Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Colonial Retreat

Many of you expressed interest a few weeks ago when I posted that my daughter Maria and I planned to visit Colonial Williamsburg for a few days after the Christmas holiday. So, I thought I'd describe a few of the highlights of the visit while the memories are still fresh.

The snowstorm that dropped over a foot of snow along the Northeastern seaboard areas also deposited about 8 inches of snow in Williamsburg. Both Colonial Jamestown and nearby Williamsburg are located near the James River which runs directly to the Atlantic Ocean by way of Norfolk/Virginia Beach at the mouth. So, the seacoast is not far away---hence the 8 inches of snow. Now, that area is not used to snow, so the grounds people were busily at work getting it moved away. Maria and I, however, are Colorado-hardy and know how to dress for cold weather & snow---snow boots & layers to keep warm. Consequently, the first day we arrived (right after the storm stopped), we were warm & dry and tromped all over in the sunny weather. And we certainly weren't alone. There were many, many visitors already. Some folks spend their Christmas holidays at the Colonial area. Temps quickly rose to the mild upper 40's by the next day & the sun kept shining, so the crowds grew as Maria and I traipsed all over the historic areas, visiting shops and museums and listening to the historical re-enactors detail life in the Colonial era of late 1600's through the late 1700's.

As a lover of history and someone who spent over a decade writing historical novels before I wrote mysteries, I loved every minute of visiting with the costumed re-enactors and walking the picturesque streets and poking into shops. There were so many events scheduled for each day, it is impossible to see or hear everything that's going on: concerts, presentations, theatrical events, family participatory events. Truly, something for everyone. Two of my favorite events were the "Conversations" with some of our famous Americans from that period---one with George Washington and another with Patrick Henry.

Washington's event is held every week, even so, Maria and I had to sign up in our hotel and get tickets the day before. And believe me, the theatre was packed. Firebrand Patrick Henry's gathering was more casual since it was in the Palace West Garden, but it too was crowded. Since I'd missed Thomas Jefferson's conversation the day before when the garden filled up, I made it a point to get to Patrick Henry's nearly an hour early. Both re-enactors that portrayed Washington and Henry were fantastic. Clearly, these men have had to study for ages to be able to portray these men so authentically. Plus, they have learned their speeches and absorbed their philosophies so well that after speaking for nearly 30 minutes, they then take questions on any question the audience asks. Fascinating. In costume, of course, their mannerisms and demeanor are completely authentic as well. I was entranced, of course, and stayed after to listen to Washington's questions. Patrick Henry, known for his talkative nature & passionate political discourse, talked for over an hour and 40 minutes of which half was spent answering questions in that sunny courtyard. All of the visitors and children were spread around, standing, sitting on benches or the ground, mesmerized.

And of course, let's not forget the wonderful assortment of cafes and restaurants. Maria and I had fun meals in each tavern because the policy is open seating, so if you're a party of two at a table, then two more diners will be placed with you. We enjoyed it immensely, because we met some great people that way. And for those of you who might be tempted to visit but are not real history buffs, take heart. There's a beautiful golf course down the road and a luxurious spa right between two of the lovely hotels: Williamsburg Lodge and the Williamsburg Inn. So, the history fans can traipse through the historic areas to their heart's content and the other family members can relax other ways.

Have any of you visited historic areas with historical re-enactors? Who were the characters portrayed?