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Williamsburg, Colonial Capital

Exhaustion has definitely set in, but it’s a happy exhaustion.

I woke up ahead of my alarm this morning so got an early start. I was in Williamsburg before everything opened, so the beginning of the day was peaceful, before the masses descended.

I had a 10am tour that, as luck had it, was lightly attended. The guide and I got to talk a half hour while we waited to see if ANYONE else at all would arrive. Turns out he had been visiting family in Buford, Georgia just yesterday and had driven all the way back yesterday… My sympathy… When the tour started, it was just me. But about 5 minutes in, a trio of ladies from New Jersey, who were just a tad my Mom’s senior showed up. They said they had come to Williamsburg on their Senior trip and had continued to come back together over the years. The group was so small they had passed me and the guide looking for the group earlier.

It was a shame more people didn’t show, but we had a great tour of the artifacts that have been uncovered during excavations at Williamsburg. We also got a lot of the history of those excavations and how they’ve changed over the years. Now, the practice is to dig in parallel pits leaving much of the site undisturbed in case future archeaolgists have more sophisticated methods so that they can uncover more of the past with less destruction that we do now. The minutia of their jobs is astounding. From pottery shards to the silica contained in plant cells, they catalog everything they find at a site. Being a private, non-profit deal, the digging ebbs and flows, but if what we saw is a sample, as they said it was, then there’s a wealth of history in that warehouse.

That tour ended, I decided it was time to take lunch. If I thought Biltmore was bad… Lunch was $20… Granted, $10 of that was for a plastic tanyard that I can get refilled for free as long as I’m here… The dark side of this is that I’m at yet another Pepsi only location. Still, I more than got my money’s worth of Pepsi products just today. I’m sure they make out like a bandit off some people, but there are those of us getting our money’s worth of liquid refreshments… I had a grilled chicken sandwich in one of the taverns. I would have also had the bread pudding had I any cash left… Maybe tomorrow or Thursday. My grandmother made a dish that she called the same and it looked like hers. Actually, she made it for me exactly one time. She was in a memory lane mood and she loved to bake, so she made it for me because she remembered her mother and grandmother making it. So, it appears to be an old dish. Thanks to my Uncle, I have her recipe, but I’ve never had the heart (yet) to try making it.

I also had an afternoon tour, which was called “Bits and Bridles” – a horse teamed tour which the lady at the ticket office yesterday recommended. It was actually quite good and went beyond horses into the animal sciences group at Williamsburg, who are working on saving a number of “rare breeds.” Not limited to just colonial animals, mind you, they also are working to preserve animals such as plow horses who have been on the decline since the mechanization of farms in the 1930’s. I now know more about horse shoes than I ever thought I would. I wouldn’t count on me remembering a lot of it in a few days…

In amongst all this, I visited some of the colonial buildings. One guide today said that 80% of the buildings are recreations. The part I want to know is more about which ones aren’t. While the recreations are fantastic, I want to get a chance to see the ones that are authentic. I visited the storehouse where the gunpowder that sparked the revolution was stored. That is, authentic. I also visited the parish church, which is authentic to 1715. It’s really something to sit on pews that Jefferson, Washington, etc. had sat on. And the baptismal font in the church was moved there from Jamestown, so there’s a chance my Woodson ancestors had been in contact with it.

Even though it was a recreation, I visited the Governor’s palace, which is really amazing. It’s life began as a place for the royal governor. It later was home of the first two Governor’s of Virginia (Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson), but it’s life ended as a make-shift hospital in a fire in 1781, after the removal of the capitol to Richmond. There are a lot of authentic to the era pieces inside and the items that aren’t were often made by companies still in existence today that made furnishings for the Governor’s palace in the 18th century. As the tour completed, we had just a few minutes to tour the gardens before closing, so I will have to go back again. Really beautiful.

After all this, I broke for awhile and came back here for dinner and a little rest for the feet. I had a ghost tour at 8:30pm, so it was nice for some down time. I didn’t walk back from here. I had a few groceries to pick up. The neat part of my hotel room (and there aren’t many) is the fridge and microwave so that I don’t have to eat take-out constantly. So, provisions taken care of, I decided to drive to the Welcome center and try that approach. I had yet to walk from that direction. It was at least as long a walk as from the hotel. Maybe longer… But nice as there were buildings I had not yet seen in that direction. However, I’m glad there are buses running back because after the ghost stories, I wouldn’t have relished the dark walk back on that winding, woodsy path…

The ghost stories were just great. They were all period stories, which regardless of truth, were stories that were told in the day when Colonial Williamsburg was one of, if not the most, important cities in Colonial America (can you tell I’ve been feed propoganda all day?). Each were told inside authentic Colonial homes by candle light! Wheee! One had some familiar family names but I’ll have to check my notes at home to see if there’s a connection or not. Not uncommon names, so it could be merely a coincidence, but I’ll cross check it eventually.

I’m spent, but tomorrow is another day. I plan (hopefully) to get an early start so that I can drive over to the welcome center and hop the bus to Jamestown. There are two attractions there, one is the actual site of Jamestown where the first settlement was back in 1607. My Ancestors, Dr. John Woodson and wife, Sarah, landed there some years later in 1619, but that’s the draw for me outside of the history of the place itself. The other attraction is a recreation, somewhat like Williamsburg, of life in the original settlement. Unlike Williamsburg, the recreation isn’t on the actual site. I like that in some ways since when you visit the original site of Jamestown, what you see left is genuine, and you can watch the archaeolgists dig. When you visit the other site, you know it’s entirely a recreation. Not a bad thing, mind you.

Random fact learned today. In colonial times, the maximum distance a person could travel in a day was 70 miles. The max, mind you, was less than most of us drive on a wide open interstate highway in an hour… Remember, this is before rail travel. People traveled by boat or horse.

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