A wedding, violin recital, choral concert, birthday celebration and the excitement of Christmas made December 2018 pass like a tornado.
And speaking of tornadoes, on December 19th a rare tornado touched down in downtown Port Orchard, not far from where we were staying. Trees were knocked down, roofs were ripped from their buildings and many lost electricity. Luckily we had no damage; just hours of dark sky and pouring rain. But let’s go back and start at the beginning of our visit.
We arrived in Seattle, Washington, USA in late November and immediately immersed ourselves in our daughter’s wedding preparations. Mind you, she and her fiance were extremely organized using multiple lists to carefully ensure everything ran smoothly. The wedding day dawned with our exquisite bride and handsome uniformed groom attended by their fantastic group of bridesmaids and groomsmen who were fully engaged in completing the myriad of last details. The wedding service was held in a large tent where the touching and humorous wedding vows were exchanged. Next door a rustic barn enchantingly decorated with Christmas trees, lights and sleighs was where we all sat down to a delicious, couple’s-favorite dinner including barbecue, cheesecake, hot apple cider and plenty of champagne. The reception following was a joyful celebration with speeches, dancing and shenanigans. Our wedding couple was surrounded by loving friends and family members, wishing them a long and happy life together. A day we won’t forget.
With the wedding behind us and our grandchildren’s violin and choir concerts over, it was time for a little sightseeing, a few holiday activities and of course, a visit to see Santa. So on an overcast, but dry, Saturday morning in early December, our first family outing took us to Port Gamble, a small community on the northwestern shore of the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State. Consisting of not more than a couple of streets, included was an antique tea shop, an old-fashioned general store, built in 1853, with a museum upstairs, and a shop with a working loom. The woman working the loom kindly gave a demonstration to the delight of our wide-eyed grandchildren.
There was also a cottage for the children to do crafts and visit Santa and various other specialty shops worth peaking into.
The tiny Port Gamble Historic District, a U.S. National Historic Landmark, is considered one of the best-preserved western lumber towns. In the 1840’s, due to the gold rush in California, the west coast of the United States was growing rapidly. Lumber to build homes and businesses was being shipped from thousands of miles away from areas such as New England on the east coast of the United States. Three enterprising men, after learning about the dense forests in the Oregon Territory, decided to set up a sawmill on a sands-pit at the mouth of Gamble Bay. The mill would be near the abundant trees in Oregon and an excellent port for shipping the lumber to California. By the fall of 1853 the mill began operations. These three men are credited with establishing the longest working lumber mill on the North American continent.
An interesting side note is that in 1946, these three men also created one of the first local tree farms, understanding that the harvesting trees needed to be managed as a sustainable crop.
The Pacific Northwest in the mid-1800’s, had a very small population so experienced mill workers were hired from the East Coast. The workers became homesick for their former lifestyle and to help ease the transition, the charming homes we saw today were built and designed to look the same as the New England homes the workers had left behind.
St. Paul’s Church
Many of the buildings in Port Gamble were restored in the 1960’s and are carefully maintained historical sites. Surprisingly much of town is still owned by the mill. The St. Paul’s Episcopal church was built in 1870 using the same plans as an older village church built in Maine. This beautiful little church has also been restored and today is a favorite destination church for weddings.
Our newly married couple chose to cut down their own Christmas tree this year and invited us along to visit a local Christmas tree farm. The perfect tree was selected, cut down and loaded in the back of the truck for the drive back to their home. Once standing in the living room everyone helped decorate it. What a fun holiday tradition.
A few days later the four of us spent a lovely day exploring and enjoying the Scandinavian themed town of Poulsbo.
Poulsbo was founded in the 1880s by a Norwegian immigrant drawn by the availability of land, the area’s rich resources and a landscape similar to his native home. Likewise many Norwegian and Scandinavian immigrants followed and, until the late 1930’s, Norwegian was the primary language for most residents. During World War II the population of Poulsbo nearly tripled when the nearby Naval shipyard expanded. It was only then that English became the primary language of the town.
First Lutheran Church
The iconic Fordefjord Lutheran church was built in 1887 high atop a hill overlooking the town. This striking white church has had a few name changes and today is known as the First Lutheran Church. We climbed the steep hill and were able go inside. The organist was practicing so the church was filled with uplifting music. That evening as we took a last stroll through the town we could hear the church bells playing Silent Night.
The Pacific Northwest is cloudy, gray, chilly and often raining, especially during the winter months. We found in Poulsbo, a delightful option to avoid the weather. There is a wonderful shop called Battlegrounds Cafe. As a cafe, it does serve tasty food and interesting beverages, but it is really dedicated to providing a welcoming space for customers to gather and play games. And there are hundreds of board games to choose from. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours playing games, some of us sipping tea and others a glass of wine in this cozy and welcoming shop. What a great place to hang out in when you want to avoid the grim weather outside.
We spent a memorable and packed holiday season, staying with our older daughter and her family, surrounded by delicious homemade goodies, games and grandchildren. The children awoke at 3am on Christmas morning to discover Santa had indeed arrived, but their Mom was able to convince them to return to bed for at least a couple hours more. As always Christmas morning was filled with excitement and joyous exclamations when the wrapping was removed revealing the gifts inside. It was truly a great month long celebration of family.
A number of years ago we lived and worked in a few of the various Seattle suburbs. On this trip we didn’t get to stay in the city of Seattle but we did go visit some of our old neighborhoods. Since so many people don’t know where Poulsbo or Port Gamble is on the map we are going to group everything under the umbrella of ‘Seattle’ for this blog post hoping that any real Seattleites will forgive the generalization.
Cheers from the Seattleites,
— Ted & Julia
(click on any picture to go to slideshow view)