Shuck ’em if you got ’em!

9 Nov

This is just a random photo of someone in an oyster costume, not in Urbanna. Which means there are MULTIPLE people in the world dressing as oysters. Wouldn't have seen that coming.

When we originally decided to take vacation in November, Alan and I had our sights set on Argentina.

Then I looked at a map. 

For someone who is a pretty good (and relatively seasoned) traveler, I have a horrific grasp of geography for places I’ve never visited. Hence why I expected Argentina to be a) Due South of Washington DC, and b) About a five hour flight from DC. When I realized the time commitment needed to arrive in Buenos Aires, it made me shudder.

I’ve traveled a lot for work this year – Boston, Chicago, LA, New York, London, Sydney and Melbourne – so the idea of flying somewhere didn’t actually sound like vacation to me. Fortunately, Alan’s easy going, so we agreed to scrap a longer haul and explore by car within a three hour radius of DC.

Which is how we found ourselves rolling out of bed at 5am Saturday to hit the road and aim for Urbanna, where the annual Oyster Festival was underway. (And where, apparently, the roads into town close at 9am on festival day, necessitating our ass-early departure.)

Never heard of Urbanna? Neither had we. It’s a small town on the Rappahanock River in Virginia’s Northern Neck boasting sailboats and about 600 year-round residents. The Oyster Festival is its raison d’etre, pulling in upwards of 60,000 people over the course of one weekend.

As for lodging? When a community this small manages to lure in 60,000 people, don’t think you can call the same week to reserve lodging. Unless you’re me. In which case, you will happen to luck into an available room at the local B&B which is right downtown and run by two lovely inn keepers.

As we approached the town Saturday morning, however, I kept cautioning Alan: “It’s entirely possible that we don’t actually have a reservation. I have nothing to prove it and I haven’t given my credit card number to anyone. When I spoke with the owner, she just told me that they had one room left they could put us in. She may have said that to five different people for all I know.”

When we arrived at the Urbanna Creek Bed & Breakfast, we were warmly welcomed by the owner, who not only assured us we had a reservation, but also offered us croissants and coffee without asking for any form of payment. I’m thinking I’ve lived in a city too long because I just stared at her suspiciously, until Alan poked me and whispered, “Say thank you!”

Properly fueled, we set out to explore the festival. There were a number of artisans exhibiting their goods, a wine tasting pavilion ($10 for 5-7 pours from five different Virginia wineries), some live entertainment, a parade, and — of course — OYSTERS. If you’re not a fan of them on the halfshell, you could get fried oysters, roasted oysters, oyster fritters, oyster chowder, oysters rockefeller… Let’s just say: Urbanna does oysters the way Bubba Gump does shrimp.

And Urbanna does parades slightly less impressively than Macy’s, but it’s still quite the event. In addition to the local political figures, this parade featured: a) A person dressed as an oyster wearing boxer shorts dancing in the back of a pick-up; b) Enough Shriners (some on bikes) to field six baseball teams; c) The obligatory Miss Urbanna float – with this year’s winner surrounded by sulky looking runners-up; and d) A hippy train/float promoting a nearby campground using songs and dance moves suggestive enough to make us believe it was a nudist colony.

Post-parade, we tottered back to our B&B with shopping bags filled from the local merchants, our stomachs stuffed full of oysters. I believe it was at that moment Alan issued his proclamation:

“We need to remember this: We should ALWAYS vacation somewhere that $5 can feed us.” Really? Not a bad rule to live by. We weren’t able to follow it again on this trip, but we’ve filed it away. I see a lot of funnel cakes in my future.

5 Responses to “Shuck ’em if you got ’em!”

  1. John November 10, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Now I gotta go to Urbanna.

  2. November 10, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    The older I get the more I enjoy vacationing in the States. There are so many local festivals and cool small towns, and it’s nice to get out of the city and enjoy the local food fare. I’m with Alan, places where you can eat for $5 are the bomb!

  3. Lorna's Voice November 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Great post and such a fetching picture of you and the oyster. You’d never get a picture like that in silly old Argentina!

    There is a lot to be said for avoiding the airlines and exploring what’s in your backyard (or several hours drive from your back yard). Glad you had such a great time! 🙂

  4. thesinglecell November 10, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    How fun and charming. It all sounds so lovely… someday I’m going to stay in a B&B instead of a hotel. (God, I sound like I’m FROM Urbanna. No offense, Urbannites.)

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