Tuesday, April 14, 2015

5 Reasons to Visit Cape Charles

We get a fair amount of calls from people planning a getaway and they want to know why they should visit Cape Charles. The first few times we thought this was a strange question. But now we say, "you tell us what you want to do. You can do everything or absolutely nothing. It's up to you."

If you want to check-in and not come out of your room until check-out, go for it. Enjoy the room. Enjoy time alone, or with your travel partner. Relax by your fireplace or soak in your jetted tub. Watch TV. Watch movies. Log on. Read a book or magazines. Play board games or cards. Or just sleep.

(Did you know Fig Street Inn is the ONLY b&b in Cape Charles that offers TVs and fireplaces all from the comfort of your room; otherwise you have to share with other guests in common areas - no thanks.)

BUT, if you prefer to venture out, here is what we think are the must-sees, must-dos for a visit to Cape Charles:

LOVE - Cape Charles has its very own LOVE sign. You may have seen others around Virginia - they are all over, and you will find ours at the corner of Bay & Mason Avenues. We're very proud of this because it took a lot of work by a lot of people to make this happen (including us). We "love" how it reflects the history and culture of our town and region. So go, snap a picture. Everyone needs LOVE in their lives!

Beach - We have an amazing beach right on the Chesapeake Bay. It's about a mile long, with soft, white sand. Sure it's great in the summer, but it's great any time of year. Go for a walk. Look for seashells, beach glass or even sand dollars (They do exist! We've even found one ourselves).

If you are visiting in the warmer months, and you're staying at +Fig Street Inn, leave the beach chairs, towels and umbrellas at home. We've got all of that here for you. We'll even loan you a cooler if you want to pack water, sodas or snacks. And yes, those are included with your stay, too.

And for the above two, combine a visit to LOVE when the sun is setting at the beach. Cape Charles sunsets are spectacular! If you are here in the fall, the sun is positioned so it sets right into the letter O for a picture perfect moment.

Trail Ride - Pfeiffer Riding Stables is about 1 1/2 miles up the road from our inn and you can enjoy a one-hour trail ride along Kings Creek. We guarantee you'll see wildlife and waterfowl as you soak in the natural beauty of our area. Don't worry if you have never been on a horse before because they will pair you will just the right one. Make sure you tell them you're staying at Fig Street Inn so you get our special rate (varies depending on time of year).

Kayak - Southeast Expeditions has many different kayak trips and you don't have to be an extreme or experienced sports enthusiast to hit the water. They'll take you out to a clam bed where you can hunt for your own clams, or on a leisurely tour through the wildlife refuge to observe birds, butterflies (fall season), and take in the scenery of our barrier islands. Or rent kayaks for how ever long you like and go out on your own. 

Or how about kayaking to a winery? The tour is called "Paddle Your Glass Off", and it's a 4-hour excursion that includes wine tasting at the award-winning Chatham Vineyards (try the Cabernet Franc. It's out personal fave!). You paddle there, have a wine tasting, and then paddle back. Yes, there is enough space in the kayak to hold a case of wine if you so choose.

Mangia - Your trip would not be complete without great food! Obviously breakfast is included with your stay at our inn, and we do offer more than enough so you don't really need to have lunch, but there are plenty of great places to eat right here in Cape Charles:
And if you are here in the summer, you can top off any meal (or make a meal) at brown dog ice cream (open April through October).

Whatever you want to do, we're happy to help you plan it out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dear TripAdvisor

Dear TripAdvisor,

I'm breaking up with you. I want to say "it's not you, it's me", but that's not true. It is you. I don't want to be in this relationship anymore.

We had many good years. You won't remember, but we met in 2000 when you first came to town. I was different back then. You were too. I met you in another state, and you were the cool kid. It was sweet. It was new. We helped each other out. But I said good-bye in 2009 when I moved away. 

I came back to you in 2011. I needed you. I knew you were a player, but you filled a need. I was willing to pay for your services. The cost was $288 in 2011; $326.78 in 2012; and $524.14 in 2013. In 2014 you wanted $1,800. We negotiated and you said you could continue to give love for $900. That was too much for my tastes, so I said "no".

Then you called a few months later to say you wanted me back. You wanted $3,450. Nothing changed other than I rejected you and you were insulted. You took away my past client discount. If I wanted to have you again, it would cost - an increase of 558% to be exact. Nothing new, nothing different. Same services but at a very different price. I said no.

You called again, and again, and again.

Each time, I relived and rehashed what I didn't like about our relationship. I told you I was willing to reconsider, but you weren't willing to change. You wanted $3,450. The discussions were heated and sometimes you hung up on me; sometimes I hung up on you. This is not healthy.

This last conversation, I said we are at an impasse. I won't be told how wrong I am, how I'm making a bad decision, how I just don't understand how important you are. I won't be bullied, shamed, or guilted into taking you back.

I belong to a support group with many who have said good-bye to you. We talk....a lot. We share details on how each of us fared in our relationships with you. It's been helpful, cathartic, and reaffirming. We shouldn't be taken for granted. We want to be heard. We want to be with you, but we just can't put ourselves through this anymore. This relationship does not work.

Since we've split, I've grown - by 14.2% to be exact, and I did it all on my own. You didn't like this. You told me I'm making a bad decision. You said I still need you, but I'm doing fine without you.

It's been almost a year that we've been having these conversations but it is time for my exit. I think you have value, but I also know you don't treat me well. This dysfunction has to end.

We were friends once, but things change. Let us part and move on.

With sincerity,
Donna Olney Kohler
+Fig Street Inn 
Cape Charles, Virginia

Monday, March 2, 2015

B&B? What exactly is a bed & breakfast?

I recently attended an innkeeping conference where one of the keynote speakers said that you need to let potential guests know what you are not. Interesting….well, here is what +Fig Street Inn is NOT: 

Although it was a treat to sleep over my grandmas house as a little girl, that is not what you get at Fig Street Inn. We do not have:
·      Wallpaper
·      Doilies
·      Furniture you are not allowed to sit on or use.
·      Matchy-matchy decor with curtains that match comforters and pillows that match wallpaper borders (seriously, there is no wallpaper in this house).
·      Curfews. Come and go as you please.
·      Forced socialization. You want to talk to other guests or us, great. You don't want to, no offense taken. 
·      Small coffee cups. Antique china sure is pretty and we have quite a few sets, but when it comes to having a cup of coffee (or tea), we believe in a large mug. 

Fig Street Inn may be our home, but our #1 priority is the guest. We follow a philosophy that it is your vacation so let's make it what you want, not what we want. What that means is:

When do you want to check-in?
Sure we have scheduled hours, and no, we can't do check-in at 11:30 am (we do have to clean rooms). But if you want to come early, just let us know so we can make sure someone is here to welcome you. Drop off your stuff and if the room is ready, it's yours. If not, drop off your stuff, and then go out and enjoy your day. We’ll call or text as soon as it’s ready, and you can come back at your leisure. 

When would you like to eat breakfast?
We serve breakfast from 8:30 to 9:30 am so come to the Dining Room any where in that hour and we'll make you a hot, made-to-order breakfast. If you need to start your day earlier, let us know the day before and we can typically accommodate an earlier breakfast.

What would you like to have for breakfast?
We do a made-to-order breakfast. We do not believe in the "you get what you get, and you don't get upset" that far too many b&bs serve. We wouldn't want to eat salmon and green salad or a double stuffed French toast with chocolate covered bananas, so we would never tell you that’s what you’re eating either. We have an entrée of the day (eggs/omelettes to order, pancakes, French toast, waffles or crepes) and there is always a choice of at least 4 preparations. It is made hot, specifically for you – not in a one-size fits all casserole dish that is only hot at 9 am. And if the entrée is not what you want, we can always make fried or scrambled eggs, or choose from a selection of cereals, yogurts, or oatmeal. 

Stay connected, or disconnect - you decide.  
Many guests choose a b&b because they want a relaxing getaway, but it is not for us to decide what that means. Each room has a large, flat screen TV with Bluray player (and we have a video library with 300+ movies), and far too many satellite channels to choose from. If you want to watch TV, great; if you don’t, great; but it’s your choice. And our WiFi signal rocks! If you want to watch a movie on your laptop or tablet, go for it.

Want to recharge?
For some that means disconnecting, so turn off that phone, computer and TV. For others, it means being able to plug in all their gadgets. All of our rooms have ample and accessible outlets, including USB ports. You don’t have to move any furniture to get to the one outlet that’s somewhere behind the bed.

The beauty of b&bs is that each one is unique and we encourage potential guests to do their research and ask questions. There is a b&b out there for everyone, and Fig Street Inn may not be the right fit for you. And that’s okay. We don’t pretend to be the end all and be all. Our goal is a great, personalized hospitality experience where you feel welcome, comfortable, and relaxed. You are the guest. Let’s make this about you!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pear Valley, an Unknown Treasure on Virginia's Eastern Shore

Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Pear Valley for a "private tour". When you see the small structure, you might ask yourself "And.....?" But the history that emanates from this building is amazing. It was exciting to see how people once lived, and you could feel the souls that occupied that house and worked the surrounding land.

Pear Valley is located in Eastville, Virginia, just 15 minutes from +Fig Street Inn. It's one of Northampton County's oldest landmarks and recently came under the tutelage of the Northampton Historic Preservation Society (NHPS).

It's not clear how it got its name, or who even built it for the Nottingham family, a common name here on the Eastern Shore. This yeoman's cottage dates back to 1740 and was occupied as late as the early 1900s. A yeoman was an independent, subsistence farmer who may have grown some crops for market.

One of the draws of Pear Valley is its unique architecture like its enormous chimney which spans the north gable end of the home and exhibits Flemish and Common bond brick laying techniques. Glazed header bricks form a chevron pattern that mirrors the slope of the roof. The other noticeable and notable feature is the tilted false plate and wooden peg joinery used on the roof. The wooden pegs also add a decorative element and are still intact.

Although these elements of high-quality craftsmanship were characteristic of the building techniques used in 1740, thirty-six years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Pear Valley is one of only two structures surviving in the state of Virginia that exhibit these now exceptional features. It is also one of only two U.S. National Historic Landmarks in Northampton County - the other being Eyre Hall which dates to 1760.

Pear Valley is currently open only by appointment, but we can make arrangements if it is something you want to experience on your visit to Cape Charles. Or you may contact NHPS directly at 757-999-1299 or visit their website at www.northamptonhistoricpreservationsociety.com.

Pear Valley is located off State Route 628 (Wilsonia Neck Drive) near Eastville, Virginia.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Romantic Carriage Ride for 2

Valentine's Day is just days away and it's a great reminder to take some time for yourself. This winter has been particularly cold so how about warming things up with a new adventure. If you've never been to Cape Charles, it's the perfect time to discover our town. It's quieter but many of our shops and restaurants are open which usually means you'll get personalized attention.

This year, Aqua Restaurant, Kelly's Gingernut Pub, Hook-U-Up Gourmet and Coach House Tavern are each offering special dinner menus for the Valentine's weekend. And because it's a holiday weekend, you can enjoy these menus Friday, Saturday or Sunday. You'll definitely want a reservation no matter where you choose to go, or on what day.

New to town this year is a horse-drawn carriage ride with Pfeiffer Riding Stables, and you definitely need to reserve your time for this treat. Miss Angie (as we affectionately call her - we are big fans of her and what she does) will take you on a 30-minute ride up and down our charming bayside streets. She is always happy to talk about her horses, the history of our town, or just let you be while you enjoy some time with your loved one.

But before you start your ride, you will want to stop at Gull Hummock Gourmet Market to pick out your bottle of wine and handmade chocolates by Cape Charles Confectionery. Enjoy them during your ride, or take them back to the inn for later. These are included with your ride, and you will also receive a $25 gift certificate to Moonrise Jewelry and olive oil tasting at Drizzles....all for $100. It's a unique, one-of-a-kind experience, found only in Cape Charles.

Don't worry if you can't make it this weekend. You should celebrate with your Valentine as often as you can, and you can enjoy this great package with Pfeiffer Riding Stables through the spring. Give them a call at 757-331-0828 to schedule your visit.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Birds Nest Cookies

This is a new cookie we made for Santa last year, but in my never ending list of things to do, I never posted this recipe. My delay actually works out because these make great Easter cookies. To be honest, they are not my favorite, but they are so easy to make. If you have little ones, they'll have fun helping, and the best part is that their fingers get dirty from forming the nests so they'll just like being able to lick their fingers when they're done.

The recipe calls for a mix of chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. I think the reason I don't like these are the butterscotch chips - they just don't taste natural. Perhaps I need to find a better butterscotch chip. But there's no reason why you couldn't make these with just chocolate or white chocolate chips. White chocolate would make a pretty cookie for Easter and spring time. And then fill with pastel M&Ms or little foiled eggs - pretty!

1 bag of chocolate chips (11 ounces)
1 bag of butterscotch chips (11 ounces)
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 bag chow mein noodles (12 ounces)
candy for decorating/filling

Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips in double boiler and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Stir in chow mein noodles until completely coated. Drop coated noodles onto parchment of wax paper. Make a little "well" with a spoon or your fingers in the center and add candy of your choice. The chocolate set ups fast so you need to work quickly.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Eastern Shore Artisan Trail - Benefit Auction

Eastern Shore Artisan Trail Benefit Auction

Living in a small town, you don't get to be anonymous and you really can't not be involved in your community. I am astounded by how much gets done in Cape Charles, with so much of it being done through volunteerism. The latest initiative I'm volunteering for is the Eastern Shore Artisan Trail. I feel out of my comfort zone because I don't know a thing about art. I like what I like, and I can't explain why. 

But this trail is so much more than art. It's about bringing together "artisans, venues, galleries and retailers, while connecting points of interest, restaurants, and accommodations in the related communities to create a “trail”, according to the Artisans Center of Virginia (ACV), which coordinates these trails throughout the state. Discussions have been in the works for awhile, and the Eastern Shore is now at the point of assembling their "team" to make this happen.

This is a true grassroots effort and we're kicking things off this weekend with a Benefit Auction on Saturday, April 5 at Island House Restaurant in Wachapreague (about 40 minutes north of Cape Charles). A silent auction will run from 11 am to 8 pm while the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and a portion of proceeds from meals served that day will go to the Trail. At 8 pm, a live auction will feature items retailing at $200 and over. Items, for both the silent and live auctions, include decoys, paintings, antique maps, jewelry, gift baskets, local theatre tickets, overnight stays, and gift certificates to restaurants and a variety of services and outdoor activities such as fishing charters and horseback riding.

Come during the day to enjoy a great meal - have I told you about the Island House crab cake and their sweet potato fries? Or come later at night for drinks and to enjoy live music by Van Lewin and Melinda & The Benders. Reservations are highly suggested for dinner service and can be made by calling Island House Restaurant at 757-787-4242. We'll be there at some point during the day for lunch - yes, I'm having the crab cake with sweet potato fries - and we hope to see you there. 

Follow the Eastern Shore Artisan Trail on Facebook to see pictures of some of the amazing artwork that will be auctioned off that evening. 

I want to thank the Cape Charles businesses who are supporting this effort either through financial contributions or donating items for the auction: Arts Enter Cape Charles, brown dog ice cream, gallery 209, Gull Hummock Gourmet Market, Moonrise Jewelry, Nancy Vest (artist), Pfeiffer Riding Stables, and Wendell Distributing.  

If you can't make it but still want to support this effort, you can make your donation online