|“Le Banana Slug”:
Spring break in the Pacific Northwest…
The long awaited Spring Break came and went.
This year, it was [almost] des vacances au balcon (a stay-cation.)
We spent the first weekend with good friends in the scenic San Juan islands, North of Seattle. Our destination was a favorite cruising spot: Roche Harbor resort and marina. We all drove to Anacortes, WA where we basked in the sun, played on the beach and waited for the early afternoon ferry to San Juan Island. It was a perfect day, after weeks of grey skies and rain.
|Two Fedoras and a little monkey…|
There were a lot of cameras on this trip. Kids and grown-ups shot away relentlessly, pointing at the breathtaking scenery; at each other; at the sky… If someone did not have a camera in hand, it was because they were holding the dog’s leash, and we took turns doing that.
|Watch out: Paparazzi have descended upon the S. J. Islands!|
Cameras were not the only pieces of equipment in our bags. We were a very well connected group and had a ritual before each meal: Behold the “phone stack!” (only one person and the dog were phone-less!)
I am sure you can guess the rules of the game! Most of us demonstrated sheer willpower and resisted the temptation to reach for the little devils, who kept taunting us with sounds and buzzes.
Once on the island, we moved into our rental home, “Saltwater Taffy,” one of the new properties managed by Roche Harbor resort and marina. If you have never been to Roche, I highly recommend it. Do yourselves a favor and visit off season, as it tends to become a bit of a zoo during the summer months when thousands of vacationers and boaters descend upon the place. We all loved our cute and comfortable “home,” where we cooked delicious meals after full days of exploring and hiking.
|Young Kowe: “Hey, I want to eat at the table, too!”|
There is a lot to do in the San Juan islands if you are interested in nature, sunsets and wildlife. We have enjoyed our visits to “the Northwest’s playground” since we have owned our first boat, 15 years ago. We were happy to share one of our favorite destinations with our buddies.
|Lime Kiln State Park: We missed a pod of Orcas by 48 hours! Rats!|
… and don’t think for a minute that Roche Harbor is just “another quaint place,” un endroit pittoresque, as the French say. To tell you the truth, it is pretty darn cute, and a must-see for many visitors. Heck, John Wayne (an avid boater) was a regular for a while, as was President Theodore Roosevelt. Can you blame them? Check out the Hotel de Haro, listed on the National Register of Historical Places, the immaculate grounds, or the Mausoleum Mr Mc. Millin (the original owner of the old company town,) built for his family in the forest nearby.
History, adventure, a sculpture park, and more: On San Juan Island, the show is everywhere in the wilderness around you. We saw deer grazing outside our house. On the last evening, a red fox came to our door and helped us finish our gourmet halibut dinner. And what about this guy, spotted in a field on the way to Friday Harbor, the local town?
It is always difficult to leave such a place, but we made the best of it, and back home, celebrated the end of our mini-vacation with a bonfire and smores…
Spring break was only beginning. Some of us had to go back to work. The Happy Fews still had a few days to relax… The weather was cool, and in typical Seattle [spring] fashion, changed every five minutes, it seemed. We kept busy, at home, or out on the town. Two field trips stood out: First, the Seattle Underground Tour, a local oddity.
It is almost impossible to describe in a few words the story behind the rise of the “Emerald City.” Located in the old Pioneer Square neighborhood (once in a bad state of disrepair until the Underground Tour made it shine again,) the 90-minute humorous tour delivers a funny and thrilling ride into the “guts” of a buried city – the original Seattle. Built on soggy tide flats; plagued with muddy streets and potholes so deep dogs and children often drowned at high tide; a testing ground for the original indoor Water Closet – aka “the crapper;” home of the least efficient sewage system this side of the Mississippi river (toilets turning into geysers several times a day when the tide came in, anyone?) – the city of Seattle knows it was lucky to get the 1889 “Great Fire.” It destroyed 25 blocks but provided an unexpected opportunity for a fresh start – and more inspired urban planning. It took a few more mishaps (and miscalculations,) but a new city rose up, built on top of the old one. That folks, is what we call creative urban planning!
|This door was once at street level…
The street is above our heads now.
|Humidity and musty smells: the “old” Seattle…|
|Look, I see Seattleites above!|
|“The geyser – crapper,”
a true Seattle original
I could not help but compare this story with the extensive Paris remodel undertaken by Napoleon III and his “wingman,” civic planner Baron Haussmann, between 1853 and 1870. Paris would not be the elegant, modern city the world admires today without them. Meanwhile, in the great Pacific Northwest, hardworking Arthur Denny and generous, free-wheeling “Doc” Maynard, (Seattle’s official founders,) probably wished they had kidnapped Haussmann, their contemporary, or at least hired him as a consultant!
Another visit downtown included a tour of the exclusive Gauguin exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. Junior and I took the trip, cameras in hand, and had a wonderful time, first having lunch at the elegant Taste Restaurant inside the building; then touring the exhibit and later snapping away at other displays. I must confess I am neither a Gauguin connaisseur or fan, and I was so grateful to the excellent “Educator Resources” section of the S.A.M. website. Junior and I had a very interesting conversation about Monsieur Gauguin‘s rather depressing life on the drive over (Junior never knew I had “crammed” just before we left the house.)
Some highlights of the eclectic S.A.M. selection:
|“What’s Scabbers* doing here?!”
(* Harry Potter reference, y’all!)
|What is it with Seattle and toilets?|
And Spring Break week went on… Boys riding their bicycle on nearby trails; shooting and editing mini documentaries; snapping pictures. Meanwhile, their moms fought a losing battle against millions of weeds sprouting up all over the yards, taking the occasional wine tasting break at one of the local wineries…
|If you look closely, you can see Junior’s “assistant,”
Felix the cat, on the railing…
|The Northwest gardener’s best friend…|
All in all, it was a great [almost] stay-cation and we were grateful for the few friends who had not abandoned the [Seattle] ship in search of some sun in exotic locales. We could not have done it without you!
Back to reality now. Junior and his schoolmates are camping for a few days and attending an environmental program on the Olympic Peninsula – lucky buggers!
I am back at school too, and winding down my first digital photography class. This experience has kicked my French derrière, and I love it! I have struggled with photo composition, exposure, and shutter speed, but learning a lot in the process. Some of this student’s recent homework assignments:
(do you know what this is?)
I realize I have neglected the blog lately, and I apologize. Don’t count me out, though. I will be around, as I promised a few weeks ago. Thank you for stopping by today. You know I always appreciate your visits and comments.
Here’s to a warm, sunny, fun-packed, and fulfilling spring, wherever you may be.
American Frog photography and
French Girl in Seattle.
Please do not use without permission.