What Actually Happened at Jamestown & Yorktown?

I love history...American, New York, & European especially.  I dig into David McCullough books and watch Ken Burns' documentaries in my free time. But certain things that we (as Americans) should know...I don't. Yorktown? Some battle. Jamestown? Some town.

When Colonial Williamsburg invited me down, I was especially excited to spend a few hours at these sites.  Williamsburg, Jamestown & Yorktown make up the so-called "Historic Triangle."  I learn better when surrounded by beautiful, clean things. When my desk is a mess, I can't work. The Yorktown Victory Center & Jamestown galleries are really beautiful. I believe we all learn better this way-things are laid out well, easy to understand and absorb, and hey, there's a great gift shop and cafe at the end too.

I love that the drive into both of these areas seems untouched-like you're seeing the same trees the settlers and soldiers saw.


How To: 25 minute drive from Williamsburg. Start at the Yorktown Victory Center, check out the model encampment and 1780's farm surrounding it, & then tour the nearby actual battlefied if you're interested.

What happened? To simplify it, America happened because of this battle. It was the battle that changed everything. The battle that was the turning point in the Americans winning the Revolutionary War against the British. 1781-The Siege of Yorktown was THE deciding battle & basically was the start of America as we know it today. Oh and let's thank the French too-we couldn't have done it without their help! Negotiations for peace ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, where America was recognized as free from Great Britain.


Victory Center Entrance


How To: You'll need more time here than Yorktown. A new visitor center opened in 2006. The galleries/museum building is huge, and you can spend an hour meandering or more if you watch the videos like "1607: A Nation Takes Root." After the galleries, you can tour the Powhatan Indian Village, the James Fort, and board one of the replicas of the ships that took settlers here (they seemed surprisingly small to me).

What happened? Cooking, flirting, games...a lot of livin'. Actually, there was a lot of starving, fighting, and disease unfortunately. Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in America and was settled 13 years BEFORE the Pilgrims came to Massachusetts.

Now I have to go figure out what happened at Bull Run.

Queen Elizabeth II's First Visit to Jamestown in 1957


Things I Love About Colonial Williamsburg

Remember the excitement builidng up for a field trip in school? I went to elementary school in Rhode Island so that meant field trips to Boston museums, Newport mansions, and bird sanctuaries.

I got swept back up in that feeling in Colonial Williamsburg, of what might be discovered when you think that anything is possible.  The area is much more sophisticated than any other historical site I've been to in America (read: tourist-swarmed area). There's a lot of grace, with tree-lined streets, stately brick buildings, restored 17th-century homes, and surprisingly great restaurants.  Along with school groups and families, there are couples, and groups of girlfriends doing afternoon tea and cooking classes.  What I loved most about Colonial Williamsburg is that I could just as easily have spent a romantic weekend here (sadly I was alone!), a reunion with my college roommates, or a couple days with my grandparents.

And it reminded me of reading about Felicity, the red-headed American Girl that lived in Williamsburg in 1774 at the cusp of the Revolutionary War.  She was my favorite American Girl.

Here's what I loved most beyond the living history/museum aspect (you can't miss the Governor's Palace, the Capitol, and all the demonstrations/dramatic recreations):

Merchant Square: The restaurant and shopping heart of Williamsburg

Great Restaurants: Blue Talon Bistro, Trellis, Aromas, Fat Canary and Berrets are all in or close to Merchant Square. I also loved the taverns in the historical area near my hotel, including Chowning's & The King's Arms. I had dinner at Second Street one night, which is away from the tourist areas and a local favorite.

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich at Aromas: Close to perfect

 The Christmas Shop: I have a weakness for Christmas ornament shops open all year long

The College of William & Mary: One of the most beautiful college campuses in America, and just off Merchant Square

Beautiful gardens

The fact that you can purchase these hats

Busch Gardens Williamsburg: I love that each section of the park is themed to a different European country. Busch Gardens is actually beautiful, a word not often used in association with theme park.

Closet Envy: Near Merchant Square, I picked up a great pair of J Brand jeans on sale & two pairs of Diane Von Furstenburg heels, also majorly on sale. The owner is young, super fun, & stocks great stuff!

Families walking around: Dads with backpacks and maps, moms with snacks, and kids running circles around them

Great gift shops

Historical games for sale, like Tabletop Ninepins

Beautiful houses

The Women of the Civil War Walking Tour: I certainly hadn't thought much about the Civil War & Williamsburg before and this one-hour walking tour was informative and fun, using a guide and 4 actresses to portray women of the time.

Sheep hanging out

The Williamsburg Inn of course!  I wrote about it here.  Happy 75th Anniversary! 

The Williamsburg Inn: Happy 75th Anniversary!

Cannonballs heralded my arrival! Ok, they weren't for ME, but it was clear that after two weeks in the UK & just two days home in NYC, I had landed in Colonial Williamsburg with guns blazing and Revolutionary War battles being recreated.  I say you can become anyone you want simply by checking into a hotel for a night. At The Williamsburg Inn, I channeled a kind, funny Southern lady, living in a stately Virginia home that looks like this.

As I write this, I'm snuggled up in a room that is just so elegant and comfortable (with free, fast WiFi!!). There's a dressing table, mahogany furniture, light gold drapes, cozy armchairs, and a balcony that looks out onto a beautiful green lawn. 

Loved this tree shading my viewJohn D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife Abby were committed to preserving Colonial Williamsburg and opened the inn in 1937 to be more like a Virginia country estate versus a hotel. It's sumptuous without being stuffy, and still a destination hotel today. The Regency Room serves a formal dinner with dancing, while The Terrace is a great spot for a casual dinner or drink at the bar.

The Regency RoomI did actually absorb history in England, including what Regency style means.  When George IV ruled as Prince Regent in the early 1800's, this style was all the rage and beautifully shown here at the inn with bright colors and gold on black lacquered chairs. And what is a REGENT, you might ask? Someone who rules while the real monarch is incapacitated-in this case his father was mentally ill.

Regency-style furniture & decor in lobbyThe lobby has the most comfortable reading chair ever, perfect as I read the first 100 pages of "The Darlings" (a great travel read).

Most comfortable lobby chair ever on rightPart of the fun of coming here right after being in the UK is the huge connection shared by Britain's royal family, Williamsburg, and this hotel.  Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip stayed here in 1957 and a glamourous state dinner was thrown at the inn.  They stayed again in 2007 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown.

The library has photos of Queen Elizabeth II's visitsTheir spa menu has something I've never seen before, "century-inspired treatments," from the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.  They used leeches to heal diseases so what could possibly be blissful about that time? But I was lucky enough to experience the two-hour 18th-century spa treatment. All treatments came from archive research and were recreated for the modern spa. The foot bath uses a historic herbal recipe, followed by an orange and ginger scrub, both of which were used in the 1700s for healing. And lastly, an hour & 15-minute massage with 18th-century-inspired oil. I followed all that lazy fabulousness with treadmill time-the gym is very nice.

Spa Relaxation Room-I drank about 6 cups of their apple mint tea

The Quiet PoolI absolutely love The Williamsburg Inn.  You get to live the Colonial Williamsburg experience that is so wonderfully presented by also having every creature comfort (I really can't be without Internet access). Also, the shampoo & conditioner made my hair smell insanely good.