SANTA CLAUS

Ok, it’s an insult to take someone from Frankenmuth to Santa Claus, Indiana.

But we hadn’t been there before – so why not?

And truly?  The Santa Claus ornament store doesn’t even compare to Bronners!

I think that’s all I have to say about this little side trip we took.

 

A RAINY-DAY RIDE

We headed west – across Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana.

The weather was wet. Very wet.

MONTICELLO

So as Barb and I meandered back home, we meandered by Charlottesville, Virginia.

And Monticello.

Yes, I’ve been to this President’s house before – at least twice. But if you’re going to revisit a President’s more than once – this is a good one to choose.

Although I’m not all that crazy about a lot of Jefferson’s politics – he was a good architect. He leveled the mountain in 1768 and for the next 40 years worked on his “essay of architecture.”

The house is built atop a 850 foot peak in the Southwest Mountains and to get to it, you need to take a bus up from the visitor’s center.  (Well, I’m sure Jefferson didn’t take a bus from the visitor’s center – but that’s how YOU have to do it.) Like many houses you visit today, there is an extra price to get to the second floor. Monticello literally means “little mountain.”

Jefferson inherited the 5,000 acres and then built the house and moved in with his wife, Martha. After Martha’s death, he became minister to France and while there became influenced by French architecture – which you can see in his Virginia home.

Not only is the property beautiful, but Jefferson added intriguing details to each room.

As soon as you walk in – you see Jefferson’s museum – a hall with animal skins, maps, etc.

Other rooms contain his unique inventions – such as his homemade (and definitely before-time) copying machine he used to copy his correspondence.

You couldn’t take pictures inside the home – but here are some outside pictures.

And yes – if you are meandering by – stop.  You will enjoy the visit.

WILLIAMSBURG

One of my top ten favorite US sites to visit is Colonial Williamsburg. I think my first visit as a little kid is what did it for me. All the people in costumes and the restored buildings created a fantasy world for a child. Coming back as an adult, I realized, of course, that history is life and life is often troubled and painful. In fact, the reason why the Virginia capital was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg is because of the prevalence of malaria on the Jamestown island.

During the years of 1699-1780, Williamsburg was the center of government. It was here that men such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Madison and James Monroe founded democracy, the Commonwealth of Virginia and yes, the United States itself.   Later, during the Revolutionary War – the capital was moved to Richmond because of security reasons – where it still is today.

I think this was my fourth visit to the city (last time Ken and I bought the quilt that hangs in the family room) – and on this beautiful evening, we simply  strolled down Duke of Gloucester Street, enjoying the fall sunshine. To tour the buildings is expensive – but worth it. However, we were there after the buildings had closed and we had had a full day. (Getting up at 3 – a whole other story) – on the beach, visiting Jamestown, etc. So strolling was all we wanted to do – but what “an-evening-can’t-get-better-than-this” stroll it was. (We had so much rain on this trip – but on this, the day we were outside, the weather was sunny and warm.)

So we walked. A lot of places were serving supper, but we weren’t that hungry after our lunch along the James  River, so we ended up getting a slice of pizza and sitting on a patio, watching the people walk by.

WHERE: Colonial Williamsburg – part of the historic triangle off the Colonial Parkway (Jamestown and Yorktown make up the other two points.)

WHAT: Colonial Williamsburg is a popular tourist attraction – the roads are narrow and crowded (but quaint) and therefore, visitors park at a nearby visitor’s center and are bused downtown — or can walk (but people that are there in the summer say it gets horribly hot and then when you get there – you walk some more.) The visitor’s center was closing by the time we got there and we wanted to find our hotel. We had reservations at the local (and very nice) Hampton Inn and surprisingly, it was the least expensive Hampton Inn of the trip – not bad at all.

Though I had read that there isn’t parking near the CW part of town, I did a quick search on the web for “parking near CW” and found a highly recommended parking garage tucked into a residential street. We headed to DoG Street (local name for Duke of Gloucester Street) and found the tucked-away-garage – no problem and parked.

KID FACTOR: judging from my own kid experience there, I would say good place for kids. Though we didn’t get to see any this time – they have a lot of craftsman who demonstrate their crafts – a drum and fife parade, etc. And there is a lot of room to run. We also saw some “colonial” gentlemen teaching kids how to roll hoops.

And then we strolled …

So take a stroll with us …

THE GLASS HOUSE

I have noticed this about me. I have an incredible attention span when it comes to certain activities (and this was true when I was a kid, too).  I like to watch horse shows. I like to sit on the pier and watch fishing boats come in.

And I like to watch glassmaking.

Jamestown is a good place to do that (the glassmaking part).

Glassmaking was a prosperous business in England, so the officials of the London Company figured glassmaking would also be a prosperous occupation in the new world. The company made sure glassmaking experts were among the settlers – in fact 8 of the 70 were glassmakers.

In 1608, just one year after the colonists arrived, a glass factory was in operation – the very first factory in the country.  The factory was in the woods, about a mile from town and at first seemed to be the answer to the colonists prospering. Although there is indication that the factory was in operation for at least six months, the details then disappear. But twelve years later, another glass factory was started – this time with expert Italian glass workers. Captain William Norton was behind this one and he wrote to the London Company with permission to “sett upp a Glasse furnace and make all manner of Beads & Glasse.”

But the Italians and the Englishmen didn’t get along too well. Then the glasshouse blew down, then there was war, then the Italians got sick. So that didn’t work too well, either.

However, the glass house does produce glass today. Archaeological excavations found the foundation of the furnace and fragments of green glass. The glasshouse today is near the original site on Glasshouse Point and is in operation for visitors to watch glass being made and formed.

I remember watching the glassmaking last time we were there – and have a green piece of glasswork (stamped with the Jamestowne logo) sitting on my shelve from that visit. It was no less fascinating this time.

KID FACTOR: I think a lot of kids – both little kids and teens would find this fascinating, but I know a lot of kids unfortunately get “bored” with anything. I would have kids watch at least one piece of glass being made (from beginning to end). Not only is it interesting, it’s educational. Then maybe buy then an inexpensive souvenir from the glass shop.