I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Norfolk, Virginia, where I had to attend a workshop for my graduate nursing program. Even though it wasn’t a vacation trip, I made the most of what free time I had. For me, traveling is no different whether I’m spending ten relaxing days in Paris or a hectic two days just down the coast from home. Either way, I love to explore and get a feel and taste for wherever I am. When I plan my travel to nursing conferences or activities required for school, I try to always add some time on to either end so I have a little time to explore. Even half a day is enough to start to get a feel for a new place.
Norfolk, a seaport city with a population of over 240,000, has a rich cultural history. Its walkable waterfront downtown has a vibrant and friendly atmosphere with loads of opportunities for entertainment. Norfolk is the home of the largest navy base in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, as well as NATO’s two strategic command headquarters. Four universities and a community college call Norfolk home: Old Dominion University (which is the school I attend), Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, Virginia Wesleyan College, and Tidewater Community College.
Fun at the zoo
Virginia Zoological Park
When I went to Norfolk last summer to take the final for my physical exam class, I planned my departure for late afternoon the day following my exam so that I could go to the zoo. When I was growing up in Seattle, there was an incredible zoo that I went to often, the Woodland Park Zoo, but Vermont doesn’t have a zoo and I really miss that. In Norfolk, I was able to check out of my hotel in the morning, spend an hour and a half at the zoo, and then head from there to the airport. What a relaxing way to end my trip!
A sucker for museums
Chrysler Museum of Art
This time I planned to arrive before lunch the day before my workshop. As they say, however, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”–my connecting flight out of Newark was three hours delayed. Ugh! It’s okay, though, I can adapt. I had planned to visit a museum and tour a battleship, but now I had to choose. I’m a sucker for museums, so the natural choice for me was the Chrysler Museum of Art. I was not disappointed!
The Chrysler Museum of Art is a great place to visit not only because of the amazing exhibits, but because it’s free! You’ll find a very extensive glass collection, European and American painting and sculpture, modern art, civil war photography, and much more. My favorite was the glass. So much glass! More than 10,000 pieces, in fact, spanning 3,000 years.
A great place to study
Cure Coffeehouse and Brasserie
Last summer I was in Norfolk to perform a full physical exam as the final exam for my class. I was a nervous wreck! I was so worried that I would forget to do something and I felt like, even though I’d been studying and practicing for weeks, I needed to find someplace subdued to study just a little bit more before my exam. I hit the jackpot when I found Cure Coffeehouse and Brasserie!
It was a beautiful morning and the sunlight slanted gently in through the large windows overlooking the narrow cobbled street outside. The atmosphere was pleasant and relaxed and at nearly every table there was a student studying.
Everything on the breakfast menu looked incredible, with offerings such as lox and cream on an everything bagel, Greek fritatta, and avocado toast. I chose the avocado toast, which was made simply with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. Heavenly! And of course, I got a latte. What Seattleite goes to a coffee shop and doesn’t have a coffee? Not this one!
Historic Downtown Norfolk
Historic downtown Norfolk feels small, but don’t be fooled–there is plenty going on. From chef-owned restaurants to an historic concert venue and performing arts center, museums, shopping, and a sporting arena, there’s something for everyone. Granby Street, also known locally as “restaurant row”, is where I headed Sunday evening.
Where to eat
Grilled Cheese Bistro
Initially, I was hoping to find a place that had live, local music that I could enjoy with my dinner. But then it occurred to me that it was Sunday–not a typical night to find bands playing. I looked at local entertainment calendars and found that I was, indeed, out of luck. Ah, well, better luck next time.
I parked the car and decided to walk until I found the restaurant with the most people inside. That should be a good sign, right? I wasn’t wrong and neither is the 4.6 star rating on Google maps! The Grilled Cheese Bistro was packed to the gills, and for good reason. I got lucky and didn’t have to wait long for a seat at the bar.
Studying the menu, I saw that it is pretty much nothing but every imaginable incarnation of grilled cheese. Naturally. I mean, they don’t call it the Grilled Cheese Bistro for nothin’! It took me approximately five seconds to decide on a grilled cheese sandwich called The Hangover: black truffle mac and cheese on grilled sourdough bread. Oh. My. God. That was some ooey, gooey, truffley goodness right there! I’m sorry, but I neglected to get a picture of it. I was in rapture and wasn’t thinking straight. I’ll get one when I go back to Norfolk this summer.
Hokkaido Sushi Bar
Monday was interprofessional education workshop day. I actually had a lot of fun with it, but I still felt the need for something celebratory to end the day. Sushi. I don’t know why sushi, but that’s what I felt like it needed to be. This time I consulted Google maps. Hokkaido Sushi Bar on Granby Street seemed to fit the bill with a 4.3 star rating. The atmosphere was lovely and my server even lovelier. That’s something I’ve noticed about Norfolk. Everyone is so darned nice!
My very most favorite sushi roll ever is the Spider Roll (tempura battered soft shell crab, avocado, cucumber, and spicy sauce) and Hokkaido’s did not disappoint. The flavor was incredible and the size of the roll was generous. One roll is never enough so I also asked for a Norfolk Roll: shrimp tempura, asparagus, mango, avocado, and spicy crab. What a perfect combination of crunchy, sweet, and spicy!
Wrapping it all up: Recommendations
To summarize, Norfolk has a lot to offer, even if you’re only stopping through. Here are my recommendations for activities and restaurants. I’ll be adding to this list as time goes on because I’ll be going back often over the next several years as I complete my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. In fact, this summer and fall semesters I’ll need to be there for at least a week each semester. I’ll really be getting to know the city!
What to do
- Virginia Zoological Park
- Chrysler Museum of Art
Where to eat
- Cure Coffeehouse and Brasserie
- Grilled Cheese Bistro
- Hokkaido Sushi Bar