I often blog about small towns and villages in England, so it was interesting to visit a place of a similar size in the US with my blogger’s hat on. In Canada recently for my cousin’s wedding, we nipped over the US border (actually a two-and-a-half-hour-long wait at the border for me as a UK citizen) to the small town of La Conner in Washington state.
The town, which sounds French but isn’t, takes its name from the name of the original trading post that established it – ‘L.A. Conner’, which is rather like calling a town ‘Marks and Spencer‘. It’s quite a touristy place but, of course, looks very different from an English town. With its timber exterior wall cladding and wooden roof shingles, this part of the world resembles the built landscape of Scandinavia more than the UK, where houses and farms tend to be constructed from stone or brick.
Otherwise, there were more similarities than differences, based, naturally, on the needs of the population and visitors. The older buildings of the two main streets house a general store, petrol station, hairdresser and a few restaurants and bars, as well as the usual mixture of private houses, gift shops, clothes shops. Oh, and there was also a largish retirement home. Every community needs one.
Of the two ice cream stores at La Conner’s heart, one didn’t allow me to photograph so I can’t report on its promising looking, homemade chocolates, ice cream and sugar cones. It was certainly nothing to write home about, as my mother would have said, from the outside, unlike the other splendid one below. Their loss; and yours, I’m afraid.
A difference – a good one from La Conner’s point of view – was that there were fewer shops that had ceased trading than there might have been in a similar place in the UK, although there were a couple empty, so signs of the hard economic climate were to be seen there too.
Going into one a shop that sold art and household effects, I asked the owner whether it remained open all year around. She told me that it was no longer worth her while and that, for the first time, she planned to spend more time with her grandchildren than behind the counter during the winter months.
So far, so generally similar but, over the water from La Conner’s chi chi marina, is an Indian reservation – home to the Swinomish people – where the housing looks a lot denser and less permanent. It’s impossible to miss traces of the original inhabitants if you look at the local map, which is peppered with native American names, including, I think, that of Seattle. I wished I had had more time to find out more about them but, on foot and with family commitments, I couldn’t.