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New York Times spotlights Vashon's rural charm
The secret is out: Vashon is a great place, chock full of rural charm, quirky landmarks, interesting characters and natural beauty.
So says "A Trip Across the Water, and Time, From Seattle," an article that will appear in this Sunday's New York Times travel section, written by Island newcomer Ethan Todras-Whitehill.
The glowing article is accompanied online by a slideshow of 21 shots, featuring such iconic Island landmarks as the bike in the tree, Quartermaster Harbor and the front porch of The Blue Heron Arts Center. Todras-Whitehill relocated to the Island from New York City in September — a move that was prompted by his wife's acceptance into a post-doctoral program in pediatric injury prevention at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
"I'm just sort of happy to be here and have a nice quiet place to sit and write," he said, after being reached by phone moments after his article appeared online. "That's why I'm here."
A quick trip to Todras-Whitehill's website reveals that he is the author of dozens of articles published by such esteemed publications as The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Forbes Traveler and BBC Traveler. He also writes fiction and is a tutor specializing in preparing students for SAT and GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) exams.
The 31-year-old, bearded journalist admitted he was a bit apprehensive about the attention he'd drawn to himself by writing about his new hometown. At least one Islander, he said, had told him that he shouldn't have written the article.
"He said, 'You can't do that, you can't tell people about Vashon, it's the whole ethos of the place,'" Todras-Whitehill said, recalling a conversation he'd had with a stranger while perched on a barstool at The Hardware Store Restaurant.
He said he also expects some friendly ribbing about the piece from his newfound friends at the Burton Coffee Stand, a place he describes in his article as being "perhaps the best place for an outsider to experience the Island’s spirit."
The article also gives shout-outs to Vashon's bustling visual arts and performance scene and the Island's allure as a destination for day-tripping cyclists and kayakers. There are also nods to the charms of the Island's farm stands and restaurants.
Two bed-and-breakfast establishments, The Artist's Loft and Swallow's Nest Guest Cottages, are singled out for special mention, but readers are also directed to the Vashon Island Chamber of Commerce to find out more about other lodgings.
Todras-Whitehill said he researched the article the same way he's written other travel pieces — a process that involves parachuting into a place and finding out as much as possible about it in a short period of time.
"My focus was on ways that a tourist could experience something about the Island," he said.
He said he wasn't sure if the article — published in a paper with a circulation of 1.64 million — would draw a significant increase in visitors to the Island.
"I know some things I've written about off-the-beaten-path, international places have had an impact, so this will be a good chance to test it on the ground," he said. "I've told Kathy (Kathy Kush, owner of the Burton Coffee Stand) to keep a tally of people who mention the article."