Historic journeys

November 2, 2007 at 4:26 pm | Posted in baby, blogging, Christmas, country life, country living, dating, faith, family, food, gifts, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, soup recipes, travel, yarn | 19 Comments

A peddler woman in Colonial WilliamsburgWe have been on vacation, and oh … the things we have seen.

Our primary mission was a visit with my mother’s identical twin sister and her husband, down in North Carolina. My uncle’s health has been slipping over the past year, and I wanted him to meet my husband while he is still living at home and able to participate in a visit.

On the way south, we visited Colonial Williamsburg where we spent three nights and two full days. My husband had been there many years ago with his family and had always wanted to return. As for me, I have dreamed of making visits to the historical places of early America where I might tread on the same ground as our beloved forefathers.

Sample of Outbuildings in Colonial WilliamsburgWhen I was in school, history was pretty much the most boring of all subjects. Though in fact, it was not history itself that was boring, it was the manner in which it was taught. It was not until I could, as an adult, reach for and read books regarding specific times and subjects of history of interest to me that history began to spring to life within my mind and heart. I have been particularly interested in our forefathers; I want to know what was on their minds, in their hearts and souls … why did they have the thoughts they did, take the actions they took, and make the sacrifices they made in the establishment of America as an independent and democratic nation.

Exterior View of Bassett Hall in Colonial WilliamsburgI wanted to understand the philosophies that inspired them, the policies they disagreed with, the struggles they faced amongst themselves so that I could better understand and value my own relationship with my country. Some years ago, over the 4th of July weekend, I read a book titled “Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention May to September 1787” by Catherine Drinker Bowen and it became one of my favorites of all time. The writer pieced together the events and circumstances that resulted in the drafting and eventual ratification of The Constitution based on journal entries, letters, etc. from the people involved at the time. For me, the book read like a novel and I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in the subject … young or old.

Williamsburg, if you are not familiar with it, is a city of considerable historical importance to America, for it is the place where many of the key figures in the shaping of the country lived, met, worshiped, made decisions, and took actions which intimately affect our lives today. Though there was a time when Williamsburg was fading away and might have been lost completely, today many of the original buildings have been preserved and those that had been lost or destroyed by various events have been reconstructed on the very ground where they stood long ago.

An Interior View of Basset Hall at Colonial WilliamsburgThe weather while we were there was perfect: clear blue skies, random scatterings of puffy little clouds, temperatures in the upper 70’s during the day and upper 50’s in the mornings. Never too cool, never too warm. There were no times of heavy crowd congestion because we visited so late in October.

I am grateful we had a full two days to explore the village, because we never felt rushed or thwarted from seeing or doing any of the items of interest to us. The restored and reconstructed buildings were spectacular, the interiors and artifacts were immaculate, and some of the folks who interpreted various anonymous and famous characters from the colonial days did a marvelous job of bringing that time in history to life.

A cabin on Great Hopes Plantation in Colonial WilliamsburgWe began our tour on foot (if you choose, you may take a shuttle bus from the Visitor’s Center to any of several points within the Historic Area), walking from the official Visitor’s Center across the Pedestrian Bridge toward the Historic Area. Just across the bridge, before entering the village, we stopped by Great Hopes Plantation which is a recreation of a small period plantation. The plantation was manned by African American interpreters who gave us an informative tour of the buildings and grounds as well as an education in what life and living would have consisted of for African slaves during Revolutionary times.

Next, we headed into the Historic Area and made our way to the Governor’s “Palace”. I say “Palace” in quotes because it is not a palace by European standards, and is instead a rather large handsome home from my perspective. I am, however, certain it was palatial compared to how most people in America lived at the time.

General George Washington as portrayed by Interpreter by Ron Carnigie at Colonial WilliamsburgThe second day of our visit we stumbled upon a presentation of General George Washington making a speech which he originally delivered in New York during the early part of the Revolutionary War. When we saw the “General” arrive for the outdoor speech, we decided to sit for a few minutes and see what it was like. Sitting on rough log benches under the mottled shade of some lovely bark-less trees, we both became so mesmerized by interpreter Ron Carnegie that we could not pull ourselves away.

Following the speech there was an open question and answer period in which General Washington fielded any and all questions offered by visitors. Mr. Carnegie stayed in character and true to the date of the speech he had just delivered throughout a very long question and answer period. There was not one point of that history and its time line that anyone in the audience knew better or more accurately than he did.

There was something about his presentation that left us both feeling a magical connection with the actual life, times, and events of our colonial forefathers. Later we visited Bruton Parish Church: built in the 1600’s, the original building is still standing today.

The Placard on the Pew Where George Washington regularly sat at Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg

“Among the men of the Revolution who attended Bruton Parish Church were Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Richard Henry Lee, George Wythe, Patrick Henry, and George Mason. But the building’s history, and that of its churchyard, goes back further in time.Dating from 1715, the present structure is the third in a series of Anglican houses of worship that began in 1660.” ~ http://www.ColonialWilliamsburg.com

The pews where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other famous people of the time regularly sat are marked with placards and I have to say, when I stood on the floor of that church knowing those great men had stood on the exact same floor in that exact same place, and I looked at the very pews where they once took their devotions, it was moving beyond words.

I love the fact that my husband and I are equally moved by such things and that we both have a terribly deep appreciation of the opportunities and experiences that abound in a place like Colonial Williamsburg. To be able to share such an adventure emotionally with someone you love adds tangible depth to an already tight spiritual bond.

Side Bar: Interesting to note, while Colonial Williamsburg is a commercial, living history museum, there are people who actually live as residents in the village. How curious it must be to live within a museum, for children to grow up within a zone of daily time travel seeing the old mixed in with the new.

Return to Blog: Along with beautiful old buildings and lovely tree lined streets, we saw many animals throughout the village … oxen, horses, dogs (visitors may bring dogs on leashes by the way), birds, chickens, pigs, and the like. We had apples with us for munching, and a couple of times my husband treated an ox or horse to one of the apples. Later we overheard a message playing on a shuttle bus reminding visitors not to feed the animals … whoops!

Buttons and Scissors in a shop in Colonial WilliamsburgWe both loved the interiors of various shops where interpreters performed various arts and crafts of the time including woodworkers, blacksmiths, tailors, jewelers, gun smiths, saddle makers, etc. The tools and supplies on hand in the various shops were awesome to behold and delicious to ponder.

At the end of our second day, as closing time for the shops and other buildings in the Historic Area drew near, we waited near the stairs of the Courthouse for the arrival of General Washington on horseback. After a good-sized crowd had gathered, we heard the distant sound of the Fifes and Drums, heralding the impending arrival of the General. As the Fifes and Drums drew nearer, the music and beat of the drums created a growing sense of excitement in my heart. I felt truly transported to the powerful feelings such times and scenes must have inspired to people of the day.

An interior view of a building in Colonial WilliamsburgWhen we caught sight of the Fifes and Drums, we could see they were accompanied by marching soldiers and it was apparent visitors to the museum had been “recruited” to join the troops, marching along in civilian clothes, awkwardly trying to keep step in formation with the professionals. Once they all arrived and assumed position on the street in front of the courtyard steps, we heard the rapid clip clop of horses hooves … General Washington had come to address his men and the citizens of Williamsburg as he prepared to leave for Yorktown.

It was an emotional ending to an educational two-day trip back in time. We ended our day at the King’s Arms where we were served a delicious authentic colonial meal and entertained by period interpreters. My favorite dish was the creamy Peanut Soup … oh, yum, yum, yum.

Our visit to Williamsburg was my husband’s doing and planning, and a dream come true for me. As we sat down to dinner that second night, I was overcome by tears for a moment because I felt such happiness and gratitude. It was a powerful, humble, and fulfilling start to the best vacation experience I have had.

Next week I will share the continuing story of our vacation, as we ventured down into North Carolina to touch bases with a handful of my relatives and my Southern roots.

Gabrielle’s hand knit sweater as the Christmas project beginsMeanwhile, I have knitting news … here is a peak at a Christmas present I am knitting for my husband’s nephew’s baby boy … a sweet little hugs and kisses sweater. More details about this project early next week.

Below you will find a few more photos from Williamsburg for your enjoyment.

Have a great weekend!

~firefly

A beautiful red brick building in Colonial Williamsburg

A laundry bucket in Colonial Williamsburg

A beautiful stream in Colonial Williamsburg

A sweet little birdie in Colonial Williamsburg

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19 Comments »

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  1. I think its fabulous you enjoyed your trip. In my youth I was one of those living residents. We restored a primary residence and also the Gov’s rose garden Maze which had burned down.
    I learned so much about the history of our country by age ten from living in actual Williamsburg!

  2. Hi Firefly! So good to get a new post and such a richly illustrated one at that! I have been wanting to go to Williamsburg for a long time. Sounds like a wonderful trip. Thank you for the beautiful visuals, too! Amazing that someone who lived in the museum has already commented here! Yes, that must be quite a lifestyle. …

  3. Wonderful photos as always. I’ve always wanted to visit there. As a history teacher it continually frustrates me to hear how many people found history boring at school – taught correctly it is a fascinating subject.

  4. My goodness, it has been a while! Thanks for the note in my e-mail – I got really busy around this time last year and, among other things, moved my blog and lost my blogroll.

    Your photography is lovely, as always. What a lovely early Christmas gift.

  5. I’m glad you enjoyed your trip! We visited there this past September, after not having visited for about 20 years. It was still as great as the first time …

  6. Glad you enjoyed Williamsburg. Have you visited Sturbridge Village? Great to visit around Thanksgiving or visit in the spring. Maybe you can stop at Kykuit on the way home. The Rockefeller home is filled with art and you would enjoy it. It is part of the Sleepy Hollow restorations

    Kate

  7. I grew up in Gloucester VA, about 45 minutes away from C.W., and went to a private school in Williamsburg – so when younger spent a bit of time in C.W.

    I worked in the Bake Shop my (second) senior year in college; it was interesting to learn something about the baking of the time (although I haven’t retained much…the gingerbread cakes are still my favorite – and the C.W. recipe I found on-line turns out well at home). And frustrating the day we had several deaf people come through the shop – I’m not sure if I was the one more frustrated or if they were at our inability to communicate; they refused to use paper and pencil when sign language didn’t suffice.

    If you get back, the Yorktown Monument and the Jamestown recreation are both good visits – definitely do avoid May through September though – that area is very hot and humid which makes outdoor activities uncomfortable to say the least. (Not to mention the much higher volume of tourist traffic…)

    Thanks for sharing your visit!

  8. Great photos! Colonial Williamsburg is one of my favorite places to visit. Did you get to see the Thomas Jefferson character as well?
    I’ve visited there only in the summer; I imagine that autumn is not only beautiful, but definitely more comfortable temperature-wise!
    If you haven’t already read it, a good book about the founding father of the US is “Founding Brothers” by Joseph Ellis.

  9. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience.
    The pictures are lovely. They remind me of some of our trips to the plantations along River Road in Louisiana. You really should visit those if you happen to come down this far.
    I just love the little “I got a forbidden apple!” grin on the oxen’s face. Too funny!

  10. Never having visited the area I was charmed by your description and pictures of the trip. Thank you for the chance to visit yet another destination that because of age I may never see in person.

  11. For me, also, history was a late love. Thank you for sharing the experience in such an inspiring manner.

  12. What wonderful trip and your description makes me want to climb in my car and start driving. I love history, and could cheerfully spend all my vacations in living history museums. Thank you for your thoughtful insiteful musings. Can’t wait to see what you may find to paint from that trip. I love your posts, and this one moved me deeply with your descriptions of the sights you saw, & the way they affected you. We do have a rich and colorful history I think all of us would benifit from seeing it closer. Thanks for taking us on your trip.

  13. did you get to see the glass harmonica player?

  14. Thanks for your lovely wee note which appeared in my inbox just the other day and brought a smile to my face! I’m glad to see you are as busy as ever, and though it doesn’t seem like it I have been popping in from time to time (all be it on the works computer – sssshhh!). Hope you have a wonderful Thanks giving.

  15. Firefly,

    I too loved your post and like Kate, wondered if you’ve been to Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. We are a bit later than Colonial Williamsburg. We’re early America, the year 1838 to be exact, unless it’s an election year, when we’re 1840. I work there as a teacher in museum education where I have the opportunity to make history “real” to the children and connect it with their lives. Anyway, I just wanted you to know that we are closer than Williamsburg should you ever get the chance to come this way. We’re always having special events, check us out on our website http://www.OSV.org.
    Or if you have any questions about it, just contact me. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll get it for you.
    Larissa

  16. Your words and photos brought tears to my eyes. This is my dream trip, and as the years pass I am more determined to get to Colonial Williamsburg and bathe myself in the history of the place and time. Thank you for sharing!

  17. Glad you had a great vacation. Your pictures are great, it makes you feel like you are there

  18. Really good and really interesting post. I expect (and other readers maybe :)) new useful posts from you!
    Good luck and successes in blogging!

  19. As a weaver, an historical interpreter of the mid-19th century, I was fascinated by your account of your trip to Williamsburg. It gave me a new perspective of my role from the observer’s point of view.

    My one and only trip to Williamsburg was as a 13 yr. old on the way to the New York World’s Fair in 1964. I loved it and felt we spent too little time there. I still have a bayberry candle and some hand-made glass from the shops there.

    I’m definitely putting a visit to Williamsburg on my “To Do” list. My husband is also a re-enactor, a potter, and I am sure he will enjoy it as much as I. You are right that experiences are more special when you have someone to share it with who loves it as much as you do.

    The thought also struck me that I wish more Americans would make trips like the one you and your husband took. Maybe then they would develop the conviction that we are all Americans with a common history and that there is more than unites us than divides us. It seems that issues and beliefs are so polarized now and it worries me terribly when I think about what this means for the future of our nation. Our forefathers were very different and unique men, but they managed to carve out a new nation. It is my fervent hope that our leaders can continue in this tradition to preserve that nation. Well, I’ll get off my soap box now and thank you for this lovely reminiscence of a fall trip!


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