Wintering at a summer resort in Roche Harbor, Washington
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Ruins of craggy old stone abound, including the remains of the kilns, a huge outdoor fireplace and a throne to Jupiter. We particularly liked two longer walks -- the Quarry Trail, through the forest southwest of the hotel, and the San Juan Sculpture Park trails, off the resort grounds. The Quarry Trail meanders between the quarries where the lime was extracted from the earth to be carried down to the kilns, burned and transformed to limestone. There are many other hiking trails on the island, some up to 8 miles long. The Sculpture Park, easily walkable from the hotel, has trails that vary from 10 to 30 minutes in length, all offering a wonderful combination of sculpture art, by local artists and of nature. The work runs the gamut from more traditional sculptures of animals and people to installation pieces of dragons and umbrellas. And finally, not to be missed, is the mausoleum, a stone and cement National registry monument. Reached at the end of a long winding trail through the forest and past an eerie, old cemetery, it is quite unique, combining Masonic and McMillan family beliefs. Be vigilant in your search for it and stay on the trail by following the signs with an “m.” Another highlight of our stay was Christmas dinner in Friday Harbor at the Coho Restaurant (120 Nichols Street, www.cohorestaurant.com) The restaurant belongs to chef and co-owners Anna Maria de Freitas and David Pass, who moved to the San Juans from the East coast with their dream of opening a bed and breakfast. (They now own and run both The Tucker House and The Harrison House Suites.) They opened the Coho Restaurant three years ago to help fill the gap in fine dining options, especially during the holidays. “We love food and wine so much,” explains an animated Anna Maria. “This is our passion.” The five-course, holiday meal, prepared by the newest chef Alphonsine Haslet-Phillip, was superb. It included a starter of crostinis with ricotta, lemon and mint, followed by sweet potato soup and a refreshing grapefruit salad. For the main course, we chose Cornish game hen with lemon and nicoise olives and roasted winter root vegetables. The desserts, prepared by catering and pastry chef John Hamilton, were fabulous –poppyseed angel cake with lemon cream and a divine chocolate mousse. For the five courses it cost $75. Main courses range from $26 to $32. Make sure you book well in advance. This is a very popular restaurant, for good reason. There are other food options at Roche Harbor. The Lime Kiln Café is open for breakfast and lunch and there is a grocery store, both are on the dock. While the room in the Quarryman Hall suited our needs, if you want more antiques and coziness, there are the McMillan Suites, used by honeymooners. There are other choices for families as well. Behind the Hotel de Haro are posh new townhouses; and down the path contemporary condos. The Company cottages, quaint, simple clapboard houses once used by the workers are near the pool, playground and tennis courts (but these are closed in the winter). Unless you like things a bit dark and dank, and like to share bathrooms, you may want to avoid the rooms in Hotel de Haro. As the resort states, “Unlike many other old hotels, it has never undergone major renovations (and has) creaking and sloping floors.” Prices range from $130 (room with shared toilet in Hotel de Haro) to $900 (three bedroom condo), and vary by season A few tips: Arrive at the ferry at least an hour before it is scheduled to launch. You may need to return from Friday Harbor to Anacortes on the international ferry. Don’t worry, you scoot right though customs if you have been staying on the island. If you plan to travel in the winter months, no need to book in advance for the Roche Harbor Resort, but you will need to call for a reservation at the Coho Restaurant (give them two or three weeks notice). For summer months at the Resort, you need to book three or four months in advance. If you can’t make it to the Coho Restaurant, you may want to pick up Anna Maria’s cookbook online “La Cucina Anna Maria: Good Life Recipes from San Juan Island.” Each of the 225 recipes contains a little story about where she got the recipe, and once made, you can pretend you are there. Yes, you can go to Roche Harbor and kayak, boat, bike, play disc golf, swim, play tennis, visit artists booths on the peer, or you can do what we did and slip away from the hustle of it all and cozy into peaceful winter bliss. Either way, you are in for a treat.