Navigating Virginia’s Coast

One simply must take advantage of Memorial Day Weekend – it’s the perfect opportunity to catch some sun without burning to a painful crisp. Cool breezes caress your skin, your cheeks begins to glow…as such, staying indoors is not an option.

In an attempt to escape the city, I traveled south for a three-day excursion through Virginia. Read on for details that may come in handy when planning your next trip:

Day 1 – Virginia Beach

Less resort, more college spring break. Tons of youth flooded the boardwalk, making for a buzzing, energetic ambience. Make sure to check out the King Neptune Statue and various quirky shops while in the area (tons of them line every street!).

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Statue of King Neptune

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Virginia Beach Boardwalk

We stopped at Cactus Jack’s Southwest Grill for margaritas. Hailing from Texas, my standards for the tequila-based drink are pretty high. Although the bar doesn’t serve frozen drinks, its “Caribbean” margarita (featuring coconut and pineapple flavors) was delightful. Service was on point, too.

Verdict: If Malibu is your drink of choice, you’ll fit right in.

Day 2 – Norfolk

This city was shipshape, and a refreshing alternative to the previous day’s shenanigans. Norfolk possessed a peaceful vibe, despite several tourists going this way and that. The Pagoda and Oriental Garden enveloped us with sweet serenity, while the intimidating World War II battleship USS Wisconsin loomed nearby. Plenty of ships were anchored in the marina, providing fantastic photo ops. Make sure to spend some time at the Armed Forces Memorial on the waterfront as well – reading fallen soldiers’ letters to family members reminded us of their sacrifices for preserving the freedom we enjoy. Oh, and keep an eye out for various mermaid statues swimming throughout the area.

Pagoda and Oriental Garden

Pagoda and Oriental Garden

The USS Wisconsin off Norfolk's waterfront

The USS Wisconsin off Norfolk’s waterfront

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Armed Forces Memorial

Mermaid fountain

Mermaid fountain

Ship anchored at the marina

Ship anchored at the marina

We ate at 219 Bistro (several seafood restaurants were closed Memorial Day weekend), which offered a down-to-earth, no-frills vibe. The calamari was ok – I prefer a lighter batter, and the crab cakes were a bit dry. Nonetheless, the service was stellar, making the experience worthwhile.

Crab cake

Crab cake

Omelette and tropical fruit

Omelette and tropical fruit

Of course, we couldn’t skip a trip the mall (the MacArthur Center) just a few blocks from the sea. Nordstrom was calling my name, and the rest is history.

Verdict: If you enjoy taking panorama shots on your iPhone, you’re in for a treat.

Day 3 – Jamestown

After sitting in never-ending traffic, we finally arrived in Jamestown – the first successful English settlement in North America. Dating back to 1607, you could easily sense history floating about. Sauntering through the Jamestown Settlement, a living history museum, added an educational aspect to the trip. Although the indoor and outdoor exhibition is heavily based on replicas, it managed to impart the less-than-positive relationship between settlers and natives – a topic often overlooked in Thanksgiving lessons.

Jamestown Settlement

Jamestown Settlement

Looking at the sky from one of the ships

Looking at the sky from one of the ships

One of the ship replicas

One of the ship replicas

Verdict: If you fancy actors in colonial costumes that can weave baskets and speak in false British accents, you’ll be happier than a kid in Disneyland.

Overall, exploring these three major tourist destinations off Virginia’s coast was relaxing, informative and good ol’ fashioned fun. The “Southern hospitality” I so desperately miss was definitely evident, and made for a warm and welcoming adventure.

‘Til next time,

Jonathan Ochart

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