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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sentimental Journey Completed

So this is where we are now? A lot of folks are still looking for us via the old link and I hope they find us. Were I inclined to conspiracy theories, I’d feel like the paper doesn’t care about our Neighborhood. If they aren’t “accidentally” losing our posts and spending a couple of weeks getting it more or less straightened out, they purposely change the posting site just when I was getting the hang of the old one.

And speaking of old…I’ve gotten older through this last change (and the never ending sniping of the campaign is making me feel even older). Previously on “In Your Neighborhood” I’d planned a sentimental journey to Whidbey Island with my dearest friend Nikki. We made that trip blessed by good weather, good food, and best of all, good company set against the backdrop of quaint Coupeville and Mother Nature’s light show in the form of a lunar eclipse.

If you want a weekend (or better yet mid-week) get-away, Whidbey Island may fit the bill. Coming from Gig Harbor and my friend from Mt. Angel, Oregon, we decided to take the recently reinstituted car ferry from Port Townsend to Coupeville. With my husband Dave in tow, we met in Poulsbo and launched our mini holiday on February 18th over lunch at The Magnolia Café. I had their crab cakes which were wonderful.

From Poulsbo we caravanned to Port Townsend where we got in line for the little Pierce County ferry, cabbaged from the Anderson Island run that is making it possible for people to use their cars to get to Whidbey Island from that departure point. It saved us a long boring drive up I-5 to the Mukilteo to Clinton ferry, especially since our reservations were in Coupeville.

It was last fall that Nikki and I had been talking about Whidbey and made the decision to spend our birthdays there. We have shared our birthdays many times over the 50+ years of our acquaintance. We’ve had slumber parties, a trip to the Captain Puget Show, and a magician intended for someone else’s party. We’ve gone to Manresa Castle in Port Townsend and the Amethyst Inn in Victoria, BC and the Quinault Lodge. Although the Anchorage Inn in Coupeville isn’t as grand as the big old Amethyst Inn it was lovely and Dave and Dianne Binder, the owner/proprietors made us feel like we’d come home.

The Victorian style Bed & Breakfast was really built in 1987—yes, that nineteen-eighty-seven—as a B&B and faithfully reproduces exactly what you expect in a Victorian Inn. It is not opulent, but you are treated like royalty from the comfy uniqueness of each room to the beautifully set table each morning with napkins folded into fans and animals that herald a different delightful breakfast each morning. The Anchorage offers a 15% discount to midweek winter visitors and since our birthdays fell on Tuesday and Wednesday we opted to avail ourselves of their generous offer and spent a night longer than we might otherwise have.

The Anchorage is located within easy walking distance from shops and restaurants. Our first night we dined at Christopher’s where Nikki and I had the roasted salmon with raspberry sauce. Raised in the Pacific Northwest, we have eaten a lot of salmon over the years, frequently together, and we agreed that this succulent fish with its sweet and sour raspberry sauce was the best we’d ever put into our mouths, just beating out the Cajun Salmon Caesar salad we had at the Edmonds Arts Fair with my dad several years ago.

From previous posts readers have probably gathered how important my family is to me. I’ve been blessed with special characters in my family and lineage. Part of the pull and the sentiment about returning to Whidbey Island for me were the days I spent there during my childhood at my aunt and uncle’s farm at Greenbank (which I described in my Eclipse blog in August) so on Tuesday the 19th, after a wonderful birthday breakfast with the congenial guests at the Anchorage, we set off to photograph the scene of so many happy childhood memories.

I had not seen what is known in our family as The Farm, since 1980 when I ventured there with my children and even knocked on the door to ask the then owners if I could take them into the barn where I’d played with my cousins. My husband was surprised that I was able to locate it nearly 30 years later with ease. Since we were coming from the opposite direction to which I remember coming as a child, I surprised myself somewhat, but had the aid of a map. We did not disturb whoever currently lives there. I was not yet 30 the last time I climbed up the ladder into the hayloft and sadly had to admit I really wasn’t up or dressed for such an adventure so we contented ourselves with pictures. The house has been expanded, but the pond my uncle and grandfather built is still there and the big old barn of which I wrote in my post about seeing my first eclipse, still stands strong with its old growth timbers.

We stopped into the Greenbank store and it was largely as I remembered it although I hope the toothless old man behind the counter was not the same as had been the cute high school friend of my cousin. We bought bumper stickers for my cousins.

After our trip down memory lane we returned to Coupeville so we could all go walking in one way or another. My husband, a great walker, took off while Nikki and I walked down the hill into Coupeville. The shops were mostly open, although a few intriguing ones were closed for the winter. We had fun shopping. My last time in downtown Coupeville I’d been with my grandmother and the memory tugged at my heart strings because even 20+ years after her passing I miss her.

In our family the birthday person gets to set the agenda and my next port of call was Anna’s tea room which was only two blocks from the inn so we hiked back up the hill, dropping off our treasures in our rooms, and went to tea at a little Victorian house. We had high tea and since we got to choose which tea cup we had from their china cupboard, I picked the one that had the “Happy Birthday” tune on it. The offerings were generous and lovely. Towards the end we phoned Dave to see where he was. As it happened he was just coming down the hill from his walk and stopped to help us finish off tea.

The birthday queen now desired to see what Oak Harbor held to amuse so we drove there and browsed the antique shops before they closed. From the menu notebook the Anchorage provided to guests, I’d already determined that I wanted my birthday dinner to be at Zorba’s Greek Restaurant. None of us were desperately hungry, still full from tea, but we enjoyed it anyway and even returned to the inn with a late night snack for Dave which he heated in the microwave provided in the dining room while our housemates played cards in the evening.

With a new birthday queen the next day who had her own agenda, we bid our housemates goodbye as they were returning to Monroe and Florida and went in search of Smith Prairie. We didn’t have far to go. Smith Prairie is a real prairie that sits below the old cemetery near Coupeville. We wandered amongst the headstones (all three of us enjoy cemeteries), peered into an old blockhouse and looked out over the prairie at old homesteads.

Our next stop was the Lavender Wind Farm. Of course the lavender was not in bloom in February, but their gift shop was open and we found many treasures. From there we took the ferry to Port Townsend per the wishes of Queen Nikki. We have spent several happy days in Port Townsend, but this year was a bit of a let-down. Whether because of the economy, the weeks there was no car ferry, or just that nothing is static, many of the shops we have enjoyed in the past were closed, gone or going out of business. We still were able to spend a long time in Phoenix Rising, the metaphysical shop, and Nikki and I had tea at Mrs. Twigs which had not been there on our last trip, but overall Port Townsend was disappointing. Tea at Mrs. Twigs, while Dave at a burger at the Public House, was a bit skimpy, but nice despite the hair that had been baked into my scone. Anna Twig rectified the situation by baking me a new one before returning to her knitting next to the potbelly stove. The tea room is located on the waterside of the main street and we watched the ships passing by.

On the ferry trip back to Coupeville we watched the full moon rising as the shadow of the earth licked at its edge reminding me of the eclipse I saw on The Farm when I was very little. When we returned to the inn Dave discovered that there was a good view of the moon from the now-empty room at the top of the house and ensconced himself there. Nikki and I watched a while with him and then decided that if we were to have a birthday dinner of any sort we could not watch the entire eclipse first so we walked back to Christopher’s where we had some very good clam chowder. Back at the inn it became a bit of a slumber party as we all got into our jammies and engaged in reading or television (Nikki American Idol, me the God Father—Al Pacino was so cute), but dashed in and out of each other’s rooms and then upstairs for eclipse updates.

The next morning we drove both cars to Deception Pass. Nikki hiked more than we did since she was going on over the bridge to her father’s house in Everett and then to her mother’s in. Dave & I took pictures before turning around to head back to Gig Harbor to get the children and continue on to more celebrating (try to stretch my birthday out for at least a week) in Ilwaco, tucking away a new birthday memory to take out and examine again and again. I wonder what we should plan to do next year.


JosephMcG said...

Thanks for letting me go along with you on your birthday... Nikki sounds like a cool friend, and your husband, quite an independent cuss... sounds like the two of you have a great thing going on...

The meals were tasty
The pictures outstanding
The love glowing through your writing touched me deeply

Welcome back
Joseph (aka Oneal)

EmeraldPrincessOnline said...

Happy Belated Birthday to you, Stephanie!

Apparently, we are both Pisceans. My birthday was March 2nd.

My brain still thinks and feels as if it is 16, but my body tells me otherwise.

I enjoyed reading about your adventure back into your remote past as you celebrated your special day.

It was reminiscent for me of a trip I took my own children on back in the '80s when I returned to the farm in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, when I had lived as a child and up through age 14. The rodeo arena where I used to compete in barrel racing, stake racing, and similar gymkhana events was even still there, as if frozen in time.

At some level it is difficult to comprehend when visiting such places how little has changed and yet at the same time pondering how much has changed. Even more peculiar is the ruminating and reminiscing with those few folks who are, in fact, still there and never ventured forth into the unknown beyond.

It rockets you right back to that time -- decades ago -- as if you'd never left.

It invokes a sense of wistfulness, a glee, a sadness, a 'what-if-I'd-never-left' and it is all rolled into one almost overwhelming swirl of emotions.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Thank you, Oneal! It's nice to be back in the pond. :-) Dave was very accomodating to the Birthday Queens as he knew well how we value our time together, particularly at our birthdays. He was on his best behavoir.

Emerald Princess, I agree regarding the wistfulness places an invoke with their familiarity and at the same time detachment because they are no longer a regular part of our lives.

Lorraine Hart said...

Sounds like a deelish birthday bash Stephanie! Take a whole month to celebrate...we've earned it, just by being stubborn enough to have kept truckin' on!

When you first went back to the farm, did you find it much smaller than you had thought as a child? I remember going back to England in 1990 and revisiting a place I had lived for a short time (being a Royal Airforce family, everywhere we lived was for a short time) back in the late fifties. The playing-field, pond and woods were sooooo much tinier than I remembered them!

Your roots go deep my friend...that's what interests me so much in your writing. You hold the soil to the hillside of history with these roots.

At the Blog Squad get-together, we talked of the books that are within us, waiting to be written. Yours would be a family history.

Good to 'see' you back.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Well, since my uncle owned the farm well into my teenage years it did not seem much different other than the sixty acres it was back in the 1950s & '60 had bits sold off for other homes, but the pastures & barn are much as I remember. That is where we played and my memories are most vivid. When I was there in 1980 my children and I asked permission to poke around the barn and it was like a trip back in time.

Kim Thompson said...


I am late to the party, but wanted to say how delighted I was to read this. What an amazing trip! You guys should consider Anderson Island. The August Inn ( is AMAZING and peaceful. You really outta check it out! I love Whidbey, too.

You're description of salmon with raspberry salsa brought back memories. For a lot of years, my mom and I would trek to either Victoria or Vancouver B.C. in July for a few days together. It was LOVELY. My fondest memory was eating delicious fresh wild salmon fillet WITH raspberry salsa in a NW Fusion Cuisine restaurant on the Inner Harbor in Victoria. It was just succulent!

Ah, the memories!