A Travellerspoint blog

Jamestown and Yorktown

sunny 15 °C

Sorry guys I've been a bit slack in the blog writing department - unfortunately the Inn was not conducive to using a laptop.

I'm now in Charleston and my super large room has a desk and a proper office chair so no excuses now!!!

I had planned just to do Jamestown and Yorktown but on the advice of the Inn Owner, Fred, I decided to do Basset Hall as well - it's opening times are rather haphazard..... Basset Hall is where the Rockerfellers based theirselves when restoring Williamsburg in 1930's. It was an amazing piece of philanthropy that ensured that Williamsburg essentially had a zero unemployment rate during the Great Depression. Mr Rockerfeller initially only agreed to put in $4-5million to get the restoration underway but after becoming so enamoured with the project he ended up donating over $68million - not bad for a Yankee as they like to say....

Williamsburg people (not sure what the word for that is, Williamburgers?) are very proud that the Rockerfellers decided to base theirselves 2 months of the year for the rest of their lives in Williamsburg and it is definitely the least lavish of all their 5 houses. Apparently the Rockerfellers used to walk to the movies which endeared them enormously to the town.

Basset Hall is definitely homely and one could easily live their today. Purchasing the property also ensure that the forest around the town was preserved and this gives it the timewarp feeling that it has. The guide was fabulous - she could talk non-stop about the home and was full of fascinating details.

If you are ever in Williamsburg - park at the Tavern Parking lot - its free and nobody checks whether or not you are actually going to a tavern - when I told Fred that this is where I parked, he said that's where all the locals park and they try not to tell anyone about it.

After Basset Hall, I headed over to Yorktown where Lord Cornwallis surrended the English troops to George Washington. Again, another time warp of a town - only a few people live here and it has mostly been restored. It's incredibly quaint and I feel sorry for town when hoardes of tourists travel through the place. Luckily for me, the wind had died down and I was almost sweating in the sunshine. Had lunch at Carrot Hill which must rate as the most disorganised restaurant I have seen for some time. City dwellers were extremely frustrated at the lackadaisical service. Had a quick scout around the battlefield - lots of mounds and canons dotted around which after viewing the movie you could imagine Washington charging the troops at the English.

After Yorktown it was a scenic drive on the Colonial Parkway - the foliage is stunning and periodically a deer or two would dart across the highway. Jamestown was the first settlement of English speaking people in North America - what a strange site to choose - no fresh running water and surrounded by bullrushes. It's essentially an archeological site so not much reconstruction here. But you do get an idea of the bustling town that it became before it burnt entirely to the ground and forgotten about.

After walking around all day I headed to my final tavern (using the tavern parking of course) - this one was called Christiana Campbells and specialised in seafood - I had crab cakes - you really can't avoid crabcakes in Virginia and Maryland - they're famous for it - in Baltimore there's crab everything - including coffee mugs that read Feeling Crabby? These crab cakes were suberb - all flaky crab meat seasoned and spiced into a round pattie - it was absoulely delicous and filling - I followed that with a slap of rum n' raisin icecream - yes, you read that correctly - no scoops in Williamsburg - it was a gigantic slab!!!

Posted by natty176 07:32 Archived in USA Tagged williamsburg jamestown yorktown Comments (0)

Williamsburg

sunny 10 °C

I love Williamsburg - yes, it's a bit theme parky and there isn't the genuine friendliness of Annapolis - but on the whole its a lot of fun.

Williamsburg was inspired by one of the Rockerfellers' in 1930's to completely renovate the city to pre-revolutionary days - about 1765 - everybody in the "town" - nobody actually lives in the historical section permanently - is dressed up in a character and you pretend you are visiting for one of the events.

This could be a ball at the Governor's mansion, a delegate at the Williamsburg Capitol building, buying furniture or a new dress. It's all in 1765 style.

All the shops, taverns and museum only have tools that were available at 1765 (though computers and cash registers are discreetly hidden behind wooden screens). Each shop tells you a bit about themselves and what they do.

The wig maker was my favourite. It was run by a large African American woman and she had the driest wit - who knew people actually wore yak hair at one point.

The site is quite huge and you can walk around endlessly for ages. What I was surprised about was how wide the streets are - after the crooked narrow alley ways of Europe you can see why people wanted to migrate to USA. It's also a wonderful way to absorb lots of tourists.

Generally nearly everyone gets in the spirit of it and lots of parents hire costumes for their children for the day - so lots of colonial skirts and britches are running around.

A couple of New Yorkers were a bit miffed at some of the things - it was like get a life and relax a bit - its meant to be slow and genteel.

Thankfully none of the nasty things from 18th century were on show like sewarage running down the street, slaves toiling away and the hustle and bustle of horses and carriages en masse. Just a few to keep in the spirit of things........

I'll let the photos show how it was.............

Had dinner again in one of the taverns - more candles - beef brisket was on the menu - only in the USA do you see to get brisket - but it was absoultely delicious - like a rost beef..............

Today is Yorktown and Jamestown.....

Posted by natty176 05:08 Archived in USA Tagged williamsburg Comments (0)

Washington to Williamsburg via Monticello

rain 14 °C

It's 7.30am onThursday morning and I'm at Bentley Inn Manor waiting for breakfast to start........still another hour to go...........

Yesterday was Thomas Jefferson Day!!!!

The day started off with fog!!! Considering the hotel was located in Foggy Bottom it was most appropriate!!! That was the high point of the day weather wise - the rest of it was miserable and drizzly..........

The plan was to get to Monticello - the home of Thomas Jefferson by 12pm - it didn't exactly work out that way, While waiting for the traffic lights, got the fright of my life when all this glass came off the car in front of me - i thought i must have hit it as there was this loud crashing sign. To top it off, the guy in front of me just drove off rather wildly.....obviously it wasn't my fault.

Suddenly I had to find somewhere to park my car and check out the damage - thankfully there was none and I was rather perplexed. As I was trying to get back onto the route I stopped at some lights near where the incident had happened. There on top of the pass, this homeless guy is just chucking bits of rocks over the wall behind him. Very bizarre.

Now I was well and truly on my way and it started raining and it didn't stop all day. So my timeframes were completely shot - instead of stopping off for nice morning teas I was reduced to a quick dash at McDonalds - when did a double cheeseburger become an order for 2 cheeseburgers? One good thing is McDonalds now sells soups which is handy if you're in a hurry......

After driving through the most glorious foliage mountains I arrived at Monticello about an hour after my ticket - luckily it wasn't really busy so the lady it exchanged it for me.

What an operation it is - I'd hate to see it in the height of summer - the car parks are endless and the waiting areas for queues are huge. Luckily for me we could easily stroll to the theatre and then catch the shuttle bus up the hill (Monticello means Little Mountain). The number one thing everyone says about Monticello is that it is so much smaller than expected. And that's very true - what nobody does tell you is that half of it is underground. That is, all the working quarters so yes, it is small but not quite that small.

Since we couldn't take any pictures, I've just got some outside shots for you - It's a quite unpretentious house relative to his status and he was an amazing man and considering his vast debts - over $130k back then - its fabulous that the house and most of the contents have survived. About 2/3 of the possessions were his and have slowly been added over the years through private donations.

After Monticello it was off to Williamsburg - booked into the Thomas Jefferson room (yes, that was deliberate) at the Bentley Manor Inn - the hosts are lovely and the Inn itself is decked out in Colonial era furniture and decorations - it's quite delightful.

On their recommendation I headed into Williamsburg to eat at a tavern - at night the Taverns are lit by candlelight only - it's all rather dark and spooky and they only servd authentic 18th era food like Oyster Pie - I couldn't get into the first tavern - it's Veteran's Day here so effectively a long weekend - where's our Rembrance Day holiday? - we have way too few public holidays in Australia!!! At the second Tavern they felt sorry for the miserably forlorn Australian wet from her walk down the street and tucked me into the corner.

It's a lot of fun eating at the tavern - not so great for reading since it's all candlelight but they do provide plenty of entertainment - fiddle players, poetry readings, elaborate beer steins and oversized table napkins.

After walking back through the rain, I headed home for the first through-the-night sleep......

Yay - breakfast is open - early too - they must have felt sorry for me.................

Posted by natty176 06:30 Archived in USA Tagged williamsburg monticello Comments (0)

Annapolis

20 °C

It was off to Annapolis today - huh? Annapolis? This seems to be the response of most tourists when I told them where I was headed. Annapolis is the capital of Maryland and one of the USA's oldest state capitals. It was also once the capital of USA briefly after the revolution. It was named for Princess Anne (later Queen Anne).

A delightful one hour's drive out of Washington on the Chesapeake Bay - it's an absolutely charming town with none of the big city feels of most capital cities in Australia. Since after the Revolutionary War its prominence sank as Baltimore's prosperity grew, its managed to avoid all those horrible redevelopments of the 20th century.

And the natives are extremely friendly and proud of their city - no chain stores shops here either - it's all individual shops with only one Starbucks and a subway discretely signed. I could have gone mad here shopping but I restrained myself pretty well until the delightful pet shop store - needless to say my extremely spoiled cats already have their Christmas present........

It's fun just to walk around, window shop and admire the restoration - the lady at the historical society told me that while Williamsburg is a museum, Annapolis is a living working town despite all its historical renovations.

Made a stop at the Naval Academy and I'm sure to the horror of the residents - had the song "In the Navy" humming away in the back of my mind - - the achitecture is a cross between Invalides in Paris and Greenwich in London with an overlay of USA patriotism. Made a pit stop at the naval cafe but decided not to linger - way too many uniforms on display and I wasn't even a civilian but the lowest of the low - a visitor!!!

Saw two charming houses - the William Paca House and the Harrison Hammond House - what struck me that you don't see in Europe is the vivid colours of the Georgian era - while Europe proudly displays its homes as is - the American's have restored them to what it would have looked like at the time - and it's quite extraordinary - vivid turquoises, greens, reds...........

But I did have a laugh at one - the wife of one of the houses original owners was Mary Chew Paca - I kept thinking of wookies and "get that big walking carpet out of my way" - somehow I don't think that would have gone down well with the ultra conservative guide!!!

On that note - see you tomorrow when I leave Washington!!!

Posted by natty176 05:14 Archived in USA Tagged annapolis Comments (0)

Obscure Museums

Washington DC

sunny 21 °C

This blog has suddenly magically decided to show my pictures after spending ages last night trying to achieve just that - grrrrhhhhh!

Today was Indian summer day - a positively balmy 21 degrees.

Anyway, I could have worn shorts and t-shirt today if I had brought any - it's November!!!!

And so in the spirit of non-conformism today had nothing whatsoever to do with Colonial USA - instead I headed off to two rather obscure museums.

The first was the Hillwood Estate just north of DC owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post - sole heiress of the General Foods Company who had Kellogs, Birdseye and Maxwell House coffee just to name a few. One of the few women in 1900's trained and educated to take over a company she had a rather remarkable life. But this modest house (considering her wealth) is home to an astounding decorative arts collection that is mainly French and Russian. If you love decorative arts, this is the place to see it.

It's a good 20 minutes walk from Metro and if I hadn't of hit my head on a low growing branch, a delightful walk - inside I just drooled at the amazing range to tea services and jewellery.

The second museum was another equally long walk from the metro station through Embassy Row - I love looking at embassies - some of them are so OTT - but my favourite one was Pakistan - true to its turmoil - the 19th centruy monstrosity was completely gutted and left forlorn much like a bombed out building in WWII. Sometimes irony is just too great.........

Anyway this next museum was the textile museum - unfortunaly they had rotated their collection and was now onto the African component which while interesting was not to my specific tastes. Though I did learn that the exquisite weaving in Congo was primarily for important men to collect during their lifetime but not wear until their death - seems a bit pointless to me. Also the cowrie shell in Africa represents the female form - I suppose one part of the anatomy certainly bears this out. In Rwanda they didn't bother with weaving textiles but rather concentrated on basket weaving since every year they had to uproot their homes and move to higher ground when the Zambezi river flooded. Baskets were what they used to make this move.

So utterly exhausted from my long walks, I headed home via the Whole Foods Market - I'm in love with this supermarket - apparently a chain all over USA - if you ever see it - definitely have a wander it - its all organic, fresh foods - the supermarket itself is made out of eco materials so lots of wooden shelving and paper bags. In addition they have the most amazing buffet section where you can help yourself to organic salads and pasta's. At $7 per pound it very cheap. But the best thing is their prices - its slightly more expensive than a regular supermarket but not much more. And the variety is amazing

Posted by natty176 19:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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