Search This Blog

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Very Virginia Vacation

It's Hot.

No duh, you say - it's July, right?

Well. I don't do July all that well. In fact - I have always been so glad my birthday wasn't in July. If I had to pick my least favorite month it would be a tie between February and July - and at least February is short.

And really - I shouldn't complain. It hasn't been hot enough for me to get the ice packs out of the freezer and put them under a towel on the bed. It's just been ordinary hot - and I still don't do hot very well - unless.

Unless I get to do it at the beach. And this week I got there. Cousin H and I slipped out of town on Thursday for a 2 day mini-vacation to Virginia Beach that turned out to be an absolutely magical experience.

From start to finish this trip was blessed by the vacation stars. The traffic was easy getting to the beach and my new little white Nissan is very quiet, so it was easy to chat as we tooled down the road. The weather was hot but just beachy hot and there was always an ocean breeze and the water was gentle and refreshing. The crowds were packed like sardines and as polite as Sunday School teachers. In fact, it was the people we encountered that made this trip so fantastic. Everywhere we went on this little jaunt, we made the most amazing connections with people. The man at the hotel was able to get us into our room an hour early. He gave us fabulous advice on a restaurant which turned out to be the first restaurant I've ever eaten in at VaBeach that wasn't all carnival food and or else cost an arm and a leg. Tautog's - it's called. It's in an old house on 23rd Street between Atlantic and Pacific Aves. Order the blackened tuna - it's local and it's to die for.

Dinner in the cool dining room was totally relaxing, after an afternoon of beach walking (yes, in spite of the crowds!) and swimming - or rather bobbing - in the water. I was actually thinking about an early bedtime when we stepped out into the street to hear a marching band playing theme songs from old television shows. What a treat! The trumpet player asked who was having a birthday that week and I pointed to H. They called her out into the street and did a jazzy rendition of Happy Birthday for her.

And that began the lively night we spent, strolling up and down Atlantic Ave taking in all the fun that's  BeachStreetUSA.  It also turns out that the city fathers and mothers of Virginia Beach have hired performers to entertain people on every corner in an 8 block stretch - every night throughout the summer from 7:30 to 11. Free! Not even tips. All the entertainers were paid by the city. It was pure pleasure. And entertainment of every sort, from hammer dulcimers to HipHop dancers, magicians to folk rock singers, marching bands to jugglers of flaming torches. In front of a restaurant with outdoor seating a cabaret style, Frank Sinatra crooner swept me into an impromptu dance.

There was even a Mayor of BeachStreet in cut-away coat and and top hat strolling with a Miss BeachStreet - in tiara and evening gown- strolling the sidewalks and pausing for photo ops.

The mayor urged us to catch the illusionist act at the old coast guard station and we quickly backtracked and found seats up front. What a show! This was the most amazing magician/illusionist I've ever seen. Krendl - a modern day Houdini with a mind boggling act.

What a night. TheQueen, normally a lark, not a night owl, lingered outside, soaking up the entertainment till closing time. I was so tired I didn't even mind when I got sand in my bed. I crashed.

The magic continued the next morning with a sunrise beach walk and a mid-morning departure. The traffic was easy to drive through - an important thing for this country driver who rarely encounters more than a dozen cars on her daily commute. The only slow down was right before the Norfolk tunnel - which was a good thing - because then even TheQueen got to mosey along, looking at the wide water, the sailboats, air craft carriers and cargo ships as they moved slowly up and down their watery highway.

Shields TavernWe got to Colonial Williamsburg  right at lunchtime to mostly empty streets and open parking lots. There were very few tourists out - scared away by the alarmist weather reports - though, really - it was just plain old hot summertime. But I shall refrain from descending into a rant about the absurdity of 21st century weather reports ... and say merely that we, in sensible sun hats and cool loose clothing, made our way down to Shields Tavern where we were treated to an absolutely delicious luncheon of quasi historic dishes. I say quasi because obviously they're catering to modern diners - but the beef pasties were scrumptious and the salad was perfection. Towards the end of our meal we heard music coming from upstairs and as we were leaving we stopped to talk to the musician - who, in the most charming Virginia fashion, turned out to be married to a woman who went to the same high school as my companion and was best friends with the daughter of a man who worked for my father. And though he grew up in Texas, he was a descendant of two families from my end of the county, including one long gone family whose 17th century land patent was researched and platted by my surveyor husband in 1977. I mean - how Virginia is that?!?

Our last stop was at the W&M bookstore in the corner building that used to house Casey's - a high end clothing store that sent models over to The Trellis Restaurant during the Christmas season - so you could get a close up view of possible frocks to wear at your New Year's Eve Soiree. Yes. Very Frenchie. I miss those days but time does pass and we must adjust to change and even a Barnes&Nobel run college book store can be fun. Especially when there is an author at a table ready to sign a copy of her book.

Virginia native Judy Bloodgood Bander has written a novel, No Borrowed Glory, about her home county Isle of Wight. Told through the words of Nathaniel Chiles, a 13 year old boy, who does his bit for the revolution by helping the wife of the clerk of the court bury county records in a coffin. Based on actual events, the story is just one of Ms. Bander's projects intended to preserve and share the smaller bits of history that shored up the big events that changed the world.

We had a fun time chatting with the author about Virginia, history and the sorry state that has fooled all of America into thinking that the Massachusetts pilgrims got her first. Ah well. We know better and besides - that, too, is a Very Virginia Vacation sort of thing to do.

And now - it is Sunday and the weather dot com guys promise us a break in the heat. I'll leave you with my last words about Virginia summers. When the temperature on your thermometer says 97 degrees - it doesn't feel like 104 degrees. It feels like 97 degrees. That is what 97 feels like in steamy green Virginia - a state that is for lovers - of heat and truth.


  1. Bess, there should be check box with the word "wonderful".

  2. Totally enjoyed your blog this a.m. I wish I had known earlier that your were a blogger, there are so few I can really relate to but anything about my home state of Virginia immediately grabs my attention and I enjoyed ya'll's pictures of Va Beach where I haven't been in years and Colonial Williamsburg, ditto! I want to move back to Virginia as soon as I can, preferably to Essex Co but we will have to see. I'd like to subscribe to your blog. I feel I've known you and your sister forever, ever since I worked for your dad and now we are kinda cousins. Too cool. I wondered who you ran into that was a friend of someone who worked for your dad. My email should you wish to divulge this bit of information is I remember your mom as well. She was a fun lady! Hoping to enjoy more of your blogs. htw