Spring Weekend in Williamsburg

A couple of years ago we stopped off in Williamsburg on our way down to Charleston for spring break.  We had just enough time to see a few of the highlights (and we didn't mention Busch Gardens to the kids).  Downtown Williamsburg is charming and we arrived in time to stroll through the local farmer's market and feed some of the locals before the historical site opened.  

It is free to walk the grounds (but you must pay to enter any of the buildings) and since it was such a beautiful day, that is what we chose to do.  

For lunch I had gotten a recommendation from the 36 Hours column in the NY Times (a great resource when you are planning a trip) for The Cheese Shop.  This spot is popular so be prepared to wait but it is so worth it.  I took the advice of the NY Times and had the Virginia ham on French bread and it was, as the article had predicted, one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten.

For dinner, we wanted to eat at one of the many themed restaurants in Colonial Williamsburg.  We ate at Christiana Campbell's Tavern, reputedly George Washington's favorite place to dine when he visited.   The tavern is famous for its crab cakes and they did not disappoint.  Our waiter was great with the kids and used Jack as an example to all the diners in our area to explain why our napkins were the size of a small bath towel and the proper way to wear it.  

After dinner, we explored more of the grounds and did a little shopping.  We especially loved Mermaid Books, a used books store with a fantastic selection of kids books and regional cookbooks.  

There is much, much more to do here (in fact, after writing this I'm thinking we need to plan a return trip) and if you are looking for a quick getaway for Spring Break, this would be a great place to consider.  

Winter Car Trip Part I

We decided to take a quick trip down South over the Christmas break and check out some of the places we had been wanting to see while enjoying warmer temperatures than New Jersey was offering.  We were only gone six days and one of those was a full day of driving so it felt like we only scratched the surface in many ways.  

We reached our first stop of Charlottesville late in the afternoon and squeezed in a visit to Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello.  We had just enough time to tour the house, explore the grounds and walk back down to the visitors center just as the sun was setting.  There is a family friendly tour that is about 15 minutes shorter than the regular tour but we just missed the last one.  

The shuttle bus takes you up the mountain and drops you at the back of the house.  We had time before our tour started to walk around and look at the outbuildings such as the kitchen, wine cellar and storage areas and take some pictures of the grounds.  

The kids and I (mostly me) were impressed at the "stove-top" in the kitchen and all the beautiful copper pots.

Seeing some of the slave's rooms generated a fair amount of discussion from the kids about slavery and how they were treated.  Sally Hemmings is mentioned during the tour as it is the belief of The Thomas Jefferson Foundation (which oversees the house) that Thomas Jefferson is the father of her children.  This necessitated a brief explanation for Jack but went right over Ava's head.  

The house tours are on a timed basis and last approximately 45 minutes.  They are informative but move quick enough to keep everyone's interest.  Pictures are not allowed inside the house so all photos are courtesy of The Jefferson Foundation.

                                                         Entrance Hall

                                                         Entrance Hall



                           North Octagonal Room

                           North Octagonal Room

As the tour ended, the sun began to set over the surrounding hills and we headed down the hill to our car.


Later that night we had a delicious dinner at Shebeen Pub and Braai, a South African restaurant in downtown Charlottesville.  The kids and I all had fish and chips which were fantastic and Alan had a tasty west african ground nut stew which is similar to a ratatouille.  I would also highly recommend the "hammies" appetizer which are small square-shaped yeast biscuits with harpers county ham and brown sugar butter.  

The next morning we looked around the UVA campus before setting off for Raleigh.  There are walking tours available when school is in session but we settled for poking around on our own.  The symbol of the university, the Rotunda, is undergoing restoration work and will not be open until next summer, but it was still nice to wander around the grounds.  All of the early university buildings were also designed by Jefferson and then, later, by Stanford White.  Everything was eerily quiet as it was holiday break but it was easy to imagine it bustling with student activity on a brisk winter morning.  There are shops and restaurants across the street if you are looking for a quick bite or to pick up some Cavaliers paraphernalia (we escaped with just a T-shirt for Jack).