Saturday, April 20, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg 2013, Day 5

Our fifth day in the historic city started hot and sunny, so we found ourselves seeking shade whenever possible, which was not easy because many of the trees had not yet sprouted leaves.

Patrick Henry took it all in stride when he addressed an audience in the Palace garden to discuss his faith and the role of religion in society.  Although we've heard him address the topic several times before, listening to him express his beliefs and answer questions is always entertaining.

By day five the Palace garden was noticeably more colorful than it was five days earlier although you may have to enlarge this image to appreciate the colorful blooms.

We found the cook in the Palace kitchen busy cutting butter into flour to make breads of various shapes.  The completed dishes in front of him included a couple puddings, a stuffed cabbage, veal kidney, salat with egg and several other dishes of which I can't remember their identity.

Although you can't see their faces well, one can appreciate our ladies' gowns on this stroll along Prince George Street.

We sought refuge from the afternoon heat listening to Ron Carnegie portray George Washington at the Kimball Theatre.  I don't recall hearing Mr. Carnegie in a question-and-answer format before, but this presentation was consistent with the Washington speeches we've heard him deliver during Revolutionary City events.  He portrays an unanimated President Washington, which may be accurate compared to Patrick Henry or even Thomas Jefferson, but when it comes across as condescending it quickly grows tiresome.  Not a favorite, but I'll probably give him another chance in the future.

Our tour of the Everard house found few changes from our last visit, but that doesn't prevent me from sharing a couple photos and a bit of information.  I've shown these dishes in a previous post but they were on a table and hard to see.  As mentioned before, these dishes were recovered from a shipwreck after they had spent over 230 years at the bottom of the South China Sea.  A representative of Colonial Williamsburg recognized the pattern when they came up for auction in China several decades ago, and spent quite a bit of money to obtain many of the pieces shown here.  The pattern is identical to that found on dish fragments discovered in excavations around town, so the curators here are confident this pattern of dishware was used in this town in the colonial period.  I'm told China is much more restrictive in what they allow to leave the country now, so that providential auction may have been the opportunity of a lifetime.

The Everard House kitchen stands to the left and the smokehouse to the right in this photo.  Both structures are original and restored buildings that stood on the property in the mid 18th century.

Moving on to the Governor's Palace, the color of the paneling on the south wall of this comfortable little study caught Karen's eye.  She's been thinking about a different blue for our kitchen at home, and although this color may not make the final cut, we think it's pretty nonetheless.

Dinner before our concert in the evening was at Christiana Campbell's Tavern.  Since they specialize in seafood, most of us tried dishes based on local and non-local catches.  We found each selection enjoyable, and would recommend this restaurant.

On our walk across town to the Governor's Palace for the concert I couldn't resist this shot of the cupola and flag above the Capitol Building in the fading evening light.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg 2013, Day 4

Our fourth day activities started with a visit to the silversmith, where the apprentice entertained our questions and offered significant insight into the use of precious metals in the 18th century.

This image shows some of our party in the retail store in the next room that primarily displayed jewelry and had chocolate for sale.  Strange combination?  I think they know their clientele well.

Wetherburn's Tavern had changed in subtle ways since we last visited, but retains many of the charms of one of the few original structures in town.  All of the objects in this private room (excepting the tablecloth) are 18th century antiques that appear to have fared well over time.

Another of the 88 original structures is the dairy behind the tavern, which is the building on the left.  The reconstructed smokehouse and well cover are the other structures in this photo.

On our tour of Peyton Randolph's home we discovered new wallpaper in a more gothic style than what had hung here previously.

Tara, Gretel, Karen, David, and Annette navigating road hazards on Colonial Street south of Nicholson Street.

The Mary Stith is used for some intimate music programs, and even the rear of the home displays considerable colonial charm.

The tailor has a new apprentice.  Michael told us a bit about himself, and then showed us the summer-weight men's suit he's working on.  I suspect we'll get to know him better in the future.

The wigmaker tried (in vain) to convince our ladies that a wig would be preferable to their natural hair.  Since we only pretend to live in the 18th century, we weren't buying her arguments, although the wigmaking process is pretty interesting and her finished products were very impressive.

Finally, a view of the Bruton Parish bell tower from across several yards and pastures.  Conveniently hidden from view is the scaffolding that surrounds most of the rest of the building to aid a current construction project.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg 2013, Day 3

Our third day was the Lord's day, which found us starting our day at Bruton Parish as has been our pattern for the last several visits.  I forgot my camera, so I don't have a picture to show, but our view from the balcony looked a lot like the image here.

Our afternoon tour of the town included a visit to the cabinetmakers who work in this charming little workshop.  Someone called our attention to the different roof materials on the two sections of the building, so we asked one of the cabinetmakers why the taller building got a new roof, and not the entire building.  We were told the lighter colored shingles are actually clay tiles that were installed in the 1960s!  Presumably the darker roof, which I believe has wood shingles, was installed after the clay tile roof, although no one explained why the two roofs are different.  Oh well, I guess we'll have to ask that question the next time we stop in.

This chest was constructed by the cabinetmakers, but it's not accessible to the public since it holds the tools of the workers and rests in their work area.  Now THAT'S a tool chest!

Sadly, the little garden we document on each visit looks about as bare as we've ever seen it.

Our afternoon took an interesting turn when Karen and I struck up a conversation with this young man that was practicing cricket bowling on the lawn of the Market Square.  Just a few hours earlier, a customed CW interpreter had invited us to a cricket match as we exited Bruton Parish; that interpreter happened to be this young man's father.  Levi Walker and his sister Annaiah (to his left) turned out to be two of five home-educated siblings that have lived with their parents on the property of Colonial Williamsburg for the last five years, currently residing in the home behind Levi which happens to sit directly east of the Peyton Randolph House.  Levi's dad, Brett, is a journeyman shoemaker that works in the shop on Duke of Gloucester Street, and is organizing an 18th century cricket match at Bacon's Castle on April 20.  The game will be played to 1755 rules, 18th century dress is expected for players and spectators, and vendors are encouraged to hawk their wares (which I assume will be period-correct as well).  If you're in the area on the 20th, head out to Bacon's Castle and check it out!

By late afternoon, the weather and lighting were ideal for a little fashion photo shoot.

Since lambing is in full swing right now, we've been scouring the city to find its newest residents.  We finally found these two siblings in the pasture to the north of the Blue Bell Tavern.  Even though sheep have a reputation for being stupid, these two lambs are still very cute.

While exploring behind the Blue Bell (yellow building in the background), we found this gazebo that I'd never noticed before.  This structure has several interesting features, one of which is the screens all the way around the structure, which makes it suitable for evening use in mosquito-infested Illinois.  I don't know that I'd call this gazebo my favorite in town, but it's definitely in my top five.

Finally, a rare shot of Karen and I courtesy of Kathryn.

Colonial Williamsburg 2013, Day 2

Our second full day dawned sunny and cool, and found us in the Historic District almost all day.

Our first appointment of the day was a conversation with Thomas Jefferson on the Palace grounds, but since we arrived early, we decided to take a turn or two around the property.  There really are four girls strolling around the lagoon in this picture, even though you'll need a sharp eye to spot them all.

Several others joined us in our chat with President Jefferson in the year 1812, as he shared his views on religion and its relationship to the state.  Among other things, he made it clear that he envisions a wall of separation between church and state in that each has its own jurisdiction and the state shall not demand allegiance to any religion; he was incredulous that some would construe this to mean that morality based in religion should have no place in the affairs of the state.  Overall, the conversation was an interesting display of  Bill Barker's interpretation and portrayal of Jefferson's views on religion in general.

Equally interesting and always entertaining is Richard Schumann's portrayal of Patrick Henry.  Our engagement with Henry included a large audience in the Hennage Auditorium and addressed primarily affairs of state, which were strongly voiced.  Come to think of it, I can't remember Patrick Henry having anything but strong opinions on any subject!

Since spring is relatively late here, a few trees have flowered, although many are yet to bloom.  The bee harvesting in this blossom caught my eye and reminded me of beekeeper friends in Central Illinois.

A chat with the weavers is always instructive and entertaining as today we learned about bed rugs (a few samples displayed in the foreground) while the master weaver busied himself with the loom in the background.

An auction of Colonial Williamsburg wares was held in the Market Square this afternoon, and here Karen proudly displays the spoils of her victory with Kathryn and Gretel.

Although she was a temporary stand-in for the journeyman apothecaries, this interpreter did an excellent job of answering our questions.  Too much television in my childhood enabled me to follow her impersonation of Johnny Carson in her description of some the store's wares.

Although we had 20th century food for lunch, we managed to find ourselves back in the 18th century at dinnertime at the Kings Arms Tavern.

Here's our party ready to dive in to the delicious repast of several colonial favorites.  The Yen family from Northern Illinois has joined us this year for a celebration of all things colonial, in what promises to be an enjoyable week at our second home.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg 2013, Day 1

We are blessed to be back in Colonial Williamsburg again this April, although it appears that spring is as late coming to this part of the country as it is at home.  Our first day started wet after rain came through last night, so we decided to shop for antiques around town until our first Historic District activity in the afternoon.  The Vintage Rabbit and The Velvet Shoestring were both home furnishing consignment stores that displayed their wares attractively, but didn't convince us to purchase anything.  By noon the sky was clear, the temperature was warming, and our appetites were ready for the buffet at Nawab Cuisine.  The staff at Nawab did not disappoint us, confirming its status as the best Indian food on the East Coast (or at least Williamsburg).

After lunch we had time to visit a small antique store on our way back to the Historic District where we wandered through an exhibit of "Painters and Paintings in the Early American South" while waiting for a music program to begin.  The music program was 30 minutes of listening to a quartet on the harpsichord, viola de gamba, violin, and German flute playing short selections from a variety of 18th century composers, famous and not-so-famous.  The venue was a stark classroom in the DeWitt Wallace Museum, but the music was as inspiring as the venue wasn't, and still left us time for more antique shopping at the Williamsburg Antique Mall.

This was our view of the Capitol as we approached for the Capitol Concert this evening which consisted of an a cappella quartet singing madrigals from the 16th and 17th centuries.  The artists, Michael Monaco, Jane Hanson, Jennifer Edenborn, and Herb Watson, are all familiar to us, but in the past we've only heard Jane Hanson's singing as the others are usually busy with their instruments.

Sharp eyes and good memories will notice that the trim and cupola on the building have been painted a different color since our last visit.

This was my view of the singer's "music stand" for the concert.  Herb Watson was close enough I could have reached out and touched him -- we were definitely in the spit zone!  The House of Burgesses hall in candlelight makes a wonderful atmosphere for live colonial music, and the musicians tonight performed well enough to bring honor to the venue.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cream Tea Shootout: Devon vs. Cornwall

Cream tea is a delightful English invention that makes just about any day seem special.  Combine fresh brewed tea (served with milk) with scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam, and your taste buds will have a little party in your mouth.  The folks of Devon claim to have enjoyed the first cream tea, so when we found ourselves in that part of the country, we naturally searched for the finest tea shop in the county and enjoyed Devon cream tea.

Devon cream tea is properly eaten by splitting the scone in two and spreading clotted cream on each half before strawberry jam is added atop the cream.  That's the way we prepared our treats at Primrose Tea Rooms and the experience was one of the most enjoyable of our trip.  The proprietress was congenial and seemed surprised that we would pick her shop out of all the tea rooms in Devon based solely on reviews posted on the internet.

We were well aware that Cornwall also boasts exceptional cream teas, so two days later we treated ourselves to a late afternoon Cornish cream tea at Pengenna Tea Room in Tintagel.  Cornish cream tea differs from Devon cream tea in at least one important aspect: the jam goes on the scone before the clotted cream.  The picture above was taken in Cornwall, so you can see the scone at my place properly prepared with the jam on the bottom and the clotted cream on top.

The creaminess or spreadability of the clotted cream may determine whether you choose to prepare your scone in the Devon style or the Cornish style.  Stiffer clotted cream requires some friction between the cream and application surface, and if that surface is covered with slippery jam, the Cornish method can be difficult to implement.  While fresh baked scones and locally prepared clotted cream and jam should result in tastier cream tea, we found several factory made ingredients that tasted wonderful, leading us to hesitate turning up our noses at plastic tubs.

Which cream tea is superior?  That's hard to determine.  The experience is primarily a sum of its parts, in that the quality of the scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam are all important variables, not to mention the supporting role of the beverage.  We found excellent ingredients in many different parts of the country, and felt unable to judge one county superior to another based on our limited samples.  Therefore, we volunteer our services to complete more sampling in the future.