Sunday, September 25, 2011

Our Long Day's Journey into the Past...Part One (I said it was long!)

With one small step off the shuttle bus for our bodies, it was one giant leap back in time for our minds.  Colonial Williamsburg doesn’t disappoint history buffs or novices alike. 

As we entered the historic area, we met colonial actors dressed in authentic garb greeting families at the Gateway and Kids’ Zone entrance.  Here, we got an introduction to the colonial way of life through children’s eyes.  They have examples of children's clothing, toys, schoolwork, and maps that help transport you back to the 18th century.  There are family orientation tours offered every 30 minutes from the Gateway that will give you an overview of the historic area.  We were bold tourists, however, and oriented ourselves as we went.

Our guide really liked his job!  The kids believed!
First, we stopped at the Royal Governor’s Palace.  Do not miss this tour!  The colonial actors at the Palace are in complete character and talk to you like you have arrived at the Palace for the Queen’s Birthday Ball that evening in January 1775.  Of course, our guide thought we must be hired help for the evening’s festivities as we were not dressed to attend a ball.  The kids loved it especially when he kept looking for the housekeeper as we toured the Palace so we could leave the tour and get about our duties.  The tour takes you all through the Palace rooms which are decorated as they were before the last Royal Governor fled the Palace in June of 1775 just as things were heating up in the colony and Lord Dunmore feared for his family’s safety.  After independence was declared in 1776, the Palace became the home of the first two Virginia governors, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.  After the house tour, we strolled about the formal English gardens and even took a try at the Palace Maze, a six-foot high hedge maze in the middle of the garden.  In the outer buildings of the kitchen and scullery, we watched as they demonstrated the (still) important art of beer making.

Beer anyone?  It should be ready in 3 days.
Next, we meandered up the Palace Green toward Duke of Gloucester Street stopping at the Wythe house tour and the colony’s blacksmith and wagon/wheel makers.  Wyatt loved the blacksmith’s shop and peppered the craftsman on duty with many questions.  “What’s the pointy end of an anvil for?”  (Making small or curved objects)  “How do you make a screw?” (Same as big stuff, then tap it.)  “How do you make spoons and ladles?”  (Some special thingy…)

Touring the Wythe House where Thomas Jefferson studied law among other things, Greg and I thought the best examples of 18th century life were in the details all around the home:

Felicity buys a cone of sugar to make ginger cake.
The girls loved the shops on Duke of Gloucester Street, but were disappointed at the high prices of the colonial costumes.  They had hoped to get dresses just like their American Girl dolls, Felicity and Elizabeth.  (Yes, they brought both dolls.) They used their chore money to purchase a shift and apron each.  Now they can play colonial times and the shifts make great nightgowns.  (We found out later that we could have rented dresses for the day for $24.95 each girl.  I know it may sound weird, but there were a lot of tourist dressed colonial, too.) 

We ended our shopping when the fife and drum parade marched by.  It made me smile to see children fall in step behind the parade ready to join the Revolutionaries and become mini-Minute Men.

Stay tuned for Williamsburg: Part 2.  

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