Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Under a near-constant cover of clouds..."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

You most likely discerned from this that I did indeed go on a book-lover's/Twilight fan's vacation to Forks, Washington. It was a lovely four day jaunt, and worth every penny spent. I always love the idea of visiting a spot from a favorite book, and Forks certainly did not disappoint.

The trip was ostensibly planned to celebrate my sister's 25th birthday, as she has always wanted to visit Seattle. Our mutual love for the Twilight saga provided the perfect incentive to make the drive from Seattle to Forks. I was thrilled with the opportunity to visit Seattle, actually. Growing up in the midst of a drought can make one very appreciative of rain, so the overcast skies and occasional drizzle of the first day were welcome to us.

We spent the majority of our first day making our way through the winding halls and stalls of the Pike Place market. Open since 1907, the market retains quite a bit of aged charm. It's not fancy, by any means, but heavily traveled and crowded. There was a plethora of excellent food to be had, and loads of stalls brimming with fresh, brilliantly colored produce and flowers. After living in California for awhile, one gets used to the sight of a good farmer's market, so it wasn't necessarily new to me-the great difference is in the fact that the Pike Place Market is open daily, while we have to wait for a few hours on the weekend, usually, to go to a decent market.

We sampled crisp slices of Jazz apples and juicy sections of tangerines while waffling between purchases of fresh berry jams or Jane Austen bookmarks from one of the many bookshops. Our breakfast consisted of thick, perfectly buttered slices of sourdough toast, enjoyed with coffee while looking out the window at Elliott Bay. We observed tiny doughnuts being made in an old-fashioned machine, dipped in hot oil and then quickly doused in cinnamon sugar. All in all, a perfect start to our day.

I lamented about not having had the chance to ride on a ferry (I have a thing for ferry boats-who said that, pop culture addicts?) as we began our drive to Port Angeles, our second stop, by my worries proved to be in vain. In Kingston, just a few miles from Seattle, my trusty GPS directed us to a ferry. I've ridden on them before, but never with a vehicle, which was an experience in itself, but the best part was seeing the serenely cold beauty of the sound and evergreen covered spits of land that extended on either side. We slipped out of our car and sat on the refreshingly clean leather banquettes upstairs, just like any other commuters.

Port Angeles gave us our first hint of the effect of Twilight mania. Bella Italia, the restaurant where Bella acknowledges that she knows Edward's secret, was a quiet little place a few streets from the waterfront. The hosts and waiters were quite warm and friendly as we ordered plates of mushroom ravioli (well, I was the only one who actually ordered the ravioli, but I thought "we ordered plates" sounded better :) ), which of course had to be inserted into their menu after the books. Various posters and signs were strategically placed in corners of the restaurant-Stephenie Meyer has visited, as well as many, many other legions of fans on their way to Forks. On our way out, as we took a quick photo in front of the restaurant, we were stopped by a reporter and photographer from the Seattle Times, who was doing a feature on Port Angeles. We were interviewed about our trip, and my mother has since received three phone calls about the article-you'll have to look us up!

By the time we started on the winding road to Forks, it was dark, so we didn't see much but the dark forest on either side of us, for fifty-seven miles. It was very slow-going, and I was already struggling to imagine why a high school student from Forks would even want to make that trip very often. We could see a brief shadow of a lake as we drove, which proved to be stunning. Our greeting at the Pacific Inn was extremely warm and friendly, and we were even given a tour of the "Twilight Rooms" that had been recently renovated. It was not an elaborate renovation, but was certainly cute. After having spent a night in a major chain hotel in Seattle with no wireless, I was cheerfully handed a code for the free wireless in our room, so my sister and I were able to watch The Office that evening.

For our first morning in Forks, we decided to try the Forks Coffee Shop, which was right across the street from our motel. In the light of day, it was quite obvious how quiet and small the simple town, so recently become a focal point of obsession everywhere, really was. One main street, with one stoplight, stretched through the town. Three or four motels clung to the sides of the main road, as well as a smattering of local stores, including an ice cream shop, drug store, bank and "Dazzled by Twilight", a store so new that the local Chamber of Commerce hadn't yet added it to the Twilight town map.

We had toast with blackberry jam, fresh pancakes and bacon, and hot coffee, for a grand total of somewhere around $10. Our waitress was sweet and unassuming, despite the fact that we most definitely stuck out like sore thumbs. A stunning selection of jewelry made by the shop's owner was displayed under the cash register. I would have loved to share it with you, but she didn't have a web site. Open since 5:30 a.m., the coffee shop was obviously quite essential to the locals.

We headed to the local shops first, in quest of some decent souvenirs. The shops were replete with Twilight paraphernalia, including model silver Volvos, movie posters, and blankets emblazoned with the phrase "If I could dream, I would dream about you." I was pleased to hear, in the "Dazzled by Twilight" store, a Stephenie Meyer playlist melodiously emanating from the sound system. Creating her playlists take an effort!

After picking up a few trinkets, we headed to the Chamber of Commerce, the site of Bella's truck and various other Twilight-related things. My sister and I gamely posed by the truck, pretending to knock the dent out of it (a la Edward Cullen) before heading inside, where we witnessed a huge map covered in pins from what must have been thousands of world visitors. Yes, WORLD visitors. There were even three pins stuck soundly in Russia! We picked up our Twilight packet, handed out to every visitor, which contained a town Twilight map and four sheets of book trivia. The town created their own locations for Bella's house and the Cullen's house, and spiced up the hospital parking lot with a spot for Dr. Cullen. The movie was shot in Portland and the surrounding towns, as Forks was not financially feasible for housing a movie cast. One can see why immediately-the town seems to be quite impoverished. Everyone was extremely kind and generous, and willingly admitted the positive influence that the books' successes have had on the town and its economy. However, it was impossible to ignore the pervasive sense of isolation. At the candy shop, we learned that in spite of the logging and fishing industry, the biggest employer in Forks is the hospital.

The highlight of the day, by far, was our trip to La Push, on the Quileaute reservation. While the little town itself was not especially memorable, the stunning shores of First Beach were breath-taking. My mom really hasn't spent much time on beaches, and seeing the rough, wild beauty of the Pacific was a major experience for her. We hiked down to Second Beach on our way out of La Push, which was really the best part. The hike took us through the lush green forests of Olympic National Park down to the driftwood-strewn beach. It's difficult to really capture in words how beautiful it was-suffice to say I feel very lucky to be able to drive a mere hour or two, here in California, to see similar sights. My sister and I had a marvelous time recreating forest scenes from New Moon, and we also felt quite virtuous after completing what would certainly be considered an arduous hike for those of us who are shamefully out of shape.

We stopped by the local Thriftway to pick up a few Bella essentials: Pop Tarts for my sister and I-a rare, very bad-for-you treat. While we were there, an announcement came over the loudspeaker: "Bella and Edward, please bring in the carts from the parking lot." We laughed, of course, then quickly discussed how such a mundane task wouldn't fit Edward. In case you were wondering, we're kind of hard core about Twilight. :)

Our dinner at the Smokehouse Restaurant that evening was not particularly memorable, despite a fairly delicious "Bella Berry" pie and entertainment from the precocious townsfolk. We were sad to drive away from Forks the next day, though excited to actually able to see the Sol Duc River and the lake that had eluded us on our first night.

The trip just kept getting better and better-upon our return to Seattle, we discovered that our hotel (the downtown Sheraton) was actually quite lovely, and Twilight was playing on pay-per-view in our room! How perfect for us! We did some shopping at H & M, then headed out to the Space Needle for dinner. It was truly an incredible experience, perched high above Seattle and watching the scenery change as the restaurant made its slow, but definitely noticeable orbit. I would not say that the food was the best, and considering the accessibility of all kinds of fresh seafood and produce, it was disappointing. Still completely worth a trip, though!

We woke up early on our last day, eager to spend a bit more time in the market, which was only a few blocks away from our hotel. This time I really indulged in the doughnuts, and also picked up several varieties of herb and spice-infused pastas. The selection was impressive, and it was very hard to choose, but I narrowed it down to sweet potato orzo, rosemary-garlic linguine, basil garlic penne, and green jalepeno linguine. After a last lunch of crisp, lightly battered fish n' chips eaten overlooking the bay, we prepared for our sad drive back the airport. I did pick up a tiny fresh berry cheesecake from The Confectional, that was probably the most delectable bite of dessert I've ever had. It had the additional bonus of coming in a tiny box stamped with a sticker that said "Forgive me chocolate, for I have sinned. I have not yet had my daily confection." I love Seattle, I really do.

Thus, our vacation came to an end. It was far too short, and I think we could have all spent several more days exploring the tide pools at Second Beach or combing through more stalls at the market. We're already discussing how we expand our trip for the next time.


Katie Oh said...

Oh, I loved reading this, sounds lovely!

Kalle said...

What a fabulous Fan Vacation. I would love to visit Forks and see where the magic started. Loved this post.