Friday, September 14, 2012


We spent the second half of their visit in Williamsburg.  On Friday, we checked out Colonial Williamsburg--or at least, the plantation exhibit and the Revolutionary City portions of Colonial Williamsburg.  We had a good time, but we weren't as engaged as we might otherwise have been because it was so terribly hot.  We also didn't take as many pictures.  I took a few at the beginning, then handed the camera off to Wade after we left the plantation and forgot to take it back.  It was still a really neat experience, despite the heat.

The plantation exhibit is actually a functioning farm.  Perhaps it isn't functioning efficiently enough to actually sustain anyone, but it has been, and is still being, built and run the way the colonists did it 400 years ago.  And the costumed staff were just full of information, about the farm, the animals, everything.  For example, did you know that the temperatures 400 years ago were about 25° cooler than they are now?  Their summers were much more mild, but their winters were more severe.

The carpenters on the farm were working on an armory for the town.  They said they would construct the building there, label all of the pieces, then dismantle it and reassemble it in its final location.  Everything was cut and measured by hand, with the same kinds of tools the colonists had available.  And we could walk around their site, asking questions, examining their tools...  They told us that while the colonists had nails, they didn't have any that were large enough or strong enough to hold together the large wood beams they used, so instead they used carved wooden pegs.  So crazy!
After leaving the plantation, we went on to the Revolutionary City area.  We got there just in time to get a good seat for the beginning of a series of mini-shows, dramatizing events that occurred in Williamsburg during the Revolutionary War.  It was really neat, because in the half hour or so before it started, the players   started filtering in, and chatting with each other and the tourists, talking about horrific market prices and unscrupulous merchants taking advantage of the war to make a profit.  This set the stage for the first episode, a confrontation between a merchant who was caught hoarding salt (to drive up the price) and the towns people, who had had enough of the merchants' exploitation. After that one, I honestly didn't catch much until the end because I was preoccupied with the girls (chasing Kaylie, taking Elora to the potty), and couldn't really hear them anyway.

But I did see this last bit, with the fife and drum players, a speech from the French general Lafayette, and demonstrations of the muskets and canons firing.  I also read through the program later that evening, which helped to fill in the holes.

a funny shot of Elora outside the Jamestown Settlement
Brandon joined us Friday night (he'd had to go to work that day because they were short-handed) and we all went on Saturday to check out the Jamestown Settlement, which has recreations of a small Powhatan villiage, the three ships that brought John Smith and his fellows to Virginia, and the Jamestown fort.

Once again, the villiage was as authentic as they could make it, and there were costumed staff on hand to answer questions.  We spent a long time talking to one woman about what life would have been like, and again, it was terribly interesting.  No stores at all, like there was in England at the time.  You either made it yourself, or did without.  The homes had to be rebuilt, or at least re-covered frequently, they had to have fires burning in their homes year-round to combat the humidity, their clothing and bedding were made of smelly hides...  The average life expectancy for those people was only about 40 years. Children as young as 3 would have started learning the skills needed to survive, and would be pretty much self-sufficient by the time they became teens.  In-sane.

If we'd lived back then, Elora would already be a contributing member of society.  She'd be weaving, or guarding crops,  and helping the women with their tasks.
The ships, I think, were the most interesting for me, perhaps because they surprised me the most.  They were tiny, and everything in them was tiny!  Even the largest, the Susan Constant, was little more than a glorified yacht, and they sailed across the Atlantic in something like that??

See the ship behind Brandon in the top left picture?  Yeah, that was the biggest one.  The one at the bottom is the ship's kitchen, with a berth for the cook. (If that bed was more than 4 feet long, I'll eat my bonnet.)  The girl in the top right picture was showing us her diptych, a hand-held sundial that was surprisingly accurate.  She was also full of information--for example, there were no women aboard any of the three ships, so while her costume might be accurate, her gender was not.  I just can't imagine being trapped on a tiny boat with a bunch of stinky men, tiny beds and bad food for months, relying only on the wind, a few simple tools and the grace of God to get them where they wanted to go.

Which was an untamed wilderness when they got there.  Man, I am so glad that I live now.  I would have made a terrible colonist.

Mom and Wade outside one of the homes in the fort.

In the fort: a bedroom, a wash tub, the (yes, THE) oven, and the armory.  I have never been so glad to be a spoiled MODERN American.

There were a few children's games set up inside the fort, like a simple ring toss and nine pins.  Everything was made either of rope or wood, including the ball.  I'd expected it to be made of leather, and stuffed tight with cornmeal or something, but no, it had been carved from wood.  Brandon and Elora spent a while playing the nine pins game.  She wasn't very good at it, but she definitely had fun with it.

There were butterflies fluttering around everywhere.  You'd think we were touring a butterfly garden or something.  There were big ones, little ones, bright ones, dull ones.  One was kind enough to stay still for a nice portrait.  And whatever plant he's sitting on, the bees and butterflies both loved it.  They were all but swarming over it.  The best were the two that were playing with each other.  It was like a dance, the way they kept tumbling around one another in the air.

Saturday night, Brandon and I got to go out for a date night.  It had been so long since we had been out, just the two of us, that I can't remember the last time.  We went first to a restaurant/bar called Ocean & Ale but since we'd snacked on left-overs earlier, neither of us was very hungry.  We got an appetizer and a couple of drinks, and just generally enjoyed one another's company.  After we'd been there for an hour or so, a live reggae band came on.  We stayed through four or five songs then decided to move on.  (They were quite good, but it was so loud that we had to yell into each other's ears just to be heard.)  We went next to a little dive bar right outside the campus of William and Mary called the Green Leafe.  It was a little weird, because they were all college age, and talking about classes and the football game (W&M had played a home game that night) and who had slept with whom.  Brandon had never been a part of the college scene, and I've been out of it for a good seven years.  So yeah, it was a little odd.  But after laughing about that for a bit, we ended up in a really great discussion of parenting attitudes & philosophies, past and present, in various societies throughout the world.  It was fantastic.  We got back to the suite at about one, unanimously decreeing the Date Night a total success.  (Thanks, Mom and Wade, for keeping the girls!)

Sunday we went back to Colonial Williamsburg to do some souvenir shopping, and to get lunch in one of their authentic colonial taverns.  We hadn't made it to the shopping district, and Mom wanted goodies to take back to their other grandchildren.  And, naturally, we had to go into the gourmet candy store as well...  I ended up with 2 giant chocolate dipped strawberries (they were eaten immediately), 2 giant chocolate truffles, and some chocolate covered potato chips for Brandon.  Not to mention the gummy dinosaurs that mom got for Elora, or the chocolate covered cashews she got for me, or the pound and a half of fudge that I'd gotten the day before.  Holy cow.  YUM.  Elora has a few dinosaurs left, and I haven't opened my cashews yet, but the rest?  G-O-N-E.  Thank God I had help eating that fudge, or I'd be both sick as a dog and big as a house, but man, was it good.

This was in Williamsburg on Sunday.  It's the best picture that we got of Mom and me together.  :)  
The last place we went into before leaving was the Prentis Store, where they sell all of the things made by the artisans there. Everything in the shop was gorgeous, but the best by far was the hand spun, hand-dyed yarn made from their own sheep.

I thought immediately of you, Corinnea.  Gorgeous, gorgeous colors.  The photo really does not do it justice.  I wanted some, bad, but it was definitely out of my price range; $35 for the smaller skeins, $42 for the larger.  I'm kicking myself now, because I didn't even ask to touch it.  Sigh.
Next time.


  1. What a great trip! I so wish I could have visited that area when we lived only a few hours away...
    The yarn? YUM! I can't believe you didn't touch it!!
    So glad you all had such a good time!

  2. SO fun! I loved it when we visited. You got to have much more interaction with the people then I did (matts not much of a history person) I love all of the information! I was watching something the other day (can't think of what it is now) but it was showing a 3rd world country and what a child is expected to do by age 3 and i realized I really need to step up my expectations of Micah's abilities! We do not give kids enough credit for their abilities.
    thanks for sharing!