Bright, sunny, beautiful from dawn till dusk, New Year’s Day 2014 was simply lovely. We had planned early on to ring in New Year’s Day in Williamsburg and the weather could not have been more co-operative. One of the delights of a trip to the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg in December are the beautiful holiday decorations– the door of each home in the restored area is adored with a unique, handmade wreath. And since they are all crafted by the residents, no wreath is duplicated. For about the last ten years we have made an annual pilgrimage on New Year’s Day to enjoy a guilt-free buffet brunch at one of the hotels because afterwards we take a brisk walk through the restored area to work off all those calories ! ( An excellent excuse for sampling several deserts …..) And the trip from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Williamsburg is so easy, a glide over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, clear blue waters below, chop-chop-chop up I-64 E , exit onto Colonial Parkway and, insto-presto, in less than 2 hours it’s napkin in lap, fork in hand, ready to enjoy a luscious lunch.
Lunch this year was an interesting buffet at the always special Williamsburg Inn– in addition to Southern regional dishes like oyster pie, seafood fritatta and minced Smithfield ham salad, a surprisingly excellent offering was a black-eyed pea bisque. For those not familiar, it is a Southern tradition that on New Year’s Day, one must eat black-eyed peas — they are supposed to bring good luck for the coming year. I don’t really enjoy them and the idea of black-eyed pea bisque was initially not appealing whatever. But Hubby tried some, wow, said he, this bisque is really excellent, you really should try it. So I did…. once, twice and three times a charm ! Couldn’t believe it, that’s how delicious it was, best darn thing on the menu, I shall remember it aways. Well, maybe not always but at least until next year when I hope they will serve it again ! The desserts were fun, especially the crepe’ station, rich, thin crepe’s filled with Bananas Foster, topped with a little scoop of fabulous ice cream and sliced fresh strawberries, very, very yummy indeed.
The weather was delightful, a little warmer than usual, about 55 degrees, so when we started our walk Duke of Gloucester Street was teeming with folks from all over, tourists wearing their badge passes, locals, students from the College of William and Mary which is located just a few blocks away, everyone quite relaxed, just enjoying the afternoon, strolling down this historic street. If you love dogs, Gloucester Street is also a “meet and greet” heaven for dogs of all kinds and sizes, as owners leisurely traipse down the street behind their pooches. This year was an especially great year for “people walking dog” watching– a Bernese Mountain dog, Labradoodle, Great Pyrenees, Scottie, Doxie, Boxer, you name it, they were enthusiastically escorting their owners down this four hundred year old street where individuals like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both alumni of William and Mary, probably walked their dogs too. Interestingly, you almost never see aggressive canine behavior there, just doggie curiosity and tail wagging which makes the whole “man’s best friend” scene lots of fun. And to add additional interest to this convivial scene, the period style carriages were out in force, each drawn by two gorgeous, well-cared for horses, stepping high, coats gleaming in the afternoon sunlight, liveried driver seated high above. The carriages are apparently hand- manufactured in Austria according to one of the drivers but the wheels themselves are actually handmade at the wheelwright shop right in the Williamsburg Historic Area. Anyway, four or five horse-drawn carriages traveling down the street is quite a sight.
This year’s batch of wreaths and swags was interesting as always. Nearly every home and shop in the Restored Area is decorated each holiday season with a wreath or swag made entirely of materials which would have been available to residents of the 18th century, basically constructed from fresh greenery pine, fraiser, boxwood, holly, magnolia and decorated with a myriad of dried different flowers, seeds and fruits, no artificial decorations allowed. To up the ante’ a bit for residents, 1st, 2nd. and 3rd place blue ribbons are awarded and given the obvious amount of effort many wreaths show, I’m guessing there is a bit of friendly competition every year to win a ribbon. The effect is so pleasing that every year literally thousands of visitors come each year over the holidays to see the decorations and enjoy a holiday meal in one of the period taverns. Each Tavern is gaily decorated for the season, softly lighted by candles with costumed servers offering food authentic to the period– one of the most famous is the King’s Arms Tavern which is famous for its peanut soup, Game Pye as well as an unusual veggie offering, a rich creamed celery with a hint of nutmeg, which doesn’t sound that great but which was quite delicious. There is always something new to see or try in Williamsburg and a visit there is a great way to kick off the New Year.