This is a special edition of Getaways, which will be broken into two parts. Since Jasmine and I were both lucky enough to head to Virginia Beach, we’re tag teaming the trip for your reading pleasure.
Jasmine: Like many of you, after reading Katie’s post last month on Virginia Tourism Corporation’s mystery vacation giveaway, I put my name on the list. The temptation of an all-expenses-paid trip plus the mystery of not knowing where I would be going was just too much to handle. And a few weeks ago, after a particularly terrible day, I got the call: I had won! After extensive squealing and jumping up and down in the street, I immediately called diligent informer of awesome vacations and excellent travel companion Katie to invite her along with me. VA Tourism packed so much into our two days, we’re going to have to split this one up, with each of us taking a day. And so, without further adieu, here’s Katie to tell you all about that first crazy day.
Katie: I couldn’t sleep the night before, I was so excited. Plus, I adore going on vacation, and I also like surprises, so this was just too much for me! I am such a control freak myself that when someone else takes the reins, it makes me really happy sometimes, because it lets me relax and hang back without worrying about the details. I was still itching to know where we were going, but simultaneously happy to not be in-the-know. Jasmine was rooting for the beach, I just wanted some time at a spa. I drove to Jasmine’s house white-knuckled, worried about the horrible timing of getting into a wreck right before the BEST VACAY EVER. I didn’t and we made the trip to Mount Vernon, the place where it would all be revealed.
We got there and entered a sea of color-coded very sexy (read: not) matching 40-Off tee shirts. Jasmine and I were team blue, both swimming in our size large tees, that supposedly corresponded to a hint about your trip. I spent the next 30 minutes speculating with others and our trip leader about what blue could mean. I got nowhere. They fed us breakfast at Mount Vernon and then took us on a somewhat scatterbrained tour of the grounds. We wound up meeting Shanel Evans, the Girlfriends Getaways reporter from the Examiner, right off the bat. Bloggers unite quickly, you know, we can spot another one a mile away. (Shanel tweeted the entire trip, for your reading pleasure.) She kept telling me to calm down, but I was so excited, I couldn’t stand it. (Side note: Also on 40-Off, yet not on the blue team, your lovely editors Sara and Jim from Wonkette. Risky, VA Tourism, very risky.)
I had chugged coffee at breakfast from said lack-of-sleep and wound up pestering our tour guides with requests for bathroom breaks, so we spent more time finding bathrooms than touring the place. (My bad, ya’ll.) We saw the new baby sheep (aka swine flu carriers.) (Just kidding.) (Am I?) the main house, and the awesome view Washington had of the Potomac. I was mostly itching to hear where we were going, probably annoying Jasmine with my running “OKAY JUST TELL US ALREADY” commentary.
The tour finally ended after a brief foray into the gardens, when George Washington himself got up on the stage to announce our trips.
Other teams were headed across the Commonwealth to Luray/Page County (green team), Richmond and Charlottesville (yellow team), and Loudoun County (purple team). We were last to be announced, and held in shrieks of joy when the announced we were headed to Virginia Beach and the spa. We got the best vacation, FOR REAL. So we headed to the buses, each color coded with corresponding balloons.
When we finally got on the road, we had time to relax. And by relax I mean I read a very intellectual novel. We arrived at Virginia Beach pretty groggy. I had this picture of Virginia Beach in my mind as run down, a little rednecky, and NASCARish. I was dead wrong. The beaches are super wide (they recently expanded the beach, they say it’s about the width of a football field now) and the redone boardwalk running along the sea wall is gorgeous. All the hotels have done flowering landscaping, most have tiki bars facing the beach, making for a fun, festive feel. And at every street access point there is a themed statue (like sandcastles, beach balls, or fish) which adds whimsy to the boardwalk. Plus, the walk is separated into two paths, one for walkers and one for cyclists, as a means of traffic control that I’m sure makes a huge difference in summer crowds. We pulled up to our hotel, the Sheraton Oceanfront Virginia Beach, which was ridiculously nice, and were greeted with a reception.
They just redid the hotel entirely, and it is plush, I was loving the beach-y theme and large windows. All the Sheraton folks and Virginia Beach Tourism folks came and welcomed us and then they let it slip we had 45 minutes before we had to meet back to go to the spa. Jasmine and I made a break for it. Like blue streaks running the halls of the hotel, we literally sprinted for the beach, plowing over unsuspecting hotel guests, old ladies and small children out of our way in our frenzy for the sun. It was the best 20 minutes of the whole day.
We got dressed for our fancy spa and dinner experience and headed for the spa. Founder’s Inn, which is a spa, a conference center, and an inn all at once. The Flowering Almond Spa is pretty plush. Jasmine and I elected to get massages, which were wonderful. I’d go into further detail, but I was pretty much in a tranquil state of mind. I’d recommend the spa, definitely. The waiting area is this enclosed sun room with pretty views of the Inn and lake, with chaise lounges to read magazines on. Other winners got pedicures and manicures and a few facials. It was heavenly.
Then we were off to dinner at the Swan Terrace, where we were told to get whatever we wanted. OH, ARE YOU SURE? CAUSE GOD KNOWS I CAN EAT. I’m not sure anyone warned them that I was coming, and that when given free rein my mouth becomes a dump truck for food. But they were very graceful about our food intake! We were allowed to get wine, appetizers, salads, mains and desserts. They rolled me out of there at the end of the night. The highlights from the meal? Jasmine had a fantastic Mushroom and Garlic Soup, and the Andoullie and Shrimp Corn Fritters were just right. I couldn’t get enough of the Grapefruit-Honey vinaigrette on my salad, either. If you’re ever in the area, Swan Terrace is worth the stop-off. Especially if you were to sit outside on the patio overlooking the pool and lake, you will feel like you’re in a whole ‘nother world.
Jasmine and I wound up in a total food coma, and headed right to bed. Which, actually, is worth mentioning, as those beds at the Sheraton are AMAZING. I sank right into soft, feathery heaven and didn’t wake up til the morning.
Stay tuned for the second half of this feature tomorrow when Jasmine takes the reins and tells you all about our amazing beach-side breakfast and trip to the aquarium.