I am kickin’ it in Colonial Williamsburg for a few days. Can you believe I’ve never been here before? I’ve lived in the DC metro area on and off for the last 10 years and I’ve never been here. I’ve got about 18 months left on my current Washington assignment – a long way to go – but I’m now at the point where the urgent need to “see everything” is ever-present. You know how it is: you live in a city for a few years, and you think “I’ve got plenty of time to visit the XYZ” or “I’ll go there when friends/family visit.” Right. And then – times up! And you never made it to Placencia or that Mayan temple or Sicily or whatever. (Full disclosure: I did, in fact make it to Placencia, many Mayan temples, and Sicily).
So here I am in Colonial Williamsburg. I’m staying in the Williamsburg Lodge. I’m sure there are many fine hotels near Colonial Williamsburg, and there’s a shuttle from the Williamsburg Visitors’ Center that brings folks to/from Colonial Williamsburg on a regular schedule. However, I highly recommend staying “on site.” Yes, it may be more expensive, but the convenience makes it worth it. My hotel, Williamsburg Lodge, is lovely and conveniently located just a block from the main drag – Duke of Gloucester Street. This is perfect for me. I can walk around for a while and when I get cold or tired or I need to use the bathroom, I can get back to my hotel in about 5 minutes.
Before I get to the Colonial Williamsburg experience, let’s talk for a minute about the accommodations. I’ve traveled around the country with my family since I was a little girl and we stayed in a variety of hotels – everything from Holiday Inns to nice resorts in Arizona. Now, when budget is the driving force, the Holiday Inns of this world will do just fine. However, I really love it when my hotel room can be part of the experience. That’s what I’ve got here at the Williamsburg Lodge. My room is furnished to the time period. I’m no expert on colonial furnishings, so I have no idea how accurate it is. But the point is, I stepped into this room and I got in the mood for colonial times. And yes, I have the luxury of getting in the mood without the hardships: I have hot and cold running water, electricity, central heating, and a free wifi connection – which allows me to draft this blog at Williamsburg rather than waiting until I get home.
Williamsburg Lodge 2
You guys, I did a lot of walking yesterday. Colonial times were rough! Seriously though, if you miss one of the many orientation tours that the Williamsburg folks give to familiarize visitors with the layout (which I did), I recommend just getting out there and walking Duke of Gloucester Street. I entered in the middle of the street and walked toward the Capitol. (Truthfully, I had no destination in mind. Whenever I’m lost or in unfamiliar surroundings, my general practice is to turn right…so I did). What is the Capitol, you ask? Exactly what it sounds like. This is where the upper and lower houses of government met. Court was also held here. Can you believe that court sessions were held only four times per year? For a population of about half a million? Talk about your low crime rates. Of course, if you committed a felony (theft, manslaughter, etc.), you would be branded (‘t” for theft, ‘m’ for manslaughter) for a first offense, so I guess that probably discouraged criminal activity. Second offense? Hanging.
Tour guide at the Capitol
From the Capitol, I walked back up Duke of Gloucester Street, stopping in the apothecary/doctor’s office. The variety of plants and herbs with medicinal properties is really quite amazing. Of course, I could do without the leeches for bloodletting and, speaking as someone who has had her fair share of serious illnesses, I’ll pass on the doctor’s office in colonial times. Let’s just say it was primitive. But let’s face it: our colonial forebears managed to accomplish a lot with what they had.
After the apothecary, I stopped in the Raleigh Tavern Bakery. Lines even in colonial times, y’all! I don’t know if it was the hot apple cider, the gingerbread, or the Brunswick stew, but this place was insane! Line out the door. But the apple cider was delish. From there, I strolled over to the market square, where vendors were selling everything from soaps to old coins to colonial children’s toys. I was really, really tempted to buy something for my niece, but that girl has more stuff than she knows what to do with already!
At the other end of Duke of Gloucester Street – opposite the Capitol – you’ll find Merchants Square. I was amazed to discover that Chico’s and Williams and Sonoma have been around since colonial times. Just kidding! Merchants Square has the facade of colonialism, but it’s modern all the way. So yes – you will find Chico’s and Williams and Sonoma. But for the most part, Merchants Square is made up of independent shops selling everything from cheese and olive oil, to pewter, jewelry, and coffee. A few restaurants are thrown in there too.
The Kings Arms Tavern on Duke of Gloucester St.
Window display on Duke of Gloucester Street
By now, my feet are tired, I’m cold, and I have to pee, so I headed back to the hotel for quick pitstop. I say “quick” because my day wasn’t over yet. Christmas Town at Busch Gardens awaits…
Stay tuned for my thoughts on Christmas Town.