Posted by: mdmusingsie | November 25, 2017

Colonial Williamsburg

The last in my Virginia 2017 series is for Colonial Williamsburg – a town that is part residence, part tourist attraction.   The shopkeepers, innkeepers, and guides are all dressed in period costume.   Some of the homes on the main street, and more on the side streets, are actually inhabited by “normal” people – people who aren’t participating in the 18th century experience.  As I listened to some fellow tourists questioning re-enactors in one of the shops, I found out that some of the workers have the opportunity to stay in the houses in the town.  Whilst it may be entertaining to take part in the colonial experience, I’m not sure I’d want thousands of strangers walking past my windows every day.  There are several hotels within walking distance if you would like to spend more than a day exploring the town and assorted events that happen each day.

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We began our exploration in the Governor’s Palace.   The entry hall has a myriad of weapons mounted artfully but no less menacingly from floor to ceiling.  As a Governor’s residence, it was grand for its time; a point when most of the common people lived in one or two room homes with bathrooms and kitchens in out-buildings.  In one of the rooms was a corner chair that also served as a chamberpot – giving a new meaning to potty-chair.

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A stroll from the mansion down the Palace Green took us to the main street, known as Duke of Gloucester Street. The street contains everything from a tin shop, blacksmith, post office, grocer, apothecary, and milliner, along with a handful of taverns. There was also a market square where open-air merchants plied their wares.

We took a ride in a horse drawn carriage and drew the long straw by getting to ride in the Governor’s carriage.  Despite the outer grandeur, it’s not the most comfortable ride, as shock-absorbers hadn’t been invented yet, but we did have a pleasant, brief tour of town.

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Governor’s Coach – available for hire for a jaunt around town – Colonial Williamsburg

At the far end of the street stood the impressive, four turreted Capitol building.  This is actually the third building on the site, the first two having burnt down.  This is where the two branches of government would draft their laws.  The upper floor was split into the House of Burgesses, or elected officials’ side, and the Governor’s Council side.  The elected officials met in a sparse room with plain tables and chairs or benches whilst the Governor’s council had fancy paneling, comfy chairs, and elegant desks.  Between the two chambers was a modest room where the two sides would meet to discuss their proposals.   On the ground floor was a courtroom where serious crimes were debated.  A narrow balcony, accessible from the stairway to the upper floor, was where law students would gather to watch the proceedings and learn the tricks of their trade.

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We also had a private (there was no one else around) tour of the Thomas Everard House which is catty-corner from the Governor’s mansion.  It’s one of the oldest surviving homes in Colonial Williamsburg.  The main bedroom is on the ground floor behind the sitting room. On the other side are the dining room and an office.  Upstairs are two bedrooms where the children and/or servants would have slept.  Behind the house is the original brick kitchen along with a smoke house.  This house contained another corner chair (this one wasn’t a potty chair) which I’ve come to admire for their architectural creativity.

Colonial Williamsburg is a very interesting place to visit and you can easily spend more than a day exploring all the houses and taking part in the activities.  You can fire a musket for a whopping, 2017 rate of $119 (it’s an hour long event) or take the less expensive aggression relief activity option of throwing an ax for $20 (20 minutes).  Maybe take part in some of the more modestly priced extras like a ghost tour, pub crawl, pig roast, or ox-wagon ride.  Even if you don’t partake of the extras there are plenty of places to explore and things to do with the basic entry fee.  A worthwhile place to visit and plenty of fun for adults and kids.

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