Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Virginia Christmas 2016

I am still catching up on my blog!  So to distract myself from the inauguration I set out to get this post done!  But the inauguration was last week and I still don't have this done.  Can we all just ignore that this post is an entire month late, and can we all just ignore the debacle that we have gotten ourselves into with the new administration?

Okay then!

I don't think there is anything better than family bringing "home" to you when you can't go home for Christmas!  

We were blessed to have family & friends visit us six different times while we lived in Germany, but only once did it work out where they visited during Christmas (remember that time Eric's mom, step-dad, and sister came and we all went to Iceland?), but even though being anywhere in the United States is a whole lot closer to our loved ones than when we were in Europe, Virginia is still a ways away from the Midwest, and we just couldn't get home this year.  So we were thrilled when Eric's dad and younger sister decided to drive out to Virginia to spend a week with us over Christmas!  And as an extra special bonus, they brought our Brew too!!

Look at this face!!

If you want to come and visit us (and we hope you do!) we will likely try to show you as much as we can of the area that we live in (except when my sister came to visit a few weeks ago, we got snowed in and did absolutely nothing for the entire four days she was staying with us.  We sucked as hosts, big time!  Sorry, Angie!).  Virginia is chock-full of history!  I won't tell you that Virginia is as exciting as Europe is, but I will tell you that that statement is coming from a heavy heart, and we all know that you can't trust a heavy heart.  America has so much history, and I think it's all really interesting, but maybe because this country is my home I'm not as intrigued by it as I was with everywhere in Europe.  You all know that I get really excited about almost everything, I don't make apologies for the way that I react to the world around me, but I have to ask that y'all forgive my lack of excitement about some of these historical places, I'm still in mourning for our life in Germany, and me not being obnoxiously excited about Virginia is so not like me.

To give Ray & Sydnee a good feel for our new hometown, we started with exploring Petersburg - the site of the longest military event of the Civil War.

City Point, VA served as the headquarters for the Union Army during the Siege of Petersburg.

Fort Lee is part of the Richmond Metropolitan Area with a total population of 1.2 million.  Richmond itself has a population of just 202,000 and is the capital of Virginia.  We have pretty much everything we need right outside of gate in Colonial Heights (also part of the metro area), but Richmond is where we would go for the fancy kind of shopping and the really amazing restaurants.  
Eric and I have gone to Richmond a dozen times since we moved here, but we've always gone together.  I'm not brave enough yet to venture over there on my own.  I am still having a hard time with the coming to a complete stop thing (they don't do that in Germany) and making my brain look at the mph on my speedometer, rather than the km/h like we had to in Europe (30 mph is a lot faster than 30 km/h so I'm basically acting like an old lady driver who does rolling stops at every intersection, and that is so embarrassing), so I haven't gotten too far from Fort Lee on my own yet. 
Richmond is a really great city though.  It has a young vibe and seems to be super laid back.  I'm excited to explore more of it when it gets a little warmer - I hear they have some awesome concerts and festivals coming up in the Spring!  

Not only is Richmond the capital of Virginia, but the city is known for several important events that happened there - Patrick Henry gave his "give me liberty or give me death" speech in 1775, and it served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Me, Eric, Ray, and Syd spent an afternoon in Richmond touring the Confederate White House and then Hollywood Cemetery - the final resting place of two American presidents, six Virginia governors, two Supreme Court justices, twenty-two Confederate generals, and thousands of Confederate soldiers.

The Confederate White House

The Governor's Mansion

The State Capital Building

Eric and his dad in front of Jefferson Davis' grave.

Christmas Day was a quiet one since Isabelle was visiting her family out of state and everything was closed, so we spent our day watching movies while Eric cooked our Christmas dinner.  Almost perfect, if you ask me.

Eric's younger sister is a history major at my alma mater!  And if there is anything that we can deliver in a vacation to our neck of the woods for you, it's history!  So we took them to see the Jamestown Settlement - the very first successful English settlement.  
Today, it is a living history museum with re-creations of the original James Fort and Powhatan Native American village, and replicas of original ships that brought the settlers to the New World!  Costumed historical interpreters operate the colony just as they would have in the early 1600's, answering questions and explaining what life would have been like at the time!  It was so cool!

So this little guy isn't supposed to be in the Powhatan Village because they didn't have chickens at that time.  The people lived off of the land and hunted for their food - they did not raise poultry - he was an escapee from the James Fort.

The ships were surprisingly small, but the lady working there assured me that they are exact replicas of what the settlers would have arrived on in 1607.

We also took Ray & Syd to Monticello -Thomas Jefferson's mansion, but I went through all of my pictures and couldn't find any from our day there, I must not have taken any.  {gasp!}  It's been so long that I can't remember why I would not have taken a single picture of an adventure that we went on because that is so not like me!  But for whatever reason, I didn't. {pouty face}  Monticello is beautiful, and it's really neat to walk around the plantation, but we all agreed that we liked George Washington's Mount Vernon a little better.

For our last day together we all went to the American Revolutionary Museum in Yorktown.  It's another living history museum with costumed interpreters who reenact parts of the Revolutionary War.  We had to jump 100 years into the future from our time spent at Jamestown, which was actually a really neat experience.  Since both were living history museums, it really did feel like you traveled in time.
I did not take any pictures inside the museum because I've almost totally given up figuring out how to take nice indoor pictures, but the indoor part of the museum was big and interactive.  They had a 4-D theater experience that I personally think is the coolest way to learn about history, and then there were these kids who played instruments for the fife & drum corps and told us all about what the fife & drum corps did at that time.  I can't wait to go back with Isabelle!

Babe can't resist a map.  Any map.  Even if it's a map from the 18th century.

After a week spent exploring Virginia, Ray & Syd made the trip back to the Midwest safely, but minus an extra sweet dog baby that was sad to see them go.  Brew took a liking to Ray so he needed a couple of days to adjust to being with us again.  We were thrilled that they came to visit and were willing to bring a little bit of "home" to us for our very first Christmas back in the U.S.  I don't think there is anything better than family bringing "home" to you when you can't go home for Christmas!

This is sort of surreal for me right now because as I'm typing this, we literally have no idea where we will be spending Christmas next year.  It's kind of exciting because I like the adventure of it all, but it's also unnerving not knowing where life will take us in just a few short months.  But that's okay!  It keeps us on our toes and forces us to enjoy the moment, and besides, with a family like ours, we know that next Christmas will be amazing no matter where we end up, because we'll always have a little bit of home wherever we are!  


  1. I loved to read the part about Jamestown and to see pictures of it is amazing. I wrote my Master's thesis on the Walt Disney film "Pocahontas" and how the Native Americans and the first settlers of Jamestown are portrayed in the film. It is amazing to see a little bit of it. I want to visit it in person, is it worth it?

    1. It IS worth it! It's definitely an experience! I feel like the entire museum could be expanded a lot more, each part- James Fort & the Powhatan Village- were little snippets of what it likely was at the time. But I think what you'd really be interested in is the indoor museum part that went way more in depth on the way of life for both the English settlers and the native's. I get really excited about a lot of things though, I can't be sure what it would be like from your perspective, but I enjoyed it! :)

    2. Thank you so much!! I'll definitely keep it on my list of places to go!!
      It would be very interesting for me to see the place I read hundreds of pages about. And it sounds like I would enjoy it.