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Rehoboth Beach, Cape May and Wilmington July 7, 2009

Posted by hslu in Travel.
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Rehoboth Beach, DE, Cape May, NJ and Wilmington, DE

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is about 140 miles from Northern Virginia. It is a small beach resort town much nicer than Ocean City, the wild and crazy sister beach 20 miles to the south in Maryland. We have been there a few times since coming to Virginia 10 years ago. We like its leisure atmosphere, less crowded beaches, not-too-congested traffic and not so rowdy customers (e.g., college kids) in local restaurants and bars. No wonder Reader’s Digest and AARP both praise Rehoboth as the best place to live and retire in the America

We went to Rehoboth Beach again Monday evening (June 29th, 2009,) since Maria was off on Monday and Tuesday. We didn’t leave until shortly after 4 PM because Monday was the first day we introduced our new menu.

On previous evening, Maria and I stayed at the restaurant after close until about 11 PM. We changed the menu board settings to reflect the prices and new dishes of the new menu. I went back to the restaurant again Monday morning around 9:30 to finish the set up of the  board. I then stayed at the restaurant and listened to customers’ responses to the higher prices. Fortunately there were only a few comments about the higher prices. One guy who taught high school English in the West Africa nation of Ghana jokingly said to me: “ Why do you have to raise the price? Don’t you know we are still in recession?” He is a taxi driver with Yellow Cab and has been a regular at our restaurant for about 2 years. He has more than once told me that his business has suffered from the worsening recession. I told him that we didn’t raise our prices for exactly two years and it became harder to operate under this condition. He seemed to understand my position and ordered a vegetable fried rice, went back to his taxi to eat his lunch and wait for his next customer.

With the lunch crowd seemly satisfied and content with the higher prices, I went back home, packed a few things for an overnight stay, and took Maria to Rehoboth. We took a shorter route through downtown Washington instead of fighting traffic on Capital Beltway. The drive was amazingly smooth and without delay through most of the DC. We got in Rehoboth a little over 6:30 PM. The first thing we did was to look for a place to stay. I had checked the Internet and found the going rate for most places were in the low to mid – 100’s. I decided to try our luck and used our GPS to find a hotel in town. We would find a hotel, get its phone number off GPS and ask for its rate. We ended up staying at Sea Esta on the thoroughfare in the north part of the town. The price was $79 per night, Monday through Thursday. I requested a room on the third floor hoping it won’t be that noisy in the morning. The room was clean, small with minimum amenities. No fancy soap or hair shampoo. No flat panel TV. No Jacuzzi. And no room service either. But, it was okay for one night stay though.

We dropped our stuff off and went straight to the beach. Last time we came here on a Tuesday with Jennifer. We parked our car next to the beach but were completely soaked by a sudden and heavy down pour after no more than 5 minutes on the beach. This time the street was crowded with cars and people. We finally found a parking spot about 2 blocks from the beach. The beach and the boardwalk were crowed with teenagers, families with young children and senior citizens alike. We walked on the beach for a while with a breeze in our hairs. The air was calm and the sun was about to set. We then paced up and down the boardwalk which was about 1 mile long. To my surprise the boardwalk was filled with arcades, candy stores, salt water taffy stores, games, rides, mini golf, ice cream parlors, Mary-go-around, bumper cars, pizza places and Thrasher’s French Fries. I also counted three restaurants, countless rental houses and hotels on the boardwalk. My first impression was that there were way too many houses for rent but not enough restaurants. I guess it was more profitable renting out rooms than selling food here.

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Our next task was to find a place to eat. Shall we have some funnel cake first or maybe we can have Thrasher’s fries instead because it was highly praised on Yelp?  We checked out Thrasher’s but decided that it was more than we could eat since we wanted something a little more formal for dinner. Besides, their fries weren’t cheap: the small ones; in a 16 oz. cup, sold for $4 each and the large bucket went for $9. There were many pizza joints which catered mostly to families with kids. The nice thing about these places was that they sold pizza by the slice too but I wasn’t in the mood to have slices of pizza with a bunch of kids and their yelling parents around.

We walked away from the boardwalk, strolled up and down the Rehoboth Avenue, ventured into a couple of narrow side alleys (the famous and cozy Penny Lane) and some back streets. We found this place called Blue which seemed quite nice. We liked its outdoor seating patio because it was a good spot for people watching. It was very close to where I parked my car too.

blue - Rehoboth

Blue served contemporary seafood. We ordered a bowl of Seafood Chowder ($6.50,) a Brie & Crab Fondue for ($10.95,) and Chilean Sea Bass for ($19.95.) I also ordered a Blue Moon ($4.50) for me and an Eye of the Storm ($10) for Maria.

The seafood soup was very creamy and filled with fish, crab meat, shrimp, scallops, and small chunks of potato and carrots. It was a great value and a very comfortable meal by itself. This was the first time I ever tried fondue in an American restaurant. I reluctantly agreed to order this because Maria had wanted me to take her to Melting Pot for quite a while now. I had resisted going because I didn’t think it would be any good. Unlike other fondue dishes on the menu, Brie and Crab was cooked in the kitchen before serving. It also came with slightly baked bread wedges. Well, it was not too bad but I wouldn’t try it again because it was over priced, over hyped, and way too many bread wedges. The Chilean Sea Bass was nicely presented, well seasoned, topped with a corn puree and dressed with alfalfa sprouts. The portion was just right for a late night meal. I particularly like polenta and the fresh basil smell which came with sea bass.

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The Eye of the Storm was a colorful cocktail with Jose Cuervo tequila, lime juice, triple Sec and something else that I don’t remember. It was a bit too sweet for me and it wasn’t worth the $10 price tag considering that it was served in a regular water glass.

While having some bread before the soup was served, Maria whispered into my ears saying that the two male guests sitting next to our table were holding hands. I told her that Rehoboth is a famous gay beach on the Eastern shore but I forgot to tell her ahead of the time. Sure enough, shortly after the sunset, we started noticing many “couples” walking up and down in front of us. Even when they were not holding hands, you could tell them apart from far away. We didn’t see any female couples.

We took our time enjoying our dinner until well after the restaurant was closed. I paid the bill first so that our waitress could close her shift and enjoyed her late dinner with her friends. The bill came to $51.90 and I gave her $10 tips for her great smile, warm personality and attentive service.

By the time we left the restaurant, most of the kids were already gone. There were still groups of teenagers dressed in bikinis or shorts; eating ice cream, chewing gum, chatting and giggling with each other and trying their best flirting with teenagers in other groups. It was so fun just to watch them having a great time here. Life is filled with excitements especially when you are young, beautiful, and full of energy.

For tomorrow, I have already decided yesterday to take Maria on a ferry ride across the Delaware Bay to visit Cape May, New Jersey.

The ferry is operated by the Transportation Department of the state governments. The 150’ long ferry boat can take 100 vehicles and as many as 1,000 foot passengers at a time. The ride costs $46: $36 for the vehicle and the driver plus $10 for each adult passenger. The return trip will cost $10 less for us. But I decided not to come back to Rehoboth Beach even it would take us longer to drive home from Cape May. The 15 mile stretch across the bay would take 80 minutes.

Our 11:15 AM ferry was only about 50% full. It has four levels above the car deck, a 250-seat cafeteria, a couple of lounges with full bar, a 100-seat party area on the second deck reserved for private parties, and plenty of big windows with wide open view of the beautiful bay. The ride was a little bumpy in the beginning. I could see the boat rocking left and right in a gentle but constant motion. We had to sit down to minimize the dizziness. Later on, the water was calm, the ride was smooth  all the way to New Jersey, the sea breeze was slightly cool on our skins, and the sun was warm and comfortable. A few seagulls flying with the ferry looking for scraps ffrom passengers. A few small boats and the Delaware bound ferry passed by us in the wide open water. For quite a while, we couldn’t see any land at all even in a clear sky. Gradually, Cape May appeared in the far end of the water and we got off the ferry just about 80 minutes after we began our journey.

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Cape May is a small town located at the southernmost tip of the New Jersey Eastern shore line along the Atlantic Ocean. It has a light house, a bird observatory, a strange building on the beach, a farmer’s market on the day when we visited and a stretch of street (Beach Ave.) with shops, hotels, ice cream shops, bars and restaurants. We visited the light house first. It was not very tall and it was apparently open to public if you wanted to climb to the top. We parked our car right next to the beach and walked for about half and hour. While on the beach we couldn’t help but got attracted by a strange building in the middle of the beach. When we walked to the back of the building, there was a crew of three people operating a backhoe to block the entrance of the building with beach sand. A park police was there to chat. I asked the police man and he told us that this was a WWII guard house which is partially buried because of sea shore changes over the last 60 years. I still could see the partially buried concrete mounts (about 10′ in diameter) for a pair of  6″ gun.  A little way back away from the beach was a 60-foot tall concrete tower which was used to spot Germany submarines or U boats during WWII. The tower has since gone after 60 years but the strange-looking concrete building is still there. It reminded us the ugly reality of the war. From the beach, we went to the city center. We walked a few blocks on Beach Avenue but it was a little too hot to stay outside for too long. We ended up hiding in a restaurant called Henry’s to have our lunch.

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Henry’s is immediately adjacent to the beach. We had a nice window seat in a wooden structure over looking the beach which has very few visitors. Unfortunately the wind was blowing pretty hard which made our lunch a little uncomfortable. We ordered a ½ bottle of local white wine called Victorian White. The wine was bland and too sweet for my taste. But heck, we were supporting local economy the best we could.

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Our order included:

New England Clam Chowder ($4.95)

A dozen of spicy Shrimp Cocktail ($6.95)

Crunchy Fish Basket ($10.95)

Side Salad ($3.50)

½ bottle of Cape May Victorian White ($15)

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There was noting special about the meal and the total came to $44.24 plus $8 tip. We liked to stay a little longer but the wind made it uncomfortable to stay very long. In fact, some of our salad ended up on the floor because of the wind.

From the Henry’s, we went to the farmer’s market about a mile away. It was a small gathering with about 10 tents next to a fire house. But a few policemen or firefighters were on hand to direct traffic. I guessed this was a big deal for a small town like Cape May where nothing much happens on a typical Tuesday. We stayed there for about 15 minutes. Bought a French baguette and said goodbye to Cape May. Our next stop was Wilmington, Delaware.

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We passed by Wilmington, Delaware  many time but had never visited the place. Since we still have plenty of time, I decided to check it out. May be we could have our dinner there.

Wilmington is a small city with only a few tall buildings. Downtown was pretty much shut down for the day when we arrived there at about 6:20 PM. We drove around using our GPS to provide some idea of where to go. We found Riverfront Shopping area which sounded interesting. When we arrived there, we were impressed with its size: it spans about ½ mile along the river with several outlet type shopping buildings, several huge free standing restaurants, a good size ball park in a stadium completed with stands and score board and thousands of parking spaces.  But the entire place was practically empty with 2 or 3 times more shops closed than open. It was well designed. However, only two of the three restaurants (They were huge) were open for business. The third one has no car in front of its building. The ball park has quite a few cars up front and there were some people practicing inside. We left Wilmington very disappointed. I guess recession has shown its ugly head here as well.

On the way home, Maria mentioned to me that there is a race track and slot place near by. I decided to check it out and used the GPS to guide us there. To my amazement, the GPS took us to the back entrance instead of the front door. We changed from our shorts and put on something more appropriate for the occasion.

The race track was closed because the last race was ran around 3 PM. The big gambling hall was filled with latest slots and there were many penny slots too. The restaurant on the second floor was over-priced and the small cafeteria served only pre-packaged food like sandwiches and salad. We tried our luck on penny slots for about 2 hours and left at 10 PM. We won $20: I lost $20 but Maria won $40. We decided to go home and eat instead of eating out because it was getting a little late and Maria had to work tomorrow.

We stopped by the restaurant in Falls Church, took care what needed to be done there and went home. We spent less than $200 for the entire trip plus gasoline. The trip was short and sweet and we had a lot fun too.

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