Friday, December 21, 2007

Virginia Roadtrip Part I: Jamestown

NB: I wrote this last night in my hotel room that proved to be internet-proof. Photos to follow.

Here I am writing from my motel-with-alleged-wireless-access in Richmond, having just drove from Jamestown - the national historic site, not the nifty recreation. The drive was eventless enough, and I got some excellent gas mileage, too - 33 mpg in my little old Ford with 123K+ miles on it (instead of the usual 23 mpg). Though I did manage to get almost to Jamestown without stopping. I saw a place called the Jamestown Pie Company (you can also order online) and did a U-ee. I had to try it, and I hadn't had lunch.

There are tables outside, and you order just by going to a rustic, charming little take-out window surrounded by country wallpaper, old signs advertising sugar and flour and, well, pies. My, they have lots of stuff there. They sell three types of things: dessert pies, which you can order whole or in slices (less variety in the slices), pot pies, which come in individual and family-size, and pizzas, which come in small (12"), large (14") and slices (again, little variety in the slices). There was LOTS of variety in the whole pies, and lots of them were heavy on the crab (it IS right off the James River, branching off that same Chesapeake Bay that we call home). The young lady behind the counter, probably a student at William & Mary (the nearest college) recommended the inappropriately-named Au Gratin pot pie ($7.50), chock full of crab meat, scallops and shrimp. Along with that I ordered their locally famous pecan pie ($13) to take home, of which they had lots of little bite-size samples in sealed off condiment containers. I snuck two while they weren't looking. I mean, c'mon, it was free!

As for the pot pie: very good at first, though it wasn't as good in retrospect. Still, it was filling, crustless on the top and literally piled out of the open pie crust. The crust was a little dry but mildly buttery. Still, I wasn't ordering it for the crust. The scallops and crab were delicious and SO meaty. It was a pie that was otherwise bland (though I think it was filled with that fifth "umami" (meaty) taste the Western scientists are now talking about). I'd probably get it again.

Getting into Historic Jamestown was difficult, mostly because I ignored the street signs and paid attention instead to my usually-accurate-but-occasionally-misinformed GPS. It picks the most irritating times to misdirect me, and this was one of them. But I made it with 2 and a half hours before closing! I will follow with pictures, but it's beyond words. I saw, among other things:

  • the main church inside the reconstructed James Fort, itself a reconstruction from 1907 to commemorate the tricentennial of Jamestown;
  • numerous archaoelogical units all over the smallish area, including a very deep . These guys have so much left to uncover, and are getting precious little money from the feds. The happy-fun Jamestown Settlement, a family-fun reconstruction with its own little Powhatan village (named for the local chiefdom-confederacy of the same name, which also shared its name with the powerful leader Powhatan, father of Pocahontas), gets the lionshare of the funds, leaving the archaeologists out in the cold (the archaeologist I overheard seemed a little miffed over this - hell, I would be too);
  • two museums, including the introductory one that gives a brief overview of what you will see in Jamestown (also including a very cool timeline of Jamestown history, from 10,000 BC's Clovis tools to the settlement in 1607 to the current 400th anniversary), and the "Archaearium" (they ought to change that idiotic name) - a modernish glass-and-copper (the latter in homage to the local Indians who prized copper) structure that houses many newly-found artifacts, two skeletons and a computer simulation that superimposes the colonial buildings in their various forms onto the current site (my friend Kurt - the same one that gave me all those recommendations - knows the guy who made that multimedia presentation - he stressed that I should go see that);
  • many, many ruins, many of which were of the "still-standing foundations" variety, low enough that I could just step over them to get from "room" to grassy "room"
  • the Ambler House, which was lived in in some form until the 19th century, unlike everything else which saw its sun set around 1699, when the colonial capital moved from Jamestown to nearby Williamsburg (those bastards)
  • the bucolic drive around the Island upon which Jamestown's ruins rest.
  • and the Glasshouse of 1608, which shows excavated kilns nestled snugly in the woods. It seems that 400 years ago, wood was what they used to heat the furnaces in the glassmakers' houses, and there was plenty of it in Virginia in 1607. I bought an "amethyst" beer mug ($20!!!) made by the glassblower on site, though not made at that specific location but about 12 miles down the road. It is still pretty cool, although it MUST be hand-washed, cannot be microwaved and can NEVER be used for hot beverages, as heat will help to release all the lead that goes into the mug. They assure me, however, that it is perfectly safe to drink cold beverages in - you can even freeze it! I'll remember that.
So I ended right at closing, around 5 PM, and took the scenic route (VA-5 instead of I-64) back to Richmond. It would've made more sense to do that during the daytime, when I could've seen everything better. Oh well, dinner beckons. So do photos, which will come later.


Kit Pollard said...

I'm just catching up on my blog reading now - but I wish I'd known you were heading down that way. I went to W&M and though things have changed since I was in school, I definitely could've made some recommendations!

Next time you go, let me know!

John said...

Sure thing! Thanks...