Right in the heart of the United States’ Pacific Northwest, Oregon has it all: mountains and a gorgeous Pacific Ocean coastline, coupled with sophistication and culture in Portland and charming, relaxed town life in the colorful and friendly towns that dot the coast and interior. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts and foodies alike, Oregon never ceases to impress with its arts scene, nature or microbrewery industry. Get off the highway and explore the small town charm entirely unique to this part of the country.
The Quiet Roar!
I just left a private tour of the historic 1100-seat Holly Theater in Medford and I couldn’t help to think how this area has grown and what an amazing combination of live theater, wineries and outdoor activities we offer. No wonder we were just voted one of the “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations in the World” * by Wine Enthusiast Magazine and Jacksonville was written up in Smithsonian Magazine as one of the “Top Small Towns to Visit.” * Southern Oregon has a deafening roar from the sounds of growth. It’s an energy that wasn’t here before: our Valley is alive with growth! Local businesses are growing and national businesses are moving in. Listen to the roar, do you hear it? From new subdivisions to new vineyards, from new retailers to new restaurants, are we the newest up-and-coming place to live? It’s amazing if you add it all up and look at everything going on in our small valley!
Retailers, Restaurants & Commerce
I watch in amazement at the influx of new businesses and additional locations of existing businesses as they multiply in our Valley. What do they know? What growth studies are they privy to? HomeGoods, In & Out, Five Guys, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Field & Stream, Forever 21, a new Starbucks by Rogue Regional Medical Center…and Costco is getting ready to build a larger store in Central Point. Recently, we saw the reopening of the train between California and Oregon through the Siskiyou tunnel, and Timber Products break ground on a new plant next to the current plant in Medford. Local businesses are expanding with BeerWorks coming to Jacksonville, Immortal Spirits opening in Medford, the Point Restaurant opening a second location in Medford, Rogue Federal doubling the size of their headquarters, Garrison’s Furniture opening in Phoenix, and our own WillowCreek Jacksonville doubling its size in Jacksonville.
Tourism & Wine
Jim Belushi is bringing a great deal of notoriety to our valley as well as raising money for the Holly Theater and the rebuilding of Butte Creek Mill, but our wine industry is our true new ambassador. It’s amazing to me to think that Wine Enthusiast Magazine voted Southern Oregon as one of the “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations in the World.” Yes, top 10, in the “World!” For those who live outside of Southern Oregon, we were once known for our Shakespeare Festival, Britt Festival, Crater Lake and the Rogue River; but now, wine steals the show. On the backroads of the Rogue Valley and in the Applegate Valley, you can see stretch limos, Jubilee Trolley, Bravo Excursions and Wine Hopper bringing tourists and locals to over 40 wineries. The wine scene is expanding everyday with DANCIN planting new vineyards along South Stage, 2Hawk building a 14,000 square foot Winery and Del Rio adding 175 acres of grapes. We have seen Naumes, known for growing pears, plant rows and rows of grapes extending from the far side of Carpenter Hill to Pioneer Road and we have seen North Applegate Road get planted in grapes from the township of Applegate past Kubuli Road and around the corner. One of the newest kids on the block, Belle Fiore Winery, is something straight out of Napa with its multi-story, ornate production facility of 20,000 square feet, beautiful Italian-style construction, lots of inside and outside seating and a ballroom. The surprise is that it’s packed on the weekends and after work. Rogue Valley International Airport is experiencing record traffic and the City of Medford has allocated funds for a feasibility study to build a convention center. “Build it and they will come.”
Homes & More Homes
Never is the roar so evident as the sights and sounds coming from Caterpillar tractors preparing new subdivisions in hopes of keeping up with the demand. We have seen the median price of a home in Jackson County increase by 55.6% over the last five years. Buyers are flocking back to the market in higher numbers since 2005. Driven by years of recession, low interest rates and a growing population in both numbers and age, we are currently experiencing a lack of housing resulting in a boom in construction. Neighborhoods are now buzzing with big trucks, contractors, and homes popping-up seemingly overnight. In Ashland, Verde Village, near the dog park, is moving forward on a development of 53 homes. In Medford, they have started Stewart Meadows subdivision between Stewart and Garfield and continuing from the golf course down to Hwy 99. What was once the Cedar Links golf course is now being developed after years of delay and the east side of North Phoenix Road is dotted with new homes rising from the ground. Even Jacksonville is about to see the old dump acreage developed into 2.0+ acre lots, on First Street off of South Oregon Street is Timber Ridge Estates with 25 lots and on Third Street is Andrews Place with 15 lots. Add to all of this the “Green Rush” where irrigated farm land is being gobbled up by newly licensed Cannabis growers and the Quiet Roar is not so quiet.
So the next time you drive by the Holly Theater, just smile and think about how it’s a small part of the excitement coming to our valley and just the beginning of the Quiet Roar.
Christmas in France
After a ten hour red-eye flight from Salt Lake City, we arrived in Paris in the middle of the day. Getting through customs and walking through a packed airport during the Christmas holidays can be overwhelming, but a packed airport where few speak English is even more overwhelming. You learn quickly that Sortie means exit and you look for that international symbol for luggage which is a drawing of a bag. The lack of sleep and the huge crowds gave way to the welcome sight of our daughter jumping up and down and waving to get our attention outside the luggage gate. Suddenly, the feeling of being helpless gave way to the joy of knowing we were now in very good hands.
After being dropped off, we settled into a beautiful flat belonging to a friend who had just moved to the South of France. Located on a hillside in the Montmartre district of Paris, the flat had a view of the iconic Eiffel tower; but, even great views couldn’t keep us from the best nap ever. We awoke to a loud knock on the door and were met by the young driver of a convertible, red, 1950’s Citroen 2CV, lovingly called a sardine can in the U.S. because the convertible top opens like one. After packing us into the back seat, he covered us with a blanket and handed us a champagne bottle and two glasses. We drove off down the cobblestone street to tour Paris, the city of lights, by night. What a beautiful city, and dressed up everywhere in blue and white Christmas lights!
As different as Paris is, with some structures over 2000 years old, cobblestone streets, and chateaus that housed kings, we couldn’t help but notice how similar our world has become. We listened to Adele’s “Hello” playing on the radio, drove past McDonalds & Starbucks on the corners, and saw crowds lining up for the opening of the new Star Wars movie. What was different was the focus on food, very important in Paris and in all of France. Outside, cafés line the streets with their chairs facing forward for maximum people watching. Apartments are small so the Parisians meet their friends at cafés and have a leisurely coffee or meal and, of course, some famous and quite inexpensive French wine.
Parisians speak quietly and almost whisper as they visit with one another. Many of us think Parisians are rude but in reality they think we and the English are rude as we are so loud and they find our boisterous voices offensive in cafés. After all, these cafés are their living rooms where they bring their children and dogs with them. Nevertheless, food is a focus and we found ourselves living in Paris and gathering our food as they do. The sun didn’t rise until 8:45 am when we would walk down the cobblestone street to the bakery and buy our daily Baggett, which by French law is always “One Euro” (at the moment, about one U.S. dollar). We would then walk to the butcher and get our meat, then to the cheese store to buy our cheese, then finally to the small market to buy produce and dry goods.
Our flat was actually for sale with a price tag of 1.5 million euros. At first that seems so expensive, compared to Southern Oregon, but this was a huge, two-story flat with a street level entry, off a cute cobblestone alley, in the most expensive district in Paris. In San Francisco the price of this flat would be well over $3 or $4 million dollars. One day, in our quest for food,
we ran into a Century 21 office and then an ERA real estate office; we couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to sell real estate in Paris, and were surprised to see many small flats for sale for $200,000…hmm, should we have a flat in Paris?
After more than a week in Paris, we left in a rented Citroen headed for the South of France to meet and stay with our daughter’s French in-laws and to be their guest for Christmas dinner. We drove all night and arrived at their farm that had been in their family for over 400 years. One of the original homes on the property had been built to house the horses, cows and farm animals under the house; the heat from the animals helped keep the house warm in the winters. Our daughter’s in-laws were so happy to meet us and such gracious hosts. Conversations were limited as we spoke no French and they spoke no English, but we smiled a lot and we could tell we had a common bond. On Christmas day we woke to find the dining/living room set up to hold 25 people for Christmas dinner and to the news that we would be joined by all of the relatives at noon.
Gayle and I stood next to each other and greeted the family one at time with a kiss on each cheek. We would first speak one of the few words we knew in French, “bonjour”, and they would respond with one or two words they knew in English, “Hello”, then we would smile and laugh. At one point I looked over and there was a line of young children lining up in front of Gayle. I whispered to her “you are supposed to lean down and kiss them on each cheek so they can go play”. Thankfully, I was seated with a relative who taught English. She was happy to practice and I was happy to have an interpreter. The meal was four hours long and it was similar to a Thanksgiving feast in the U.S. We started with raw oysters, prawns with the heads on, fresh bread and, my favorite, homemade Foie Gras. Then the main course arrived of two ducks complete with heads, and lots and lots of side dishes. We then were served a salad and many types of goat cheese and finally, three dessert rolls each with a different filling. The fresh bread and the local wine were replenished as fast as they could be consumed.
We left our gracious hosts and set off in our Citroen with our daughter and son-in law to explore the French country side. Along the way we saw dozens of towns some dating back to the 5th century, built on the tops of hillsides and mountaintops, fortified to protect against marauders. All of them were topped by a castle (Chateau) and complete with an ornate Catholic church. Our favorite was the walled city of Carcassonne where we stayed in a Best Western inside the castle walls. We found all of these cities, chateaus and castles fascinating and so old with so much history.
The New Year came and we were back in Southern Oregon. The distinctive sound of French women walking in high heels on cobblestone streets, the smell of the bakeries, the taste of duck and the vision of cafés lining the streets are still with us! We are glad to have had the experience but then again glad to be home in our small town, sipping our local wines and viewing our snowcapped mountains. Now where should we plan to go next?
Graham & Gayle