Sunday, March 7, 2010

Road Tripping

Sue and I went road tripping this weekend. We went to look at the plantations and old houses that make up a large portion of the area around Williamsburg. It's about 5 hours as the crow flies, but since we're not crows it always takes us a bit longer to get places. We tend to stop and look at stuff. And eat.

This restaurant, The Kings Arms, had a troubador to serenade us with guitar and piccolo. Then there were other stops to consider such as John Tylers home. John Tyler was President from 1841 to 1845. He became President by accident, when William Henry Harrison got sick after a long inaugural speech in the rain and died. He had been President for only a month when John Tyler was sworn in. Later on, in 1862, Mr. Tyler wanted to be buried at this home but couldn't be. When he died he had just been elected to the Confederate Congress and his home had become the Union Headquarters in Virginia.

The house has the unique distinction of being the longest frame house in America. It was begun in the 1680's and finished in the late 1850's. The 1600 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds make this place a slice of Heaven. The Tyler family still lives there and tours are available by appointment. But the grounds were open and no one seemed to be bothered by our walking around. A very unique home with an added sense of history to it.

Moving down the road in Sherwood Forest, no kidding, that's the name of the area, was the old Westover Church. The original was built in 1634, but the one we saw was fairly new, having been built in 1730 or so. It is a simple one room bungalow type structure with a balcony and an old pipe organ. You have to wonder if the balcony was for the slaves. The whole structure is so simple and beautiful. It makes a perfect place of worship and Peace seems to abound there. Services are still held each Sunday and the church is open and unlocked at all other times for weary travelers to seek some rest.

And what better way to rest than with some tree sitting in the giant Magnolias of the church yard. It was almost comforting to climb up and be held in the large and welcoming boughs. I felt a bit like Robin Hood,laying in wait for King John's caravan to pass below. The church yard was filled with grave stones, some dating back to the early 1700's. Many of the deceased were immigrants to this country. As I looked upon the headstones I couldn't help but wonder what it must have been like to die so far away from your native land. Were they lonely at the end? Did they long to go home? What was the attraction of packing up and making the journey to this new world? So many questions rose up in me as I gazed upon the final resting place of these people. I was reminded of Eleanor Rigby and wondered, "...where do they all come from?"

We also stopped at some of the other homes in the area. One of the most beautiful was just down the road from the chuch and is known as Berkeley, one of the many plantations that dot the countryside around Williamsburg. With it's sweeping views of the James River and the well appointed grounds it was an exercise in relaxation to simply wander about and listen to the silence. It's almost hard to imagine the place as a working plantation with slaves. The surroundings seem almost too peaceful for that to have ever taken place. The driveway is 3 miles long and the house is located just above the river itself. With no roads to speak of, all the plantations relied on the river as a highway to send and receive goods for trade. A very isolated and lonely existence, but so peaceful in comparison with today's world.

It was great to get away and off the beaten path, but like Dorothy once said after a particularly harrowing journey, "There's no place like home."

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