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Posts Tagged ‘Puget Sound’

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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