Posted by: jinniver | August 3, 2008


Comedian Lewis Black, in one of his routines, ranted about the illogic of the following overheard statement: “If it wasn’t for my horse, I never would have gone to college.”

Lewis, if you’re reading–for the sake of your blood pressure, stop now.

If it wasn’t for that painting we bought, we never would have visited the British camp, seen the alpacas, and eaten a sublime dinner.

Let me start at the beginning…

Since we were going to be in Washington state for two weeks, Steve decided we had time for a little vacation-in-a-vacation for the adults–if his parents were amenable to baby-sitting for a few days.  They were, so Steve made reservations for two at a B&B in Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island, off the coast of Washington.  It was a place he’d wanted to take me for awhile; we just hadn’t found the time before.

Since we were heading to an island, we hopped on one of Washington state’s many ferries.  Steve had used this mode of transportation all his life, but to me (originally from a land-locked part of Pennsylvania) this was still a novelty.

FridayHarbor (01)

As they had been for most of our visit, the skies were cloudy and grey as we pulled away from the ferry dock.  It was also pretty cold and windy, but the view was still pretty enough to lure Steve and I topside to enjoy.  After all, we’d stood watches on our ships in worse weather for a lot longer than the hour-long ferry ride.

FridayHarbor (02)

We got a great view of Friday Harbor as we came around the bend.  The harbor was crammed full with sailboats and yachts, and the houses and businesses looked quite picturesque as they were laid out up the slope.

FridayHarbor (03)

The view from Friday Harbor was quite spectacular, especially when there were blue skies (this picture was actually taken the day after we arrived, during our brief blue sky stint).  I know the clouds look almost like they were painted on, but this is actually what the sky looked like from the rooftop dining pavilion of a restaurant directly across from the ferry dock (in addition to great views, they had pretty good food).

FridayHarbor (04)

We were staying at Blair House, a B&B that wasn’t on the waterfront but was within easy walking distance.  Steve had looked at the reviews of a few other B&Bs that were on the waterfront, but many mentioned the night life noise.  Blair House was perfect–close enough but not too close.  The B&B was in a quaint little house with a decorating style that could best be described as well-worn (it put the “shabby” in shabby chic but was pretty light on chic), but it was clean, comfortable, and the breakfasts were good.  Since we were only at the B&B to sleep at night, for afternoon naps, and for breakfast, it was perfect for us.

FridayHarbor (05)

Now for the picture that led to our wonderful meal…

Since we only had two days on the island, we decided to stay in Friday Harbor.  San Juan Island is pretty small, but since there was plenty to do in Friday Harbor itself, we didn’t see much reason to drive around.  The morning after we arrived we dedicated to visiting the many galleries near the harbor–seven total, plus an art museum.  This is the sort thing we enjoy doing but is rather difficult with a pre-schooler and a baby in tow, since one would be running around and the other would be trying to grab everything we walked past.

FridayHarbor (07)

The galleries were wonderful.  Most featured multiple artists, and in each case a majority of the artists were local.  The most fascinating part was the extensive variety of artistic styles we saw.  One gallery consisted solely of Native American-inspired artwork seen in some Washington state tribes.  Another one (pictured above) showcased scrimshaw and copper plate engravings.  We also saw oil paintings, watercolors, photography, paper collage, wood carving, bronze work, glass work, and more.  There was so much wonderful art that we only left one gallery without a purchase–not because we didn’t like what we saw, but because they didn’t have any of the smaller pieces that fit our budget.  Still, we certainly did our part to stimulate the economy of Friday Harbor’s art community.

One of the small artworks we purchased was a watercolor that I immediately took a fancy to.  It was a view of a small pond as seen through the window of a wooden building.  As we were paying for our purchases, the gallery owner (also an artist) pointed to the picture.  “Have you been there?” he asked.

I hadn’t realized that the picture named “Gretchen’s Window” represented a real place, but it turned out that Gretchen is the name of the owner and head chef of the Duck Soup Inn on San Juan Island.  The gallery owner waxed eloquent on the quality of food and insisted that we had to go before we left.  So, as we finished up our gallery visits around noon, we decided to drive out to the Duck Soup Inn for lunch.  The restaurant wasn’t located in Friday Harbor, but the gallery owner had marked where it was on our map, and it was along a marked scenic drive that circumnavigated the island.  We hopped in the car and headed out.

FridayHarbor (08)

One of the fascinating things about San Juan Island is how diverse the different areas are.  Ten minutes away from the harbor we found farmland, ten minutes after that we were in a deep forest, and fifteen minutes after that we were at a seaside cliff.

FridayHarbor (09)

Oh, and we found a winery. San Juan Vineyards happened to be located halfway between Friday Harbor and the Duck Soup Inn, so we marked that down as our first post-lunch stop. Of course, we got to the restaurant to discover they didn’t serve lunch, but we were able to make dinner reservations, head back into town for lunch, and then head out to the vineyard for a little wine tasting. They have some excellent wines, including some whites where the grapes are actually grown right on the island (the rest come from eastern Washington, since the climate on the island isn’t right for them).  They also have the only camel on San Juan Island, named Mona.  We have no idea why.

We took a good look at the map when we got back into the car and realized that since it had taken only about ten minutes to get to the winery from town, driving the rest of the way around the scenic drive wouldn’t take long at all.  We’d have plenty of time between now and our dinner reservation to take a drive, visit a few of the highlighted spots, and even get in an afternoon nap.  Off we went!

First stop (after a wrong turn) was the British Camp on the northern end of San Juan Island. It was a pretty spot to visit, and we got the chance to read up on the infamous Pig War involving the British and the Americans.

FridayHarbor (10)

It was a short drive from the British Camp, located on a small harbor, to the rocky cliffs near Lime Kiln Point State Park with the beautiful lighthouse. The park is also a prime whale watching site, but in late summer whales (mostly orcas) are few and far between. We just enjoyed the scenery.

FridayHarbor (11)

The rest of the drive was as pretty as the beginning, and after a quick nap to refresh ourselves we headed out to our much anticipated dinner.  Duck Soup Inn was beautiful both inside and out, and the food really was beyond description.  My dinner was even so pretty that I took a picture of it.

FridayHarbor (12)

I don’t know if our seat was the one that inspired “Gretchen’s Window,” but our view was remarkably similar, much to my delight.

FridayHarbor (13)
Two satisfied diners!

We didn’t leave the next day until the 1 pm ferry, which gave us time for a little more sightseeing and shopping (including the one gallery we’d missed the day before). Then it was time to board the ferry for the hour trip back. It had started sprinkling again–it rained for much of our first day there–so I had to don my hat. I had originally stated my intention to buy an umbrella after we landed, but my coastal-Washington-native husband flatly forbid it because he would have been utterly humiliated to be seen near an umbrella in that rain (apparently he would have lost his citizenship, I guess). I just wanted to keep my hair and glasses dry, so when we found the hat in one of the stores it was the perfect compromise. Bonus: I liked wearing it and even Steve–who rarely likes me in hats–thought it was cute on me.

FridayHarbor (14)

Of course, the brim was a little too flimsy to stand up to the wind we encountered, so its rain-repelling utility was limited (not that I didn’t try to keep it down, much to Steve’s amusement).  Fortunately, not far from the island we were out of the rain so we were able to enjoy even more views on the trip back to the mainland…

FridayHarbor (15)

…including, finally, a view of Mt. Baker!

FridayHarbor (16)

Oh…I mentioned an alpaca farm, didn’t I?  Sorry, ran out of space–guess you’ll have to check back to read about the alpacas tomorrow (psst…it might involve yarn.  Just sayin’).



  1. What a vacation-within-a-vacation!

    It sounds like you two had quite a wonderful time, alone.


  2. I had taken my company to the Duck Soup Inn on Thursday, July 31, and had the best filet mignon ever! I love that place. I’m so glad you enjoyed our island. Please come back soon! (our weather is now turning perfect again, clear skies, no rain)

  3. Very nice blog! Keep up the good work.


%d bloggers like this: