Langley's Small Boat Harbor by Ron Roesler
If you have never been to Langley, Washington, do make it one of your Pacific Northwest destinations. Last week I went to Seattle, Washington to visit my daughter, Melissa, her husband, Alex and grand daughter, Maya. They agreed to take me to Langley in Whidbey Island in search of Dave Gregor of Gregor Rare Books so I could learn more about book selling. Alex packed us and the family dog, Kobe, a handsome Akita into the family van and treated us to a most relaxing and renewing day trip.
My late husband, Felix, and I have had a love affair with the the islands of western Washington State for many years and when he was still able to travel, we came to the Seattle area three to four times a year to escape work. We liked to pack an overnight bag, buy cheese, bread and drink and go on day or overnight trips to different places close by. Langley, the village by the sea, is one place we frequented and so I was happy to combine a day with family, learn about books, and reminisce of times gone by.
Langley is a small town on Whidbey Island, (0.8 square miles and population 1072 in 2008) packed with scenic views, shops, tourist accommodations, arts and activities. It is on the southeast end of Whidbey Island, the second largest salt water island in mainland USA. Even the local grocery store has a picture window with a view of the bay and the Cascade Mountains across the water. It is also calls itself a book town by the sea. It is a friendly town. People stop to chat, give directions, make suggestions or just get to know you.They are proud of their town.
First order of the trip was to see Dave Gregor at Gregor Rare Books. He is treasure trove of pearls on how to run a book selling business. His store is a book collector's paradise. My daughter, Melissa and I envied his collection of first edition Hemingways, Steinbecks and many of our favorite authors. I got free advice and the hour passed by quickly. Melissa, a journalist and book lover later told me how the store clearly reflected Dave's great love and respect for books. I agreed. I want to be like him when I grow up in the book business.
We walked the town. I set out to browse through all the book shops in book town. I took in book store lay-out, customer service, book choices and learned so much on this trip. Alex and Kobe romped around the park. Kobe was a hit with just about everybody. Melissa and Maya did mom and daughter things.
There is a lot to do here throughout the year. Actors, playwrights, artists from other places come to live here and this town of 1072 people is cosmopolitan in its own way. There are many published authors here. I got Maya a delightful children's book by a local author. The Fire House is home to talented glass artists who give classes and demonstrations. There is a 250 seat theater where playwrights and actors put on different shows. If you can, do sign up for the annual Mystery weekend (next is February 26-27, 2011. Townspeople play a part in the plot. Shop keepers spread false news about the crime.
The outdoor buff will find hiking, kayaking and fishing activities. Children can comb the beach and dig clams. (Langley is home to the Penn Cove mussel.) Gardeners can enjoy the flowers. Meerkerk Gardens, a nature preserve, just a few miles inland has acres of rhododendron trees which is just magnificent in April. And then, there is whale watching.
Langley is included in the 100 best destinations by Life Magazine, in the best 3 scenic driving destinations by Coastal Living and the 50 romantic getaways by Travel and Leisure.
Whidbey Island is accessible through Washington State Ferry service from Mukilteo, 25 miles north of Seattle through the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry service available every half hour. It is connected to the Olympic peninsula by the Keystone- Port Townsend ferry service. You can drive through Deception Pass Bridge from the Anacortes exit off I-5. There is also ferry service connecting it to the San Juan Islands.
There is plenty of lodging from resorts to bed and breakfast inns. Felix and I loved to stay at The Inn at Langley. All the rooms are spacious, furnished in a minimalist style and have a panoramic view of the water and the Cascades. Resident chef Matt Costello serves gourmet dining from Thursday to Sunday in the summer and Friday to Sunday year round.
The Inn at Langley
And now to reminiscing. A few years back, I was caught in the busyness of work and burning the candle on both ends, I wanted so badly to get off the hectic train but found all kinds of rationalizations for why I couldn't. Felix is not ever subtle with advice but sensing my near burn-out state, he took me to a week of island hopping around Puget Sound. I think now it was his attempt at a subtle way of showing me life is whatever I wished it to be. There is something so liberating about being in these islands. No one is in a rush. It is futile to rush to the ferry when you could be the first cut when the ferry gets full. There is no road rage here. When you are in the islands, you take things in stride. When you drive to the ferry, you bring a book, a craft project, or your laptop, sandwiches and drinks, and patiently wait for the next one. In Langley, Oak Harbor, Friday Harbor or any similar coastal town, you can just sit by the water, drink, eat and chat with people you just met like there was nothing else to do. You notice things like kayaks and sailboats in the distance which seem suspended in time. You notice flowers, trees, clouds, birds, people, sunsets. You value stillness and stopping and now and who you are and who and what you have. You realize you do not have to chase whatever it is you're chasing because in the end you are really simply looking for you.
Here, you live on island time. Someone stole the clock and nobody cares.
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