Archive for Southern Comfort 2011

Huzzah for Colonial Williamsburg, but not for Dulles Airport!

We have been home for a week now and I am FINALLY posting about our experience in Williamsburg and the journey home. As noted in the previous post, the rain started just as we left the Williamsburg Inn to explore the colonial area for a few hours before our dinner reservation at Chowning’s Tavern at 5:45 pm. It never really rained hard, so it wasn’t too annoying. We borrowed an umbrella from the Inn, which made for lots of fun as Steve pushed me in the dreaded, stupid wheelchair.

We had bought our tickets for admission to the Revolutionary Street re-enactments and the buildings from the concierge at the hotel. She also set me up with a mobility scooter company for our full-day exploration on Saturday.

After we watched some of the re-enactments (kind of a “street theater” in colonial costume oriented around the call to revolution), we wandered down Duke of Gloucester street admiring the beautiful restored buildings. We finally found our way to the shopping district between the Colonial area and William & Mary college and enjoyed a half-bottle of wine at a lovely cheese shop. Finally it was time for dinner at Chowning’s Tavern, one of four 18th-century taverns within the Colonial district. We were seated immediately. Our table was located in a side room with a fireplace and candle-lit hurricane lamps on the table. The authentic atmosphere was spoiled, in my opinion, by the large air conditioner jammed into the window right behind Steve’s head. Our server was fairly prompt and I ordered a local Virginia wine (quite good) and Steve had a glass of the “Old Stitch” ale. We both ordered the chicken dinner, which had enough food on the plate to choke a horse (half a fried chicken with potatoes and vegetables). It was good, but not spectacular. After finishing our meal, we left and were amazed at how quiet it was in the Tavern (very few tables with customers). We wandered up the quiet streets again towards the Capitol building on the east end, then found our way down the side street towards the Williamsburg Inn.

The side street to the Inn is a pedestrian zone, like everything else in the Colonial area and it led us past some of the restored homes that are private residences. We admired a garden (the gate was open to encourage folks to come in), then were startled by the appearance of two cats who came over one of the fences. One of the cats, an adorable marmalade, let us get close enough to pet him and read his tag (“Tony”); he was flirting with the other cat, a little female, who was playing hard-to-get. As we continued along this path, we stopped again because of an incredible fragrance that filled the air; we couldn’t figure out what plant was creating this wonderful aroma. Finally, we spent more time dawdling in front of a small enclosure watching a mother sheep and her three lambs. Steve made an interesting comment, that this little side street was like a glimpse of Heaven. Indeed it was!

We returned to the Inn and repaired to the bar to have beverages and read and write. We were surrounded by lots of hoity-toity types dressed to the nines (we were in grubby tourist gear - oh well, our bucks work just as well). Some of the folks were there for the graduation at William & Mary College on Sunday and the bar got busier after 10:00 pm.

We slept well in our huge room, although the air did get a little stuffy during the night, and we ordered room service breakfast the next day, which was beautifully done, with fresh fruits and pastries and even a gorgeous white rose. I met the scooter company representative at 9:00 am and we embarked on more explorations of Colonial Williamsburg. The scooter was a lifesaver for Steve, freeing him from the drudgery of pushing me in that dreaded chair. We headed over to the Governor’s mansion, hoping to catch a little bit of the Thomas Jefferson speech. Alas, the route to the area where this was occurring did not have access for the scooter, so we elected instead to wander around the splendid gardens. We also had fun interacting with the gentleman who played the cook in the cookhouse next to the mansion. He was preparing several dishes that would be appropriate to the style of an 18th century lord of the manor, including veal, pork sausage, transparent pudding and other delights. What a fun job! Because I was using the scooter, we did not go into the Governor’s mansion or most of the other buildings.

We meandered our way through more back streets in the Colonial area and stopped to explore one of the shops, where we bought a compass/sundial, some soaps (the soaps got left somewhere as we did our wanderings), two musket balls and a great book (“George Washington on Civility”). For some reason on this trip, we were constantly starving, so we ended up at the King’s Arms Tavern in their beautiful garden area for lunch. The sun came out and we thoroughly enjoyed splitting a turkey sandwich and indulging in more local wines and beers. After lunch we headed over to the museums (DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum). The museums were practically empty; we hit the shop first and bought some postcards that I can send to our sponsored children in Africa, plus a cute pair of folk art chickens that look great in the kitchen. The museum collections were amazing, particularly the folk art collection.

All too soon, it was time for dinner! We headed back up Duke of Gloucester street to Shield’s Tavern. Steve ordered on the light side, trying the navy bean soup and beef pasty appetizer. I decided to try the ribs, which were delicious. We were again put in a side room, this time near a large group of Seventh Day Adventists, who befuddled the kitchen by ordering vegetarian entrees. We had entertainment in this tavern, a guitar player who was quite fun (and, no, he did not play “Fire and Rain”, thank goodness, like the masses of solo guitar players we encountered everywhere else on the trip), along with an actor who did a great speech on the coming revolution and also showed a woman at another table an 18th-century dance.

We headed back to the Inn and turned in the scooter, just before the heavens opened up and the rain came pouring down (what great timing). We decided on one more beverage at the bar. This time we sat at the bar itself and had a delightful conversation with one of the bartenders, a young man from England. We retired and went to sleep, knowing that we had a three-hour drive to the airport the next day. We really, really enjoyed Williamsburg and the Williamsburg Inn. The Inn was incredibly expensive, but it was worth staying there one time just to have the experience.

On Sunday, we checked out and headed north to Dulles. Traffic was good most of the way and we elected to do a couple of side roads towards the end of the trip (not a very good idea - too many traffic lights). We dropped off our trusty Ford Escape at Dollar rental car (we averaged almost 29 miles per gallon and loved how comfortable this car was) and got on the shuttle to the airport. After checking in and getting through security, which is always a strange and convoluted journey at Dulles, we had to ride the transport to our gate (the train is not complete yet out to the C and D gates). We had lunch at the Gordon Biersch Brewery near our gate, then boarded.

Our flight left the gate right on time, at 2:55 pm. This was when the fun started - apparently, a line of thunderstorms to the west of Dulles airport was causing departure delays for planes heading west and lots of turbulence and deviations to flight paths. As we taxied, we found out that the corridor was now shut down. Our plane pulled over and sat on the tarmac for two hours as we watched planes heading in other directions take off without any delays. Our crew finally decided to take matters into their own hands and we returned to a gate so they could add fuel to allow them to try other route options. As we approached the gate, the ground crews on the tarmac were temporarily shut down because of lightning, delaying us again. FInally, we arrived at the gate and refueled. The passengers could get off for about thirty minutes; we decided to stay on board. By the time we left the gate again, four hours had passed from our scheduled departure time. It was now nice and sunny and we taxied out and took off without further delays. We arrived home at 10:00 pm, four-plus hours later than planned.

Other than the flight problem going home, our trip was absolutely terrific. We loved Disney Dream, we really enjoyed the DVC resort at Hilton Head, we really liked Savannah and we we fell in love with Williamsburg. We had some awesome meals, particularly our dinner at Remy, the fantastic repast at Roasted Fish and Cornbread in Hilton Head, not to mention the smoked quail pizzettas at Robert Irvine’s Eat. If I could plan the trip again, I would add time to allow us to explore Charleston and also see Jamestown and Yorktown (near Williamsburg). Well, time to start planning another trip to this area, with perhaps more time also in Savannah and even some explorations of other parts of North Carolina. With this vacation, Steve now has only one state left to visit (Delaware). I have also not been to Delaware and still need to set foot in Rhode Island and Connecticut. So time to start planning that trip, too!

Our next trip diary will begin on September 3, when we head out on our big trip of the year that includes a 12-day cruise from Venice to Athens on Marina, the new ship in the Oceania fleet. We will pick up five new countries on this adventure that combines lots of interesting ports with the awesome food in the many restaurants on Marina. Stay tuned!

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Savannah, a LONG drive, Kitty Hawk, Colonial Williamsburg

Our trip is nearing the end and I finally have time to post.

First, our day in Savannah: We journeyed to this historical city on Wednesday (about an hour from Hilton Head) and immediately looked for Oglethorpe Trolleys near the Highway 17 bridge. This tour company charges $15 per person for a ninety-minute tour, followed by the opportunity to use their shuttles for the rest of the day (a real bargain). The tour was very interesting and we quickly got a feel for the unique layout of this city, with 22 squares filled with huge trees and monuments and surrounded by restored homes and churches.

Savannah was apparently a decaying city in the 1950’s with many historical buildings disappearing with “urban renewal”, including the venerable City Market and other treasures. A group that came to be known as the “seven brave ladies” formed the Historic Savannah Foundation to save the Isaiah Davenport house, a beautiful home built in the 1820’s. The foundation then helped save and restore more than 350 other properties in the city, all through private funds.

On our tour we saw the Mercer house (“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” epicenter and also the home of lyricist Johnny Mercer), restored homes from the 1700s and later eras, the Riverwalk area, the Green-Meldrim house (temporary home to General William Tecumseh Sherman after his march through the south) and many other sites.

Our great tour guide dropped us back at the welcome center and we grabbed the car to head back to the restored City Market (easier with the wheelchair than using their shuttles). We surveyed the restaurant options and settled on Belford’s. I had a fantastic wild shrimp, grits and greens entree and Steve had the equally awesome crab cakes. With the temperature nearing ninety, the lunch and beverages made us very sleepy. Steve grabbed a caffeinated coke and we did a quick driving tour through town, revisiting some of the same sites as our tour. We really enjoyed Savannah and have vowed to return.

We made our way back to Hilton Head and went straight to the DVC beach house. It was almost empty (this is a great time of year to be there). We had fun watching the beautiful cardinals and viewing the beach, then decided to head over to Robert Irvine’s restaurant “Eat”. We sat in the bar and shared some incredible tapas, especially the smoked quail pizzetta (absolutely killer bee).

All too soon we had to leave the wonderful Hilton Head Disney Vacation Club and begin the marathon drive to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. We were on the road at 9 am on Thursday; we decided to take the lesser roads rather than the dreaded I-95, fully aware that this might add hours to the expedition. We switched off driving every two hours and stopped for lunch at Sticky Fingers BBQ near the commercial, crowded nightmare known as Myrtle Beach.

Towards the end of our journey, we enjoyed nearly empty roads through beautiful farmland and wildlife refuges as we neared the outer banks (“beware of bears and red wolves crossing the roads”). We finally stumbled into Kitty Hawk at 9 pm and found our hotel (Hilton Garden Inn). We checked in and got a recommendation for a restaurant that was open late just down the road. The “Black Pelican” was allegedly famous for their wood-fired pizza. We found the place, ordered drinks and two small pizzas from their menu and settled back to enjoy the atmosphere of a place that was built up from the original lifeboat station that had the telegraph station used by the Wright brothers to announce their success on December 17, 1903.

Our pizzas arrived: I took one bite of the Greek pizza and looked at Steve with alarm. The chef had obviously dumped a pound of salt into the pizza, beyond what could be expected with feta and olives. The pepperoni pizza was slightly better, but we rapidly realized that our string of good-to-awesome dinners was over on this trip - these were the worst pizzas we have ever had in our lives (no joke). We gamely ate a few pieces due to near-starvation, but finally threw in the towel. We settled up and headed back to the hotel, resigned to drinking gallons of water all night.

This morning we ate breakfast at the hotel, then headed over to the Wright Brothers Memorial. Steve climbed the hill with the granite memorial (home of the glider tests) and we really enjoyed the small visitor’s center and other preserved areas, including the area where the actual four flights took place on December 17, 2003. At noon we headed towards Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, and the Williamsburg Inn.

The Inn is a fabulous hotel - our room is probably the nicest one we have ever had, the size of a small apartment. After settling in, we headed out to the historic district, just in time for the the first rain of the trip.

Our impressions of Williamsburg will be recorded in detail in a future post.

More to come….


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Roastfish, cornbread, marsh bunnies and Marines

Monday evening, we decided to go to a nearby restaurant that had been recommended to us by the Disney staff. Called “Roastfish and Cornbread” the restaurant is the brainchild of local chef David Vincent Young. It features “gullah” style cooking, kind of a local cuisine that was developed by the plantation slaves in the 19th century.

The restaurant appears to be an old house that has been renovated into an eating place. We got to the restaurant early since we kept hearing that it was very popular. After looking at the menu, Barb and I both settled on the roast flounder, which is a whole fish that is gutted, spiced, brined for a while, and then roasted. It was awesome, with the top of the fish crisscrossed with knife cuts that made it easy to scoop up the meat with a fork. Sides included sweet potato cornbread and vegetarian collard greens, and we started with a cup of she-crab soup that was mild and tasty.

Dessert consisted of tartlets - mine was a key lime and blueberry cheesecake, while Barb opted for the plain key lime pie. After this, we drove back to the resort, where I picked up a bottle of wine before we headed out to a picnic table under the trees near our room.

After a restful night of sleep, we drove to the nearby historic town of Beaufort (Byoo-fert) to look around at the old homes and check out some of the local galleries. We picked up two small paintings at the I. Pinckney Simons Gallery and are having them shipped home. The waterfront is quite beautiful, with big swing chairs facing the water, magnolia trees scenting the air, and restaurants nearby.

Speaking of restaurants, we tried out a new (2 week old) BBQ joint called Q on Bay, where we each had a trio of sliders — pulled pork, pulled chicken, and brisket. They were very good and done in the local method, where the meat is served “dry” and you put your own sauces on it prior to eating.

After lunch, we went driving over to a small gallery Barb had read about — The Red Piano 2 — that specializes in folk art. We ended up getting a small sweetgrass basket to take with us. Several of the islands piqued our interest, so we drove to St. Helena Island and Hunting Island. We went over the bridge to Fripp Island, only to find that it is essentially a gated community and there was no way we could get on without a permit or invitation.

Our next stop was Parris Island, and we were allowed onto this Marine training base to visit the museum. Barb’s dad was undergoing training here in 1945 when World War 2 ended and he was discharged.

We drove back to the Beach House where we’re sitting now, having a good meal (shrimp boil) and some drinks while listening to the banjo, mandolin, and fiddle stylings of Mr. B. Lou Crab. The weather is warm and beautiful, and it’s a perfect evening. Tomorrow we’ll be heading off to Savannah, GA.

Oh, and about the marsh bunnies. They’re a small breed of bunnies that B. Lou Crab and the resident hound here — Shadow — like to “hunt.” We saw one last night after sunset, and they don’t appear to be any more edible than our lawn bunnies at home.

Location:Ocean Ln,Hilton Head Island,United States

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More Big Mouse; Traveling North

Greetings from Hilton Head, South Carolina!

In my last report, we were enjoying our first full day on Disney Dream and were looking forward to dinner at Remy. I can most assuredly report that Remy lived up to all expectations.

We arrived at Remy on the 12th deck and had a lovely table with views of the sunset as we sailed from Nassau. Remy features two menus des gustation - Saveur, inspired by French classics and Goût, influenced by the chefs at Victoria & Albert, the premier dining experience at the Grand Floridian hotel at Walt Disney World (we splurged and ate there last November - it was fantastic!).

We decided to try both menus and swap each course to experience each item. Oh, my: What a fantastic gourmet experience that included ratatouille with olive oil ice cream, tomatoes done four ways (including a sparkling drink), grilled turbot, sea bass, fois gras in pastry, Australian Wagyu beef, and several other incredibly prepared dishes. Dessert included several items, including truffles in a silver case. We washed this down with a couple of glasses of great wines recommended by the sommelier.

We waddled back to the room and crashed, getting ready for the second day at Castaway Cay. This was our third visit to this wonderful private island. We started out the day with a ride on a glass-bottom boat. The trip was not worth the time or $35 a person (won’t do that again). We saw a few fish and fed them oatmeal - wheeee!

After getting back to the Cay, we headed over to Cookie’s BBQ and pigged out on the great lunch (yup, we were hungry again). Following that repast we made our way to Serenity Bay, the adults-only beach, where Steve enjoyed walking around in the shallow, warm water. We ended our day at the Conched Out Bar, where Steve tried the Mango Margaritas (I stick with wine).

Our final evening on Dream was spent checking out the Skyline Bar, a lovely little retreat in the District (adult nightclubs & bars) that had a changing backdrop showing the skylines from New York, Paris, Rio, Hong Kong and Chicago (and with that patented Disney magic, the images have lights that change and other animated features). We also had a very good dinner in Animator’s Palate, one of the main dining rooms, and finally met our table mates.

Our short cruise was over all too soon. Disney Dream is a spectacular ship and we really enjoyed our experience. We hit the road yesterday morning, driving north on Highway 1 until we got to Jacksonville, where we entered the monotonous chaos of I-95. We exited at I-16 and worked our way through Savannah and the back roads to Hilton Head.

We are now staying at the Hilton Head Disney Vacation Club resort, which is delightful. The main resort, modeled after a 1940’s-era fishing lodge, is nestled in huge trees next to the salt marsh. The resort also has a beautiful beach house with another swimming pool and beach access. We did the tourist thing last night and ate at the Salty Dog, on the south end of the island. We had a pretty good dinner - peel-&-eat shrimp and crab cake sandwiches. Hilton Head is gorgeous and certainly not what we expected (I guess I was anticipating miles of crass commercial development like Cocoa Beach). It is filled with nature refuges, gorgeous homes, bike trails and golf courses, with beautiful bird-filled salt marshes and huge trees draped with Spanish moss.

We decided to skip doing a day trip to Charleston (two hours each way), but are still going to venture back to Savannah on Wednesday and do a shorter day trip tomorrow to Beaufort.

More to come…

Location:Hilton Head, SC

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The Big Mouse

Greetings from Barb!

We boarded Disney Dream yesterday afternoon at Port Canaveral after a leisurely (and huge) breakfast at Grill’s (yup, the same place we had dinner on Wednesday). We killed time after breakfast driving down through Patrick AFB to Satellite Beach and back, finally venturing to the port around 12:30 pm.

The Dream is much larger than Disney Magic or Wonder; it can accommodate 4,000 passengers and displaces 130,000 tons. It is the second-largest ship we have been on, the first being the Queen Mary 2 (our impromptu transatlantic voyage last year). Embarkation was a bit chaotic, but we got through the check-in fairly quickly and were able to board right away because I was using the wheelchair.

The Dream is spectacular! Everything looks brand new and the public areas are absolutely magnificent. We will post some pictures when we are back in 3G zones; we are suffering again with MTN shipboard Internet access (slow and expensive).

We lucked out and got a reservation at Palo last night, one of the two adults-only specialty restaurants. Tonight we dine at Remy, the other specialty restaurant named after the intrepid rat chef from the delightful Pixar movie “Ratatouille”. Saturday night will be our only dinner in one of the main dining rooms.

Palo was fantastic! We both had the beef tenderloin as the main entree and enjoyed good appetizers and pasta courses (I had lobster and mascarpone ravioli). We washed it down with a hearty Sicilian red wine (Nero d’avola).

One really interesting feature on this ship are artworks scattered throughout the ship that have animated features (for example, you are looking at a picture of a young Walt Disney and suddenly some of the characters zoom into the picture). We plan to look for more of these this afternoon.

Our verandah stateroom is very nice, on deck 6 right by the mid-ship elevators. The bed was very comfortable. My only complaint so far is the shower: The tub is very deep (much deeper than the ones on Magic and Wonder) and the floor of the tub was very slick. I needed help getting out because of my bad knees. I requested a tub mat so that I don’t feel like I’m going to fall.

Steve just got back from riding the AquaDuck, a long water slide (roller coaster?) above the middle pool. He came back soaking wet but really enjoyed the experience.

This is our fifth time in Nassau, which is one of our least favorite destinations, so we don’t even plan to leave the ship. Tomorrow is Castaway Cay day, which will be wonderful. We’re doing a trip on a glass-bottom boat (I can’t snorkel anymore) and we plan to relax on this private island developed for Disney Cruise Line. All too soon we will be disembarking on Sunday and heading to Hilton Head, South Carolina.

More to come!

Location:Nassau, Bahamas

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Day One: Steve’s Take

We’re on the trip!

Today we left Denver on a Incontinent (United + Continental) 757 for a fast flight to Orlando. The trip was totally uneventful - Barb noticed people she knows getting onto the flight, so they were most likely heading down for an Atlas V launch that’s supposed to happen on Friday.

After picking up our rental car, a Ford Escape, we hit the Beachline Expressway heading for Cocoa Beach. We’re spending the night at the RonJon Cape Caribe Resort, a timeshare that’s close to the port. Immediately after checking in, we headed over to the infamous Grills Restaurant & Tiki Bar, a favorite watering hole of many in the space biz. Beverages and grilled mahi were on the menu. Yum!

The Carnival Pride, a ten year-old ship that used to be the flagship of the Carnival line, sailed at 7 PM. It’s a blast watching these ships head out to see from the tiki bar.

More tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Location:Glen Cheek Dr,Cape Canaveral,United States

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