I spent the past few days in my favorite place on earth: White Stone, Virginia, population 352 people, and the location of my family's cottage on the Chesapeake Bay. This post might be a little off-topic for the theme of my blog, but I just couldn't resist sharing some photos and stories from my family vacation. Hope you enjoy!
My dad's birthday is July 3, and this year was his 60th. With the 4th of July being a national holiday, it worked out perfectly for me to fly to the East Coast for a few days. The 4th of July was always a big holiday for my family because my dad's birthday is so close to it, but we hadn't all been together for it since the summer after I graduated college! This time together was so sweet and long-overdue.
For those who aren't familiar, the Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America, and it is within the states of Maryland and Virginia. It kind of looks like a lake when you're right beside it, but it is actually a huge inlet that feeds out to the Atlantic Ocean if you go far enough. It has brackish water, which is a mix of fresh and salt water because it's where rivers from the land collect and run into the ocean. The section of the Chesapeake where my family has a house is called the Tidewater Virginia area.
This part of the world is so special to us because our connections to it run deep and wide (kind of like the Bay itself). My great-grandfather grew oysters in the Bay, which for a while (after his time) became so toxic because of the water pollution that you couldn't eat them. Now, the Bay is getting healthier, and you can eat the oysters again (lucky for us!). A lot of my childhood was spent on my grandmother's 25-acre farm on the shores of the Chesapeake. A little over 10 years ago, my parents decided to buy their own place just across the water from the farm, which is much smaller. Funny enough, my parents actually bought their house from some of our best family friends, who are my sister's godparents! They also had a Chesapeake house, which we had visited many times, but they decided to sell it to buy a place closer to their grandparents. My parents asked their realtor to take them around to different properties, and they were shocked when he drove them to their best friends' house! It turned out to be the perfect fit that our family friends were selling right when we were buying, and it has made our place all the more special. Before we even moved in, my siblings and I had memories of sleepovers and Easter Egg hunts there. A few years later, my grandmother sold her farm, so now our full-time Chesapeake house is my parents' cottage (affectionately called, "The Cottage").
The Cottage is over 100 years old, located so close to the water that we worry about global warming taking it, and the stairs in it lean slightly away from the water because of the wind blowing the house over all those years. It is a slice of heaven and beyond charming. My parents make lovingly deprecating comments about it because it has its quirks and it is OLD . . . but we love it more than anything. And, as a little sign in our kitchen says, "If you're lucky enough to have a house by the water, you're lucky enough."
Just a few favorites from the week: singing along with my sister to the Dixie Chicks at the top of our lungs on the drive from the airport, sunny days with lots of boat rides, eating at all of our favorite Chesapeake places, and even better eating my mom's signature meal: tomato pie and crab cakes, celebrating my dad's 60th birthday all together and surprising him with a dinner party of our close friends and neighbors, drinking wine and talking into the night in the rocking chairs on our screened-in porch, watching a southern summer storm roll through, and catching lightning bugs in the dim early evening light. I've always thought that when you catch your first lightning bug of summer, you get to make a wish. I know I'm not supposed to say what I wish for, but I wished on a lightning bug that I get to bring Grace to the Chesapeake soon :) She's never been!
I think the chances are slim that anyone reading this would be planning a trip to the Tidewater Virginia area, but just in case you are (or maybe to inspire others to go there!), here are a few recommendations:
Do: Wine tastings at the Dog & Oyster Vineyard, boating/kayaking, day trips to historic colonial towns like Urbana, blackberry picking (they grow wild on the side of the road everywhere here in summer), and buying local crafts and foods from the Irvington Farmer's Market
What's your favorite part of the world?