This year, as has been our habit for the last 10 or so years, we made a New Year’s Day trek to Williamsburg, VA to enjoy lunch and a leisurely walk through the Colonial Historic Area to admire this year’s door decorations. Fortunately it’s just a hop, skip and jump from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Williamsburg….. Well, maybe more of a longish glide. As in glide smoothly over the incredible Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, sparkling blue waters of the merge point of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean swirling below, a sight that never ceases to amaze me with its ever changing face. Sometimes smooth as glass, other times presenting as long, undulating waves, yet again as wild angry chop, covered with foam, something different every time one goes across. Then gliding west on Rt. 64 which, on New Year’s Day, usually is a fat, low-key drive because most folks are likely trying to get the ole eyeballs focused after a rollicking New Year’s Eve. Anyway, it seems like no time at all and one is on Colonial Parkway, heading for Duke of Gloucester Street.
The Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg is an on-going restoration effort of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, was made possible by massive endowments by the John D. Rockefeller family, is a truly amazing place, a living history museum consisting of an entire town, replicated from the Colonial era. It’s like a time travelers dream, suddenly you’re back in the 1700′s, walking down cobblestone streets, past shops filled with long gone items like candles, bonnets, leather pockets, thick pottery, pewter mugs, etc., as well as replicas of the one and two page local newspapers of that era which are so amazing to read. Horse- drawn grand coaches clatter down the streets, young drummers from the Fife and Bugle Corps march purposefully towards the Governor’s Palace, drums counting the cadence, aromas of hot spiced apple cider waft through the air as folks from literally all around the globe visit during the holidays to see the Historic Area and the famous Christmas door wreaths and swags.
A quick lunch at one of the several taverns was in order before setting out to see this year’s crop of decorations. Taverns were public houses of that era and were places for visitors and travelers to eat and relax. The Foundation offers 4 authentic tavern experiences with menus offering foods similar to the dishes which would have been popular with folks like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson back in the day. At dinner, what would have been typical Colonial era entertainers stroll through the dining rooms, singing and accompanying themselves on lute and mandolin. Both the servers and the entertainers are in authentic costume, the lighting is by candle which creates an old-fashioned ambience. My favorite tavern for a quick lunch is Josiah Chownings, which was a real tavern, operated by a real Josiah Chowning back in the mid-1700′s. I especially look forward to their peanut soup appetizer which is served with long strips of chunky, very dry, crisp seasoned bread called “sippets”. Peanut soup probably sounds less than palatable but well made, with a good quality chicken stock and heavy cream, it is silky smooth and absolutely delicious. My husband often orders the Brunswick Stew which is a very old Southern dish, popular still, chicken stewed with corn, lima beans, tomatoes, herbs, etc.. The original recipe for Brunswick Stew called for squirrel instead of chicken, no squirrel for me, thanks anyway, but with chicken it is quite tasty.
Lunch enjoyed, we set out for a leisurely walk to view this year’s wreaths. Somehow, we never seem to tire of looking at these lovely, all- natural decorations. No matter how many times we have gone to Williamsburg over the holidays, it always seems that fresh and new ideas hang on each door. Every conceivable type of plant material is used in quite creative ways —- fresh cedar, pine, Frasier fir and boxwood sprigs are used to form the basic wreath which is then decorated with all sorts of colorful fruits, seed pods, magnolia leaves, grasses, dried flowers, pine cones, shells, etc. Over the years, these lovely wreaths become so famous that the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation finally published an elaborate hardcover book entitled “Christmas Decorations From Williamsburg” which gives step by step directions on how to make a Colonial style wreath at home. Order the book at http://www.Williamsburgmarketplace.com. I have the book but confess that somehow I’ve just never gotten around to making one myself although the directions are quite well illustrated. Maybe next year…..
(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)