Huzzah for Colonial Williamsburg, but not for Dulles Airport!

We have been home for a week now and I am FINALLY posting about our experience in Williamsburg and the journey home. As noted in the previous post, the rain started just as we left the Williamsburg Inn to explore the colonial area for a few hours before our dinner reservation at Chowning’s Tavern at 5:45 pm. It never really rained hard, so it wasn’t too annoying. We borrowed an umbrella from the Inn, which made for lots of fun as Steve pushed me in the dreaded, stupid wheelchair.

We had bought our tickets for admission to the Revolutionary Street re-enactments and the buildings from the concierge at the hotel. She also set me up with a mobility scooter company for our full-day exploration on Saturday.

After we watched some of the re-enactments (kind of a “street theater” in colonial costume oriented around the call to revolution), we wandered down Duke of Gloucester street admiring the beautiful restored buildings. We finally found our way to the shopping district between the Colonial area and William & Mary college and enjoyed a half-bottle of wine at a lovely cheese shop. Finally it was time for dinner at Chowning’s Tavern, one of four 18th-century taverns within the Colonial district. We were seated immediately. Our table was located in a side room with a fireplace and candle-lit hurricane lamps on the table. The authentic atmosphere was spoiled, in my opinion, by the large air conditioner jammed into the window right behind Steve’s head. Our server was fairly prompt and I ordered a local Virginia wine (quite good) and Steve had a glass of the “Old Stitch” ale. We both ordered the chicken dinner, which had enough food on the plate to choke a horse (half a fried chicken with potatoes and vegetables). It was good, but not spectacular. After finishing our meal, we left and were amazed at how quiet it was in the Tavern (very few tables with customers). We wandered up the quiet streets again towards the Capitol building on the east end, then found our way down the side street towards the Williamsburg Inn.

The side street to the Inn is a pedestrian zone, like everything else in the Colonial area and it led us past some of the restored homes that are private residences. We admired a garden (the gate was open to encourage folks to come in), then were startled by the appearance of two cats who came over one of the fences. One of the cats, an adorable marmalade, let us get close enough to pet him and read his tag (“Tony”); he was flirting with the other cat, a little female, who was playing hard-to-get. As we continued along this path, we stopped again because of an incredible fragrance that filled the air; we couldn’t figure out what plant was creating this wonderful aroma. Finally, we spent more time dawdling in front of a small enclosure watching a mother sheep and her three lambs. Steve made an interesting comment, that this little side street was like a glimpse of Heaven. Indeed it was!

We returned to the Inn and repaired to the bar to have beverages and read and write. We were surrounded by lots of hoity-toity types dressed to the nines (we were in grubby tourist gear – oh well, our bucks work just as well). Some of the folks were there for the graduation at William & Mary College on Sunday and the bar got busier after 10:00 pm.

We slept well in our huge room, although the air did get a little stuffy during the night, and we ordered room service breakfast the next day, which was beautifully done, with fresh fruits and pastries and even a gorgeous white rose. I met the scooter company representative at 9:00 am and we embarked on more explorations of Colonial Williamsburg. The scooter was a lifesaver for Steve, freeing him from the drudgery of pushing me in that dreaded chair. We headed over to the Governor’s mansion, hoping to catch a little bit of the Thomas Jefferson speech. Alas, the route to the area where this was occurring did not have access for the scooter, so we elected instead to wander around the splendid gardens. We also had fun interacting with the gentleman who played the cook in the cookhouse next to the mansion. He was preparing several dishes that would be appropriate to the style of an 18th century lord of the manor, including veal, pork sausage, transparent pudding and other delights. What a fun job! Because I was using the scooter, we did not go into the Governor’s mansion or most of the other buildings.

We meandered our way through more back streets in the Colonial area and stopped to explore one of the shops, where we bought a compass/sundial, some soaps (the soaps got left somewhere as we did our wanderings), two musket balls and a great book (“George Washington on Civility”). For some reason on this trip, we were constantly starving, so we ended up at the King’s Arms Tavern in their beautiful garden area for lunch. The sun came out and we thoroughly enjoyed splitting a turkey sandwich and indulging in more local wines and beers. After lunch we headed over to the museums (DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum). The museums were practically empty; we hit the shop first and bought some postcards that I can send to our sponsored children in Africa, plus a cute pair of folk art chickens that look great in the kitchen. The museum collections were amazing, particularly the folk art collection.

All too soon, it was time for dinner! We headed back up Duke of Gloucester street to Shield’s Tavern. Steve ordered on the light side, trying the navy bean soup and beef pasty appetizer. I decided to try the ribs, which were delicious. We were again put in a side room, this time near a large group of Seventh Day Adventists, who befuddled the kitchen by ordering vegetarian entrees. We had entertainment in this tavern, a guitar player who was quite fun (and, no, he did not play “Fire and Rain”, thank goodness, like the masses of solo guitar players we encountered everywhere else on the trip), along with an actor who did a great speech on the coming revolution and also showed a woman at another table an 18th-century dance.

We headed back to the Inn and turned in the scooter, just before the heavens opened up and the rain came pouring down (what great timing). We decided on one more beverage at the bar. This time we sat at the bar itself and had a delightful conversation with one of the bartenders, a young man from England. We retired and went to sleep, knowing that we had a three-hour drive to the airport the next day. We really, really enjoyed Williamsburg and the Williamsburg Inn. The Inn was incredibly expensive, but it was worth staying there one time just to have the experience.

On Sunday, we checked out and headed north to Dulles. Traffic was good most of the way and we elected to do a couple of side roads towards the end of the trip (not a very good idea – too many traffic lights). We dropped off our trusty Ford Escape at Dollar rental car (we averaged almost 29 miles per gallon and loved how comfortable this car was) and got on the shuttle to the airport. After checking in and getting through security, which is always a strange and convoluted journey at Dulles, we had to ride the transport to our gate (the train is not complete yet out to the C and D gates). We had lunch at the Gordon Biersch Brewery near our gate, then boarded.

Our flight left the gate right on time, at 2:55 pm. This was when the fun started – apparently, a line of thunderstorms to the west of Dulles airport was causing departure delays for planes heading west and lots of turbulence and deviations to flight paths. As we taxied, we found out that the corridor was now shut down. Our plane pulled over and sat on the tarmac for two hours as we watched planes heading in other directions take off without any delays. Our crew finally decided to take matters into their own hands and we returned to a gate so they could add fuel to allow them to try other route options. As we approached the gate, the ground crews on the tarmac were temporarily shut down because of lightning, delaying us again. FInally, we arrived at the gate and refueled. The passengers could get off for about thirty minutes; we decided to stay on board. By the time we left the gate again, four hours had passed from our scheduled departure time. It was now nice and sunny and we taxied out and took off without further delays. We arrived home at 10:00 pm, four-plus hours later than planned.

Other than the flight problem going home, our trip was absolutely terrific. We loved Disney Dream, we really enjoyed the DVC resort at Hilton Head, we really liked Savannah and we we fell in love with Williamsburg. We had some awesome meals, particularly our dinner at Remy, the fantastic repast at Roasted Fish and Cornbread in Hilton Head, not to mention the smoked quail pizzettas at Robert Irvine’s Eat. If I could plan the trip again, I would add time to allow us to explore Charleston and also see Jamestown and Yorktown (near Williamsburg). Well, time to start planning another trip to this area, with perhaps more time also in Savannah and even some explorations of other parts of North Carolina. With this vacation, Steve now has only one state left to visit (Delaware). I have also not been to Delaware and still need to set foot in Rhode Island and Connecticut. So time to start planning that trip, too!

Our next trip diary will begin on September 3, when we head out on our big trip of the year that includes a 12-day cruise from Venice to Athens on Marina, the new ship in the Oceania fleet. We will pick up five new countries on this adventure that combines lots of interesting ports with the awesome food in the many restaurants on Marina. Stay tuned!

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