Who: Anne Crotty (the author) and her husband, Frank, of Herndon.
Where, when, why: April 12 was our 45th wedding anniversary, and we wanted to do something we had never done together before: take the train to Williamsburg for a four-day trip. We were also inspired by our five grandchildren and their love of Thomas the Tank Engine!
Highlights and high points: We sat in the business-class car, and Frank was happy that he could track our progress on an app that gave him the train’s location and speed. I loved looking out the window at the old farms, swamps, meadows and woods just beginning to turn green.
We stayed at the Fife and Drum Inn in Williamsburg, two blocks from the Amtrak station and two blocks (in the other direction) from Merchants Square, the shopping and eating district of Colonial Williamsburg. Getting around on foot was very easy, and we loved the freedom of not needing a car, especially after we heard from fellow guests about the horrible traffic on Interstate 95. The next morning, we went to the Colonial Williamsburg ticket office, and the clerk told us that as Virginia residents, we could get passes valid for the rest of the year at no additional cost.
Frank and I have visited Williamsburg before, but we have not gone on any official tours of the restored area in many years. We took part in the storming of the governor’s palace to protest the removal of the town’s gunpowder supplies by British troops on April 21, 1775. Later that morning, we listened to Thomas Jefferson explain his thoughts on religious freedom. We saw many children and their families playing an interactive game called RevQuest. It looked like a lot of fun and a wonderful way to get families excited about history.
Cultural connection or disconnect: At the Peyton Randolph house, a costumed interpreter offered a special tour focused on the slaves who had worked for the Randolph family. He led our group into the various rooms and asked us how we would feel about doing the slaves’ jobs. It was amusing to see how most of us women raised our hands when he asked about which household tasks we did ourselves, and most of the men did not! Then he challenged us to decide, as slaves, whether we would have accepted a 1775 offer from Gov. Dunmore to leave our master, join the British army and possibly receive our freedom. In our group of 16, four decided to run away to the army, two wanted to stay with the Randolphs and the other 10 were uncertain for various reasons, such as being older, not trusting the British governor’s promise or not wanting to leave their children behind. My husband chose to go, but I was in the uncertain group. In reality, of Randolph’s 27 house slaves, three women and five men did run away to the British army.
Biggest laugh or cry: On our wedding anniversary night, we had dinner at A Chef’s Kitchen, where chef John Gonzales and sous-chef Nick Allen demonstrated how to cook a five-course menu. We asked the server to take a photo of us, mentioning that it was our anniversary. At the end of the meal, we were very surprised when the chef prepared a special dessert plate for each of us with “Happy Anniversary Anne and Frank” written in chocolate. We laughed and teared up when the diners all applauded.
How unexpected: We were surprised to see how many riders there were on Amtrak. The business-class car on Train 95, which begins in Boston and finishes in Virginia Beach (last part via bus), was packed when we boarded in Alexandria. A nice lady agreed to move when I asked her if we could sit together; otherwise, we would have had to sit apart until after the stop in Richmond, where a large number of passengers disembarked.
Fondest memento or memory: The whole weekend was one of those rare, magical times when everything seemed to go right. We had some new experiences, walked many miles, ate some memorable meals, talked with many interesting people and enjoyed sitting on a shady bench, watching everyone soak up the good weather and the fun in Williamsburg.
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