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VASHON ISLAND // 2017

a lavender cart using the honor system

 My friend Susie and I tooled around a new-to-us place, Vashon Island in Puget Sound, this past weekend for a very quick (but very full!) girls' trip. Susie comes stateside once a year and I'm lucky to live close to her husband's family, so I often get a visit, too, though she's usually with her family in Nebraska. We had both heard about Vashon Island but had never been, and found really cheap accommodations through airbnb.com.

I read this article and this one in preparation and rented a car, while she communicated with our hostess. It worked out brilliantly. We headed down to the Faunterloy ferry in West Seattle and got there around noon, and although we had a bit of a wait going out, the price was so cheap! Something like $20 for the two of us and our car roundtrip. We had reservations at The Hardware Store for dinner that night and very little expectations for the rest of the time.

Lighthouse on Point Robinson 

I don't know that I'll remember every single thing we did or places we saw, because we did a lot in just over 48 hours, and got a lot of sleep, too! As we were driving around the island we both realized how quiet and bare this island really is compared to where we both live (in neighborhoods outside of millions-large cities!) and how nice and relaxing the pace was to us. So many people here had little farm stands using the honor system, and we just followed a sign to our first one-U-pick lavender and hand-made lavender goods. So cute!

We walked around at Point Robinson park (twice, we loved this park) and saw the light house, the driftwood 'forts', plenty of sailboats, and an amazing view of Mt. Rainer, crystal clear on Friday. Saturday it was a bit hazier (see photo below) but whoa...just breathtaking. 

driftwood fort

Susie and I walked around Maury Island center, down (and then up, oy!) a massive hill where there was a beautiful overlook on top of a mountain of sand/dead grass (below), another stunning view. We tried to hit most parks and then she humored me with a quick trip to the local library so I could snap a few pictures. I try to visit every local library at a new place...it's just sort of fun for me. This library was either brand new or had just been remodeled. There was a wall of natural sunlight through windows, a great study space, and a charming and tidy kids center. Not bad for an island with a population of 10,000. 

Another place I like to go for souvenirs is whatever local independent bookseller is in the area and buy a book either about the place, or written from a local author. Vashon Bookshop was a great little store with a fantastic selection of both used and new books, and two short shelves full of local authors. I have never seen so many writers from one tiny island...it doesn't surprise me that these people value things like the arts. I'll get more into that below. The book I bought was Onions in the Stew, by Betty McDonald, who not only lived and raised children on Vashon Island, but wrote the famous (and loved by my children!) classics "Mrs. Piggle Wiggle" series. This book fit the bill perfectly! 

 coastal scenery at Point Robinson, Vashon Island

I honestly can't remember all that we did on Friday, except it felt luxurious to just do whatever we wanted with relatively few people around. Dinner at The Hardware Store was exceptional, and to my surprise, nearly everything on the menu can be made gluten-free! They have their own GF fryer (bless them!) and I think I'm remembering correctly that Gluten-Free Girl blog's Shuana Ahren's husband "the chef' used to work there and perhaps made this change? I may be remembering that incorrectly, but I had hoped to bump into her perhaps at the local farmer's market (she still lives on Vashon) and say THANK YOU! but it wasn't meant to be.

We had the most exquisite food all weekend long, and in just two days would could really tell that people valued the slow food movement out on Vashon and were dedicated to exceptional food making. At dinner that first night we split a massive appy of Parmesan truffle fries, and I had the gluten-free Buttermilk Fried chicken salad and my first real limoncello. The alcohol was extremely potent. So potent I couldn't drink but maybe 1/2 inch of liquid in a very tiny (!) 2 inch glass. It tasted like lemon pine-sol but the food was divine. We went home after our late dinner and slept for 10 hours!

 Maury Island scenery (I think!)

The next day we walked around in a forest for about an hour and then went driving around to different places including another beach on the West side of the island, with our books in hand for a bit of reading time. We went back to the Lighthouse Beach because we both enjoyed it but a hornet kicked us out of a nice reading location. Ah well! Time to go to the Farmer's Market!

At the market, I bought some delicious local strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and a cucumber that I ate over the few days. The market was on the smaller side of course but there was never any overlap and the vendors had great stuff. We both had an egg sandwich (well, me minus the bread-just on some lettuce) from one of the vendors that was to die for. I've never had flavors like that and I would 100% go back to the island for that sandwich. I can't find them online or I'd link it!

We did a cider tasting at Nashi Orchards, which I found that I can tolerate a pear cider. I'm not much of an alcohol drinker so this felt very adultish of me. Hah! The guy who was doing the tasting for the four groups was hilarious and interesting to talk to, and the owner of the little lavender place we went to the day before. After that we went to a fantastic community aerial show that Susie had seen signs for. I only wish our dinner reservations weren't so early because we had to leave after about 40 minutes of watching some great performers including PJ from Bellingham. She was fantastic! As we were walking to seemingly the middle of nowhere, I looked at Susie and said, "I feel like we're going to a mini burning man. Anything could happen" and that felt very apt for the entire weekend.

 Susie at the lookout (left, top), Maury Island park

We had numerous people tell us that Mays Thai was THE place to eat dinner, and although we couldn't get sit-down reservations, we were able to sit in at the bar. I got a spicy flank steak salad that I could only eat half of, and Susie got a mild yellow curry dish. Unfortunately, I liked hers better and although the spice level was great for me, there was one flavor I just couldn't tolerate in my salad so I ended up packing at least half of it up for our airbnb hostess, who I knew would actually like a stranger's leftovers if it came from Mays! She was quite a character.

After dinner we grabbed some ice cream from the Glass Bottle Creamery and guess what--a huge gluten-free waffle cone! I haven't had a waffle cone since I was a kid-definitely not one in the past 12 years since being diagnosed with celiac. Paired with toasted coconut ice cream, it was one of the most memorable desserts I've had. Yum!

We had seen a sign for a free local event-a community viewing of Ferris Beuller's Day Off and watched about an hour of that before heading back and going to bed.

sailboats were all over Puget Sound on Saturday; Mt. Rainer in the background

Our very last morning included packing up but more importantly-one last amazing meal at the Snapdragon Cafe. We got there right before it opened and we both had decadent breakfasts, Susie claiming the special of sweet potato fritters and I had an herb scramble with roasted potatoes. Unbelievably good. We kept looking at each other at every meal like this is even better than the last thing!

I can tell that the values of the people on the island are resourcefulness, community, the arts, and food. They are doing a great job by keeping that bridge away and keeping the quaintness and the deliciousness of Vashon on a small scale. Next time (and there will be a next time), I'd want to stay a bit longer, and get an airbnb that was fully private with the use of a kitchen to do some cooking with the produce, meat, eggs, and diary that was sold by the side of the road. We didn't buy too much local produce because I couldn't take anything across the border. I'll see you soon, Vashon! What a treat. 

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