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Khirad On September - 17 - 2010

From Richmond, I went further east in Virginia, and deeper back into history, to the Historic Triangle of Virginia which is composed of Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg.

First up, Historic Jamestowne, and John Smith, marking the area near where the Discovery, Susan Constant and Godspeed dropped anchor, and English settlers first set foot on American (or should I say, Powhatan) land.

Jamestown Church.

The tower dates to 1639.

Inside the the recreated church, which was built in 1907 upon the foundations of the 1617 and 1639 church foundations, where the first legislature in America met. There was a short Sunday church service done by a park service interpreter. It was pretty intimate, there being less than ten visitors there. I’m not religious, but there was a special spiritual feeling to it, to offer a prayer in a place that heard those same prayers nearly 400 years ago.

The back, with John Smith peeking through to the left.

Jamestown Tercentennial Monument.

During the Civil War, Confederate troops built earthworks like this, near where the original fort would have been.

Ye olde tavern (I’m joking, it was called Swann’s Tavern), the nearest surviving ruins next to, where else? the church! From what I know, one of the ancestors I can trace my family tree back to, Stephen Hopkins, may have spent too much of his time here. In seriousness, I don’t know if it would have been operating when he was there, though.

Just some more generic ruins.

In Georgian style, the Ambler House, burnt first during the Revolution, then burnt down again by fleeing slaves in the Civil War, and finally abandoned after a third fire in 1895.

I just thought this tree had an expressiveness to it.

This is on the outskirts of town, around where another relative of mine (I have two, one from my mother’s and another from my father’s side) would have lived.

Row houses.

With picturesque pathway.

Pocahontas looking more like Q’orianka Kilcher than she probably did.

Yorktown, British line. This is where Tea Partiers might have found themselves, fighting against those anti-colonialists.

A view to the left.

The French line. I’ll reserve my white flag snark. They helped win this one, and thus, Independence.

Civil War cemetery smack dab in the middle of the Yorktown battle site.

A cute little family cemetery over the wall. French flag in the background.

Continental Army line.

Blue Heron? One could really get a feel for topography, how a marshy, forested area separated the Continental and British encampments.

Moore House, where terms of surrender were negotiated.

Monument at Yorktown, celebrating the victory of the Revolution. I complain a lot about people getting in my shot, but in this one was a family trying to get their (Junior High-ish looking) boy interested in what he was looking at and making him read everything. I was happy to be patient for this. This is completely different than people just plain being inconsiderate. Plus, they seemed to be aware of me and how to extend courtesy. I with body language, tried to indicate as much as possible, I did not mind.

Colonial Williamsburg. The old capitol building. An ancestor of mine donated the land this was built on.


Basic scene.

Basic street scene. I chose a picture without the anachronistic traffic cones and Virginia Power trucks, or William & Mary coeds in little more than sports bras (not that I was complaining about that).

Inside a inn, here is where the tables would have been aside and  dancing done. Of course, the original carpet does not survive, but they sent off to a company in England, still in existence who was able to dig up the original pattern and recreate it. Maybe it would have been best to have let this pattern be forgotten…

Another cheesy scene.

Ye olde blacksmith. Actually, I often wonder about guys like this. How interesting they must be. Here he’s just making perfunctory nails. They try to be self sustaining wherever possible. Of course, I’d seen this kind of thing as a kid at Fort Vancouver (of the Hudson’s Bay Company) in my hometown. I’m sure we all have our own little “Williamsburgs” around the country. It was sort of like reliving a bit of childhood.

Halberds, muskets, swords and drums galore inside the town magazine (fun fact, that’s an Arabic word). At a gunsmith elsewhere, I held a musket which I assume was a Brown Bess. Since I’ve always read they were heavy, it was lighter than I’d expected. Then again, lugging it around can’t have been fun, especially when it’s a foot short of a man of average height.

The drummer in me had to get one of a tension cord field drum with good ol’ gut snares.

A charming garden.

Bruton Parish Church, where Jefferson, Washington, George Mason, and Patrick Henry worshiped (or pretended to for appearances).

It even had a plaque to Confederate soldiers.

The steeple.


The Governor’s Palace, lived in at one time by governors Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. The last Colonial governor was John Murray, whom after the loss of Royal sovereignty to the rebellion, was transferred to the Bahamas. Meh, not so bad a fate. I’m sure it had better weather than Scotland. Of course, we’re talking about recreations here, but built on the sites where the originals would have been.

The whole foyer was covered with latticework of the blade like this. Included for no other reason than I think it’s totally bad ass. Before the tour, the interpreter was asking people where they were from, making the point that the colonies claimed everything to the west, pretty much. Most people were from around the East, no further west than Ohio. When I said Arizona, she was surprised, a little flummoxed, and finally eked out a “well, I suppose Georgia,” but quickly moved on. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was a Spanish spy. She might have been more friendly if I were still from the Columbia District?

The gardens behind the palace.

Reverse of the palace.

Closeup of the period Hanoverian Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.

Do not enter.

More of the tiered gardens behind the palace.

One last shot of the palace.

There was a bit of a storm in which an apothecary offered a group of us shelter, and then this man, the printer, offered his neighbor’s stoop to stand under.

Just an askew street scene, with a boy playing with a chicken.

Another scene.

Some of the whimsical signage was adorable – even in if in a non-PETA endorsed way.

My dessert at the Blue Talon Bistro. The first time there, I had a Pernod. This night, you can see from the absinthiana what brand this was. (And, I’m fully aware that they’re both average products despite their pre-ban pedigree, but The New York Times wasn’t as harsh as hard-core connoisseurs with their 1910 caches from La Belle Époque can be!)

The man let the water trickle gently into his glass, and as the green clouded, a mist fell from his mind. / Then he drank opaline. – Ernest Dowson, “Absinthia Taetra.”

After finishing this, I started lasciviously eying the lady holding up the fountain. The Green Fairy had taken her bite!

I didn’t show pictures of Lafayette’s field or Surrender field at Yorktown. They’re just fields. Pretty, but not photogenic and practically indistinguishable.  I can link to pictures on NPS pages or that others have taken if one is interested.

All in all, I enjoyed Jamestown much more than Colonial Williamsburg. Perhaps the coolest thing about the latter was seeing the campus of Jon Stewart’s alma mater adjacent the historic site. If I had  kids, or had some fun drugs, I would highly recommend it. Call me a nerd, but the ruins, as bare as they be, felt more authentic to me than what was almost a Disneyland-like atmosphere to Williamsburg. Not to take away the great work they do, but it was often hard at times to remember parts of Williamsburg were actually real.

Of course, a highlight at Colonial Williamsburg was when a man with a heavy Deep Southern accent complained to an interpreter about the British flags everywhere. After all, he fumed righteously, this is ‘Murika! The interpreter, in character, tried patiently explaining that the town is representing the Colonial town before the American Revolution. But the man became more insistent and gruffly, before walking away in a huff, said that he’d prefer they flew the Stars and Bars.

So, I can’t say I didn’t have fun!

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

9 Responses so far.

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  1. AdLib says:

    Khirad, thank you once more for taking me on another leg of this wonderful odyssey with you. You are an excellent photographer, a gracious guide and have provided us with a memorable journey that will be a perennial here at The Planet!


  2. choicelady says:

    Thank you, Khirad! I understand why you prefer Jamestown -- it’s the real McCoy while Williamsburg is entirely a recreation. It’s built on real foundations, but it was the work of J.D. Rockefeller who did us a favor in rebuilding, but it will always have a sense of the phony. I haven’t been there since I was a young teen, and I loved it then, but I really do understand the difference. However, I also like Plimoth Plantation which is entirely recreated as well. But there’s nothing like the real, even when it’s just the remnants. I once was reading an early textile account book, c. 1815 and found a fingerprint. A fingerprint! I’ll never know whose it was, but it gave me chills and a real sense of continuity -his work and life surviving until it reached my eyes. Seeing all those foundations -- someone walked there, lived there, worked there in the real time and place. The “fingerprints” of the building footprint. Can’t make it much better than that. Your photos are remarkable, and the trip is fantastic, and thank you for all you’ve shared with us.

  3. escribacat says:

    Another great series, Khirad. I share your interest in genealogy and absinthe! I have a beautiful book about absinthe. I thought it was illegal though. Was that just pernod you were having? (I wasn’t sure). There is a great Oscar Wilde quote about “wading through tulips” after drinking absinthe.

    Seems like those folks have the “dress-up for the tourists” thing down pretty well. I actually love those costumes and the neat old houses. I’d lap it up.

    • Khirad says:

      Yes, I still have that book on my one day buying list. 😉

      And yes, the Wilde story is famous, but originates from the hotelier himself decades after the supposed event. Not to say Wilde didn’t have some great quotes on absinthe, though, and sometimes myth is just as fun as fact.


      The ban on absinthe was lifted in 2007 in the US, two years after the lifting of the ban in Switzerland -- the home of Absinthe. I’m still not sure on the current status in France. It’s kind of complicated in France. But, for years one could sneak in Spanish absinthe into the states via mail with little trouble. Customs didn’t generally consider it as a prime concern and the ban on absinthe was seen more like one of those laws that say you can’t spit on the sidewalk on a Sunday. Lifting the ban is more readily seen as in me being able to order it in a restaurant.

      The argument from the purists will be that the new drinks contain less wormwood. This may well be true, in fact, and for many years Absinthe-like products were made with the anise and fennel, minus the wormwood. But tests done on the much coveted pre-ban absinthe bottles like Pernod-Fils, have themselves debunked the myth that the original had high levels of thujone, the chemical in question. The current regulations stipulate that absinthe cannot contain more than 10mg/L of thujone. Ironically, tarragon and sage have more than wormwood. When I was a little out of high school, I once bought some straight wormwood and made tea out of it. It lived up to its bitter reputation (as mentioned even in the Bible and amongst the ancient Egyptians), but did little more than give me a mild headache. The debate on any psychoactive properties minus the high alcohol content is pretty much bunk (sadly).

      The point where the snooty purists have a point is in the artificial coloring. But, as for me, as long as there’s a good louche, they can make it glow in the dark as far as I’m concerned. That’d be kinda cool, actually. And they are now pre-sweetened, making the sugar part (which would have counteracted the wormwood’s bitterness) of the ritual redundant, which is a silly thing to do. I would love to have a more authentic modern absinthe sometime. But, they can be mighty pricey. I’m intrigued by absinthe and its history, mystique and ritual, but I’m not at this point in time that committed.

      The answer to my second absinthe was Grande Absente. I almost went for the very well regarded K

  4. kesmarn says:

    At last, on Monday evening I’ve had a chance to sit down and really have a good look at Part 7, Khirad. Such fun!

    Stephen Hopkins-- interesting life that ancestor of yours had! I skimmed the Wiki story on him and he even was involved in an attempted mutiny! Wow. (I’m thinking the fellow in charge must have been a real jerk, though, because Hopkins was by all the other accounts a totally realiable and trustworthy guy.)

    I think I would have taken a picture of that expressive tree, too. In a funny way, it reminds me a bit of Cab Calloway leaning waaaay back while dancing to “Minnie the Moocher.”

    Love the big cumulus clouds behind the Governor’s mansion. Majestic. The British motto “Dieu et Mon Droit,” seen over the door, I’ve heard, was parodied by the Beatles as: “Duit on Mon Dei.” (Do It on Monday) 😆

    Thank you so much, Khirad, for this wonderful installment. Wasn’t there a Las Vegas leg to this journey, too? (Sly way of saying — “there will be more, won’t there”?)

  5. PatsyT says:

    Khirad… these travel logs are a treasure.
    I have sat down with my kids and gone thru the pics.
    They love them and your commentary of the experience is priceless!
    Thank You so much for all of the work you have put into this.
    Are there any more?

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