It all started with an otter.
He was adopted by the aquarium in Virginia Beach which in a round about way caused us to take a trip to Norfolk.
The trip! Saturday am we drove from Alexandria to Norfolk. There was a LOT more traffic than we expected and we have come to recognize the truth. Freeways out here are always a mess and crowded. 95 was horrible until we hit the first major east west route, and then 64 was a parking lot disguised as a freeway, and apparently this is a fundamental truth known by everyone but tourists and newcomers. We ate lunch at a random bbq place in Newport News. It was meh, I had a salad. No specific gluten free menu.
We got to our hotel (Mariott Courtyard had a great AAA price), then walked to the restaurant and learned .6 of a mile is longer than you think especially when it is over 90 degrees. We had planned to cut catty-corner through this big mall that was between us and the restaurant but that didn’t work out because there weren’t nearly as many mall entrances as we expected. weird.
We went to Bite for dinner. They came up in a search for gluten free and they are the kind of ‘make everything fresh’ place I really love. I’ve never been poisoned at a place like that. The chef knows exactly what is in everything and will either adjust or make a counter recommendation. They’ve only been doing dinner for a few weeks, I hope they are successful because everything was amazing. The special of the day was somethingorother that I can’t even remember with duck fat fries for the side. You had me at duck fat really. We asked if they could do them as a separate side for us, so they did and we shared and they were amazing. Then I had pork belly with a chipotle glaze served with a jicama slaw which I fully intend to try to replicate if any of my local stores actually carry jicama. It was lovely and took well to a slaw. (Cabbage currently doesn’t like me) Then I had ‘curry scented duck breast’ which was a perfectly cooked tender breast of duck with crispy skin on a bed of rice and the most beautifully seasoned coconut sauce I’ve ever tasted. I ate the duck and as much of the sauce as I could, and didn’t eat too much of the pineapple and only the rice that was most doused in that perfect sauce. Mike had…something that he also thought was excellent but I was really only focused on my food. He usually gets something I’m not interested in. At least until desert. Which was an exquisite flourless chocolate cake with some berry sauce on the side that Mike and I split. That was the best food we’ve had in YEARS. Possibly since the restaurant in Victoria BC we went to before our cruise. It was amazing.
We caught a cab from the restaurant to OpSail at the Norfolk Harbor. Its something that happens every 10 years and we just randomly found out about it from doing a little internet searching about Virginia Beach…because it really did start with the otter.
Saturday night (the day we arrived) was the fireworks. Mike ADORES fireworks. I think they are never interesting enough to be worth the hassle of finding a place to watch them, but I do because Mike loves them. We were out until nearly midnight. In our search for a decent viewing location we walked sideways through one of the tightest packed group of humanity I’ve ever been subjected to. I’ve seen crowds like that on tv but I’ve never actually been in one before. It was very crazy.
Sunday morning we went to D’egg Diner. It was Sunday morning with a festival so it was insane, but I was still impressed with how quickly they delivered food and turned tables. They don’t have a gluten free menu but there was plenty to order and the hashbrowns were safe and tasty.
Sunday was better from a crowd perspective. Not so many people. We had time to shop at the little booths where we got our traditional commemorative magnet and Mike got a new sun hat that actually covers his ears and the back of his neck. I already own a ridiculous sun hat complete with a hat band and ties for under the neck when the wind blows. We got to admire the sailing ships all lined up. We talked to a bunch of different groups of reenacters, which is always fun. I’m seriously considering leaving Renaissance and moving to Regency. Their clothing looks much more comfortable for the weather!!
We took a cruise through the harbor that not only gave us a great view of all the sailing ships but also went out to the Naval base and we got to see an actual aircraft carrier and 3 submarines, as well as a lot of other ships I can remember the names of. Its a really big base.
Apparently from there, through a series of rivers and canals, some fairly large boats can go straight down the Elizabeth river and stay inland all the way to Miami FL. I had no idea…
We ate at a Shula’s that night. We’ve decided that steak houses run by former football bigwigs just are never as good as they like to think they are. But it was slab-o-cow with sides so generally a safe choice for gluten free and it was filling and we had an early night because we were almost too exhausted to move by that point.
Monday we went to Pocahontas Pancakes (who have, as of this post, foolishly allowed their domain name to expire) in Virginia Beach. It looked like the kind of place you would have gone as a kid and been excited about, if you can remember that far back. I picked them because Mike loves pancakes and they actually listed a gluten free waffle. Which I ordered and really enjoyed. From an allergy perspective, I’m not sure how their food is actually handled. I am fortunate that minor cross contamination won’t ruin my day, and I didn’t have any trouble at all, but I don’t know that they had a dedicated waffle iron. They did also offer gluten free toast. I ordered the toast too, just to see and that caused a bit of a shock. My waffle was served with plenty of lovely real butter. My toast was served with nasty soy margarine, which I learned when I put it on the last bit of my waffle. Which I was then done with. blech!!
Then we went to the aquarium. Our guiding otter was not on display, he’s too small. They have to teach him a lot of things before he’ll be allowed out in the display by himself, and then he needs to be bigger before he can go out with company, because otters play rough! But we saw another otter and Mike got some good pictures. We saw seahorses, which are the coolest, weirdest things. We watched seals for a while. Lots of varieties of turtle. All in all fun and interesting.
Then it was time for barbecue. I am still looking for decent barbecue in Alexandria. MojoBones, back in Norfolk but near the coast, was amazing! Their sauce was confirmed g/f and everything was wonderful. Their beans were some of the best I’ve had and they make their potato salad the way I think it should be made. I wish they weren’t so far away. I really miss barbecue!
For the drive home we took some alternate routes. While there were some traffic lights to deal with, it took us 2 hours less to get home than it did to go south on the freeway! How much of that was the alternate route and how much was the Monday I can’t say, but we’ve decided that we will always search for alternate routes in the future.
Over all a really nice trip.