Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Fall Trip (Part 4)

We got up on Wednesday and went to the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center. There was not a huge crowd (given that most kids were not out of school). We traded in our vouchers for what they called "One Plus" passes. These are in effect two day passes. They allow you into the "Governor's Mansion".

One we had our passes, we walked across the bridge to Colonial Williamsburg. They have markers on the bridge telling your of the changes that occur as you "go back in time". For example, "You've never seen TV" or "You've never been more than 20 miles from home". My favorate was "You've never paid income tax and you won't get Social Security". I'd make that trade in a heartbeat. The first thing you pass is a working plantation and then an area where you can get an orientation to the settlement. Then, you reach the actual area.

It's spaced out very nicely and covers well over a hundred acres. You first reach the Governor's mansion where the Governor of Virginia lived at the time (Lord Dunsmore). You can tour the mansion (we didn't). You can walk the garden and go into the back courtyard where famous men speak. The first day, we heard Patrick Henry. I found it very interesting as he spoke for almost 45 minutes about the current situation (pre Revolutionary War). Donna lost interest a few minutes into the speech.

Afterwards, we started walking around. You can actually walk the streets freely without a pass. The buildings that require a pass (and that you can enter) have a British flag in front of them. We went into the courthouse and observed several trials. We walked into a few shops as well. We finally headed to the edge of the settlement to look for somewhere to eat. The University of William and Mary is right next to it. There was supposedly a Chick-Fil-A there, but we could never find it. I could tell Donna was kinda bored, so we left (you could come and go) and went to a Wendy's to eat.

I took Donna back to our resort and headed back to CW. I first went to see the "gaol". It was very interesting to see. The jailer and his family actually lived there. The cells had "indoor plumbing". It was used until 1910. Afterwards, I headed to the Capitol Building - the location of the House of Burgesses. Then, I walked around to the Wigmaker and Shoemaker's shops.

I then waited in line to go in the Coffeehouse. It was very interesting. We first sat in the parlor where men would talk and play cards, dice or checkers. We went into the common serving area where on the men working there told us of rumors going around. The lady doing the tour would occasionally lean conspiratorially up to one of us with a rumor about something going on. We finally went down to the basement where we were given a free sample of coffee or "chocolate".

Once I got it, it was nearly 3:00pm. At this time, they put on a performance starting with the reading of the newly received "Declaration of Independence" at the Capitol Building. Then, a young man gathered us around to give news of the Colonials victory at Saratoga. We then went to a stage behind the coffeehouse, where a captured British officer was brought forth to be condemned for his actions in attacking and scalping Colonials. There was more to come, however a strong rain began to fall. So, I left.

We had been invited when we were at the Williamsburg church of Christ on Sunday night to eat with them before Wednesday night Bible Study. We went and had an excellent meal with them. We also enjoyed the Bible Study.

On Thursday, I really wanted to hear George Washington speak. So we went back to CW to hear it. He spoke in the time frame of right after the Boston Tea Party. He was urging Colonials not to buy British goods. He played his character well. Several people asking questions called him General and he corrected them and said he was a Colonel. Others used the word "boycott". He said that he was not familiar with that term and perhaps the person meant "embargo". The term "boycott" did not come about until the 1880's. He kept stressing how we were to be "loyal" subjects to the crown.

After this, there was a reenactment of the Scioto Indians who were guests of the Governor. At this point, they were very worried because the Governor had left because he was worried about his safety with the possibility of the Colonials revolting. When it was over, we saw some more of the artisans. Watching the brick maker was especially interesting. We left and went back to the resort.

After lunch, I went out on my own to see Jamestown. It is a national park as well in the "Colonial Triangle". It was kinda neat to see it. My admission was included in the Yorktown pass I'd bought a couple of days before. However, the one thing it lacked was the park rangers to "bring it alive". I grabbed us something to eat on the way back and we ate and packed to leave the next day.

What was my overall opinion? If you are a history buff, you'll love Colonial Williamsburg. If you're not, it's mildly interesting but not something you'd spend two days at (like I did). Historic Jamestowne (yes with an e) again is interesting if you are a history buff but not that great if you're not.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Fall Trip (Part 3)

We got up on Tuesday and ate at a place called Mama Steve's Pancake House. The food was excellent and there was plenty of it. Once we finished, we headed out.

Donna has always wanted to visit a lighthouse. We've never really gone anywhere that is close to one. I had found the Cape Henry Lighthouse on the map about an hour's drive from Williamsburg. So, we decided to take the plunge and go. We also found there was a zoo in Norfolk right on the way back, so we could stop there afterwards if we chose.

There are actully two lighthouses. One is the one that is actually in use and the other is the old one built originally in 1792. They are the Cape Henry Lighthouse. They are both located on a military base - Fort Story. You have to show ID and get a pass to get in. Then, they have you get out of your car and check all over for security purposes. I totally understand that. The man leading the search said he had a grandmother with the last name of Yancy. Since I know my ancestors came from Virginia, I wish I would have had time to talk to him more about that...

We got to the lighthouses. The newer one is a black and white structure there on the Chesapeake Bay. You are not allowed to go up in that one. We could go up in the old lighthouse (pictured above). It's a very imposing brick structure built in 1792. You pay 4.00 and you can go up the lighthouse. Of course, I was game to up so off we went.

Donna as you may know has a fear of heights. I was concerned about her going up in it and unfortuantely, she got about 3/4 of the way up and couldn't go any farther. It is somewhat intimidating. There is a long spiral staircase leading to a ladder to get to the top. I made it up and the view was wonderful. It it warm up there even though there is no light in it any more. The glass all around allows the sun in and makes it very warm. I made it back down OK. I didn't see Donna so I went back down the to our car, but she wasn't there either. Turns out she was on a bench outside the lighthouse and I somehow missed her. She saw me taking pictures of the other lighthouse and came out to meet me and we left.

We went on to the Zoo in Norfolk. It was not a huge zoo, but we found it very nice anyway. There wasn't a huge crowd, so we were able to take our time in viewing the animals. We saw all sorts of animals. We were able to get really close to the giraffe. We also saw some striped antelopes called bongos. We left and went to eat an early dinner at Chili's. We were watching Cash Cab later and the video question to double the money showed a picture of striped antelopes and asked "This creature shares it name with a type of drum". We both immeidately shouted out "Bongo".

We rested for the evening in our room. We planned to go to Colonial Williamsburg the next day. I'll give you my review of that in my next post.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Fall Trip (part 2)...

Now that we were settled into our rooms at the resort, we started planning the week in Williamsburg. We took a walk Monday morning and then went to that survey/lunch I had mentioned we'd signed up for. When we walked into the building we were supposed to be in, I got an immediate bad feeling. There was the usual high pressure look of a bunch of tables with couples and a salesman at each. We went to the front of the building to sign in and were told to wait. We were sorely tempted to just bolt...

After about ten minutes, a gentleman came out and called out our names. We went back with him. There was actually some food in the back. I got a polish sausage and Donna got some barbeque. We went to his office and ate and he came back and asked questions about our stay and our experience with Wyndham. He then started talking about our home resort where we have ownership (Nashville). He asked if we were concerned since the resort had to considerably rebuilt after the recent floods. He offered us the chance to trade for another timeshare there at Williamsburg. He came back with the terms. We'd get to do this for only 300.00 a month (for 60 months!). I told him "Absolutely not, We don't borrow money for anything". He was very nice about it (unlike our last experience in Nashville where we were literally told we were stupid not to accept). He escorted us to the exit survey and we got our tickets to Colonial Williamsburg. They were even the more expensive two day passes, so it wasn't a bad experience at all!

I've said this before, but if we had it to do all over again, we wouldn't buy the timeshare. When we bought it in 1997, Nashville was the home of Opryland and we envisioned being able to stay there and literally walk to Opryland. The park closed only a few months after our purchase. Also at that time, the Internet was in its infancy and it was much more difficult to find places to stay than it is now. We've gotten a lot of fun out of it, but I still wouldn't do it again.

Donna wanted to rest so I decided to forage out to Yorktown. This of course is the site where the Revolutionary War ended so I was very interested in seeing it. One thing you have to realize is there are two places to go. One is the actual National Park at the site of the actual battlefield. The second is "Yorktown Victory Center". The latter is more for entertainment purposes from what I hear. The true history buff would much more enjoy the actual park.

I paid 10.00 which covers your entrance there and to the Jamestown National Park. There is a small museum to see plus the battlefield around the Visitor Center. The best part though were the tours the Park Rangers gave. They talked about the different type of cannon (I had no idea) plus how the actual battle was fought. They discussed how the war actually turned here for the Colonials. It was very interesting. I then took a short walk to see the Yorktown monument and the acutal city of Yorktown. There are a few shops and things to see there (including the cave General Cornwallis hid in for a while) but nothing stupendous. I finally took the driving tour of the rest of the Yorktown Battlefield. The neatest thing was seeing the site where George Washington camped and to realize you were standing where he stood almost 230 years ago!

I went back to the resort and picked up Donna and we went to the Longhorn Steakhouse and enjoyed an excellent dinner. We came back and watched a bit of Monday Night Football and went to sleep.

Part 3 is about our foraging out of the "Colonial Triangle" to see something Donna has always wanted to see..