Someone asked me once how to see a city like one lives there. And I thought, why would you want that? If you live there it's same-old same-old. You've seen the Empire State Building a hundred times as you passed by, you've grumbled about the traffic circle that ends the Champs-Elysees and given passing glances to the Arc De Triomphe, you keep meaning to visit the British Museum but you're always busy or tired. And you've seen plenty of the more grimy streets that they don't gussy up for the tourists, you've seen muggings and brawls and drug busts. Blech.

Better to live in a place and experience it like a tourist. It’s always worth seeing your own life from the perspective of someone who’s never seen it before. And also you get to ride around on a fancy bus while someone on a loudspeaker explains things to you. And you can laugh at all the things they get wrong. The tourists will wonder what is so amusing about someone saying that the Cafe Ritz has the best coffee in the city. They will look at you with suspicion. You may have just blown your cover. You can throw yourself off the side of the tour boat to the horrified gasps of everyone on board, but you know the underwater entrances to the municipal drainage pipes and they do not. Thus you shall make a clean getaway and be the subject of the next news cycle. You will thus need to hide your face for a while, preferably by wearing a trench coat and a fedora. Everyone will assume you are a tourist playing dress-up.

Or you could just read the tourist guides and see what they have to say.

Last April I stayed in a downtown hotel in my own small town for one night, because I was feeling miserable, sick and paranoid. It was on the second floor and almost no one knew where I was and the hotel was beautiful. I have done that twice in 21 years in two different downtown hotels. One is owned by a collector of Native American art and ethnology and the other was a whorehouse back in the day, built by Captain Tibbels and with each room named after a particular lady of the night.

In 2003 I stayed in The Palace Hotel (1). I happened to be in the Captain Tibbels room. The whorehouse was built in 1889 and all of the rooms are on the second and third floors, so that clients and ladies could escape when the police raided it. Port Townsend was the rival port to Seattle at that time. There was a china town and there were whore houses and shops built under the sidewalks and the wives of the captains of industry would not go to the downtown. Too dangerous and there were Chinese and Native Americans and sailors who swore.

No doubt the teens snuck down there.

The Palace Hotel is also a delight for the architecture and the furniture. They have collected amazing antiques over the years, including a working reed organ that sits in the elegant second floor hall, and all of the rooms have antiques and 20 foot ceilings and objets d'art and of course, there is a fainting couch in one hallway. It is quite wonderful. They had an open house and I went and took tons of photos of the rooms and the huge windows.

In 2021 I stay at the Swan Hotel for one night. History below (2), including "Perhaps the least-known but most interesting tale is in regards to The Swan Hotel Lobby. The building was originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. It was a modular home and was there to represent the “house of the future.” After the Fair, the building was purchased by a Port Townsend business owner and moved by barge to its current location." The Swan is also a gorgeous old building. I wanted to wear a long dress with above the elbow gloves and sweep down the wide staircase. The current hotel hallways are mean and narrow compared to the wide elegant ones of the Swan and the high ceilings keep it cool in the summer. It is named after James Gilchrist Swan. "One of his many jobs and interests was compiling the ethnology and collecting artifacts of the Northwest natives for the Smithsonian Institution." I bought a small sweetgrass basket there.

The Swan faces Water Street, so the back is on Port Townsend Bay. It has a wonderful old very solidly built wooden fire escape. The windows in my room could be opened at least four feet, too. I was looking into the treetops and at the people on the sidewalk below. I had a room on the Water Street side. I took my flute and played it out on the fire escape. There was a line dancing class going on, taught by someone I know. It was great fun to watch and I improvised along with the music.

Here are a few of the other hotels that are worth seeing:
Fort Worden deserves it's own node: and many of the other hotels are on the water downtown. There are also bed and breakfasts in the old Victorian houses uptown. Port Townsend fell into a time warp when the railway went to Seattle and the old buildings just sat there for years. With a sandwich knifed to the wall, as I have previously related.

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