April 22nd, 2014 by Sherry Friel
Enjoy the first post in a two-part blog series by Sherry Friel along with some of her stunning photos of the grand dame of Virginia Beach, the Cavalier Hotel.
I’ve always loved a good story. As a news reporter in my 20s, I once had an editor describe me as a true “people person.” I suppose it had a little something to do with the length of time I spent interviewing people for various feature stories. I enjoyed my work immensely, and warmly recall many interviews in which I’d gently set down the pen and become completely immersed in conversation. Very often, this conversation would have nothing to do with the story for which I was gathering information, but when a rapt listener and passionate storyteller unite, a little magic happens. I cannot even begin to recall the number of times in which I left an interview with my notebook empty but my heart filled to the brim.
I feel so blessed to have been trusted by a number of individuals whose stories I continue to hold close. In each instance, it was as if for some divine reason I developed a brief and transient moment of trust with a stranger needing to share a bit of his soul’s fabric. Personal stories are sometimes silently begging to be told, but all too often there isn’t time in the day or anyone who really wants to hear them. I consider these stories sacred gifts. Most I’ll never share with anyone, but I hold fast to the words of Maya Angelou: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I’d like to think that just by listening, maybe I was able to help another human being share an otherwise unspeakable tragedy or perhaps a joyous passion never before expressed.
I know having the opportunity to share in others’ human experiences at a very young age inspired a great deal of spiritual, emotional, and intellectual growth within me, and I am grateful to the people who took time to share profoundly intimate details of their lives. I learned early on that if you dig deeply and gently enough, people are utterly fascinating. Often the best part of anyone’s story is what’s referred to in journalism as the backstory. The intricacies beneath the façade of a person’s attire, personality, or behavior are always more compelling than what they initially present.
So it was with more than a little curiosity that I accompanied my friend Krissy to the historic Cavalier Hotel’s liquidation sale recently. Built in 1926, the hotel is about to undergo an unprecedented renovation and is in the process of selling everything from room furnishings and artwork to original wallpaper.
My days as a young reporter may be over, but I knew this was a unique opportunity. When Krissy invited me, I jumped at the chance to accompany her to the sale. She went for purely sentimental reasons: She and her husband Steve were married there 18 years ago and she wanted a memento. My reasons? I hoped to snag some photographs of what had been described to me as authentic, gorgeous architecture from the 1920s. I was not disappointed. Standing in line with hundreds of people with varying ties to the hotel, I had the opportunity to hear stories ranging from heartfelt to hysterically funny. In front of me was a woman who once danced and performed for guests. The gentleman behind me also was married there, and played hooky from work to get one last look at the interior before its transformation. I overheard another sale shopper describe how long ago, her teenager had actually broken in to the hotel with a group of kids in search of Halloween ghosts!
Check back on Friday, April 25 for Part 2!
April 18th, 2014 by Katherine Jackson
Local walking enthusiast and blogger Katherine Jackson has a perfect post for this glorious time of year!
The Sweet of the Year
Red-breasted robins are back from their winter vacations, and with them come the warm and sunny days of spring. Virginia Beach has plenty to offer in every season, but the city is at its most brilliant and beautiful at this time of the year. It seems something new is blooming every day. I lived in Florida for five years when I was growing up, and I missed the excitement and sense of renewed energy that I get every year in the spring. Right now, thousands of daffodils are dancing around town. Forsythia bushes are flaming yellow, pale pink cherry blossoms are fluttering in the breeze, and Bradford pear trees are filled with white flowers. Red and pink tulips are starting to make their graceful appearance, and an explosion of azaleas will happen any day. It’s a great time to walk and witness the reawakening of nature. I spent a recent Sunday afternoon doing just that at Williams Farm Park off of Newtown Road. Opened in 2012, this 36-acre community park attracted me because it has a multi-use trail that surrounds a large open space and the Williams Farm Recreation Center. The trail also connects to the Lynbrook Landing Park, a quiet neighborhood park with a swing set and picnic tables under trees. People were enjoying the fine weather in all kinds of ways: flying a model airplane, hitting the rails at the skate park, tossing a football, playing baseball, practicing a golf swing, heading into the rec center for a swim, walking the dog, biking with a friend, hunting for Easter Eggs, breathing in the fresh air. According to my walking app, I logged three miles among the buds and blossoms. Shakespeare called spring “the sweet of the year” and wrote that “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” Indeed, springtime is a great time to revive youthful energy and watch as nature bursts into bloom along a hundred miles of trails in Virginia Beach.
Photo credit: Katherine Jackson
April 15th, 2014 by Mike Halperin
Beginning with this blog, from time to time, information will be shared about a seasonal featured fish.
Dr. Ken Neill & his 24.3 lb. state record tautog
Featured Fish – TAUTOG - One of the earliest spring species entering Virginia Beach waters is the tautog. Thick-lipped with homely faces, tautog come armed with strong molar teeth for crushing crabs, a staple of their diet. To the delight of fishermen, these mollusk-eaters have delicious firm, delicate white meat. Tautog, derived from the Native American term “tautaug”, additionally known as blackfish, oyster-fish, black porgy or tog, are found in the western Atlantic from Nova Scotia to South Carolina and average 1 to 3 pounds up to a Virginia state record 24-pound, 3-ounce monster caught in 2012 at the Morgan Wreck by Dr. Ken Neill. The world record stands at 25 pounds and was caught in 1998 off New Jersey.
Virginia’s tog inhabit wrecks and bridge pilings, making them a favorite of boaters using bait fishing methods. Best baits are fresh blue crab, fiddler crab and clams. It is said in jest that an angler should set the hook “just before a tog bites” as these fish are accomplished bait stealers. Rods require ample “backbone” to wrestle tautog away from structure where they are sure to head once hooked.
Launch your boat at Lynnhaven or Little Creek Inlet and enjoy immediate access to prime tautog grounds along the 17-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Launch at Owls Creek inside Rudee Inlet and it is just a short run to many offshore wrecks. Tog have started biting at offshore sites and will follow suit inshore as bay waters warm.
Captain’s tip: Thread the hook through a knuckle of the crab to combat bait stealing by tautog.
Offshore: Impressive numbers of black sea bass are also populating offshore wrecks. Check with local fishing centers for captains holding special pre-season fishing permits for the sea bass. Sea bass are great fun to catch as well as excellent eating.
Other current offshore offerings include tilefish, grouper, wreckfish, barrelfish and yellow bellied rosefish. Some golden tilefish have been well over 40 pounds. Much of this action is in 300 foot depths along the 50-fathom curve with most anglers opting to fish for these species in the comfort of a long-range Virginia Beach head boat.
Flounder- a fishing favorite – Word of the first flounder run is due any day now. Typically, flatfish first announce their presence inside lower Chesapeake Bay (try around the 8-mile mark of the CBBT) and inside Rudee and Lynnhaven Inlets as shallower waters warm first. If your gear is not cleaned up from last season, do it now to catch the early bite!
Flounder by Duane Raver
Puppy drum continue to offer good sport to fishermen inside Lynnhaven, Little Creek and Rudee inlets. Speckled trout are available but only for catch-and-release action in the inlets. Speckled trout season remains closed until August.
Striped Bass – Here are dates to remember if planning a striper trip:
Spring Trophy season for Chesapeake Bay: May 1 through June 15. Fish must meet a minimum of 32 inches with a 1 fish per person possession limit.
Regular spring striper season overlaps trophy season, running from May 16 through June 15. The keeper slot limit is 18 to 28 inches with a limit of 2 fish per day. HOWEVER, 1 fish of the 2 fish limit may be larger than 32 inches and that catch must be reported.
Largemouth bass by Duane Raver
Attention Fresh Water Enthusiasts: Back Bay, just south of Virginia Beach, has been enjoying a huge recovery in largemouth bass stocks. This previous premier largemouth bass fishing destination is undergoing restocking with great results. The restock is now in year two of a three-year program. The bass are thriving as a result of this restocking coupled with the return of aquatic vegetation such as milfoil, pond weed and wild celery. Two bass over 8 pounds taken last fall bode well for a return to the “glory days” such as 1980 when 240 citation bass exceeding 8 pounds were caught. Back Bay is just a short drive from the resort area and can accommodate small boat launches. For more info go to: Back Bay fishing information
Wishing you tight lines, hard strikes and a memorable catch!
April 11th, 2014 by Sherry Friel
Blogger Sherry Friel shares a post celebrating this gorgeous time of year in this week’s Beach Report. Her amazing photography is always an added treat – enjoy!!
Virginia Beach: Where a glorious wildness grows unchecked and celebrated!
For years I’ve tried to control myself at springtime. My husband, a former roommate, and family are very well acquainted with my flower addiction and have ceased asking me to temper it. Oh no. They know better than to suggest I pare down my floral fantasy fulfillment because honestly, it’d be a wasted effort. Best to let wild things grow unchecked.
And besides, from what I learned this past winter while researching ancestors, my obsession with flora and fauna is entirely in keeping with the natural evolution of my family tree. From as many generations back as I could find, most of my people dedicated their lives to nurturing growth of all kinds. They grew everything from tobacco to vegetables and cotton. But their joy, their passion, was evoked by the miraculous beauty of flowers.
How do I know this? Well, my research came to a complete halt when I came upon my great grandmother’s name. It was Minnie Magnolia. That’s correct, Magnolia. It was as if every question I ever had about myself had been confirmed. Of course I would have a family member with the name Magnolia. But wait, the story gets even better. My Dad shared with me recently that this same great-grandmother had turned her entire front yard into a blooming floral masterpiece. We’re not talking about tight, neat flowerbeds and borders flanking the front porch and yard edges. The flowers practically overflowed beyond the edges, making the yard a stopping point and destination for neighborhood walkers.
Oh goodness, this explains so much. So much. Without even knowing the story of Minnie Magnolia’s Magnificent Flower Garden, I had been carrying forth her divine mission everywhere I’ve lived. Sure, I’ve caught some flack for my extravagant floral leanings-a former roommate once asked if someone had died when she arrived home from work greeted by one of my over-the-top floral displays. Obviously, she had no respect for my mission! And my dear patient husband has all but given up rhetorically asking me each season, “More flowers?” Yes, husband dear. More flowers. You can’t stop this train so don’t even bother! And as if I needed to relay further evidence of this kinship I feel with a grandmother I never knew, there is that photo album of hundreds, yes hundreds of macro magnolia portraits I have taken over the years. I hesitate to even share that one of my favorite movie soundtracks of all time is straight from – you guessed it – the movie “Magnolia.”
So, in honor of Minnie Magnolia, whose spirit I instinctively knew without even realizing it, I will go forth this Spring and partake in all that honors our special kinship. In particular, the destinations I plan to visit include the Hampton Roads Agriculture Research Center, which is home to some of the most gorgeous magnolia trees I have ever laid eyes on. Additionally, I want to stroll through the cherry blossoms at Redwing Park and bask in the glorious sights, sounds and smells of this magnificent season. Will you join me?
Photo credits: Sherry Friel
April 4th, 2014 by Sherry Friel
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…-John Lennon, from Imagine
Courtesy of The Adventure Park
From the time my 10-year-old son Nathaniel was a kindergartener in Virginia Beach Schools, his teachers discovered early on that he is a bit of a dreamer. “You know,” they’d tell me, “he has a tendency to daydream.” And then I would inwardly cringe, nod that I understood-oh boy did I understand-and assure them Skip and I would discuss the importance of focus while he is in school. But he truly was focusing-just not on the alphabet or his handwriting. He was scheming and dreaming of ziplines, tree houses and inventions in a way that excited his mind and spurred him into real action.
Case in point: At the age of 5, Nathaniel wanted to know why he could not have cable TV in his room. I brushed the request off, saying he was too young and we did not want to run a TV cable to his room. Completely dismissing me, he proceeded to analyze the cable hookups on my other TVs. In a matter of minutes, while I was shifting laundry from washer to dryer, he had assembled every spare coaxial cable he could find to run a line from the kitchen outlet to the one in his upstairs bedroom. What I am getting at here is this kid does not seem to see any barriers to his goals. His mission is always to figure out how to actualize his dreams. When he decides to tell me his plans, he’s not asking permission or if it can be done. In his mind, it’s just a matter of conversation at that point. He’s already figured out the “how.” As much as I admire this quality in him, and fully see its potential as he matures, there are times when his schemes have been the source of many heart palpitations over the years. Read the rest of this entry »
April 1st, 2014 by Mike Halperin
Looking to break out from winter cabin fever and the past cold weather? Why not take a 17-hour Virginia Beach deep-drop fishing trip to the edge of the Continental Shelf. Fish likely to be caught include grouper, wreckfish, barrelfish, and yellow bellied rosefish along with blueline tilefish. The tilefish provide the added bonus of offering a great opportunity to start the season with a fish of 10 pounds or more and earn a handsome angling award from the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament. Blueline tilefish citation awards have not been uncommon with one recent tilefish weighing 19 lb. 12 oz!
Closer inshore tautog, also known as blackfish or simply “tog”, offer yet another citation opportunity. Togs as large as 22 pounds have come from many wrecks in Virginia Beach waters with the Triangle Wreck producing some of the absolute best fishing. With crab season finally open, fresh crab bait (versus frozen crabs and clams) should improve chances for tautog success, particularly at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and inshore wrecks. Tautog provide a tasty dining choice whether baked, broiled, fried or used in fish stew or chowder.
Blueline tilefish by Duane Raverf
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