I am not so naive as to think my love affair with Port Townsend wasn’t tinted through sky-blue glasses. The weather was nothing short of perfect by my standards. Waking up to chilly mornings under the down comforter, looking out across the Sound blanketed in a soft, willowy layer of fog. Long before the alarm starts to shriek, I am awakened by the haunting sound of laughing gulls echoing across the Point. By noon, the sun is out with rarely a cloud in the sky, warming me up to “short pants weather.” Then as the light starts to slant toward horizontal, lighting up the beautiful Victorian buildings, the evenings turn to sweater weather. How could it get any better?
Victorian era architecture has tugged at my heartstrings since I was a young girl doing volunteer work as a docent dressed in period costume for the local summer “Gingerbread Trail.” Port Townsend enjoyed a heyday back in the late 19th century as the harbor was well on its way to becoming one of the busiest in the PNW…so much so that the town was dubbed “The City of Dreams.” So Victorian architecture runs rampant here, with office buildings and historic plaques all reflecting late 1800′s. The entire downtown area is a National Historic Landmark.
As for ambiance, well, that is the stuff that love affairs are made of, as there is ample music, dancing, and merrymaking enough to suit the most romantic of courtships. Walk the main street and find guitarists and fiddle players busking on the corner, or just serenading friends along the waterfront.
I am not typically the type to strike up conversations with the locals, but at the Thursday evening “Concerts on the Dock” event it was unavoidable, as it was like a street party where no one is a stranger. Since the median age is 47, there were a lot of gray pony tails and Hawaiian shirts in the crowd. They cordon off a section with a plastic rope, and stick up a paper sign that says “No Minors,” while $4 beer and wine flow freely! Locals are friendly and eager to talk about their town. It feels like a scene straight out of the movie “Cocoon,” as my geezer tribe-mates bust a move on the lawn. It truly feels like “a community that plays together.”
If I have not yet conveyed that the Arts are big in Port Townsend, the little town of 9,000 has the Centrum organization dedicated to creativity who’s “mission is to promote creative experiences that change lives.” They sponsor monthly Arts walks, the “Fiddle Tunes” fiddle festival, Ukulele Festival, Jazz Fest, Blues Fest, and a Film Festival in the historic turn-of the-century Rose Theatre, just to name a few.
Even the bi-weekly Farmer’s Market has a festival feel to it. Many Farmer’s Markets have live music, but where do you see one with seating where people actually stop to listen to the music, rather than just giving a passing nod between perusing the booths of local produce?
And lastly, as if that were not enough??? There is a lighthouse! Nearby Fort Worden, one of the three forts established in the “triangle of fire” to guard Puget Sound during WW1 is home to the Point Wilson Lighthouse, built in 1914. This lighthouse will forever stand out in my mind as the first time I was allowed to touch the Fresnel lens. The Coast Guard volunteer staffing the lantern room had to be at least 80. The pretty little Fourth Order red and white Fresnel lens still rotates, so she sat there spinning it like a roulette wheel at the Golden Nugget. So right or wrong, only thinking makes it so….I have to ask, “May I turn it?”
If the barracks of Fort Worden look familiar, it was the location for the filming of “An Officer and a Gentleman,” and if there is not enough romantic ambiance present during my Port Townsend Love Affair, there is a wedding taking place overlooking Point Wilson Lighthouse. I would like to think, had the movie continued, this would have been exactly how Richard Gere and Debra Winger tied the knot.
Three posts for one town, but I had a lot to say. No doubt, I will return. Who knew a little known stopover destination for the work week would steal my ever-lovin’ heart? “Cest la Vie, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell…”
They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast
Seven hundred little records,
all rock, rhythm and jazz
But when the sun went down,
the rapid tempo of the music fell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks,
it goes to show you never can tell