So I took off Sunday morning and drove down to Virginia Beach (via 95 and 64... approx. 2 1/2+ hours). I needed some beach time, and to get out of the house. Morris came with and when we first got into town we just drove up Atlantic Ave. and looked at all the hotels and then up on the North side of town at all the pretty family/vacation homes. We turned onto one of the side streets that had beach access and parking and went down onto the beach. It always amuses me at the varying widths of beaches. I got so used to Florida beaches where it was probably 30-40 steps between the parking lot and the water's edge. Virginia beach on the other hand is a bit of a walk, not nearly as bad as Wildwood Beach in NJ though... that thing's a good quarter mile wide. Morris and I just sat and watched the waves and the only 3 surfers around, who we somehow managed to position ourselves right in front of, which was cool. It was pretty flat, so they were just surfing the beach break, but they got some decent rides. Morris was busy chasing seagulls... I can't decide which he likes chasing more, seagulls or squirrels. It was nice though, that he was allowed on the beach. Florida gets kind of bitchy about pets, but it looks like VA has the rule no pets between 10am-6pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day and then they're allowed whenever off season.
We stayed at the Days Inn on 32nd St. and Atlantic... they have a $25 pet fee, which sucked, but they were nice rooms and it is difficult to find hotels that allow pets right on the waterfront, so I sucked it up and payed. It was a nice rate though, off season and with a AAA discount, about $62 without the pet fee. We had a great room up on the 5th floor, with a balcony overlooking the ocean. It was so nice to sleep with the sliding door open listening to the waves all night. That was another thing, the weather this weekend was amazing! Sunny and in the 70's... which is pretty astounding for November in Virginia, or at least from what I remember when I lived here before.
Sunday night I walked up the street for dinner, to a place called Pi-zzeria (like the math symbol... you know 3.14). It was a pizza place (my mom and I have this tradition that we always get pizza for dinner the first night when you get to the beach, but not a chain place, has to be some local place... so, couldn't break tradition even if she wasn't with me) that had a nice upscale feel, with all sorts of random toppings and intriguing combinations. I had the lots of meat combo on my pizza... it was crazy good, with a nice crispy crust. I guess they have a rotating brick oven that makes the crusts perfect. It was nice too to sit out on the patio this time of year. In retrospect I should have ordered the meatball pizza... cuz the meatballs were the fav. topping on the pizza I did order. Weirdly enough, this was the only pizza that I did not enjoy cold leftovers of the next day. Morris did though.
After dinner Morris and I went for a long walk on the cement boardwalk that runs the length of VA beach. We met this weird little girl, probably 8 or 9 and unbelievably precocious. She desperately wanted to walk Morris and play with him, even though I explained to her numerous times that he was shy and scared of people. She eventually settled for holding Morris' leash and then ran off with him, with Morris looking back at me plaintively trying to figure out what the hell was going on. I didn't know whether to laugh, be sad for him, or be mad... it was definitely weird. I finally convinced her though that he was really scared and that I couldn't predict what would happen if he got more scared. Then she wanted to know if she good show me some cheers she knew (even though she wasn't a cheerleader I also learned). They were so unbelievably inappropriate for an 8 year old, I wonder where the hell she learned them and if she had any clue what she was talking about. Finally she let her hostages go in search of other dogs and owners to torture and Morris and I booked it out of her general vicinity. We walked back to the hotel on the beach just in case she was still out on the board walk. It was impossible to see Morris out on the beach at night since he's all black and blended into the dark sand like he was part of the night. I'd go for like 5 minutes without seeing him and then get nervous and call him back and then suddenly there would be this dark shadow rushing at me from any direction... it was a crazy walk that night to say the least.
I pondered going to see a movie that night, but ended up having a nice phone conversation with Chris while sitting on my balcony and staring at the ocean. The next morning Morris and I went for another walk on the boardwalk and then left the hotel. I went to get breakfast at Mary's on 17th St. which is a local's place (their claim to fame... "the local's choice for 40 years"... or something like that). It was great, you seat yourself and have a really nice selection. I had the early bird (anything before 9am) 17th St. special... 3 pancakes, choice of ham/sausage/bacon, and an orange juice for $4.75. Can't beat that price, and it was crazy good too.
Morris and I then went down to Sandbridge, which is a small beach town 15 minutes south of VA beach. To get to it you just follow Pacific Ave. south out of town until you see the sign for Sandbridge to your left. It's a town of houses up on stilts and a whole bunch of sand and that's about it. It amused me that they had all these signs up about their dune restoration in progress, but the dunes were overflowing onto the road closest to the ocean. For the width of this one lane in each direction size road, the lane closest to the dunes was covered in sand. I was all paranoid since I was driving my mom's Honda (our previous Honda got stuck in the sand one time down in the Outer Banks). So Morris and I went down on this beach which was lovely and deserted. Morris chased zillions of seagulls and tired himself out good and proper. It was so funny, he would get so frustrated when they flew right above him out of his reach, or out over the water... he started barking at them, which just made them squawk at him, which you know was their laughing at him.
Next I went to the Virginia Aquarium (previously called the Virginia Marine Science Center). It has two buildings worth of things to see, separated by a nature trail (about 10-15 minutes to walk apparently, since I never made it to the second building) and an IMAX theatre, which shows 3D movies. So I bought an adult combo ticket (entrance and one movie) for $17.95 (although I paid $15.95 since I had a coupon for $2 off, available in all of the free touristy brochures and booklets you find everywhere). I somehow timed it really well for one of the movie showings, so saw SHARKS! 3D first. It was a cool film. Not as amazing as some IMAX films I've seen, but not bad. The 3D was pretty cool... I love watching little kids in movies like that, when they reach out and try to touch things. The only thing that freaked me out a lot was the 3D jellyfish drifting out towards you and then even like bumping into the camera... so it seemed like they'd run into your face. And if there's one thing I'm totally insanely afraid of, it's jellyfish... so I was trying to be a big girl and keep my eyes open, since I KNOW they're not real and can't hurt me... but it was making my skin prickle and feel all weird and uncomfortable. The rest of the aquarium was really nice. It was more science oriented then some I've been to, they had lots of buttons to push and water/weather/beach science experiments to try and only a few tanks of fish, sharks, seals, etc, but still a very nice set up. It took me about 2 hours to go through the one building and by that time my attention span was about shot... so I opted not to do the second building, something to catch next time I'm down there.
I went to lunch at Tropical Smoothie, which is an absolute fav of mine. I used to go all the time on the Panhandle and then when I finally discovered one in Winter Park. I got my favorite which is the King Caesar wrap and a Jetty Punch smoothie (strawberries and bananas). They took forever with my wrap and I had to remind them that I'd ordered one, but were nice and gave me a free smoothie card to apologize. Besides, I'm not one of those people to yell about stuff like that. There are enough mean people in this world and not like I was on a busy schedule or anything.
After that I finally decided to head home. I thought it would be a "good" idea to take a different way home for an interesting drive... couldn't have been more wrong if I'd tried. I went across the Chesapeake bridge/tunnel ($12 freaking bucks!) and then up the DelMarVa peninsula and across to DC through Annapolis. It was like twice as long of a drive and was definitely not scenic, but boring and long and 55 stinking MPH the entire way. I also have this really freakish thing that happens to me EVERY time I drive in DelMarVa... I get lost or paranoid that I'm lost, which requires either extensive backtracking, traversing across little back country roads or long moments of conferring with the map to verify where I am. It's like the Bermuda triangle for me.
So, it was a really good trip. I like VA beach a lot. It's a nice mix of sleepy beach town and resort beach town... Somewhere happy between Ocean City or Myrtle Beach and Long Beach Island. I definitely plan to return soon when I need another dose of ocean. Although I'm not surfing there until the water warms up... I'm sorry, but I hate wetsuits and cold water. And the waves are not worth it.
the pretty sunset Sunday night, views from the hotel parking lot and my balcony, respectively