Last week revolved around a weekend trip to Leavenworth, Washington, where they have a Christmas festival every weekend in December. My niece planned this trip almost a year ago. Seven of us went, my sister, my husband and I, my niece and her family. Leavenworth is located on the east of the Cascades in central Washington, so we had to drive over the mountains to get there.
We drove up on Friday, arriving around 3:30. Leavenworth is a little German town that looks like the residents transplanted a chunk of Bavaria. There are murals painted on the walls of the buildings and they are well lit up for Christmas. My goodness, does it get filled up for the Christmas festival.
The town schedules events all weekend in a gazebo in the center of town. If they don’t have someone performing then they pipe Christmas music. We arrived in town in time to witness the arrival of St. Nicholas. The town was all lit up with Christmas lights and fairly packed for the arrival. St. Nicholas drove up in a horse-drawn carriage and then proceeded to give an uncharismatic and tedious lecture on the history of St. Nicholas. All the adults in my party had to laugh. Here they designed an event for kids and then bored them. Our favorite line—“And then I died.” I’m sure the children were confused, if they were paying attention at all. Finally, St. Nicholas handed out pears wrapped in gold foil to all the children. I never saw so many orchards as I did in the immediate area when we were driving in to town.
On Saturday, we had scheduled a sleigh ride through the country. This turned out to be a wagon ride, as there was not enough snow. It began snowing on Saturday morning, though, and continued to snow all day. As the day went on, the town, nestled in the mountains, became more and more beautiful. The horses were percherons, massive draft horses but seemingly placid in disposition. That was fun. Our driver was a hoot.
But when we went back into town, it was so packed! We thought it had been full Friday night, but we were wrong! They closed off the main street for the weekend, which meant that people could walk in the street. That relieved the congestion on the sidewalks but eliminated a lot of the parking. The lack of parking continued to be a problem all weekend, because my husband was unable to walk from the hotel to the town. We arrived in time for a charmingly short parade down main street. First came people with presents for hats, then people dressed like elves and Christmas trees, and finally Santa’s sleigh. The parade lasted about two minutes.
We were lucky in finding a restaurant for lunch that was not only good but apparently unknown to the tourists. After we arrived, the entire parade showed up except the Christmas trees. The town was so full that after we attempted to do some shopping, in tiny stores stuffed with people, we all decided to go back to our hotel so that the kids could play in the game room. We were unable to find a restaurant that had room for us all for dinner, so my husband and I ended up going to the overpriced German buffet at the hotel. By then, I had had all I ever wanted of mediocre German food.
By Sunday, everything was covered in snow and gorgeous. The sun was shining, too! All the women in our party walked downtown, and so many people had gone home by then that we could easily go from shop to shop. We saw all we wanted of the stores, which were fairly typical in a tourist town. I bought some cheese in the cheese store. We had a nice lunch at an outdoor sausage place. More sausage, but at least it was good. Then in mid-afternoon we went back to the hotel for a few hours’ rest. My niece’s husband had the forethought to book us a table at a nice restaurant for dinner.
When we went back to town, my husband and I found probably the last parking place there, for $20! It was just in time for the lighting ceremony and right before our dinner reservation. The lighting ceremony seemed interminable to me, with every person who helped in the festival taking his or her turn to talk, so finally my husband and I went to the restaurant to make sure they held our reservation. Apparently, it was quite touching when they finally lit up, not just the Christmas trees, but the whole town. It was a beautiful night with a full moon. The restaurant was delicious. I had fish instead of sausage. So, a nice night.
We drove home on Monday through the mountain passes that were now spectacular, having been snowed on for an entire day. All the limbs of the trees were thick with snow. But because of sun the day before, the roads were quite clear. So, we had a nice journey home from our Christmas adventure.