Posts Tagged ‘Norfolk VA’

Attending A Speech By The Secretary of State Turns Into A Little Adventure

Monday, May 28th, 2012

On April 3rd,  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton travelled  to Norfolk, VA  to tour  NATO’s  Allied Command Transformation headquarters and  to afterwards  deliver a policy speech at  the World Affairs Council 2012 NATO Conference Dinner held at the  Sheraton Waterside hotel.  I had been lucky enough to snag three tickets before the event was completely sold out.  WOW ,  I said to myself, as a person interested in world affairs, this is going to be really interesting and exciting  !   And so it was,  in both expected and most unexpected ways.

 

 

The first thing I decided was that the occasion was a good excuse to treat myself to a dressy new outfit.  Life on the Eastern Shore of Virginia is  wonderfully casual  and most of the time I’m  attired in a sporty pair of comfortable  cotton or corduroy chinos,  blouse or sweater.  So  I combed Macy’s and Nordstrum’s  for a zippy new outfit  to wear to the dinner,  finally found something I liked, not perfect but quite satisfactory.   Next, deciding on a plan for the day itself.   The Sheraton has a lovely dining room overlooking the water at Norfolk’s Waterside Festival Marketplace  and I thought that since the formal dinner in the ballroom would likely not be well underway until about 7:30 it would be fun to have  lunch there.  So I got the agreement of   Husband and Eldest Daughter to leave the Eastern Shore by 1:30 pm which would put us at Waterside by about 2:30 pm.  Plenty of time for a very relaxed lunch and a little walk around the promenade before the reception began at 5pm, with the Secretary’s  speech scheduled to start about 6pm.   Well,  guess who just getting  into  the shower at 1:30 ????   Not me, not Hubby…. yes, it was Eldest Daughter.  Needless to say, her tardiness  threw the entire timeline off  kilter so instead of enjoying a nice relaxing glass of wine and lunch at Waterside, watching the boats cruising up the Elizabeth  River as planned, we ended up with a fast tuna cosmo at Zeros  Sub Shop !  I won’t say more about that except that I could have bitten nails in half with my bare teeth………   And little did I know it was but  an omen of what was yet to come.

Arriving at the Sheraton, which looked grand,  flags flying, water shimmering in the background, I  pulled out my camera, took  off the lens cap, focused, depressed the shutter button and ….. nothing.  Tried again, still nothing, looked at the screen, plenty of battery life, and anyway I always carry an extra hot battery.  Oops,  a little message… no DS card inserted, then remembered that I had given my currently in-use chip to my assistant to download some property pics the previous day.  Obviously I had neglected to retrieve  it.  Now, for the first time in memory, I was at a function that I very much wanted to photograph but no way to do it !   OK,  OK,  not to panic, rummage, rummage through my camera bag for another chip because I always  carry an extra chip. Well, apparently not always because, unbelievably, not one was to be found.  Now, time to panic !   The nearest place to buy an SD chip was at least a mile away,  the car had already been whisked off  to heaven knows where by the valet parking guy, it would be at least a 30 minute ordeal to reclaim the car, run to the mall,  park,  buy the chip and get back  to the hotel.  My husband thought we should try the  Sheraton’s gift shop before leaving the hotel, so trot, trot,  fast walking to the gift shop.  And there it was,  hanging on a peg board,  all by itself,  the very last one,  wrapped in the usual impenetrable packaging,  a shiny new 4 gig SD card,  to my rescue.    The irony of all this is that I am a person who at all times, well apparently not at all  times,  has at least one extra brand new camera chip on hand because I never delete photos, I just pop in a new chip.  Only problem that day being that all the extra chips were apparently sitting in my photo case,  in my desk drawer….. back on the Eastern Shore.  ( I will leave it to your imagination to guess how many blank camera chips I now have tucked in reserve in my camera bag ! )

Because of security reasons,  all  registration for this event was on-line and the tickets were not mailed out in advance but had to  be picked up at the event.  Security for the Secretary was clearly very tight, the hotel was filled with lots of uniformed officers,  a bomb sniffing dog was on patrol and  a slew of plain clothes Diplomatic Corp Security Service types  seemed to be everywhere.   By the time we finished at the gift shop,  two lines were already forming in front of the ticket pick-up tables.  We got in line, quite a long line,  for those whose last names  began with A-K,  picture  ID’s  in hand,  ready pick-up our tickets and progress to step two which was a new line to move up the stairs, through the metal detector, complete a bag search and then on to the reception.  Kapow !  More bad news struck –  they couldn’t  find our tickets.  First,  no relaxed lunch, then no camera chip and then, NO TICKETS  !!!!!

The ticket issue was  truly serious because everyone had been advised in their confirmation email that  absolutely –  NO  ticket, NO  entry.   The World Affairs Council charge d’ affairs,  a lovely calm lady named Gabrielle  Blake  was summoned.  She re-confirmed that all three of us were on the computer print-out list of attendees,  had all the remaining envelopes  reviewed again, then had the  envelopes for the L-Z  line   searched to see if our envelope had gotten mixed up with  their batch.  No such luck….  We were asked to step out of  line and wait to see what could be done.  ( While waiting, Eldest Daughter spotted Kathy Lewis, the hugely popular and respected talk show host  from  WHRV, Norfolk’s NPR station,  went over and introduced herself.   Ms. Lewis was kind enough to pose for a picture with her.  In fact,  she was pretty funny, said she hoped that my photo  would  make her look  skinny, as like many of us, she is fighting the  Battle of  the Bulge. )

About 10 minutes later,  Gabrielle was back.  Let’s speak to the security folks,  she suggested,  see if they can waive the  ”must show a ticket”  requirement  since you clearly are  on the computer attendee list.  So, trot, trot, trot over to the line by the stairs.  Gabrielle  spoke with the  guard at the bottom of the steps,  who then radioed  for his supervisor.   The supervisor came, listened to the explanation,  indicated he would be right back.  In the meantime, one other couple in the same ticketless situation was joined up with us to wait for the resolution to  the problem.   The five of us waited patiently.  In the meantime, Gabrielle had to leave  us to go deal with another issue.  Finally,  2 gentlemen from the  Diplomatic Security Service detail came down  to speak with us but they needed to also speak with  Gabrielle and get her assurances as to our bona fides.  So…… Radioing for Gabrielle, the  return of Gabrielle,  the re-check of our ID’s.  Finally, one of the Diplomatic Corp Security Service fellows came back, motioning  for  us to follow him.   Follow the leader as the 5 of us  wound behind him,  through the lobby,  around to a set of  back elevators where he zipped us up to the reception floor,  stationed us at  the head of the metal detector line.  There  we were finally processed through, then wanded,  purses searched and at long, long last,  released to begin to enjoy this special  evening.

  But was that the end of our travails ?   No indeedy, once we left the reception and moved into the ballroom to our pre-assigned table we immediately realized that one of the other people  assigned to this table had either the flu or a terrible cold, he was  just coughing almost non-stop, politely into his napkin, but much coughing none  the less.  My husband  is quite susceptible  to getting serious lung complications from respiratory aliments and I just didn’t want to take any chances.  So, off to ask if  somehow, someway, somewhere,  could someone  possibly get us moved to a different table ?   Located  a hotel manager who, after  telling  us that only Gabrielle could authorize a move to another table ,  made a quick call to her.  Like the Fairy Godmother,  Gabrielle  quickly re-appeared.  Athough I know she probably couldn’t even believe that she was dealing with yet  another issue involving us,  Gabrielle was once again  super  nice and very understanding.   Fortunately, she had 3 extra tickets ( out of  the 780 total event seats)  that she had been holding back for emergency use and so  was  able to switch us from our current table to the table designated for  those tickets.     Absolutely perfect, problem solved.

Since the tale of this mini-adventure  has stretched on and on,  with regard to the remainder  of the evening,  I shall merely say we had a great time.   Secretary Clinton’s  speech on the on-going role and importance of the transformation of NATO and its role in America’s  security was interesting and very well received.  Norfolk, VA is the important location of the Supreme Allied Command for North America for NATO and the audience was jam-packed with military, political and local dignitaries, all dressed to the nines.  Dinner afterwards was surprisingly good given that 780  guests had to be served simultaneously, kudos to the Sheraton banquet manager.  Our  other  table mates, ( nobody coughing in this group) including a fellow who previously had been commander of a  submarine,  were  quite interesting,  all and all,  a very good ending to an unexpectedly adventurous  day.

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

The Exciting Sights And Sounds To Be Savored When Crossing The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

A few  weeks ago,  David Kabler, broker for Blue Heron Realty Co.’s Cape Charles, VA branch office,  wrote an  interesting post about an unusual tour he and other members of the Cape Charles Coast Guard Auxillery were priviledged to be able to take of the inner workings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel complex which connects the Eastern Shore to the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area of mainland Virginia.   Dave’s post was primarily about the interesting things the group learned about the history, construction and operation of this amazing structure, known far and wide as one of the great engineering marvels of the modern world.   Like Dave,  I too have traveled  “The Bridge”  countless times, on the old single lane span and the new double lane span,  in good weather and bad,  during the day and in the middle of the night,   “going across the Bay”,  the old Eastern Shore colloquialism,  a throw-back to the days when traveling  for several hours by ferry was the only way to cross these wide waters, a significant trip for sure.  People didn’t say they “were going to Virginia Beach”,  they said “I’m going across the Bay” and that native phrase is as alive and well today as it was 50 years ago.  I love traveling on this Bridge, for reasons too numerous to count, but let me give it a try.

My family and I have lived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia  for over 25 years.  We love it, wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,  we treasure the Shore’s beautiful lands, the relaxed pace of life,  its friendly people.  But I also love the shopping malls,  the numerous special events,  the art  institutions like Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall and Harrison Opera House as well as the numerous restaurants featuring cuisines from all over the world,  all  to be found less than an hour away  in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.  And then there are the  points further west but still within a 2-4 hour’s  drive of the Eastern Shore,  fabulous and historic cities  like  Williamsburg,  Richmond,  Charlottesville and Washington DC,  all of which  which we visit for one occasion or another at least several times a year.  In fact,  we  just got back from a week-end trip to D.C. and Richmond last month and are planning to make our annual fall   “apple trek”   to Carter’s  Mountain in Charlottesville later this month.   So the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel  is our easy, fast,  safe and truly beautiful connection from our splendid low-key, relaxed cocoon here on the Eastern Shore to the wider, faster, ultra busy-busy  world on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay, our tether to a metropolitan lifestyle but  “on-demand”,  our demand.   It’s  a lifeline from one set of  interests to another,  a  way we Eastern Shore residents  have found to have  our cake and eat it too,  a time machine,  enabling the traveler to emerge  smiling from one type of world into another —-  in less than an hour !

Not only does the Bridge allow the practical physical connection of our slender peninsula to the Mother Ship of mainland Virginia,  from an aesthetic point of view,  the Bridge itself  is a beautiful sight to see  and the sights and sounds of a trip on the Bridge are extraordinary.   The 17 mile crossing point is placed approximately where the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic  Ocean merge so it’s like traveling over a water wonderland,  seabirds  swooping and calling overhead,  flocks of pelicans skimming over the waves,  that little flock of cormorants usually perched on the railing outside the second tunnel or  what seem to be billions of chattering gulls, diving madly into the water to take advantage of a passing school of  menhaden.   In summer sometimes we’ ll be lucky enough to see a school of dolphins jumping — this area is the nursery ground for  the bottlenose dolphin.  The Eastern Shore is a critical part of the Atlantic Flyway and autumn brings sights of  large bands of migrating songbirds and raptors  swooping gaily through the skies or taking a break in the sanctuary of Fisherman’s Island ( seen  just as one gets on ( or off)  the main span ).  In winter we keep our eyes peeled for the small number of  humpback whales that  migrate through between December and March but  have never been fortunate  enough to see one,  still hoping though.

 

Large tankers traveling the Baltimore Channel on the horizon,  sailboats and power boats  crusing along, doing their fishing or crusing thing are a common but nevertheless, interesting sight.  Sometimes, if you’re lucky,  near the south tunnel you’ll see  one of the  destroyers  or a submarine, maybe even a huge hovercraft,  from Naval Station Norfolk,  one of the Navy’s largest  U.S. bases, traveling through the  open navigation channel for large ships at  Thimble Shoal Tunnel, the south tunnel.  Once we happened to be traveling on that section of the Bridge just as the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise  passed through,  deploying for the Middle East.  She is quite an impressive  sight.   And a couple of months ago,  for the first time ever,  I saw a helicopter carrier ship which had just passed  through the channel,  going east– I pulled over at the special viewing area on the tunnel’s 5 acre manmade  island to watch for a few minutes and saw flying out,  one by one,  to land on her deck,  about  8 helicopters, no doubt deploying to some faraway part of the world,  leaving home and family behind in Virginia Beach.   And  quite frequently we see  huge cargo ships up close,  loaded with containers to be off-loaded at Norfolk Terminals.  From time to time we’ve seen ocean liners  passing through the channel over the tunnel,  headed to the  Cruise Ship Terminal next to  Nauticus Museum in Norfolk,   these ships passing in the night  are especially pretty,  lights blazing from long rows of  portholes.  There’s  always,  always something interesting going on as one travels  “across the Bay”.

                     

When you first get on the Bridge  you cannot see  the land on the other side,  you are just suspended above  what seems to be an endless expanse of  water,  blue and glistening on a sunny day,  deep pinks and violets when traveling at sunset,  very, very  special  on full moon nights,  the  golden-white moonbeams casting a long trail across dark  waters,  a perfect  illustration for the nursery poem  ” Winken,  Blinken and Nod”,  as they sailed  off into a river of crystal light with the glorious stars above,  one of the most beautiful times to be on the Bridge.   And in my estimation, one of the prettiest sights you’ll see on the Shore is the  gracefully curved shoreline of  Fisherman’s Island Wildlife Refuge on a sunny day as viewed  from the top of the homeward bound north span’s  high level bridge,  the sparkling blue waters,  waves breaking on  the shore,  lacy white sea foam,  the  glistening  white sands,  green beach grass,  the infinite waters of the Atlantic beyond, ….. well,  ” mid  pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home !”   And the Bridge is our faithful conduit from pleasures and palaces b

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

ack to our Eastern Shore home, sweet, sweet  home.