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Colonial Williamsburg with Mum and Dad
9th September 2001
We went back to Colonial Williamsburg to show Mum and Dad what it was like.
It's changed a lot since we last saw it. The gorgeous azalea gardens have been torn up so buses can turn around. The visitors centre is much bigger and is now very sterile. We got Mum and Dad a multi-day pass, so if we didn't see enough, we could come back later. Also, the tickets give us access to Carters Grove and we'll take Mum and Dad there later this week.
The first thing we wanted to do was show Mum and Dad the visitor's film about the history of Colonial Williamsburg, how it started as a run-down passed-over town, rebuilt by a minister with massive amounts of capital from the Rockefellers. But the intro film that we used to see was gone. Instead they showed a film made 40 years ago about the start of the War of Independence with Jack Lord, and set in the freshly rebuilt buildings of Williamsburg. It gave us the history of the original town, but not the history of the reconstruction. It was pretty good, even if it did last more than an hour. Jack Lord was very young then, and extremely handsome. So after that, we got in the bus, went to to the town area and visited most of the buildings that starred in the film.
We did the Governor's Palace, and got a very good guide. Started with an elderly Yorkshire man who entertained us while the previous groups got through the Palace. And then our very good guide took us through the palace. She explained lots of things and made it extremely interesting. It was spoilt by a guy who had a video camera surgically grafted to his body and who assumed this gave him the right to push in everywhere and get in front of people and take up enough room for 3. There were minor scuffles with him and many people were disgruntled. Each of the guides concentrates on different aspects of the Palace. This one concentrated on how it operated in 1774 when Lord Dunmore was off fighting the Indians and his wife was about to give birth to her eighth child, while the locals got really uppity about England. Other guides have concentrated on the political aspects, on the weaponry, and on the building. Every different aspect is interesting. By the time we leave this country, we'll be able to give tours ourselves.
We looked over Bruton Parish Church. This is a fully functioning church, and earlier, we saw cars parked around it. Sunday services are the only times cars are allowed into this part of the town. By the time we got to the church, the services were over, the greeters were in place and we got to look over the church. They follow some of the older Italian styles, even though it's not a Catholic church, and there are gravestones built into the middle aisle. There are people buried under where you walk, and this gives Anne the willies.
We went for lunch. We walked all the way over to the all-you-can-eat buffet at Williamsburg Inn, only to find that it was off. The Inn has been gutted and is being rebuilt. So we walked all the way back and ate at Chownings Tavern, in the back section where we could sit down in the fresh air under an arbor covered with grapevines. Our biggest problem was leaves falling on the table. We watched a young squirrel wander into the dining area, climb onto a table, then climb up a pole and wander around above us on the grapevine. The menu was as it was in 1774, but with old names for modern food. It was pleasant. Dad discovered that a chicken salad consists of a lot of fruit.
After lunch, we wandered down the main drag, past all the shops, and stopped in at a few. We stopped at the the bookbinders and had a discussion about Moroccan leather, fondled a beautiful crimson-died Moroccan kid-skin, and discussed how they prepare a bookbinding from it. While discussing the skin, we watched the bookbinders bind a book and prepare folios. I wanted to show Mum and Dad the print shop with the hand press, but it was shut this time.
We went in to the silversmith and had another look at the hand-made silver cutlery sets they sell. Last time, they were on sale, but now they are back to full price at about US $6,000 a set. One set has forks with three tines, and the other set has four-tined forks. One day, if we ever win the Virginia Lottery, we'll get a set. After that we wandered into a few smaller general shops and watched a few things and looked at the touristy junk for sale.
Finally, we did a very rushed tour through the Capitol building. This time there were no scenarios being enacted, so it was a bit disappointing. Mum and Dad were pretty tired by this time, so we sat them down for a rest while Anne and I went to a house that gets opened up only several times a year, and today was one of those days. It was the Geddy's House, a house owned by another silversmith. Had a quiet tour of the house with three schoolgirls. This house has a harpsichord, but a fairly modern one that people are allowed to touch. The three schoolgirls took turns sitting down and playing Bach and that was a magical part of that visit. They rushed off, so Anne played it a bit too. Nice sound, in tune, and we were allowed to open it up and see how it worked and fiddle with the guts. Then we got to see the silver and bronze foundry at the back. We operated the bellows and played with the sand moulds for casting small candlesticks, and then we headed back to pick up Mum and Dad.