Port Townsend at a Glance

View of the wharf from uptown

The draping fog hovering over the bay in the morning, the sweet cool rays of sun that slice the afternoon, the briny damp air that clings to your hair (for most curly-heads something to be dreaded, but for most slick-strait gals like myself, the natural volumizing is a major plus) the green outdoors from below tickling your toes to above shading you in a canopy of rustling leaves blown by the wind on the water.  This is living in a coastal town.  This is living in the Pacific Northwest.  This is living in Port Townsend on the peninsula surrounded by Puget Sound; where miles of water, various islands and distant snow-capped mountains join together in a single beheld sight.

The beaches are thick, gritty and dark sand intermingled with pebbles, broken mussel shells and smooth, opaque sea glass ranging in color from bright iridescent turquoise to crystalline quartz white to rich soil black.  The undercut cliffs stand in protest to the wind and waves that flow and pound below, while the seagulls fly still and swoop gracefully unexpected to claim a forgotten morsel of fish or bread.

The town and its surrounding area is not only a historic port village, but also held 3 military forts at the turn of the century – Fort Townsend, Fort Flagler and Fort Worden (the latter of which is where An Officer and A Gentleman was filmed.)  Old, restored quarters and common houses are on display as museums with walking tours and some are even event centers where groups can come for a weekend and where music festivals are held, most recently this was the Port Townsend Jazz Festival and the Blues Music Festival is coming up this weekend.

Old, abandoned barrack built into the back of a cliff looking out over the sound

Coastal, Victorian architecture dominates the scene both uptown and downtown (uptown, situated atop one of the many series of cliffs, quite literally is above downtown being situated on the wharf where the main ferry traffic comes in, where multiple sailing and fishing boats are anchored off-shore and where the new Maritime Center holds free how-to’s on building wooden boats.)  In fact, just south of town is the nation’s oldest (and I believe only remaining) wooden boat school.  The marina has some unique parkers, that’s for sure.

Coffee shops and cafe’s are in abundance, mostly touristy and trendy downtown, with a more posh, undiscovered sophistication on the uptown streets.  Artisan and French pastry bakeries with house-made croissants and canale’s, the twice-weekly farmers market and the quaint yet fully-stocked Aldriche’s Market (Washington state’s oldest market) all hold delights and goodies for the locals and those venturing past the common tourists’ route.  *Sweet Laurette’s has the best almond croissant one could aspire to; a French patisserie in the front and a completely-sold-on-local-and-seasonal-food breakfast, lunch and supper hotspot dining room in the back.*

The speed limit hovers at 20mph in downtown and never rises above 35mph within town borders, making this a lovely place to bike and walk (in fact, I logged over 30 miles on my bike yesterday!)  But once you’ve had your fill of walking amongst the shoppers and diners of the streets, there are plenty of trails and long, rocky beaches to stretch your legs, play with your dogs and collect hoards of sand dollars or wild blackberries.

And the scent of lavender is never far, almost everyone has it growing in the their front garden (and almost everyone has a front garden.)  In fact, I just missed the Lavender Festival by about 2 weeks, held in Sequim (pronounced ‘Squim’) the ‘Lavender Capital of North America.’  It grows rampant and hearty and rich from each plant, tall and majestic purple.  Hand cremes, soap, candles – almost nothing is without a touch of dreamy lavender.

Just south of Port Townsend down WA-19 you drive the Chimacum, a quick spurt of a small town by the looks of the highway but the treasures it holds are vastly greater.  This is the small organic family farm central to put all others (so far) to shame.  No less than a dozen farms are supported by this area with offerings ranging from pear, apple, nectarine and peach orchards, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry and blueberry patches, artichokes, Walla-Walla sweet onions, eggs, sheep, vineyards and wine tastings, cider making, u-picks, varietal veggies, pork and beef, sweet corn, grains like rye, wheat and their love-child triticale, plus local salmon from the runs that take place intermittently throughout the late summer and fall, mostly up the Chimacum Creek.  Most of these farms hold events, host WWOOFers and are involved in a co-op type intern program that offers a wider spread of agricultural knowledge to a few select individuals each year who get to participate on multiple farms, attend workshops and get to know all the participating growers in the area.

I’ve been lucky enough to score a house- and pet-sitting job for a friend, so I’ve been in vacation mode for the past 3 days and have had more time to explore the town, cook up a few storms in the kitchen (more to come on that!) catch up on some of my endless reading and generally laze about like I haven’t done in about 6 months.  Though 3 affectionate though temperamental miniature dogs (chihuahua, poodle and terrier) are doing their best to snoot into this bliss state.  They’re lucky I’m a dog-person.



2 responses to “Port Townsend at a Glance

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