Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Colonial Williamsburg vacation

Every year, Minnesota schools have a short fall break in mid-October while the teachers' union has their annual conference. A lot of families like to take a family vacation during the break, and we are no exception! Last year we went to Chicago; this year Gramma Liisa, the girls, and I went to Colonial Williamsburg!

Many many pictures follow, with the trip narrative...

We got a VERY early start on Wednesday morning, leaving before 7:00 a.m.! The sunrise was really beautiful, though - not a perspective I'd seen before.

We landed in Richmond, VA, picked up a rental car, and were off to Williamsburg! We didn't have much in the way of plans... it'd been a long travel day, and the girls had been very patient which meant they had a lot of pent-up squirrely energy to get out. So first thing we did was to go swimming at the hotel!

This is a favorite activity on any trip!

After swimming, we went to get dressed so we could go to dinner, and guess what... SOMEONE forgot to pack Maisie's clothes!! (it was me) All she had in her backpack was swimsuit, pjs, socks, and underwear! So she put back on the clothes she'd worn before, and we went to dinner... with a stop along the way at a nearby outlet mall that had a Children's Place store. Oops!

Thursday morning, it was off to Williamsburg! They had a costume rental place at the main visitor's center, so of course the girls needed to rent colonial costumes.

People took their pictures all day, which was really funny... their footwear was totally not period.

The Colonial part of Williamsburg is about six blocks long and three blocks wide, right in the middle of the town. We walked around it all morning, with the girls playing a scavenger hunt game that led us through different houses, stores, and all kinds of places. The weather was beautiful on Thursday - sunny and mid-60s. Perfect!

These pictures are from the magazine...

box of sabers!

There was a town square outside the magazine, where these two people started playing some really fun music. That's the courthouse in the background.

We took a tour of the George Whythe (pronounced "with") House, which General Washington used as his headquarters during the Revolution. Here's his bedroom!

You can see Washington's red saddle, towards the rear of the room on the left.

George Whythe taught Thomas Jefferson to read law in this room

He then went on to found the law school at William and Mary. It was amazing to see these rooms... some of the houses are partially or fully reconstructed, but many of them are original, down to the floorboards.

We also took a "tour" of the jail, which wasn't quite as spooky as we'd thought it might be. We held shackles and manacles, and talked about the court process. We then went into the jailer's house, which was quite nice. The interpreter talked about how most of the people of Virginia at the time would live in one room with their whole family, maybe 8-10 people, with dirt floors and log walls, so to be a jailer and have the housing as part of your job was quite a coveted position, even though it meant literally living with prisoners, with cells in the attic and basement and your family in the middle.

We didn't get to see the cells that were downstairs (men) or upstairs (women), but we did get to see the ones out back. Some were for particularly violent offenders, and others like this one

were for debtors. The interpreter said "It's not illegal to owe money, but it is illegal not to pay it back. So we come out and hold you, take your things, and then sell them to pay off your debts. Once your debts are paid... or your things are gone... you're free to go."

So after a long day with much walking...

It was back to the hotel for more swimming, then dinner and bedtime. Friday was another full day!

We started off at the "sanitarium," which began with this view of a patient's cell. (Note the shackles embedded in the wall.)

Maisie and Ella quickly said "I don't like this place!" so we headed to the connected colonial folk art museum, which we all LOVED. The art was great! This is a jar of SAND!

"From Nannie to Nellie" the artist who made these would sell them for a few dollars each. Can you imagine the patience??

I just loved this jug... the sun looks so chill.

Maisie liked this guy.

It had been a rainy morning, but by the time we were done with the art museum, the sun came out! So we wandered back to the colonial village. We took a tour of the Richmond house, which was owned by Payton Richmond, President of the first and second Continental Congresses, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and owner of 27 slaves. It was a difficult discussion - the interpreter spent a lot of time inviting us to imagine how it would feel to be a slave - forced to stand and serve for hours, while Richmond talked to his friends of freedom... listening to people like Patrick Henry say they'd rather die free than live a slave... knowing that at any time,  you could be sold away from your family. We toured the house, and saw the contrast between the sumptuous beds Richmond and his family slept in, and the pallets for slaves in the hall. It was not fun - at the end, poor Maisie burst into tears - but I think it was important, and I'm glad we went on that tour.

Afterwards, we got a little snack and then walked around a bit, over to the courthouse. It was one big room with two smaller rooms, one on each side, for jury deliberations, witnesses, and the like. It was funny - technology aside, it wasn't really all that different from a modern courtroom!

Outside, the girls had to try out the stocks.

(different from a modern courthouse)

We also visited the weavers' house, and the girls got to try their hands at carding wool and picking cotton. It was a favorite stop!

A few blocks away is a pedestrian mall with shopping, so we wandered over there for dinner and souvenirs.

Then back to the colonial part...

Maisie in front of the one-room courthouse
For one of our favorite activities of the trip... the ghost tour!!! Ella got to help carry the guide's lantern from the first stop to the second...

Immediately after this picture was taken, though, Ella said she was too creeped out! So she and Gramma Liisa went back to a Barnes & Noble a few blocks away to read books and enjoy a treat. Maisie and I continued on the tour and heard some of the best ghost stories we've ever heard! It was a great way to cap off our trip.

Saturday morning, it was back to the airport in Richmond. After a brief layover in Chicago...

where we had pizza, because hello, we were in Chicago...

it was back home to Minneapolis. Everyone had a great time, and we were happy to be home having learned a lot about colonial times! (Myself included!)


Anonymous said...

I concur!
Gramma Liisa

Tammie said...

It looks like get trip! I love Williamsburg. We're visiting Virginia over Thanksgiving
and hope to get there then.

Jim Hanson said...

a neat writeup, Leah.

I enjoyed seeing the girls; grown some more....