2021-06-09_opinion_elizabeth-groening_Take a ‘Twilight’ tour of Oregon

"The Swan House, where Charlie and Bella lived, is the main attraction in St. Helens. Seeing and taking photos of this iconic home was my favorite part of the day, as I could picture Jacob jumping out of the window and Edward coming over to watch Bella sleep." (Elizabeth Groening/Emerald)

The five romantic fantasy films that make up “The Twilight Saga” shaped who I am today. The books by Stephanie Meyer did as well, of course, but nothing compares to the gloomy, sparkly aesthetic of the movies.

Yes, I know it’s fictional, as the story follows a vampire-human-wolf love triangle. I’m also aware that there are many laughable moments, like when Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) says, “You better hold on tight, spider monkey,” and flies rapidly through the forest with his girl, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), on his back. But the unexpected nature of the franchise is what makes it so timeless. Whether you’re in the mood for something romantic, action-packed, spooky, mysterious, funny or comforting, “The Twilight Saga” has it all.

From going to the midnight premieres with my mom to having a full-day “Twilight” marathon with my ex-boyfriend — who quickly identified as #TeamJacob (Taylor Lautner), which may be why we didn’t work out — these movies hold my favorite memories. To this day, whenever I watch the third installment, “Eclipse,” or listen to the saga’s soundtrack, it’s like a sentimental hug.

Like Bella, I’m a desert baby, so I grew up watching these films in the dry heat of New Mexico, dreaming of the day I’d move to the Pacific Northwest and have a hot 104-year-old vampire fall in love with me. This year, I finally made it up here to get my master’s degree from the University of Oregon, but mostly to live out my “Twilight” dreams. While I’m so excited to move back to New Mexico next week, I’ll forever treasure the time I spent in Oregon. All of the trees and rainy days made my childhood dreams come true, even though I didn’t meet my Edward here.

Since I’m a diehard “Twihard,” I had to go visit all of the Oregon filming locations before I ran out of time. Thankfully, being a fan of the series has helped me make lifelong friends, like my neighbor and UO senior, Grace, who was down to go on the daytrip with me. On one of our first hangouts, we watched “New Moon” and, from that point on, I knew she was a real one. So, last Saturday, Grace and I hit the open road to check out all of the “Twilight” spots that Oregon has to offer and it was — no exaggeration — one of the best days of my life. The tour is so much fun that even if you’re not a “Twihard,” you’ll still enjoy yourself.

Our first stop was the warm and fuzzy Carver Cafe in Damascus, Oregon. In the films, this is where Bella and her father, Charlie Swan (Billy Burke), have deep chats while eating burgers and pies. Grace and I were lucky enough to sit in the corner where the iconic father-daughter duo once sat, and we shared a delicious cheeseburger with ketchup and french fries. Carver Cafe is a must, not only because the food is yummy and reminiscent of the films, but also because the vibes are immaculate. There’s a “Twilight” poster, a fan book to sign and even a souvenir pin for sale.

“I could almost sense Charlie and Bella’s presence sitting at the table in Carver Cafe,” Grace said. “‘Twilight’ is comforting because it’s a reminder of more carefree days, so seeing the locations where it was filmed connected us to that same joyous energy.”

Next, we drove 30 minutes from the cafe to see the Cullen House, a modern glass home located in Portland. Unfortunately, yet totally understandably, the owners of the famous house don’t want to be bothered. There are signs at the bottom of the road that say “beware of dog” and “no trespassing.” Of course, Grace and I respected the signs and did not trespass, yet we were still so excited just to be near such a dreamy home.

Finally, we drove 50 minutes to St. Helens. This spooky, quaint town is home to a number of scenes in “Twilight,” as well as the 1998 Disney classic “Halloweentown.” The Swan House, where Charlie and Bella lived, is the main attraction in St. Helens. Seeing and taking photos of this iconic home was my favorite part of the day, as I could picture Jacob jumping out of the window and Edward coming over to watch Bella sleep. This white 1930s home is an Airbnb that costs $379 a night and books up super quickly. If I ever get married, my husband will book the Swan House for our honeymoon if he knows me at all.

Also in St. Helens, Grace and I parked in the alley where Edward saves Bella from those creepy men and bought matching vampire and wolf necklaces in the same shop where Bella watched her friends try on prom dresses. I even splurged and unashamedly bought a Charlie scented candle. We even saw the restaurant from one of my favorite scenes in the first film: when Edward tells Bella, “I don’t have the strength to stay away from you anymore.” What’s so cool about St. Helens is how the people are so welcoming to “Twilight” fans and were eager to help us find all of the must-see spots.

We finished our “Twilight” day eating nachos at Plymouth Pub, reading aloud the haunted history of St. Helens. We drove home in a state of childhood joy, as the day we’d had felt too good to be true. Even if you’re not a fan of the saga, taking this trip is a fun adventure that allows you to see spots of Oregon that you may otherwise overlook. Plus, we were able to support local family-owned businesses everywhere we went.

What made the “Twilight” trip so meaningful was that it allowed me to reconnect with the films as an adult and brought me closer to a new friend. Although I’m saying goodbye to Oregon so soon, I’m comforted to know that “The Twilight Saga” will always be there for me when I need to escape to the Pacific Northwest.

Opinion Columnist

Elizabeth Groening is an opinion columnist and a journalism graduate student at the University of Oregon. She specializes in lifestyle, covering everything from fashion trends to K-pop. Check out more of her work at elizabethgroening.com.