Huzzah! The post for our family vacation is finally up! It took me long enough, but at last, here it is, in all its dubious glory.
First up we have the George Wythe House. Historians can absolutely, categorically confirm that George Washington DID sleep here.
George Wythe was a delegate to the Continental Congress, and Virginia’s first signer of the Declaration of Independence. The house also served as General George Washington’s headquarters just before the British siege of Yorktown. The house is ‘dressed’ in the same way it would have been if George Washington and his staff were in the middle of their campaign.
Going through these historic houses always gives me cold chills. I find myself touching the walls, door knobs – and especially running my hand along stair banisters, wondering who has touched that banister before me – wishing some of the greatness would wear off; thrilling at the way I can touch history with your finger tips.
The details in these historic buildings are so meticulous – you almost expect George Washington to come walking through the room at any minute.
George Washington wasn’t there, but the Marquis de Lafayette was. We had seen this re-en-actor last year on our previous visit and he is hands-down, one of the best re-en-actors in Williamsburg. He combined intelligence, charm and fabulous acting into an immersive experience and interview that visitors won’t soon forget.
On to the Benjamin Powell House!
Benjamin Powell was a carpenter and contractor in historic Williamsburg. His restored house now serves as a center to teach children (and overgrown kids) historic games, actives and the refined pastimes of by-gone days….such as playing a spinet.
I got to play a spinet! A lady in historical costume was playing the instrument and I (ever hopeful and anxious to volunteer) asked if playing a spinet was the same as playing a piano. She said it was quite similar and asked if I wanted to play.
“DO I? MOVE OVER LADY! “
I’m just kidding….I was, of course, thrilled to try and grateful for her offer.
Playing the spinet is very similar to playing the piano, except that there aren’t any pedals, the keyboard is about half the size and there are no sustained notes….which of course, is what gives the spinet its lovely, twinkly sound.
I am a fairly proficient sight reader and there was a lot of traditional sheet music on hand. I was so immersed in playing ‘Jesu’ Joy of Man’s Desiring’, I had not even realized that I had drawn a crowd until a group broke into applause once I was finished. That was a pretty special moment.
I was a little disappointed (but not altogether surprised) to discover that the spinet was a reproduction made in the 1980s. Nevertheless, I will
never forget the experience.
i DID NOT sound as bad as this video makes me sound…my sister was capturing the moment with her regular camera, which has very bad speakers. Ahem.
Next – the public auction!
The auction is usually held outside, but because of inclement weather we were all crammed into a cozy little building – which was fine, because my feet were sore and I welcomed the chance to sit down.
The two men that run the auction are wonderful actors and never step out of character, making this as much a theatrical event, as a shopping experience.
There is nothing like an auction to bring out the crazed shopping beasts that sleep in every human being’s hearts – specifically female hearts. The bidding can get quite riotous. Some bidders get so carried away they even indulge in victory dances – or wiggles – after winning their desired object.
I enjoyed the rowdiness of the auction….as each piece was sold, the auctioneer would thump his staff against the oak floorboards, shout ‘huzzah’, and the entire room would shout ‘huzzah’, right back at him. As the auction progressed our enthusiasm kept growing.
The other fun thing about the auction was that each guest was given a numbered list of the items that would be available for sale. Items were brought up for auction as people in the audience requested a number. ‘Requested’ might be too nice a word. Whoever could yell the loudest was the one that ensured that their item would be the next item sold.
I stayed for about an hour, watching the fun. I needed to move on, but I really wanted to try bidding on one particular item, that had yet to come up for sale. Whispering to my sisters, all three of us began hollering ‘my’ number at the top of our lungs, completely overpowering all the other contenders in the room.
“Due to the overwhelming desire to see number so-and-so.” The auction commented wryly, looking in our direction. “That shall be the next item.”
While I was pleased with our success and tickled by our rowdiness, I’m sorry to say that I chickened out of actually bidding. I hesitated and ‘he who hesitates; loses.’ I disappointed myself, but I wasn’t surprised to find myself backing out of the bidding. Even Ebay auctions make me nervous. I am no gambler.
Christmas Day! A lot of the historic buildings were closed and reenactments and special performances were at a minimum. I took the opportunity to leave Duke of Gloucester Street. and explore some of the less traveled paths of this beautiful location.
This was a solo venture, and I enjoyed the solitude as I strolled the gorgeous avenues and snapped a slew of pictures.
Williamsburg is a dream come true for artists. The place is full of ready-made-art that shouts at me to draw or paint it. I’m itching to commit these beautiful houses, twisted trees and charming streets to canvas. I’m very excited about the file of reference photos I now have and look forward to sitting down with my watercolors sometime in the future to recapture my vacation.
Next, we went to the Carleton Stage to hear ‘James Madison’ speak. What struck me the most about his talk, was his emphasis on how valuable the gift of parchment was in his day. Parchment was a wonderful thing to receive – it held the key to a multitude of treasures- because words could be committed to parchment….and then the parchment could be shared….and words on parchment could change nations.
‘James Madison’s’ respect for the power of words, and the responsibility that power entails, shamed and intrigued me. Our modern culture takes words for granted. With a few clicks of the keyboard every random thought is instantly shared with the entire world. The men of this city and time put great thought into their words – and great purpose. They didn’t go to all that time and effort to tell people how they were feeling – they were trying to change a nation. I wonder how they would have used the Internet with its modern conveniences of Facebook and Twitter….and how they would marvel at the way words have become so devalued in our culture.
Briefly visited the Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.
To cover the incredible treasures in this building would take an entire series of blog posts….a coffee table book…a series of coffee table books – all full of wondrous pictures and intriguing facts. The picture below, is only one small example of the incredible artifacts and art on display.
My twin and I headed to the Governor’s Palace to tour the amazing gardens and run through the famous Maze – and I do mean THROUGH the hedges, because what’s the fun of using the paths?
Unfortunately, the gardens and the Palace itself was closed by the time we got there and we were only able to walk by the main gates and snap some pictures of the estates’ grounds and outbuildings.
And here we have a bus stop sign….because I have a peculiar infatuation with public transportion.
Riding the bus has been one of the highlights of my trip every time I visit Williamsburg. Why I possess this unusual and passionate fascination, I can not say – though I would like to try to summarize my feelings in some future post. For now, suffice it to say, that I love being crammed into this miniature world, seeing ‘a slice of humanity’ play out in a confined space. I love the convenience and independence of public transport. And I really, really, like hanging onto the overhead bar and getting thrown around like a kernel in a bag of popcorn. Buses, are ALMOST like amusement park rides….and I can never have enough amusement park rides. I think some of the drivers WERE frustrated thrill drivers, for they handled their vehicles with reckless – even furious – abandon – making their buses even MORE fun to ride on.
See right there? A bus is like a test tube full of unique specimens… This is life on a microscopic level! There, aren’t you fascinated now?
I spent A LOT of time on the bus this year…and passed the time by taking bus selfies.
And now it’s time for ‘Silly Stories With Alli’ – The part of the show where Alli comes out and does something silly!
A day doesn’t go by when I don’t do SOMETHING stupid that makes other people laugh. I won’t disappoint you now….
Something Peculiar Happened On The Way To The Bus Station….
I was rushing to meet a family member and leaped onto a bus without paying much attention. The bus was empty and as we began to drive away I suddenly realized that we were going down a peculiar route. I was shocked to see my desired destination whip past my window. My mouth fell open. Buses stop at these various locations like clockwork, I didn’t know what was going on.
We kept driving and I started to panic. I had never been on this route before, I wasn’t recognizing any of the landmarks….where was the driver taking me?
Several things were rushing through my head by this point….the foremost one yelling at me that I was being kidnapped. For what reason, I had no idea. I’m not famous, I’m not wealthy. I have enemies, but I don’t think they would bother to kidnap me.
I moved towards the front of the bus, furiously thinking out my options.
Option 1. Demand to be let off the bus, even though I didn’t know where I was and try to find my way back to the Main Street.
Option 2. Start screaming.
Option 3. Overpower the driver with Krav Maga, render him utterly senseless and drive the bus to my desired location.
‘3’ was definitely my favorite option. I could easily picture myself doing something heroic and it would be a great excuse to satisfy my closet ambition to drive a bus.
But I didn’t do any of these things. I waited, mouth shut, heart pounding, trying to figure out what was happening and stave off a mental and emotional break down.
Then without warning, we reached a familiar looking sight – the Visitor’s Center.
I had boarded an Express Bus….buses that go back to the Visitor’s Center by a slightly different route….and that never makes any other stops.
Feeling unutterably stupid, I climbed off the bus and boarded a regular bus, vowing to be more careful when I chose my next bus. Because of one small slip, I had wasted twenty minutes, given myself a scare and reaffirmed (unnecessarily) that I was an idiot. I did however, give myself a good laugh, and I’m sure a lot of people on the next bus were wondering what was wrong with the giggling fool that was sitting with them. I could have told them – but they probably wouldn’t have understood….or appreciated it.
The Fife and Drums!
Hands-down, this is my favorite part about Williamsburg. As night falls over the city, your ears strain, listening for that clear, beckoning piping. Your pulse starts to speed up, ready to drub in time to the sound of the drums. Then you hear it, and the heart of every person in that city swells with patriotism, stirs with pride.
Human beings seem born to march. There is a magic to the fife and drum players, they have the same irresistible pull of the Piped Piper. I have watched extremely large crowds full of people of every age and description move like an ocean wave after the Fifes and Drums, powerless to stand still, pulled into the musicians wake like moths towards a flame. Who could resist those leaping torches, the glint of weapons, those magnificent uniforms? Everybody loves a parade, and a military parade is even better. Let’s face it, these traditions may be hundreds of years old, but it’s clear that the stirring rhythms of the Revolutionary drums still beat in American hearts, and our modern ears still strain to hear the fairy-like strains of fifes.
Last, but not least . . . THE CANNONS!
Technically, ‘Firing in Christmas’, happened on Christmas Eve. This series of pictures is not in chronological order. But I had to finish with the cannons, otherwise we wouldn’t have had ONE BIG FINISH.
So without further ado – DAH CANNONS! It’s shootin’ time! I love a big fuss, especially if it involves explosions and military uniforms!
No, the cannon did not blow up…it just looks like it did.
And that concludes our feature presentation.
Happy travels my fellow wanderers….enjoy the journey….and above all….pay attention to what bus you board in life!