A couple of weekends ago, a friend invited me to Port Townsend to attend “Fiddle Fest” with her and a few other friends. She had an extra ticket and thought I’d enjoy it. I’m a huge fan of the violin; both classical and fiddle style so the invite was much welcomed. Not to mention the drive out to the Olympic Peninsula is picturesque and the sun was shining and warm – no small feat for the western side of the Pacific Northwest in June. We started our day off early, giving us plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely lunch and window shopping, so that by the time the festival’s finale began we’d already be lounging on the grass, glass of wine in hand, ready to enjoy the musical line-up.
I’ve been to Port Townsend a dozen or so times in the last sixteen years and, aesthetically, it hasn’t changed a bit. It has the look and feel of a quaint American coastal town; it’s Main Street lined in brick facade buildings, Victorian bed and breakfasts galore, sail boats dotting the water, as well as waterfront restaurants and pricey boutique shops. The locals adorn themselves in expensive imported or local handmade leather clogs, sandals, jewelry, bohemian style dresses and such.
Port Townsend also hosts a variety of artist, writers and music retreats year round; if you were to ask anyone involved in the arts in the Pacific Northwest, they’d know exactly where Port Townsend is on the map. Though I haven’t looked at the specific statistics, and am speaking solely from my own experiences and lackadaisical information gathered throughout the years visiting the town, the cost of living is high and the community itself tends to have more retirees than not. Those who want to leave the hustle of Seattle for a quieter, coastal art community tend to make it their home.
Again, it’s picturesque, it’s quaint, the views are breathtaking, there are an abundance of artistic retreats to choose from, art galleries to peruse, the drive to get there is lovely and the restaurants are spectacular. However…I’ve met nicer, kinder people in the upscale Kennebunkport Maine, downtown Chicago and even Boston. The snobbery and exclusivity of the locals rivals that of Rome, Italy. I typically re-visit places for the general feelings I get from the people, as I am a “people person.” Although, on occasion, I’ll return to a place solely based on either natural beauty or historic/artistic interest. Port Townsend is one of those very places. It’s appealing on all levels except for the very humanistic one. I’ve simply never left the town with warm and fuzzy feelings towards the inhabitants. On the contrary, I typically leave a little lost as to how such a sweet looking town, with so many creative souls, can feel so cold, cliquish and generally snobbish to its visitors (who happen to represent a large portion of the town’s income).
Interestingly enough, the one person to welcome me to the festival (besides my friend whom I was joining), to offer me her food, her drinks and her big toothy smile was a Roman woman named Romina. She was part of our “group” lounging on the grass listening to the music. Although she now lives in the United States with her husband and son, she was born and raised in the San Giovani area of Rome. I’ve been to Rome many many times and the only warmth I received from the women came from my ex-quasi-boyfriend’s family. They were extremely kind and welcoming to me. In general though, I was snubbed- dubbed an outsider and made to feel like it. Much like the feelings I get when visiting Port Townsend.
Yet there I was, surrounded by the snobbiness that is the people of Port Townsend, and am loved up by a Roman woman of all people. We sat next to one another and chatted about Italy, America and cultural differences while laughing and listening to the Bluegrass fiddlers in the background. We spoke a bit in Italian (l’ve been working on the language with religious-like devotion and am finally “getting it”) and she gave me some great tips on “must-see towns” in the North of Italy during my upcoming visit.
When it was time to go she hugged me and looking me in the eye, told me she’d love to meet again and hopes it can happen. As we drove out of town that evening, I felt warm and fuzzy; something the town’s people had never brought me. Port Townsend had been redeemed by a woman from Rome, Italy named Romina…how ironic…