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Archive for February, 2011

Capt Whidbey Inn, WashingtonCaptain Whidbey Inn, on Whidbey Island, Washington, is as picturesque as it gets. Classic Pacific Northwest.  It’s a sprawling, century-plus log lodge on a grassy slope above Penn Cove, with a stone fireplace in the lobby, weathered chests in the hall, a cozy tavern, and  rooms overlooking the water or a lush garden. What’s not to love about that? Lodge rooms share down-the-hall bathrooms, but happily, they’re practical rather than quaint.

There are also four sweet, woodsy cottages, and I’m tucked away in one, enjoying a bit of a water view from the deck. I’m comfy with quilts and a fireplace, and the shower is all mine. Still, next time I’ll try one of the little lodge rooms so I can keep an eye peeled for a ghost; both #6 and #8 are vaguely reputed to be haunted. Also, the upstairs hall has a perfect book-crammed corner with soft chairs and good reading lamps.   There’s another building, too, with newer, bigger, non-quaint,  hotel-type rooms.  They have pretty views over a wide lawn and gazebo to a lagoon. Perfect for a wedding. 

Back in 1907, the judge who owned the property decided it was a good spot for a summer resort. So Judge Still had the lodge built and named it for Joseph Whidbey, a sailing master (not a captain) in the British Royal Navy. Captain Whidbey Inn is now in Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve.

Fireplace, Capt Whidbey Inn, WashingtonIn the inviting restaurant, seafood reigns–salmon, scallops, halibut, crab–when available fresh and local, with vegetables from the garden out back. The tavern I mentioned is Judge Still’s Tavern, which has a bar carved from a mammoth slab of sitka spruce. Burgers, BLTs with salmon, cheese plates and salads are on the light fare menu, all good, but the prize dish is Penn Cove mussels, pulled from the cove and served the traditional way with wine, garlic and butter, or Thai-style with ginger, lemongrass, coconut milk and red curry. Delicious. The back of the menu reminds you, only slightly tongue-in-cheek, that “consuming excess food and alcohol will make you fat; exercise will help.”  Fortunately, it’s very easy to get exercise around here, with all the walking paths and beaches, and the inn rents bicycles. I’m off to explore Whidbey Island.

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After reading The Forgery of Venus, by Michel Gruber, I was eager to take The Prado museumanother look at the paintings in The Prado museum, in Madrid, Spain. This time with new eyes. The book is fiction, but it told me more than I ever thought I wanted to know about how artists paint and the materials and styles of 4 centuries ago.  With intriguing characters and time travel, Gruber makes the whole subject fascinating.

So here we are, fortified with a lunch of Serrano ham on crusty rolls, slices of Manchego cheese, and glasses of crisp white Spanish wine, ambling around one of the greatest museums of the world. We’re looking for Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor), painted in 1656 by Diego Rodriquez de Silva y Velazquez.  And there it is on the wall, a masterpiece. It’s complicated. There’s the young Infanta Margarita, there are her maids and bodyguard, the dwarves, the dog. But there too is Velazquez himself, painting at an easel, and a mirror reflecting the king and queen. It’s unusual, to say the least.  The artist was showing what he could do with portrait and perspective, and a whole lot more.

The Prado has many more works by past masters, and we gawk until we can’t admire another amazing canvas or intricately carved piece of silver. It’s museum overload. Mercado de San MiguelSo we meander over to Mercado de San Miguel to join the crowds sipping wine and espresso and nibbling tapas at stand-up counters.  Those little plates of cheeses, ham, bits of vegetables and olives are works of art themselves. I wonder if Diego Velazquez ate them and admired their artistry, back in 1650. I’m betting he did, between brushstrokes and dinners with royalty.

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