Colonial Sightseeing

Melvyn Brown
Thu 11 Nov 2010 21:31

With the realisation we were likely to be here in Deltaville for most of the week we investigated the feasibility/cost of hiring a car.   When we considered it in Annapolis it was a shock to find the – albeit modest – headline price doubled when you added in the “optional” damage cover (and “damage” includes tyres and windscreen) and then some on top of that when opting for a Sat Nav (absolutely essential as some of our biggest falling outs have been over navigation and map reading!).  What I ended up doing was taking out an annual 3rd party insurance policy to cover damage and excess which I calculated would pay for itself after 5 days of hire.  Our first trip in the hire car was to Wal-Mart to purchase the cheapest possible Sat Nav which, again, should pay for itself in about the same number of hires.  Given the three hours of sailing it took us to get out of Kilmarnock, into the shipping lane of Chesapeake and then back to the shore and into Fishing Bay Harbour It was a shock to see the signpost at the end of the road pointing to Kilmarnock…..11 miles away!


En route we listened to a news report about the stricken cruise ship where the passengers were suffering severe deprivations: only cold water, no toilets, dried milk, and only spam and PopTarts in the way of food.  It could have been a description of life aboard SS Zarafina….except those lucky beggars on Carnival Splendor had PopTarts.


Yesterday (Wednesday) we visited Jamestown (the first English settlement), Williamsburg which became the capital after Jamestown and Yorktown the site of the decisive battle of the War of Independence.  In the 30’s a 23 mile parkway was constructed to link the three sites on the peninsula, specifically to ensure no modern structures impinged on the historic significance.  (Such sensitive treatment hadn’t always been evident – in the past a businessman had decided the battlements in Yorktown would make a good golf course….!  The guide told us it probably wasn’t such a bad thing; otherwise it might have had the 1920’s equivalent of a Wal-Mart built on it.)


The drive down the Colonial Parkway was spectacular.  The weather was perfect and the autumnal colours wonderful.  At the extreme end of the peninsula is Jamestown where the first settlers built their fort.  It has an exhibition in the visitors’ centre showing the various aspects of life in the first settlement, artefacts and excavated Native American tools going back 10,000 years.  Archaeological digs are on-going (the skeletons were the ones I saw in the Natural History museum in Washington) and although there is very little physical evidence left, you don’t have to resort to your imagination.  There are multimedia stations positioned around the grounds.  You point the TV screen at a particular site/pile of bricks and you get to see the way it would have looked and a short drama featuring actors to set the scene!  This photograph shows the current excavations of the earliest church and the statue is of John Smith (if memory serves).











Colonial Williamsburg was our next stop.  This is a large site about 1.5miles long and 0.5 miles wide consisting many buildings, shops, workshops etc and there are actors in period costume to show visitors around and answer questions (in character).

As an aside I once met a guy who had worked at Disneyland Paris and he told me the character you were assigned was on the basis of the costume fit.  He looked me up and down and pronounced I would probably have been given the job of Pluto.

There is also a retail area (isn’t there always?!) and the stores maintain the character – at least externally – impossible to imagine how Stephanos Pizza & Subs could maintain the authentic Colonial look inside




At the end of the afternoon we went to Yorktown and caught the last guided tour of the day.  There was only the two us initially and we had a bit of banter with the Park Ranger about us being English, then we were joined by two ladies from North Carolina and a little more banter ensued!  The Ranger told us that the British were so confident of their position they hadn’t rushed to build defences – not least because they arrived in the hottest months but she showed us examples of the woven baskets (about the size of a water butt) that were filled with earth, stacked one on the other, packed around with scrub/branches and then covered with earth to make the battlements.  The battlements (see photograph) are original – the trees in the distance wouldn’t have been there but approximately mark where the US and French soldiers were entrenched.


There were examples of cannon - both original and reproduction - and she told us that at the height of the battle 1,700 cannon balls and missiles fell onto the (not large) town in a single day.  The British Commander didn’t attempt a retreat when he had the chance because he had been assured war ships and reinforcements were en route from New York.  They were delayed because of bad weather and by the time they arrived it was all over.  It wasn’t the last battle of the War but it was decisive.