Saturday, 9 June 2012

New York to Williamsburg

We were up early for our first group breakfast together, then into our black maria (Mercedes small coach) which really was quite comfortable apart from lack of leg room. Oh well – can’t have everything.
Before leaving NY, we drove up alongside Central Park until we came to Strawberry Fields – the memorial park created after the shooting of John Lennon. Like most of Central Park, it is particularly beautiful with mature shady trees, shrubs and grassy areas. The Dakota building where John and Yoko lived (and where she still does) is directly across the road and the entrance has security guards standing outside. It is in an extremely nice, peaceful neighbourhood and hard to believe such an event occurred.
We then settled down for the long drive south to Philadelphia where our walking tour included the Liberty Bell, and the old parts of the city. We also visited a Quaker ‘church’ and we were made very welcome by the guide there and told some of Quaker history. Lunch was at an indoor market (vaguely similar to Melbourne’s Vic Market). It was an amazing place and an astonishing array of different foods and local produce and products. Peter had the regional speciality – Philly cheese steak sandwich. The thin slice of steak was placed on the hotplate and then quickly chopped up into tiny pieces as it cooked.

Next we had a long 4 hour drive to Washington where, in the early evening, we visited the Lincoln Monument and shared the experience with thousands of young teenagers from various groups! All of them, it seemed, getting a lecture on Lincoln and American history.
We had a late dinner at a restaurant/bar near our hotel, and fell into bed very tired.

We left hotel at 8 for our visit to Arlington Cemetery – and amazingly large, extremely well kept cemetery where American servicemen and women are entitled to be buried, along with the cream of American politicians – the large, impressive grave of Pres. Kennedy, his wife and two young children is extremely popular, but the nearby graves of his brothers Edward and Robert are amongst the most simple. There are several memorials to astronauts lost in space disasters. Also one for Glenn Miller whose plane was lost over the English Channel during World War Two. It was interesting to know that Civil War graves – from both sides – are in Arlington also.

Our guide next took us to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue (the Prez was not home) – and he pointed out the various parts of the house including the West Wing. (The TV series of the same name had been one of my favourites).

Next to Union Station’s enormous food hall for lunch. We went to Johnny Rockets for a burger and milk shake (what else??) – it has a very 1960s d├ęcor with booths to sit in (a la ‘Happy Times’). After lunch we saw Capitol building, then were dropped off at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Air and Space. For two and a half hours we enjoyed the exhibits of early flight to the most recent of space discoveries. It was just wonderful.

Again another early rising (do hope there’s not too many of these!) with breakfast at 6 and in the mini-bus by 7. We bagged the back seat this time and so were able to stretch out a bit for the two plus hours it took to drive to Jamestown. We had been looking forward to seeing the archaeological dig at this site of the first English settlement in 1607. We found that there are actually TWO Jamestown attractions. One is the Jamestown Settlement which was a recreated imagining of what Jamestown had been. The other was the actual site of Jamestown only a mile or so apart where a dig is ongoing and this is what we had been looking forward to. Our guide kindly took us to the dig and 3 of our group stayed for several hours whilst the other 4 went to the Jamestown Settlement.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day and we spent a very happy and interesting few hours at the dig and one of the archaeologists even gave us a very good and detailed account of the settlement for about 45 minutes. There is an excellent archaearium (museum) with an amazing display of artefacts. We felt we really could have stayed another hour or two.
We rejoined the group, had lunch, and set off again arriving at Yorktown a short distance later. The Yorktown Victory Center is a museum of the American Revolution (1781) with many displays, artefacts, army encampment and 1700s farm. Again several hours were spent walking around and then after another short trip we arrived at Williamsburg. There is a walking precinct through the centre of the old town and a very footsore pair of Becketts decided enough was enough today and wanted nothing more than a good rest at our hotel.  So we missed the centre of town but saw enough of this very pretty area and the delightful old houses as we drove through.

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