Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Pilgrimage of Sorts

The last time I was in Port Townsend was eight years ago, though it doesn’t seem like so much time has passed -- a tribute to how deeply the feel of this place has stayed with me.  It was an impromptu day-trip with my cousin that turned into a magical eight hours of exploring this small, seaside town.  And it’s had me wanting to go back ever since.

For our final vacation of the year, Erik and I decided to head up to Puget Sound (Washington).  We waited until after school was back in session, in hopes that things might be a little less busy, but still leaving us a good chance for nice late-summer weather (this was back at the end of September!).  While our strategy for avoiding the crowds worked, we were met with much rain out on the Quimper Peninsula.  I’m a rain girl, so this didn’t bother me much, though it might have had we continued with our original plan to camp at a nearby state park.  While there is certainly something glorious about being by the sea when the sun is shining and those sweet salty breezes are kissing at your face, I do like the atmospheric backdrop of moody skies against Port Townsend's turn-of-the-century brick canneries and wooden boats.  I was glad we stayed in a hotel, though, and could watch the rain from the crazy-tall twelve-foot Victorian windows.

As Erik would tell you, I tend to get a little gushy about Port Townsend, which is perhaps because this place is about as close as I will get to Maine without actually going to Maine.  Two of my favorite books as a girl--Sarah Plain and Tall and The Worry Week--had elements of Maine in them, setting the stage for lifelong romanticism with charming, historic seaside towns.  Standing on the bluff in Port Townsend with views of big Queen Anne houses, the waters of Admiralty Inlet beyond, and the sounds of crying gulls and buoy bells in the backdrop takes me right back to the girlhood pleasures of getting lost in those favorite books.

Port Townsend is the type of place I would like to stay for a week, wandering by foot, taking pictures, sketching, sitting in parks, and do very little else.  Although this was a short, one-night trip for us, I did work in my journal a little, mostly by lamplight back at the hotel.

Despite it being a tiny town, there are actually a good number of things to do, especially things that don’t seem like you’d only be doing them with other tourists.  For instance, the town has The Rose Theatre--a wonderful restored art house cinema.  If Erik and I had planned to stay another day, I should have liked to have seen Cairo Time, which was playing there.  There are a handful of cozy coffee shops and some appealing restaurants.  And then there is one of my all-time favorite book stores--William James Books--full of unusual, well-chosen used books and very good prices.  The interior is cozy with the warm colors of wooden shelves, book spines, and leather chairs.  
The other shops in PT seem typical to me of a small Pacific Northwest coastal town--some shops that serve locals like a bike shop, outdoors store, and a knitting shop; but a good number of them seem mainly for the tourists: souvenir-type stores, high-priced antique shops, and several art/craft galleries that specialized in Native American art/craft or paintings of local landscapes.  The entrepreneur in me definitely noticed that the town could greatly benefit from some creative, well-styled shops that specialize in handmade and vintage wares!
It’s easy to get a  change of scenery in this town.  Kayaks are available for rent and you can paddle around in the gentle waters of the bay.  The historic downtown strip is located on Water Street, below a tall bluff.  With several staircases to the top, there is an uptown shopping district atop the bluff and the main historic residential area, not to mention some great views of Port Townsend Bay.  One of my all-time favorite parks--Chetzemoka Park--sits on a bluff overlooking this bay.  A perfect place for a picnic.

The Rothschild House Museum is also a lovely destination, if you enjoy touring old homes.  And there are so many wonderful buildings and building elements (door knobs, hinges, little signs) that are just crying out to be sketched or photographed. 

Ok, enough gushing.  You get the idea.
 Hope all is well with you, Blog Friends.  I often wish I could be here more often, but I am also enjoying my relaxed blogging pace these days, which allows me to devote more time to reading, art-making, etc.  My nature is to try to do it all, but I'm growing to accept that when most of my daytime hours are spent working, there is only so much I can sanely squeeze into the evenings and  weekends.  Perhaps the theme of my 30s will be "Welcoming Imperfection."  I'd like that.  :-)