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Friday, November 21, 2014

Immerse Yourself in the History of Colonial Williamsburg

Last month I came home from a two-week trip to the east coast. We visited Virginia Beach, Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg. The trip took me back to my childhood, as I spent quite a lot of time in Williamsburg and couldn’t wait to share it with my husband. The area has changed quite a bit since I was there twenty-some years ago, but the feel of Colonial Williamsburg was the same and really made me glad we took this trip.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been anywhere where they do historical recreation, but I adore it. I totally wish there were places all over that did this, because it’s so amusing and interesting to interact with strangers on the “street” who are dressed in period costume and explain to you about their way of life or answer questions you may have about anything from food to clothes to entertainment.

Unbelievably, you could spend a whole week in just Colonial Williamsburg and not experience it all. My favorite bit was the Playhouse, where they had a handful of actors that both explained what going to a play was like in the colonial days, but also acted out some scenes based on the theme of the day. Did you know that different theater troupes used to change scenes or entire endings of Shakespeare plays to suit the time or how they thought audiences would enjoy it more? In one of these instances, Romeo and Juliet’s death scene was changed so that Juliet woke up before Romeo died of the poison he took when he thought her dead. They have a whole scene of joyful dialogue before the poison starts to work and he remembers his mistake. Juliet watches in horror as he succumbs and then offs herself with his dagger.

hard to see without the previous photo for comparison, but she's definitely there

We took a haunted walk through Colonial Williamsburg where we heard ghost stories and accounts of ghost sightings and spirit interactions between workers and previous guests. With so much history, there’s no doubt that the area is teeming with past residents who didn’t want to leave.

Between Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown Victory Center and Jamestown Settlement, I learned quite a lot of gardening tips to help me with my backyard vegetable garden and storing foods I’ve grown and picked. In the colonial days and before, there were no refrigerators or freezers and they didn’t have greenhouses, so farmers had to make the most of what they had at their disposal to lengthen the life of their crops. Luckily, I don’t have to eat cornbread every day for most of my meals and can go to the store for things I don’t have, like butter or milk. It gives you a new respect for our ancestors and makes you glad for supermarkets.

Jamestown Settlement gives you a glimpse at what life was like when the British came to America. You can learn to fire a musket, watch the blacksmith making tools and climb aboard recreation ships. We were able to ask many questions and find out how it was to sleep on the ships. You don’t realize how small people used to be until you see the sleeping bunks. It may have even been a tight squeeze for me at only 5’1”. Surprisingly, the crew was very minimal on these ships, especially considering how many people were onboard for the trip over to the New World.

delicious (and huge) lunch at the DoG Street Pub in Merchant's Square

The kids and the adults alike seemed to enjoy everything Colonial Williamsburg has to offer and I wish I had a little more time to explore the city and do more. The food itself was quite hearty and delicious, so it would be fun just to go back and sample more dishes at the historical taverns. If you’ve never tried pickled watermelon rinds, peanut soup or game pie made with rabbit and venison, you definitely have to make a point of trying some of these favorites. Visit Gogobot to see more things to do in Colonial Williamsburg and the surrounding area.

{I'll be posting more about my trip in the weeks to come, so please keep an eye out, especially if you're interested in visiting Williamsburg.}

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Visiting Montana For Less

Last month I was invited to a lunch with the Montana Visitor’s Bureau where I got to hang out with some really cool ladies from Missoula, Glacier National Park, Bozeman and more. I had toyed around with the idea of visiting Montana, but it’s one of those destinations that has just gotten pushed down the list of places to go, even though I live in Portland and the drive is shorter than the one to Reno, Vegas and Los Angeles, all of which I’ve made in the past – some more than once.

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Maybe Montana has not been on your radar as an awesome vacation destination either, but it can be. You don’t have to be into skiing or other winter sports to find something to do there, though they have some really amazing places to ski. One resort has over 100 ski runs, so if you are into that, there’s no shortage of runs for all levels of skiers.

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If you’re looking for a more urban trip, Missoula has a little bit of everything. The downtown area is historic and has more than 120 boutique shops – perfect for those who like to find unique items on their trips either for themselves or as gifts – and is very walkable. I love that, since you don’t have to spend money on cabs or gas if you don’t want to. For a more conventional shopping experience, head to South Gate Mall, the largest mall in Montana, or South Crossing for all your favorite brand name stores.
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Get outside and see what Missoula has to offer. Three rivers converge in the city, where many water activities take place, including paddle boarding and river surfing. On specific days of the week, you can take free paddle board lessons or take paddle board yoga classes with your dog. Now, I don’t even know how well I would do yoga alone, but if I had a water-loving dog, this would definitely be something to try.

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Montana is very dog-friendly, which means you can wander the city with your furry friends and be welcomed most places. Enjoy a meal with them at your side at many restaurants without outdoor seating. Bison burgers are a definite must-try when you’re out sampling the local cuisine. If you like to kick back with a cold one or glass of wine, Montana has a blossoming brewery and winery scene. There are eight breweries and wineries that serve up delicious microbrews and wine that is both made with grapes grown locally and those that are shipped in from other states.

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Caras Park is where you will find a ton of different festivals. The covered pavilion houses one of the country’s coolest carousels. It is one of the fastest and was hand carved by Missoula residents. If you want to get some exercise, the park also offers some lovely walking/running trails. Fall may be the off-season for visiting Montana, but it’s also when you will see the leaves turning and can indulge in some major leaf-peeping, giving you the opportunity for taking some gorgeous photos of the changing season.

Between farmers markets, the emerging food truck community, art galleries and affordable hotels and vacation rentals there is something for everyone in Missoula and other Montana cities. You will find a lot of ways to keep your whole family entertained and keep your wallet from totally emptying out.

{Stay tuned for more in-depth posts on vacationing in Montana.} If you've ever visited Montana, what would you suggest for new visitors?
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