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Whale Watching and Prima Bistro on Whidbey Island

My alarm went off at 7:30am – not to go to work on a Friday but to catch a ferry and make a 10:30am launch for whale watching. 


I've lived in the Northwest for 10 years now, and never yet been whale watching. I wonder if this is a matter of priorities, first world problems such as not having someone who wanted or could go with me, or if is just that I just never got around to it.   Either way, today was the day – and after our morning of spotting large sea mammals we would be off to Coupeville, the second oldest town in the State of Washington, located just off of Penn Cove on Whidbey Island –  to eat glorious seafood, hike or clam or something weather permitting, and enjoy a lovely little beach cottage away from the city.


Back to the morning – I greeted Evan home from work, packed the car, patted Odin on the head and told him to harass the dog-sitter, and out the door we went to the oddly deserted streets of Seattle for a Friday morning.  We made it to the Mukilteo ferry with no issue and settled down in the ferry line with our coffees. 


Despite my promises that mediocre ferry boat cafeteria food was on its way, the galley on the ferry was not open, so Evan got to eat the dried mangos I had stashed in my purse for emergencies. The whale watching boat would only have coffee and tea, and the trip at least two hours – luckily lunch in Langley, Washington would be no problem.


Upon arrival at the boat, known as the Mystic Sea, hence Mystic Sea Charters being its name – I was praised for bringing my paperwork (Groupon print out and receipt stating I had paid my $11 in parking and docking fees).  Two boarding passes in hand we were on our way to see the whales. Except all the other people who got their before us, earlier than 10:15am had taken the seats on the outside edges of the boat.  We claimed a comfy booth inside and played with the binoculars. 

Mystic Sea Charters is a family run operation that guarantees you will see grey whales 99% of the trips out into the Puget Sound. On our journey were two very young children, one a baby, she did not like the boat that much.  The other one seemed content to mock us with his large supply of cheese and sandwiches from his parents.  I was just about completely bored of watching the beautiful island and inland shores pass us by when we heard the captain note that a whale blew just off the left hand side of the ship and would likely resurface in 3 to 10 minutes. 

Sure enough the same or another whale did appear in the very near future, accompanied by the requisite “oohs” and “aahs” and “click, click, click, click” of camera shutters.  I looked around and realized that my iPhone 5 was not the best camera for this endeavor – but alas it is the only photo taking implement I had so I would do my best to capture at least one photo of one whale tail before the day was through.


As I stood, slightly precariously at the railing of the front of the boat’s deck leaning, with my iPhone 5 in hand, I found myself standing next to a little blonde boy, also armed with a camera phone, willing to lean out further than me.  “Excuse me” he said as he nestled himself back between me and the man in front of me.  I reached to take a picture of the whale known as Patches and there it was the – money shot – of the little blonde boy’s head.  I heard the sound of mocking horns in my head and decided that perhaps it was not that important that I got a picture but that I just enjoyed the moment in real time. 

The sea was starting to get a bit choppy, and the sky overcast – so the captain noted that we were going to try one more place before heading in.  My fingers were cold so I headed inside the cabin to have some coffee and composed this poem.

Standing on the bow 

we wait for the breach.

Whales come up

then go down,

click, click, of the camera

"I've got one!"

Blonde headed boy in my view finder.

And the sea got choppier, so it was time to “head for the barn” said the captain.  Yay! It was almost lunch time at 2:30pm.  We disembarked and made it out of the parking lot and zipped up the hill to Langley where I took us immediately to the Prima Bistro – the best place to eat in downtown Langley, Whidbey Island. A little French bistro nestled in the rainy alcove of Western Washington.


We analyzed the menu for things we had not yet eaten, or wanted to try again in the land of Francophile food.  Sweat breads were on the menu but we got distracted and didn’t go there.


Evan, half starving, ordered snails to start (pictured above)– and I ordered the grilled octopus.  I paired it with a Whidbey Island Winery rose (when you are on the island right?). The citrus tarragon on the lightly charred mollusk was a dance on my tongue washed down with bright notes of Grenache.


Then for our main courses – a Reuben sandwich for Evan, (it was good but not picture worthy, nor was it actually French, but hey who is counting). For me the grilled radicchio salad and Penn Cove mussels au curry. 


The curry gravy on the mussels was a light and wispy concoction of white wine, butter and turmeric.  Heavenly simple and bursting with a perfect matched flavor– and presented in such a great little cast iron dutch oven. 


Now full and satiated it was time to drive to Coupeville, just another 20 miles up the island from Langley. 

Upon arrival in Coupeville we immediately drove right past our beach cottage at Garden Isle Guest House Cottages and Vacation Home, and actually right through town, surprised at its extremely small dimensions.  We turned around and turned into the driveway of our lodging establishment just as another couple was coming to check-in.


We walked into the office behind them to greet the owner who stated “I have a schpiel for everyone when they first get here.”   We allowed him to proceed.  He brought out 4 different maps, pointed out every place to eat, where to park at the state park nearby without having to pay the fees and where the best hiking trail was at Deception Pass park, just twenty miles up the road.  Or if we wanted we could take a ferry to Port Townsend and bask in the military turrets built to protect us from the British. 

Upon finishing he was about to march us all up the hill to the Admiral’s house, when I said “We are not together.”  I threw him off a bit.  “Sorry, we didn’t want you to have to do the schpiel twice.”  He smiled and asked the other couple to wait a bit and showed us to the little cottage we would call home for the next two nights. 


After a little respite we decided to talk the grand tour of town.  In less than 10 minutes we had walked the entirety of downtown and examined most of the historical sites including some statues of small children and dogs. 


We ended our night at Christopher’s, the restaurant anyone I knew who knew of Coupeville said to go to, and the proprietor of our bed and breakfast insisted we try.


This is the Ceasar style calamari.  It became obvious upon the plating why they called them Ceasar style.  It was like a calamari ceasar salad. 


Evan got the specialty, seafood linguini, and I ended up ordering the meditteranean pasta dish, a vegetarian, seafood-less dish, but it was very good and reminded me of when I was a vegetarian in Rome as the Whidbey Island Pinot Gris kept flowing.  

We ended the night defeated by the portion sizes provided by Christopher's and ready for bed full and another adventure tomorrow.



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