Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Getting Away

As a last blast for Summer, and a break from the hectic craziness of Jim's return, we took a quick vacation right before school began. For months we had anticipated that the kids and I would be joining Jim in Dubai for a month and had gotten passports and cleared our calendar to that end. Since things changed so drastically and Jim came home instead, we certainly weren't going overseas, but still needed some time away to re-connect and just be together.

A little internet research and several phone calls later and we had reservations to go to two places nearby that Jim and I have wanted to visit our whole lives. Colonial Williamsburg is a history buff's dream come true. Jim has wanted to spend time there for as long as he can remember and it is only a few hours from where we now live. The islands of Chincoteague and Assateague in Virginia have been a lifelong dream for me, since my Mom bought me the "Misty" books when I was a child, and they are only a couple of hours from Williamsburg! Perfect!

Our time in Williamsburg turned out to be a delight for each and every one of us. There was more to do and see than we anticipated and we had to carefully guard against going too fast from one thing to another. The weather was certainly hot but many of the indoor spaces were air conditioned to the point of freezing- so there was a respite from the heat. From garden tours to candlelight concerts, to house tours, to interacting with the period characters, everything was fascinating. We had the opportunity to see, do, photograph and taste what life was like in the 18th century.

Isaac did an apprenticeship program where he learned what it took to become a gunsmith, cabinet maker or wig maker. (The wigs were creepy) The girls and I toured the gardens of Williamsburg and learned the necessity of having a kitchen garden as well as the delights of formal "pleasure gardens" that reminded the colonists of home in England while living in the wilderness of Virginia. Jim participated in a debate with the likes of Patrick Henry on the choices between loyalty to the Crown or joining the Revolution- you know he loved that. We saw George Washington address the troops with words of encouragement and on another occasion watched as Benedict Arnold criticized the townspeople for their part in the Revolution and warned them of the potential consequences of having an elected body making and enforcing laws,... (many of which sounded frighteningly familiar and had us ready to yell, "God save the King")!

Chincoteague was a welcome rest from the doing and seeing of Williamsburg. We arrived on the island expecting ponies, but were delighted to find that there is much more to the community than that. Assateague is the barrier island that protects Chincoteague from the Atlantic ocean and is home to wild ponies that have lived there for hundreds of years. Until Marguerite Henry wrote her book, Misty, in 1947, The islands were a quiet fishing community with an annual pony swim to raise money for the Volunteer Fire Department by auctioning off the colts. Now Chincoteague is a fishing community that is overrun by pony-seeking tourists, and yet still manages to be a relaxing place. The pony swim took place two weeks before we were there and drew 40,000 people from all over. Am I glad we didn't go then!

As it was, there were still quite a few tourists there, but we weren't crowded or hurried at all. We took an early morning boat tour to see the wildlife on Assateague, and were thrilled to see two groups of ponies besides the many beautiful birds that call the island their home. In one group of ponies we identified one mare that was injured, and our boat Captain called the Fire Department to alert them to send someone to check her out.

The Atlantic Ocean means one thing to my kids- beach! We planned to spend some time relaxing on the beach, but learned that Hurricane Bill was also coming to town. As it happened, the storm only blew past, stirring up some big waves and keeping people out of the water for a day, but not seriously ruining the beach time. when we did get out for some sand and surf, the kids discovered something else had been stirred up. From the ocean depths the waves carried hundreds of whole conch shells to within reach! We and the people around us were bringing them up by the armload. By the time we finished we had gathered 46 shells from which to choose our souvenirs. We narrowed them down to about, oh, say- 40, and hauled them home the next day with the rest of our treasures, sunburns and memories.

What a wonderful week we had together. Dampened only by the absence of our Nathaniel, we felt as if we were scouting out the trip for when he can come along with us.

For more photos from the trip, see the albums that I uploaded to Facebook. There was so much to see and photograph, between the beauty, the experiences, and my family, I was one happy photographer!

Colonial Williamsburg

Chincoteague and Assateague

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