The International Sand Sculpting Championship was in town. so how could we not attend?!? Excitedly, Claudio, I and our daughter Rachel (who was visiting) set off to see the sand castles. And were we wrong! These were not sand castles at all, or at least not like any that we had made as we were growing up. They were sculptures just as you would see in the finest museums of Europe, except they were not made of marble; they were, seemingly impossibly, carved out of sand.
Upon entering the contest tent, the first sculpture we saw was a series of interconnected upside-down arches causing Rachel to remark, “How do they get sand to have corners?” My favorite was called Re-entrance. On one side, there was a perfectly formed heart breaking on a flawless wall of sand, while on the other side, a face burst forth from the slab of sand just forcing you to try and ignore it. Claudio and Rachel were enthralled by a sculpture where somehow, the artist managed to carve a woman walking up a stairway into what can only be described as a brick-lined tower on the flat surface of sand. We agreed that the works were one more spectacular than the other and that somehow, the fragility and temporality of it all, added to our appreciation of the artists’ efforts.
Outside the competition tent, Virginia Beach’s annual Neptune Festival filled the boardwalk. (Watch our video about the Neptune Festival and Virginia Beach with awesome footage and fun commentary.) please enjoy our videoWe found, and sampled, every sort of fair-cuisine that you would hope to find at an event like this. As we walked along, we admired the wares of all sorts of artists: jewelers, photographers, painters, sculptors, potters, and more. And what was made everything even better was that this festival was not at a fairground or in a field as we were used to back home. No. This festival was on the beach!
In order to take a break from the sensory-overload, we wandered down to the seashore where, to our utter delight, we found several pods of dolphins frolicking in the surf. How cool is that?!? I mean people take expensive tours to get on a boat filled with like-minded animal lovers just to be able to catch a glimpse of a dolphin fin, and here we were just taking a stroll on the beach admiring dolphins probably 20-30 feet away from us. I repeat how cool is that?!? I don’t know how many there were, but the number was more than any of us had seen at one time. And, because they were so close to shore, it took every bit of restraint within us to not plunge into the waves and join the fun. Oddly enough, the other folks on the beach did not seem so enchanted with the spectacle in the water that was so completely captivating our attention. In fact, none of them appeared interested in the slightest. This brought to mind a time when Claudio’s brother and sister-in-law were visiting from Italy. His sister-in-law was out of her mind with excitement when she saw a squirrel. Really??? A squirrel. In Connecticut, squirrels are as prevalent as soccer-moms and SUVs. So, does the lack of reaction from the locals mean that dolphins are merely the squirrels of Virginia Beach? Well, to us, they were marvels, so we continued to jump about, pointing at dorsal fins cutting through the water. We only stopped when, out of nowhere, a parade of horses was ridden down the beach between us and the cavorting sea mammals. The odd sight of horses and dolphins in such close proximity was almost too much to take.
And in the midst of all this the military descended on us. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. No one really ‘descended’ on us, but it sure felt like it, for several very large, imposing, and extremely loud military helicopters came flying above the water’s edge in perfect formation. Looking up at the sky as our insides vibrated with the power of the helicopters, we waved gratefully at the soldiers sitting in the heli’s open doorways.
Dolphins. Horses. Flying heroes. What next?
Begrudgingly, we left the festivities to move along toward what was supposed to be the highlight of the day. But seriously, I was doubting that we could ever top what we had just witnessed.
As we approached iFly, an indoor sky diving facility, Rachel could barely contain herself. Truth be told, Claudio and I were pretty psyched ourselves. This had been on all of our bucket lists for quite a while.
James, our sky-diving fanatic, ex-military, instructor was calm, supportive and obviously aware of what was running through my brain. But from the moment I stepped into the tube of rushing air, I was hooked. No joke. I was fulfilling every childhood dream I ever had. I was flying. For real. Just like that.
OK. You caught me. My transition to flight was not quite that smooth. Before the ease of soaring, there were solid minutes where, appreciating the fact that no one can hear you scream in a wind tube, I let loose with an endless combination of “oh my Gods” and “holy @#$%”. This was followed by a childlike shriek and so many “I’m flying’s” strung together that it must have sounded like one very very long word. I couldn’t stop smiling. Unfortunately, this meant that I couldn’t talk when I came out of the tube because my lips had dried stuck in a permanent grin.
Sea. Land. Air. We had covered it all in a span of only 7 hours. Sometimes a day simply cannot get any better.