Our Day Trip to Tangier Island

Thanks to Groupon, several weeks ago I bought a couple of tickets for a day cruise at Tangier Rappahannock Cruises. With the end of summer approaching, Juan and I found the perfect day to take advantage of the acquisition!  The temperature was a perfect 74H/71L. The clouds gave us a breathtaking display of beauty, without shedding a single drop upon us, and the Chesapeake Bay was bigger and lovelier than I had anticipated.

Tangier Island is tiny: 5 miles long and 1 mile wide, and only 3 feet above sea level. Its population is less than 500 people, but it’s rich in American history. Back in 1608, it was visited by Captain John Smith, who named it. On July 9th, 1645, the Virginia Council took all the male American Indians in the area, ages 11 and up, prisoners, and transported them to this isolated spot, in order to prevent further organized attacks against the English colonists. Governor William Berkeley’s own ship transported and abandoned them there.

More than a century later, during the War of 1812, thousands of enslaved African Americans gained freedom by fighting for the British against the American coastal communities around the Bay. The Virginia militia deflected a British attempt to take Norfolk in 1813, and engaged British forces throughout the war. More than 2,000 African Americans gained their freedom aboard British ships.

Today, fishing is the largest industry of the island, and most especially crabbing, mainly the soft-shelled blue crab (which is de.li.cious.)

The second largest industry of the island is tourism. There are daily cruises, mostly seasonal, and they pride themselves with having a handful (I counted 3) of restaurants serving succulent seafood. We had lunch at Lorraine’s and I must say that their crabby fries were so finger-licking good!

Back to history, in 1686, a man by the name of John Crocket  settled in the island, and his sons’ families did the same in 1814. As we rode through the island, we saw more gravestones than I’ve ever seen in one place, and so many of them had a Crocket name inscribed. Graveyards are found at the church, in backyards, in fields…

We rented a golf cart, which is the choice mode of transportation, even for the natives. We saw a church, a library, a tiny post office, a medical building, a school, and a few inns. We also visited a tiny, yet interesting museum which holds pictures and artefacts of the history and the present culture of this place.

Interesting fact: The Rev. Joshua Thomas (1776-1853) was a waterman so he moved from the mainland to the island, converted to Methodism, became a licensed preacher, and was ordained an elder. He served the Chesapeake region for more than four decades. He traveled in a canoe called “The Methodist” and conducted services for the British forces during the War of 1812. He advised the British troops not to attack Fort McHenry near Baltimore. In a prayer, he predicted they would fail. The expedition was not cancelled, and the British fleet was defeated.

Our Chesapeake Bay experience was unique and relaxing. Being in the island for just a few hours felt as if we were trapped in time. We often wondered how these people stand to live in such an isolated and tiny place! And then we were happy to return, bellies full, minds opened, hearts rested. God gave us a little reprieve from reality, surrounded us with beauty, provided us with more memories and marital friendship, and recharged our batteries to get us back to work tomorrow, first thing in the morning!

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When in Charlottesville

Juan and I had a spontaneous weekend in Charlottesville, VA. What a pleasant time we had! Let’s just say it will not be the last time we visit, since it has become one of our favorite spots in this amazing state.

We booked a last-minute hotel deal by bidding in Priceline.com, finding a Holiday Inn room for $59.

After we settled into our hotel, we visited the Historic Downtown Mall, which is a regular spot for us. We wanted to try a new restaurant, so we dined outdoors at Taste of India. One of the dishes we ordered was delicious and the other left a lot to be desired. The rice and chicken was finger-licking good, except next time we will try the mild version, since the medium spices made the dish a little too hot. The combination platter was very disappointing, with dry rice and beans that looked like they had sat on the plate a little too long. The overall service and ambiance were good, with plenty of time for good conversation and people watching.

The next day we drove through UVA, admiring the Jeffersonian architecture, and later visited Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and what a treat that was! Tickets were $25 per person and the money was well spent. Jefferson’s house and gardens have been very well preserved. It is a stunning place! I learned so much by watching a movie, visiting the museum, and taking a guided tour through the house. It was simply fascinating.

We ended our day spending a lovely evening at Jefferson Vineyards. We paid $10/person for wine tasting. Needless to say, my husband was in heaven. We purchased a bottle of truly amazing wine, sat in the field, and had a picnic. The view was stunning and the experience peaceful and refreshing. It turns out this is wine country! I did not know that 50% of the nation’s wine is produced right here in Virginia. In Charlottesville alone there are more than 30 wineries, which we are sure to visit one by one!

Next time we go, we plan on visiting Carter’s Mountain Orchard along with a local brewery. Autumn will be spectacular and I am salivating already!

The house at the top of "Little Mountain"

The house at the top of “Little Mountain”

The garden and observatory at Monticello

The garden and observatory at Monticello

Juan and I at Monticello's terrace, overlooking the dome at UVA and incredible mountain scenery

Juan and I at Monticello’s terrace, overlooking the dome at UVA and incredible mountain scenery

Our picnic from Whole Foods

Our picnic from Whole Foods

Jefferson Vineyards

Jefferson Vineyards

Looking Back at My Summer and Forward to What’s Ahead

Back in June, I wrote my Summer Resolutions, outlining my hopes and goals for the past 3 months. As I look back, I can see many things accomplished and some untouched; Great, fun, and fulfilling events as well as hard and painful. Among the most memorable, here are a few:

  • I spent significant time with family, not with all of them at once, and with some more than others, but I am so grateful for the moments we shared. Knowing full well how hard it is to live away from loved ones, I don’t take any face-to-face time for granted.

    Dining out in Dewey Beach

    Dining out in Dewey Beach

  • I vacationed. 🙂 Our family (minus two kids) went to Delaware for some needed R&R at the beach; I got to hang out with two of my best friends in Miami, for a few days; Juan and I spent a day in DC with my sister-in-law and fiance, and my mom and I, again in DC, met with my dear nephew whom I hadn’t seen since I was a kid (always a great treat to catch up with extended family); Our family (again minus two) visited VA Beach; And Gabriel and I got to lounge at the pool a few times. All in all, I am thankful for the times of relaxation and diversion, both of which were highly needed.

    Smithsonian in DC

    Smithsonian in DC

  • I achieved some (but not all) of my cleaning/organizing goals around the house. We began our summer by literally throwing our couches out the window – I have the torn hedge to prove it – and buying new living room furniture after steam cleaning our carpets. That alone felt like a renewal of the soul! My new living arrangements bring me great contentment.

    My living room

  • I had music fun! Went to see Foreigner in concert with friends, a jazz outdoor festival with Juan and a bunch of teenagers, CWorks’ amazing production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as a loved musical of mine, Man of La Mancha, at the amphitheater.

    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

  • I spent time with friends, not as much as I wanted, but I am grateful for what I got! With three family birthdays happening, we had opportunities to invite people, have great conversation, play games, and laugh (the best medicine).

    Daniel's birthday. Geneva is the new addition to our family after recently moving to VA :)

    Daniel’s birthday. Geneva is the new addition to our family after recently moving to VA 🙂

  • I worked. Somebody asked me a couple of months, what is it that I do to relieve stress. My answer came out without even thinking about it, “I go to work.” Not only did I have two incredibly packed days of lessons nearly every week, with the most amazing kids ever, but I also worked as a musical director for CWorks’ production of Seussical. I mean, can it get more fun than that? I fall more and more in love with my students and their families, and I count it as a privilege, honor, and blessing to work with each one of them. And as a bonus, I love and thoroughly enjoy the other staff members I get to have fun with. It’s a win-win.

    Horton and I

  • I learned. Attended this incredible vocal pedagogy course at the CCM Institute at Shenandoah University, where I gained great and practical knowledge, which I’ve applied to my teaching already. Next summer, I’ll complete the course and become a certified Sommatic Voicework teacher. I can’t wait!

    With my long-time friend, Kathleen, who happens to be a very talented voice teacher!

  • Probably one of the most significant blessings granted to me this summer, is the fact that I got invited to join a small, intimate, women’s fellowship group. I’ve met with them only a few times, but in these short weeks, they have had a severe impact on my spiritual growth. In a time of emotional instability (can you say pre-menopause?) and during a period in my life where God is firmly and sternly stirring my heart, digging up hidden idols, and exposing my lack of faith and trust in Him, God, who is always kind and gentle, has provided me with praying friends. They have been a tangible expression of God’s love towards me. What a gift!

    jude 1:24-25

    Jude 1:24-25

  • In addition to fun and games, this summer has been a time of growth and self-examination. I, along with my church family, have suffered loss, betrayal, and deceit. But, as with any other God-given tribulation, He has also granted us the gifts of trust, love, mercy, forgiveness, and peace. What a great God we serve!
  • Finally, my husband and I said goodbye to our Kingsway Community Church this past Sunday. I nearly cried when they all prayed for us during our last service there. Needless to say, I feel sad to leave the congregation I’ve grown to love and cherish.  This church has been an integral part of our lives ever since we moved to VA. But now God is moving us to another congregation and opening new opportunities for ministry. He is also calling us to take time to rest, examine ourselves, and listen to His guidance. I feel some grief and some apprehension. I also feel some excitement. I certainly feel peace.

Looking ahead, I am hopeful that God will show Juan and I the direction he has for us (one step at a time), as a married couple, as friends, as his servants. Honestly, I am not looking forward to putting in the effort into building new relationships. That’s the antisocial in me talking. But I am anticipating that little by little, He will help us to grow roots and feel at home at Third Presbyterian Church. 

I am also excited to start a new school year with a growing (actually I’m maxed out!) private music studio, CWorks classes, and music directing a couple of shows. I absolutely love the kids I am working with and can’t wait to spend hours learning, enjoying singing, and growing together.

My year will be busy and packed. But I hope and pray that God helps me to utilize my time wisely and effectively. I want to spend enough time in the Word, because I need it so very, very much. As I am being emotionally and spiritually stretched, I am anticipating that I will look back, at the end of this year, and see that I have become a more God-fearing person, a better wife and mom, a more faithful friend, and a more humble servant.

American Art and Portrait Gallery

Last Saturday, after attending the NATS regional competition with one of my incredibly talented students :), I left the University of Maryland and had about 3 hours to kill in Washington DC (one of my favorite places to visit). So, for the first time ever, I went to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. As with any other Smithsonian museum, I was not disappointed. I would have loved a couple of extra hours to finish touring the place sufficiently.

These two museums share one of Washington’s oldest, public buildings. This landmark was built in Greek Revival style, from 1836 to 1868. I must say, I was also impressed with the architecture of the courtyard, which opened in 2007. It is absolutely stunning, exhibiting a contemporary glass dome (pretty huge). The day was very cold, but the courtyard was nice and cozy, filled with natural sunlight. Next time I’m in DC, I’ll go there and sit for a while. Maybe I’ll order a cup of coffee and journal. It is simply beautiful.

               

Among my favorite exhibitions were the Time Magazine Covers from the 60’s (which runs until August of this year), and the permanent collection of paintings of all our American presidents, in the Portrait Gallery. The museum displays both American art and American history. The combination of those two, made me a very happy camper. 🙂

William Jefferson Clinton. Oil on Canvas. Chuck Close

George W. Bush.  Oil on Canvas. Robert Anderson.

George W. Bush. Oil on Canvas. Robert Anderson.

Andrew Jackson. Ferdinand Pettrich.

Andrew Jackson.
Ferdinand Pettrich.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

I just love this place. The building is elegant and spacious; The exhibits are appreciable and extensive; The atmosphere is inviting; The cafe, especially outdoors, is an art exhibit in it of itself; The cost is just right (free admission).

In addition to the availability 365 days a year, the museum offers multiple events for the community, including free Jazz nights on Thursday evenings, “Friday Art & Wine”, free walking tours, and a variety of art classes for children and adults. It is a wonderful place for a date night! It is also a peaceful spot to take a break from everyday life all by yourself.

Beautiful Museum Grounds

Beautiful Museum Grounds

Cafe

Cafe

Oil on canvas. “Street Scene Autumn”, Goodman

Oil on canvas. "Expressive Head", Lhote

Oil on canvas. “Expressive Head”, Lhote

Oil and acrylics on canvas. "Sisters", Hendricks

Oil and acrylics on canvas. “Sisters”, Hendricks

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Yes, modern art...

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Yes, modern art…

 

Virginia Holocaust Muesum

Lizette and I visited the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond.

Cannot say it was a “fun” experience because there is nothing fun about walking through memories of atrocities and pain. It was, however, insightful and necessary.

I traveled to Poland years back and I visited Auschwitz concentration camp. I remember it clearly because it made a deep impression on me. I was expecting to feel some of the same emotions when I went to the local museum. I was pleased to find this less painful. However, in some ways, it hit a little closer to home because the gallery is filled with stories from local survivors. In fact, the audio from the guided tour was recorded by a Richmond survivor himself, who told his own story along the way.

In my opinion, everyone should visit their local Holocaust museum at least once in their lifetime. We owe it to ourselves to remember what happened. If you live in RVA or visit this area, I recommend this place. Admission is free. The layout of the building is user friendly, taking you easily from one section to the next without the need to backtrack. It will take about an hour to walk through the loop and you can either use their audio guide or simply read the information and go at your own pace.

A tribute to heroes who protected and cared for the persecuted

A tribute to heroes who protected and cared for the persecuted

Life size reproductions of pictures of those being liberated and replicas of American soldiers

Life size reproductions of pictures of those being liberated and replicas of American soldiers

Life-size replica of a scene during the Nuremberg trials, with actual footage playing in the background.

Life-size replica of a scene during the Nuremberg trials, with actual footage playing in the background.

Nazi flag, conveniently placed on floor so everyone can step on it.

Nazi flag, conveniently placed on floor so everyone can step on it.

Exploring Virginia: Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah Valley

After 2 years of living in Virginia, I finally got a chance to drive through Skyline Drive in Shenandoah Park. The weather was perfect and the sights from the overviews along the road were absolutely stunning. I grew up in Ecuador, surrounded by gorgeous mountains, but I lived most of my adult life in Florida, which has none. So this drive was like coming back home.

The only thing I wanted more of was time. Our drive was fairly short, and it takes several hours to go through the whole park. Now that we have a taste of it, we will be sure to go back again soon. I can’t wait to see it during the fall when the leaves are turning! Next time, I will bring my field guide, to make my bird watching more interesting.

Once hunger hit, we headed to our favorite spot in Charlottesville: Christian’s Pizza, at the downtown location. We love that place! The pizza is amazing, the pedestrian strip with outdoor cafes and shops is quaint and lively. It was the perfect way to end the day. (For more reviews on Christian’s Pizza, click here)