Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Williamsburg in April

Over the next few days (in between working on that May calendar that I haven't gotten out yet) I'll be sharing what we've been doing over the last week. On Wednesday I rented a car and the kids and I drove to a KOA in Williamsburg, VA. I had reservations for a Kamper Kabin for 2 nights. (BTW, I hate that they spell those words with K's.) We checked out the Williamburg Visitor Center that night and planned for the next day. When we arrived the next morning at 8:45 am, there were no lines.

First off, if you homeschool, bring your affadavit. If you do, you'll get a 50% discount on your adult ticket! Woo hoo! We bought a one-day pass, so that little piece of legal paper got me $17 off. On the recommendation of the ticket seller we also bought tickets to tour the Govenor's Palace. ($6 for me, $3 for each kid.) No charge for kids under six (my youngest turns six this month). Total cost for me and 2 kids = $60 admission. We watched the movie at the visitor's center - very much worth the 30 min. We skipped the orientation tour as you enter the town. Maybe it would have been worth it, but with the very good map they give you, and the movie you already saw, it didn't seem worth another half hour.

On to the Govenor's Palace. We went to the near courtyard first and talked to the wheelwright. There were 2 men outside working on a wheel - they didn't seem very interested in talking to the public. One woman asked them if someone was going to put that wheel in their yard. One of them was visibly peeved. "Would you put a handmade wheel in your yard to rust and rot away?", He asked. So, we ventured into the "shop" to find another man. He asked if we had any questions to which I responded, "I don't think we know enough about wheelwrights to know what questions to ask." His reponse I found very amusing - "Yeah, everyone knows about the blacksmiths and the gunsmiths, wheelwrights aren't one of the hip crafts." Okay, so is everyone going to be like these whining or angry wheelwrights?!

The Govenor's Palace was pretty cool. Especially the entry hall with all the swords and muskets. Govenor's Mansion in WilliamsburgBut, there were about 40 people in our group and I felt we were being rushed. It was hard for the kids to see things (hey, hard for me to because I'm short!) with that many people. I would skip it until the kids were a few years older.

Before we left the palace area we stopped by to see the cook. Williamsburg Govenor's CookHe wasn't in character, but he was friendly, personable, very knowledgeable and didn't complain about a lack of respect for his craft.

From there we went to a mock trial which involved some of the guests as characters and a garden tavern for lunch. We got 3 large cornmuffins, 3 cups of baked beans and a turkey leg for $20. If you saw the prices of the other food you would know how happy I was that this filled us up nicely. After lunch we visited the magazine (where the gunpowder and weapons were kept). Stealing the GunpowderIn the movie they told about the British army coming in the middle of the night and stealing the gunpowder, so we needed our own version caught on pixels. From there to the crafts we haven't seen at sites in PA; a shoemaker, harness and saddlemaker, milliner, tailor and the silversmith. All of these were very interesting but the most engaging was the milliner. She stayed in character while teaching you all kinds of things about what people wore and the materials they used. She also mentioned that the tailor was boiling baleen to make boning for stays in back of her shop. We received a little biology lesson on whales as well as a history lesson from him.

Revolutionary CityFor 2 hours in the afternoon parts of the street were roped off for ticket holders only as actors portrayed different reactions from people in Williamsburg to the talk of independence from England. This is new and has been running for 5 weeks. The climax comes when someone who looks as though he just came off the frontier rallies everyone present (including guests) to parade down 100_1643.JPGto the capital to hear how Virginia was going to vote in Philadelphia, for or against independence. Statesmen reeactors gave eloquent speeches and we end with several "Huzzah!" cheers.

By the time we had visited a few shops and gotten to our car we had spent 9.5 hours in Williamsburg and although tired, had enjoyed it very much. I will say this, however, there are many places here in SE PA that will give you much the same presentation in terms of "living" history for MUCH less money. If you exhaust those first your family will have a bigger context to put Williamsburg into and you can spend more time learning about things you haven't encountered up here.

Click on the pictures to see more pics from my trip. Go to the Colonial Williamsburg website to see maps of the town, pics of the buildings and more.

Next: Jamestowne - in which we meet an archeologist


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