This post is very late in coming! Technical difficulties with computers/WiFi and WordPress have delayed our entries.
Today is Sunday, May 27,2018, and we’re back in Oceanport, NJ until mid-June. Our time will be filled with visits with friends, doctor and dentist appointments, and Rob’s big 40th Drew University reunion. We’ll then continue our journey north to spend time with our boys, Justin and Bryan (and our pooch Madison) in Lake Champlain this summer.
As we have said, we want this blog to offer our friends and family a way to track us, and also share the incredible things we’re seeing along our journey. Additionally, we are providing some fun and practical tips for our fellow boaters that we are meeting along the way…Loopers!
We love travel, history, culture, food and people, and we’ll share all of that in our blog. So, before we get into our travels so far, we will turn the clock back a bit to share more about our time in Portsmouth and Norfolk, VA. We loved the area and the people we met. There is so much to do here. It’s truly worth the trip!
We left Portsmouth, VA. on Wednesday, May 9th. Thanks to Kathy and Breandon for getting up early and documenting our departure! We’re really excited to start our travels, but will miss all our our great friends at Tidewater.
The large red brick building in the background is the Naval Medical Center, located on 20 acres on Hospital Point in Portsmouth. It’s the oldest continuously running hospital in the Navy medical system. Living near it guarantees lots of sirens and helicopters, but the best part? Tidewater Yacht Marina is on the same power grid as the hospital, so power failures are unheard of!
For information on Portsmouth, visit http://portsvacation.com/history, and look at our pictures throughout Olde Towne and views from the marina from an earlier post.The river overall is fascinating to watch. There are barges, Navy ships and submarines, tugs and pleasure boats of all shapes and sizes, providing a constant flow of traffic on the river. Above, there is an abundance of air traffic. Coast Guard and Navy helicopters and jets are the norm. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the Coast Guard helicopter piloted by a boat owner at Tidewater, who buzzes the marina whenever she flies over!Here are some highlights of Portsmouth:Built in 1825, Hill House and it’s contents was gifted to the Portsmouth Historical Association by three surviving Hill sisters. Their bestowal included every piece of furniture, China,Crystal, paintings household goods and more that had been collected by extended family members over 190 years in the home. Open seasonally.
The Lightship Portsmouth was built in 1915, and served for 48 years off the coasts of Virginia, Delaware and Massachusetts before being retired to Portsmouth in 1964.
Located on High Street in downtown Portsmouth, the Children’s Museum of Virginia has a great model train exhibit (look for local landmarks!), lots of fun antique toys, a planetarium and a ton of fun hands on learning and play activities for kids.
The Children’s Museum of Virginia
There’s also a small Naval Museum, the Portsmouth Art and Culture Center and a Railway Museum in town (some of these have funky hours, so check before you go!).
The Commodore Theatre is not to be missed! A beautifully restored 1945 Art Deco theatre, the movie seats have been replaced with tables and chairs. You can order a meal from the phone on your table to eat while you watch the movie. Just be sure to arrive before show time, as once the lights go out, they stop taking orders. The popcorn is real, as is the butter on it. Simple menu but the food is pretty good. Try the chicken salad.
The Fabulous Commodore Theatre
We love food, and trying the places that the locals haunt is always a goal! Portsmouth has a ton of restaurants within walking distance of Tidewater Yacht Marina. Here are some ideas:
Fish n’ Slips: Located smack in the middle of Tidewater Marina, it’s too good and convenient to be true! There is an extensive casual menu and nightly specials like “Taco Tuesday” and king crab legs on Thursdays. The food is delicious, portions are huge and reasonably priced, and being on the second floor with windows all around, the views cannot be beat! Try the oysters, steamed shrimp, quesadillas, amazing corn and crab chowder, burgers, tacos and meatloaf (which I joked could feed a family of 4!), to name a few! For those of us living in the marina, they were always happy to do take out as well!
Still: On the corner of Queen and Court Streets, Still is located in the basement of an old building…a very cozy, cool space. Even better…the food. This Tapas restaurant has an extensive menu, and is also known for their Spirits menu, particularly Whiskey. The food is delicious, and they are also open for lunch. Our favorite place in Portsmouth!
Greenbean Cafe: This charming lunch cafe is on Green Street tucked into Bowman’s Garden Center. And I mean tucked in, so look for the garden center to locate the restaurant! The food is fantastic and super fresh, with lots of unique sandwich and salad options (remember, open for lunch only)! The restaurant is also an antique/gift shop that gives the cafe a homey feel, as there are nooks and crannies all over created by the furniture and accessories (all for sale). Oh, and yes, there is also a small garden center!
Gosport Tavern: Right on High Street, we went for the wings, but loved everything! Wings have several sauces to choose from, great burgers and sandwiches. Basic pub food, but better.
Cafe Europa: This is a special night kind of place. It’s beautiful and cozy, and you’ll feel like you’re eating in a beautifully furnished home. This is a family run business, and their love of food and attention to detail are evident. The food is outstanding and you must save room for the incredible home made desserts prepared by the wife of this husband/wife team. The staff is very knowledgeable and service is excellent. Pricey but worth it!
Manninos: This restaurant is owned by the folks who own Fish n’ Slips. Located on High Street in Portsmouth, it’s worth the walk from the marina for the She Crab Soup, as it’s amazing. The food is basic Italian, good, but not spectacular. Update: They have closed, and have been replaced by Thai Basil restaurant. Their Virginia Beach restaurant is still open and their She-Crab soup is not to be missed!
Bier Garden: A popular German restaurant in town. Our experience was not so great, but others love it. Worth a try if you love German food. Bring an appetitite.
Guads: This is not your typical Mexican restaurant. Excellent food, cool space, but the Margaritas are only so-so.
Lobscouser Restaurant: This is a local favorite right on High Street. Delicious, fresh seafood at reasonable prices. If you like some spice in your food, you’ll find several thingson the menu to make you happy. Fun atmosphere and great, friendly service.There’s a great paddle-wheel ferry between Portsmouth and Norfolk that stops near the visitor’s center just south of Tidewater Yacht Marina, and also at the end of High Street in Portsmouth, and brings you across the river to Waterside in Norfolk.
Waterside has a marina (with a dinghy dock if you want to get over that way. Be careful, the Elizabeth River can have crazy commercial boat traffic) and a complex of restaurants…everything from pizza and Blue Moon Brewery to Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse. We never ate there, but were told that Blue Moon’s fish tacos are very good.
Norfolk is very walkable. Right downtown is the MacArthur Center, and a good mall with stores you may need: Apple, Verizon, AT & T in addition to anchor department stores and large chains, and a large Regal Cinema for rainy days.
Here are some of the Norfolk highlights:
The MacArthur Memorial
In 1999, Norfolk was undergoing a revitalization, and it was suggested to the city council that Norfolk institute a program similar to Chicago’s “Cows on Parade”. When The Norfolk Mermaid swam onto the scene, her job was to brighten and polish the perception of the newly revitalized city with a downtown for residents and tourists. Local bronze sculptor Kevin Gallup mass-produced 130 mermaid castings for artists to decorate. Business and community leaders from Norfolk and beyond adopted mermaids at $2,000 a piece, and they were auctioned off at a Mermaids on Parade event. Since then, additional mermaids have popped up all over the city! Today, mermaids are everywhere in Norfolk: throughout downtown, in front of businesses, building lobby’s, schoolyards, hospitals and some in homeowners’ yards. Every mermaid is different, frequently depicting messaging relevant to their location. The mermaid on the Naval base is ina full dress uniform! I’ve (Nancy) been hunting them since our arrival in November, during my city explorations. There’s even a mermaid spotting map online! Check it out at Norfolk.gov.
The Wisconsin is a navy battleship commissioned in 1944. She served in both WWII and the Korean War, and was used extensively as a training vessel. The Wisconsin was placed put of commission in 1958, but was upgraded and recommissioned by President Reagan in 1988. The Wisconsin went on to serve in Operation Desert Storm from January 15 – February 27 1991, marking the last time that a U.S. Battleship ever actively participated in a foreign war. She was again decommissioned in September 1991, and moved to Norfolk in 1996, and restored to the Naval Register in 1998.
Wisconsin earned five battle stars for her service in WWII, and one for the Korean War.
The Wisconsin admission is combined with Nauticus, a fun and interesting Maritime Museum next door to the battleship.
The Wisconsin Battleship tour and Nauticus, the Maritime Museum
Granby Street has a lot of choices for fun restaurants. Two of our favorites are owned by the same people and are right next door to one another:
- Grilled Cheese Bistro: Huge and delicious grilled cheese sandwiches of all kinds, some meat, veggies, macaroni and cheese, all kinds of cheese, sauces and more. Their French Fries are amazing. Our favorite is parmesan and chimichurri. Two people will be stuffed when splitting an order of fries and a sandwich.
- Greenhouse Cafe: Remarkably fresh and imaginative salad combinations that can serve 1 or 2. One individual salad is two meals. The downstairs room is adorable with plants growing everywhere and fresh flowers on the tables.
- Grain: While they say they are a rooftop restaurant, it’s really on the 5th floor, and the view of the river is somewhat obstructed. However, this brew pub offers up regional craft beers and small plates. The atmosphere is great and service is friendly.
Norfolk has some beautiful and funky neighborhoods (Check out the Ghent area if you can, you would need a car) with fun shops, opera, concerts, theatre and the lovely Chrysler Museum. The streets are filled with art. Murals abound, beautiful tile work can be found above door ways, historic statues, beautiful architecture and of course, the Mermaids.
When you’re walking around downtown, it’s worthwhile to step into The Slover Library. It’s in the same neighborhood as Waterside and the Hilton. It’s an actual functioning library, just in a really beautiful old building that has been transformed inside to a very cool and modern space.
The Slover Library
Here’s some of the artwork around Norfolk:
Artwork around Norfolk
In season, there is a lot of activity at Waterside…festivals, bands, tall ships and a Ferris wheel, to name a few. Harborfest is said to be amazing, and it’s on June 8 – 10 this year.
As we mentioned earlier, the Elizabeth is a fascinating river. It’s a busy shipping port, navy ships are everywhere, coming and going from the base and Naval Shipyard, tugs keep the traffic moving, and leisure craft and sail boats enjoy the deep water and winds. Here’s a look at some of the typical traffic:
Elizabeth River traffic, including Ted and Blu!
Ted Haler has been aboard his beautiful 94′ Broward, Dream On, at Tidewater Yacht Marina since early 2017. Ted is a decorated Vietnam Veteran, who is an ambassador at the marina! Ted is a salty but incredibly sweet man with a rich history. When we arrived on November 1, 2017, he and his fabulous dog Blu were there to greet us, and we formed a warm friendship during our time at Tidewater, and it continues even after our travels! We are so happy to have him in our lives!!
Ted Haler’s Dream On, decked out for Christmas!
If you can get there, the Norfolk Botanical Gardens are amazing, about a 20 minute drive from Tidewater. We thoroughly enjoyed wandering the wooded paths through the azaleas, and along Little Creek that runs through the gardens.
While we were at the gardens, the Lantern Asia exhibit was there. The exhibit feature colossal art works that are illuminated at night. It was incredible by daylight, so we can only imagine what it’s like at night!
Norfolk Botanical Garden
If you travel to Newport News, VA. by boat or car, be sure to check out the fascinating Maritime Museum, home to artifacts from the recovered wreckage of the USS Monitor.
The Mariner’s Museum, Newport News, VA.
Last, but not least, spend time at the Chrysler Museum. There is an impressive permanent collection, and it houses one of the world’s greatest collections of glass, including a significant collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Across the street is The Glass Studio, where the staff hold daily demonstrations at noon, and there is a wide variety of glass classes you can take. Nancy took two classes and Rob took one with her. We had fun, but learned how hard (and dangerous!) it is to work with glass. It makes the museum that much more spectacular!
Glass Blowing at the Chrysler Glass Studio
You can spend hours in the Chrysler, but here’s a bit to get you interested:
In addition to the museum collection, The Chrysler hosts a wide variety of visiting exhibits. We were fortunate enough to see the Rene Lalique exhibit over the winter. Lalique is best known for producing glass art, perfume bottles (he got his start with Coty), vases, ashtrays and hood ornaments at the end of the 19th – early 20th century in Paris, France. Here’s a peek:
Lalique show at the Chrysler Museum
Phew! OKAY, we’re caught up…almost. Next up, we’ll document our travels since we left Portsmouth. And, since this was such a catch up, the next post will NOT be as long!
So, until we see you again…Goodnight Portsmouth, Goodnight Norfolk!