Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Parking in Downtown Salem

If you don't come to downtown Salem very often, you may not know of all the new parking measures that have gone into effect. Salem uses parking attendants most likely trained by runaway Nazi guards that have settled in South America. NOTHING gets past them.

We now have a two hour parking limit for all street parking in Salem. That means if you park for two hours and 1 minute, you can expect to have a ticket. The parking Nazis have somehow figured out a system to keep track of every car in every parking spot in the entire downtown core from 9 am until 6 pm every day. And don't think you can fool them by moving a couple of slots down. Oh No. You must move your car to at least the next block if you would like to continue shopping and visiting in the downtown sector. Also, don't try to trick them by leaving, going to another part of town and then coming back to park in the same block an hour later!! Apparently, they don't yet have tracking devices on cars, so they claim to not be able to know if you have left and come back. I'm pretty sure they know. They just don't care.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wine Country Trip

Well, I'm down in wine country this week, so things are a little slow here on the blog. Let me just tell you that the 8-9 hour drive from Salem to Sonoma County is well worth the trip. Especially when I hear it's raining up there, and I'm spending the day by the pool getting sunburned. :) Or valiantly trying not to get sunburned while still soaking up as much sun as possible to prepare for the long, rainy winter ahead.

The trip down here wasn't bad. It's completely doable in one day. Medford makes a good stopping point for a meal. Or Redding if you have a snack in the car on the way. If you need to get out and stretch there are some great rest stops with decent parklike areas, or you can stop at Lake Shasta if you need a real break and some outdoor time. Another option, which my sister and brother-in-law did on the way down, was to cut across to Hwy 101 at Grants Pass and come down through the redwoods. They said there were some pretty remote areas, but they got to see a lot of great sights.

So, if you have five to seven days, a drive down to wine country area is a great option for a relatively close to home trip. It's obviously not the kind of thing to do in a long weekend, but it's definitely driveable for a weeklong vacation like we're doing. It also helps if you like either wine or golfing as most of the activities around here seem to revolve around one of those two things. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Downtown Salem Coffeeshops

I'm a big fan of the coffee shop idea. I love hanging out, having a coffee, talking to friends, surfing the internet, meeting new people, etc. It's like having a big extended living room.

The following is a listing of coffee shops in the downtown Salem area.

The Beanery - Liberty Street
This is what is referred to by locals as the "new Beanery." This is not because it is the newest one, but because it replaced the "old Beanery" which was one of Salem's original coffee shop hangouts. The original was torn down to make room for the new transit mall. This coffee shop was remodeled in 2006 and has lovely wood floors and nice seating options. They also have great cafe style food options and a really good salad bar.

Pros: Free Wi-Fi, newly remodeled, good desserts, outdoor covered seating, salad bar, good tea selection
Cons: Bad acoustics lead to a noisy atmosphere, no soft seating

The Beanery - Transit Mall
This is the coffee shop that is close to the original location of the "old Beanery." It hasn't inspired the same kind of loyalty as the old grungy coffee shop that originally sat in that spot. It is the transit mall, but has it's own entrance on Court Street.

Pros: Free Wi-Fi, good desserts and food, decent acoustics
Cons: Not much seating, it isn't the "old Beanery"

Blue Pepper
Located on Commercial St in downtown, this coffee shop seems to be the place to meet clients and have business meetings. They even have a private meeting room upstairs. It has lots of seating, including soft couches and chairs. It also boasts Salem's only internet cafe (I believe). When this coffee shop opened a few years ago it also had a frame shop in the back. It still acts as a gallery, but the frame shop has closed or moved. They also have music most weekend nights, which starts at 7 pm and is usually over by 9 pm.

Pros: Free Wi-Fi, large space, good acoustics, lots of soft chairs and couches, wine bar
Cons: Closes early, not open Sundays.

Cafe Noir
A newer coffee shop on Marion Street. It also offers food and wine. It has a nice, quiet atmosphere and serves a lot of the state workers. They have good, toasted sandwiches for lunch. Last I heard they were trying to sell the business, but I'm not sure what has happened with that.

Pros: Free Wi-Fi, good sandwiches, small and quiet, wine bar, comfy chairs at tables
Cons: Off the main downtown drag (this could be a pro for some people), closes early

Coffee House Cafe
This Liberty Street coffee shop was opened when the "old Beanery," by one of the former managers of the Beanery. It is in a great historic building and has a cozy, comfy feel with couches and old tables. It was sold to new owners a few years ago and they have cleaned it up and made it more streamlined looking without losing its cozy feel. They often have music on the weekends and they have outdoor seating. For some reason, although I like this place, it has a strange smell that makes me choose other coffee shops more often.

Pros: Free Wi-Fi, Cozy atmosphere, quiet, open late, outdoor seating, bar seating, good tea selection
Cons: Funny smell, some of the couches and chairs are a little too old and soft

The Governor's Cup
I believe this is Salem's oldest coffee shop. Legend has it that one of our governor's used to get his coffee there every morning. It is located in a beautiful old building on Court Street with brick walls and an upstairs loft. This is the hangout of a lot of Willamette University students. They are open late and you will often see people studying or reading in its (sometimes) quiet atmosphere. They roast their own beans on site, so you can sometimes smell the roasting coffee in the neighborhood. Old wooden tables and some couches make this a pretty comfortable place to hang out, although the couches could use an update. Or a cleaning at least.

Pros: Free Wi-Fi, a couple of comfy couches, delicious sugar-free mocha, open late
Cons: Not many food options, not very many plug ins for computers
Other: Sometimes it is packed to the gills and noisy, usually with Willamette students. This could be a pro or con depending on what you're looking for.

Starbucks - Liberty Plaza
This Starbucks is also known as "the big Starbucks," or "the one with comfy chairs." This is to distinguish it from the one on the other end of the block. This is a traditional Starbucks with a few comfy chairs, but mostly small tables. It is not exactly quiet, usually, but the acoustics aren't as bad as the Beanery on Liberty St. This Starbucks always has a mix of business types, retired types, and Willamette students.

Pros: You know what you're getting even if its mediocre, soft chairs, outside seating
Cons: You pay for Wi-Fi, it is usually cold inside.

Starbucks - Liberty and Court Street Corner
Also known as "the small Starbucks" or "the one without comfy chairs." It is mainly a morning coffee stop for downtown and state workers. The other group that hangs out there regularly are the Harley riders. They usually sit outside, probably so they can watch their bikes. :) This is just your typical small Starbucks with a window bar and a few small tables. It was recently remodeled and is nice and new.

Pros: You know what you're getting even if it's mediocre, outside seating
Cons: You pay for Wi-Fi, very small, very little seating

Well, I think that's it for the downtown core area. Of course there are others around the Salem area, but that will have to be another post.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Summer in the City Festival - Salem, Oregon

Something very good is happening in Salem. People are planning events and other people are coming out of the woodwork to check them out! It's exciting to see people in the streets of downtown Salem.

The festival goes all weekend and has a lot of great music and food to try out. There are three music stages, one whole block of wine tasting, a beer garden, and lots of great food from downtown restaurants. One of my favorite things about the layout of the event is that the beer and wine areas were set up near the stages so that you could enjoy music and drinks at the same time. The stages were not actually inside the drinking areas though, so anyone could get close to the music. Also, the children's area had its own street so the kids could go crazy and not disturb the music listeners.

There are also a lot of businesses taking advantage of the crowds downtown with sidewalk sales so there's lots to see, do, and buy down there this weekend. It takes me back to the days when the sidewalk sale downtown was a highlight of the summer.

Summer In The City was planned and organized by Go Downtown! headed up by Suzie Bicknell and I was very impressed with the organization and the layout of the event. One of the problems with events in the past is that no one would go out of the box and take on the likes of city council, OLCC and other entities to get things moving in a more modern direction. We were stuck in a small town mentality for too long. Thank heavens we are moving into big city mode. Or at least medium city mode. :) Thank you, Suzie and Salem.

I hope this event becomes synonomous with Salem in the summertime. We need fun events to bring people out to explore our own little city. This is a great start.