I may appear to be a fierce city girl, but below the surface, a more peaceful woman longs to wake up surrounded by grass and flowers and a fruit orchard. Tall trees nearby. Quiet, serene, clean.
Perhaps my childhood boating vacations in British Columbia’s Desolation Sound did me in. As the name suggests, Desolation Sound is remote. The water is deep and warm in the summer, the trees are thick and fragrant and bare sweet fruit, the waterfalls are immense and powerful, the lakes are clean enough to bathe in, the nights are dark, the stars sparkle brightly. Pacific Northwest beauty at it’s purest.
Accordingly, I have a deep appreciation for the Pacific Northwest and islands and clean air. But I have digressed because this post is not about Desolation Sound.
After the grind of last week, I decided that my family needed a getaway. As usual, my husband fully supports all of my (good) ideas. I found a delicious mediterranean villa on Vashon Island, Casa Vista B&B, with one room available and I booked it for Saturday night without a second thought. Which is how I wished I could make most decisions in life.
Although James and I are firm believers that the journey can be as much fun as the destination, Giovanna certainly does not enjoy the journey and as her parents, we writhe at the sound of her screams. She is still getting used to the car. Which is why Vashon was a perfect destination for my family. From Central Seattle, drive about 20-25 minutes to the West Seattle Ferry terminal (aka Fauntleroy). Then, take a 15 minute ferry ride and you’re on Vashon Island. Thirty-seven square miles (larger than Manhattan) with a population of 10,123 (as of the 2000 census). An artsy, eclectic island community covered in strawberry farms and orchards.
Our first stop on the island was Monkey Tree Cafe, which we happened upon thanks to my refined restaurant-choosing skills, Yelp, and the iPhone. Here, we were greeted by rows upon rows of large, buttery pastries. The flakiest, puffiest of croissants in all varieties. The chocolate one jumped out at me, but was quickly outshined by the nuttiest of all raspberry oat bars. Savory buns doused in cheeses and herbs also caught my eye. Deliciousness in a glass case. The kind of treats you will never regret.
We sat in the back, on a cheery patio surrounded by blackberry bushes and joined by friendly bumblebees. The sun came out. The service was polite, refined and easygoing with a certain degree of seriousness that is appreciated by foodies. Our server impressed me further when he presented a thickly sliced, crispy sweet apple to wet our appetites.
I was in heaven. Never mind the sweet but fussy baby.
I ordered ginger carrot (vegan) soup and enjoyed it alongside a piece of hearty, brown bread and butter. The soup was so perfectly spiced and satisfyingly savory that I couldn’t stop raving. Every little sip left a delectable taste in my mouth. And between each bite I nearly forgot how good the next one would be.
Since the fussy baby was a reality, we didn’t get to stay for dessert. But obviously we didn’t leave without taking a raspberry oat bar and chocolate croissant for later, which both tasted better than they looked.
The rain sprinkled upon the Casa Vista B&B as we approached. The brief patch of sunlight was lost at the cafe. But it made no difference for Casa Vista, which contrasted starkly with the shadowy sky, heavy clouds and steely blue waters of Puget Sound. Casa Vista, dressed in burnt orange stucco, was the singular brightest spot on the landscape.
Casa Vista is a relatively new home (built roughly 10 years ago) created to look like a Mediterranean villa from the last century, decorated with recycled materials and artifacts from travels near and far. Soaring ceilings are adorned with wooden panels and tiles, which happen to be old doors. Tapestries scavenged from second-hand sales hang from the walls. A statue of a naked Hercules holding an equally naked foe upside down commands attention in the living room. The foe grips Hercules’ penis as if to say, “put me down, or else.” A single stuffed animal sits upon each bed in the three guest rooms, two of which boast 180 degree views of Puget Sound. The very top of Seattle’s skyscrapers are outlined against a mountainous, forested backdrop.
The owners are friendly and obviously devoted gardeners. A path of stepping stones leads guests through a stucco arch and into a lush and colorful courtyard, where a fountain provides the comforting sound of water flowing. Just what the doctor ordered, a healthy dose of water therapy. Plants and trees, both potted and in the earth, abound within the walls of the courtyard. Climbing up the walls and into the nose of unsuspecting passer-by’s.
It’s a good idea to play “make believe” at the Casa Vista. Make believe that you are the master of the villa. The flowers are nurtured and the fountain is running for your benefit. To keep you, the master, content and at peace. A simple breakfast consisting of coffee, juice, cereals, and toast is served each morning in the dining room, prepared especially for you. The innkeeper is your butler, naturally.
You probably will not come face to face with any of the other guests while staying at the Casa Vista, but if you do, you can pretend they are servants. (Just don’t get carried away and pretend your husband is the driver. It’s all fun and games until someone gets offended.)
Cyclists will revel in (literally) breathtaking views and curse the rolling hills (it’s the only way you’ll get faster). Hikers will explore the island’s many parks and scattered trails, chefs will scour the farms, art collectors will gallery hop. The island is home to such annual events as a strawberry festival, a psychic fair, dog trials, and many art walks.
The lighthouse at Point Robinson transports visitors to the opposite coast. As in the country’s East coast. The cool, salty air and tall, straw-colored grass and picturesque lighthouse were reminiscent of New England and the Atlantic Ocean. Just play “make believe” once again and you’ll get there.
Heirloom coffee is for sale at the Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie. I bought beans that were roasted the day before. The Hardware Store, which is actually a restaurant and full bar, has a nice ambience, comfort food, and something for everything. Great vegetarian food and all-natural beef burgers. Cafe Luna makes a seriously mean pot of soup (rivaling Monkey Tree), organic salads, and is home to live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Several sandwich boards on Vashon Highway direct those who cannot resist to Island Meadow Farm, where an organic produce stand is open. I passed llamas, orchards and rows of corn on the dirt road leading to the farm. The farm stand relies completely on the honor system. There are bins of vibrantly red tomatoes, peppers of all colors and fresh eggs in the fridge. A yellow note posted above a little green box says, “please pay here.”
Absolutely no one to guard the precious fruit of this garden and these animals. A beautiful display of trust in your neighbors. The kind of mentality at the heart of the Vashon community. You can see it on the faces of the islanders. You can feel it in their homes, gardens and businesses.
Vashon renews a sense of hope for the harried city dweller. The hope that this world is mostly not evil and that beauty still prevails. Outer and inner beauty.