As an American, it’s always very interesting to go and see where the country was founded, how life was like back in Revolutionary times, and where our freedom was fought for. All of those themes are covered in the Historic Triangle region of Virginia: Williamsburg, Jamestowne, and Yorktown. Jamestowne was where John Smith landed with his crew and built Jamestown fort (also where Pocahontas lived). Williamsburg (Colonial Williamsburg to be exact) is where there is an entire town preserved with how life was like during the American Revolution and houses the evolution of British rule to American. Yorktown is the site of the battlefield where the Americans conquered the British, thus separating ourselves from Britain. In all honesty, three days was not enough to see the sites in these three areas of the Historic Triangle, but we got the main themes!
First off, let me rave about the hotel that we stayed at: The Historic Powhatan. It was glorious. We got upgraded to a two bedroom, two bathroom condo from a one bedroom, which was a great way to start the trip. Additionally, this condo was grander than my apartment. Lets just say we could have stayed for weeks! There are pools, lakes, historic parts of the property, a coffee house, a few restaurants, and mini golf! So much to do, so many places to see. Just glorious, and highly recommended.
On to Colonial Williamsburg, a place I have been two twice now, is awesome each and every time. One expects it to be a bit corny like Disneyland for a major portion of it is driven to engage children to be interested in the time era. It’s very far from that. The entire premise consists of two main streets that are lined with a variety of era houses that have been restored, but are the real size and shape of their original establishments. They also house the specialist that originally owned them. For example, there’s an apothecary, milliner, printshop, silversmith, and carpenter to name a few. You can go into these houses and interact with the specialist themselves. The printer, for example, was a younger guy who was showing us how they made copies, from the type of ink and paper, to how they compiled all the letters into a line and set the type point and breaks and spaces. It was really fabulous! You’d think that every day to describe the same process to tourists you’d get many unhappy folks, but all of the individuals we came in contact with were rather jovial and interested in the work that they do (and spreading knowledge to others of their craft). Some areas of Colonial Williamsburg is not accessible unless you go on a tour. These tours are led by employees dressed in time period costumes (every employee of williamsburg is, honestly) and speak in the cadence of their time. We took a tour of the Governor’s Palace which was pretty fascinating (I already did it 5 years ago so it wasn’t nearly as fascinating as it was the first time). What I don’t remember is exiting into the Governor’s Gardens. Oddly enough, this had to be my favorite part of the experience, for it was so beautiful! I really can’t say any more than that.
Right outside of Colonial Williamsburg is an area called Merchants Square which has dining and shopping. I could spend hours in this little area of the city for it has so much from different cafes, restaurants and shops. If you go, you must go to two places: Peanut Shop and The Christmas shop. These are my favorites and have so many things that you will be in awe. **There are samples at the peanut shop, but be warned, you can drop some serious cash**
Across from Merchants Square is the second oldest university in the US: William & Mary. Very cute university, much larger than St. John’s and quite frankly more picturesque. They were gearing up for commencement since we went the weekend of graduation. I wish that we went a bit earlier, because a school is not its usual self without student presents. A school comes to life with its pupils, and to see a school established in 1693 to be alive with academics and students would have really been great to see, but oh well. There’ll be a next time.
On to Jamestowne. I will preface this with saying that I have been here before five years ago, yet surprisingly so much has changed! Many of the huge statues commemorating the first settlement, John Smith, and Pocahontas, have not changed. But the archaeology has! Since I was there, they have unearthed the exact spot of the church that was in the settlement, the same church the John Rolfe married Pocahontas! Additionally, archaeologists were hard at work excavating one other site outside of the boundaries of the settlement. This was really quite neat! The area does not have too much to offer, other than a few statues, excavation sites, and a small but great museum. Yet, its natural beauty is definitely worth the trip. You have to walk over this bridge of swamp in order to get to the site of the settlement. When you do this, you cannot help thinking of how it was for John Smith and his crew to land at an area so disgusting and hard to make a life. It really is very awe-inspiring.
The last place that we visited was Yorktown. This had even less than Jamestowne, but really if you are near by you have to go see it. There are two main areas that you have to go see: the battlefield that outlines where the British and Americans fought and won the War, as well as the huge obelisk structure that was placed at Yorktown commemorating the defeat of the British. As you walk from the battlefield to where the statue stands you walk on Main Street where there are still historic houses standing today. I guess they never taught me in AP US History that Yorktown was a small town where there were houses, families, and stores. Who would’ve known? We kept walking along Main Street, for we wanted to get down to the area that’s also called Yorktown, but the modern version. Along the way we saw many historic sites, and one in particular was an old church that had a graveyard. A nice usher welcomed us and said that one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was buried there, so we went and saw his grave. How many times does that happen in your lifetime?! We finally got down to the waterfront and this is a great little place where there are shops, families, and small eateries. We had a light, delicious lunch at a small cafe and then boarded the trolley to go back to our car. The last thing we did in Yorktown was see a live cannon demonstration. Boy was it loud!!! But, so cool!
In the end, the trip was really worth the time, money, and sweat (yes, it was hot). I think children should definitely take the opportunity to go to the Historic Triangle area especially when they are concurrently learning about American History. I grew up in CA so none of what I learned really pertained to me or was tangible. “Oh yah, that battle.” But when you actually see the battlefield or where John Smith stepped off the ship onto soil, it puts things into perspective.