Tag: Beach

A Local’s Guide to Salisbury Maryland, Home of the National Folk Festival 

A Local’s Guide to Salisbury Maryland, Home of the National Folk Festival 

A Local’s Guide to Salisbury Maryland

The National Folk Festival will be held in my home town of Salisbury Maryland the weekend of September 7-9, 2018. What’s more, it will be held here the next two years as well. So here’s your guide to Salisbury, Maryland, written by someone who has lived here for nearly 25 years!

Locals Guide to Salisbury Maryland (vintage postcard)
By Tichnor Brothers, Publisher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About Salisbury

With a population of some 30,000, it’s the largest city on the Eastern Shore and the No. 1 fastest growing city in Maryland, according to city officials. Founded in 1732 and incorporated in 1854, it also is the county seat for Wicomico. The area offers the ideal mix of an urban center, nestled within a scenic rural region, centrally located to three major metropolitan areas (Baltimore, Washington DC, and Philadelphia). I’ve lived here since 1995, and I can’t imagine ever leaving to live someplace else.

The National Folk Festival

Free events are great, and the National Folk Festival is no exception. If you’re like me, you might think that a “folk” festival will be geared toward aging hippies who want to sit around and listen to mellow music. Not so! Folk does not mean folk music! The National Folk Festival is a celebration of the roots, richness and variety of American culture.

The three day event will feature musical performances and dancing by over 350 performers from all over the world. To name just a few:

Demonstrations specific to the state of Maryland will also be available, including preparation of traditional Maryland foods (crab cakes, muskrat, scrapple, Smith Island cake), decoy carving, and a demonstration by Pocomoke Native Americans on making dugout canoes.

Whether you’re here for the National Folk Festival or for some other reason, there is plenty to see and do in Salisbury. Here are my recommendations for visitors…

Where to Eat

For the best thin crust pizza in town, head to Lombardis (315 Civic Ave; 410-749-0522). The decor isn’t much, but the wait staff are friendly and if you have kids with you, they will love the giant mural of cartoon characters and superheroes in the back dining room. Also, did I mention how good their pizza is?

Who doesn’t love ice cream? A Chincoteague Virginia favorite, Island Creamery, recently opened a shop in Salisbury (306 Dogwood Dr, 410-831-3103). With traditional favorites and unusual flavors like Cantaloupe and Wallops Rocket Fuel (chocolate with cinnamon and chili pepper), there’s something for everyone.

Back Street Grill (401 Snow Hill Road, 410-548-1588) offers a build-your-own sandwich menu and some of the tastiest salads in town. My favorite sandwich is the Back Street Deluxe: turkey and ham with cheddar and pineapple on a croissant, heated. So yummy! They also offer great specials on weeknights, like tacos for $1.25 each on Mondays and $5 burgers on Wednesdays.

Market Street Inn (130 W Market St, 410-742-4145) is an upscale restaurant located on the Wicomico (pronounced why-COMic-oh) River.

Local's Guide to Salisbury Maryland: Market Street Inn offers guests riverside dining and drinks.

In addition to gourmet fare, they have outdoor seating, which offers a great view of the riverfront. if you’re lucky, you might even see a Great Blue Heron while you’re there.

Brew River (502 W Main St, 410-677-6757) is a popular restaurant located on the Wicomico River. They have great dinner specials, with half price prime rib on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and 2-for-1 crab cakes on Thursdays. The restaurant also features an outside dock bar that is one of the most happening nightlife spots in town. If you go, be sure to grab a coconut muffin from the bread basket – they’re delicious!

Rise Up Coffee Roasters is a local favorite. Go to their College Avenue location (105 East College Ave., 443-358-5248) to get breakfast or lunch, or just hang out for a while. Alternatively, you can hit the Riverside Drive drive through (529 Rivderside Drive, 410-202-2500) if you’re on the go. They only roast certified organic and fair trade coffee, so you can feel good about caffeinating here. But even if you’re not a coffee person, it’s worth a stop: the frozen hot chocolate is A-MAZ-ING!

Local's Guide to Salisbury Maryland: Bordeleau Vineyard & Winery features a beautiful estate with a well-stocked tasting room.
Bordeleau Vineyard & Winery

Bordeleau Vineyard & Winery in the neighboring village of Eden (3155 Noble Farm Rd, Eden, 410-677-3334) offers both white and red wines on a beautiful estate (above) that often serves as a wedding venue.The Bordeleau tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday and is a comfy, welcoming place to sample their vino.

Acorn Market (150 W Market St, 410-334-2222) offers breakfast and lunch in a relaxed atmosphere. They offer a selection of freshly made to order sandwiches and salads, and some of the  most scrumptious baked goods you will find. I especially love their sweet potato biscuits.  You won’t be able to get dinner here, though, as they close at 3:00 pm each day.

Classic Cakes (1305 S Division St #8, 410-860-5300) makes Smith Island cakes. If you’ve never heard of such a thing, you are in for a treat! Maryland’s official state dessert is a nine-layer (yes, NINE!) yellow cake with chocolate ganache type frosting.

Local's Guide to Salisbury Maryland: Try the official state dessert. a nine-layer Smith Island Cake.

That’s the traditional version. But Classic Cakes has taken it up a few notches and made many delicious varieties: cookies and cream, Reese’s cup, coconut pineapple, banana, red velvet, and many more. I like the classic and the banana best. They also sell cupcakes but don’t let that tempt you… the cake is way better, and they even sell it by the slice.

Where to Stay

Salisbury isn’t different from other cities in this regard. There’s a selection of hotels from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 stars. If location is important to you, then you can’t do much better than LaQuinta, which is right next to the city’s Riverwalk Park and newly constructed amphitheater. Downtown bars, restaurants and shopping are a quick 10-15 minute walk, and a bank next door to the hotel has an ATM, should you need one.

If Airbnb is more your thing, there are quite a few properties to choose from in Salisbury, from single rooms to riverfront lofts. Just make sure before booking that the property is in Salisbury and not a nearby town like Crisfield or Pocomoke. Those towns, while technically nearby, would add 30-45 minutes of driving to your outings. Book an Airbnb through this link and you will receive a $40 credit!

Finally, if you’re a camping kind of family, I’m sorry to say that there aren’t any campgrounds in Salisbury. The town of Berlin has several camping options, however, and is about 30 minutes away by car.

Where to Shop

If you’re into country decor, Salisbury is your Mecca. The Country House (805 E Main St, 410-749-1959). Set aside at least half a day to look through their items, as the store is huge – 48,000 square feet – and no space is wasted.  They carry all sorts of wonderful items, from curtains to floral to apparel and seasonal items too.

Angello’s Unique Gifts is a great spot to browse, and it’s located right next to the Acorn Market (150 W Market St, 443-358-5152), so you can stop by after lunch. This is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir of your visit, or a gift for someone who is hard to shop for. They even do embroidery to personalize your purchase.

Local's Guide to Salisbury Maryland: Dana Simson offers whimsical ceramic creations at Chesapeake East.
Some of Dana Simson’s ceramics.

If you’re into quirky and colorful handmade ceramic pieces, you must go to Chesapeake East (501 W Main St, 410-546-1534). From dinnerware to decorative items, artist Dana Simson creates whimsical pieces that will make you smile. In addition, she also sells stationery, paintings, and prints.

What to Do

If you’re coming to Salisbury for a special event like the National Folk Festival or the 100 mile Seagull Century bike race, you might want to stay an extra day or two and check out some of the other things our little city has to offer. For instance:

The Salisbury Zoo (755 S Park Dr, open daily 9:00 to 4:30) is a 12-acre zoological park that has offered free admission ever since it first opened in 1954. The zoo is home to 100 animals, most of which are native to North and South America. The zoo is an absolute gem and one of the things that make Salisbury a great place to live and visit.

Local's Guide to Salisbury Maryland: The Salisbury Zoo is a great place to visit... and it's free!
The alligator at the Salisbury Zoo is all smiles.

At one end of the zoo, children will absolutely love the playground known as Ben’s Red Swings. The playground was created to honor the memory of Ben Layton, a local boy who died of leukemia at age 4. Ben wished that when he got to heaven he would get red wings because red was his favorite color, and that was the inspiration for the name of the playground. The playground was largely funded and built by community volunteers, and it is a real treasure to the children who live here. If you’re visiting with your family, be sure to let them burn off some energy at Ben’s Red Swings.

Another way to let the kids (and adventurous adults) burn off some energy is to take them to Altitude Trampoline Park (30174 Foskey Ln, 410-896-2219) in the neighboring town of Delmar, Maryland. In addition to over 24,000 square feet of indoor trampolines, there is also a Foam Pit, Dodgeball Arena, Kid’s Arena, Aeroball and Laser Maze. Hours of fun! Rates range from $15-$20 for one to two hours of jumping fun.

Salisbury is home to a minor league baseball team, the Delmarva Shorebirds. The season will have ended before the National Folk Festival takes place, but if you’re visiting between April and August, consider spending an evening at the ballpark. Many games conclude with a great fireworks show, and there are often special events and giveaways as well. Tickets range from $2 to $13.

Local's Guide to Salisbury Maryland: Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art

The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art (909 S Schumaker Dr, 410-742-4988) has been recognized by USA Today as one of the 10 best places in the U.S. to view American folk art. Operated by Salisbury University, it showcases the contributions of artists who have carved birds both as tools for the hunt and as objects of artistic enjoyment. The museum regularly offers children’s programs and hosts community events at its beautiful waterfront location.

Finally, for garden enthusiasts, the campus of Salisbury University was recognized by the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta as an arboretum in 1988. The campus features over 2,000 species of plant life, including magnolia, rhododendron, viburnum, Japanese maple, bald cypress, and Crape myrtle. Notable areas of interest – and great Instagram spots – on campus include the pergola near the University Commons, the Holloway Hall courtyard garden, the Bellavance Honors Center’s Japanese garden, the Link of Nations, and the Miller Alumni Garden.

Beaches

There are at least a half dozen beaches within an hour’s drive of Salisbury. They each have their own distinct vibe, and their own pros and cons. I’ll outline the three closest ones below.

The Cove (Cove Rd, Bivalve MD – about 30 minutes from Salisbury) is the perfect beach for families with young children. It is a sheltered cove off of the Chesapeake Bay. The water is shallow, warm, and has very little current, so it’s great for toddlers and preschoolers. Older kids and childless adults, on the other hand, will probably be pretty bored at this beach.

Assateague has two sections – the Assateague Island National Seashore (7206 National Seashore Lane, Berlin, 410-641-1441), and Maryland;’s Assateague State Park (6915 Stephen Decatur Highway, Berlin, 410-641-2120).  It takes about 45 minutes from Salisbury to reach either of them. Both charge a small entrance fee. You will be able to see the famous wild Assateague ponies at both.

Local's Guide to Salisbury Maryland: The beach at nearby Assateague Island offers visitors a look at the wild ponies who have lived there for centuries.

Both offer ocean and bayfront beaches. Both allow pets in designated areas. You can camp at both, and both have bike trails. The biggest difference is that the state side has a restaurant/concession stand and gift shop, whereas the federal side does not provide any opportunities for you to spend money once you pay for admission. I prefer the federal side as it tends to be less crowded, and I almost always see the ponies when we go there.

Ocean City (paid parking at the Hugh T Cropper inlet parking lot – 809 S Atlantic Ave, Ocean City – about 45 minutes from Salisbury). Quite the opposite of Assateague, Ocean City has plenty of places for you to part with your cash.  In addition to a stunning oceanfront beach with crashing waves, there is a 2.5 mile long boardwalk lined with restaurants, souvenir shops, hotels, and arcades. Be sure to get Thrasher’s fries while you’re there. It’s a must!

A Local's Guide to Salisbury Maryland

In Conclusion

I hope you will find this guide to Salisbury Maryland useful. I love this town, and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. If you visit, I’m sure you will agree!  Do you have any other suggestions to add? Did you try any of the places I recommended here? If so, leave a comment and tell me about it!

Happy traveling!

A Local's Guide to Salisbury Maryland - Home of the National Folk Festival
Water Park Fun in Ocean City, Maryland

Water Park Fun in Ocean City, Maryland

Fun for Everyone!

Businesses in the resort town of Ocean City, Maryland come and go all the time. However, a select few have been there so long that locals and visitors alike would be stunned speechless if they ever closed. Jolly Roger Amusement Park is one of those businesses, and for good reason. It’s one of the best things to do in Ocean City Maryland.

Things to Do in Ocean City Maryland: The Jolly Roger Amusement Park is a must for families visiting the beach resort.

Splash Mountain Water Park

One of the cornerstones of Jolly Roger’s business is the Splash Mountain water park, located at 30th Street in Ocean City.

Maybe, you’re like I was. For years and years, I refused to go to Splash Mountain. I thought that it would be silly and a waste of money to go to a water park in Ocean City. Why pay for admission when you are literally just a couple of blocks away from an ocean that is free to swim in? When I finally did go, I wished I had gone to Splash Mountain sooner!

The Park

Considering the number of people that go through it each day, Splash Mountain is an incredibly clean park. Everything looks new and in top-notch operating condition, which is definitely something you want to see in a water park.

I was impressed with the safety measures of the park. Lifeguards and other staff members stand at every ride and pool to ensure that no one gets on a ride if they do not meet its height requirements.  Life jackets are available (and sometimes required) for the littlest park visitors. Visitors who want to take a tube into the wave pool, may only use a clear tube. At first I didn’t understand that restriction, but it occurred to me that clear tubes will not prevent the lifeguards from seeing if someone has slipped under the waves and is struggling to keep their head above water.

The park provides fun options for every age and comfort level. From the three kiddie pools with a maximum depth of 2 feet and the Lazy River ambling through the park, to the Ragin Raft and Aqualoop, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

The Rides

There are so many fun rides to choose from! Here’s your guide to all the features at Splash Mountain:

The Lost Lagoon Family Pool

The Lost Lagoon is a pirate-themed pool adventure. Splash in the shallow pool or take your pick of slides as you race towards the water. The Lost Lagoon is conveniently located by the food stands and restrooms.

The Black Hole

Things to Do in Ocean City Maryland: Splash Mountain's Black Hole challenges riders to travel at high speeds through the enclosed slide, which is completely dark!

This mega-slide is not for anyone with a fear of the dark. Two of its three slides are completely enclosed and pitch dark, while the third slide is open for the faint of heart! Flashes of light, high-speed fun, and unexpected dips and turns will quickly reveal why this is a Splash Mountain staple for visitors.

The Aqualoop

Hailed as the #1 water slide in the country by Popular Mechanics, the Aqualoop is the only one of its kind on the East Coast. The state-of-the-art enclosed, 360 degree, semi-transparent, looping water slide begins with an anxiety-ridden countdown before the trap door opens and sends you plummeting down feet-first, Wile E. Coyote style, 480-feet before splashing in the water below.

The Stealth

Things to Do in Ocean City Maryland: The Stealth at Splash Mountain is the water park version of skating on a half pipe.

The Stealth is Splash Mountain’s first extreme water slide, and it combines the fun of skateboarding with the fun of a water park ride. The half pipe slide with its 45-foot tall vertical ramp will give you the adrenaline pumping thrill of a steep descent, then being shot uphill into the sky.

The Speed Slide

Race your friends down the six lane Speed Slide to see who can reach the bottom first! It’s a classic water park favorite, pitting you against friends, family and even strangers, as you race to the finish.

The Eye of the Hurricane

Things to Do in Ocean City Maryland: The Eye of the Hurrican ride at Splash Mountain Water Park. Locals call it the Toilet Bowl.

Nearly everyone I know calls this ride the Toilet Bowl because, essentially, that’s what it resembles. You travel down a chute slide, emerging into a large round bowl. You circle around and around and are then “flushed” out into the Lazy River at the bottom.

The Lazy River

This one is my absolute favorite. Grab a tube and float your way along the 1100-foot, slow-moving river. I could stay on this all day!

And if I may insert a small PSA here… please take your tube out of the Lazy River with you when you leave it. Empty tubes clutter up the river and disturb the flow of traffic. Thanks!

The Rain Forest

Things to Do in Ocean City Maryland: The Rain Forest at Splash Mountain water park is great fun for young and old alike.

The beautiful thing about the Rain Forest is that adults enjoy it just as much as young kids do. It’s the ultimate treehouse, complete with slides, rope walks, and plenty of water guns! Walk, climb, or slide your way around the passageways of this massive treehouse – it’s a dream come true for any band of shipwrecked voyagers. The pirate head at the top of the structure is a giant bucket that fills with water. Watch out when he gets full!

The Wave Pool

If you don’t want to deal with massive heights or fast speeds, you might enjoy the wave pool. Body surf, duck under the crashing waves, and swim the day away in the Wave Pool. It’s got all the fun of the ocean…minus the salt water and sand.

Kiddie Pirate Ship Pool

Things to Do in Ocean City Maryland: One of Splash Mountain's kiddie pools has a pirate ship theme.

One of three kiddie pools at Splash Mountain, the pirate pool has a ship to explore and three slides. The water in this pool is no more than two feet deep… perfect for toddlers and those who are just learning to swim. (My kids are far past this stage but I still like visiting the kiddie pool before hitting the other rides because the water is warmer there!)

The Master Blaster

My daughter and her friends have claimed the Master Blaster as their favorite ride at Splash Mountain. It’s basically a water roller coaster, and the park’s first water slide to go uphill.

 The Ragin’ Raft

Things to Do in Ocean City Maryland: The Ragin' Raft Slide at Splash Mountain is the only four person slide in the area.

I don’t know how I ever let my Girl Scouts talk me into going on this ride, which is the only four person slide in the Ocean City area. (I have a severe fear of heights and this slide is pretty darn high. Couple that with the fact that I was riding with three young girls much smaller and lighter than me, and I thought I was going to catapult off the raft. Thankfully that was not the case and it was over fairly quickly.)

The Rapids

The Rapids water slide is the closest thing you’re going to get to riding down white water rapids in Ocean City, Maryland. Hang on as you hit bumps, curves, and ramps as you speed down the slide. I haven’t gotten up the nerve to try this one, but I think it sounds like a lot of fun.

The Splash Pad

Things to Do in Ocean City Maryland: The Splash Pad at Splash Mountain water park provides young children a safe place to play while their parents lounge nearby.

Another area for younger children, this shallow pool provides plenty of fun with fountains and waterfalls. Lounge chairs are conveniently located around the enclosed perimeter, giving mom and dad a chance to relax.

The Extras

In addition to the water park, the same complex also offers carnival-style rides, 2 miniature golf courses, and 10 go-kart racing tracks. You can buy your admission for just the water park, or combine it with admission to the other areas of the complex.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Visit

I thought I’d offer a few pointers from someone who has been to Splash Mountain several times.

  • Get there as close to 10:00 AM as possible. Yeah, that’s early, but the park fills up fast and you want to get the best chairs/table location possible. (Also, it’s a lot more fun when you feel like you have the place to yourself!)
  • Splash Mountain allows you to bring a cooler, so if you don’t want to pay for concessions on site, you don’t have to. Pack a lunch and some beverages and head on in.
  • If you think you might want to sample the food they offer, bring some cash with you as many food vendors only take cash, not credit/debit cards.
  • Lockers are available and conveniently located next to the rest rooms. I’ve never used them, but I think there is a fee to use them.
  • If it rains, you will not get a refund or rain check. The only time a rain check is issued is if the park decides to close due to extremely inclement weather. Even if you’re told to get out of the water while a thunderstorm rages all around you, you’re not getting a rain check.  My best advice is to wait out the weather. You can either sit under the umbrellas (they do not offer 100% protection from rain, however), or leave the park and come back. As long as you are still wearing your wristband, you are able to reenter the park the same day without paying additional admission costs.
Things to Do in Ocean City Maryland: A review of Splash Mountain water park.
Top Ten Places to See in Uruguay

Top Ten Places to See in Uruguay

Why Uruguay?

I’ve had an interest in Uruguay since my college days, when I represented Uruguay in a model OAS. In doing my research on the small South American country, I discovered it was an often overlooked but quite extraordinary country. Its neighbors, Argentina and Brazil, get all the attention (and tourism), but Uruguay has quite a lot to offer its visitors. Here’s my Uruguay Top Ten list:

1. Montevideo

No visit to Uruguay would be complete without spending some time in its vibrant capital city. Take a stroll along La Rambla, the ten mile promenade that separates the city proper from the sea. While you’re doing that, cross over La Rambla and spend some time enjoying one of the city’s beautiful beaches.

Uruguay Top Ten: No visit to Montevideo would be complete without strolling along La Rambla.
Photo of La Rambla & beach in Montevideo via Flickr by Andre S Ribeiro

If history and architecture interest you, go to Plaza Independencia and from there explore the older part of the city. Be sure to look for the old city walls and gate! And for more on Montevideo history – as well as outstanding views over the city – be sure to visit Fortaleza del Cerro a military fortress-turned-museum located at the highest point of the city.

2. Hot Springs Near Salto

The Guaraní Aquifer, one of the largest groundwater reservoirs in the world, is located in northwestern Uruguay near the city of Salto. In Uruguay, this water system has temperatures ranging between 100º and 115°.

As a result of their high mineral content, the hot springs are ideal for relaxing baths and also digestive remedies. The area has capitalized upon this by improving infrastructure and supporting the development of many hot spring resorts.

Uruguay Top Ten: The Hot Springs near Salto make for a relaxing swim.
Photo of Termas del Arapey via Flickr by todo tiempo pasado fue mejor 

After enjoying the water, stroll through Salto, which is the second most populated city in Uruguay. The downtown area is full of historic monuments, shops, interesting architecture, and cafes. Other attractions in Salto include a zoo, a water park, and a riverside walking path.

3. La Mano en la Arena

This literally translates to A Hand in the Sand.  And that’s exactly what it is. Located on the popular Punta del Este beach (see below), it is a sculpture of five fingers emerging from the sand.

Uruguay Top Ten: See the hand in the sand at the popular Punta del Este beach.
Photo of La Mano By CoolcaesarOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal made the sculpture in the summer of 1982. He sought to make a sculpture of a hand “drowning” as a warning to swimmers. In fact, the sculpture is also known as Monumento al Ahogado (Monument to the Drowning Man). The artist made three replicas of the sculpture – one is in the Atacama Desert in Chile, one is in Madrid, and the third is in Venice.

4. Casapueblo

Casapueblo is a sprawling, vivid white estate near Punta del Este. Originally, Casapueblo served as a a summer house and workshop of the Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. Today, the building houses a museum, an art gallery, a cafeteria and a hotel.

Uruguay Top Ten: Casapueblo is an artist's former home with a stunningly unique design.
Photo of Casapueblo via Flickr by pviojo

Built of whitewashed cement and stucco, the building may remind you of the architecture seen in Santorini, Greece. The artist said that he drew inspiration from the nest of the Hornero, a South American bird known for building mud nests with chambers inside them. It has thirteen floors with terraces facing the waters of the Atlantic ocean. The construction has a staggered shape that allows better more/views of the ocean.

5. Museo del Gaucho y la Moneda

Two museums sharing a three story rococo mansion in Montevideo – what more could you ask for? The Museo del Gaucho contains exhibits about South America’s version of what we call a cowboy – el gaucho.

Uruguay Top Ten: Be sure to visit the Museo del Gaucho in Montevideo.
Photo of two gauchos via Flickr by Vince Alongi

Here you’ll find items from the gauchos’ everyday life, from traditional garb to the detailed silver work on the cups used for drinking mate. The second museum (la Moneda) deals with coin, and contains many examples of ancient South American and European coins.

6. Mercado del Puerto

I love shopping in Latin American markets, where the selection is vast, the colors are vibrant, and the prices are negotiable.

Uruguay Top Ten: Mercado del Puerto is a must for shopping and steakhouses.
Photo of Mercado del Puerto via Flickr by El Coleccionista de Instantes

At Montevideo’s Mercado del Puerto, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, you will find everything you can imagine – souvenirs, antiques, leather goods, hand crafted items, and of course, delicious meats. Be sure to eat at one of the steak houses there.  You will not be disappointed!

7. Colonia del Sacramento

Colonia del Sacramento is a small city in southwestern Uruguay. Founded in 1680, the town’s historic quarter was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. As you might expect in a city this old, visitors are able to walk through cobblestone streets to the Plaza Mayor.

Uruguay Top Ten: The City Gate at Colonia del Sacramento, founded in 1680.
Photo of the city gate and wooden drawbridge at Colonia del Sacramento by User:HalloweenHJB, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Many points of interest can be explored from there, including the city gate and wooden drawbridge, lighthouse and convent ruins, two museums, and the Basilica of the Holy Sacrament, built in 1808.

8. Punta del Este

Punta del Este is a tremendously popular tourist destination, with over 1 million visitors annually. It has been given several comparative nicknames, including “the Monaco of the South”, “The Pearl of the Atlantic”, “the Hamptons of South America”, and “the St. Tropez of South America.” In addition to the Punta del Este sites on this list (La Mano and Casapueblo), there are a few other attractions worth checking out when you visit.

Uruguay Top Ten: The pirate exhibit at the Museum of the Sea in Punta del Este.
Photo of pirate exhibit at the Museo del Mar in Punta del Este by FedaroOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

One particular attraction that I would recommend is the Museo del Mar (Museum of the Sea), which contains over 5,000 specimens of marine animals, including whale skeletons, sea urchins, starfish and turtle shells. In addition, there are exhibits about beach attire and habits of the early 20th century, navigational tools, and famous pirates.

9. Punta del Diablo

Don’t let the name fool you, Punta del Diablo is a heavenly place to visit! This little village is very popular and growing more so every year. It has a temperate climate (70°-80° in the summer; 50°-60° in the winter), great views of the ocean, and stunning beaches.

Uruguay Top Ten: Punta del Diablo offers visitors wide expanses of beach for recreation.
Photo of the beach at Punto del Diablo via Flickr by Vince Alongi.

In addition to the beaches, where locals and visitors are often seen in the summer gathered around fires playing guitars and singing songs, Punto del Diablo has other points of interest. Parque Nacional Santa Teresa (Saint Teresa National Park) offers 60 km of hiking trails and the potential for a whale sightings along the shore during summer. Another popular attraction is the Centro de Tortugas Marinas (Center for Sea Turtles). It is located near a popular foraging site for sea turtles, the waters off the beaches of Barra del Chuy to Punta del Diablo.

10. Wine Tasting in the Canelones Region

Uruguay’s wine industry began in the 1870s when Tannat was introduced by Basque immigrants. Since then, Tannat has become Uruguay’s signature varietal, producing rich, full-bodied red wines with dark fruit and spice aromas and flavors.

Uruguay Top Ten: Uruguay has many wineries in the Canelones region.

The wine is food friendly and traditionally paired with beef and lamb as well as pastas and strong cheeses. Named for its high tannin content, Tannat has been found to be the healthiest of red wines due to its high antioxidant and resveratrol levels which can aid in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. (See? Wine is good for you!)

There are at least a dozen wineries in this region, all fairly close to each other, so it would be easy to visit several and learn more about the wines produced in this part of South America.

And Just for Fun:

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Uruguay

  1. Uruguay is a socially progressive country. It was the first nation in Latin America to establish a welfare state, the first in the world to provide every child in school with a free laptop and wifi access (2009), and the first in the world to legalize the production, sale and use of marijuana (2013).
  2. Although marijuana is legal in Uruguay, it is illegal for a non-Uruguayan to purchase marijuana there.
  3. In the 2018 Global Peace Index, Uruguay ranked as the 37th safest country in the world – the second highest ranking country in South America.  (By comparison, the USA’s rank is 121 and the UK’s is 57.)
  4. Cows outnumber people in Uruguay by a margin of four to one.
  5. Uruguay is the only county in South America that lies completely outside the tropics.
  6. Uruguay’s national anthem clocks in at over five minutes, making it the longest in the world.
  7. Less than half the population of Uruguay is Catholic, making it the least religious country in South America. Many of the Catholic holidays have different names in Uruguay. Christmas is Family Day, Holy Week (Easter) is called Tourism Week, and so on.
  8. Uruguay was home to the “World’s Poorest President,” José Alberto “Pepe” Mujica Cordano. Mujica served as President from 2010 to 2015, and earned the nickname because of his humble way of life. He donated about 90% of his income as President to charity, refused to live in the Presidential Palace, and drove a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle.
  9. The unofficial national motto of Uruguay dates back to the 19th century and is still repeated today: “Because here nobody is better than anybody else.”
  10. The Rio de la Plata, which forms part of Uruguay’s border with Argentina, is the widest river in the world, with a width of 140 miles at its mouth.
URUGUAY TOP TEN: The ten best destinations in Uruguay that should be on  your bucket list.
Ocean City Maryland’s Best Boardwalk Food

Ocean City Maryland’s Best Boardwalk Food

A Summer Tradition

Having grown up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, I have gone to Ocean City in the summertime as long as I can remember. There are so many great things to do there, from swimming and sunbathing to “walking the boards” and sampling all of the delicious foods sold along the boardwalk. Some of my favorites include chocolate covered strawberries from Candy Kitchen, Dolle’s salt water taffy, Dough Roller pizza, and caramel popcorn from Fisher’s. They’re all outstanding! But only one treat can claim the title of Ocean City Maryland’s Best Boardwalk Food – Thrashers french fries.

About Thrashers

The story of these tasty fries begins in 1929, when J.T. Thrasher proposed a unique business concept for the seaside community. He wanted to have a food stand that sold one product, and one product only: the French fry. With just one product for sale, he had to excel. Only the best would do.

Thrasher focused on three things: quality ingredients, hard work, and above all, attention to the perfection of each cup of fries. He discovered that the perfect French fries had to come from perfect potatoes, which meant buying potatoes from different regions at different times of the year.

I’ve heard many rumors about why Thrasher’s fries are so much better than others. Does Thrasher’s brine their potatos before frying? Do they fry in peanut oil? Do they fry their potatoes twice instead of just once? Speculation abounds!  Whatever their secret (and it is very much a secret!), Thrasher’s fries have been a local favorite through five generations and eighty years. And all that time without any deviation from original procedures or original recipes!

Get Your Fries & Eat ‘Em Right

Now, fair warning: in the height of the summer season, you may have to wait in a considerable line when you go to Thrasher’s. I’ve actually seen as many as 20 or 30 people in a line for these famous fries. In fact, if you happen to be walking past and by some miracle there is no line, go ahead and get some fries just on general principle.

When you get up to the counter, you can order one of three sizes  (16 oz, 32 oz and 53 oz). Yes, that’s right: the smallest serving you can buy is a pound. Regardless what size you order, you will receive your fries in a paper tub.

Ocean City Maryland's Best Boardwalk Food - Thrasher's French Fries

When you are handed your fries, do not make the mistake of asking for ketchup. They don’t have ketchup at Thrasher’s and they probably never will. These fries are not meant to be eaten with ketchup.

Instead, should you desire a condiment, you will find apple cider vinegar at the end of the counter. Sprinkle or pour it on, depending how much you like vinegar. Then maybe add some extra salt if you like salty fries.

Now you are ready to dig in to this golden delicious goodness:

Ocean City Maryland's Best Boardwalk Food - Thrasher's French Fries

If you’ve never had boardwalk style fries before, you may think that some of them are burnt because of the dark brown coloring. They are not. Some will be as crispy as a potato chip and others (particularly if you were heavy handed with the vinegar) will be almost soggy. But they will all be delicious.

Leftovers?

If your eyes are bigger than your stomach and you ordered way more fries than you can eat, don’t worry.  These guys love Thrasher’s almost as much as the locals do.

Ocean City Maryland's Best Boardwalk Food - Thrasher's French Fries. Even the seagulls love them!

That swarm of seagulls is fairly typical when you’re holding a tub of Thrasher’s. One time my husband and I had just gotten a tub of fries when a seagull swooped by, plucking a French fry right out of Hubs’ hand!  Thankfully, most of the seagulls are not that bold. If you don’t feed them, they will eventually lose interest and fly away.

Have you had Thrasher’s fries before? What did you think of them? Let me know below!

Header image via Flickr by m01229

Ocean City Maryland's Best Boardwalk Food
Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Part II – Cape Charles

Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Part II – Cape Charles

Part I of this post focused on the culinary festivals that take place on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, particularly oyster roasts in the fall.  To read that post, click here.

Virginia’s Eastern Shore – Cape Charles

Day two of our expedition to Virginia’s Eastern Shore took us way south to Cape Charles. It’s a small town (population of about 1000) situated on the western side of the peninsula, with beachfront along the Chesapeake Bay.

Driving on Virginia’s Eastern Shore is stress free and easy.  Basically, there’s one highway (US-13) that runs the length of it, north to south. The Virginia end of the peninsula is 70 miles long but only  5-12 miles wide.   So we ambled in to Port Charles, turning off of Route 13 and heading toward the beach.

Along the way we passed lots of small independent stores.  I was just itching to go shopping but Hubs wanted to see the bay first.  We got to the beach and found this great sculpture waiting for us:

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles. This LOVE sign represents the community and greets visitors to the beach.

In a state whose tourism motto is “Virginia is for Lovers,” this LOVE sign adds a unique twist because it represents Cape Charles specifically. The L is made of sea glass and seashells to represent the local community. The O is a tractor tire to represent agriculture. The V is made of kayaks to represent outdoor adventure activities and the E is made of crab pots to represent aquaculture.

Just past the sign, we saw the weathered wood of a fishing pier zigzagging out into the Chesapeake Bay.

Virginia's Eastern Shore Cape Charles public fishing pier at the beach

But before heading out to the pier, we took a quick stroll along the beach. It is truly a blessing to live on the Delmarva Peninsula because we have two very different types of coastal beaches.  First is the Atlantic to the east  with its crashing waves and the roar of the surf.  It’s beautiful and intimidating all at once. Then there’s “the bay side” which is the coastline along the Chesapeake Bay. The water there is calmer, warmer, and very different.  What struck me was how clear and calm the water along the Cape Charles beach appeared.

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles' public beach faces the Chesapeake Bay and has much calmer water.

We walked the beach a little, then headed out to the end of the fishing pier.  We saw a couple of freighter ships in the distance, and a group of a half-dozen or so pelicans closer than that.  Seeing the pelicans was a surprise – I have never seen any outside a zoo and did not even know that they lived in this area!

We left the beach and headed back up Mason Avenue, which is the main street in town. There are several shops, an art gallery, a gourmet market, and a couple of restaurants.

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles' Mason Avenue

Our first stop was a little shop called The Boardwalk, which was full of beach-themed decor items, gifts, and jewelry.  I saw SO MANY cute and/or awesome things! I probably could have done at least half of my Christmas shopping there if I’d had enough time. This pillow was one of my (many) favorites:

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles shop The Boardwalk offers beach theme gifts and decor.

Another store, which was closed at the time of our visit, had these amazing nautilus shell and stained glass creations in its window:

Virginia's Eastern Shore Cape Charles has a thriving art community.

I did a little shopping, and then it was time to head to lunch.  So we drove on over to The Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery.

Virginia's Eastern Shore - in Cape Charles, the Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery offers waterfront dining and fresh seafood.

My husband ordered a clam basket and I ordered a crab cake sandwich.  It was an unseasonably warm day for November, so we got to dine on the deck, and that was a real treat.  The menu offered a variety of seafood items.  When we asked if the clams and oysters were local, our server said yes, and pointed out that we could actually see the clam beds from where we sat on the back deck of the restaurant.

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles' Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery has seafood so fresh, you can see the clam beds from the restaurant.
(The dark stripes just beyond the rocks are the clam beds.)

After lunch, I was craving something sweet.  Ice cream, to be specific.  A Google search for ice cream in Cape Charles provided me with the name and address of Brown Dog Ice Cream.  We went over there but found it closed until spring.  A visit to their web site suggested we purchase some of their ice cream at Gull Hummock, a gourmet market about one block down from their shop.  The Gull Hummock had some very interesting and unusual flavors of Brown Dog, but ultimately we stuck with something basic – chocolate.

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles' Brown Dog Handmade Ice Ceam

It was smooth and creamy and quite delicious! We took the pint to go with two spoons.

While we were enjoying our ice cream, and before heading to our next destination, we drove around the town a little to see what we could find.  Imagine our surprise when this sight came into view:

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles is an area where cotton is grown.

In the background, the Cape Charles lighthouse.  But in the foreground – are those what I think they are?  We went closer.

Cotton plants on Virginia's Eastern Shore (Cape Charles)

Cotton plants!  Something I only associated with “the deep South” but was right next door on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  I was out of my cotton-pickin’ mind to think it couldn’t grow here.  (Hahahaha, see what I did there?)

Part III of my adventure on Virginia’s Eastern Shore will feature kayaking and a wine tasting.  Stay tuned!

 

 

Virginia's Eastern Shore - Cape Charles is a tiny town with a lot to offer visitors!

 

Where the Heck is Guam, Anyway?

Where the Heck is Guam, Anyway?









In the News

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about Guam. North Korea has been eyeing the small island in the western Pacific for target practice. I have no desire to talk about politics or Kim Jong-un. However, this is a great opportunity to learn about a place that is relatively unknown.

guam tourism flag

Who (Lives There)?

There are almost 163,000 people who reside on Guam; they are called Guamanians. Because Guam is a US territory, anyone born on the island is an American citizen.

The indigenous people, who settled there roughly 4000 years ago, are called Chamorro. The ancient Chamorro society had four classes: chamorri (chiefs), matua (upper class), achaot (middle class), and mana’chang (lower class). The upper class were located in the coastal villages, which meant they had the best access to fishing grounds, whereas the lower class were located in the interior of the island. These two groups rarely communicated with each other, and often used the middle class as intermediaries.

guam tourism indigenous people natives chamorro
Chamorro performers (source)

To greet someone in Guam, say “Håfa Adai,” which sounds very similar to “half a day.” This greeting is widely used on the island, even by those who do not speak Chamorro.

The population of Guam includes a large segment of US military members, as there are several bases. The US military bases on Guam cover nearly 30% of its total land! But as you will see in the “When?” section below, the island was of great military importance during and after World War II.

What (is it Like)?

Guam is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands and the largest island in Micronesia. It is considered part of the continent of Oceania. The surface of the island is approximately 210 square miles, and most of it is surrounded by a reef.

The weather there does not fluctuate much.  The average high is 86 and the average low is 76. The highest temperature ever recorded on Guam was 96 degrees, and the lowest ever recorded was 65. The rainy season runs from July to November. August-October are the most likely months for a typhoon.

When (Did Guam Make History)?

Famed explorer Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to visit the island on March 6, 1521. He was sailing for the King of Spain, so his “discovery” of Guam led to Spanish colonization in the years that followed.

Centuries later, during the Spanish–American War, the United States captured Guam on June 21, 1898. Under the Treaty of Paris (December 10, 1898), Spain ceded Guam to the United States. It has been a US territory ever since then.

On December 7, 1941, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese captured the isand of Guam. During their two and a half year occupation, Guamanians were subjected to beheadings, forced labor, rape, and torture. American forces recaptured the island on July 21, 1944; Liberation Day is celebrated every July 21 to commemorate the victory.

Where (Should You Visit)?

Two Lovers Point

Once, long ago, during a time when Spain claimed the Mariana Islands, there was a family who lived in the capital city. The father was a wealthy Spanish businessman and the mother, a daughter of a great Chamorro chief.

Their oldest daughter was a beautiful young woman, admired by all for her honesty, modesty, and natural charm. One day, against her will, the girl’s father arranged for her to take a powerful Spanish captain as her husband. But the girl met and fell in love with a common Chamorro man, and they promised each other their love.

When the girl’s father learned of the couple, he grew angry and demanded that she marry the Spanish captain at once – but she found her lover and escaped. Her father, the captain and all the Spanish soldiers pursued the lovers up to the high cliff above Tumon Bay. The lovers found themselves trapped between the edge of the cliff and the approaching soldiers.

The daughter and her lover tied their long black hair together and kissed for the last time before leaping to their deaths. No one saw or heard from them again.

guam tourism - two lovers point - scenic overlook

Today the place where they jumped is known as Puntan dos Amåntes or Two Lover’s Point. Visit there to learn about the two lovers, and enjoy one of the most breathtaking views of Guam’s coastline.

Asan Bay Overlook

Aside from stunning views of the water, there is also a memorial wall. Often monuments and memorials contain the names of the leaders of nations or high ranking military officials and rightfully so. This memorial wall of honor, sacrifice, and remembrance, however, includes the etched names of ordinary men who fought with extraordinary bravery on the front lines and the names of the civilians; the men, women and children, who as neighbors, friends, and families, suffered the consequences of nations at war, many paying the ultimate sacrifice.

guam tourism asan bay overlook

The Asan Bay Overlook Memorial Wall contains the names of 1,880 U.S. servicemen who died in the 1941 defense of Guam against the attacking Japanese armed forces and those who died retaking the island from Japan in 1944. It also lists the names of the 1,170 people of Guam who died and 14,721 who suffered atrocities of war from 1941-1944.

Latte Stone Park

A latte is a stone that the Chamorro used as foundations for their homes. It consists of a pillar with a half-sphere cap (flat side facing up).

guam tourism latte stone park

Latte stones were first used around 800 AD, but fell out of use in the 17th century due to Spanish colonization. They vary in size from 18 inches to 15 feet. Some historians theorize that the taller the latte stones, the more important the person who lived in the house it supported.

Gadao’s Cave

To see excellent examples of ancient Chamorro art, head to Inarajan and Gadao’s Cave. Inside, there is a group of about 50 pictographs. The drawings range in size from one inch in height to almost eight inches. The designs vary from geometric shapes to representational figures depicting human-like or animal-like forms.  The most well known drawings in Gadao’s Cave are located on the east wall.  There, you can clearly see two human figures side by side, one of which appears to be holding something under his arm.

guam tourism gadaos cave art

Some have suggested that these figures represent the legendary Chief Gadao who challenged and outsmarted the northern chief Malaguana in a test of strength.

Namo Falls Park

Not only does Namo Falls Park in Santa Rita have some breathtaking waterfalls, it also has a stunning variety of plants in the botanical garden there.

guam tourism name falls waterfalls park

A guided tour takes visitors through the botanical garden, which is a showcase for various species of ginger and heliconius. The bright flowers bloom in an assortment of colors. Hibiscus, bougainvillea, orchids, bamboo and coconut trees among other various plants saturate the surroundings.

The park features two waterfalls. The Grandmother Falls can be viewed from this footpath. To reach the larger terraced Grandfather Falls, walk down a set of stairs.

After taking in the beautiful park grounds and flora, visitors can watch a cultural demonstration. Activities include basket weaving and rope making. The show concludes with making and sampling coconut candy.

Inajaran Natural Pools

A coral reef in this area of Guam prevents large, powerful ocean waves from reaching the shore.  The reef turns those big waves into mere ripples in a series of natural saltwater pools.

guam tourism inajaran - natural pools - great for snorkeling
See the difference between the waves in the background and the still pond in the foreground?

The stillness of the water makes it a great spot for snorkeling.  However, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all shallow.  Some of the pools are still deep enough to dive into, and a concrete tower provides you with the means to do just that.

Why (Go There)?

Why consider Guam as a travel destination? Well, in addition to all the cool places I’ve already described above, there are a couple of great reasons:

  • You don’t need a passport to go there
  • You can call home without having to pay international phone rates
  • The weather will be neither too hot nor too cold
  • It has the world’s largest K Mart (not really a draw, but a fascinating piece of trivia)
  • It’s the perfect place to scuba dive or snorkel (or learn to snorkel)

How (Do I Get There)?

There is an international airport on Guam, and it serves as a hub for United Airlines. Or, if you would prefer to travel by sea, the Princess Cruise line does have ships that go to Guam. (But fair warning – they last for 32 or 60 nights!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Guam as much as I have! Would you like to go there some day?
<

Guam
Flamborough Head, Yorkshire

Flamborough Head, Yorkshire

On our recent trip to England, I had a list of lesser attractions for us to see. They weren’t big enough to drive out of our way for, but they were interesting or scenic enough to add into our itinerary if we found ourselves with a little bit of extra time and happened to be in the area.

Flamborough Head was one such place.  I had seen pictures of white cliffs and a big lighthouse and thought, “Well, that will be a nice place to take a few pictures.”  I had no idea there was so much history attached to it.  As a result, I was pretty pleased that we had gone to check it out.

flamborough head old lighthouse chalk tower

We passed this chalk tower as we approached the Flamborough Head lighthouse.  Sir John Clayton built the tower in 1669 with the permission of King Charles II. It stands over 78 feet tall and would have had a coal or brushwood fire burning at the top. However, most historians agree that it was never actually lit. Perhaps the voluntary dues from passing sailors were insufficient to provide funding for it. The chalk tower is most likely the oldest surviving lighthouse in England.

When we arrived at the current lighthouse, Hubs took a moment to read the signs, and we got a little insight into the historical significance of the site:

In the middle of the American Revolution, on September 23, 1779, the Battle of Flamborough Head took place. The battle was a conflict between an American Navy squadron led by none other than John Paul Jones on the Bonhomme Richard, and two British escort vessels, the HMS Serapis and the Countess of Scarborough, which were protecting a large merchant convoy.

Battle of Flamborough Head

Jones’ initiated the conflict by engaging the Serapis in a violent gun battle. It seemed that a British victory would be inevitable because the Serapis was more heavily armed.

At one point in the battle, John Paul Jones’ ship collided with the Serapis, rendering both ships temporarily immobile. The British captain, a man by the name of Pearson, taunted Jones by asking if his ship had struck.  (This was a play on the word strike, which is also the term for lowering a ship’s flag as a sign of surrender – “striking the colors.”)

John Paul Jones’ response?  The famous quote, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

In the end, Jones claimed the victory, although he lost his ship in the process. Countless expeditions have looked for the wreckage of the Bonhomme Richard but none have met with success to date.

Samuel Wyatt, a noted architect, designed the current lighthouse at Flamborough Head.  Built in 1806, it held an oil lamp, which rotated by means of a clockwork motor.  The light was reportedly visible for 20 miles.  In 1925 authorities raised the lighthouse to its current height of 85 feet, which puts it 250 feet above the waves.

Flamborough Head Lighthouse

In addition to the impressive lighthouse, the view there was really beautiful.  Water lapped at the edges of the white cliffs and the North Sea stretched out in front of us as far as we could see.  It was the kind of place that you want to just stand and take it all in. So if you’re in the area and have a half hour or so to spare, stop by to soak up the history and the salt air.

Flamborough Head Cliffs

You can reach the Flamborough Head Lighthouse by way of Lighthouse Road (B1259) in Flamborough, Yorkshire, postcode YO15 1AR.

Beachcomber’s Paradise: Metompkin Island, Virginia

Beachcomber’s Paradise: Metompkin Island, Virginia

You Want to Do What?

I’ll be honest, when my husband told me that he wanted me to join him on a long canoe ride the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I was not too excited.  Canoeing is definitely not my kind of fun. Faced with unseasonably warm weather and a promise that I would enjoy it, I begrudgingly agreed.  We began our Saturday morning with a very long drive to the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia is the third and southernmost part of the Delmarva Peninsula (Del=Delaware, Mar=Maryland, Va=Virginia). The Delmarva Peninsula has the Atlantic Ocean to its east and the Chesapeake Bay to its west.  The Virginia portion of the peninsula is so isolated from the rest of its state that I’ve often wondered if its residents feel like everyone else who calls the state home doesn’t even know they exist.

metompkin island map best seashell beaches
The Eastern Shore of Virginia – everything south of the gray dashed line.

You Want to Go Where?

We drove and drove until we reached an area called Gargatha. There is a public boat ramp at the end of Gargatha Landing Road, and that’s where the water leg of our journey would begin. It would end on Metompkin Island, which I had never heard of before.

metompkin-island-map-zoomed-in best seashell beaches
This map is the zoomed in version of the one above.  In both cases, the red pin marks Metompkin Island – our destination.

So… this is fun?

We got the canoe in the water and headed out.  The wind was blowing against us, which is pretty much my worst nightmare when I’m in a canoe.  You have to paddle twice as hard to cover the same distance in the same time.  Basically, for every two strokes, we were only advancing one. Adding to the difficulty was the fact that we kept getting pushed off course.

At one point, we ended up stuck in some tall grasses. We were so tired and frustrated that we decided to just sit there, eat our sandwiches that we had brought with us, and rest for a few minutes. Then it was time to paddle some more. We hadn’t gone much farther when I saw this:

metompkin-island-danger-sign best seashell beaches

This was most definitely not what I wanted to see, especially since there were no details offered. What danger? Dangerous for whom? Hubs assured me that it was for larger boats, not canoes or kayaks. Apparently the water isn’t very deep there.

I could hear a very loud but distant noise and we seemed to be moving toward it. It turned out to be the ocean, which meant we were close! I was so relieved to see the beach ahead of us! We pulled our canoe up on the land and went out to explore.

Surprise! It was worth going after all.

I couldn’t believe how many shells there were – the beach was absolutely littered with them!  It has to be one of the best seashell beaches in the mid-Atlantic, and certainly the best I had ever been on!

best seashell beaches metompkin island virginia

I told Hubs that I hoped I would find a piece of sea glass while we were there. Three steps later, I found myself looking at a spot of cobalt blue off to my left. It was roughly 2 inches square, part of an old glass Milk of Magnesia bottle.

Sadly, I didn’t find any other pieces of sea glass that day.  However, I hit the jackpot when it came to seashells, as you might have guessed. There were clam shells, oyster shells, whelk shells (at least two kinds), periwinkles, scallops, limpet shells, cockle shells, and sea snail shells. I also found some non-shell items like a mermaid’s purse and a whelk egg case.

Fortunately, Hubs thought to bring one of my extra big Thirty-one utility tote bags, because when I got out to the water I was running all over the place and picking up shells like a kid who had (a) never seen a beach and (b) had consumed a week’s worth of sugar. “Oooooohhh, look at this one,”  I’d yell, and hold it out for him to see. I wouldn’t even wait for a reaction before I’d start looking for more.

There were really big shells:

metompkin-island-big-shell best seashell beaches
Women’s size 9 flip flop shown for scale.

And there were tiny little ones:

metompkin-island-tiny-shell best seashell beaches

For some reason, I always said “Awwwww!” whenever I found a tiny one. Like it was a puppy or something.

After just an hour of combing the beach and gathering cool shells, our bag was full – and heavy:

metompkin island bag of shells best seashell beaches

We left it at the canoe and headed off in the opposite direction, determined to not pick up any more shells.

Well, that resolve faded faster than most New Year’s diets! By the time we spent another hour on the beach, all of our pockets were full, we were carrying some in our arms, and we had even filled an empty tortilla chip bag full of shells.  Clearly, it was time to leave. If we had stayed longer, we might not have had room in the canoe for us!

Yeah. It’s a little addictive.

I cleaned, dried, and sorted all of my new shells after I got home. Curious, I decided to count them too. I picked up close to 300 shells! Now, all I have to do is figure out what to do with them.  🙂

Not that a lack of ideas will keep me from going back. It’s at the top of my list for things to do once it gets warm again.

Metompkin Island is part of a 60 mile chain of barrier islands on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Some of the islands are not public lands, and regulations prohibit certain activities on the public ones. Check before you go.

Janes Island State Park – Crisfield MD

Janes Island State Park – Crisfield MD

Trying to find some great Maryland getaways?

I’ve lived on Maryland’s Eastern Shore most of my life, and until last week, I had never been to Janes Island State Park in Crisfield. I was pleasantly surprised by what this park had to offer.

We went there with the plan to canoe out to the beach. Thankfully, it was an unseasonably warm day for mid-November. It turned out to be a great afternoon, so I thought I would share the top five things that impressed me most about the park.

1. The waterway.

It’s called Daugherty Creek, but it looks more like a river. It’s quite wide; certainly much bigger than I expected for a creek. The water is calm and smooth, as you can see below. As we were about to leave and head home, the sun was setting. I snapped this picture to show the beautiful colors of the sky and the calmness of the water. There is NO filter on this picture – just nature at its loveliest!

maryland getaways janes island crisfield sunset.jpg

2. The marsh.

On either side of the creek, and around the beach, you will see wispy tall grasses that mark the marsh lands. Sometimes there were so many “layers” it seemed to go on forever: water, marsh, water, marsh, water, marsh.

maryland getaways janes-island-marsh crisfield

It was in one of these marshy areas that my daughter noticed the presence of a Great Blue Heron just ten feet away from us. I quickly fumbled for my phone to take a picture and just managed to catch him as he took off in flight. That was a very cool moment.

janes island great blue heron maryland getaways crisfield

3. The facilities.

We didn’t take advantage of them that day, but I noticed that there were some nice facilities there at Janes Island. The park includes a conference center, full service cabins, campsites specifically designated for youth groups, boat ramp, water trails, and more. The cabins and conference center will be renovated in 2017, so that may limit their ability.

4. The beach/the island.

Janes Island is about one mile from the park’s boat ramp. We canoed straight there (see the dark blue line on the map below).

janes-island-map maryland getaways crisfield

Now granted, it was November, but we had the beach all to ourselves and it seemed to go on for miles!  The only sign that anyone had been there before us were these footprints in the sand:

janes-island-md-bird-tracks maryland getaways crisfield

We had our dog, Kingston, with us, so I took off his leash and let him run around like a maniac. (And he absolutely loved it!) We spent some time walking on the beach, soaking up the sunshine, and looking for interesting shells/driftwood.

janes-island-md-sunny-beach maryland getaways crisfield

Even on this side of the land, the water (Tangier Sound) was relatively calm.

5. The boating opportunities.

Canoe, kayak, or powerboat… all can enjoy the water at Janes Island and everything that it offers. From exploring 30 miles of water trails to fishing to bird watching – all are easily enjoyed from this state park with its waterfront location.

Kingston says you should definitely check it out!

janes island md maryland getaways crisfield

Janes Island State Park is located at 26280 Alfred Lawson Drive in Crisfield, MD 21817. Telephone 410-968-1565. Opening hours vary by season; park closes at sunset daily.

Hunting for Sea Glass in the UK

Hunting for Sea Glass in the UK

When I wrote a post about the Best Sea Glass Beaches in the United States, it got me thinking about my upcoming trip to the UK. We were staying in two coastal towns (South Shields and Staithes). Perhaps there would be some sea glass hunting opportunities for us while we were there.

I started plugging inquiries into Google, which led me to the site of Australian jewelry designer, Kriket Broadhurst. She had lived in the UK for a time and had found the best sea glass beach at Seaham in County Durham.  She even called it the “holy grail of sea glass beaches.” Needless to say, I was intrigued!  So, I looked up Seaham and was thrilled to discover that it was only 1/2 hour away from South Shields.

I emailed Kriket for more info, and she was kind enough to send me a guide for collecting sea glass there. It was very thorough, including where to park, the best times to go, and even which direction to start looking after descending the long staircase to the beach. Thank you, Kriket!

The beach itself has some great views out to sea. If you look far off to the right, you can spot a lighthouse (unfortunately, it’s not in this picture, though). The water, of course, is just beautiful. And we were lucky enough to be there in the hours preceding sunset, when the sky was starting to get a little pink.

Seaham harbor beach best sea glass uk

The beach itself is littered with stones – not very practical for walking barefoot.

stones on seaham harbor beach best sea glass in uk

The stones were gorgeous in their own right, just as smooth and rounded as the bits of glass we found.  Some had stripes, some speckles. I believe others were not rock, but rather bits of pottery or porcelain that were broken and tossed by the waves. The white piece that’s third from the bottom on the right side, for instance, almost certainly looks like a piece of a bowl or other dish. The red and white one above it and to the left is, I think, terra cotta. And I’m fairly certain that rocks don’t come in mint green or pale blue like the ones in the center.

stones found on seaham harbor beach best sea glass in uk

There are also quite a few caves beneath the cliff on Seaham Beach. Here’s a picture of my daughter in front of one of them.

seaham harbor beach caves best sea glass in uk

There are a couple of reasons why people looking for sea glass might consider Seaham the holy grail. First of all, there is a lot of sea glass there. I wasn’t able to go in the morning like Kriket recommended, but rather ended up there late in the day. Nearly everyone on the beach was also walking along, head down, looking for treasures. I thought I would be too late to find any, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Due to the abundance of sea glass there, we ended up collecting about 100 pieces in 60-90 minutes.

best sea glass found at seaham harbor beach county durham

But even more exciting than the abundance of sea glass was the possibility of finding a piece that had more than one color. As I understand it, there was a glass factory in the area about 100 years ago. At the end of the day they would throw their leftover bits over the cliff into the North Sea. As a result, some of the leftovers fused together and formed these unusual eyes.  We were lucky enough to find four small ones.

multicolored best sea glass seaham harbor beach uk county durham

Looking back on our vacation, this was one of my favorite parts. Not sightseeing, not picture-taking, just enjoying the scenery and searching for small treasures along the beach with my family. It taught me a valuable lesson about how the best memories aren’t always the ones you engineer through a lot of planning. Sometimes they are the ones that you just allow to happen on their own.

Seaham is in County Durham, UK, near Sunderland. It’s definitely worth the trip if you’re looking for the best sea glass beach!

best sea glass beach in the uk

For help in planning your sea glass scavenger hunt, I recommend: