Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Elizabethan Gardens - Manteo, NC

Had a fun adventure today - all by myself - at the Elizabethan Gardens. The Garden Club of North Carolina built this garden some years ago to commemorate the English women who came to the New World and brought with them their love of gardens. As I expected it had some very formal gardens, but there were also lots of natural areas and unexpected touches.

The Gardens are located about 3.5 miles from the Town Dock Marina where we are staying. We had hoped to rent bikes and ride up there, but there is no bike rental in town! so, I decided to walk. No one else was particularly interested or able, so I did it alone. With water and a snack packed I started out about 8:30 this morning - at a very slow pace. There is a fine walking/riding path all the way and I encountered only a few bikers along the way. There are several resting places with benches and [mostly working] water fountains, so I had several stops. I made two mistakes in my preparations - forgot to take a sweat towel and bug spray. Fortunately, I was able to remedy both once I arrived at the Gardens. It took me about two hours, but I really enjoyed the walk.

Altho the path was only a couple hundred yards from the water, I could not see it except occasionally down a street end. I passed old cottages - some lovingly fixed up and some falling down - a working farm, new developments and even some undeveloped land. Altho one has the feeling that there is not square inch of undeveloped water front, there still is plenty of space on this island once you get a block off the water.

The Gardens were very interesting. The formal center garden was the typical English manor garden with boxwood shapes filled with summer flowers - a lot of pentas in different colors. There was also a rose garden that was pretty disappointing. It has only six or eight plants, altho all are special in some way, but nothing was thriving. This time of summer it should be full of blooms, but all the plants appeared to be struggling. The natural walkways were more interesting to me than the formal spaces. There were hydrangeas of many varieties and types, as well as many azaleas (the former in bloom and the latter not, of course!) This oak leaf hydrangea was easily ten feet tall. Lots of shade loving perennials and annual bloomers for filler in the sunny spots. There are also several overlooks onto the Roanoke Sound where historians believe the Roanoke Colony was located.

The most interesting things, tho, were the sculpture. All of it has been donated, and I am sure the donors gave for specific reasons, which were not well explained. There is a huge - like 20 feet tall - bronze statue of Elizabeth. Ok, I got that one. The bronze work is spectacular, with the lace around the bottom of her dress showing intricate detail, and the rose in her hand is just perfect. There are many cairns and basins - most with water in them - which help with the peaceful feeling one finds there. And, then there were little surprises hidden away - some water features, some elves and other story book characters and some more formal pieces. I really enjoyed them all.

But by far the most interesting piece of sculpture was a full life size sculpture of Virginia Dare. It's carara marble, carved by an American artist in Rome and very pretty. You all know that history is not my strong point, altho I do usually muddle thru American history fairly well....but, I thought that Virginia Dare was the first child born in the Roanoke Colony and disappeared along with the entire colony when she was a toddler. Are you with me there? I am asking because the statue is of a full grown woman - a nude wrapped in a piece of fishing seine. Like Elizabeth, it is a gorgeous carving with lots of attention to detail, but I keep wondering if it is Virginia Wolff or Daisy Fitzgerald, or one of Max Parrish's models. I think it it's Virginia Dare then the artist used up a lifetime of "artistic license"!

Since we are traveling, I did not purchase a plant, but believe me.... I looked and considered. I am not convinced that I need to find a way to irrigate so that I can have some bear's britches!

I decided to fore go the two-hour walk back to the marina, so called a cab. But that is a story for another time. This is a really pretty place and I highly recommend it as a way to spend a couple of hours. The Lost Colony is next door and there is an historical part, but I didn't really feel like doing both, so that is a trip for another time. Stay tuned.

Coinjock to Manteo

Day Six – Tuesday

The “ride” yesterday from Coinjock to Manteo was fun, but uneventful. The first hour was canal that crosses a peninsula near the Virginia border. It was mostly a fairly narrow channel between pines and other undergrowth foliage with lots of ducks. Once we reached the North River it widened out into marshland with more ospreys and sea birds along the way. There was even one pelican sitting on a channel marker right in the middle of no-where.

In about two hours we reached the Albemarle Sound where the water opened up and there was a huge fetch for the wind. We certainly felt it more there than we had before. Unfortunately, the touring guide that Mitchell ordered, did not arrive before we left, so we don’t have an easily usable chart to watch. [I love picking out the markers on the chart and looking for other ‘aides to navigation” and miss having the chart to use.] Don has electronic charts so that whomever is at the helm can see where to go, but it’s nice to have both. We have a North Carolina map that is the next thing to a highway map, but at least it does show is the land masses, the bodies of water and the major buoys.

We passed Powell Point which is where the land bridge goes over to the Outer Banks and then approached the center of Roanoke Island. We could see the Alligator River Bridge from a long distance, but we came up the seaward side of the island to reach the city marina. This meant that we came up the “back side” of the Outer Banks, so we could see the “wrong side” of Jockey Ridge, for example. There were many parasail boats out (I saw six at one time) and as we approached Manteo we were able to watch a shipful of children out maneuver a pirate, throw him into a rowboat and then shower him with water until he fell in. What fun! [And, what a great answer to: “And what did you do this summer?”]

This was my day to play by myself. Mitchell helped Don with some repairs, while MA worked on things around the boat. I walked about three miles [very slowly] to the Elizabethan Gardens. Took a ton of pictures along the way and at the garden, but you’ll have to read It’s My Garden to find out about that. Since it took me two hours to walk one way and another hour to tour, I decided to call a cab to return to the town dock for lunch with Mitchell.

We wondered into stores and boutiques for a couple of hours and made a run to the grocery store. I tried to get a manicure, but they were booked up for today. Very strange business model. I walked into a completely empty salon with two employees sitting there talking. They said that they had no openings until tomorrow afternoon. Perhaps that was true, but in a vacation town with the economy lagging one would think that someone would have been happy for an extra few bucks on a Wednesday afternoon.

We are eating dinner on the boat tonight and then Don and MA are going to the Lost Colony play tonight with some others. We have opted to stay here. I am having shoulder problems again. The cortisone seems to have fixed the tendinitis, but the muscles in my shoulder are giving me a fit. When I try to sleep I get a hunk of knots in my back. One of our purchases today was a heating pad that I can heat in the microwave. I intended to bring one with me, but forgot. I hope it will solve the problem tonight – either that or way too much wine!!

We have really liked Manteo. It’s an interesting blend of little old cottages, historic buildings and new expensive construction. Like most everything on the east coast there is not much waterfront left vacant, but a lot of quaint little places one could retire happily. There is a sort of artsy-fartsy feeling to the downtown area – not unlike the Asheville area. Having a whole day to spend here has been nice.

Tomorrow we go on to Albemarle Plantation. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eastville Inn

On Friday a group of us visited Chatham Vineyards near Eastville and then had lunch in the Eastville Inn. The vinery was interesting, altho not as big or busy as others I have seen, but a wine tasting is always nice! We did get the chance to drive out into the vineyards to see the grapes up close and personal - ripening on the vine. While I did not taste any, those who did reported that they were very bitter – duh! they are mostly green still.

At the Eastville Inn there was a pretty little kitchen garden that I liked. It had some herbs, but mostly was locally native plants – Joe Pye weed, grasses, Russian sage, and daylilies. There was one plant that no one could identify. [There was am etymologist with us who said this was way outside her sphere of reference, but she did not know the plant either.] So here it is:

It was a shrub-like plant with very thorny trunk and stems and the red fruit you can see. The leaves were “wrinkled” looking and grew very close together. There was one ruffled bud (purple) that I did not get in a photo. We think it might have been a heritage rose of some sort – and those are the “hips” that are left on it. Anyone got an idea? [Written Saturday, uploaded Tuesday!]

Portsmouth to Coinjock

Our first day at sea… but first let me back up to day four and a half. We drove from Cape Charles to Portsmouth yesterday afternoon, arriving in time for lunch in a cute little coffee shop with wifi and good food. By two o’clock we moseyed over to the marina to meet our friends Don and MA. By the time we were unpacked and had caught up on recent news, it was time for cocktails by the pool, followed by dinner and then sitting around talking before bedtime.

There are nine boats in our flotilla – ranging from 25-feet to 46-feet long. Most have only one couple, but a few have guests, too. Four of the boats will leave after the first week, but the remaining five will do the whole trip of two weeks. All are power boats, but range from those that like to run at 8 knots (nautical miles per hour, and about 1.15 statute miles) to those who like to run at 18-20 knots, so there is a wide variety of leaving and arriving times for the group. Our boat is 44-feet long, sleeps four and runs most comfortably at 18 knots, so we will often be among the early arrivers.

The overall plan is to travel early in the morning, arriving at the next port mid-day or early afternoon. Most people spend a couple of hours cleaning up the boat, then hit the swimming pool, and meet back together for cocktails around 5:30 followed by dinner. Then we will stay the next day in the same spot to have time to visit or do off-the-boat activities. So back to day five….

This was the day I really wanted. We left Portsmouth and cruised down the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River. This took us past both the Portsmouth and Norfolk Naval Shipyards. Neither was filled, but there were big navy ships drydocked in each. Then we traveled down the river thru a series of lift bridges and then into the Great Bridge locks. The boats rose about six feet in order to move into the next part of the ICW. We had a bridge schedule and had to get from one to the next within 30 minutes to make the “next” bridge opening. Part of our group was late at the last bridge and ended up having to wait an additional half hour to pass thru. Since they were already the slower boats, it caused them to end up two hours behind us.

Once we passed out of Norfolk and Portsmouth there was not a lot to see except marshes and osprey, but there were plenty of both. It must be baby-raising time for the osprey, since we saw a number who appeared to be bringing food to their nests. It was a pleasant run of five and a half hours before we arrived in Coinjock, North Carolina.

Coinjock is literally a narrow spot on the waterway with two marinas. We have completely filled one of them and other boats we traveled with are filling up the other. This is where we pick up another canal portion of the ICW and we will move on in the morning headed for Manteo tomorrow night.

We have gotten caught by an afternoon shower, so everyone is resting or doing inside chores. If the rain lets up, I will run up to the marina office and get the wifi password so that I can upload this [and the last one] today.

So far it has been fun. I have behaved myself and gotten enough sleep.

Written Monday, July 27, uploaded July 28.

Days One to Three and a Half

The Eastern Shore truly is the jewel of Virginia, and we have spent three and a half beautiful days. We stayed in a development of homes and rental units right on the Chesapeake Bay. Our house was a block back, but with nothing between us and the water, so we had a gorgeous view, but afternoon sun.

The development is so pretty from the water. All the houses are painted pretty colors – like our Grape Escape there are blue and red and pink and yellow and green houses and from the water it looks like a doll’s village. From the house, tho, it makes me think of a really upscale Levittown. There are only three designs and I have visions of a group of young architects standing around trying to figure out how many ways they can assemble them differently. The real problem, tho, is that they are placed chock-a-block side-by-side on narrow lots – only about 15 feet apart. So the part of the development that is developed is…. well, boring.

But the land and sea are interesting. I walked the “beach” one morning. For those of us who are used to the beach at VaB, this was very different. First, it was the western side of the Eastern Shore, not the east side to which we are accustomed. That means it doesn’t take the pounding of the waves, so the sand is not fine or white, but rather darker grey and much coarser. And secondly, it is a tiny strip not the expanse on the Atlantic side. But it also means that the shells are not so beaten up and there is lots of sea glass. There is also seaweed – both the heavy brown kind that you see a lot, but also a very different type that looks like the offspring of yellow and green dynabands. It is flat, five inches wide and bright chartreuse! I would not like to dive in it and I suspect it’s hard on propellers, but it surely is pretty.

Driving back we stopped at the island before the bridge begins to take some pictures. Unfortunately, I don’t have the cable to upload them, so come back tomorrow to look at the pictures. I will upload as soon as my bag is unpacked.

We are eating lunch in a tearoom in Portsmouth waiting for our friends to arrive by boat from Deltaville. Next on our agenda is loading our things aboard and then spending the afternoon getting ready to set off on high adventure. Our trip tomorrow will be down the Elizabeth River to connect with the ICW and then head south. We will spend tomorrow night in Coinjock – a wide spot in the ICW. I think we do the locks tomorrow, too, so it will be all new for me.

As I predicted, the weather has turned hotter and more humid, but not bad if one can keep to the shade. I think it’s supposed to be a bit cooler the next two days. I am learning that when you are so close to the water, the weather matters more! Love to all. Tune in soon!