The first time my husband suggested we charter a boat and cruise the San Juan’s, I wondered why he wanted to go to Puerto Rico. I’m ashamed to admit as a native Californian I had no idea there were islands off the Washington state coast. But I’m finding out many others have no idea where these island clusters are located.
My husband and I did cruise the San Juan’s and had such a good time that I thought my sisters would enjoy a little “island time” on our annual Mother’s Day getaway.
For those who do not know, I’ve been taking little Mother’s Day trips since my fourth son was born. Back in those days, my friend Sue and I would book a nice room in Palm Springs, enjoy a massage and some quiet time before returning home in time for dinner with our kids.
Sue moved back to Wisconsin and I took up traveling with my mom and my sisters. Mom passed away several years ago and my sisters and I just kept up the tradition. We’ve been to Charleston, New Orleans, Idaho and even a motor home camping trip on the coast of San Diego. It’s been a great tradition. This year it was my turn to plan the trip and I thought – the San Juan’s.
The San Juan Islands are composed of more than 100 land masses just off the coast of Washington. Some of the islands are private or state parks while others are bustling little cities of their own. Friday Harbor, for example, is the county seat and probably one of the busiest of the islands. This is where my sisters and I would set up camp for a week in May.
While I consider myself a quiet, read-a-book kind of island dweller, my sisters like agendas and want to explore. From Friday Harbor this would be an easy combination of the two. Thanks to a good friend who moved to Friday Harbor several years ago, I was able to rent a home on the northern tip of the island – Roche Harbor.
We all took separate flights into Seattle (two from LAX, one from San Diego and another from South Carolina) and managed to make it there about the same time (12 noon). After renting an SUV, the sisters spent the night in Seattle enjoying all that this big city offers – from fresh fish and vegetables at Pikes Market to a wonderful meal complete with Washington State wines at the Capitol Grille. The next morning we loaded up with some more groceries in Anacortes and boarded a ferry to Friday Harbor. A short drive to Roche Harbor and we settled in our rental home surrounded by majestic pine trees, wandering deer and playful sea lions (or were they seals? don’t know).
Once we unpacked groceries and suitcases, we barbecued our fresh fish from Pikes and popped open the first of many bottles of wine. The sun doesn’t really set in the Pacific Northwest until 9:30 – 10 so we had long evenings of talking and reflecting
Our agenda was full. On Friday Harbor we visited an alpaca farm and a lavender farm, lunched with friends and enjoyed a little shopping trip (mostly to dress up the youngest sister).
Two days were dedicated to Canada – Victoria to be exact. We took another ferry to Sidney Harbor and a short cab ride to downtown Victoria.
That day was spent at Butchart Gardens. I have to say these gardens should be on everyone’s bucket list. Built by Julia Butchart in the area surrounding the home she shared with her husband - Mr. Burchard owned Portland Cement and mined a huge quarry near their property. The cement business was booming in the early 1900s and the Butchart’s lived a good life.
Once all the limestone was acquired, Julia decided to reclaim the quarry. Soon the entire property was overtaken with blooms and bushes and treesBelieve it or not, May is not the high season at the gardens. Roses were not in bloom, but tulips were everywhere. Every year over one million bedding plants in 700 varieties are used throughout the Gardens to make sure there is not any uninterrupted bloom from March through October. Close to a million people visit the Gardens each year.
The sisters loved Victoria – the food, the people, the flowers and the souvenir shops! Traveling was easy but definitely not on our side for this trip. We missed busses, almost took the wrong ferry, almost missed getting off the ferry at our stop (we fell asleep) and were hassled by the TSA in Seattle (a first for me).
But our Mother’s Day trips are the best. Four sisters spending a week together can be draining – yes there are tears and arguments – but how lucky are we that, in the long run, we enjoy each other’s company.