Originally published on 18 August 2012.
After lunch at Kings Arms Tavern, Alexis and I went to the Capitol building for their tour. The building is a reconstruction, but it’s sitting on the original foundation. In this very building, Patrick Henry denounced the Stamp Act, which was a huge source of scandal, since going against the crown could be considered treason.
Why treason? The city of Williamsburg and all the colonies were still British citizens in 1775, which is the year Colonial Williamsburg lives in. Inside the House of Burgesses, there’s a crest on the wall that symbolizes VA as the 5th “quadrant” of the British empire. Yes, we were proud Brits until we just couldn’t stand it anymore!
Moving right along, our guide took us to the court room (the supreme court of VA). Any free person in all of Virginia who needed to come to trial had to come here. He explained to us that “passing the bar” was really nothing more than passing through the gate from the back of the court to the front where the jury sits. So Alexis and I passed the bar! He also suggested we all go see the public gaol (or jail) where Blackbeard’s crew were holed up after their trials, awaiting their turn at the gallows. There are four cells, two of which are over 300 years old–wow!
And next up, it was time to stop into the little shops and historical buildings! My absolute favorite was the R. Charleton Coffeehouse. We learned that coffeehouses and taverns back then were very different than what we think of today. Both were gathering places for people to come talk and have meetings, but taverns were more for a hearty meal and a place to sleep. Coffeehouses were more for the purpose of meetings, game playing, chatting, and getting together with people. R. Charleton’s was the only one in Williamsburg at that time (1770s), and they did very well for themselves! The best part of the tour was definitely the end… we got to sit with people we didn’t know and sample Colonial coffee, tea, or … drinking chocolate! Alexis got the coffee and I got the chocolate. We had so much fun looking at all the coffee pots and the whole set up of the room. I will definitely be going back next time I’m in Williamsburg!
We shopped around at the little general stores and specialty stores the rest of the afternoon till time for supper at Chowning’s Tavern (pronounced CHEW-ning’s). We were able to get LOTS of ideas for our own Tavern (Gadsby’s in Alexandria, VA) and Colonial getups–we really loved just looking at everything and trying to figure out what it was or how it was used.
We watched a fife and drum corps walk by playing their marching music on our way to supper, which was really cool! We decided Gadsby’s needs fifers to come by and play going from table to table at lunch or dinner!
And next up was supper! Chowning’s was awesome! They definitely had the best food of all the Taverns there (we eventually tried all four). I got Brunswick stew and Alexis got the mushroom ragout with polenta–WOW! We were so impressed with the whole atmosphere–the waiter was funny and had some of the best Colonial sayings to use, the food was incredible, and the entertainment was awesome!
The man walking around the rooms playing various instruments was really good about explaining what the instruments were, how they were played, and why Colonials chose those particular instruments–it mostly had to do with what you could fit in your pack while riding your horse from place to place, so instruments were small and light! He had a penny whistle and a pochet, which is French for “pocket”–it’s a little tiny violin! The sound is not as clear, but it works to serve its purpose! =)
Our poor waiter had the misfortune of being interrogated by us throughout the meal and especially afterward. We just had to ask how often they paint and clean the Tavern from top to bottom, whether they close for a month or so to do that, how he and his coworkers like the uniforms and ask how they’re different from the ones we use. He didn’t seem to mind too much!
And after that, onward to our ghost tour! We started at the William and Mary campus (they’re called the “Tribe” because the first students were Indians!) and got some history and fun ghost stories there (they have a cannon there that was used in the battle of Yorktown, and students used to put potatoes in it and fire the cannon at the president’s house!), then moved down the historical strip. We walked the whole way down to the Capitol, and our guide was sweet enough to offer us a ride back to our hotel! You know us little ladies traveling alone, we need gentlemen to do that kind of thing for us. 😉
More to come! Tomorrow, we get stuck in the pillory so you won’t want to miss that!