Towns with ghosts

Port Townsend, Washington
Photo and Waterlogue by Shelley Adina

One of my favorite places in the world (okay, that list is pretty long, but still in the top five) is Port Townsend, WA, home of the Brass Screw Confederacy, Sirens pub, Pygmy Boats, Fort Worden State Park, and the Old Consulate Inn, among many other delights. It’s also the home of a startling number of ghosts.

This isn’t surprising, when you consider the scandalous reputation the town possessed in the nineteenth century. Between its founding in 1851 and its heyday in the 1880s, Port Townsend had the worst reputation on the west coast for brawling, crime, and murder. Worse even than the Barbary Coast (San Francisco). Divided into two parts—Downtown on the waterfront and Uptown on the cliff—the well-heeled residents in their Victorian mansions Uptown could ignore or at the very least pray for what was going on down there, literally under their noses.

A room at the Palace Hotel, photo by Shelley Adina
A room at the Palace Hotel, photo by Shelley Adina

By the 1890s, it was clear that the railroad was not going to come to this busy port, and it faded into obscurity just as rapidly as it had risen. But the one advantage to being out of the way was that the Victorian buildings were left alone. So were the ghosts. Two of the most famous are the Manresa Castle Hotel Uptown, which has two spirits (don’t stay in room 306), and the Palace Hotel Downtown, which used to be a brothel and has ten.

Ten ghosts! I went for a walk through the Palace Hotel and didn’t see a single one, but it was broad daylight, so that may have had something to do with it. I did see a lot of lovely quilts and Victorian architecture, however. Nowadays Port Townsend is a destination that for me, still holds its old moniker, City of Dreams. I can walk on the waterfront, squint just a certain way, and see Corsair’s Cove, hovering out there just beyond reality.

A little like a ghost.


Tea and Travel

Last weekend I treated myself to a few days away. I’d just survived a book deadline and was looking forward to baking in the sun at a local music festival. This meant a few hours’ drive up Vancouver Island on a beautiful sunny Friday. Getting there is half the fun, right?

One of the real treats with taking a road trip is the opportunity to stop in interesting places along the way. The very first tea farm in Canada, Westholme Tea Company ( is just north of the city of Duncan. After a drive down a winding country road, my friend and I stopped in a completely charming oasis that housed not only the farm, but also a charming garden patio, an intriguing shop filled with single origin and blended organic teas, and a pottery gallery.

The tea plants were smaller than I expected and grew in shaggy terraced rows along the hillside. Inside the shop we were offered samples of the tea du jour in tiny cups made from the very funky local pottery. The building was open and airy and filled with wonderful scents and lots of treasures to investigate. The staff was great, too, filled with suggestions and information.

I learned a lot about the differences in taste between first and second flush teas. This refers to whether the tea is gathered from the first growth in the spring or from a later crop of leaves. The first flush has a more astringent taste and the second is mellower. Preference is a matter of taste, although many prize the first flush and often that’s more expensive. Yes, I bought a few things, including a nice second flush Darjeeling.

I don’t follow a hundred mile diet, but investigating locally produced foods is a great excuse to seek out fascinating people doing cool things. Hopefully I’m shrinking my carbon footprint and expanding my horizons at the same time!