June 28, 2013

On the road to Yorktown and independence

Let's spend today strolling around Yorktown, shall we?  It's a charming little town that I first visited with my daughter on our spring break vacation, and we loved how easy it was to stroll around the small town, admiring the original colonial homes and also the beautiful independent shops located in many of the historic buildings. Yorktown is situated along the York River and has several distinct areas. Yorktown Village or Historic Yorktown is set on the York River near the George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge that spans the river to reach Gloucester Point.

 Historic Yorktown is comprised first of a small strip along the beach of the York River, Water Street, which contains several small restaurants, a park, a hotel, and a pier.
Main Street sits above Water Street on a bluff, and in this area the architecture is almost exclusively original. The old court house, several small shops, the Nelson House and the Yorktown Monument all sit along this road. Grace Episcopal Church is situated on Church Street near the old courthouse of Yorktown.  Colonial National Historical Park and Yorktown National Battlefield are located on the outskirts of town, and we will visit them tomorrow.  With the approach of July 4 it seems fitting to examine how the Battle of Yorktown helped secure our independence.
General Washington and Admiral Francois De Grasse, who helped Washington during the siege of Yorktown in the American Revolutionary War.  He set sail with 3,000 men from  Saint-Dominigue, landing the 3,000 French reinforcements in Virginia.  He immediately afterward decisively defeated the British fleet in the Battle of the Chesapeake in September 1781, and then drew away the British forces and blockaded the coast until Lord Cornwallis surrendered, ensuring the independence of the United States of America.
One of my favorite buildings is the 300 year old Grace Episcopal Church.  The first photo is from the 1930's, followed by a few of my photos of the church and graveyard.  I have a fascination with really old cemeteries...I hope that isn't a creepy character fault!  I find the old tombstones and their carvings really interesting (and usually quite sad).
File:Grace Church Yorktown Virginia by Frances Benjamin Johnston.jpg

Leaving the church we strolled by a home with an interesting side yard decoration.  Can't say that cannons are too common in my neighborhood!
While the side yard may have been a tad militaristic, the backyard welcomed us with a lovely colonial garden, complete with a charming sundial and a "French-American" floral salute:

The Nelson house is one of the most commanding in the historic homes area, built in approximately 1730.
The Nelson House served as a hospital for both Yankee and Rebel troops during the Civil War, and is reputedly the most haunted home in Yorktown.  Sightings of a Revolutionary War era British soldier, as well as numerous Civil War soldiers, have bene recorded over the last two hundred years.
"He Gave All For Liberty"
Here's a lovely tavern on Main Street.  I love the hanging sign with a white swan depicted. 

One minor disappointment was that many of the charming little antique and colonial wares shops that were abundant when my daughter and I visited had been hit by the economy over the last few years, and most of them were now gone, leaving the beautiful historic homes sadly empty and boarded up.  But with views like the one below, looking back towards the York River from Main Street, our stroll was a lovely one indeed.

There were a number of poems written about the battle of Yorktown, so the first one I am sharing is by  Quaker abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier, titled simply "Yorktown."

FROM Yorktown's ruins, ranked and still,
Two lines stretch far o'er vale and hill:
Who curbs his steed at head of one?
Hark! the low murmur: Washington!
Who bends his keen, approving glance,
Where down the gorgeous line of France
Shine knightly star and plume of snow?
Thou too art victor, Rochambeau!
The earth which bears this calm array
Shook with the war-charge yesterday,
Ploughed deep with hurrying hoof and wheel,
Shot-sown and bladed thick with steel;
October's clear and noonday sun
Paled in the breath-smoke of the gun,
And down night's double blackness fell,
Like a dropped star, the blazing shell.
Now all is hushed: the gleaming lines
Stand moveless as the neighboring pines;
While through them, sullen, grim, and slow,
The conquered hosts of England go:
O'Hara's brow belies his dress,
Gay Tarleton's troop rides bannerless:
Shout, from thy fired and wasted homes,
Thy scourge, Virginia, captive comes!
Nor thou alone: with one glad voice
Let all thy sister States rejoice;
Let Freedom, in whatever clime
She waits with sleepless eye her time,
Shouting from cave and mountain wood
Make glad her desert solitude,
While they who hunt her quail with fear;
The New World's chain lies broken here!
But who are they, who, cowering, wait
Within the shattered fortress gate?
Dark tillers of Virginia's soil,
Classed with the battle's common spoil,
With household stuffs, and fowl, and swine,
With Indian weed and planters' wine,
With stolen beeves, and foraged corn, —
Are they not men, Virginian born?
Oh, veil your faces, young and brave!
Sleep, Scammel, in thy soldier grave!
Sons of the Northland, ye who set
Stout hearts against the bayonet,
And pressed with steady footfall near
The moated battery's blazing tier,
Turn your scarred faces from the sight,
Let shame do homage to the right!
Lo! fourscore years have passed; and where
The Gallic bugles stirred the air,
And, through breached batteries, side by side,
To victory stormed the hosts allied,
And brave foes grounded, pale with pain,
The arms they might not lift again,
As abject as in that old day
The slave still toils his life away.
Oh, fields still green and fresh in story,
Old days of pride, old names of glory,
Old marvels of the tongue and pen,
Old thoughts which stirred the hearts of men,
Ye spared the wrong; and over all
Behold the avenging shadow fall!
Your world-wide honor stained with shame, —
Your freedom's self a hollow name!
Where's now the flag of that old war?
Where flows its stripe? Where burns its star?
Bear witness, Palo Alto's day,
Dark Vale of Palms, red Monterey,
Where Mexic Freedom, young and weak,
Fleshes the Northern eagle's beak;
Symbol of terror and despair,
Of chains and slaves, go seek it there!
Laugh, Prussia, midst thy iron ranks!
Laugh, Russia, from thy Neva's banks!
Brave sport to see the fledgling born
Of freedom by its parent torn!
Safe now is Speilberg's dungeon cell,
Safe drear Siberia's frozen hell:
With Slavery's flag o'er both unrolled,
What of the New World fears the Old?

June 27, 2013

Yet at the end there's always laughs and giggles...

Before we delve into yet MORE history at Yorktown and Williamsburg, how about dipping back a little further in time and visiting ye Olde Europe via Busch Gardens?  We love history, but hey, we like to cut loose once in a while too!  Our family discovered this 400 acre theme park close to twenty years ago when we were vacationing in Washington, D.C.  After visiting friends in Richmond we decided to spend a couple of days in Williamsburg.  I was picturing Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown and the archeological digs at Jamestown, but turning around in the van to look at my children and seeing how wiped out they were from days browsing through the Smithsonians in D.C. I quickly realized we needed a break from history and museums.
Not my family, but you get the idea....
Browsing through some promotional literature I saw an advertisement for Busch Gardens--it sounded like fun and we thought the kids would enjoy it.  Well, did they ever!  The "theme" was Olde Europe and we all had a blast traveling back in time through medieval England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France and Italy.

The charm of the park is that not only are the lots of rides, the shows are spectacular so those who aren't keen on rides (like yours truly) can also enjoy the day.  We've been back several times since then with our youth symphony trips, but this was the first time Phil and I had gone to the park alone.  The "up" side to that?  Only two admission tickets and two lunches to buy!  Plus no squabbling over which show to see next.  We wanted to see all the shows, and worked the rides around the show schedule.  Ah yes, the rides.  The "down" side to it just being the two of us?  No kids to send on a ride with my husband while I waited on a bench.  It was time to "cowboy up" (my husband loves this phrase!) and agree to some of the rides, in spite of my huge fear of rollercoasters.

So what did I brave up and ride with my husband?  An volcanic adventure in Italy....

A journey through the ancient ruins of Pompeii turns out to be more adventure than visitors had bargained for.
Even the mighty Roman Empire had been no match for Mt. Vesuvius, which draped Pompeii with a blanket of lava and ash, erasing it from the map for nearly 1,700 years. But don't worry, this angry volcano has long been at rest.
Or has it?

My husband got pretty damp.  I got soaked.  Wring your bra out soaked, if you know what I mean!
Followed by an ancient cursed castle in Germany:
Deep in the snow covered hills of Bavaria stands a foreboding castle frozen under the spell of a centuries-old curse. The castle has been uninhabited for decades.
By the living, that is.
Literally frozen in time, these ancient castle walls ache to reveal the secrets they have held. To whisper a warning. To tell you, urge you, beg you to leave. Except it's too late.

Rollercoaster in the dark, with 3-D glasses and holographic ghosts.  Need I say more??
and the hair-raising, death-defying Loch Ness Monster in Scotland!
Beneath the thick mist of an old Scottish Loch, an ancient sea creature swam undisturbed for generations. More than 30 years ago, this creature was awakened -- right here at Busch Gardens®. Now a classic, it's easy to see why Loch Ness Monster® is still one of the most popular rides in our park's history. This interlocking, double-looping coaster stretches a monstrous 13 stories tall before racing those who challenge it down a 114-foot drop, with speeds as fast as 60 miles per hour.
Don't you think I get EXTRA CREDIT for braving this monster??!
We then strolled over to New France (Canada) for a cooling trip down Le Scoot, a log flume that is definitely a more tame adventure!

We dined at the FestHaus, enjoying Bavarian sausages and red cabbage, while watching our first show, Entwined.
Busch Gardens’ Das Festhaus® transforms into a forest wonderland where fairy tales come to life and weave a story told once upon a time.
It was then a short stroll back to Italy, for an amazing musical performance at the Il Teatro di San Marco

I've mentioned my love of Celtic dancing before, so I'm sure you can imagine how much we loved this wonderful performance of Celtic Fyre!
Let your heart dance right along as fabulous music and the pure energy of Irish dance explode onstage in one of our most popular shows ever. Enjoy the Celtic tradition of storytelling as you connect with the heart and soul of the Irish people through the universal language of dance.
What a perfect end to a lovely sunny day spent with my husband....

Well, almost the end.  A trip to a theme park should also include a funnel cake, right?!
My reward for all those terrifying rides!
So tomorrow we'll visit Yorktown, but for today let's remember that it is important to let your hair down and play a little, no matter what our age.  It's never too late for fun...and funnel cake!

Here's a poem by Kelsie Smith that sums up the experience nicely:
Life Is Like a Roller Coaster! ! !
Life is like a roller coaster,
Big turns,
Wild loops,
Never know what's coming next,
Thrusting you forward and then slowing you down.

Life is like a roller coaster,
Never ending,
Rollimg you slowly up a hill and then shooting you down as fast as it can,
The scary thrill is the sense of illusion.

Life is like a roller coaster,
Scary pictures,
Thrilling Screams,
Vibrant colors.

Life is like a roller coaster,
The nauseous feeling in your stomach,
The racing of your heart.

But yet at the end there always laughs and giggles,
Life is like a roller coaster

June 26, 2013

Heirloom seeds and wishful thinking...

 “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” - Thomas Jefferson
As we said goodbye to Monticello and headed back towards Charlottesville, we (I say "we", but of course I really mean "I") had to stop by the lovely gift shop at the bottom of the hill.  Having admired the layout of Tom's gardens, it seemed apropos to purchase a few packets of heirloom seeds.
Said seeds will hopefully turn into:
and these:
Painted Lady sweet peas
and these:
French Mallow
Jefferson's gardens were his pride and joy, and just looking at the carefully designed plots makes you think you too can have a green thumb.  We'll see....
The biggest shock in the gift store, though, was that my husband purchased something!  He's the guy who always sits on a bench outside the shop, waiting patiently while I browse through everything.  I don't need anything, and I usually don't buy anything, but I sure do like to browse and get ideas!  But the gardening bug bit my husband as well, and he impulsively purchased two packets of heirloom tomatoes.  We've been married almost thirty-one years and in all that time he has never shown the slightest interest in gardening, probably due to all the weeds he had to pull in his dad's garden way back when.  But now we are the proud owners of two little seed packets, hoping that a little of Jefferson's skill will rub off and turn into:
'Brandywine' is considered the most esteemed late nineteenth century heirloom tomato. It has potato-like leaves and large, meaty, reddish-pink fruit, with an indeterminate growth habit.
As we made our way back to Charlottesville in search of a good dinner, we drove past the University of Virginia, founded by Jefferson in 1819.  It was the first nonsectarian university in the United States and the first to use the elective course system.  I thought the architecture, designed by you-know-who, looked familiar:
At this point we were tired and hungry, so the photo op was a rolled down window and a slight slowing of the car while I shot the picture really fast!
And as we finally, after a long but truly satisfying day, made our way back to the motel for a good night's sleep, I discovered another question I should ask when making reservations sight unseen....by any chance, are there railroad tracks located approximately fifteen feet from my bed???
Scenic view from our window.  The whole room was shaking, and I think the trains ran every fifteen minutes...all night long!

So on that final note we say goodbye, or au revoir (as French loving TJ would say) and head towards Williamsburg, originally known as Middle Plantation when founded in 1632 and later the capital of the Colony of Virginia.  We'll see what Patrick Henry said to fire up the colonials and listen to that rascally traitor, Benedict Arnold, try to condone his actions!  Stayed tuned for some colonial mayhem and the great Gunpowder Incident of 1775!

Here's a poem by Thomas Moore, Irish poet and songwriter, and a great favorite of Thomas Jefferson's.  It is taken from Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbooks:  Poems of Nation, Family and Romantic Love, Collected by America's Third President.  It's a fun book to browse through to get a sense of what interested Jefferson and the sentiments of the times.

Oh, Could We Do With This World of Ours

Oh, could we do with this world of ours
As thou dost with thy garden bowers,
Reject the weeds and keep the flowers,
What a heaven on earth we'd make it!
So bright a dwelling should be our own,
So warranted free from sigh or frown,
That angels soon would be coming down,
By the week or month to take it.

Like those gay flies that wing through air,
And in themselves a lustre bear,
A stock of light, still ready there,
Whenver they wish to use it;
So in this world I'd make for thee,
Our hearts should all like fire-flies be,
And the flash of wit or poesy
Break forth whenever we choose it.

While every joy that glads our sphere
Hath still some shadow hovering near,
In this new world of ours, my dear,
Such shadows will all be omitted; --
Unless they're like that graceful one,
Which when thou'rt dancing in the sun,
Still near thee, leaves a charm upon
Each spot where it hath flitted!

June 25, 2013

And when the sun shines brightly, tend flowers that God has given....

Good morning!  I think I've taken a long enough detour on my road trip, don't you agree?  We were touring Monticello in Virginia when all of a sudden we veered north, all the way up to Door County, Wisconsin--at this rate it will take me all summer to share my two week vacation with you! So let's leave the land of glittering night skies and cherry orchards and head all the way back down to Charlottesville, Virginia, shall we? 

We had finished touring the first floor of Monticello.  The second floor is comprised of the family bedrooms, which were surprisingly small for a man of Jefferson's stature.  There are no closets---houses back in those days were taxed by the number of rooms, and a closet counted as a room, hence nails on the wall for hanging up clothes instead!  There is a unique room at the top, one of the architectural treasures of the home, Jefferson's dome room.  Jefferson admired Roman architecture, and the dome at Monticello is modeled after the Temple of Vesta in Rome. The major difference between the two is that the Temple of Vesta is round and Monticello's dome is an elongated octagon. The dome is unique in several ways. The round windows at the back of the dome room are raised higher than those at the sides and front of the dome. They are also half clear glass and half mirrored. The lower half needed to be mirrored due to the location of the windows cutting into the slope of the main house roof. This is also the reason why the windows are raised higher than the other windows. The walls of the dome room are a lovely shade of bright yellow and the floor is grass green.
Exterior with dome

Dome interior--the yellow walls are really vibrant

Views from the windows
Armillary at the side of the house:
One of my favorite views--looking towards the fish pond (at the left by the large tree)

Looking down Mulberry Row:

Here is a poem by Robert Frost that I recently came across and seems fitting after our stroll in Jefferson's gardens:

God's Garden

God made a beatous garden
With lovely flowers strown,
But one straight, narrow pathway
That was not overgrown.
And to this beauteous garden
He brought mankind to live,
And said: "To you, my children,
These lovely flowers I give.
Prune ye my vines and fig trees,
With care my flowerets tend,
But keep the pathway open
Your home is at the end."

Then came another master,
Who did not love mankind,
And planted on the pathway
Gold flowers for them to find.
And mankind saw the bright flowers,
That, glitt'ring in the sun,
Quite hid the thorns of av'rice
That poison blood and bone;
And far off many wandered,
And when life's night came on,
They still were seeking gold flowers,
Lost, helpless and alone.

O, cease to heed the glamour
That blinds your foolish eyes,
Look upward to the glitter
Of stars in God's clear skies.
Their ways are pure and harmless
And will not lead astray,
Bid aid your erring footsteps
To keep the narrow way.
And when the sun shines brightly
Tend flowers that God has given
And keep the pathway open
That leads you on to heaven.