Tuesday, 20 May 2014

American Road Trip - The Historic Triangle - Part 3

Up early, rise and shine!  On the road again and making for Portsmouth Virginia and ever nearer to the coast.  Yesterday's hosts, when told where we were staying next, asked "And you're going to Williamsburg, of course?".  This is where you look coy and don't admit you have never heard of the place......  We looked on the map and it was definitely en route, so why not?  Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown make up the historic triangle as it's known now (good PR guys! Americans love history, and this area is full of it).  Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown Virginia:  that's the triangle.  Jamestown, where the English established their first permanent settlement; Williamsburg, where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others conceived a new nation; and Yorktown, where French and American troops under Washington's command forced the surrender of the British and won independence.

We parked the car at Williamsburg, where there is an enormous visitor's centre, an even bigger car park, and several hotels out of sight behind the trees.  Looked around the visitor's centre and asked some questions. Also spent a large-ish amount of money on books in the bookshop (no! really?).  A really good guide book to tell you more about this area,  one about women in the Civil War, and several others of interest.
Williamsburg, the original town, has been rebuilt as it was.  Re-enactors live in the buildings, (those that are not open to the public, because of course behind that door is central heating and TV!) dress as they would have then, and go about their 1700's lives.  You can look in on the tavern see men having a pipe and a pint, you can wander amongst them.  It's a huge site though, and with gardens and farm land laid out, and blacksmiths and other trades there if you are really interested we were told it might take a couple of days to see it all.  We were interested, but could not afford that much time.  So we opted for Jamestown Island, the site of the original settlement.  You can drive a figure of eight around this little island - but only at 15 mph, so it takes some time.   And so it should.  If like us, you go on a warm, sunny day in May, you will be lucky to meet a dozen cars in 2 hours.  You will have your own taste of paradise - and that is what the early settlers believed they had found.  Letters back to England record "heaven on earth"  "great soil for farming"  "truly paradise".  The local North American Natives laughed behind their hands, for they did not live on this island.  In the Spring it was glorious - but swampy areas are great for mosquitoes.... and mosquitoes bring sickness.  However, the new settlers knew nothing of this, and started to build their homes and businesses.

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just as it would have been - a tree falls, it stays
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boardwalk bridges on and off the island
We drove around the island, stopping at the pull-ins where information boards told us more, and once we parked the car and walked a short way through the trees on a little footpath through the trees to the water's edge, sat on a fallen tree and listened to water lapping and birds shouting (yes, they are
loud!)  It wasn't hard to imagine how those first settlers felt after months at sea.
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path to the shore

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A perfect day
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We met some eagle spotters whilst we were there - 5 nests around the island that time, so we got the binoculars out and saw a (huge) baby on a nest!  We talked to those eagle people as another person we met referred to them looking down her nose, about saving the eagles around local airports and how magnificent they were and ..... well you know the sort of thing that fanatics (albeit very nice ones) talk about.  And then onwards, over the boardwalk bridge that takes you off the island and back to civilisation.  Looking at the time, we felt that as we had an hour's drive ahead to get to our next bed for the night, we could stay no longer, but decided that it was too interesting not to see just a little more, so we would drive back the following morning.
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sitting in the 'burbs, waiting for Liz to come home....
So it was on to Portsmouth (still in Virginia) to stay overnight with Liz in her tiny (probably 1930's) house with her big French Mastiff, Lucca.  When we rang she was still on her way home from work, so we drove two blocks and came to a watery inlet with trees on the shore and houses here and there.  Sat and just enjoyed for 30 mnutes until she was home.  She suggested a nearby gourmet restaurant for dinner, and that's where we went.  Apparently on the current top 10 of the Eastern Seaboard's list of good places to eat.  Eclectic decor (very), and good food.  So you have to try Shrimp and Grits if it's on a gormet menu right? Yum!  Shrimp is actually very large prawn, and grits?  Just cornmeal porridge!  I liked the two together, dressed up for the gourmet with some veg and a thin but very tasty gravy.  John had a pork medley.... just pork prepared several ways on a board, which came accompanied by a bowl of vegetable soup with large chunks of potatoes, mushrooms and other veg.  He cleared the board and the bowl!   Back for a lovely chat about life with our host, a good night pat for Lucca, and then to bed for another early start retracing our steps back to Jamestown.

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Mr Mac and Lucca