2012 DISCOVER HISTORIC WILLIAMSBURG

Road Scholar 2010


I used to go here several times (back in the 1980s and 1990s) and have really been wanting to get back. The 3-hour to half-day visits in some east coast tours just isn't enough so ... I'll try this one.

Day 1, Sunday April 1: Arrival and Registration/Road Scholar Introductions
The trip is only 12 days after the Caribbean cruise and 24 days before the London trip. I used "Frequent Complainer" miles for the airfare rather than maybe lose them in the Continental/United merger. Unfortunately again I have a schedule change with United Air. They cancelled the original non-stop flight and all other non-stop flights arrived way too late. So now I have a very early morning departure and have to go through Newark. For a 6-day (only) trip, I'll drive to the airport about 3AM rather than use the StuporShuttle. At least I can get lunch there rather than pay for an on-board meal.

United UA 1061Houston - Newark6:03 A - 10:30 A3:272:30
United UA 4171Newark - Richmond1:00 P - 1:55 P0:556:52

I made an advnce reservation with Groome Transportation to travel from the Richmond airport to Williamsburg; round trip fare: $82 + tips. I was able to catch the 2PM (2:30) shuttle since the plane got into Richmond a bit early.

We meet at 5 for introductions, etc. Our "Site Coordinator", Linda James, gives the usual introductory spiel, then we have our first class: "Introduction to Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg" done by a local expert. She discusses the history of the area from Jamestowne to the present including the contributions of John D Rockeller Jr., from its beginnings at Jamestown Island through its flourishing as the center of eighteenth century Virginia culture to its decline at the end of the American Revolution.

There are only 10 participants (rather than the usual 30-40) so we use a larger 10-passenger mini-van, rather than a coach, to do our longer travels. There is no room for Linda (who forgot to count herself when she made the arrangements), so she will have to drive her own car on those trips.

Dinner is included at the hotel each evening; tonight it's a set plate (turkey and dressing) intro - nice. All breakfasts are buffet; all other meals at the hotel are set-plate-menu. Out daily schedule is almost totally scrambled - but I now have it rearranged in my notes. Our time is rigidly set as to the "exact" times that the individual activities start and end. The hotel is three - four blocks from the Historic District. Hooray! Easy to get there on my own during any "free time". Hotel: Clarion Hotel Historic District.

Day 2, Monday, April 2: Jamestown Island/Evening Entertainment
We had quite a bit of rain all night; it's cooler this morning and is definitely cool and breezy when we're at Jamestowne, but a very nice day otherwise.

Breakfast (nice medium buffet) between 6:30 and 8 each day. Afterwards is our first class of the day: "The Powhatan Indians and Their World", a detailed look at the culture of the Eastern Woodland Indians who had occupied the Tidewater region of Virginia for centuries before the coming of the first Europeans. Their day to day lives, government, social structure and more will be discussed. Then in a second class this morning: "Jamestown in the Early Years", Learn about the motivations that brought the first English settlers to the area and the hardships they faced in the first few decades as they struggled to make their colony a permanent outpost in the New World. Consider the challenges they faced including famine and an unfamiliar climate, not to mention a native population that was not particularly pleased to find these strange invaders in its midst.

Lunch is at the hotel then our field trip is: "Historic Jamestowne Island." The visit includes a film and a walk through of new Visitor Center opened just before the recent 400th Anniversary commemoration; after that we have a guided walk to Jamestown Discovery archaeological site, and tour of the new Archaearium which showcases the finds from the multi-year dig. I haven't been here is so long that this will be quite new. I'm glad that the tour includes Jamestown, but not Yorktown which didn't become "important" for another century and a half.

I know that there wasn't nearly enough time, but I do wish that we had also gotten over the "Jamestown Settlement" which is where the reconstructed fort and ships are located.

After we get back to the hotel we have another class: "You, the Archaeologist" aka "Digging up the Past". Investigate how archaeology helps us learn about early America, often changing our accepted notions of what life was like centuries ago. Learn about the important role this science plays in interpreting the past for modern visitors who come to the Historic Triangle.

We have another set dinner then are treated to a great performance: "A Lady of the Seventeenth Century" What better way to experience the 1600's than to meet someone who "lived" long ago? Enjoy a conversation with a delightful interpreter who will make us feel that we are speaking to an early colonist as she shares tales of triumphs, tragedies, and the activities of daily existence. It was really good and quite interesting.

Day 3, Tuesday April 3: Colonial Williamsburg
Looking out my hotel window this morning - there is frost on several of the car windshields but it does warm up later. So much for any of the weather forecasts. After breakfast we have our class: "Williamsburg Then and Now", Learn about Williamsburg as a quiet village in the years after the Revolution until its restoration through the vision of a local minister and the generosity of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in the mid-twentieth century.

Then we have our second field trip: "Colonial Williamsburg." Unfortunately our local guide for this has re-injured his knees and has to cut the guided part fairly short. Take a leisurely stroll down the mile-long Duke of Gloucester Street as our guide highlights some of the most interesting buildings and gardens in the Restored Area. For lunch, enjoy the ambiance of a Colonial Tavern (Shield's) with its strolling musician and interesting character interpreter as we have our meal served in the colonial style - but definitely not a colonial menu. What I chose turned out to be a verbally disguised cheeseburger. The rest of the afternoon is free time. We can use our included pass to visit any of the buildings or shops that catch our interest. We have to head back to the hotel before 6.

We have more free time this evening: If we like, return (three - four blocks or 15 minutes walk) to the Restored Area on our own to participate in a variety of evening programs and concerts. Although dinner is at the hotel, rather than walk there then back to "town" I choose to just stay in "town" and eat at the "Cheese Shop." This turns out to be a good choice since the set dinner at the hotel is fish and I "don't do" seafood. We have been told about concerts, exhibits, and tours including a free concert at Bruton Parish Church (which turned out to be a church service with lots of organ music but always good!).

Day 4, Wednesday April 4: Colonial Williamsburg / Free Time / Musical Instruments
Breakfast as usual, then this mornings (two part) class is: : "Williamsburg and Virginia in the Revolution" Journey with an outstanding (very) lecturer through the momentous events leading up to the Declaration of Independence. Consider the impact of nation building on the various peoples living in Virginia at the time. Ponder with the eighteenth century Virginians the difficult choice between Patriot and Loyalist.

After lunch is more free time. Continue visiting in Colonial Williamsburg. Dinner is at the hotel, then after dinner, we have an interesting performance: "Rare Colonial Instruments" A gifted musician sings, plays and explains a variety of unusual early American instruments, including the jaw harp, guitar, mandolin, trombone, saw, and comb. He's also an excellent singer.

Day 5, Thursday, April 5: College of William and Mary
We had some rain overnight. It stays quite cool all day - coat needed. There is no free time in our schedule today; we go almost continuously from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

After breakfast we have two classes: "Religious Practices of Early Virginians", Explore the spiritual lives of the colonists by focusing on the state sanctioned and supported Anglican Church while also considering Protestant denominations that spread during times of religious revival and less mainstream believers such as Catholics, Jews, and Quakers. After that, our second class is: "Separation of Church and State: The Beginnings", Follow the course of religious practices as America moves from colony to constitutional government. Consider how the separation of religion and the state even impacted the College of William and Mary in its allegiances and curriculum.

After lunch is yet another class: "Slavery in the Eighteenth Century" A study of the institution from its beginnings in 1619 as a form of indentured servitude through its gradual codification into the laws of the Virginia colony until it became part of the very fabric of society in the eighteenth century. An understanding of colonial life cannot be gained without a consideration of the role and status of the African American slaves who made up a substantial part of the population.

In mid-afternoon, our next field trip: A guided excursion to the Wren Building of the College of William and Mary and the College campus. First visit the "Ancient Campus" of the College and enjoy a narrated organ concert (very nice as expected) in the Wren Chapel. The organ there has a beautiful sound but is much smaller and not nearly as powerful as the organ in Bruton Parish Church. Then follow the historical development of the university as we walk through the Old Campus to the New Campus. Dave will tell us about the architecture, famous alumni, and college lore. We didn't get to go into many of the rooms in the College - they were in use for other purposes and closed to visitors.

Dinner is at the hotel then another performance: "An Evening of African-American Music and Storytelling", A very talented singer/storyteller will entertain us with a sweeping journey through several centuries of African-American tradition as it evolves from its roots in Africa through its transformation during years of indentured servitude and slavery to its triumph in freedom in the mid-nineteenth century.

Day 6, Friday, April 6: A special colonial dessert treat!
No rain overnight, but it was quite cool - our coldest morning. After breakfast at the hotel, we have one last (whew!) class: "Pirates, Witches and the Colonial Justice System." The New World was a scary place, both in reality and in the imagination of the early colonists. Explore the world of actual threats such as pirates and supernatural fears as embodied in those accused of witchcraft. Learn how these outsiders were dealt with by the courts of the colony. I've seen this a couple of times before - it's very good. Next is a special activity: "Colonial Foodways" Bring the week to a delicious end as we are instructed in the methods of early American cooking and participate in the preparation of a delightful dessert. Then we make our final farewells.

Road Scholar provides a box lunch after class for the trip home. I have to take the Groome Transportation shuttle (2 PM) back to Richmond Airport. I chose a late departure time for the flight just to make sure that there wouldn't be any problems. Since the shuttle pickup isn't until 2 and the program ended at 11:15, I had time to eat my box lunch and make one last walking tour of Colonial Williamsburg.

United UA 4548Richmond-Houston6:28P - 8:41P3:13

This makes for a late arrive in Houston, but I should be home by 10PM and it IS A WHOLE 24 days at home until the next trip (London).



Selected pictures
Click to enlarge





Overall, it has been a very nice trip; although Colonial Williamsburg has changed since I last came (regularly), it is still a wonderful place to visit and our primary instructor, Dave DeSimone was fantastic. Of the 5 Road Scholar trips I've taken, he's definitely the best instructor I've had.

The only bad part of these last days - when I chose this date for the trip, I didn't think about the fact that it was Easter Week. So the area has been jammed: everyone possible along with their pet monkey - and the monkey's pet child. Therefore the lines have been very long for the relatively few buildings that are open. Also the afternoon temperatures have usually been in the upper 80s.

Classes (11):
Sun: "Introduction to Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg"
Mon: "The Powhatan Indians and Their World"
Mon: "Jamestown in the Early Years"
Mon: "You, the Archaeologist" or "Digging up the Past"
Tue: "Williamsburg Then and Now"
Wed: "Williamsburg and Virginia in the Revolution"
Thu: "Religious Practices of Early Virginians"
Thu: "Separation of Church and State: The Beginnings"
Thu: "Slavery in the Eighteenth Century"
Fri: "Pirates, Witches and the Colonial Justice System"

Guided Field Trips (3):
Mon: "Historic Jamestowne Island."
Tue: "Colonial Williamsburg"
Thu: "Wren Building of the College of William and Mary and the College campus"

Presentations/Performances (6):
Mon: "A Lady of the Seventeenth Century"
Tue: "Free Concert Bruton Parish Church"
Wed: "Rare Colonial Instruments"
Thu: "Organ Concert in the Wren Chapel"
Thu: "An Evening of African-American Music and Storytelling"
Fri: "Colonial Foodways"

I wish that they had a class/presentation on the medical treatments and practices of the day. Also we needed more time to explore Colonial Williamsburg on our own.