The Casual Travelist is nearing its first birthday and one of the best things I’ve found is discovering and connecting with other travel bloggers. I’ve had the pleasure of finding a diverse and welcoming community of people equally passionate about exploring the world and there are some fantastic writers, photographers and story tellers who want to connect others with the myriad of experiences that travel has to offer. These seven bloggers have helped me along my journey or inspired me in one form or another this year and wanted to take this opportunity to share their work with you.
The Mast Farm Inn, tucked deep into North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, is a boutique hotel deeply committed to celebrating its Appalachian roots. Located in Valle Cruces, the Mast Farm Inn is one of the best preserved homesteads in the south, earning a spot on the National Registry of Historic Places and Historic Hotels of America. Driving up to the green and white Victorian past log cabins and pastoral family farms, it was clear to me that time has done little to change this area and the Mast Farm provides a warm homey welcome to travelers today much as it did in the 1800’s.
Now that I’ve had a chance to experience a bit of the Eastern Shore’s present-day oyster heritage and gotten a glimpse of its future with Shooting Point Oyster Company and HM Terry Company I think its time we look at the Eastern Shore’s oyster past. The watermen of the Eastern Sore have usually been independent fishermen who then sold their catch to seafood wholesalers; they caught whatever was in season which traditionally was crabs in the summer and oysters in the cooler months as well as a variety of fish year round. Some accounts liken the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster boom of nineteenth and early twentieth century to California’s gold rush; it was hard work that sustained many and made a few very rich.
Having broadened my oyster palate at Chatham Vineyard’s Merrior and Terrior event and discovering the beautiful Chesapeake Bay inlets where Shooting Point Oyster Company grows its Nassawadox Salts it was time to find out where the sublimely salty-sweet Sewansecott oysters come from. The H.M. Terry Company has been producing oysters in Virginia’s coastal waters for well over 100 years. Located in Willis Wharf, a tiny waterman’s town( that also happens to have some of the best Texas BBQ this side of the Lone Star state), the Terry family has been growing oysters in the peaceful waters of Hog Island Bay for four generations. After two viruses wiped out Virginia’s oyster population in the 1980’s the company switched to raising clams. While they have been quite successful with farming clams H.M. Terry has always at it’s heart been an oyster company and has recently revived their oyster heritage.
Oysters and wine, is there any better pairing of seafood and grape? I think not. Virginia’s Eastern Shore is one of the few places in the world where both of these indulgences are produced within scant miles of each other. Historically Virginia had a booming oyster trade throughout the Chesapeake and along the Atlantic coast that was blighted in the late twentieth century, but a new generation of watermen and women are commited to the resurgence of Virginia’s oyster heritage. November has recently been declared as Virginia Oyster Month and the Virginia Oyster trail has been established to highlight the emergence of Virginia as a premier oyster region.
Poor November. Squeezed in between the showy colors of October and the ever encroaching holiday season of December, I personally find November to be a very underrated month to travel. After months of summer adventures and a rush to pack in all the apple-picking, hay-riding and leaf-peeping fun you can into September and October there is a tendency to lay low for a few weeks in November before heading out in December to see cities decked out in their holiday best. But you know what? While November is more subdued I think it’s is the ultimate shoulder season for travel. Need some convincing?
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, located in southeastern Virginia Beach, is worlds away from the tourist hustle of the city’s famous boardwalk. Established in 1938, the refuge is over 9000 acres and lies on the Atlantic Flyway providing a rich habitat for migratory birds. Tundra swans, a variety of ducks, as well as snow and Canada geese call Back Bay home during the fall and winter migration but you can also find year-round residents such as heron, bald eagles and endangered loggerhead turtles. On occasion, if you’re lucky, you may spot a wild “banker pony” who has wandered up from the Outer Banks.
The Hellbrunn Palace and Gardens are one of the most visited attractions in Salzburg. Sure, there are palaces all over Europe, each one filled with opulent rooms and surrounded by grand gardens but this one has a secret (and a very fun one at that). Schloss Hellbrunn was built from 1613-1515 by Archbishop Markus Sittikus and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful Renaissance structures north of the Alps. Built solely for the purpose of entertainment the Hellbrunn Palace and its gardens were used to host extravagant parties as well as musical and theater performances. The palace is still quite popular today and hosts a festive Christmas Market as well as a number of events and weddings throughout the year.