Saturday, 10 October 2015

A short trip to Walla Walla

This blog entry records a short trip to Walla Walla in Washington State. I noticed that British Airways were offering cheap tickets to Pasco (about 50 miles away from WW) on the same dates that Pat was going to a Book Festival. So rather than being home alone, I decided to go and visit my cousin and also share my birthday celebration with him. 

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It still amazes me that one can be somewhere in the morning and not too many hours later, be the other side of the world, or in this case, in Seattle about 5000 miles away. 

Despite the bad on-line reviews, immigration management at Seattle was efficient and quick (they have a new semi-automated system) and customs took no interest in the Fortnum and Masons fruit cakes I had brought with me. The hardest part was getting three transit trains to enable me to get from Satellite S at which all intercontinental flights arrive, to Concourse C from where my next flight departed - this took about one hour.

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Despite the fact that Walla Walla has a perfectly good airport with direct flights to Seattle, for reasons I do not understand there were no through tickets from London via Seattle to Walla Walla. Hence I had to fly via Seattle to Pasco which is about 50 miles away from Walla Walla. Through tickets are essential when you are travelling on the cheapest tickets and have to make a connection because if you have separate tickets for each leg and miss the second flight, you are on your own and usually have to purchase a new ticket. With a through thicket, the airline has responsibility for getting you to your destination at no additional cost to you.

Mount Ranier

The second flight gave me a very good view of 14,411 ft Mount Rainier

Flight to Pasco

Flying within America seems a lot more informal than in Europe although the timekeeping of the flights (to and from Seattle) was poor.


And 18 hours after closing my front door in England, I met my welcoming party!

Walla Walla

We fell in love with Walla Walla when we (Pat and I) were here a couple of years ago. It really is a perfect example of “Small Town America” and still retains much of the charm it must have had many years ago.

Then and Now

This “then and now” picture shows how little Main Street has changed over the years. The film then showing at the local cinema - “The Duchess of Idaho” dates the earlier photograph to around 1950. The "National Register of Historic Places in Walla Walla County” has a large number of buildings and details of them can be found here.

Main Street

Although there have been some unfortunate developments, many of the older buildings have survived even though their use has changed.

Macys Main Street

The sign on the sidewall of the cinema is still there (although the cinema is now history) and Macys have taken it over as part of their department store which originally opened in the 1920s as Jensens.

There is a very good blog about Downtown Walla Walla here

Watch any film which features typical middle class American Houses in the 1950s and in some of the nicer streets, the houses are exactly those you would have seen then.

Walla Walla House

Neatly manicured lawns (the history of this building can be found here), 

Walla Walla House 2

and long sweeping drives and covered porches are a common feature.

Book Box

In the front garden of one house, a boy had put an “Exchange Book Box”.

Halloween 1

And because Halloween was in few weeks time,

Halloween 2

many houses I saw had started the process of getting ready for an

Halloween 3

occasion more enthusiastically celebrated in America than in the UK.


I do not think I have ever seen anything so large in the UK.

Walla Walla Downtown

I have always been fascinated by old memorabilia which has escaped the ravages of development.

Rose 1

On the backside of a rather tired building in the downtown area are the remains of painted advertising signs

Rose 2

here advertising 5 cent cigars amongst other things.

Rose 3

Over the years, signs have been painted over signs and I do hope that when the building is finally redeveloped, the signs are not destroyed. Cigars were sold here until the 1950s - a detailed history of the site can be found here.

The building itself has a history. Known as “The Rose Rooms”, for many years the upper stories of the building functioned as a Brothel (possibly from the mid 1800s) and no doubt the back entrances shown these photographs were busy. There is a history of the Rose Rooms here - apparently the rooms were painted green not rose!

Some of the ladies who worked there were buried in the town cemetery. When we went out for a drive, my guide


was able to take me to their graves - here one of a number.

Anna Brown

I also learnt that they were very enthusiastic patrons of one of the local jewellery stores where the guide’s wife was then a Saturday Assistant, converting earnings into Jewellery being considered better than a bank.

Over the past few years, the region around Walla Walla has become known for its wine as well as its cereal crops. 

Countryside near Walla Walla

It is also stunningly beautiful

UK Contrast

and other than the rather nice hills, not too different a to the countryside around where I live in the UK. 

Last time we were here, we did not get to see Fort Walla Walla but I did this time. It was not at all like what I had imagined it to be, it was more a museum of buildings moved onto the site.

Walla Walla Forts

I did learn however that there were numerous sites for Fort Walla Walla

Fort Walla Walla

When we were in the USA in 2013, in a store in Glacier National Park I found the original of this litho but with no history given. This litho is now on the wall at home and it was nice learn about its history.

One remnant of one of the original forts was the cemetery

Walla Walla Cemetery

which like the best cemeteries, was peaceful and thought provoking.

Indian Pioneer

Here the grave of someone only known as an Indian Pioneer

Nez Perce Indian

and here the grave of someone from the Indian Tribe led by Nez Perce who might have died during their unfortunate history.

Historical details of many buildings in the town can be found here.

The Birthday

Having had a few of them by now, it was a quiet affair although

Zoe and her cake 

on the day, Zoe presented me with a birthday cake which she had made earlier that week

Cake Slice

and it was delicious - thank-you Zoe.

Flight Back

A few days later it was time to get the flight back to the UK. Immigration and customs were non existent on the way back at Seattle and by now, being wiser about the layout of the airport, I managed the reverse journey from Concourse C to Satellite S with a welcome walk and only one transit train.

Thank-you Bill, Jan, Evie and Zoe.