Norfolk and Newport News across the river have played a monumental role in our nation's naval history - both in terms of shipbuilding and also housing vast naval forces - much more so than I had ever imagined not being from these parts. A walk through the Hampton Roads Naval Museum is awe-inspiring - it was unbelievable to me how many ships that were important in our nation's history over the years were built in this area and how many battles were fought in the waters of Hampton Roads (not only in the Revolutionary War but the Civil War and WWI and II as well) given its strategic location as the gateway to the Chesapeake Bay - the battle of the first ironclads the Merrimac and the Monitor was fought here during the Civil War. Because of the prominence of the naval presence in and around Norfolk, a walk along the waterfront yields many maritime statues and memorials - including ones to the seamen from this area that died in the Cole bombing and in the attack on the Pentagon in 9/11
From the waterfront we came upon the Taiwan Friendship Pavilion, a beautifully decorated building with lush flowering gardens, that was a gift to the City of Norfolk from the Taiwan Provincial Government in 1981 due to a sister city relationship - all the materials where built in Taiwan and shipped to Norfolk for assembly. The scent of jasmine greeted us as we walked through the friendship arch and mingled with the scents of the flowering water lilies amid the fountains and pools (a scene Monet would surely have loved to capture) and other indigenous plants. The koi ponds overflowed as the serenity of the place encapsulated us - the pavilion and gardens are quite tucked away so who knew such a place existed in this teeming modern city? (In the picture below see how the pavilion lies against the backdrop of brick apartments and the Wisconsin).
Next it was on to the West Freemason District, one of the first areas of the city to be developed outside of the original 50 acre colonial town. On either side of its cobblestone streets are brick sidewalks and historic colonial houses in architectural styles spanning more than three centuries (Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Romanesque Revival, Beaux Arts Classicism, Queen Anne and Georgian Revival - aren't guidebooks wonderful??) Many of these wonderful homes sported detailed cast iron fences and grill work along with exquisite porticos, friezes, columns, turrets, arches and gargoyles.
The churches in this district also exhibited many different architectural styles but all were magnificent in their intricate design and craftsmanship
We stopped in at the Norfolk History Museum at the Willoughby-Baylor House for some more Norfolk History and learned of the devastating Yellow Fever Plague in the late 1800's that wiped out whole families and at least 1 out of every 3 citizens at the time and the historic school desegregation battle of the 60's and early 70's that had Norfolk on the front pages of many newspapers as the school board fought against such integration - what was amazing to us is that as we get older, those events don't seem like all that long ago!!
The Trail led us to the MacArthur Memorial which is a four building complex dedicated to the life of General Douglas MacArthur - he and his wife Jean (who died at the age of 101 in 2000 - again not that long ago) are buried here in a building designed by Thomas Walter, who designed the dome and the House and Senate Wings of the US Capitol Building. The complex contains a theater, museum archives and a gallery - quite a fitting tribute to a man who thought so much of himself!! It was pretty cool though to see the surrender documents he received from Japan aboard the USS Missouri and to see mementos/historical artifacts including his trademark corn cob pipe from a career that spanned so much of America's recent war history.
We wound up down at the water once again - all things in Norfolk somehow revolve around the water as it is bounded by the Elizabeth River and Hampton Roads - after passing the Customs House and several wonderful old buildings with great gargoyles and friezes on their facades. Time to relax back at the boats and chill before a shrimp scampi dinner on Gypsies with the shrimp our friend Dave from Manteo had given us - yippee! Bootsie loved the shrimp - you knew she was going to get some didn't you??Bootsie Devours Good North Carolina Shrimp
Yesterday we decided to continue our historical retrospective of Norfolk and spent the day walking around the Wisconsin and then Nauticus, which includes the Hampton Roads Naval Museum as well as an aquarium. The Wisconsin is even cooler to walk around than it is to look at from the street - although only one deck was open we got to get up front and personal with its big guns!! As we boarded, there was a ceremony in progress for new sea cadets who had just completed their 3 week training - my god did they look young!!! Maybe that's just us getting older but seriously if any of them has shaved yet, I'll be a monkey's uncle!!
All that climbing around on the Wisconsin made us hungry and instead of settling for cafeteria food at the Museum, we bolted across the street to the Bayou Boogaloo Cajun Festival for some Bourbon Chicken and Barita Beer!!
After a few hours immersed in naval history, it was time for some serious fun - too much history and culture makes Tammy a dull girl!! Time to kick up our heels and do some serious gastronomic damage at the Bayou Boogaloo Food and Music Festival!!!! When attacking a fair such as this one, it is important to scope out all options before settling in and sampling the wares - there may be something better just around the corner!! The waterfront park had been transformed by mardi gras beads, masked clowns, streamers, lounge chairs and large plastic crawfish into something straight out of the Bayou or Bourbon Street!!
Click here to see a Google map of our location at the Nauticus Marina