Home from Virginia
April 2, 2007
Roman and I were in southeastern Virginia all weekend, and got back last night. I am moving slow and sore this morning; all the walking in Williamsburg showed me that I’m out of shape, no matter how many stationary bike miles I ride each week.
The county schools had a work day Friday, so we could leave for a long weekend. But it soon became apparent that virtually EVERY high school on the eastern seaboard must have had spring break over this past weekend. There was bus after bus after bus pulling up at the CW visitor’s center, or the hotel, or just about every place we went. I wonder if the same thing will be true next weekend in Washington, DC, and am afraid it will be. The main reason we’re going there next Friday is so Roman can meet his hometown friend Kristina there on her last day in DC.
Colonial Williamsburg was much the same as when I lived there in 1977, but Williamsburg itself has grown all over the farms and pastures that used to surround it. I drove into town the old way, from 85 at McKinney across to the Surrey ferry, so Roman could experience the ferry across the James. Both the state and the National Park Service visitor’s centers at Jamestown have been rebuilt just for the 400th anniversary in May, and we stopped first at the state center to see the exhibits, look at the recreated fort and Indian village, and tour the new ship reconstructions. I knew the old ships, built in 1957, had been rebuilt in the 80s but I was surprised that all three were rebuilt for the 400th– the last one just arrived in February. They all have engines and can be sailed. One went to England, one made a New England tour.
Everything was new and spiffed up for the 400th- Queen Elizabeth is coming back- she was there in 1957. The actual site of Jamestowne has a new archaeology museum, since they’ve actually found the fort that people had said for 100 years had been washed away by the river. (Maybe now they’ll actually find the Lost Colony fort at Manteo. It’s interesting how BOTH Fort Raleigh and Jamestown had civil war fort built on top or around them. I guess what was a good defensive location ca. 1600 was still one ca. 1860.)
We went all over the restored area, and did the major tours. The new Folkart Collection display is entered from the basement of the Hospital of 1770, which was actually being used as an outside set for an HBO movie on John Adams. It was supposed to be winter, and they had sprayed everything with fake snow. CW has very elaborate lantern tours at night, now, too. We followed a couple around Friday night, but Saturday we were too tired to go back. Nine hours walking makes for a long day. Luckily the Hampton Inn had a nice hot tub, not to mention gym equipment that we tried out.
I bought the CW Independence Pass, which is an annual pass much like the one offered by Biltmore House. It was only $10 more than the original ticket, and I figured I might make time to go back some time this year. I also bought a NPS multi-site membership at Jamestown, since I expect I can use it in DC next week.
Sunday morning we got the tour of the Capitol (the only major building we couldn’t get into Saturday) and then drove on down to Newport News to the Mariner’s Museum. I don’t know when we went there as a family- 40 years ago? I remember it vaguely, especially the 30-foot long half model of the Queen Mary. Well, that’s still there back in the original museum hall, with ship models in glass cases. But 80% of the museum is new, a $30 million reconstruction that revamped everything to house the artifacts recovered from the Monitor wreck. And that is a VERY impressive museum. They’ve got several movies to explain the sinking, the battle, etc. And they’ve recreated the casement of the Merrimack/ Virginia as well as several different recreations of the monitor. Very impressive is the full-size metal reconstruction of the exterior of the Monitor, which was done by the Newport News shipyard just as they build a modern naval ship. The conservation lab is as big as an aircraft hanger, with vats where the salvaged turrent and guns and steam engine of the Monitor are soaking to remove the salt. That may take 25 years, so they’ve made wood and plastic replicas to hold the place of the turrent and etc. until the real things are ready. It was fascinating.
The worst part was the drive– it takes almost as long to get there as it takes to go all the way to DC. Better to go when we have more than 3 days, I guess. But Roman just has 2 and a half months left, so we’ve got to do as much as we can.