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Published: November 26th 2008
Detail of the Capitol.
We head south to Virginia to spend a weekend with Seth’s parents and grandmother in Colonial Williamsburg. We intentionally avoid the interstate and so it’s a lovely, scenic drive. Friday night is mostly spent catching up with family.
Saturday we start our day at Friendly’s, and I just can’t say that was a good idea. I felt as though we’d gone out of our way to find the slowest and most inept server in the state. But we eventually make it into Colonial Williamsburg, via the Welcome Center buses. We begin delving into 18th century life with a visit to the Governor’s Palace. It was completed in 1772 and is decorated as it would have been just prior to the Revolution. There are 540 weapons on display within the house - quite a collection of rifles and swords! - and the rifles on display in the foyer are original 17th century rifles. I loved the wallpaper in the family room which was made of Spanish gilded leather. Also, within the Palace is the Blue Ballroom, the largest room in Colonial Williamsburg.
We move on to view homes along the Palace Green and explore the Episcopal Church - which has
been continuously in use since 1715 - and the church grounds and graveyard. Then we seek out some lunch, but it’s getting late and the taverns are closing or offer an hour and a half wait… so we move on to Merchant’s Square and dine at the Cheese Shop. Later we’re back in the colony and see a shoemaker, a leatherworker, a silversmith, a plant nursery, and browse various shops. We then tour the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, both located in a beautiful brick building. This building was, incidentally, the location of the country’s first insane asylum. So the first exhibit we explore is The Public Hospital of 1773. It’s downright creepy and displays items like a Tranquilizer Chair, which is a wooden chair the unruly were strapped into during the early 19th century, and an Utica Crib, which is a wooden, coffin-like box with mesh wire on three sides that REALLY unruly patients were placed within during the late 19th century. The museum also had a lot of great stuff like porcelain statues and dishes, painted portraits, a life-size carving of a three-year-old girl, 18th century furniture, antique banjos, and a
Hippocerous carved from walnut.
Sunday is hazy, as I barely slept the night before. I’ve never been woken by a squawking air conditioner at 4 a.m., and it didn’t help that I’d gone to sleep late as it was. Then I spent the first part of the morning cleaning the black dust that had spouted from the air vent all over our toiletries.
Like yesterday it is cold and windy, but the leaves are changing and just barely falling, so the pretty view makes up for my frostbitten face. We take a tour of the Capitol Building, which I love for its architectural details, like the arched walkway between the turrets. This beautiful building is where the seeds of the American Revolution were born. The General Courtroom here was the only courtroom where Jefferson ever tried a case and also the location of the hanging of 13 of Blackbeard’s pirates. The 300-year-old Speaker’s chair is original and the tour guide also shows us the brand they used to mark convicted thieves with a “T” on their hand.
Next we search out lunch and decide on the King’s Arms Tavern. The inside is quaint and nice and the
staff is friendly. I order the “Chopped Beefsteak: Topped with Cheddar Cheese and a Rasher of salty Ham on griddled Bread with Tavern-fried Potatoes,” which actually turns out to be a cheeseburger topped with a slice of ham and served with soggy French fries. For the five of us, the bill came to eighty dollars before tip, and I am in no way accustomed to eighty-dollar lunches. It was good, but it wasn’t that good.
We tour some more of Williamsburg, visiting a wigmaker, blacksmith and a bindery. I was interested to find out, from the bookbinder, that those little bumps on the sides of the spine are from the string used to bind the books, that many books in colonial times were sold without covers because the covers were just too expensive, and that it was illegal for all but a few authorized publishers in places like London and Cambridge, England to print a Holy Bible. Why? Well, it turns out that it’s really, really expensive for the average printer to set all that type anyway, but also, people make mistakes. One publisher neglected to include the word “not” in the seventh commandment. Thou shall commit adultery. Nice.
We watch bits of some live performances that consist more of long speeches than anything else, and then we say goodbye to Colonial Williamsburg. Tomorrow we will visit Jamestown.
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