Posts Tagged ‘Friday Harbor’

Ice cream, chocolate truffles, lemonade,  jewelry, dog biscuits: lavender is in more than your grandmother’s cologne these days. Apparently it enhances practically everything. This I’m learning from two Pacific Northwest farms, where acres of purple look like the fields of Provence in summertime.

One is Lavender Wind Farm, a few miles outside Coupeville on Whidbey Island, Washington. (Check my previous post for more on charming little Coupeville.) Sarah Richards grows some 9,000 plants of lavender in many varieties, plus rosemary and sunflowers, on her 8.75-acre farm. It’s part of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, a national park that covers a big swatch of Whidbey Island and encompasses farms, hiking trails, the town of Coupeville, a state park, beaches and a lake.

From Lavender Wind Farm I can see the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Vancouver Island, and the Olympic Mountains. It’s gorgeous. Visitors are welcome, so I’m happily strolling the property, admiring a labyrinth lined with lavender, a gazebo, and ponds with a trickling stream. There are flowers and vegetables, inviting benches, and every view another photo op.  I get a peek into the drying shed and sniff the spicy air in the gift shop. Lavender massage oil, fabulous. Lavender mustard, I’m not so sure, but willing to try it. The whole place is enchanting.

The other farm is on San Juan Island, a ferry ride away.  Pelindaba is a riot of organically grown purple in summer.  A demonstration garden holds more than 50 varieties of lavender, you can pick your own bouquets in a cutting field, and there’s a craft workshop for making wreaths. Visitors like to bring picnics and buy lavender lemonade and cookies to go with them. Then they browse among 240 lavender products. I never imagined one plant could be used so many ways, handcrafted from flowers and oils. Pelindaba also has a shop in Friday Harbor, where I get to sample lavender chocolate ice cream and choose among soaps.  

If you can’t get to San Juan Island, check the Pelindaba shops in Seattle or Santa Rosa, California.  Lavender is definitely back in favor, and flavor.  But really, it was never gone; it just needed a creative boost.

(Lavender field photo credit: M. Denis Hill)

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Portals of Welcome at Friday Harbor WashFriday Harbor is the largest settlement in the San Juan Islands, in Washington. As I wander through the town, set on a snug harbor in the Salish Sea, I keep discovering surprises. I didn’t expect so many intriguing art galleries, excellent restaurants and offbeat shops in such a small place (pop. 2,290), but I’m finding them on almost every street.

I did know that the fishing is great, the climate benign (half the rainfall of Seattle), and the wildlife abundant. I’m not spotting Orca whales from shore, but I’ve seen them spouting and breaching, and it never fails to give me a thrill. whale skeleton whale museum friday harborI could go out with one of several whale-watching boats, but for now I’m satisfied with the Whale Museum, where enormous whale skeletons and models hang from the ceiling, and whale songs and films are played.

A walking tour takes me to Memorial Park, a World War I memorial, and to the carved totems called Portals of Welcome, both overlooking the boat-filled harbor.  Down the street and around the corner, the scent of lavender draws me into the Pelindaba store. Trust me, you’ve never seen this many lavender products, from lavender-chocolate ice cream and truffles to lavender dog biscuits and lavender earrings. Amazing. Further along, in Island Studios, an art gallery and shop, island studios art gallery friday harborI find incredibly creative works by island artisans. Pottery, paintings, jewelry, crazy lamps, old vinyl records turned into art. Outdoors, in back, there’s a garden of one-of-a-kind sculptures and glass near a pond where fat fish swim.

At San Juan Hot Shop and Flavor Emporium, I marvel at shelves crammed with a world of chiles and pepper sauces. From there I amble into Serendipty and am lost for the rest of the day. This is a great used bookstore, in a restored old home. Check online reviews and you’ll see what I mean. Or better, come to Friday Harbor and see its charms for yourself.

Finally, I have to leave the books, I’m famished. There are many options, but Vinny’s has to be one of the best. White linens, water views, and a tad pricey, but well worth scallops and prawns vinnys restaurant friday harborit. My choice, since I’m surrounded by an ocean teeming with fish, is skewered, grilled scallops and prawns with a soy-lime marinade, served with vegetables cooked to perfection. I taste the pillowy, flavorful Westcott Bay mussels in curry and coconut milk, and decide that I do love mussels after all. (When I’m tightening the budget, I’ll try the well-reputed Mexican food at Pablito’s Taqueria.) 

I bed down in a very comfortable room at Bird Rock Hotel. Once called the Tourist Hotel, it’s been in operation since 1893, and I’m happy to say it has undergone quite a few changes. A century-plus ago, lodging didn’t include ipod docking radios, high-speed wifi, and espresso makers.  Wouldn’t that have sounded like a foreign language?

This is only the beginning. I suspect there’s a lot more to San Juan Island. More to come.

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