It was an unremarkable April afternoon in 2005. I was sitting at my desk, beavering away, when my work phone began to buzz. On pick up, I was treated to the chirpy tones of a good friend of mine, asking me if I was near a radio. She announced that she had entered a radio competition, and felt confident of winning.
Unfortunately, I did not have access to a radio. However, I asked what the competition was about, and what she had to do to enter. She said the competition was to do with answering questions about a film, and the prize was a holiday.
Hmmm, I thought, very interesting, as the day just happens to be April 1st. ‘Oh’, says she, ‘I never thought of that’. In the next breath she said ‘No, I think it is genuine. Anyway, I will know closer to 5pm, at which time they said the results would be announced’. ‘Well, good for you’, I said, ‘and the best of luck. Let me know, as soon as you get further word.’
For those who love horror movies, the film: The Ring 2, which premiered in Portugal in March 2005, would no doubt be familiar. The story revolves around a female journalist, played by actor (Naomi Watts), who battles to prevent an evil Samara from taking possession of her son’s soul, actor (David Dorfman). The film was a sequel to the 2002 film: The Ring, which in turn was a remake of the 1998 Japanese film Ring. The Ring 2 was made in Astoria, Oregon and Los Angeles, California.
The radio competition question, which my friend had answered, and as it turned out answered correctly, had been: In what country is Seattle? She texted the answer and thought to herself, as one tends to: well, that’s the end of that. Little did she realise however, that it was actually going to be the beginning of something quite remarkable.
The Radio Station responded to say that her name was one, among five other correctly answer texts, which had been chosen at random, as the first stage of the competition. They said that around five pm, one name would be chosen randomly from the five, as the competition winner, and that she should keep listening for the announcement, on her radio.
Well, I was just preparing to leave the office to head home, when my phone buzzed again. On pick up, this animated and joyous voice filled my hearing, with the exciting announcement that she had just won the competition. She said that the prize was a complementary invitation, to the Irish premier screening, of The Ring 2. Congratulations and well done, I said. After a fractional silence my question was: But did you not mention a holiday as the prize? Her reply, in roguish voice, was instant: Oh yea, says she, they also threw in a one week, all expenses paid holiday, for two, to Astoria. With characteristic innate great generosity she next asked: would you like to come along? Holy moley I thought; is the Pope a Catholic? Would I what? She got an instant answer in the affirmative. Some of The Ring 2 had been made in Astoria, and apparently the holiday was to include a tour of sites which had formed part, of the film set. The holiday to Astoria, was scheduled to take place in September 2005.
It turned out that radio competitions, similar to the one which my friend had just won, had been fielded simultaneously, in eight or nine European countries, and that two competition winners, from each of those countries, would be participating in the holiday to Astoria. No shortage of company then, on the future holiday adventure.
That was it then. Done and dusted; a super holiday to Astoria, right? Well actually no. There was more, and as it turned out, much much more.
We were told, that during the Astoria holiday, there would be a second competition. This competition was to be based on the film, The Ring 2. The prize for the second competition would be associated with the original film, The Ring. So, what was left for my friend to do, except watch the film, over and over, until the screen on her television melted? In my friend’s case you might say that’s what happened. She admits to having watching the film, at least twenty times.
So, in the fall of 2005, it was Dublin-London-Seattle. It had been some time since I had last been to America, twenty-four years, to be precise. In Florida, in 1981, I had been impressed by the typically large and flamboyant American cars and so had an expectation of something similar, in Seattle. I was amazed to find traffic surroundings there incredibly familiar, with much smaller cars of makes and models one might see any day, on any of the roads of Europe. The flights and transfers had been comfortable and we were now beginning to settle into our hotel. Our hotel was lovely and lived up to its touted reputation insofar as the beds were concerned. “We have exceptional beds” was their tag line. A point of real luxury, for me anyway, was the heated tiled floor in the en suite bathroom. It was so luxurious, that one could easily be tempted to stay there and sleep standing up.
After a hearty breakfast on day two, it was time to settle into the serious business of giving Astoria, a coat of looking over. Enter stage left Tour Guide: Bob. While our Bob was a bit of a character, he did seem to know his stuff and, as he guided us, kept us well regaled with snippets of local history and useful details on the various sites associated with the making of The Ring 2. Bob also took us to see the former family home of John Jacob Astor after which the city was named i.e. Astoria and of course whose name graced the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel chain. John Jacob Astor was however, one of the passengers on the ill-fated Titanic, and lost his life in that tragedy. After saying adieu to Bob, we proceeded as our own tour guides, with a very pleasant visit to the waterfront, and a browse among the shops, during which we found one particular quaint, oldie worldie, country-style shop, to be of particular note.
Day three ushered in the second competition. Luckily for us it had been organised to take place in our hotel. Those who have seen the film The Ring, will be aware of a particularly sinister cabin in the woods, in which certain horrors took place. Well, I kid you not; part of the prize in this second completion was that the winners get to spend “a night in a cabin in the woods”. Crikey, I though. Don’t quite fancy that prospect. Anyway, chin up and let’s get on with it. So, all the previous completion winners were gathered together in small conference room. Participants and partners were sitting together on one long couch facing towards a giant television screen. The rules were explained i.e. the film The Ring would be projected for a period, and stopped at some point. Participants would be asked to describe what happened next, in the truncated scene. The first participant with their hand up, would get to give the first answer, and if correct, would win the competition. A hushed silence fell over the group, as a section of the film was started. It was allowed run for about five or ten minutes and then BANG, it was stopped. So, the question was asked: what happens next? Well, I had never before seen my friend’s hand rise so fast; it hit the ceiling at the speed of light , so to speak. She was asked to describe exactly what happens next which, to the best of her ability, she did.
OH DEAR! OH DEAR! We were heading to that scary cabin in the woods. Yes, my friend’s investment in twenty viewings of that film back home, had handsomely paid off. But wait for it. A night in the so-called scary cabin was but a teaser. The real prize was a two-week, all expenses paid holiday for two, in Tahiti. Yes you read that correctly, that glorious South Sea island Tahiti. Why Tahiti? Well, apparently the character Samara, from the film The Ring, was supposed to have come from Tahiti. Were we glad that she had chosen to be born there? Were we what? The Tahiti holiday was scheduled to take place, in May 2006.
So, we were advised to collect our overnight gear, and head down to the lobby, where a limo was waiting outside, to take us to the cabin. We stepped into the limo, still unsure of what lay before us, well me anyway. It turned out, according to the Limo driver, that we were being taken to a cabin on the coast, named Turks Lodge.
After a pleasant scenic drive, we finally reached our destination and oh boy, what a lodge. After winding our way uphill, along a short forest road, we emerged into a clearing and before us, set upon a high elevation, side by side, were two massive lodges. After climbing a long flight of timber steps to the front door of the appointed lodge, our driver opened the entrance door, and handed us the keys. Just before his departure, we asked him if he was aware if there were any kitchen supplies, in the lodge. He didn’t know, but said he would wait, while we checked the kitchen, and would be happy to take us back the road to a local store, if we needed anything. As it happened we did, and back we went, by limo, to shop for breakfast supplies. Imagine, heading for grocery shopping in a limo. It was positively surreal. We got what we needed and he dropped us back to the lodge. He told us, he would be back the following day around noon, to take us back to our hotel.
What a lodge it was. Built totally from pine it had that lovely timber smell about its interior. Its rooms were laid out at varying levels. Its master bedroom had a Jacuzzi and wet room shower area, within a few paces of a huge and comfortable bed. It had an extensive veranda out back, with a view overlooking the forest and the nearby Pacific Ocean. A note on the fridge indicated that Brown Bears might stop by, and warned that we should not attempt to feed them. As it happened, no bears visited. Our short stay there was both comfortable, and intensely visually stimulating. On cue, the following day, our trusty limo driver returned, and ferried us back to our hotel.
We thoroughly enjoyed our remaining couple of days in Astoria, and spent much of our time, on foot, exploring as much as we could. I recall on the Saturday, we awoke to some noise in the street in front of our hotel. On peeking out the front window of our room, we were astonished to see the entire street, and the extensive car park opposite, covered in what looked like country market stalls. Needless to say, we hurried through breakfast and lost ourselves, for a number of hours, among the myriad of market stalls. It was amazing. A stall city had sprung up overnight. The marketeers were lovely friendly people, and their range of craft goods available was as extensive, as it was impressive.
Of course all holidays have an end point, and so we ultimately had to bid farewell to Astoria, and join the rest of our competition group, in winging our way back to our respective homelands.
However, for us the big consolation was, that in a few short months, we would be off again, on another travel adventure, but this time plying our way, many more thousands of miles down the globe, to a tiny island paradise, in the southern ocean.
So, if by chance, while reading this part of the story, you realise that you also, were part of that competition winners group, which travelled to Astoria in 2005, then it would be really nice to hear from you. Why not leave a comment below?
To be continued. See you in Tahiti ……..
Did you find this post interesting/entertaining? If so please click the Like button at the bottom of the page. Thank you.
Contact me on Twitter: @DisparatePost