First let me warn you – Joanna has been doing most of the writing but I decided that I would take this one on, so expect some “style differences”. I promise to try and not write it like a business case study.
We spent the steamy last three weeks of May in Williamsburg Virginia, in the heart of the “Historic Triangle” made up of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. We tried to balance the indoor museums with all of the outdoor activities so we wouldn’t completely melt in the 90ºF/90% humidity that was common for the period. We stayed at the Anvil Campground that was five minutes from Colonial Williamsburg. It is a small, well kept, family run RV Park and the premium site we had was well appointed with a patio, bench swing, fire pit and a picnic table with an umbrella. The staff were polite and very helpful at all times.
As a bonus, we were able to attend a storytelling performance by Darci Tucker, one of Joanna’s friends in the storytelling community. (Sorry for the grainy pictures – I was pushing the limits of the camera by shooting in just the reflected campfire light.) Later we had dinner with her and her husband.
And we had to make time to catch at least one game of the local minor league baseball team, the Tide. They are a triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles – and before you check the season stats (spoiler alert) they aren’t doing so well.
We have been to Colonial Williamsburg before, but that was about 40 years ago, and things have changed since the team there is always building, changing and improving. We both agreed that the time we had there was barely enough to do it justice. There are more than a dozen historical buildings, shops for all of the trades, several inns and taverns, as well as farms supporting a fair number of livestock including the sheep that they get all of their wool from and the horses and oxen used to provide carriage and cart tours of the property. There are two parallel roads a mile long each with connecting roads all lined with homes, shops, workshops and gardens.
It is free to walk the grounds and shop, but there is an admission fee to enter most of the historic buildings and participate in the tours. In addition to the interesting artifacts in all of the buildings, many of them also have speakers, performance artists and short plays depicting the historical events that took place in them around the time of the American Revolution.
One of the notable tours that we participated in was a tour of the gardens. They varied in style and design since some were kept as the were laid out during the first years of Williamsburg becoming an historical attraction and are not period correct for mid-1700’s and several that have been redesigned as a result of formal archaeological work on site.
Williamsburg events and classes
We were lucky enough to be in Colonial Williamsburg for Memorial Day and they put on a moving ceremony to mark the occasion.
While we were touring the weaving and spinning workshops, we discovered that there were several classes available while we were in town that Joanna was interested in. She found the time to attend two of them. One was a drop-spindle spinning class (where she discovered that if the wool is properly prepared it doesn’t bother her hands like raw wool does). The other class was for weaving that let her make her own tea towel. She was also able, due to her experiences in Barberville, to trade tricks and techniques with the presenters.
Yorktown is really three very different venues all within a long walking distance – about 4 miles round trip. The first is the Yorktown Battlefield National Park that was the site of the final battle of the American Revolution. Next is the American Revolution Museum run by the Jamestown trust and includes a typical museum of the period as well as a living history component outside. Finally is the town of Yorktown that is a cute little seaside (riverside with beach?) boardwalk town with boutiques, eateries, galleries and ice cream parlors. (Did you know that Ben and Jerry’s now has dairy-free ice cream-like products?)
The battlefield is spread out over several miles that is covered with a self guided driving tour as well as the museum/welcome center and a superb ranger talk that was very informative and amusing.
The American Revolution Museum along with the attached living history museum could take you most of a day to cover all by itself. I’m afraid the three hours we allotted for it probably didn’t do it justice but it did give us time to see the six-pound cannon demonstration and firing.
To get between the battlefield and the museum, you can walk right through the village along the beach. We stopped at the Yorktown Pub for some typical but well prepared boardwalk fare.
Historic Jamestown claims to be the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States. The trust that runs Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum have done a nice job of blending a living history museum with a professional, on going archaeological dig site. Several of the walking tours are led by the staff archaeologists with in depth knowledge of the colonial era, the history of the site up through the ages, and the current state of the science being used to learn more about the colony.
The Jamestown location is actually two sites. The inland site consists of a museum focused on just the Jamestown part in colonial America, an area for historical reenactments and replica of the boats used by the first colonists. The second site is on the island where the original settlement was and this is where the archaeological work is being done.
Virginia Living Museum
As a bit of a break from the colonial era artifacts that we have been immersed in for the last few weeks, we took a side trip to the Virginia Living Museum (VLM). The VLM includes an aquarium and a zoological park focused entirely on the ecology of Virginia from the Chesapeake Bay and Appalachian foot hills. Oh, and they had otters.
Finally Headed North
As we planned, this was a packed three weeks and its time to head north to try and get ahead of the heat, and cool off a little. Until then …