Coast.

Thanks for the gorgeous photos!

suzanne b. says: July 11, 2007 at 11:06 AM

I have that feeling about Krakow, Poland, where I lived a couple years. My theory on that feeling is that I couldn't (and can't) put my finger on it or describe it because it is something inside me, not the city itself. And the city just brings out that feeling.

Of course, CS Lewis says these feelings are longings for heaven, where you have a desire you can't meet here on earth, but something you see will kind of shadow the real (heavenly) fulfillment of that desire.

I like his idea.

But the more I try to not describe the feeling, the dumber I sound. And I really want you to like me, so I'm going to stop talking right now.

I live in Oklahoma, and, hands down, Oregon is my #1 place in the US to vacation. I LOVE Oregon. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. But you just can't mention Astoria without saying something tiny about "The Goonies". I'm a nerd, yes, a child born in the 70's, and my favorite movie as an adult is still "The Goonies" so, of course, I had to drag my mom on a little impromptu tour of the movie sites in Astoria. I think the scenery and those lovely grey, misty days were really a big chunk of what I love most about the Goonies, and I was so thrilled to actually go to Astoria (and Cannon Beach) to experience the beauty for myself. Thanks for sharing this post on Astoria -- I loved reading it!

Those pictures are just breath taking. I love coastal "smallish" towns. There is something magical about them, in the air, in the plants, the people you encounter as you walk down the streets. I have never been able to put my finger on it either, but I know exactly what you are talking about.

The blues are my favorite as well (with pink thrown in for good measure... and maybe some red here and there).

and who is Valerie above me in these comments? Us poor girls stuck here in Oklahoma!

I really enjoyed looking at all these pictures. Beautiful decor, and my mom used to have a chair just like the one in the porch picture you posted, she actually had a whole set like that. Neato! :]

They are all beautiful, but the picture with the painted wall on the rooftop garden is a real stunner. I was briefly in Astoria once, but don't feel like I really "got it." Then again, I was with my in-laws.

I would love to see Oregon some pretty & fresh. Wasn't Kindergarten Cop filmed in Astoria? I don't know why I remember that, but I must've been intrigued by the scenery (it certainly wasn't Arnold). thanks for sharing - I never get out.

Oh.... I grew up in Eugene, and I have the weirdest and nicest memories from a family vacation along the coast when I was...I don't know, maybe 11 or so? I associate Astoria with cheese curds at the Tillamook factory and the Maritime Museum in the city. Is that still there? I had a real live version of one of my recurring dreams there: The museum seemed to go on forever but in a really awesome way, with rooms and stairs and things spinning off from each other so you never knew quite how much more there was. Maybe I'm making that up, but it was a very happy afternoon and it was nice to be reminded of it today!

I know exactly what you mean about that feeling of Astoria - we were there just this Spring, and it really is uncanny - it's like the human presence of the past there left a tangible residue on the city, and it hasn't or can't be washed off, and so when you go, your view and feeling of everything is tinged by that residue that's coating everything. It's one of those places where you feel like you want to just be completely silent and listen really really hard, because you feel like you could hear whispers of everything that has happened there. I have a similar feeling about the Hollywood district in Portland, that it must have been a really bustling, modern part of town at one point, but now feels a little run down and is just another part of town. I think in some way that we don't really understand, our presence leaves an imprint on the places we go and things we come in contact with, it changes them somehow, it leaves a mark - I think this might be part of the reason why my wife and I tend to feel that inanimate objects have personalities - for whatever reason, objects and places sometimes seem to just radiate with that sense of personality, of life, more in a sense of spirit than of physicality. I mean, we even say "If walls could only talk", or whatever - as if there was a spirit in the walls, a living, ethereal thing, that would be able to talk if only they were equipped with vocal chords. It's such a compelling feeling...

Beautiful, soothing pictures, thank you for sharing. I liked all the blues as well.

This post was just lovely. The pictures were fantastic & I love the descriptions of Astoria & Rock Island. I've spent a lot of my daydream time on the little ghost towns in Wyoming, where I grew up. Once bustling frontier communities built around the train stations or mines that provided the industry, now just a few weathered buildings, dusty tumbleweeds, and jackrabbits. You can almost FEEL the stories in places like this.

i was going to say something about the feeling you get in astori too but my husband (dave) is so much better with words than i am and explained it so well. :)

So i will just say that that coffee shop is a little piece of heaven along the already wonderful coastline. i am a coffee snob and junkie and it's always the low point of our trips to the coast to find a decent coffee. but there it's wonderful and they use stumptown which is just the best. :)

thanks for the lovely pictures. it makes me oh so excited for our trip in a few weeks. i long for the sounds of waves.

Beautiful photos. The blue is so soothing. I've only been to Astoria one time - pitiful for someone who's lived in OR for almost 40 years!. Thanks for the reminder of how lovely it is. It does seem to harbor ghosts of a more elegant but swarthy past.

your photos are wonderful, as usual. i love the colors, especially the shot from the Hotel Elliot.

just in case you don't receive daily candy travel, they have a special edition today about paris -

Oooh, I must visit Astoria! I know that feeling and LOVE it. It really gets a girl's imagination going. I get that feeling in Port Townsend and Port Gamble, WA. Esp Port Gamble, oh, I love that place. And it has a fabulous old cemetery as well...Such personable towns from a different time.

Heeeeey yooou guyyyyys!!

we were just in astoria two weeks ago or was is last week? summer days all melt together for me:)...i love that little town & i love that coffee house! (is it called astoria coffee or something?) i love all of the globes on the ledge by the ceiling...there's also a cute little quilt shop around the corner...i agree about astoria there's just something about me it almost seems fictional...old & warm & sweet & cozy (coincidence?)...i love it & loved your pictures, too:)

ps also how can you not love a town where 'goonies' & 'kindergarten cop' were filmed? i mean really...

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at