Let’s go away for a weekend, we said. Somewhere warm and relaxing, so South, maybe even Mexico or the Caribbean. Cue several days of trawling TripAdvisor, trying to find somewhere cheap, convenient, and with at least a couple of interesting sites to visit. Just as we were on the point of giving up and staying home, a friend suggested Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, which turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.
In the spirit of doing things on the cheap, we flew to Washington DC and drove from there. We avoided the freeway and enjoyed being in the countryside as it rolled past the windows, reminding us very strongly of southern England (but with wider rivers). The drive was made considerably more dramatic by the most epic thunderstorm I’ve ever encountered, complete with tremendous bolts of lightning, a vivid double rainbow and vision-obliterating rain, but thankfully we made it to our hotel without incident.
We’d managed to get a ridiculously good deal at the Historic Powhatan Resort, a complex not unlike Centre Parcs, with rows of accommodation units and leisure and dining facilities set in the grounds of a former plantation, complete with central historic building. I don’t mean to sound like an advertisement, but this was a fantastic find – the resort was within easy driving distance of everything we might want to see and do, our split-level apartment was extremely comfortable and offered better amenities than we have at home.
Travelling Friday – Monday gave us two full days to explore, and we could easily have stayed for longer. We thought we’d take a quick look around the historic Jamestown site on Saturday, have a picnic lunch and then do something else in the afternoon, but in the end we spent a lot more time examining the archaeological sites and in the museum (or ‘Archaearium’, as they style it).
After the familiar National Parks Service introductory film (a particularly nicely-done one, I thought), we admired the turtles and general swampiness of the swamp which separates the visitor centre from the riverside site.
A wooden palisade marks out the site of the original fortress, and it was extremely evocative to stand by the fence, with forests and swamp on one side and the water on the other.
Having exhausted the possibilities of the fort site, we wandered along to the museum, which contains some excellent displays of items uncovered during excavations of the site, and detailed explanations of various aspects of life and death in the early colony.
After all that, it was extremely pleasant to sit in the sunshine with a cup of coffee, and look out over the river. We wandered back to the car by way of the ruins of the expanded later settlement, and ate a picnic lunch before taking the driving tour around the rest of the peninsula.
Last stop on the route was a recreation of the 1608 glass blowing site, about a mile from the fort, where we watched two glassblowers shaping lamps.
We were also quite excited to spot some ospreys(?) sitting in the treetops:
Late afternoon by this stage, it was time to head back to our apartment for a badly-scheduled conference call before driving down the road to collect pizza and ice cream for dinner. There were plenty of restaurants nearby so we could easily have eaten out, but decided to have a properly lazy evening watching Food Network – gluten- and dairy-free pizza and sorbet never tasted so good!