Archive for the ‘Odds and Ends’ Category

From Pea Soup Fog To Clear As A Bell, A Beautiful Morning For Photos In Willis Wharf, VA.

Friday, November 17th, 2017

DSC_5021Up early one morning in late October and decided on the spur of the moment that it might be a perfect Indian Summer day to get some pretty sunrise pictures at the seaside harbor in the tiny Eastern Shore village of Willis Wharf, the picturesque aquaculture capitol of Northampton Co. But about half way down the driveway, I realized that a thick blanket of fog had settled over the landscape. Hmm, to stay or to go ? Decided to go. Although barely peeking over the horizon as I zipped into the harbor, the sun was already engaged in battle with the fog, valiantly trying to penetrate the thick mists hovering over Parting Creek inlet. It took some time, but the sun won, insto-presto, no more fog ! And thus rewarded with a real variety of photos, the early ones hazy and obscured by the fog, the last ones crystal clear, including some with gorgeous water reflections. All in all, an interesting hour in a quaint little seaside village.

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SUNRISE AT RED BANK

Friday, November 10th, 2017

DSC_4734If you haven’t discovered the newly renovated Northampton County boat ramp at Red Bank, you have missed a treat. Heralded at the end of a long narrow, winding road by a rugged, weathered sign announcing that you have arrived at Red Bank, you notice first the sturdy new pilings topped by shiny white caps that glisten in the early morning light. Nearby, a handicapped parking space is perfectly positioned for rolling right out on thick new planks of the docks. But best of all, a tangy salty aroma and a serene stillness broken only by sounds from Mother Nature greet visitors to this quiet seaside hamlet. As we arrived, the brick red sun had just begun its daily climb, barely peeking over the horizon, its first rays shimmering in the nearly crimson waters. Crystal clear reflections of the piers, boats, trees and nearby buildings began gleaming in the salty waters of the creek. Tide flowing out, seabirds calling overhead, herons strutting the low tide flats, stealthily searching out a tasty breakfast, just another peaceful Eastern Shore morning.

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25 Years Later Still Going Strong- – The C.B.E.S. Annual Eastern Shore VA Bike Tour!

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

DSC_5861The annual “Between the Waters” Bike Tour sponsored by CBES, Citizens For A Better Eastern Shore, is one of the largest eco-tourism events held annually on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. This event is capped at 1000 participants and was again sold out this year which marks the event’s 25th Anniversary. The 2017 weekend actually began on Friday afternoon with a “Fun Ride” from Nassawadox into the surrounding neighborhoods. The official Tour start was from Sunset Beach Resort, with the 100 Mile Ride kicking off as the rooster crowed at 7:30 am. We arrived about 8:30 and registration was very brisk for the 25, 40 and 60 mile Rides as folks checked in and picked up their route info. In another corner of the room, raffle tickets were being sold for the original of the striking and vibrant Bethany Simpson painting which was commissioned to represent the Shore for this year’s Tour

Smiling bikers swirled around the room, selecting a treat or two from the complementary snack bar offerings of fruits, muffins, etc., trying to consume a last DSC_6086bit of energy before setting out to travel over hill and dale, traveling the Shore’s countryside. Oops, no hills and dales here, just delightfully flat terrain, easy on the legs, and a marvelous opportunity to enjoy the blue water vistas, serene fields and woodlands, the scenic views of autumn on the Shore.

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We set out to get some photos the 25 Mile Ride which took the bikers, peddling mostly on singles but some tandem bikes too plus a few recumbents, from a Sunset Beach departure. The route wound basically up the Seaside Road scenic byway, eventually to a crossover at Arlington Road with a rest and water break at a farm shed across from a field of ripe soybeans. From there, bikers pushed on past the Custis Tomb historic landmark on the Old Plantation Creek inlet and a pedal through the lovely little Chesapeake Bay neighborhood surrounding it, enjoying picturesque vistas of the Shore’s farms, woodlands and blue waters. The 25 Mile riders then headed south along Seaside Road back to Sunset Beach, then drove to Eastville for lunch. But the 40 Mile riders continued on north, with a rest stop at historic Travis Chapel near the harbor in Oyster, then north to a Rt. 13 crossing at Eastville’s Willow Oak Drive traffic light for lunch.

At picturesque Windrush Farm in Eastville, hungry bikers were treated to a rest and a boxed lunch of delicious assorted wraps, chips and fruit catered by wellDSC_6148 known Bill’s Restaurant in Chincoteague. Music and song entertainment by Nathan Travis & Company as well as plenty of tail wagging from a friendly dog with interesting face markings who was delighted to soak up much petting from just about everyone there. A little medic tent was on-site for those who might need it but fortunately there didn’t seem to be many in need. A volunteer with a pickup truck drove behind the bikers on each route, ready to help anyone with equipment or other problems but, fortunately, it didn’t seem like there were many of those problems either.

Clearly the real stars of this event are its many, many volunteers. I can only imagine the effort and organization it takes administratively to put on a 1000 participant Bike Tour each October. But on the actual day, the sheer number of volunteer “boots on the ground” needed to make the event run smoothly clearly is tremendous. From the Friday Fun Ride, to Saturday’s bustling registrations, pre-start helpers, all the different rest stops, the various lunch venues, etc., cheerful volunteers were there to make sure everything ran smoothly for the four different Rides. And run smoothly it did ! Plus special kudos to the Northampton County Sheriff’s Department and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel whose personnel stood out in Rt. 13 for hours on end to assure safe crossings over the highway because nothing can take the fun out of an event like an accident ! Crowned by the evening Oyster Roast, the 25th Anniversary Tour was over and now it’s onward to organizing the 26th !

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Second Season Underway For The Cape Charles, VA Farmer’s Market

Friday, July 7th, 2017

DSC_1671The long awaited second season for the brand-new-last-year Cape Charles Farmer’s Market finally rolled around in May and now the vendors are getting into high gear with loads of summer goodies. ( Hours this year will be from 3-6 pm, rain or shine, from now till October.)  So if it’s Tuesday afternoon, whether you’re a local or a visitor, it’s time for foodies and farm-to-table enthusiasts to break out the walking shoes, a wicker market basket and head out to the spacious, grassy Museum grounds on Stone Road in the little Eastern Shore of Virginia coastal town of Cape Charles to shop for the fine local farm produce… and much more.

 

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I found last year that the best way to tackle the cornucopia of goodies on offer was to take a stroll, making a circuit around the whole Market, to preview all the little vendor tents and the tempting items on offer, then circle back around again to make selections. This proved to be the right strategy again this year. Starting on the north end across from the handsome brick Museum building was Shore Beef and BBQ, where owner Ron was fielding multiple customers drawn by deep smoky aromas and intent on securing some of his delicious beef brisket and vinegar- dressing cole slaw.

 

Mattawoman Creek FarmMoving counter-clockwise, Mattawoman Farms CSA’s counter was heaped high with loads of fresh organic veggies including the most beautiful red and green lettuces, soft yet crisp, just gorgeous. And kohlrabi, which after some indecision I decided I would finally try this year, as well as some tatsoi, a deep green plant similar to bok choi. Mattawoman had tall racks of healthy looking plants, perfect to pop immediately into a home garden. Across the way, the honey guy’s wares were shining golden, the sun glinting off the jars, you could almost savor lush sticky sweetness on the tongue merely by looking at it. At our house, local honey is the go-to sweetener for tea, especially green teas, it just smooths out every cuppa.

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Moving down the line, waving to the Bread Lady from The Bakery at Riverside Farm who had sold out in the first hour. And no wonder, she has fab sour dough breads and at my house we are addicted to her cinnamon raisin bread (which we often buy on Thursdays year-round at the Gull Hummock gourmet shop on Mason Avenue.) Toasted, spread lightly with peanut butter, so divine with morning coffee ! Next door to Bread Lady, a new vendor this year, the cleverly named Kitchen Sync Catering, whose chef, Louise Oliver, is offering a scrumptious menu of prepared foods that can be ordered on-line and picked up at their kitchen at the Eastville Inn on Friday or purchased at the Farmer’s Market on Tuesday. Their samples looked delish, especially the colorful layered salad with a side of cilantro avocado dressing and the chopped broccoli salad with cranberries and almonds with a honey yogurt dressing. Just around the corner, Copper Cricket Farm’s table was piled high with totally gorgeous veggies including crispy fresh spring onions, arugula and Swiss chard.

DSC_1715Further down the line, another new vendor, Lauren Gardner of Parisian Sweets, was offering French style macaroons. Or rather, not offering, since, unfortunately for me, but nice for them, she was also sold out.  But lucky early birds to the Market were able to indulge in her lemon, raspberry cheesecake or mocha flavors. Going to go earlier next week ! Did manage to snag some of Pickett’s Harbor Farm’s just-picked-this-morning peaches though, a favorite of my husband’s, but do peaches compare to lemon or mocha French macaroons ?  A tough decision but one I didn’t have to make since there were no macaroons !  Too many other great vendors to mention here, offering everything from The Flying Pig’s traditionally fermented organic sauerkrauts to organic veggies, local seafood as well as organic eggs and meats from several different local farms. The Cape Charles Farmer’s Market will not disappoint, check it out, 3-6 pm, rain or shine, every Tuesday, May through October

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The Barrier Island Center’s Annual Art And Music On The Farm Event

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

1Rain clouds gone,  last Saturday dawned as bright and beautiful as one could have wished for the Eastern Shore Barrier Island Center  2017 “Art And Music On The Farm” festival. This Machipongo, VA event is one of the largest art/artisan annual festivals on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and one of our very favorites. Absolutely something for everyone… plus great live music !  And delicious food !  All day long !  Oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings, decoy carvings, sculptures, bronze work, weather vanes, plants and garden art, ceramics, hand-crafted wood pieces, wool working and so much more on offer for the many enthusiastic attendees.  Island View Farms even brought 3 woolly characters from its herd of authentic Hog Island sheep, descendants of the original super hardy sheep that roamed that off-shore barrier island decades ago, explaining that their sheep enjoy the attention from the visitors as much as the visitors love seeing the sheep.

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And what’s a festival without food ? Definitely plenty of goodies to munch on here,  including at Kitchen Sync Catering, whose savory bill of fare included a delicious jambalaya, fresh strawberries & cream for dessert, with ice cold pink lemonade to wash it all down. Coastal Roasting had brewed its famous Marsh Mud iced coffee plus fruit and herb iced teas, hitting the spot perfectly on the warm summer’s day. Delicious aromas wafted from the Taqueria and Kielbasa & Brats tents, their spicy menu pairing well with the adjacent Beer Garden. Not far away was Chatham Vineyard, well-known for its luscious Chardonnay, also doing a brisk business.

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CrowdFrom 10am until closing at 4pm, five different and talented groups performed on fiddle, guitar and mandolin, playing to a very enthusiastic crowd.  The main stage area included an adjacent dance floor for those in the audience who wanted to accompany the liveld Musicy music with some clogging or free range dance. Toe-tapping and delightful, the music was rooted in the various styles of bluegrass and the old time country music traditions of rural Virginia. We stayed and listened to the entire one hour performance by Erynn Marshall and Carl Jones, lots of good energy, well played. ( In fact, we enjoyed it so much we brought their authentic sound home with us in the form of their latest CD. ) And when their set was over, to the delight of the audience, Erynnn got on the dance floor and back into her groove with some enthusiastic clog dancing ! Hats off to local long time clogger, Bill McLaughlin, who helped several youngsters give clogging a try. All in all, a wonderful day, full of fresh breezes, good music, delicious food and beautiful art. In short, another great Art and Music on the Farm festival !

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Mark Campbell & John Schwab On the way to play

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. — A huge shout-out and thanks to everyone at the Barrier Island Center, to all the volunteers and all the artists, artisans and musicians who make this outstanding event possible each Memorial Day weekend !!

Whale Watching In Coastal Virginia — Thar She Blows !

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Big WhaleThar she blows!  Splish, Splash, Flipper Slap !  This past winter our family enjoyed some great Whale Watching— not in Alaska, not in Hawaii, not in the Caribbean –  but right here in our local coastal Virginia waters less than a hour from our front door! So this is a whale of a tale starring boats, a bird, and, of course, whales. For about the last 10 years I’ve been hearing that a few juvenile humpback whales have been migrating through our area in winter, sticking around for a bit, munching on menhaden, etc., apparently the whale treat de jour. But for the last couple years, from the middle of December to about the middle of February, quite a few of these friendly marine mammals have been staying longer.  Apparently they are having a whale of a time in our home waters, not far from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel,  breaching, Big Splashing, flipper and tail slapping, just generally cavorting, acting like the acrobatic teenagers they are. So this past February we decided to take a whale watching tour with some of our kids and grandkids, a little adventure to see these magnificent creatures with our own eyes. So glad we did.

 

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We set out mid-afternoon on the Rudee Whaler, a comfortable 80 ft catamaran which leaves from Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach, slipping past the strip of beachfront hotels gleaming in the distance, past the Cape Henry Lighthouse and into the ocean waters beyond. It wasn’t long before our wildlife guide spotted a whale blowing.  All whales have to come up to breathe about every 15 minutes or so (although they can stretch that to about 35 minutes) and after they inhale they then exhale or “blow”, expelling air and water through their blowhole at up to an amazing 300 mph ! So spotting the blows helps the Captain gently advance in the direction of the whales.  (Fortunately, there are specific guidelines for protecting whales, including how to approach, how close boats can come to a whale, etc. . These important rules are issued by NOAA and all the local tour boats adhere to these guidelines.)
It wasn’t long before we were seeing multiple whales, both to starboard and port, all doing their gymnastic thing! Rolling over and slapping flippers– apparently those wacking sounds alert other whales to their locations. Plus it seems like they are having great fun ! Then breaching, with a Big Splash back into the water. Or surfacing and then diving, waving their tail fins. Nearly everyone on board had cameras, most with with telephoto lenses, click-clicking rapid fire. For well over an hour we watched amazing acrobatics, totally captivated by the antics of these gentle creatures. (These are juveniles, estimated to be from 3 to 7 years old and from 15 to 25 feet long. )

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The on-board wildlife guide said that tour boat operators help notify the many big ships in the Hampton Roads shipping channel of the whale locations. This in turn helps reduce the number of whales injured by collisions with ships, which is a serious problem. They also take photos of these whales and their tail and pectoral fins to forward to the environmental group, Allied Whales. Allied reviews the photos, then sends them on to be catalogued by the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalog group. Computer recognition software enables the catalogers to identify specific individual whales through the distinctive markings on their tail and pectoral fins, helping scientists to track their migration patterns, etc. She said that this identification program indicates that just for the boat we were on, about 31 different individuals have been spotted this year and about 10 of these are confirmed to have been in our local waters previously. Incidentally, it’s the male humpback that “sings” the haunting whale song recordings we’ve all heard on You Tube, songs that can last up to 20 minutes or more.

 

 

Boats in a RowBut too, too soon it was time to return to port. Fortunately, there were lots of other sights to enjoy on the way back, including many normally viewed from above when traveling on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Seen from relatively close by, on the water and at eye level, gives one a whole different perspective. A nearby Navy ship and a container ship literally towered above as they slowly proceeded past. Then, to cap off the day, as we slid back into the Rudee berth, we were greeted by lovely reflections in the water of the other boats moored there, a beautiful end to a wonderful afternoon.

 

 

 

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The 70th Annual Garden Week on The Eastern Shore of Virginia

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

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Saturday marked the 84th Annual Virginia Historic Garden Week statewide and the 70th Eastern Shore Virginia Annual Garden Week sponsored locally by the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Five beautiful properties were opened for visitors to view both the homes and grounds. It was an otherwise busy day for me at Blue Heron Realty so I had to choose just one.  Because of its waterfront setting and history, I selected Vaucluse House located on Church Neck about 25 minutes from the little historic town of Cape Charles, VA. 

Built circa 1784, Vaucluse was the seat of the prominent Upshur family. By 1829, one of its most notable heirs, Abel Parker Upshur, had expanded their holdings into a grand Virginia plantation.  But young Abel, an attorney, had grander ambitions, becoming a judge and eventually becoming Secretary of the Navy and then Secretary of State, both under President John Tyler. As Secretary of the Navy, Upshur established the Navel Observatory in Washington DC, one of the oldest scientific agencies still in existence today, in charge of the critically Old Naval Observatoryimportant positioning, navigation and timing for the US Department of Defense as well as the US Navy. It also operates the US Master Clock for GPS satellites, all pretty darn important. And Blair House, the official residence of the Vice President,  is located on the Observatory grounds. So young Abel did some really impressive work during his tenure which was cut short when he died in an explosion aboard the new steamship, USS Princeton, during a demonstration cruise along the Potomac River in 1884. In addition to the continuing importance of the Naval Observatory, his legacy also includes 2 navy ships named in his honor, a number of streets plus counties in several states named for him, as well as Mount Upshur in Alaska. 

Meanwhile, back to the 2017 Eastern Shore Garden Tour. The Upshur plantation lands have long been divided off inVaucluse blue aerial looking north 2006to neighborhoods and small farms but the grand old home, Vaucluse, built by Abel Upshur’s father, Littleton, remains proudly centered on a 5 + acre tract overlooking one of  the Shore’s most colorful inlets from the Chesapeake Bay, Hungar’s Creek. The house has been fully restored and a large addition plus a carriage house have recently been added. Of frame construction with brick ends and impressive classical brick chimneys, the main house features the classic superb interior woodwork and design found in grand historic homes from that period.  For the Tour,  each room was decorated with  fabulous original floral arrangement created by Garden Club members for the occasion, designed specifically to complement the colors and attributes of that particular room. Beautiful views of the park- like setting and the blue waters of the inlet create a special harmony between the grounds and the home.  Guarded at the entrance by brick columns flanked by two towering evergreen trees,  Vaucluse’s formal shrub gardens, an herb garden and the fountain garden are just a part of the magic of this property.  A great addition to Garden Week, special thanks to the owners for opening their lovely property to the public last Saturday.  Garden Tour proceeds help fund important preservation projects for more than 40 historic public gardens as well as research fellowships and projects with Virginia State Parks, all to the benefit of the citizens of our great Commonwealth. #VirginiasScenicEasternShore

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Three Exciting Beachfront Listings In Cape Charles, VA, Ready For Summer Fun 2016

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Long walks on a soft sand beach, picking up treasures deposited by the last incoming tide.  Picnic lunch on the screened porch under azure skies and golden sunshine. Languid  summer’s eves on the deck, cool breezes wafting,  moonlight casting sparkling white nets against dark waters, falling asleep to the music of waves gently lapping against the shoreline.  These are but a few of the many pleasures of owning a beachfront home on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  And just in time for  summer fun 2016,  Blue Heron Realty Co. has  3 remarkable beachfront homes listed in Cape Charles, VA  on Virginia’s Eastern Shore’s  beautiful Southern Tip.  Very special yet completely different, each home is a place where you can kick off your shoes and revel in the bliss of beachfront living !  To make an appointment to see any of these gorgeous beach  homes, just call Blue Heron Realty Co. at 800-258-3437.

ON A MOUNTAIN AT THE SEASHORE— Well, to call it a mountain is a wee bit of an embellishment but definitely atop 2.7 acres of the highest sand dune formation on the entire Eastern Shore of Virginia  stands this spectacular 4 bedroom, 3 full and 1 half  bath, custom Lindal cedar home offering breathtaking views of  the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This is truly a home that must be seen to properly appreciate its magnificence  inside and out.  Built from the finest Western red cedar and natural stone by one of the Shore’s best custom builders, this home features top of the line materials throughout. Even the laundry room features granite counters !  The focal point of this spectacular home is  the spacious great room, which, because of the post and beam construction, features a huge open span capped by the warmth of a cedar cathedral ceiling and anchored by a dramatic floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace.  The chef’s kitchen, open to the great room,  stands ready for the preparation of everything from whipping up simple midnight omelet to  creating elegant cuisine for a dinner party for 20— and everything in between.   The first floor master  suite features a “sky window” , perfect for laying in bed and gazing up at the Milky Way as one falls asleep.  On the second floor a second master suite plus 2 guest bedrooms fan out from large guest living room, giving visitors a large private space to just relax and enjoy the views tucked away from the activities in the rest of the house. Outside, a full house length deck with its own stone fireplace offers a relaxing space to breathe in the tangy Bay breezes.  Steps with gentle risers and several landings lead gently down to the one of the widest sparkling sand beaches on the Eastern Shore, really comparable to the most beautiful private sand beaches almost anywhere on the East Coast,  part of a mile and a half of private beach shared by very few homes.  Call  757-678-5200 for an appointment to see this extraordinary beachfront home listed at $1,750,00.

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Perry frontview 10-24-14BIG, BOLD, BEAUTIFUL &  READY FOR THE SWEET,  SWEET  BEACH LIFE !   Open the front door and the eye is drawn through the foyer, through the dramatic great room with its amazing soaring ceilings and out to the sparkling sand beach and shining blue waters beyond, revealing unrivaled views out to the far horizons of the Chesapeake Bay.  Fine craftsmanship and luxurious details have created a stunning beach home with waterfront vistas from virtually every room. The heart of this 4 bedroom, 4 full and 2 half bath  home is its expansive great room with amazing tall elegant columns, dramatic windows and three separate conversation areas, perfect for entertaining either large or intimate groups. Fine finishing details abound including mosaic floor inserts, deep crown moldings and triple tray ceilings. The gourmet kitchen is open to the great room, offering a free flow of  conversation and interaction between the two.  Plenty of  kitchen space, custom cherry cabinets, beautiful granite counters and  high-end appliances are sure to please.   Spacious master bedroom suites on both the first and second floor offer premier views, luxurious baths and plenty of closet space. Two large  guest bedrooms make having stay-over visitors a breeze. A huge media room complete with full room length bar with sink and wine cooler overlooking the water also boasts a large veranda, perfect for enjoying those tangy salt breezes all summer long.  Located in Bay Creek Golf Resort offering such amenities as Palmer and Nicklaus waterfront golf courses, 2 beach areas, tennis courts and pool. Offered at $1,595,000. Call Blue Heron Realty Co. at 800-258-3437 for your appointment to see this very elegant and special beachfront home.

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adkins front bestTHE “BRIDGE HOUSE ”  OVERLOOKING THE WIDE BLUE WATERS AND SOFT SAND BEACHES OF THE CHESAPEAKE BAY — The “Bridge House” offers a truly unique access since the front entryway to  this distinctive beachfront home is across a  dramatic  little bridge which beckons you to leave the all-too- busy-busy world behind and enter this realm of serene waterfront beauty.  Sited high on a unique 3 acre +/-  wooded sand dune which rolls gently down to a gorgeous soft sand  beach and the gentle waves of the Chesapeake Bay,  this 4400  sq. ft. contemporary 4 bedroom, 4 full bath home beach home offers a truly secluded feel.  Once inside, the eye is immediately drawn to the dramatic views of the Chesapeake Bay sparkling below viewed through a full wall of windows and sliding glass doors.  The first floor offers a huge open great room with breakfast, dining and conversation areas presenting opportunities to both socialize or relax in a little intimate corner to catch up on news one-on-one.   Walk out and enjoy nearly the 2000 sq.ft. of decking, a perfect place for a glass of  cold iced tea on a summer’s  afternoon or wowing a crowd with casual outdoor entertaining at sunset !  When you catch a cool summer breeze flowing off the Bay,  you’ll begin to realize what being  “relaxed” really means.  Time to  pour a little mint julep and get started on the new issue of “Southern Living” magazine, just chilling out to your heart’s content !  Not to mention savoring nightly the glorious sunsets over the Chesapeake Bay .  Was life ever better ? ?   But wait till you catch the elevator up to the huge third floor master suite which includes spacious sleeping area, delightful master bath, large library area with built-in floor- to- ceiling bookshelves, a huge sitting area with gas log fireplace and a full-length deck overlooking the broad deep blue waters of the Chesapeake Bay and beach.   WOW !!!  does not even begin to suffice.  Must see to really appreciate !  This spectacular home offers the essence of Virginia coastal living.  Offered at $1,499,000.  Call us today at 757-678-5200 to see this unique and inspiring beachfront home.

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Happy 50th Anniversary, Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Thursday, April 17th, 2014
Bridge Tunnel Aerial Sunset

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Connecting Virginia Eastern Shore to Virginia Beach

The idea was beyond bold, beyond audacious even.  Build a Bridge from the Eastern Shore to Virginia Beach ?  Across and under the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean for 17 miles ?  Ridiculous, can’t be done. So said the skeptics — and virtually everyone started out as a skeptic.  But thankfully. the skeptics were wrong and on April 15th, the 50th anniversary of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was celebrated with a ceremony  held on the Thimble Shoal Tunnel’s Seagull Island, one of the four man-made islands built as part of the tunnel complex, complete with speeches by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe  and Lucius Kellam III, son of Eastern Shore businessman Lucius Kellam, Jr., who was a driving force behind turning the idea into a reality and who served as the Bridge Commission’s Chairman until 1993.  Once opened in 1964, it promptly won an international competition which earned the Bridge the title  ” One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World.”

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Cape Charles Ferry Terminal

Before the Bridge were the ferries, operating originally out of the deep water harbor in Cape Charles, later out of what is now Kiptopeake State Park,  and connecting to the mainland at Norfolk.  A one-way trip took about an hour and a half on a good weather day and whatever if it was not.  In fact, the trip to get from the Shore to the mainland has been fixed into an Eastern Shore colloquialism still used today– “going across the Bay.”  Folks don’t say ” I’m going to Virginia Beach”,  we still say “I’m going across the Bay”, harkening back to the trials and tribulations of getting from here to there and back on a ferry, with the possibility of a sudden storm blowing up out of nowhere, maybe a mechanical problem, who knew what might happen.  It took time and effort and it was an adventure.  ( No Doppler radar for those ferry captains ! ) With a fleet of 5, ranging in size from 68 feet to the 367 foot flagship, SS Pocahontas, the biggest ferries could carry up to 120 vehicles and 1200 passengers per trip.   At its zenith, an estimated 50,000 vehicles per month were using the ferry service.   And  although service was hourly, passenger buses had priority so cars often had quite lengthy waits, with vehicles lined up for long distances along the highway awaiting their turn to board.  Demand was rising and in by 1956 the Virginia General Assembly authorized the Chesapeake Bay Ferry Commission to explore the feasibility of a building a fixed crossing.  The rest, as they say, is history !

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view of both spans of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

View of Both Spans of The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

The Bridge Commission reports that since opening over 115 million vehicles have crossed the Bridge, a pretty hefty number. In 1999 a parallel crossing was completed,  expanding the Bridge from a 2 lane facility into a 4 lane facility, including renovated restaurant, gift shop and amazing fishing pier.  And in 2016,  work is expected to begin on an additional tunnel .  But the Bridge is so much more than a stupendous engineering feat,  a collection of 2000 concrete pilings 110 feet long driven into the floor of the Chesapeake Bay supporting 17 miles of roadbed or 4 man-made islands, each the size of five football fields built with 300,000 tons of massive boulders and 1,500,000 tons of sand rising 30 feet above the Bay,  enabling vehicle entrance into tunnels .   The word “bridge” is defined as a structure built to span physical obstacles for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle.  But for the Eastern Shore, “The Bridge“, as it’s called, is so very much more than that,  it’s essentially a passageway between two very different ways of life.

Fisherman island looking north to the Eastern Shore

Getting Off The Bridge Onto The Eastern Shore of Virginia

The contrast between life on the Eastern Shore on the north side and life in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Chesapeake metro area on the south side of the Bridge could hardly be greater.  On the Eastern Shore,  a slender peninsula barely 3 miles across where the Bridge begins,  Chesapeake Bay to the west,  Atlantic Ocean to the east,  it’s like stepping back 50 years into a land where farming and long-time watermen traditions are still the main economic engines. A land dotted with small historic towns and tiny villages, many dating back to the 1700’s, some even earlier, towns which are reminiscent of Mayberry. But new little waterfront neighborhoods nestled between big family farms are slowly emerging, bringing the energies and talents of folks from all over who have moved here after falling in love with our relaxed, coastal way of life.  But when you travel south over the Bridge, savoring the lovely waterviews, seabirds overhead, maybe even sighting a pod of dolphins or a submarine slipping swiftly through the waters as it returns to the Naval Base at Little Creek, your 15 minute journey thrusts you smack dab into the sights and sounds of  a modern metropolis, which indeed it is. The three city complex ( formerly called Tidewater, currently called Hampton Roads and soon to possibly be renamed Coastal Virginia )  sustains a population of about one million and offers virtually every amenity one could ask for.  Obviously it’s not the Big Apple,  but  large shopping malls, great restaurants ( including several fabulous Italian bakery/deli shops that I love ),  an international airport, excellent medical facilities including a world-class hospital and an associated medical school, a wide variety of cultural facilities including a symphony hall, an opera house and numerous museums.  Sports lovers will appreciate the  sports arena, a baseball park with a Baltimore Orioles farm team and a hockey team,  even a new 10,000 seat soccer stadium .  And for me, my unofficial “home away from home”,  4 jam-packed- with- the- latest- goodies Barnes and Noble bookstore choices calling out to me like the Sirens on my every trip across the Bay.

Harbor Park Aerial  Norfolk-Harrison-Opera-House-e1360597486304  Nauticus  MacArthur Mall Interior

And therein lies part of the wonder of living on Virginia’s Eastern Shore,  the ability, in a 15 minute time span, to move virtually effortlessly between two very different worlds.  I’ve had a major operation at that world-class Norfolk hospital, we’ve enjoyed many performances at Harrison Opera House,  the Wells  Theatre’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol” is great,  my grandkids loved “The Lion King”

Cape Charles  Southern Tip Aerial Photo

Home Again To The Beautiful Southern Tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore

production at Chrysler Hall.  Every year my eldest grandson waits in great anticipation for the Norfolk Tides baseball season to start at  Harbor Park and the battleship  USS Wisconsin moored alongside the Nauticus waterfront museum awaits the fulfillment of my promise to the grandkids to take them all for a deck tour this summer… and  the beat goes on and on and on.  BUT… after the fun, after the chicken tikka marsala with garlic naan at Saffron Indian Bistro,  after a Macy sale at MacArthur Center Mall, after the “Jersey Boys” musical at Chrysler Hall, after the Cherry Blossom Festival at Redwing Park,  etc., etc., etc.,  it’s always so great get back on The Bridge, to return home to our serene, relaxed feel, our slower pace, to the Eastern Shore’s  pristine, natural  beauty, its friendly atmosphere, the peace and quiet.  And that is the magic of ” The Bridge ”  — making possible the amazing “have your cake and eat it too”  eclectic lifestyle that those of us living on the Eastern Shore are so lucky to have.   So, thanks Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel– and Happy 50th Anniversary !

From The Entire Crew At Blue Heron Realty Co., Our Wishes For A Happy Holiday Season And A Great New Year !

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Well, it’s that time  of year again,  putting up the outdoor lights, decorating the big cedar tree in the front yard,  getting  a wreath properly hung on the door so that it isn’t that  tiny bit crooked, and,  my special favorite, stringing long loops of  colorful holiday lights along the full length of our back deck, such a cheery sight as dusk falls.  And all the usual outdoor holiday decor tasks  are made so much easier here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia because of our mild but definite 4 season climate. ( The delights of  the  Shore’s fabulous climate  were brought into sharp relief today by a call from an employee who had made what was to have been just a quick trip to Houlton, Maine, expecting to be back for work as scheduled on yesterday.  Instead, she got trapped by a major winter storm with a projected duration of at least 2 days, 8-12 inches of snow and lots of ice accumulation expected, so she missed  work  because it was too dangerous to drive.  You just wouldn’t  believe it, said she, ice pellets are falling fast and furiously, snow drifts are about a gazillion feet high, I’m so ready to get back to the Shore !  )  So,  counting my blessings as I puttered out on the deck yesterday afternoon, dressed in a light windbreaker, potting up pansies into  3 beautiful flower pots  I  got as  gifts for a special friend,  sky blue, sun shining, slight breeze blowing off the water, nary a snowflake in sight, no black ice, no 30 car pile-ups…..  I think next year I should just print t-shirts that say:  “Life is good ….on Virginia’s Eastern Shore“.

On a more serious note, this is the time of year when friends and family  are close in mind and heart, and, if we are lucky, in body too.  Trivial and petty are hopefully cast aside,  leaving more space for thinking  not just of family and friends but especially about helping those less fortunate.  By nature, I am an optimist and 13 is my lucky number–  but it does seem that 2013  has brought  definite economic improvement here on the Eastern Shore and nationwide.  For this, at Blue Heron Realty Co.,  we are truly grateful.  And we would especially like to thank our clients and customers, all the many folks who have purchased or listed property through our firm.  Please know that we very much appreciate your business and really value your confidence in us.

And to the readers of this little blog about life and real estate on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, we hope you found some of the information you were looking for and had some fun too, learning about our slender peninsula bordered by the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  Happily,  we had our 15 minutes of fame and celebrity this year as the Home and Garden Network (HGTV) premiered  a “beachfront house hunter” episode earlier this month about the Eastern Shore of Virginia  and one of its most charming little historic towns, Cape Charles, VA  and, ta-da, featured Eva Noonan, sales agent in Blue Heron’s Cape Charles office and her buyers, the Outlands.  I loved watching the HGTV crew film the show over 4 days, it was such a fun and a unique experience, keep an eye out for  repeat showings of our episode.  And I’m hoping in 2014 you will keep reading our little blog to learn more about the amazing quality of life and the outstanding real estate opportunities on the Eastern Shore to purchase beachfront properties, homes with backyard boat docks, Bay Creek Golf Resort listings,  historic homes as well as  town and country homes  listed for sale by Blue Heron Realty Co. in the Chesapeake Bay area   

And so, from Lemoin, Marlene, Montaigne, Mike, Gerry, Heather, Kay, Lisa and Brandi in Blue Heron’s  Machipongo, VA  main office and from Dave, Eva, Jennifer, Luisa, Bonnie and Cynthia in Blue Heron’s Cape Charles, VA branch office,  thanks once again for your continued support, we really appreciate it.  Best wishes to you and yours from the entire Blue Heron crew for a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy and prosperous  2014.      ( Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA. )

Christmas party blog photo