When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

How often have you said “When in Rome…” or heard someone else say it in conversation? Etymologists believe the phrase “When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do” dates back to around 390AD. In a letter written by Christian Saint Augustine to the Bishop of Naples, Augustine suggested that the Bishop adapt to local customs whilst visiting local parishes to avoid possible scandal or embarrassment. Saint Augustine explained in the letter by way of example that while in didn’t fast on Saturdays in Milan, he did so when visiting Rome. The phrase today in the English language can almost be considered cliché. Who would have thought such a phrase could trace its origins back to a letter written between two Italians well over 1500 years ago.

Thinking about a self drive vacation in Ireland?

If you have any interest in visiting the Emerald Isle, then I have two words for you:  BOOK IT! However, you need to decide if you want to see Ireland on an independent self drive vacation or as part of a tour group (there are both small and larger group options). This decision is a very important one to make, and there are pros and cons (you’ll be in Ireland so using the word “cons” is really silly because like I said, you will still be in Ireland seeing the beautiful country!) to each choice.

I’m the independent type, and I love to meander around new destinations on my own so it will come as no surprise that my husband and I opted for a self drive vacation while in Ireland. Keep in mind that one needs to evaluate their own comfort level when it comes to driving on the “other” side of the car and the “other” side of the road in a different country! Also, most flights from the US will arrive in the morning local time, and as such, you’ll be starting out your drive with jet lag for sure. I know I did, and the first day was by far the worst day behind the wheel. There were no accidents (thank goodness), but I was rather tense and tired while driving that first day. By day three, I was much more comfortable. I will caution you that many of the roads off of the Motorway (think our interstate road system) are more narrow than the roads you are probably used to driving on. I can’t emphasize this enough. I know I would not be comfortable renting any vehicle larger than a cross-over SUV, and on some roads I still may wish I had a smaller vehicle. We drove a BMW wagon which was new and already had documented scraps and dents on our rental paperwork!

Renting a car in Ireland is a different experience than renting a car in the US. To begin, I recommend you use a car hire broker such as AutoEurope. They have been in business over 60 years and help get the best rental rate with the car hire companies. There are other car hire brokers you can research on the internet as well. Most cars in Ireland are manual transmissions. You will have to pay extra to rent an automatic transmission vehicle. If you are not used to driving a manual then I highly encourage you to pay the difference and rent an automatic. You’ll have enough on your hands just getting used to the other side of the car and the other side of the road. Trust me. Now that I have had my first “rodeo,” I do think I’ll be fine renting a manual on our next visit, and therefore, save some money on the car rental.

The next big ball of wax to get through is the insurance. Oh my gosh. This part drove me crazy. Forget about using your own auto insurance company to cover you while driving in Ireland. Although there is one type of credit card that can be used in place of part of the insurance, you have to have something crazy like a $50,000 availability on the card. Just do yourself a favor and at the time of booking get the CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) and add the Supercover liability as well. Without the Supercover, you will need to have a certain cash balance available on the credit card you used for the booking, and the amount will be held on the credit card until you return the car. If there is damage, your card will be charged accordingly. The amount held on your card is dependent upon the class (size) of rental car you rent. Without the Supercoverage, our hold was going to be something like $1800. Umm, no thank you. I’ll just get the extra insurance. You will also be offered Tire and Wheel coverage (charged as a daily rate) because even with the Supercoverage, that isn’t included. We did not get the tire and wheel coverage; however, I cannot stress enough how important it is to purchase the Supercover liability. Ninety percent of rental cars in Ireland are returned with some sort of damage. You will totally understand why after one day of driving and passing cars, trucks, buses and tractors on very narrow roads! Also, you must add navigation to your rental package if the vehicle does not come equipped with a navigation system. I had road maps, and we looked at them frequently; however, the navigation system was such a big help!!

Have I scared you yet? I certainly do not mean to, but I am being very honest here folks! Other rental decisions will be aC/no AC as well as diesel or gasoline. We rented a diesel and will do so again. Most cars over there are hybrids too so don’t be surprised when the engine cuts off at stop lights. Also, the boot or trunk space as we call it, is much smaller than we are used too. Keep that in mind when renting a car for the number of people in your traveling party.

If you think you’d rather sit back and relax while someone else does the driving, you’re in luck. There are several reputable tour companies that offer various packages to attract different interests. Whether you choose an independent self drive vacation or join a tour group, one thing is for certain. You WILL fall in love with all of the beauty that is Ireland!!!

   

Where’s the Beef?

If you aren’t a vegetarian, who doesn’t like a good burger? I’m picky about the burgers I eat; just ask my husband and sons. They know how seldom  I order a burger when we eat out.  I usually make my own patties for grilling at home, but I’m up for trying restaurant burgers when they come highly recommended.

Now I introduce you to Northern Neck Burger, https://nnburger.com/, with locations in both Kilmarnock and Tappahannock.

   I can’t even remember who first told me about NN Burger, but I’m sure glad they did. Oh how I love their burgers. I really should say burger because I am that highly predictable person who orders the same thing most of the time at a given restaurant. At NN Burger, that same thing would be the NN “No Nonsense” Bacon Cheeseburger. I think the special creamy “NN” sauce makes it, but that’s just me talking.

  Why not add NN Twister Chips to the meal, right? A couple of people can share an order. Yes, the serving is that big. My favorites are the Queso and The Local. Around coastal Virginia, Old Bay Seasoning is used like salt and pepper, and there is plenty of Old Bay on The Local.

I like to make a pit stop at the Tappahannock location when I’m heading up route 17 to Fredericksburg or points northward. Over Memorial Day weekend, we decided to have lunch at NN Burger in Kilmarnock. Of course, we hit at the peak lunch hour, and it was insanely busy with Rivah weekenders kicking off the beginning of the summer season. We had about an hour wait for our food (much longer than a typical wait so I don’t want to scare you), and we passed the time watching a professional cornhole tournament on the flatscreen. That was a first for the four of us. We like to play cornhole out by the pool, but these players were much more serious about their game. Ahh, I digress. Back to burgers!

Yes, you will be quite full when you are done with your meal. You can help walk off that stuffed feeling with a stroll along the shopping strip around the corner from NN Burger. Some of the shops were closed the Sunday we went, but we visited a few and tried on some “Bubba Boots. If the shoe fits, wear it. Right?

                

What’s your favorite burger joint? I’d love to hear from you. I know your dying to share your favorite place.

Berry Pickin’ We Will Go

 On a recent Sunday afternoon, after a few dreary cloudy and rainy days, I trekked over to Surry at the last minute to pick some fresh strawberries at College Run Farms. You can check out their website at http://www.collegerunfarms.com/. The website is updated daily with conditions for picking. There’s not much time left for the 2018 strawberry season, and all of the rain has certainly caused some havoc. Be sure to take a look at the website if you plan to go.

Getting out of the house was just as paramount to actually picking berries. From Gloucester, I get to enjoy a short drive on the Colonial Parkway before reaching the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry to cross the James River to Surry. For more information about the ferry schedule, check out the VDOT website at http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/ferry-jamestown.asp. The ride across the James lasts about 20 minutes before docking . Here are some photos from my ride.  I always find the ferry ride an adventure by itself. Standing along the railing while the wind blows in my face and taking in the views is both peaceful and therapeutic for me. On the ride back to Jamestown, a tug pushing a huge bar passed by; unfortunately, I didn’t get over to that side to snap a photo.

Once you drive off from the ferry docks, the berry farm is about a 5 minute ride. The picking forecast for the day was not overly optimistic given the rain earlier that morning. However, even though some of the fields were wet, I was pleasantly surprised to find some dry rows and plump juicy berries that had somehow avoided getting soft and soggy from the rains. I did arrive prepared after reading the website with my rain wellies. In fact, I chose to pick on the wet rows that had less people so my boots certainly came in handy.  All in all, I was in the fields about 40 minutes total until my basket was overflowing with strawberries. Many were sandy from the rains so it wasn’t hard to resist eating a few while picking on this particular trip. In fact, I didn’t eat the first one until later that evening when I washed off a few to add to a dinner salad.  The entire basket of strawberries cost $9.50 to pick and boy was it fun other than when I was bit by a nasty May fly. That little bugger was persistent and sure enough got me on my hand. I didn’t let it get in the way of filling my basket and enjoying a nice waffle cone of homemade strawberry ice cream at the end.

So the rains held off until after I got back home in the early evening. Whew! The one thing I didn’t take was an umbrella or rain slicker. What a great way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. I wish I would have headed out earlier to enjoy a tasty lunch at the Virginia Diner in Wakefield which is about a 30 minute drive from the berry farm. You can check out their hours of operation and menu at http://www.vadinerrestaurant.com/default.aspx. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve eaten there, and I remember it well. Next trip over, I also want to make a pit stop by Smith’s Fort Plantation which you pass along the way from the ferry to College Run Farms. I’ve visited many of the local plantations during my childhood and adult years, but this one has eluded me. Take a peek here https://www.preservationvirginia.com/visit/historic-properties/smiths-fort-plantation.

Do you have farms in your local area where you can pick in season crops? If so, I encourage you to get out and take advantage. It will be a fun day for sure. Now, what became of all of the strawberries I picked? I’ll save that for my next post.

Another fun Seafood Festival for the books

Got seafood? Well,  I certainly got my belly full at the 70th Abingdon Ruritan Club Seafood Festival. The twice a year local event in Bena is always a crowd pleaser, and this one surely did not disappoint. On a side note, I like to refer to Bena as the “Gateway to Guinea!” I usually get a few laughs from some of the locals when I say that.

I have volunteered at the Virginia Country Real Estate beer booth for the last few years’ festivals and didn’t make it out of the booth. This spring, however, Jeff and I purchased tickets and enjoyed the afternoon and evening as festival goers. It’s one of those days when I make sure to eat very little if anything before the gates open so I can enjoy all of the deliciousness offered. I have my favorites, and they include the fried oysters, fried scallops, steamed shrimp and the coveted clam chowder. One can also find steamed oysters, oysters on the half shell, steamed crabs, clam fritters, fried fish, hush puppies, bbq, cake and ice cream. The beer and alcohol start to flow after the singing of the national anthem at 3:00 pm and continues until the last pour at 7:30 p.m. While I’m not a beer drinker, I do enjoy the Guinea Gotchas mixed drinks, and the jello shots were also a nice addition this spring. It’s always fun to see friends from childhood and new ones too while walking around the grounds.

The $50 ticket price covers all of your food and drinks, and of course, the Ruritan Club is a service organization that does a lot of good work in our community. Bottom line: it is a good bang for your buck if you like seafood. Mark your calendars as the festival is held on the third Wednesday in October and May and attracts people from both near and far, but you will need to secure your ticket prior to the event. The gate opens at 2:00 p.m. and the festival runs from 3:00 – 8:00 p.m. Will I run into you at the October festival?