5-6-2015 Kat’s Birthday (Williamsburg trip)

Dear folks:DSC01968
I am trying to finish the letter today so we can get on with celebrating Kat’s birthday. Sadly, we are all so exhausted from the trip that everything is taking longer than it “should”.
As I expected, while we were gone new flowers came up in the garden. The dafodills are past, but the narcissus came up next to the quince bush, which has started blooming. I noticed that there were pink points of knotweed beginning to poke up yesterday, although I’m not going to take any pictures of THEM, or so I thought, but this morning, some of them are nearly waist high, so I might. They are amazingly swift growing. In theory this is the time to harvest them (while they are pink), and they say they provide the best treatment for lyme disease– although prevention seems better. The bleeding hearts are up and have started blooming, we picked our last hyacinth, and our first violets, and the forsythia is blooming. Today it’s hot enough that I’m closing the front door against the heat, rather than to hold heat in.

We spent most of last Thursday packing and getting ready for the trip, trying to get whatever needed doing, bills, clearing the fridge, packing, (boring but necessary). Willow looked up the weather and knew it was going to be hot, but I discovered that the weight I gained this winter means I don’t fit in any of my nicer summer skirts. <grump> So I packed as well as I could and called it good enough. This trip came about because about a year ago I got a call from a time share company Wyndam, who explained that we could get 4 days and 3 nights in one of their resorts (including Williamsburg) for $99, and seeing a two hour presentation on the joys of joining their club, and they’d throw in $200 spending money. That seemed like the best way to do something we’d always wanted to do (at least Ælfwine and I had, and the girls were not averse). A couple of weeks ago I got a reminder call pointing out the year to schedule the trip was nearly up, so we booked for this past weekend, or rather Saturday through Monday, and started getting ready. According to Google maps it’s a 10 hour drive, but of course with rest stops and traffic, we know it’s longer. JoAnn of the Singing Threads and Scott live just south of Washington and offered to let us crash with them Friday night, so we could only have a two hour drive on Saturday and maybe see some of Williamsburg Saturday too. (The 4 Days is rather theoretical in my opinion, since you can’t check in until 4, and you are supposed to leave in the morning, although I suppose you could leave your stuff in the car, and use the bookend days. In reality, three nights gives you the two days between them, minus, of course, the time – mid day of course- for their presentation.)
I did make our traditional Beltaine cake, but we didn’t get around to eating it. Another thing was making an extra cake and a portion of the Chicken Alfredo for Sarah, in the bereavement feeding plan I think I mentioned before. I think it must be so much better to get the food a day at a time rather than all at once! Luckily, her grandfather’s place, where she’s still staying, was just a slight detour off our route south, which is why I picked that day from the organizational chart. It saved us a couple hours. And we were very lucky, she was there when we arrived to drop it off, so we got to say hi. She also passed along a book The Year 1000, she thought I’d like. I read a library copy, now I have to decide whether I want it on my shelf, or to pass it along as I clear my library. We did transport the cake in the bundt pan I’d decided to get rid of, and passed along to her.
[Actually, come to think of it, bundt pans are something that maybe should be passed around. I have quite a collection of them, and because we don’t eat cake all that often, if you had a way to share them with other friends who enjoyed cooking, it would be better than owning all the shapes you like. No, really, google bundt pan images!  I have a fairy tale cottage, a castle, a ring of trees, and others, and yet I still want the pirate ship, the square one and some others. It would be so much better to be able to rent them or borrow them as from a library! Then there would be more fun cakes for everyone!]
We got off about 9:30 on Friday. I was very impressed with us. After seeing Sarah, Drove down (over the Tappan Zee, we’ve learned to avoid the George Washingon Bridge), and stopped for dinner. We gave up fast food for our health years ago, but that taught me why it’s called “fast”.  I told the girls we were going to relax and take it as an holiday, so go ahead and get dessert if they wanted. Sadly, probably because of traffic, because our dinner took only it was past 10 by the time we got to JoAnn’s. We piled into her inflatable beds and crashed, not really getting a chance to talk. We’d given up going to Etheracon (while it was still going) and Chessiecon because the drive was too long (if Clam Chowder wasn’t going to be there). I think being from New England, we didn’t really get how big Virginia is. The computer map reassured us that it was only two hours past JoAnns, and that didn’t seem long. In the morning we got up and chatted briefly, but JoAnn is eating vegan these days, Scott is vegetarian and they are both looking marvelous! Better than when I did their portrait, and Scott has lost 40 pounds, even though he refused to give up cheese. That being the case, we took the opportunity to breakfast at Bob Evans, a chain we got fond of when we were going to DarkoverCon and Etheracon (Baltimore area). They have wonderful breakfasts! Since we had “all day” we went shopping. The stress was playing havoc with both girls digestion and we’d used up the Immodium that we all keep in our purses, AND the car stash, and we wanted to get new sketchbooks. I got a straw hat to keep the sun off my head, Kat got a belt, and we lay in more coke. Coke and fries are about the only thing Kat can eat these days. I hope we can get that fixed. What with dawdling in the air conditioning, we actually pulled into the resort at 3. When we asked if we could check in early, and they let us. It was a lovely place- beautifully manicured lawns, ponds, playgrounds, rustic arbors and seats. Our rooms were in a four by four house- two suites above, two below, a laundry right there, four parking spaces. There were two rooms- a nice bedroom with a kingsize bed, and the living room had a couch that folded out to an even larger king (so the girls took that one). The bath was nice, and the kitchen was efficient, but had full sized dish washer, stove, and refrigerator. All the cups and plates were in the cupboards over the appliances, but there was a step stool in the closet so you could get to them. The table was tiny- I’d have hated to try to fit four people at it, and there wasn’t any chair for reading. I guess they figured you’d use the couch. Or maybe that people don’t read. They had huge TVs in each room, but I don’t think we touched them the whole time we were there.kitchenet
After we’d gotten checked in, we headed over to Colonial Williamsburg. This was complicated by my dumping all the coupons and other ads out of the booklet they gave me. I had gotten the impression that we were being given tickets to that as well, but it turned out not to have been. I didn’t really worry about that, it was a great deal anyway, but I didn’t want to pay for it and then find out that passes had been included in the stuff I dropped. That would have been embarrassing!
The resort really was “in the middle of Williamsburg”. We could have walked to it had we wanted to, although it was too hot, and Williamsburg is all about walking around, so better to do it there. The concierge showed us where groceries were available, and we picked up bread, milk, eggs, salad, fruit, a rotisserie chicken, sausage. It was good to be able to make breakfast and supper for ourselves- a lot cheaper than eating out.

DSC01917When we found the missing advertisements, we discovered there was a Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum in town, and couldn’t miss that! Yes, they are just examples of the oddities he collected and put in his cartoon features, but I always loved them, and I think I hooked the kids by leaving collections of them around the house. Willow went to one in Florida.10982844_10205719056311465_3412244354017306220_n I think there are several scattered across the country. I think they are mostly examples of “can you believe people really do this?” like make art from junk, shrink heads, there were lots of historical and anthropological artifacts (which could seem insulting if you let them). This picture is Kat with a taxidermied roller skating penguin. I tried to get a picture of Gerald Gardner’s weird candlestick, and we forgot to get a picture of ourselves with the iron man statue made from car parts. There were also a few games and fun-house ride types of things (pictured above). It was a lot of fun, and we were glad we found out about it.
On the way out we bumped into a promoter looking for people to look at another resort that was opening up. They were offering $150 cash if you listened to their 90 minute talk- and it was right near there. That would have covered more of our gas and food, but I decided that even so, I was missing a couple hours of the next day, I didn’t want to miss most of it.williamsburg-map
In the morning, we slept in (driving is tiring), and got to the Visitor’s center at around 10. You have to get a photo ID badge.  This makes sense because the “museum” really is part of the normal town. At one end you can hear the students being rowdy outside William and Mary College. Sunday morning we saw people coming out of the church that’s part of it. The modern people jog and walk their babies right through there (but it’s not the SCA, while there are a lot of people in period clothing, they are generally outnumbered by the tourists!). There was even a fellow in a red shirt, white beard and Santa hat riding a bike. The parking is included, and from the Visitor’s centers buses make a circuit of the historic area every fifteen minutes, so you can ride from your car to whichever section you like, then start exploring. They have plenty of benches to sit on if you get tired, and lots of water fountains.DSC01933 They also have, like many good amusement parks, a deal where you can buy one of their drink cups and get free refills at a half a dozen places around the town. We got the one that had a tricorn hat on top. Some of the places ask you to leave your drinks outside when you go in, but I think that’s reasonable. There was also a good number of trees, so while it was hot, it wasn’t really uncomfortable.

We got out at the first stop- the Royal Governor’s Palace. They took people through it in groups, giving a rehearsed speech, and we weren’t allowed to linger to look at things. They explained that we could look at the palace because it was empty, because (although I’ve forgotten the date) the governor had just left- it was the day things got dangerous for Tories in Williamsburg. Different places referred to different dates they were aiming at. My favorite room in the palace was the “powder room” where the wigs would be tended.DSC01921 I am afraid of trying to overload this letter with too many pictures, if you do want to see more, I put a lot of pictures on facebook so you could look there with this link. That tour let us out into the gardens which were gorgeous! I could really appreciate how in a time without air conditioning, sitting in an arbor in the afternoon would be better than inside!  I had the first of my camera problems- apparently when I’d stuff it back into my crowded purse it sometimes changed settings on me, and I found it difficult to figure out while trying to catch an exciting image we were being rushed past. In the palace I found I was on “panoramic” and got some very weird images indeed!DSC01919

The other reason we started at the palace was because I saw the sign for the kitchen, and it was lovely. It was in a separate building (as in the Middle Ages, and this no doubt has a lot to do with why dishes had covers). DSC01925They were indeed cooking, had bread, and ham, and fish, and deserts, and a lovely pantry. (I took lots of pictures- luckily those came out well.)
Then we went to the “Apothacary” shop where we got the refillable cup, and decided to go see the basket maker. Sadly, as you had to go through the palace to see its kitchen, the basketmaker was behind the Wythe house, and we had to wait to go in with a group. At that point we wandered through the various outbuildings, we spotted a smokehouse (by the smell), and a still house, and finally found the basket maker.DSC01934
We liked the craftsmen better than the tours because we could take as much time as we liked and just talk to them about what we were interested in. Apparently the basketmaker(s?) make the baskets you can buy in some of the stores.
We’d planned to eat lunch at a tavern before I left for the Wyndam talk, but took too long watching the baskets so decided to eat when I got back. I had to leave 10 minutes to drive and 15 minutes for the bus, so I was missing more than just 2 hours, but thegirls were content to look at the gardens  and relax while I “paid for the trip”.
Having had a time share once and never getting around to using it, I felt well armored against their sales pitch. And I also was eager to get the $200 gift card!   When I arrived I was surprised to be offered “lunch” (chicken patty and veggies), so I called and told Willow and Kat to eat without me. They found a tavern with a menu to their liking. Willow tried the “flight” of ales- several of which were made there.11205006_10205723120933078_7855142324316855630_n (One she didn’t try had Grains of Paradise as a flavoring, which sounded odd to me too!) After three half pints though, relaxing under the trees seemed fine to them. I got shown a rather palatial suite. It had a huge living room (pillared foyer), the kind of kitchen you only see in rich people’s houses in movies, and four bedroom, bath sitting-room suites at the corners. I think it would have slept 20. That’s the high end, of course. I think the big thing was that as they got into financing these time share properties, they got into dealing with money. You get points for using their credit card, and they tried to convince me that you can easily cover the cost of your payments and maintenance fees in what you get from the points you earn from using their card, and other services. The basic unit they were trying to push was $92K. For goodness sakes I think my house is about $100K, and I get it fifty two weeks a year, not one!  11169974_10205722773404390_2414378897113965970_nThey were suggesting that I’d only be paying about $250 a month (~$3K a year) if I took the standard 10 year financing. Most financing, as I understand it, you can ballpark a figure by multiplying the selling price by three ($276K) and dividing that by the (120) months. Even if they weren’t getting that kind of interest (and I know the maintenance fees are added on) a $92K property is going to result in a payment of a couple thousand a month. Maybe the $92K was for the full year, and each “owner” only pays a fiftieth for each week. I think they’d still end up paying about $500 a month each. (These time share resorts really rake it in!) Anyway, they laid into me with quite a hard sell. I had to let them run a credit report in order to complete my part of the deal, which I found irritating, but finally they let me go, and gave me the cash card as promised. It took me nearly three hours, and I felt I’d really earned it!DSC01938
A few minutes later I was back on the Visitors center bus (we were as close as they’d said!) and I called the girls to meet them on the green in front of the governor’s palace. By that time it was in the 80ºs. I should probably throw away this picture, but it gives you an idea of what it felt like. On the greens there isn’t as much shade and it was really hot! I did see this really cool tree though. DSC01937There were a lot of lovely old trees, and horses, and chickens (although not as many as I’d have liked to have seen. I feel there should be a lot more dogs and chickens wandering around- but then it is a real town and while cars mostly don’t go through it, there were a few.) Anyway, I probably walked an extra half mile or so and managed to get myself rather chaffed. I suppose that’s TMI (too much information). But we looked at the gun smith, and a few other places, then went back and had a quick supper and returned for the “Ghost Walk”. Sadly, we’d hoped to hear stories about the ghosts at Williamsburg, but mostly it consisted of three very well done performances of ghost stories set in different houses and done by the costumed staff. One girl did tell about seeing a lady walk up the stairs and when she turned there was no face between her wig and costume (nor hands coming out of the sleeves) which spooked her, but motivated her co-worker to run up to see if he could see it. I suppose it’s more fun to think about seeing ghosts than to actually see them. That requires thinking about how we really don’t know how they work. After all there are SO many types of ghost- and they don’t all work the same. I picked up a paperback about the ghosts of Williamsburg and apparently there’s a phantom wagon that people hear first thing in the morning going up one street. They theorize that since it’s the street that the gaol is on, and a wagon was used to convey prisoners to execution, that this is THAT wagon. I see no reason to think so. While there are many stories, all they have in common is that people hear the wagon, look and don’t see it, and it’s at the same time of day, and the same location. It could be any wagon.  They had two different ghost walks- one for kids and one for adults. We went to the adult one, and I can’t imagine how insipid the one they aimed at kids must have been.
Between the heat and walking, we went to bed pretty early and happily. I called John each night and morning. One of the things that had happened Thursday during packing is that the ethernet had disappeared and we had to reset all our computers and kindles to the new modem. Apparently it happened to John again, but I told him to use my computer and I’d see to it when I got back.  He did, and apparently spilled something into my keyboard. Luckily there was another (from Kat’s old computer he could use.  We slept in again, had a lovely leisurely breakfast, and started Monday at the other end of the street at the Capitol. DSC01939They had another tour, and what impressed me most was that the room (like a mini parliament) was supposed to have held 175 people. They’d have had to be VERY tightly packed in! The other side was the court room, which they dramatized by asking for volunteer defendants. According to the talk, the gaol was only for holding people for trials- every 3 months. You could be found innocent and freed, or guilty and hanged, whether for murder, treason or picking a pocket. On the other hand, they said many people were found guilty and “pardoned”, in which case you got at brand on your hand, which basically meant that if there was a next time there was no pardon (also dramatized on the volunteers). Well, modern studies indicate that if there’s a good chance you’ll get the death penalty, it is a deterrent, so maybe it was.
I preferred the gaol which was across the street, and you could close the doors. There was a coffin in one of the cells, and we spotted the slots for putting food into the cells from the attached house. I’ve read that friends could pay to bring in food and bedding and such in most medieval prisons, but they seemed to think that the only ones who’d be in there would be pirates and people without families, so it was only the daily gruel and water. I’d have to look that up. 11221286_10205728415985451_1538085032991509421_n
After the gaol, we got another free refill at the bakery. (I also noticed that they had water fountains built into some of the well-heads, so people could get drinks there. Very clever!) Then we wandered our way down the street, stopping at each house that offered something to see. DSC01949A lot of them were shops, and you could buy baskets, and soaps, hats, and toys, and all sorts of stuff, modern and reproductions. We were very eager to see the Milliners and Wigmakers, and the Apothecary was fun too. He let us touch a block of ambergris (I think he said) from a whale, they used for ointments. He also had some calcium tablets for indigestion- made from ground seashells. DSC01941Many of the paths, when not brick or cobble, were made of crushed shell. I expect that would  work well if the ground was soft. We opted against a carriage ride. Saw what was essentially a red fake fur at the tailors. Had a lovely chat at the shoemakers. He had only one pair of riding boots and said that they were the most expensive and useless thing in his shop. Most people wore shoes, not boots. Half boots were concidered fairly radical. If you wanted to keep the mud off, just wear splatterdashers (tall spats).DSC01945
JoAnn had hoped we could get some pictures of the wigmaker doing her thing. Since she now does a lot of movie makeup she wants to learn this skill. Sadly, the gentleman there was more interested in trying to sell the visitors a bath (only three people have used it- it’s quite clean!) and only showed us one knot’s worth. He did point out the examples of different kinds of wigs in the window- the short one for craftsmen, long ones for politicians, big white curled ones for judges, short white curled ones for lawyers, and wigs with tails for military.  He explained the wigs were quite fitted- you’d shave your head, make a wig form that was exactly that, and have several wigs fitted to it that you rotated through. He did admit that some people did keep their hair, but he could come and dress it for you (by appointment). We were there long enough to see him start tDSC01944o repeat himself with the next batch of people. I guess that there are basics you want to get through to the passing public.
Around lunchtime we checked the menus at other taverns we passed and decided to return to the one the girls had liked the day before. As it was lunchtime, we had to wait- checked out the gunpowder store. The girls were right- it was a lovely meal! 11150617_10205724169519292_4768329641093057_nThey each had what they’d had the day before they liked it so much!  I’m afraid I may have messed up the order on which shop we saw- although it doesn’t make a difference. After another flight of ales, Willow felt like relaxing in the shade again. There was a lovely little shady place down by the bindery, under the print shop. I went off to see the kitchen behind the blacksmiths.  I discovered that the camera was stuck on movie mode. (I THINK this time I’ve figured out how to reset it if it happens again.) So I have only movies of the ladies using the beehive oven, the blacksmith, and other things while I was on my own. I had to find the girls, but went back to the print shop to get some pamphlets we’d seen in the binders shop. I really admired the appropriate level of technology- many things were so straight-forward, yet clever. There were iron balls on chains that closed gates after you, and things for lighting, cooking, and all sorts of tools. I was pleased, I didn’t hear too many egregiously stupid questions.
We did NOT go see the militia drilling, although we did hear the cannon being shot. (Sounded a lot like our town cannon.)  And General Washington rode by us as he left. We went to the coopers, and ended up at the brickyard which was marvelous. I am so glad Willow suggested it.   By five, (shops stay open until ten, but the houses with tours close at 5) we were hot and had walked far enough. We actually fell asleep when we got back, and ate dinner around eight or nine- then went back to sleep.
Tuesday was pretty uneventful, except that knowing we wanted to go north and being offered east or west, chose east, and it took us an hour to realize it was southeast. So that added about two hours to the “ten” hour drive. In truth, we left at ten and got home at one, so I’m thinking that’s a fifteen hour drive, only two hours max we spent eating or gassing up. Kat had burned four of the Dr. Who audio plays, so that kept us amused. But it’s amazing how tiring driving can be.

Worse luck, the first Wednesday of the month is when Willow and Kat go up to get acupuncture, so they had to get back in the car and drive two hours each way to Vermont. I’d hoped to get in Tuesday night and get the announcement for the New Normal up, but had to do it in the morning. JoAnn has done workshops on animal symbolism and I had her as a guest on the show this week.
Other than that I unpacked the van and started the letter. I was really handicapped by having gotten used to the ergonomic keyboard. (You may remember me griping about it after I got it this spring, and found it so hard to adapt to.) Well, I’ve adapted and was having a hard time using the normal one again. I spent as much time going back to correct mistakes as I did typing. Luckily, there was a Staples on the girls route, and they stopped there on the way back and got me another. But by that time I was ready to pack it in.
DSC01970This picture is of the new flowers, and our new tablecloth that arrived while we were gone. It’s bright and cheerful. I put on one green, one gold, one red and one blue glass plate, and the same with the glasses.
Until next week, be happy.

“The space between the young readers eyeballs and the printed page is a holy place and officialdom should trample all over it at their peril” Terry Pratchett

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