3 Days Away: Bainbridge Island, WA, Spring 2014

For us Seatillites this is “so close; and, yet, so far away.” For out-of-towners is it a great way to get some of the best travel experiences Seattle has to offer.

In three days, you can lunch and stroll through The Pike Place Market, take a Washington State Ferry over Puget Sound and watch Seattle’s skyline recede behind you, often get great mountain vistas of the Olympics Mountain Range and Mt Rainer and visit the small, upscale and interesting community of Bainbridge Island. In less than 30 minutes, you are out of downtown Seattle and into small-town Bainbridge, living the island life.

This trip over the water and the separating you from mainland madness makes this such a wonderful and easy 3 days away. And, it is often where we head when we want to feel far away; but, don’t have to go far away to get that feeling.

Day One of Away
We headed out in our trusty Subaru Forrester on a dreary Thursday, March 6th. We were determined rain or shine to have a good time and get much needed relaxation. Despite threatening rain showers, we stopped to get our usual last taste of city life at the bustling Pike Place Market (History) just minutes away from the Colman Ferry Dock where you catch a Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island.

We always head for a few traditional things from the stands or stores at The Market. Map and store locations.

I always get a $10 bouquet of flowers for our room. I love to pick just the right bunch and on some occasions ask for a bouquet to be made with flowers I choose (same price – some vendors are more happy than others to do this – just ask and I always tip a dollar to two if they do). Daffodils were just coming in and I love the pinkish double blossomed ones. (In the winter, I skip this as the bouquets are straw flowers, artificially colored and seem sticky and pokey to me.)

Double Narcissus Replete Daffodils…so stunning!

They have several interesting varieties of flowers in season and each flower stall has a little different flair for arranging – fun to look at and decide what you like. I walk all the stands and see what bouquet calls out to me. I am thankful Jon is patient! Sometimes, I can’t make up my mind and he has to weigh in. This time it is a beautiful array of traditional and exotic looking daffodils…so spring!

Next it is: almond croissants or real French macaroons from La Panier, honey – Japanese Knotweed Honey when in season, from the honey stand near the last flower stands south end (the small jar will last awhile), to pair with a sharp, bright cheese – a small triangle of Beecher’s Flagship or Just Jack (sometimes we just get both)! FYI -The Mac and Cheese is highly regarded and eating curds is a fun way to get your teeth to squeak! Next stop, Three Sisters Bakery baguette, (we love sourdough to make honey and cheese sandwiches – don’t knock it till you try it!). Or, you can wait and get excellent freshly baked artisan breads from the Safeway on the Island right across from the hotel (yes, tis true…really good bread…trust me!).

I always have to have a little chocolate! For me preferably dark; but, you can get exotic chocolate bars from around the world from DeLaurenti’s Italian Market. And, some real Italian salami – at least ask to taste a few to see if something tickles your fancy to enhance the cheese and honey. Salami with finocchio in Italian or fennel in English (licorice-y flavor) is a great one!

The great wall of chocolate at DeLaurenti’s!

Watch the donut machine outside the east entrance and grab a small brown, greasy paper bag of freshly made mini-donuts from The Daily Dozen Donut Co. We always get a mix plain, powder-sugared, cinnamon sugar; and, there have been maple/bacon from time to time. Not today.

Stop by MarketSpice and get a free sample of their famous Market Spice Tea (very hot, be careful…it gets crowded in the small space!). Check out the spices in bulk. I always enjoy looking at the themed china they carry – the goldfish are spectacular and the little ladybugs so cute!

There are several varieties of whimsical china. These are my favorites!

There is always great produce, seafood and even chocolate pasta in the stands. You do pay premium price and usually the vendor handles the fruit or produce. Some get very upset if you attempt to select your own.

One-of-a-kind art and crafts booths offer a great array of Seattle themed things and beautifully crafted works of art or jewelry. Because the art work and jewelry are done by fine craftsman, many who have worked- at the market for years expect beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces at pretty fair prices.

Uil’s Famous Sausage deserves its name and, there is a little hole in the wall place next to the counter case to have a beer and enjoy your freshly grilled sausage. On this trip though, it is just exposure to things to reminisce about or visit – most left to try on another day when a trip to the Market is a few hours of get-away. After a quick browse of the sights and smells, the clattering roar of the fish mongers announcing the toss of a fresh salmon for weighing and wrapping at the Pike Place Fish Market (“fish monger theater” – where you get your fresh fish or crab crated to send home) and Lowell’s (“almost classy since 1957” – a well, liked breakfast spot with great views upstairs-) with the smell of fried and simmering foods wafting out the doors – suddenly, hungry we head to our usual lunch destination.

Typical crowd…I love the vintage neon signs!

Here, I may get some disagreement about our restaurant choice; but, for Jon and I (and, any of our kids) we always excitedly climb the circular, rod – iron staircase up to the Copacabana, a family owned Bolivian restaurant for lunch.

There are arguments about how good and authentic this food is; but, for us: the Copacabana’s large salad and the paella never fail to please us. We always share. You get the small Copacabana salad on the side w the Paella as well, we can’t get enough of their signature salad, so we always order the entree sized one as well – to go with whatever we get!

This day we were the only ones in the restaurant, it is the slow season and the weather was not promising to be great. It was to our advantage. Service was special! The 3 workers took very good care of us. The owner was in and we had an interesting chat. It turns out we knew many members of his family. Seattle, though growing uncomfortably fast and messing up traffic for us natives with its usual almost-always-a-complete-stand-still traffic, has its small town aspects and we are reassured: this is a great place to live.

At the Copacabana Bolivian Restaurant…salad, salad everywhere…and bread!

The food had to be prepared for us specially that day…very good! The salad and the “oh, this is the best bread!” – soft yet toothsome and tasty (turns out they get it in bulk from Sam’s Club!), with real butter pats and the salad, even out of season, was so exceptional. It has a simple dressing of white biting vinegar and a light oil – black olives, tomatoes, shredded radishes, a lot of ripe and buttery avocado on iceberg lettuce make up the components. We sop up every bit with our so soft, yet crusty buttered bread. (We’ve asked for extra bread, by the way…oh, and butter, too! And, are quickly served more and more – no charge).

The Paella (allowing 20 minutes for preparation) arrived piping hot, with chicken, mussels, clams, sausage and its signature bright saffron yellow rice. You can argue about it being the best Paella you’ve ever had; but, it always tastes good to us. And, with drizzle and dreariness surrounding us it is even better today. My husband usually has a Bolivian dish, this time their fish and a South American beer. I am a diet Coke with lemon person. We were so happy sitting inside warm and watching the weather outside blow and threaten to turn into a storm without us.

On a busy, sunny, summer day it is a whole other experience; and, a line is usually out the door and down the staircase. People can sit outside under umbrellas and some tables get a glimpse of the sound and ferry traffic. The flower boxes on the roofs all around are usually spectacular.

My very favorite thing is the tablecloths inside – all under glass with sweet Bolivian scenes delicately embroidered by local Bolivian’s learning to make a living selling local artisan work. The owner had them ordered specially and they have the name of the restaurant on each one. That day, we learned the source of the tablecloths and the program contact had changed; and, the owner was worried they would not be able to get them anymore. Sad. It makes them even more special.

Hand done by Bolivian artisans…beautiful and sweet!

We had a wonderful time and meal; and, it was time to move on. The exit to the back of the restaurant is easier than the entry staircase and you drop into Post Alley home of many shops and restaurants and the Gum Wall – another adventure for another day away.

On a hot day, even if we are full, we stop at the Shy Giant Frozen Yogurt stand. The fresh fruit yogurts w chocolate chips on top is my favorite. And, we stroll and eat. Not today.

It is wise to check the Bainbridge ferry schedule it changes according to season and waits are also according to season. We rarely do wait though; and, as is our usual luck we get to the Colman Dock (just minutes away from the Market on The Seattle Waterfront below) and a ferry is waiting. We are on our way. As we make our way up to the passenger deck the salt-air and gentle movement of the boat begin to work their magic. We begin to take deep breaths and begin to relax.

The scenery is majestic even on a rainy day. We never buy food on the ferry (sometimes hot water – I bring my own tea bags everywhere; and, perhaps a cup of coffee). If you brought treats it is a good time to have a cookie or a pastry. Ivar’s chowder (which is tasty and a Seattle classic) and beer are the most common things bought from the Ferry concession for the 30 minute ride.

Goodbye Seattle…Hello Bainbridge!

On ferries there are usually pamphlet racks of destinations and local attractions. I always spend some time checking them out. You never know what you will discover that might interest you and coax you into an adventure you had not planned. The photos on some of the ferries are from the Washington State Archive, old history images of the natives, people and area. Sometimes there is a 3D wall map of Puget Sound and the islands. But, this trip we sat and stared out the window sipping our tea and coffee. It was quiet, meditative and a good beginning to getting away.

When we get off the boat this day, we drive straight to the Ace Hardware. This is an kinda modern take on a five and dime store, this century’s version – quirky inventory, upscale and uncluttered. It is so fun to see what they have. And, they have a lot. Pricey; but, interesting inventory to look at and discover. Typical and high-end hardware supplies as well as household items, gadgets and garden supplies galore! We always have to see what is in the kitchen/home section, many innovative or classic items and always themed to the time of year – this time Easter. The toy section carries some Melissa and Doug inventory – educational and classic toys and puzzles. They carry funky little fun looking toys as well as some great kid’s beach toys, a must if you’ve come with kids to spend time on the beach. After an hour, we are satiated. Our heads have been filled with gift-giving and decorating ideas. Our inner artists and gardeners are satisfied.

We head for the simple and tasteful Bainbridge Island Best Western Plus . We have a Best Western membership because this is a trip we try to make each season; and, we earn a free night every so often! We also find the Best Western Brand, especially the Plus and Premier properties reliable and reasonably priced. We have favorite rooms here: in the winter and fall we stay in the front, right off the elevator the 02 or 04 numbered rooms. Summer we go to the back of the hotel where the forest is and open the windows to hear the crickets and birds and get the smells of the woods. The numbers ending in 25 and 26. Most rooms have nicely equipped kitchens or bars, large bathrooms and a nice sitting area for reading and watching movies. Ask at the desk to see the room lay-outs and decide which you like. During the summer and some week-ends this hotel is often booked to capacity so plan ahead if you travel then. At night, on the top floor tree-tops are what we see as the dusk turns to dark adding to the feeling we are out of the city. We ask for the free DVD player when we check in; and, a vase for my flowers. They always have complimentary newspapers and the local well-written and photographed publication Currents has a wealth of information on the goings on around town. We always bring magazines and our iPads and arrange the room to our liking…it has to feel like home for us to be relaxed.

Clean, nice, great rooms good breakfast buffet and with kitchens/bars!

We get settled in and head for the Safeway just across the street. We plan to eat some meals in using our kitchen so we shop for groceries. Big, organized and lots of things to see. I head for the Easter aisle to see if there are any Easter treats to send to the grandkids in their Easter packages (often they have some fun things at good prices). Not this time. So, we head for the produce. We always get some fruit, apples, figs, dried apricots or berries. They had fig spread on sale and that would go well with our cheeses and salami. We get drinks: sparkling cider or wine, they have an extensive wine selection and knowledgeable wine stewards on staff. Then, it is to the bakery to select a fresh baguette, we love sourdough, we love most of their Artisan brand bakery items – and at good prices. Add some Columbus salami (reduced sodium is pretty much as good as regular) or what you chose at the Market. The best sliced Havarti cheese we have ever had is the Safeway brand – so buttery, and melts in your mouth – we never resist!

We grab two baking potatoes, sour cream, real bacon bits and chives – cookies (Pim’s Chocolate with raspberry filling) and some more dark chocolate. I love the Ghirardelli dark raspberry filled bars. We add frozen sliced strawberries and a can of whipped cream to make Belgian Waffles (introduced to North America at the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle!) out of the fresh waffles we will make in the morning at the breakfast buffet. We get things that we wouldn’t buy or eat at home…and, diets are out! Today there is a special on a new cereal Oats and Seeds and we decide to get a box…it is a little bit health-foody, I admit. We can add chocolate chips, dried cherries and coconut to make a trail mix or just sprinkle in on top of the Belgian waffles.

Safeway has a great deal: 3 movies for $7.99 for a week. Movies are often a part of our get-away thing…we see recently released ones that do not demand a big screen. We head over there and select: Lee Daniel’s The Butler; Bless, Me Ultima; and Iron Man 3. All very different and ones we wanted to see for a while. (OK…Iron Man 3 is a repeat performance for us. We loved it! Ben Kingsley is so great as the Manchurian and Robert Downey, Jr…I love him in almost everything he does. I inherited that from my Mom!)

We head back; decide on salami, cheese, and fig-spread sandwiches and sparkling cider for dinner. Stock the refrigerator (which has no freezer so the strawberries will be unfrozen by morning, but no problem). We make sandwiches and settle-in. Jon prepares dinner. I get the DVD loaded. Then settle in for some catch-up on news with the newspaper. We head for bed only settled on a vague idea of “exploring” in the morning, after sleeping in and getting our waffles, fresh locally roasted Pegasus coffee, tea and fresh fruit. We could have eggs and sausages, cereals, bagels or muffins. We always plan for waffles though because I hate “one-trick” appliances and so we do not own a waffle-maker. I travel to get waffles! It is easier on my kitchen storage space.

Day Two of Away-
My day to get breakfast, in bed, (this is already such a great get-away!); so, Jon heads down and brings the food on a tray. He adds the strawberries, whipped cream and to make it a health food adding some of the seeds and nuts cereal for crunch. I love sleeping in and getting breakfast in bed and reading the newspaper. Like I said I never read them anymore; but, I did as a kid and I like the throw-back feeling of it…catching-up with the comics and arts and entertainment news.

The breakfast in bed is great; but, the best surprise is the sunshine outside. We did not expect that.

After we eat, we head out to the new Bainbridge Island Art Museum (BIMA) to see what that has to offer. Wow! What a great and beautiful space that specializes in curation of local and regional artists and artisans. Free admission. One of the highlights was the room with hand-made books. This room will be dedicated to the collection of one Islander Cynthia Sears, who collects these masterpieces of original and one-of-a kind artworks. There were about 25 books in the collection we viewed. Each so special, original and gorgeous. We spent about an hour there. A lot of oohing and ahhhing…

Handmade books!

The outside garden attracted us; and, the architecture of the building relating to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and natural lighting blew us away. I will leave it for you to discover. Don’t miss the film on the building of the Museum and the thought process and execution if showing in the auditorium. The building-heating is done by an underground thermal spring; and, the rest of the story is all about the LEED rating and how they earned it with the materials used and building principals employed. Impressive, very interesting and very Bainbridge! The gift shop is full of intriguing and one of-a-kind arty merchandise. Worth a look.

We hop in the car with no place in mind and end up at a dead-end juncture on the Marine Trail. I check Tripadvisor for near-by restaurants. Harbour Public Inn looks promising and it is a-ways down the trail.
Bainbridge Island Waterfront Trail – worth a walk!

Perfect! We park and get on the trail. It is stunningly beautiful. Glistening blue water, a small marina and the Seattle skyline with the snow-capped Cascades show in the distance. The trail is a well-built and maintained wooden one, on piers, that takes you waterside for several blocks. The air is salty and crisp and the sun is warm. What a surprise and gift this day is. Every so often, you get one of these this-is-why –we-live-in-Seattle days.

We arrive at the restaurant and get a table outside with great views and noisy sea-gulls squawking. The menu is fun and so is the waitress. This trip I am being entrenched in news and newspapers. The menu is in newspaper format with great local history and stories. I had noticed the nachos on the way in and for the price on the menu it seemed a bargain. And, no disappointment there. Enough for two and just like you want your nachos-lots of veggies and cheese and additional avocado. But, we didn’t stop there. It is an extensive menu with lots of local dishes – kale salad for one. Not on our usual thing we would eat and Jon enjoyed it. To be totally honest, we were basking in the sun and not paying as much attention to the food as we should have…the combo of sun and surf with lunch though was pretty terrific.

Get the nachos!

We leave satisfied and with leftovers for later! One slip up, they forgot to put a lid on my dressing for my side salad and it spilled everywhere. The waitress was so sorry (another worker had accidentally made the mistake); and, they were gracious about getting it and me cleaned up.

We started toward town to see what was up. On the doors of some of the shops I noticed it was First Friday Art Walk, Nice! We decided we would do it. Knowing this community is big on local art and artists: it was a good bet. We rested back at the hotel and headed out at 5:30, finding a parking place in a little area where Mora Ice Creamery is Madrona lane. I had heard and read about it so we were definitely coming back to get a dish or cone!

The Art Walk was quaint and sophisticated and the same time. Lots of free wine and great local art. The center of the event is the Bainbridge Arts and Crafts Center. It is an amazing place. The show was a one woman sculptor and several printmakers. One was a book maker and she took her book out of the display and showed us page by page. Fascinating! “A future Bainbridge museum book?” She was asked. She said she wasn’t free to say, just yet. Made me think it was about to be. We met the artist who would be doing a free art event tomorrow as part of the Arts and Crafts events. They have one after each First Friday. Something to consider for tomorrow’s schedule. I love finding out these things!

I bought a matted photo of Venice, misty smoldering white and touches of reds. Another, in a frame, was taken off the wall as I looked at it. Had to ask if they had more and behind the display was a hidden book-shelf and lots of other beautiful photos there for the choosing, making it harder to stick with my original choice, but I did.

We wondered the streets and shops, lots of people strolling and lots of free wine flowing. Blackbird Bakery ran out of its free samples early and we missed it. Knew we had to get back there another time.

Intentional Table cooking school close to Mora intrigued me with its inventory, class offerings and ideas. The Bainbridge Drug Store had fun things in it. Everything is expensive relatively speaking. But, fun to look at. The Eagle Harbor Book Co is wonderful (and, for those of us that love the feel and smell of real books) with lots of titles to look at this is an exceptional place. Events, a population of avid readers, a wall of book club suggestions makes this one of the best bookstores surviving.

It was crowded in the Bainbridge Arts and Crafts Center.

We ended the night like we planned: ice cream! Mora is small and impressive. “What’s is not in our products is just an important as what’s in our products.” The flavors are creative and intriguing. I asked for 4 tastes before I chose, they encourage you to sample here!. Marsala Sablon. Jon went straight for the chocolate and mocha. We will go back. The person who waited on us said lavender would be a summer flavor. It is one I will be trying.

Day Three of Away
Next day, we had pouring rain – so Pacific Northwest! We had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. Packed and checked-out. The Friends of the Library Sale which just happened to be going on that week-end as well, so we went. Another fun surprise! Bargains galore. I bought a classic dinner-party game book for my youngest daughter, one of the new generation who loves to have cocktails, good food and entertain. We left there and went to the used Eagle Harbor Bookstore – The Annex.

Not on a rainy day, Bainbridge Island Library is a great little place to walk the well-designed gardens and to picnic. Photo Bainbridge island Library.

It was a day to stay in shops and bakeries. We discovered there was a Senior Center Thrift shop open during the week – will give that a try on another visit.

We headed home with a bagful of food. Got on the ferry and had our almond croissants from La Panier at the Pike Place Market, hot tea and coffee. We were happy, rested and relaxed. This few days away had been memorable and fun. We talked about all we had seen and done and prepared for re-entry when the ferry bumped into the dock.

Note: All information presented in this blog was correct at the time of publishing and changes are not the fault of the author.

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