A WINTER WEEKEND GETAWAY

What to do when you’re in the mood for a change of scene but don’t want to fly or spend hours in the car? We decided a ferry ride and 40-mile drive north up the Kitsap Peninsula was far enough. Our first stop was the tiny company town of Port Gamble located on the very tip of the peninsula. The town was founded in 1853 by Pope and Talbot, the lumber company that owned vast swaths of timber in the area. The mill has long since closed but they still own the town of 900 residents. If you’re looking for life in the slow-lane you can lease one of the Victorian-style houses. It’s always fun to spend some time strolling on the main street, each home and business with a historical marker.



My favorite stop in the “shopping district” is a gorgeous yarn shop called The Artful Ewe (www.TheArtfulEwe.com) run by Heidi Dasher.

Fortified with coffee and hot chocolate after our strenuous 20-mile trip, we headed to our destination: Port Townsend. Now a quiet town filled with Victorian mansions, art galleries, and wooden boats, and retirees, it has a wild history. Home to several native American tribes, it was “discovered” in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver and founded as a city in 1851. By the 1880s it was the second-busiest seaport on the American West Coast and famed for corruption where custom’s officials were bribed to allow the import of untaxed opium. The main street was lined with hotels that were frequently brothels, men were shanghaied, bars were booming. Those that profited lived in grand houses on the bluff overlooking Sodom and Gomorrah below. Everyone was sure that the town would become the terminus for the trans-continental railroad. (It didn’t). In 1898 a large fort was built at the entrance to Puget Sound. The guns were removed in WWI and shipped to Europe although the fort was used for military training until 1953. The complex has been turned into a year-round location for meetings and festivals, walks on the beach, and opportunities to stay in the old officers’ quarters.
After the War, the town fell into irrelevance only to be revived by hippies arriving from California in the 1970s. Now it’s one of Northwesterners’ favorite weekend locations with the old “hotels” converted to real hotels, and many of the Victorian gingerbread mansions on the bluff revitalized as B&Bs.
The brooding city hall:

And numerous churches:

After checking in to our favorite hostelry, The Ravenscroft Inn (www.ravenscroftinn.com) and admiring the deer in their garden, we headed out for serious shopping and eating.

The first stop, as always, were the bookstores. Our two “can’t misses” are Insatiables, old-fashioned with crammed shelves,

and the larger and airy, William James. Both are filled with bargains and treasures. The main streets are lined with other shops filled with non-literary temptations: wine, cooking, clothing, art and craft galleries, restaurants, cafes, and an Art Deco movie theatre.

A shop called Bubble N Squeak (after the British dessert) lured me to browse antiques from the UK personally selected by the proprietor, Dawn Mohrbacher. Since it was early December, there were boxes of Scottish shortbread, plum puddings, and other traditional fare. (A hangover from Downton Abby someone said.) I didn’t resist the pudding and of course Christmas crackers with their prizes and silly hats. One table was loaded with green-glazed salad/dessert plates dated from about 1870 that were just the thing to highlight the pudding. Another shopping bag filled.

We enjoyed lunch at Taps where patrons are served in the old Fort Worden guard house. Fortunately, a fireplace and fully-stocked bar are part of the restaurant – amenities probably not available for earlier occupants.  The razor clam and andouille chowder and Dungeness crab cakes were worth a stay in jail. We returned to the fort area for dinner at Reveille (is where breakfast is served to groups). Sorry to say it was lacking in ambience and very expensive.
The next day began with a short walk to the local farmer’s market. It was still going strong in December with a large selection of locally-grown vegetables and all the other items usually associated with a market; in this case, including the proverbial aging hippies, one of whom was trying to (unsuccessfully) to jump rope in her rubber boots. Nearby is the marvelous Pane d’Amore bakery where we succumbed to brownies and other treats. 

We parked our vegetables (carrots, beets, and rucola) in the car trunk and headed back to town to browse galleries and antique shops (some more formal than others).

 Later, we bought a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and headed to our room to prop up our tired feet in front of the fireplace with a glass and a book – a perfect afternoon.

Dinner was at the always excellent Fountain Café. Fortunately, they had paella on the menu.

My idea of food for the gods.

We woke to a glorious sunrise. It was time to head home with our vegetables, shopping bags, and relaxed attitudes. The ferry soon arrived and we slid past lazy cormorants resting on the Kingston dock pilings, no doubt waiting for a meal to swim by as we tried to decide how soon we’d return to Port Townsend.
  

 

All photos copyright Judith Works

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PORT TOWNSEND

Whenever we want a quick getaway from the hustle of Seattle we hop on the ferry to cross Puget Sound and head up the Kitsap Peninsula to the serenity of Port Townsend, a small city located near the entrance to Admiralty Inlet, the main shipping channel to Seattle and Tacoma.

After coffee in Port Gamble on our latest journey we took a detour before reaching our goal by following a wild turkey in the bicycle lane. It was striding along in a determined manner toward the junction to Marrowstone Island just south of Port Townsend. Nordland, the “capital,” would be a good place for lunch (not turkey sandwiches), but we found the town consists of a general store combined with a post office boasting a sign about a nude beach. If you want rural this is your ideal location.

Not wanting to expose our delicate bodies on a cool day we turned back to the main road and lunch in one of the many good restaurants waiting for us. One of my favorites is Sweet Laurette, a funky cafe/bistro where you can sit outside. It was market day next to the bistro so of course we loaded up with fresh produce for snacks.

Port Townsend is full of interesting shops, bookstores, restaurants and water-oriented activities. Fort Warden State Park is ideal for walking along the beach when the fog is lifting to see the Point Wilson lighthouse first erected in 1878 as a wooden tower and later replaced with its current iconic shape,

or visiting the two small museums devoted to marine environments.

One hidden gem located near the massive Civil War-era parade ground at the fort is the famous Copper Canyon Press where some of the country’s best poetry is published. They have a small bookstore if you are in the mood for shopping after your beach walk.

My other favorite bookstore is Insatiables which is full of weird and wonderful old books. Original editions and offbeat oldies cram the shelves. I could not resist What a Woman of 45 Ought to Know by Mrs. Emma Drake M.D. part of the “Self and Sex Series.” It was published in 1902. I think the good doctor would die of a stroke if she could see us now. Lars Porsena or the Future of Swearing by Robert Graves, 1927, was my other choice before my husband grabbed my wallet to prevent further crazed shopping. The book is part of a series all with Latin names published in England during the period. I wonder what Lysistrata, or Woman’s Future and the Future Woman would have to say. Or Pegasus, or the Problems of Transport. Maybe they will be waiting for me on the next visit.

Besides bookstores, the Victorian-era downtown area (a National Historic Landmark District) has sidewalk entertainment, flower-decked windows, and art – lots of art.

This window shows an entry into a wearable art competition – a winner as far as I was concerned. I especially like the bread wrapper and closures used as decoration around the over skirt and sleeves:

A stroll on the town’s waterfront, a block from the main street shows another side of Port Townsend: that of a marine-oriented city.

And, reminiscent of Boys in the Boat, crew is also popular with the shells stored in a new facility adjacent to the boat building workshop.

By the time our first day was nearing afternoon-tea (or drinks) time, we checked in to my favorite hostelry: Ravenscroft Inn, where I could happily stay and write for weeks on end in their lovely rooms.

We’ll be back soon.

All photos, except the exterior of the Ravenscroft Inn, copyright  Judith Works
Exterior of Ravenscroft Inn, copyright Ravenscroft Inn, used courtesy of innkeeper     

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