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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EARLY SPRING IN THE SKAGIT VALLEY: DAFFODILS AND QUILTS

After what seemed like 40 days of rain the sun came out, warm and spring-like. It was the signal to take a drive an hour north of home to the small town of La Conner, located where the Skagit Valley meets saltwater in the form of the Swinomish Channel. The town was founded in 1867 and many of the original buildings remain. But instead of housing banks, churches, and butchers, they are clothing stores, art galleries, antique shops and restaurants. The town was also formerly the home of a large flock of wild turkeys but we didn’t see any this time. Word has it that they were sent to a rest home after causing a ruckus for too many years but disappointing the many birdwatchers who come to the area.

The nearby farmland is famous for bulb production along with other crops. The waterfront is lined with working craft to bring salmon, crab, mussels and oysters to the table.

Completing the picturesque scene is a red bridge which would not look out of place in Japan. It leads to the Swinomish Indian Reservation.

The annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival was beginning without the cooperation of the tulips, but the enormous fields of daffodils were a delight.

Old farmhouses, some of which have been turned into B&Bs, stood in the fields framed by the snowy Cascade Mountains and the hills of the San Juan Islands. In a week or so, the whole valley will be a blaze of color as the tulips reach their peak.

Our mission was specific: to visit the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum (www.laconnerquilts.org) to donate a quilt made in the 1930s. The timing was fortuitous – the Winter exhibit of crazy quilts had been put away the day before and a new exhibit of quilts from the ’30s had just been arranged for Spring.

The museum is housed in the three-story Gaches Mansion dating to 1891, recently restored. After the curator looked at the quilt she showed us around and told us about the quilts displayed on walls along with an exhibit of suzanis donated by a local collector.

The curator decided to use our quilt as a table decoration for the three-month long Spring exhibit, so now it has joined many others made by farm women gathered together around a quilting frame to gossip and stitch fabric scraps from feed and flour sacks during the dark days of the Depression.

When it was lunch time, we chose the Nell Thorn Restaurant and Pub to sit by the water watching sailboats head out for an afternoon’s pleasure and an eagle circling lazily overhead. Across the channel, are three structures in the shape of  Swinomish Indian hats used to welcome the paddlers of more than a hundred canoes from coastal tribes who gather every July to rest, share songs and tales of their journey across the sometimes treacherous waters.

In keeping with the theme of “eat local,” we dined on wonderful tiny oysters and local draft beer. Deciding to feed our minds after our stomachs were satisfied, we headed for the Museum of Northwest Art (www.museumofnwart.org) to see works by Mark Tobey, Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson. A special showing of John Cole’s work took up much of the ground floor. Some of his work, particularly the figures of women, reminded us of Gauguin although the landscape paintings are on Northwest themes.

Later, we passed flocks of laggard Snow Geese who winter by the hundreds of thousands in the area. It was time for them to go north to their nesting grounds and for us to go south to our home, grateful a prized member of the family has joined its sister quilts to be enjoyed by other admirers.

photos by author.

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