The Tides Inn: a relaxing escape for those who don’t want non-stop action

Written by admin on October 8, 2009 – 4:41 pm -

If your thing is big city glitz, The Tides Inn in Irvington, Va. isn’t for you. If you like the water, watching boats, biking, playing a few rounds of golf on a par 72 Golden Eagle Golf Club, designed by George Cobband and taking it easy, you’ll love the Tides Inn. Travel and Leisure has named The Tides Inn its number one choice for Best Resort in Virginia (and the only Virginia resort mentioned in their Top 100 issue last year).

The 106-room inn overlooking Carter’s Creek, surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay to the East, the Potomac River to the north and the Rappahannock River to the south, is an ideal place for family vacations. There’s so much for children to experience while adults do their thing.

The Tides has a camp called Crab Net Kids, where children do more than just basket weaving. They learn about the area’s ecology and the surrounding environment. City kids (perhaps for the first time) are exposed to croquet, shuffleboard, basketball, bicycles, volleyball and bird watching not to mention fresh water fishing. There are nature trails galore and it’s a superb and diverse area to explore. In other words, children are kept constructively busy while parents and grandparents enjoy grown-up time without guilt. Specific rooms have been designated “pet” friendly so you aren’t forced to leave those members of the family home.

The Tide Inn also has a sailing school and paddle boats, canoes and kayaks are available. There are four tennis courts and a swimming pool plus a spa for those who crave a stone massage, a seaweed wrap, a facial and other sybaritic delights.

If you like boats, you’ll probably see some glorious ones since it’s a frequent stop for the 125-foot variety that are making pilgrimages from one destination to another and rent one of the hotel’s slips. Each boat is given a room number and its occupants have access to all of the resort’s facilities. Don’t be surprised if you see crews of well dressed people in the bar or in one of the two restaurants. Smaller boats frequently moor at the hotel and rent a room or a suite for a night or two, since even dedicated sailors occasionally crave a break, especially if their vessel is the 27-foot variety and doesn’t have all of the comforts of home e.g., a really good shower.

The Tides Inn is an approximately a three hour drive from Washington, DC and Baltimore. It’s ideal if you’re planning a visit to Colonial Williamsburg since it’s only 45-minutes away.

The Tides’ executive chef T.V. Flynn is a master when it comes to preparing fresh cuisine and he’d give many French Michelin chefs a run for their money when it comes to presentation. Flynn insists on only the freshest of ingredients. You won’t find anything frozen on the menu and most of the herbs are grown on the property. Flynn’s salmon is grilled with honey glaze, the Filet Mignon is served with cheddar grits and perfectly cooked green beans and the signature She-Crab soup, chock full of soft-white fresh local crab, merits a second order. The tuna is seared rare and draws rave reviews.

If you’re a wine lover, Virginia is making its mark. There are more than 125 vineyards in the state now and some of the wines are very good with the whites currently taking the lead. The area isn’t Napa or Sonoma Valley yet. But don’t be surprised if you’ll be reading about and tasting more Virgina wines in the future. Most vineyards are about five-acres large, but hey, you have to begin somewhere. Wine tours are becoming another tourist attraction. Remember, you’ll need a dedicated driver even if you taste and spit. All those sips add up.

Would I return to the Tides? Yes and with pleasure. I’d love to take two grandchildren with me. It’s time their ‘city’ grandmother exposes them to nature.

The Tides Inn isn’t just for families. Irvington, most definitely a southern town, has some boutique shopping where you’ll spot some chic people buying clothes and more. Many military and government employees retire to the area and more than a few of the homes fetch hefty seven-figure prices. There’s a real community of residents and newcomers (that means you weren’t born there) who socialize and take pride in the area and plan activities such as the First Friday (of the month) evening festival and the following morning’s Farmers’ Market where more than 150 vendors (many who sell organic products) set up stands and people from all over the area congregate.

Oh, if you’re thinking wedding, getting married by the water at the Tides would be a romantic way to begin your lives together. Be sure to have some of Chef Flynn’s succulent grilled oysters and miniature crab cakes to accompany the Champagne toasts! Sante.

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris

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Confessions of a mileage junkie in London

Written by admin on May 28, 2009 – 5:38 pm -

I’m a travel junkie. When I see a plane, I want to be on it. All of these “you can’t beat these fares” ads are nirvana.

When a $500+ fare to London from Washington, DC popped up on my computer screen, it was booked as if I were possessed. In addition, it was on United. I’m going to make 1K this year, come hell or high water.

United has made mileage runs easier since travelers are being awarded double qualifying miles until June 15th if registered for the promotion.

London is a wonderful city of which I never get enough. Plus there was a must-see exhibit closing that Saturday afternoon. Off I went on Friday morning flight at 10 a.m. and scheduled my return to IAD Sunday morning. This was going to be a snap. And it almost was.

It was the first time I’d taken a daytime transatlantic flight. Would it limit jet lag? Would I feel human? In essence, this was a bit of an endurance test. And thanks to a friend, I’d snared a ticket for the exhibition.

So far, so good. Because  I was arriving after 9 p.m. London time, it made sense to stay at an airport hotel. I cashed in points and opted for the concierge floor so I could enjoy all of its conveniences.

I read the hotel’s website: Shuttle service to and from the hotel, priority check in, a club lounge that remains open 24 hours a day, promising coffee, tea, soft drinks and something to stave off starvation, free breakfast, free cocktails and complimentary hors d’oeuvres each evening. And free high-speed Internet or WiFi was included, which is a must in my life or I go into a quasi- catatonic state.

This made perfect sense. I’d take the Heathrow Express from the airport to Central London’s Paddington Station. It takes only 15 minutes and is a pleasure. It’s not cheap but neither is sitting in a cab that’s stalled in traffic. It was more convenient to sleep at an airport hotel than worrying about coming and going after and before my flights.

Where did I go wrong?

How did I know that it would be nearly an hour before the shuttle would appear and there’d be £4 fee. The hotel’s lobby was overrun with people and skip the “preferential” service. I went to the lounge that looked as if it had been trashed. I managed to grab a piece of fruit but had to steal a napkin off of a room service cart that was sitting in the hallway and was still there the next morning when I left.

No problem – I’d plug in my computer and do some work. Why didn’t I understand that free computer time was exclusively confined to the lounge and I’d have to pay £15 for 24 hours if I wanted to connect.

Not to worry. By now I was both hungry and thirsty and headed to the bar. I was greeted with a room filled with people, most of whom had tattoos and were chugging beer. It was 11:02 p.m. The kitchen just closed but I was welcome to peanuts, which was fine with me. The patrons looked as if they were Rolling Thunder bikers. (I knew they weren’t since I’d left them in Washington where they’d rallied for the Memorial Day weekend.) There was no question though that this group was having a jolly old time.

OK – to bed. The room was stuffy. I was certain the air-conditioning had been off. After switching on the air conditioning, I turned to the television. I carefully followed all of the instructions. CNN was my station of choice and, carefully following instructions on the channel card, I clicked on station number 10. What I saw certainly didn’t resemble anything I’d ever seen on the Cable News Network since it was the hardest of hard-core porn. After trying the channel again, I was greeted by the same performance.

Not giving in – remember my internal clock was five hours earlier – I called the desk and a very helpful young woman informed me that I’d obviously clicked on a pay-for adult program. She’d send an engineer up with a new remote and he’d program the television so I could watch the news.

By now I was wearing the hotel’s terry cloth robe. Mohammed knocked on the door and seemed confident he could tune in the news. He was greeted by the same show and said with more than a smidgen of embarrassment that the hotel no longer featured CNN and he’d better tell the manager.

So all shouldn’t be lost, I asked him to regulate the air-conditioning. This was not Mohammed’s night since he was forced to admit that I should leave the window open — and it hardly opened — since the AC hadn’t been turned on for the season.

The yogurt at breakfast was just fine as was the espresso. Off I went to London, perused the exhibit and walked in Hyde Park. It was a stunningly beautiful day. I was back at the hotel in time for cocktails, which consisted of wine, beer and appetizers that more than missed the mark. The assembled group mumbled that the chef clearly was off-duty.

Back to the airport — the shuttle only stops at terminal one, where United operates. I hit the lounge so I could catch up on some emails and do some research. I’m always amazed what a pleasure Red Carpet lounges are overseas compared to those in the U.S. Free food, all-you-can-drink liquor plus lots of space.

Seven hours later, I was back in Washington after having had an adventure. Would I do it again? Of course. And since the flight was full, I suspect a lot of people were making mileage runs and would rack up approximately 9,000 miles.

Next trip, I think I’ll pass on staying at that specific hotel even though it received positive reviews on Trip Advisor. Plus I hope there will be CNN where I reserve.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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