We arrived home from our vacation late last night, though we referred to it as an “adventure” because “vacation” suggested some level relaxation. We spent nine days in the Northwest, with stays in Vancouver and at Olympic National Park. There was little relaxing, but the effort was worthwhile. The weather was perfect. The ocean and mountains were beautiful. Greg and I agreed that we could happily stay for a few more weeks. We were not missing Austin.
Overall, we had a great time. You will find that hard to believe after reading this.
Friday was a travel day. We drove from Olympic National Park to Bainbridge Island so that we could easily get to the Seattle airport the next day. We arrived on Bainbridge Island mid-afternoon and stopped at an ice cream shop. After stuffing ourselves with dark mint chocolate and dulce de leche, we decided that everyone needed to burn off some energy.
We stopped to check in at our hotel. We had seen some mixed reviews, but it was the only one on the island with suites, which meant we could have separate bedrooms and a decent night of sleep. Sadly, there was a reason that we had been easily able to book a room during high tourism season. The place appeared to be on its ninth life. “It’s just one night,” Greg said optimistically.
We headed to the playground, and the kids ran around for an hour while Greg and I had yet another discussion about whether we want to live in Austin long-term (always a topic of conversation when we are in a mountainous place). The playground had a sandbox, and Henry got really into it because all manner of toy dump trucks and excavators sat at the ready.
By the time we left the playground, the kids had a Pig-Pen air about them. Henry’s yellow shorts had turned nearly brown, and I emptied a half-cup of sand from his sneakers. A goose egg protruded from Eleanor’s forehead because she had run into a low beam while playing. We planned to grab dinner at a bakery downtown where we had seen people with sandwiches and wraps earlier in the day. The bakery even had gluten-free options. Our sweaty crew could sit at an outside table and cause minimal trouble.
When we arrived, the bakery employee told us that the sandwiches we had seen earlier had come from their sister restaurant, which was already closed for the day. I panicked, knowing that we needed to decide on a spot quickly to beat the Friday night crowds. We asked where we might be able to find some casual gluten-free options. The employee pointed down the street and said that Hitchcock’s had a great deli.
We scampered down the street, with Greg carrying a hungry and complaining Henry. When we arrived at the Hitchcock sign, I checked the menu posted at the window. This was not deli food. This was the sort of menu where you have to Google all of the items to figure out what they are. Was the deli food only during lunch?
It did have gluten-free options, which is a big deal for us. The kid-friendly meals in most restaurants are sandwiches and pasta. I weighed our options. This place wasn’t crowded, so we could at least get in and out quickly. Alternately, I could spend another 10 or 15 minutes searching restaurants on my phone and hope to find a casual gluten-free place. Easier to suck it up and eat here.
We chose one of the outside tables so that Henry might cause fewer disruptions. We were so far from being appropriately dressed for this place that I was embarrassed to even ask for a table. From the outset, Henry refused to sit in his chair. He kneeled and bounced and laid on his belly, but he never sat. Our waitress asked us if we would like to place our drink orders (and by drink, she clearly meant cocktail), as if we were out for a relaxing evening, as if Greg did not have a wild animal sitting next to him. We declined, and she patiently ran through the gluten-free options on the menu. She did not talk about the $95 cote de boeuf at the bottom of the menu, though I am pretty sure it was gluten free.
We ordered. None of us was particularly hungry after the ice cream. And the less we ordered, the faster we could escape. We got the cheese assortment, which also included pickled kohlrabi, apricot chutney and marcona almonds. We ordered a broccoli dish with preserved lemon and Moroccan olive oil. And lastly, we ordered the pork chop with black-eyed peas, bacon, pickled greens and plum-chili sauce. As one does.
Henry noted the metal bar running around the outdoor seating. “Let’s hang, Dad!” he said joyfully, as the waitress walked away. The only way to dissuade Henry from doing gymnastics was for Greg to take him on a walk down the street. It was more of a run down the street, really. I had been doing my best not to look up from the table. I was focused on the menu, focused on drinking my water, focused on not making eye-contact with the nicely dressed adults around us.
When I looked up to find Henry and Greg, I saw the sign. It was 10 feet in front of me. DELI. Our swanky restaurant had another section, a section with a deli. We had not walked far enough. Outside, people who looked very much like us — T-shirts and sneakers — happily chewed their sandwiches. I made eye contact with Greg, who was just past the deli with Henry. We began mouthing frantic messages to each other.
“Is that the deli?” I silently asked. “Yes! Stop the food?” Greg mouthed back.
Our waitress had taken our order four or five minutes earlier. I could not bear the shame of trying to cancel it now. A waiter was showing up every few minutes to refill our water glasses. I couldn’t look at him either. I just kept my head down and mumbled “Thank you” each time.
Our food arrived blessedly quickly. We ate from the tiny appetizer plates that the waitress had not bothered to replace with dinner plates. She sensed our desperation. Or our cheapness. Henry ate a few bites of cheese, and Greg spent the rest of the meal trying to coax Henry to stay at our table. Eleanor was surprisingly adventurous and even tried some of the (very) blue cheese.
So we survived the most embarrassing meal of our lives, and this should be where the story ends. Right? Indeed, except later, after letting the kids run around a small downtown park, we returned to our hotel. Greg pulled out pajamas for the kids and gave them a bath while I walked down the street to the grocery store to buy snacks for the next day. When I returned, Henry was running about our room clean but naked and Eleanor was in the tub. Greg was getting the bed ready. It was a hideabed. And as it turns out, it was broken. Greg wrestled with that metal beast for five minutes, and it would not open.
Greg went down to the office to check on getting another room. I frantically began to pack up dirty clothes and shoes, shampoo, toothbrushes, toys, all of the detritus of a family with kids. Greg returned and said that we had a new room but that they had asked us to clean up our current room in case they needed to give it to someone else. It was 8 p.m. We had already used the drinking glasses and the towels. The kids had climbed in our bed and rumpled it. What a gem of a place!
We schlepped our seven bags down to the new room.
“This is nicer than our other room,” Eleanor proclaimed. And it did seem marginally nicer. We got the kids to bed and climbed into our own bed to read. And then the noise began. Our room shared a wall with some sort of utility room, and there was a motor or compressor that had turned on and was making a very loud, low buzzing. It was 9 p.m., and there was no way we would wake up the kids now to switch rooms again.
After about five minutes, the noise stopped. Then 20 minutes later, it began again. At 11:30, still awake, I thought I might try sleeping in our roomy rental car. Then I decided to check the state of affairs on the hideabed. Henry was in the middle and Eleanor off to one side. I squeezed onto the other side and fell asleep for just a few hours. If we weren’t ready to leave the Northwest, too bad. It was ready for us to go.