Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lavender Festival!

Last week when my sister innocently asked me what I was doing that Saturday, I just as innocently replied… nothing? Which resulted in an epic 14-hour trip to the lavender festival in Sequim.

It all started with the Edmonds/Kingston ferry, which had a line longer than I had ever seen it, all the way to Robinhood lanes for those of you familiar with the area. It was so long, in fact, I didn’t believe it was actually the ferry line until it was too late and then, dear readers, I cut. The designated ferry holding space hadn’t even started yet so it’s not like I went all the way to the front – I just eased my way over as soon as I realized that it was, in fact, the line. Cue the woman behind me FREAKING OUT, honking a bunch, and then very clearly calling the “Be a hero – report line cutters!’ hotline when we passed the sign. I called the number too, to defend myself against the crazy passive aggressive lady calling me out. Was it a little rude? Sure. But there were definitely people cutting waaaaay farther up than we did. I let my karma take the notch and we only had to wait an hour for the ferry. Here we are, shivering outside on the ferry (Tessa kindly loaned her sister a hoodie since I had dressed optimistically instead of realistically).

Once off at Kingston it was another 30 miles to Sequim. About 5 miles of this was inexplicable bumper-to-bumper traffic which ended up being due to a roadside farm with its own traffic cops that were apparently not very good at directing traffic. Then it was smooth sailing and clear skies to Sequim – it sits in a rain shadow and only gets about 10-20 inches of rain a year, and what had been a foggy, cold morning turned to sunny blue as soon as we got there . . . four hours after we left Seattle. Yikes. We immediately noticed lavender growing everywhere, even along the side of the highway; clearly it grows well in the rain shadow.

Of course we were starving and not thinking straight so we followed the lemmings onto a shuttle which languished in downtown traffic, only to find that we could have easily walked the few blocks from where we parked. Alas, we finally got to the street fair part of the festival.

We were surprised to find not the lavender-infused food we had expected but instead your standard, run-of-the-mill fair food like gyros, strawberry shortbread, and Vietnamese noodles. We did find lavender lemonade and made two Arnold Palmers out of that plus some rosemary iced tea (yum). Then we found the only food stand without a line which also happened to serve the only lavender-inspired food: a perfect piece of salmon grilled with spatzl pasta, sweet-and-sour cabbage with lavender, and fresh pesto. We followed that up with a dozen mini donuts seasoned with lavender sugar. The festival had started! Here’s Tessa showcasing our delicious lunch:

Next we wandered the street fair part which was outrageously tacky. Take your average fair tackiness and increase that about 50% - seriously, there was some talent behind this stuff. Tessa did find a gorgeous leather bracelet with lavender etched into it, plus there was an air plant stand, so there were some redeeming elements.

The real highlight of the lavender festival are the farms you can tour. There are 6 total and each one has a set of dedicated shuttle buses to and from the street fair. The first one we hit up was called Purple Haze and is supposed to be the most famous lavender farm in the world. Here’s a shot of part of the farm:

It was much more chill than the street fair but still fairly crowded which we found out when we tried to get in line for ice cream – crazy long wait and I promised Tessa I’d take her for honey lavender ice cream at Full Tilt sometime soon if we didn’t have to stand in line.

Instead, I bought an adorable hat and we each got henna tattoos. Then we laid in the grass between lavender fields and just enjoyed the sunshine and the fresh flowery smell. For some reason poppies were grown among the lavender plants at Purple Haze, a beautiful red accent against the various shades of purple. (For those of you who thought there was only one variety of lavender… think again.) Here’s Tessa in the hat:

It was getting pretty late and the farms closed at 6 (or so we were told) so we hopped the shuttle back but smartly got off at our car, choosing to drive to the next farm instead. There was plenty of parking and it set us up to leave right when we were ready. (Others were not so smart and when we left the second farm there was a group of about 20 waiting for a shuttle... except they didn't seem to realize the shuttles had stopped running 45 minutes ago. Luckily the farm was close enough to the street fair to walk, but they didn't show signs of budging.)

The second farm we checked out was called Cedarbrook and it was much, much more chill. Fewer people and a calmer, older vibe in general. There was a photography company there trying to promote itself and took free photos that they then emailed to us. Here’s ours:

Then we sat down at their outdoor café (which was open until 8) and ordered mint lavender chocolate iced teas and lavender crème brule and enjoyed more of the late afternoon sun and the ambience. The waitstaff was clearly undertrained and overworked and were pretty frazzled, especially since they were out of just about everything, but it was lovely all the same. We chatted up a super nice couple next to us before taking one last wander through the lavender fields. We waited too long to pay the $5 “U Pick” fee to snip enough lavender stalks to fill a zip-tie but we just did a little renegade picking and were otherwise happy with our many lavender purchases, made at both farms: soap, essential oil, massage oil, bubble bath, culinary lavender, and lavender sachets.

I wanted to drive up the hill to get a view of the surrounding mountains and water and after a few hilarious tries to take a timed self-portrait we were ready to roll at around 7:30.

We ran into traffic again, this time even more inexplicable because it dissipated 2 miles before the farm that had caused the holdup the first time. Then we passed ominous signs threatening a long wait for the Edmonds ferry and got a little stressed trying to figure out if we should take the Bainbridge/Seattle ferry, drive around to Tacoma, or just stick to the Edmonds plan, which is what we ultimately did.

A few miles outside Kingston we still hadn’t slowed down; the shoulder wait lane began and wasn’t used; we got as far as the pay booth (I didn’t know you had to pay coming AND going on this ferry route – bummer) when the woman told us we had a ‘50/50’ shot at making the 9:10 ferry; otherwise it would be 11 pm. Ohhhhhkay, we said. Suffice to say we were a mite grumpy. “You know,” I said to Tessa, “there’s not much difference between the last car to get on and the first car not to. It’ll be a karmic sign either way.”

They started loading lane after lane after lane. I could see how full the boat was getting and hadn’t lost hope when our lane started to move. Score! But, no sooner had we started than we stopped again. Our hearts sank. We sat… and sat… and sat… and then the cars in front of us started to move. We were the very last car in our lane. Would we make it? Would we make it?? …. YES! We were literally the last car and the ferry was already pulling away by the time I had turned my engine off. We started screaming and dancing and most of the ferry workers thought we were nuts, but one guy totally understood and joined in our celebration. Here’s my car with the sun still setting behind it:

Instead of getting on a ferry at 11, we got home at 11… 14 hours after we’d departed that morning. Totally worth it but now that we’ve been once, our takeaway is: go to the lavender farms any 1 of the other 150 days of the year they’re open!


AmberAnda said...

Wow, sounds like a fun summer day mission. I am so impressed you were the very last car... I definitely know the joys of making a ferry. ( :

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