Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg

Since we have been studying the American Revolution, I thought it would be good to use a couple of days during James' spring break to take the girls to Colonial Williamsburg. Books are great and videos fun but seeing how people lived 250-300 years ago is a whole different experience.

We began our visit at the Cabinetmaker's, who, it turns out, makes a whole lot more than cabinets. From chests, desks, and chairs to harpsichords, these guys are busy. They showed us the hand carved chair legs, one of which was designed with a dragon's claw on it. I was baffled why the British colonists would want dragon claws on their chairs, but the cabinetmaker explained that China had just been opened for trading during that time and they were fascinated with all things Chinese. Ironic considering half the crap that comes out of it now.
Teresa had difficult with the request to "play gently."
 Our second stop was the Public Gaol, or jail. There were several cells in which the kids could look around. One contained a full size wooden coffin. The girls asked if there was a body in it. LOL. I said, "Not yet." :)
 They were especially fascinated by these structures... three steps up to a hole with a lid. Care to guess? Yes, the toilet. Considering her fascination with the modern toilet when she was 18 months old, it is only fitting my picture is of Teresa playing with this one.
 At the Joiner's, Teresa found some wood scrap blocks and began playing on the floor building a whole city. The Joiner was quite amused. He did ask though that she not cut herself even if only to spare him the paperwork. Joiners, it turns out, build molding, for jams, windows, etc.
 For lunch we ate at the Kings Arms Tavern, a restaurant I remember eating at when I was 12 years old, when I came to Colonial Williamsburg. It was the first time I tried and liked Chicken Pot Pie. So, of course, I ordered it again. Still delicious.
 The girls loved the warm rolls and our waiter kindly used his time machine to bring us straws.
 Teresa alone can require electronic entertainment when we eat out.
 Fortunately the rest of us received real entertainment when one gentlemen came in and played the German Flute. He played lovely and Cecilia especially was captivated.
I have 5 girls, be impressed I could hold off shopping until after lunch. But really, Felicity just looks perfect in this hat. Each of her sisters wound up getting one as well (except Brigid). Cecilia got lavender, Elizabeth a mellow green and Teresa a deep blue.
 At the Post Office I picked up a brass seal of the letter of our last name and some melting wax as well as some postcards, which Cecilia and Felicity filled out and mailed to their friends and AHG pen pals. Behind the Post Office was the Bindery.
 Teresa wouldn't let us linger long, but it was awesome seeing so many beautifully handmade books.
 Outside the Bindery was a little creek with a bridge over it. We played a round of Pooh sticks while Teresa tried very hard to befriend a squirrel that got daringly close to my 2 year old.
 At the Blacksmith's we got to see them working on what seemed to be a spade or a shovel of some sort. Cecilia also got to take a gander around the kitchen for the blacksmiths where their meals were prepared traditionally by hand while I tried to chase Teresa away from playing in half a barrel filled with the most gross, who-knows-whats-in-it water I'd ever seen.
 Outside the Courthouse, Felicity and Cecilia posed in the stocks.
Unfortunately Elizabeth was just a bit too short and had trouble getting her head through far enough here I could slide down the top part. Lucky girl.

 On our first day there, the girls couldn't help but notice the horse-drawn carriages.
 So on the second day, we bought tickets to take a ride. This is Captain and Danger, the horses who led our carriage.
 Our kind coachman Adam offered to take a group shot of us. James was busy changing Brigid and trying to get her a nap.
 It was one of the highlights of their trip. They loved it. They loved the view...
 Being pulled by the horses...
 Waving to all the people we passed...
 And even having our picture taken by some of them.
 When we turned out to be a pretty quiet party only asking one question, our coachmen began a game of I Spy with the girls.
 When I asked what their favorite part of the trip was, the carriage ride is always listed.
 This is the other carriage we could have taken. They recommended it for the little ones since it didn't have such high windows but I didn't like the idea of Teresa without doors and the time this one was available was too late anyway. As you can see, the "high" windows were no problem for my kids. These horses are Commodore and Trooper.
 We visited the Wheelwright. This wheelwright was painting a wheel and another one inside was building a wheelbarrow.

 I thought it was interesting each part of the wheel was made from a different kind of wood. The spokes are made of White Oak, I assume for its strength. The hub in the middle is made from a different kind, I want to say Cedar, but I'm not sure. And the outer round rim is made of yet another different kind that is lightweight.
 All over Colonial Williamsburg there are multiple kinds of paths from concrete to bricks to stones to crushed seashells and pebbles. Elizabeth and Teresa could not play with the pebbles enough. They drove me crazy constantly kicking them, picking them up and throwing them. I am grateful they never picked up the crushed seashells though - ick!
 We visited the magazine to see all the guns and swords as well as the gunsmith who made the guns, but it was the cannons they liked best.
 We talked about how you would fire one.
 Teresa.... always in the line of fire.
 Elizabeth raises and lowers the cannon.
I had trouble keeping Teresa moving. She loved to play with just about everything from the barrels to the steps to the building to the puddles. There is nothing she won't try, play with or get into. I was just relieved she kept her shoes out of this puddle, but I did have to give her a piggy back ride just to get her to leave the puddle.
 At the end of the second day, we walked over to the Marketplace shops and got treats at the candy store. Gummy Bears, Pez and Lindt chocolate helped compensate for all that walking.
We were all plenty tuckered out, but it was a very successful trip. When I asked Cecilia what she thought about life during colonial times she replied, "It was HARD!!!" Her favorite worker was the weaver, a sweet girl who asked Cecilia to pull the seeds from the cotton balls. I think that is what made it her favorite. She loves to try things, be hands on, and a lot of the tradesmen there do things that kids simply can't pick up a tool and help with, though they do try to let the kids hold things, touch things, some of it is simply not for kids or amateurs. But the weaver let her pull the seeds out and even gave her some to take home. She got to see her spinning wheel and the looms and the finished cloth. 141 hours of work for 1 yard of cotton fabric makes those prices at Joann's look pretty darn good.
On our way home we stopped by a Mexican restaurant we like but don't get to very often called Uncle Julio's. Felicity asked me to take a picture of their brass bear outside on the bench. If we get to go again, it will be when the girls are older and able to do the longer tours of the Capitol and the Governor's Palace. But the trip was definitely worth it for the older girls who got to see what life was like during the times of the American Revolution and it was fun for the younger ones who had plenty of space to run and explore and play. They even pet a few of the many dogs people walked in the park.

If you haven't been, it is worth a visit.

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