Archive for August, 2012

Cape Charles VA, Named A “Best Little Beach Town” By Southern Living Magazine, Is A Great Place For A Relaxing Vaction

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

There is a reason why the June, 2012 isssue of  Southern Living Magazine names  Cape Charles, Virginia as one of  their “Best Little Beach Towns“– because it REALLY  IS !    I know, I know, that’s a non sequitur.  But Cape Charles really is the best little beach town in Virginia  and we  invite you to decide for yourself  if you agree with Southern Living and moi.  To that end,  I want to introduce you to  Cape Charles’ newest vacation rental– Seahorse  Retreat, presided over by Sindbad, the biggest, baddest, most bejeweled seahorse I’ve ever seen and his friends.

Located in the heart of the historic area, Seahorse Retreat is a second floor unit in a lovely historic brick building, circa about 1900.  Truly a cozy haven for two,  it features a beautifully decorated living room furnished with overstuffed, comfortable furniture,  dining room with seating for four and a  bedroom featuring a brand new and totally comfy king- sized bed, deliciously soft sheets, fat down type  pillows.  A  full  kitchen with dishwasher,  built-in microwave and ceramic top range completes the ensemble. ( Well, of course,  there’s  also a bathroom.  What to say about a bathroom ?   It’s there,  it works, the bathmat and shower curtain are both a seafoam color  matching the fun painting on the wall, etc. …..)  But the piece de resistance is the veranda. Step through the door onto the veranda and you enter the world of small town coastal living as on the sidewalk below,  folks are taking leisurely strolls down Mason Avenue to shops, to galleries, to restaurants,  to the beach.  Personally, I find people watching  lots of  fun !   And as the veranda overlooks  the Cape Charles harbor,  it’s perfect for relaxing at sunset,  as everything from a big yacht to a little Boston Whaler  glides  into port  at twilight from a day out on the Chesapeake Bay.  ( Boating is such hard work but someone has to do it….. )

Although Seahorse Retreat has already been booked through April, 2013, I might mention that in general, Fall really is a great time to visit the Eastern Shore so check out our other Vacation Rentals at In fact,  October is one of  my favorite month here,  blue, blue skies, huge white puffy clouds, soft sea breezes, still warm but not hot, Indian Summer usually nearly until Thanksgiving.   Starting right after Labor Day things get a bit quieter but there’s still more than plenty to do.  The beach, of course,  ( that’s why it’s  the  “best little beach town”  ).  The Cape Charles town beach features sparkling, soft sand, the better to relax in a beach chair,  feet bare,  book in hand, ice cold tea in the cooler.   Tide pools for beachcombing and wading, swimming perfect further out, a long boardwalk for just strolling– just a few of the reasons why the Cape Charles beach is so great.

At the tail end of the Boardwalk you’ll find a long handsome fishing/crabbing/boat watching  pier.   Of an evening the pier is lighted and the reflections of these many small lights mirrored in the waters below, together with the  moonlight which casts a net all around, nearby channel markers blinking bright red or green,  the  lights in the homes along Bay Avenue twinkling a soft yellow in the distance, tangy air tinged with salt, all synthesized into a lovely experience.  Actually, the pier at night is really one of my favorite places in Cape Charles, quiet but with always something interesting doing on–  fish or crabs  plopping into a bucket, the very last boats of the evening steaming in to the harbor, way out on the Chesapeake Bay maybe a big cargo ship or cruise ship, lights very faint on the horizon,  passing by on its  way from  Norfolk to Baltimore, snatches of soft conversation or laughter echoing across the water.  Definitely, when you visit, do not miss a walk out on the pier in the evening.

A to Z, from antiques to zesty clam dip, there is so much to do on the Eastern Shore of Virginia it’s hard to even know where to begin.  Festivals, birding, wine trail, boating, biking, deep sea fishing, crabbing, clamming, horseback riding, kayaking, visiting museums and wildlife preserves, and the list goes on.  Within the town itself, visit the cute little shops, full of  unique gift items  or stop in at Best Nest, a favorite of mine and  the go-to place for nautical home furnishings and decorations.  Four art galleries offer a tremendous variety of  local art–  from paintings to sculptures to lovely jewelry and more, you’ll find something that cries out,  take me home, take me home with you !  Over at the Marina Village Shops you’ll find  the art studio of  Thelma Peterson, one of the Shore’s most renown painters,  famous among other things for  her paintings of the Coast Guard stations, now gone, but which long stood proud out on our off-shore  Barrier Islands.  What’s the most fun way to get to the Marina Village Shops ( and Aqua Restaurant right next door, but we’ll come to that later) ??  By golf cart, naturally.

Cape Charles is the only town I know of  in Virginia where golf carts are street-legal within the town limits. Nothing like seeing the town from the low & slow, green & lean perspective of a golf cart.  It’s easy to rent one for just a day or for your entire stay.  Of course, the reason the Cape Charles was granted this privilege was that two of the best golf courses on the East Coast are located on the Eastern Shore, the  Bay Creek  18 hole Arnold Palmer and 18 hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf courses. So if you’re a golfer, a great treat is in store because although these fabulous  courses are private, for a limited time the public can pay greens and cart fees to play them.

And then there is our regional food and wine, led by fine dining at Aqua Restaurant whose seafood is second to none.  Located at Marina Village Shops, Aqua is right on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.  Dinner at Aqua at sunset is a mighty fine thing and you won’t want to miss it or their luscious crab cakes and Eastern Shore style clam chowder.   Clear at the other end of the spectrum is The Shanty,  located right on the new marina in Cape Charles’ harbor.  Brand new and a replica of the old-fashioned crab shacks of old,  The Shanty is the place for steamed Chesapeake Bay hard shell blue crabs- order by the half or full dozen. Served with corn on the cob and an excellent cole slaw plus a roll of paper towels to mop up the juices,  the crabs are the star of the show.  And they offer a mighty fine grilled burger as well.  Another favorite is Kelly’s Pub, owned by Gene Kelly who offers great pub food all the time, live music most week-ends and absolutely the Shore’s best  St. Paddy’s  Day menu. Slainte’.

So if you’re looking for a terrific vacation spot, away from the “bright lights-loud music” crowd, consider  Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Call us at 757-678- 5300  about a weekly vacation rental for next year at cozy Seahorse Retreat in historic downtown Cape Charles.  Now taking  bookings  for availability starting May 1, 2013. (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Cape Charles’ Inaugural Clam Slam Festival

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

What do a Shriner’s Parade, a crab skiff race, a fishing boat docking contest,  paintings  of whimsical mermaids  and prancing horses have in common ?   Surprisingly, they were all a part of a new Eastern Shore Virginia festival, the 2012 Clam Slam in Cape Charles, an inaugural event held last Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The Clam Slam  blasted off  Friday evening  at the harbor with a huge Harbor Party featuring live rock/blues music music from 6-10 pm performed by John Baldwin and the Original Sinners, a well-known Virginia Beach  band.  I’m still a Glenn Miller-Tommy Dorsey-Benny Goodman-Artie Shaw  fan myself but I’ve spoken to several people who went Friday night and commented that they really enjoyed the music.


10am Saturday morning brought a  complete change of pace as the Shriner’s Parade and Car Show.  led by the smartly stepping Color Guard from the  US Coast Guard’s  Cape Charles Station, began winding its way along Bay Avenue  and then down Mason Avenue.  Following was a colorful assortment of participants including the ever popular fire trucks from Cape Charles and nearby Cheriton throwing candies to the crowd and then what I think was  litttle Miss Chesapeake Bay.  Everyone loved the crab racing skiffs which would be struting their stuff  in the harbor later in the day, a colorful collection of oranges, greens and blues,  rolling past sidewalks crowded with on-lookers.

But of course it was the Shriners who  highlighted  the day, going all-out as usual in their efforts to raise money for their 22 hospital network where children are treated for free for a wide variety of very serious issues, including burns.  Dressed in costume, the Shriner contingent led off with marchers, then a good sized marching band attired in teal slacks, white shirts, gold cummberbunds and their traditional red fezes, playing with  plenty of volume and enthusiasm,  followed by their top attractions, horses,  clowns, mini-trucks and of course, the laugh-out-loud, crazy-driving  miniture cars, probably the Shriners most famous parade unit.

Envision exuberant drivers, stuffed into tiny cars   barely big enough to hold them, careening  around in apparently randomly wild configurations. Further imagine  what appears to be total mayhem, with these big guys in minuture cars, zipping every which way but Sunday, about 6 ways on this 2 way street,  all to huge laughs from an appreciative  audience and you’ve pretty much got the picture. The clowns were tons of fun too- dressed up like  Beverly Hillbillies, one of the fellows was doing his antics in  bare feet.  Given that hot, hot pavement, I’d say, Wow, that’s really dedication.  Following all of that fun, a string of sweet antique cars.  A  fellow standing beside me kept pointing to one yellow beauty, saying I had one just like that, exactly like that  just as the Kedive motorcycle group roared into view, first you hear them, then you see them.

Next up,  horses and riders from Triple M Ranch.  Located just outside Cape Charles  on 150 acres overlooking historic King’s Creek, a saltwater inlet from the Chesapeake Bay,  Triple M has a dedicated group of riders and they have consistantly added a lot of interest to local events by bringing their gorgeous mounts to participate.  Their  horses were so cute last Christmas at the Cape Charles Grand Illumination at Central Park.  Adorned in holiday bells, red bows, plush reindeer horns, red and green saddle blankets, etc., they certainly brought a lot of extra smiles to that special evening.  Following the horses, a cute golf cart sponsored by the Friends of the Cape Charles Library advertizing their book sale and then, last but definitely not least, a long string of antique Corvette’s,  buffed and shiny, clearly well treated by their proud owners.

I didn’t have time to stick around for the other festivities down at the harbor which included games for kids, a  horseshoe contest,  a crab pot cork race and the wildly popular  Smith Island crab skiff race.  I did however take a quick stroll down Mason Avenue to see what the sidewalk art booths had on display this year.  Looks of good stuff, paintings, crafts, political buttons, you-name-it,  for sale along the sidewalk.  And at the very end of the sidewalk appeared a little tent filled to the brim with the most adorable mermaid dolls and whimsical paintings, prints and original oils both,  all beckoning  me  in, singing sweetly  like the Sirens to Ulysses, come  in, come in, see me,  touch me, take me home with you……  Created by talented Shore artisit,  Katherine Kiss, who said she has been working in the fanciful genre for a long time,  the  mermaid dolls were so absolutely gorgeous,  I’d have loved to have bought every one !

P.S.  I didn’t attend any of the Sunday events but  the Boat Docking Contest was the clear favorite– over 800 tickets for the event were sold, the proceeds to be used for the prizes and to help off-set  fuel costs for the boat owners.  However, Jennifer Ingram from Blue Heron’s  Cape Charles office did attend, ( had a ticket in the VIP section no less )  and she was kind enough to supply me with the following pictures for this post.

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Celebrating Op Sail 2012 On The Eastern Shore of Virginia- Part I, The Parade of Sail

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Op Sail 2012 was a big shebang, very big, celebrated in the US in the ports of  New York, New Orleans,  Norfolk,  Baltimore, New London and Boston.   Organized around the Bicentennial anniversary of the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner,  the 2012 event is  6th  Operation Sail event.   Kicked off in 1964,  Op Sail was the culmination of worldwide efforts by the late maritime historian Frank Braynard and IBM executive  Nils Hansell to create an event designed to  foster international  goodwill by bringing together sailing ships from nations from all corners of the globe  to gather for  a fabulous parade of sail into New York harbor.  And so  in conjunction with the New York World’s Fair,  Op Sail was born, an instant huge success  which has been followed up by 5 additional Op Sail events, each tied to an  American historical event, each bigger and better than the last.  But Op Sail 2012  seems to have been the most spectacular of them all, especially in Virginia,  where the event was expanded for the first time to include not only the traditional port of Norfolk but also several small nearby ports including Cape Charles as part of the Tall Ships at Cape Charles Festival as well as the port of  Onancock on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Fortunately for those of us who live on the Eastern Shore, one of the main events of the entire festival is the “Parade of Sail“,  the magnificentfive mile long  flotilla  featuring of  scores of  international tall ships accompanied by military vessels from the US Navy and Coast Guard as well as literally  hundreds of local sail and power boats,  streaming across the water, escorting the international ships  to the tall ship’s main anchorages in downtown Norfolk and Portsmouth.  The ships overnighted in near Lesner Bridge in Virginia Beach and at dawn  prepared to parade from the Lynnhavenanchorage,  through the mouthof  the Chesapeake Bay and up the Elizabeth River  into Norfolk, a  spectacular fleet  which, if all the ships were placed end to end, would be an amazing 7700 feet long !

Happily, this Parade involves  passing  directly over the  first tunnel of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel which connects the Eastern Shore of Virginia to the city of Virginia Beach on the mainland !   Which meant that tickets to view from both the first and second Bridge Islands were available for this one-of-a-kind show and we were lucky enough to get  two tickets for the closest Island, One  Island at Thimble Shoal, rather than for Two  Island without  restaurant and restroom facilities.  So even though we are not normally crack-of-dawn people, by 5:30 am on the day, we were up and scurrying around,  grabbing hats, sun screen, a tiny cooler for water, binoculars, all the little comfort things, getting on the road before 6.  Seating was on a first-come basis and we were  hoping to get a front row seat on the bleachers, which, amazingly,  we were able to do  !

The day was simply beautiful- a sunrise of pinks and peach, cloudless sky, good breezes all morning long ( thank heavens, hard to sail without the wind gods behind you), water sparkling, everyone on the Island in sky-high spirits, thrilled to be there for this special, once in a decade or so, event.  The Parade was kicked off by the US Coast Guard ship, the USS Eagle. The 295 foot Eagle has an interesting history having been built in Germany, launched in 1939 as the SSS Horst Wessel,  but ending up in the possession of the United States after WWII as part of German war reparations.  A training ship for  Coast Guard cadets and a goodwill ambassador  for the US,  the aptly named Eagle gleamed in the morning sun, her 22,000 square feet of  white sails billowing,  proud as a mother swan with all her cygnets streaming along  behind her although probably those magnificent ships behind her might not like the comparison.

The announcer for the nearly 3 hour program was  Captain Sara Cole, commander of the Learning Barge. ( The Learning Barge was, of course, not in the Parade but it is a fascinating vessel in its own right. Winner of several national awards including one from the EPA,  this vessel was hand built over 3 years as a project between  the University of Virginia School of Architecture and the Elizabeth River Project, a local environmental group.  The Learning Barge is essentially a floating lab where students can sample water quality, identify pollution, learn about restoration of wetlands, grow algae, learn about sustainability, all hands-on. )  At any rate, Capt. Cole had amassed a great deal of information about each of the tall ships and military vessels participating in the Parade.

Thus I learned several new nautical terms including “dressing ship”  which she indicated means just what it sounds like- dressing  the ship to the nines, no diamonds or rubys  included there,  just every signal flag flying, weighted, an array of colors and symbols adorning these dramatic  ships, many like the Eaglefunctioning  as training ships and goodwill ambassadors for their countries.  Several Navy ships participated,  including  a helicopter escorted US submarine which was the concluding boat in the Parade.   From the US,  several well-known tall sailing ships including replias of the Bounty and Godspeed, the amazing Kalmar Nyckel from Delaware and the Pride of Baltimore as well as the 3 ships destined for Cape Charles, the Lynx, the Appledore and the Sultana.  In addition to  ships  from the US,  from Indonesia, Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, Spain, the Cook Islands, Bermuda, Germany, Canada, Denmark and the United Kingdom they sailed,  already having visited New York and New Orleans.  After the visit in Virginia, the longest visit of all, the fleet would be off to Baltimore, Boston and New London. And there they would no doubt wow their audiences,  just as all of us out on Thimble Shoal’s One Island that lovely summer morning  were thrilled by the 2012 Op Sail’s  Parade of Sail, serenely crossing  the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)