Port of Ilwaco

LIFESTYLE: Close to Home: Taking a break for the soul

For Coast Weekend

The Port Bistro at the Port of Ilwaco is fast becoming a favorite spot for lunch or dinner, and offers a great view of the port as well.

The Tuscany Cafe at the Port of Ilwaco serves up an Italian lunch with a view of the port.

Americans are an industrious lot. Most of us rise early and feed our beloved animals, that 10-year old cat or faithful dog. If we are in our 20s or 30s, we plate up something nutritional for the kids and send them off to school, offering instructions that they be diligent. We clean up the dishes, organize our bodies and thoughts and head for the job.

If we're self-employed, we add a couple more hours to a workday that extends beyond our counterparts in Europe and many other parts of the world. Lunch can be a quick affair. We squeeze it out between the myriad of details and obligations we call an 8-to-5. The day plows along and before we can declare that state of siege defined as mild exhaustion, it's late afternoon - many nations call a time-out and steal a siesta - and nearly time to prepare for the evening meal. By the time the dishes are cleaned and stowed, it's 8 p.m. Does this sound familiar?

This writer has been on a working binge and thought that he should steal a morning for himself, one of the few perks of running one's own business. But what to do? I confess to being an inveterate innkeeper and generally rise before 6 in the morning. Coffee is important, very important. Long Beach Coffee Roasters is a favorite. So is Astoria Coffee Company. Each business roasts their beverage to perfection, and roasts frequently. Morning starts with one of these coffees processed in a glass press-pot. It's fun to watch the coffee brew. It's natural to enjoy that rich dark color, the wafting aroma. The press-pot is one of the less expensive brewing options and offers superb taste.

With two cups down - sandwiched between the morning paper or a new book - I take a walk with my dog. The strolling opportunities on both sides of the river are unlimited, but why not try your own neighborhood? Maybe that consists of a stroll along the Long Beach Boardwalk or the Astoria Riverwalk - make your own call, but please do it. Early morning is conducive to contemplation. Just this morning - a gray spring day with bluebird promise - the songbirds are active, and that profound music offers a particular solace. If one can find a quiet dry spot to sit and meditate, much of the stress of our fast-paced agendas can gracefully slip away. Trees are great friends, and our two corners of the Pacific Northwest offer straight-backed opportunity to huddle against a stately Sitka spruce and peacefully while away a few minutes with relative calm.

At the Port of Ilwaco, Time Enough Books is an inviting place both to browse and to linger over a good read.

Living on the north side of the Columbia River, one might choose to ride a mountain bike along the paved trail that now extends (with a gravel interlude) several miles north from Beard's Hollow to the Breakers at the north end of Long Beach. But a fast walk through the neighborhoods of Seaview or Uniontown in Astoria is quite invigorating. Inevitably, you bump into a favorite neighbor. The dialogue can extend into a rich carpet of ideas, be they political or of an aesthetic nature. How often do you lean over the fence and shoot the breeze? Wasn't this a common practice in the last century? Along the way, the gardens are blooming. Late spring is abundant with rich floral colors and all those wonderful smells. All you must do is slow down.

The Port of Ilwaco is a picturesque spot for a stroll at any time of year. In springtime, the port begins to bustle with activity, including visits from tall ships and the Ilwaco Saturday Market.
On a recent spring morning, I arrived early at the Long Beach Coffee Roasters for cappuccino and paper. An hour later, I traded bike for auto and headed south to Time Enough Books at the Port of Ilwaco. Karla and Peter Nelson run a fun shop (Lucy's Books in Astoria is another superb option), chock-full of new and used books, each carefully selected to engage mind and imagination. You can linger in the cozy bookstore for hours. A copy of Michael Pollan's newest food manifesto, "In Defense of Food," struck a strong chord, and subsequently went home in the shopping basket. His last book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," should become a modern classic. Pollan takes us to the source of our grazing ritual. He is a sensitive man who examines what he - and we - eat, and the consciousness behind raising and killing animals for the kitchen table. If you eat red meat, you should consider this engrossing and thoughtful book. If you don't, read it anyway. His chapter on collecting wild mushrooms is a coup de grace.

A good place to begin your new book is The Port Bistro, about 200 yards east of Time Enough Books. This small bistro is a favorite. Whether it is the amicability of owners Larry Piakowsky and Jennifer Williams or the superb cuisine, the setting is perfect for a quiet lunch and the luxury of man's second-best friend, the book.

By the way, a new handsome restaurant, The Pelicano, lies between the two above-mentioned businesses. The food is Mediterranean in style and Northwest in product. You can be sure that Michael Pollan himself would approve. As of yet, The Pelicano does not offer lunch. The Tuscany Café does, and the pleasant Italian menu comes with a colorful maritime view. The Port of Ilwaco is a lovely destination, but more on that in another issue.

Well, that was a happy and well-deserved morning. And who better to spoil than yourself?