Maybe I’m over-selling the blog post.
I thought Williamsburg was absurd, fun, totally absurd, and worth a day. It’s wacky to walk around with a bunch of other tourists and then have all these ren-fair types also there talking about the revolution currently underway. I stood in line (for ten minutes!) so I could sit in an originaly, 18th-century house wherein two guys dressed up as British colonels talked about what it was like to currently be under house arrest, how they were being gawked at by locals, and how surprised they were to see the entire Continental Army amassing in town, including that short French fellow. I should have gone to the event called “Loyalist Travail”: a Loyalist doctor and his family are harassed by citizens as they try to slip out of town. I bet that one was rich.
Ah, but it was fun and absurd. Just absurd. I miss it already. It was sad walking back over that bridge into the lousy, freakish 21st century. Age of Enlightenment, *that’s* the epoch for me. Oh well.
All of Virginia and only four cells for felons!
I feel like I need to go back to Williamsburg — I could do it so much better next time around. Again, oh well.
As you cross the bridge from the Visitors Center to town, you travel back in time!
So imagine my surprise when, despite being in 1781, I had to walk under an underpass with cars flying by overhead. I suspected witchcraft.
The Continental Army had arrived Friday night. Seriously. If I’d been there Thursday, these tents wouldn’t have been around. Sunday night, they “marched off to Yorktown”.
The governor’s palace. I think the governor was on his way back to London, though.
The county courthouse. The most common offense was skipping church.
General Washington surveys the… tourists. If you look lost, he’ll offer to help, but will probably end up just pointing somewhere and saying “that way”.
The capitol. This is where the House of Burgesses met, when it pleased the governor. And then once they got rid of the governor, it’s where whatever the Va representative government called itself at the time met.
The short French fellow (Rochambeau), I think.
One of the coolest things about the experience is that, if you want to, you can avoid introductory sessions and not read much and instead just walk around town and try to figure out what’s going on, why there are soldiers camped out on the lawn, why there’s a guy dressed up like Washington running around on a horse, why there aren’t (m)any redcoats around. There are also other interesting details you can pick up on if you want to — there was a guy with a team of oxen and a cart with what looked like a coffin in it. He paraded it around for most of the morning, but in the afternoon, he made his delivery — to the jailhouse. Absurd and fun.
The only problem I had with Williamsburg is that it took me a while to figure out what the game was. It’s a cool game, though. I’d like to go there again some day.
As for Jamestown — I’d always wondered why they decided to start their town in a malarial, bug-infested swamp. Now having been there — it’s not only a bug-infested swamp, but it’s a bug-infested swamp with no fresh water sources. Crazy. They founded the colony there because the river was deep enough close to shore that they could tie the ships on to trees. Walking the plankway over the swamp to Fort James, there were clouds of bugs — clouds, like you couldn’t breathe without inhaling bugs. Right: crazy.
There’s not a whole lot to see there (I just went to the Parks Service part — I figured I’d seen a solid display of “living history” at Williamsburg) given that the town was basically abandoned in the 18th century when Williamsburg became the capital. Actually — it’s kind of nice to have this abandoned, broken, archaeological site around and in such proximity to Williamsburg. Two sides of the same coin, interesting contrast, etc.
The graveyard inside of Ft. James at Jamestown.
John Smith, looking longingly back to England.
John Smith seemed like an interesting character. Was a prisoner of war in Russia while serving in the Hungarian army, then escaped prison and returned to Hungary before becoming the guy that sort of led the Jamestown expedition and then colony. Apparently also sort of a jerk, although the display wasn’t very specific about that.