By Judy Leaver, Guest Blogger
George Washington called the peninsula of Virginia, defined by the Potomac and the Rappahannock Rivers, “the Garden of Virginia.” Today it is commonly known as the Northern Neck. I would call it Northern Neck Nirvana. I’m describing it with some trepidation since its main attraction is a small population, dispersed throughout a rural area, creating a peaceful getaway from the hubbub, traffic and political silliness of Washington. Hordes of people seeking peace and quiet may help the economy, but risk ruining what makes it so special. A look at this area’s website outlines a full year of art shows, farmers’ markets, literary and music events, kayaking, fishing activities, historical tours. There is also a link to lodging possibilities. The main draw, however, is the Potomac and its accompanying abundance.
I spent a week at the water’s edge, having been invited for a visit to the home of a friend. For five days I strolled the Potomac River’s edge, letting the warm gentle waves lap over my feet, watching a family of osprey come and go from their elegant nest, seeing fishermen check their crab pots, spying a blue heron as he daintily lifted his feet in the shallow water and then suddenly launched into flight overhead, and enjoying a frequent parade of geese and swans following the shoreline. My hostess taught me to look for treasure in the form of sea glass that the river offers up endlessly. She’s an expert at this, as can be seen in the bountiful collection of white, blue, brown, green, even lavender (!) shards that she and her children have collected over the years.
Early in the morning, I would brew a cup of coffee, install myself on the screened porch, and watch the tidal push/pull of the Potomac which, at this point, about 15 miles north of where it dumps into the Chesapeake Bay, is gentle enough to lower your blood pressure and ease you into the day. One day we kayaked into a nearby cove and on another we took a bouncing jet ski ride to an uninhabited island to hunt for shark’s teeth. I even worked—finding it relatively painless in these particular surroundings.
Our one venture away from the river was a drive into Montross—population size, 299–to visit The Art of Coffee. Holly Harman has converted an old gas station into a coffee house/art gallery that has a creative and welcoming vibe, not to mention wi-fi and a breakfast and lunch menu. Besides a savvy entrepreneur, Holly is also an artist and her beautiful water colors and jewelry add to the sophisticated ambiance that only a cleverly renovated gas station can provide in a small country town. And, if you’re lucky, you can catch her singing some nights.
This little slice of river nirvana is 2.5 hrs from Washington, and you don’t have to cross the Bay Bridge! It’s a water-focused alternative to the crowds at the Atlantic.