Ten minutes from our home and just five minutes from many interesting places in Tacoma's North End stands the majestic Villa Bed and Breakfast. The Villa is a Tuscan style mansion built almost ninety years ago. It is a historic home located a few blocks from the Tacoma Lawn and Tennis Club and maybe a quarter of a mile from famous Stadium High School and the Stadium Bowl.
Peg and I needed to get away from the phone and just relax. We were also looking for something unique and close to home. When we travel to Seattle our goal is to leave Tacoma by two or three in the afternoon. It is usually four by the time we actually leave our hometown. For this trip we told Kristy House, our innkeeper that we would check in at two. We made it there at two-thirty. It seems that for small business owners there is always just too much to do.
We arrived at The Villa and were welcomed by our hostess. Kristy helped Peg with her book bag and the three of us went upstairs to our room. Actually, the bedroom consists of a huge bedroom with fireplace. Two lounging couches are placed to enjoy an intimate fire, however for our August stay we passed on a roaring blaze. The walls in the bedroom and our private bath were Granny Smith green with white trim. A huge armoire housed a TV and DVD player as well as a hanging closet and three good size drawers for clothes.
Our bed was a four-poster king. Peg nearly needed a ladder to get up in to bed. About ten feet away from the bed was a leather wingchair and table. Peg would sit in the chair and read for hours. On the table I set up my laptop, which refused to work and my netbook, which didn't have a charge. I was left without internet access. This was a little worrisome, but other than one quick trip home, I made it through our two-day adventure without my usual time spent online. The home has Wi-Fi, but I could have used Kristy's computer, but I chose the alternative of pretty much doing nothing. I managed to read one complete book (Old School by Tobias Wolfe) and started another (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larson).
Between the wingchair and our bed was a door out to a rooftop patio. From the patio there was a neighborhood view. Beyond that was Puget Sound, Vashon Island, the Olympia Penninsula and the Olympic Mountains. Across the street we could see a nice little cottage that had been remodeled and added onto. The front yard was populated with flowers of all kinds.
Enjoying the beauty of flowers, Peg and I walked over to the neighboor's and looked at and touched many of the flowers. They peeked out through the white picket fence and bloomed and blossomed seemingly everywhere. There were bushes and flowers in front of the fence, behind the fence, and beside the fence. In addition that arrangement was repeated between the sidewalk and the street as well.
This part of town has many beautiful old homes with manicured lawns. From our rooftop patio I could hear power mowers and landscape crews as they trimmed and clipped their way around the block. As Peg and I walked past the cottage we admired the architecture and color selections of each home.
When we walked back toward The Villa, we stopped and admired a huge cedar tree, which I had seen earlier from our bedroom window. The cedar stands across the street. It looked like it might have been cut down once for in the thick needles and limbs I could see a junction of trucks growing up. At the base it was probably twenty-four feet around. Not ancient perhaps, but old.
In the Puget Sound area the dominant tree is the Douglas fir. There are also chestnut trees, maples, fruit trees aplenty and if you give them any chance at all alder. Alder grows quick and thick. There were no alders in sight. Along the front of The Villa were cyprus trees just like Peg and I had seen at the villa we had rented in Tuscany with our group of friends. The Villa brought back many memories during our short stay.
While in Tuscany there were olive trees and rosemary in profusion, here in Tacoma at The Villa there are many flowers and shrubs. Peg had me take many more photographs of the landscaping than we use in this story. What was nice was that we took notive of their shapes and colors just as the bees did traveling around the yard. The many windows (many arched eyebrow windows above long windows) and patios at The Villa let you see the various gardens surrounding the home and driveway.
Tucked into a shadowy corner of the lawn was a small pond and fountain. I could see it from the walkway leading up to the front door as well as from the atrium or sun room that stood opposite it at the end of the dining room.
Throughout the house and around the property are animals. Marble animals, stone animals, painted animals, furniture upholstered with animals, and rugs with animal motiff. White rabbits and fawns seem to be sitting everywhere and watching. Luckily they are not grotesque. They provide points of interest and almost beg to be petted.
The owners have their own animals as well, but they are friendly and mostly unseen and never have complete run of the house, so guests with allergies (like Peg) have no problem with pet hair and dander. On one wall facing the central staircase are two fox hunting prints. Our hostess, Kristy kept horses (jumpers) until she and her husband purchased The Villa. She has a gleam in her eye when she talks about her various horses and even when she just mentions their names. You can tell she loved them dearly. Innkeeping allows no time for the attention good horses deserve.
Peg and I were able to read a few pages and take a short nap (we slip into vacation mode easily) before considering dinner. About 5:30 we left for The Hub, which is part of the Harmon Brewery group of pubs and restaurants. We made one stop on the way. Just a few blocks from the B & B is the house that contains the studio appartment Peg and I first called home.
The first floor appartment had a couch that folded down into bed, a small kitchen and a little, teeny-tiny bathroom. Then as now we chose beauty over functionality. We could have rented larger appartments for about the same amount of money, but the studio appartment had a bay window with a window seat that looked out into a private yard with a huge laurel hedge. We liked the view and put up with the cramped quarters.
We shared our first wonderful Christmas there on North Yakima Avenue. Peg was showered with gifts. I loved buying her pretty things even then. Although there was no eBay in those days, I still managed to shop for plenty of presents, which I knew would bring her joy. She was overwhelmed . . . but she got used to it.
At the time I was an art student at the University of Puget Sound. I created my favorite painting there one Sunday morning. It hangs above my desk and each time I look at it, I think of the day I painted it. Using Polaroid images, which I took with my buddies as we wandered around a wrecking yard just off South Tacoma Way I laid out my composition. Now, Pierce Transit stands were old junkers once rusted. Those junkers are the subject of my painting, Rest in Peace. Using fast-drying acrylics I painted it completely while Peg walked to St. Patrick's for mass and returned. We loved that appartment and its location. We moved just before our first baby came along.
Peg and I continued on driving past The Hub where we were going to dine and stopped instead at The Grand Cinema. Peg jumped out of the car and picked up a flyer with film descriptions and movie starting times, which we took to The Hub. We managed to find a parking space right beside the deck where people were dining. The Hub has two huge garage doors near the entrance that roll up during nice weather. Diners can choose to sit on the deck and enjoy a meal and good company, or inside the pub away from the fresh air. We chose a spot just inside the doors, which gave us a nice cooling breeze and natural sunlight.
There are many different reasons for dining at The Hub. The owners are great community supporters. For the last two years the TACID special drawing has featured money saving offers for lunch and dinner at the three Harmon establishments. I have a stack of coupons at my desk where they usually just sit. At The Hub there are flat screen TVs everywhere of course, but creating more eye appeal are paintings by local artists. Each one is labeled and is offered for sale. I'm sure Wi-Fi is probably available, but why go to a tavern to surf the net?
Peg and I sat and talked and looked over the movie choices at The Grand. We selected The Kids Are All Right for Thursday afternoon. The timing was perfect. We would be able to attend the Rotary meeting for lunch and then drive to the theater. Rotary meets at Tacoma's Landmark, which is kitty-corner from the building, which houses The Hub and about four blocks from our favorite movie house.
We order a beer each and selected five Happy Hour appetizers (salad, sweet potato fries, Kobe Beef sliders, garlic prawns, and hummus) for a nice sampling of Hub grub. Although their food is excellent, I think what keeps bringing me back is the sweet potato fries. They are probably no better nutrition-wise than regular fries, but they are certainly tasty. They are served with a chipolte sauce, which I start off with and then finish with Heinz Ketchup. I'm a simple man with simple tastes.
Peg and I shared everything . . . except the chipolte sauce. The blue cheese salad was wonderful. It was served with slivered almonds and red onions along with pieces of dried apple. If you ate the apple pieces individual their texture is a little rubbery, but taken together with the other items they work nicely. Only the hummus came up short. We even added a couple squeezes of lemon juice and a number of shakes of pepper. It needed more garlic and some sea salt . . . and some large grind pepper.
As we drank our beer and worked our way through the appetizers, a musician began setting up for a gig just a few feet away from us. Peg and I had no idea music would be added to our mix of talk and good food, but we welcomed it.
We watched the music man as he brought in two battle scared guitar cases and an ancient turquoise Samsonite suitcase containing his mixer, microphone and affects pedals. His face wasn't familiar, but I've seen the type many times before. He appeared to be in his late forties. He was purposeful and knew what he was doing. I guessed that he had set up and performed many times before . . . journey man who had played in many different venues for money as well has just plain joy of perorming. Since I had the back of my head barely three feet from a standing speaker Peg and I were prepared to move, but I thought we would be able to stand the volume.
With a few strums and a few words into the microphone the entertainment was about to begin. The Samsonite was upended and became a small table for a beer and a large glass of ice water. The first song confirmed our hopes. He was good and the music from the speakers was perfect to listen to. Peg and I could make comments to each other while he played at and be heard . . . most of the time. People a little further away had no problem continuing conversations.
The musician adjusted his mixer knobs as he played, and then after the first song, aimed the speaker away from the back of my head. We asked his name and had several requests during his set. His name is Miles. He had no business cards with him, so we were unsure of his last name. He promised business cards for his next performances, which would be Wednesday evenings for the rest of August and September.
Miles had a nice voice and played guitar well. After a Willie Nelson tune, we asked for blues and he switched immediately from country. We'll come back and enjoy his music again. We finished our food and beer. Miles finished his first beer and we asked about a tip jar. He took our little wad of dollar bills and put them in his empty glass of beer. He was starting to roll.
Thursday morning I read when I woke up instead of my normal routine of working at my computer. I had chosen a breakfast time of seven to dine. Peg chose eight-thirty. Knowing that coffee was served an hour prior to dining, I went downstairs and poured myself a cup and sat down at the head of the long Tuscan table in the dining room. Previous owners had visited Italy and hand-built the table when they returned. It reminded my of the table at our rented villa in Tuscany. Five couples sat around that table and this table would also sit five couples. Rays of warm sunshine shown through the windows onto the table, which made it feel even more like Tuscany.
I glanced through the news in the local papers: The News Tribune (Tacoma) and the Seattle Times. Breakfast was excellent, but finishing up I decided to drive home. I did logon and check emails, but that was incidental. The morning before we left I received a new camcorder in the mail and began using it for photographs of our stay, but had run out of memory. I returned to my office to print out the instructions and move files from the camcorder to my harddrive. I was finishing up when the business line rang. It was Peg. She had guessed that I had driven home. She requested some forgotten items (slippers and a book), which I retrieved before returning to The Villa.
I joined Peg for her breakfast and two guests. Mike, a retired homicide detective from Renton, and his wife Sharon. They were in Tacoma for one last medical treatment. Evidently they had stayed at The Villa several times. One of Mike's hobbies is sailing. He mentioned that he was a crew member of the tall ship Zodiac. There was a frontpage story about the ship in the Times. We talked about their sailing trips, Mike's time as a motorcyle patrolman and about Sharon's love of flowers and their own lawns and gardens, which were their pride and joy. It was easy to see why they chose The Villa for their stay in Tacoma. We laughed and talked for almost an hour and a half. Our easy conversation with them was one of joys of our adventure.
Before attending a Rotary luncheon with me Peg always wants to know what the program will be. Although she usually has a great time chatting with my friends, she likes to be entertained and enlightened. The program for the day was hearing the adventures of our two returning Rotary Exchange Students Hannah and Joel. Hannah had lived for nearly ten months in Denmark and Joel had traveled to Belgium. Both had thoroughly enjoyed the life-changing adventure. They showed slides of their host families and friends, their travels around Europe. and school activities. Peg and I love the exchange student program and have hosted exchange students from Belgium and Finland. Marketta from Finland was our favorite and we still still communicate after fifteen years. I'm sure Hannah and Joel will continue their friendships half-way around the world for years to come as well.
After Rotary we convined friend Rita Morkrid to join us for the movie. Quite often we join her for classic movies on Monday morning at a movie theater in Gig Harbor. We really liked the movie, The Kids Are All Right and afterwards went to the little winebar and restaurant next door to The Grand Cinema, The Minoela. We had a great discussion. Rita was very careful to tell us she liked the movie. The last time we took her to a movie she declared she didn't like it and we hadn't invited her since. This was Rita's complaint . . . not perhaps well-founded.
After the classic movies we go to lunch and talk and discuss the movie, so our conversation started with the movie and then ventured into other happenings. Rita had been a member of Sunrise Rotary and then transfered to Tacoma Rotary and then decided not to renew her membership as she entered into the sea cruise portion of her life. After ending her life on the high seas, she is in the process of joining Rotary once more. It's a long process. Rita has a heart of gold and sometimes a sense of humor to match. She has helped out with donations to several of our favorite causes. Like most of our friends we are able to laugh at each other and still listen to what they have to say.
Our waitress was Emily. She was bright and pleasant. Peg and I had wined and dined there before. Rita had not. Emily answered questions and took our orders. It's a strange little place. They are still feeling their way along. I hope they make it. They have great appetizers. Peg had a glass of wine, while I ordered a glass of limeade.
My limeade is an example of how they don't quite get things perfect. There as nothing wrong with my drink. In fact, it was wonderful. It contained fresh mint leaves and a ton of blueberries and served with ice. Great. However, there was no napkin and no spoon. If I had been given a spoon I would have eaten all of the blueberries. I fished out a couple as I drank down the limeade a bit in my glass being very careful not to wet my fingers since I had nothing to wipe them on. Of course I could have asked for a spoon and a napkin, but the restaurant owners should think about things like that as they plan their selections.
Rita ordered the Gorgonzola pasta. It's a very rich dish. I really like it, but a little goes a long way. Rita took much of it home. I think by eating several bites for lunch each day, it might last for a week.
The appetizers are very rich also at Minoela, so Peg and I usually order one and share with a salad each. They have a good selection of wines to accompany all their offerings. I hope they make a go of it. They've been there for months, so that's a really good sign.
It was so nice sitting and talking. Knowing our little adventures and how we make them fun, Rita invited us to join her for a couple of nights at her home on Day Island. I think we'll wait for a fall or winter storm. Rita's house faces west on Puget Sound, so even warm summer or fall days can over heat us. With her HVAC systems we could cool off, but the blinding setting sun is horrendous. However, a stormy day watching the waves and enjoying a little lightening. Now, that could be an interesting vacation. Maybe I could beg a little boat trip from a friend at the Day Island Marina. That might add a little excitement and adventure as well.
Rita went home to prepare for a date, while Peg and I went back to The Villa for a short nap before dinner. I woke Peg up about five-thirty and we maded ready for dinnner out. We drove the few blocks to the Parkway Tavern. Friend John and Karen Trueman were going to join us.
The Parkway is an unusual tavern. It is located between an appartment building and nice homes. It also just a block from Tacoma Little Theatre, so it's a great place to go for dinnner before seeing a play at TLT. The food is good, but nothing fancy. There is always a soup of the day and several options for draft beer. I've had several end of the workday meetings there and on election nights and when local sports teams are on TV there are always good size and loud crowds at the bar.
After waiting a few minutes Peg and I ordered. I asked the waitress about the Thai Salad. She made a face and said she couldn't recommend it, "The peanut sauce tastes like peanut butter and the vegetables are frozen. We need something for vegetarians." We ordered the Salmon Burger and the Bar-Be-Que Beef Sandwich. One with salad and one with soup. John and Karen arrived a few minutes after we ordered. They ordered something to drink and something to eat and then we settled down for a few jokes and catching up on family information.
We've known John and Karen since the late seventies. They came to Seattle for a Jaycee convention from Minnesota and fell in love the Pacific Northwest. We became fast friends when they joined the Tacoma Jaycees. Their kids attended St. Patrick's with our kids. We've remained friends ever since, but we only run into them every now and then. On Monday evening we had gone to a political reception for a mutual friend, which ended up with us inviting them to join us at the Parkway. Our dinner at the Parkway ended well with them inviting us to their summer place on Harstine Island. Other friends may visit Mason Lake, which is near Shelton and not that far from Shelton. Perhaps, we'll get together. There is a restaurant in Shelton that serves geoduck and it's been our our radar for ages.
Back at the Bed and Breakfast we read and then drifted off to sleep. I slept in a little bit on Friday morning and then went downstairs for coffee, breakfast and the local papers. I read the movie reviews and had a suggestion for Peg when she came down to join me.
While waiting for Peg, Kristy asked why we didn't eat breakfast together. I explained our different biological clocks and schedules and then Peg came down shortly after eight-thirty.
Our first morning we were served a nice fruit, yogurt and cereal starter with our choice of juice followed by an egg dish. Wednesday we had nicely scrambled eggs with dollops of goat cheese (maybe) or cream cheese (probably) with three slices of bacon. Our second morning we had a slightly different rendition of fruit and yogurt followed by an egg casserol and two sausage links. After two days of several meals a day, neither Peg nor I could eat all of our casseroles. Kristy was kind enough to mix orange and cranberry juice for us. It's our favorite combination. We could manage the juice.
We finshed off our two-day stay with book and movie talk around the table between the two of us and Kristy. Kristy and her husband and rented The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo two nights earlier and had seen the movie of the second book in the triology The Girl Who Played with Fire the night before. We had seen them both and loved them.
Kristy made us feel at home. We had a very relaxing time at The Villa. We met some nice people. We slept in a comfortable bed. We saw some nice flower gardens, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. What more can you ask of an adventure . . . especially in your own home town? We left for home after hugs around.