Monthly Archives: June 2007

Eleven

My beloved and I celebrate eleven years of marriage today.

I am married to my very best friend.  Of all the people in the world, he is the one I want to be with; the one I want to call when something happens to me – good or bad; the one I depend on most in the world.

I get to laugh every single day.  Most of the time, the things I find hysterically funny are things that most people wouldn’t get, but that doesn’t matter.  We have our own language and our own reference set, and sometimes he doesn’t even have to actually say anything to crack me up – a certain look or a nod or an eye roll is all I need to set me off.

We fit together eerily well.  Our tastes in things like furniture, music, cars, movies – not to mention childrens’ names – is almost perfectly aligned (I tend to prefer more rockin’ music than Mr. Chili does, but that’s about it).  We also find common ground on how to raise the girls, how to conduct our financial affairs, and in what kind of people we want to be.  We find ourselves agreeing about almost everything, and that certainly goes a long way toward matrimonial harmony.

That’s not to say that we do agree about everything, though; we certainly don’t.  There are times when he drives me to the brink – and I him – but the fact is that we know that, regardless of how crazy we may make each other, what really matters is the commitment we’ve made to each other.  We’ve yet to encounter a problem that has been bigger than our marriage.  Whether that’s because we behave in such a way as to avoid those problems or we’ve been blessed to not have them put in our paths, we don’t know.  We know how to argue respectfully and, in the three or four times in 11 years that we’ve been really, really mad at each other, we’ve been able to rely on the knowledge that we are the most important person in the world to each other.  We’ve gone to bed angry, but we’ve never woken up that way.

Marrying Mr. Chili was the best thing I have ever done, and I’m grateful, literally every day, that I said yes.  I’m far happier than I ever thought I had a right to be.  Even though I thought, eleven years ago, that I couldn’t be any happier than I was then, I find that, with each passing year, I’m a little more content, a little more secure, a little happier in this world that he and I have created together.

I do.

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A Tale of Two Parks

Phew! It’s been a LONG day for the Chili family. Mrs. Chili is TIRED!

We have pretty much finished our historical tourism. We figured that there’s only so much of that sort of thing that eight and ten year old girls can be expected to enjoy, so we bought the two-day, Key to the City passes and spent Tuesday and Wednesday learning about our revolutionary heritage. Today, we started the amusement park portion of our trip, with half day visits each to Busch Gardens and Water Country.

We bought the three day passes (to be fair, we didn’t slight the historical folks; we bought the two day passes to the amusement parks, too, but they came with an extra day). We arrived at Busch Gardens just as it opened, though that was more a happenstance than by plan; the amusement parks open later than the historical sites do. We put the girls on a couple of the middle-level rides (Beanie is a little too short to ride the “real” rides, but is big enough to get on things like the teacups and the merry-go-round). After a bit of puttering about, we put Daddy on Apollo’s Chariot – this is him giving the thumbs-up just after that trip.

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The girls wanted to see what the kid area was all about (it was too little for them) and, while they goofed around there, Daddy ran off to go on the Alpinegeist.

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(He wanted me to tell you all that he ended up on the first row to both of those rides, and says “it’s the only way to fly.” I guess that’s the one benefit of flying solo…) He said it was okay, but he preferred the Chariot to the Alpinegeist, and still thinks that Sea World’s Kraken is the coolest coaster he’s been on so far. Of course, he hasn’t been on the Gryffon yet…

After that, we headed out of Busch Gardens, had lunch off-site, then made our way to Water Country. We intended for it to be a short, orientation sort of visit, but we damn near closed the place. It is FUN! We found that the waits for the rides weren’t too long (though we’re not sure why that was – it was a hot day) and both girls are tall enough – and are strong enough swimmers – that they can play on pretty much everything. Punkin’ Pie went down the images6.jpegLemon Drop with me, but we decided that Beanie shouldn’t do it; the thing drops you almost straight down and then shoots you out into a 10 foot pool, and I struggled a little to get my bearings when I landed; I couldn’t stay in the pool to fish Beanie out when she landed, so we asked her if she wouldn’t mind passing this one up. She was fine with it, because there was SO much else to do. They both loved the Malibu Pipeline, though Beanie was a little frightened by it the first time – she didn’t realize that a portion of the ride is through closed tubes and you can’t see where you’re going. Once we hit the end, though, she was hot to go again: it was the attraction we rode the most.

I’m exhausted. We are home now; the girls are showering the pools off of them and will have a bit of ice cream before bed. I’m finishing up here, enjoying a watermelon and some Melon Splash wine cooler (which tastes remarkably like my favorite mixed drink, the Midori Sour) and we’re watching a doozie of a thunderstorm outside the patio doors. Tomorrow, we’ll likely do the whole thing again.

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The Magical History Tour*

*O’Mama left a comment on yesterday’s Ten Things Tuesday, thanking me for bringing you all on a “magical history tour.” I liked that so much, that I swiped it as the title for today’s entry.

Today was an excellent day! We got up earlier than usual so that we could get to Williamsburg to secure carriage ride tickets – the rides are popular and sell out early, particularly when it’s hot outside and they don’t work the animals after about noontime. While Mr. Chili bought tickets, the girls and I headed to the back of the coffeehouse (which is really just the excavated foundations – they’re still trying to figure out exactly how that building looked so they rebuild the structure) to listen to Patrick Henry speak.

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(Click on the pictures to see them full size)

I’ve been teaching public speaking for about a year now, and I have to tell you that I was captivated by this man. I recognize that he’s probably given the same speech to the endlessly rotating crowds of tourists for years now (our orientation guide told us yesterday that the man playing Henry does it as his full time gig), but that doesn’t change the fact that he was eloquent, smooth, and loud enough to be heard without artificial amplification. His delivery was entirely believable – he spoke with just the slightest hint of anachronism – he pronounced “been” the way I do (it sounds like “bean”) and he used “an” in front of “historic,” which is a British thing to do, though he didn’t speak with a proper British accent because Henry wouldn’t have – he was born in Virginia. The long and short of it was that I could have sat there all day and listened to him speak – and he likely could have stood there all day and happily obliged me.

I mentioned yesterday that the man, while revered today, was NOT very popular in his own time. The interpreter explained that was because his contemporaries were suspicious of his vehemence and enthusiastic patriotism which, in his day, was looked on a little less like patriotism and a little more like hot-headed treason, as most of the decision-makers of the day were trying to figure out ways to negotiate with the Crown and avoid war. He claimed that he was made governor of Virginia as a means of keeping him, as an executive, from the more powerful legislative position of Speaker of the House but he, being a good Christian and mindful of his duties to his country, did was was asked of him, regardless of how he felt his talents might be put to best use. This was said with not a little bit of bitter sarcasm but, of course, he was not given to public complaint.

When he was done with his speech, he invited questions from the assembly. He mentioned, early in his talk, that the men of Virginia had an abiding mistrust of the men of New England, and I managed to get the last question in to ask him why that was. His explanation was that New Englanders, as Congregationalists, were an austere, stern, cheerless, overly religious people and that Virginians, being not so, were mistrustful of their northern brothers because of their lack of joie de vivre. How can you embrace a people, he asked, who forbid the theatre? And dance? (How, indeed?) He mentioned their lack of tolerance for other faiths, too, as a reason for being suspicious and cautious around New Englanders. He ended his answer to my question, though, by saying that his attitude toward New Englanders was much changed when he attended a Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia with the Adams cousins (those would be Sam and John, in case you were wondering), and that he found them to be thoughtful, considerate, and passionate – true patriots and thinkers.

We met a lot of other people today, and I have to tell you that if you decide to make Williamsburg a vacation destination, make sure you engage the img_0198.jpginterpreters in conversation. Each and every one of them, up to and including the cantankerous coachman (pictured below), was knowledgeable and willing to answer questions. A few, like Patrick Henry and Wil (“that’s one Dubya, one Eye, one Ell,” pictured here) delighted in the audience and spoke with such believability and confidence that I was sad to see them go. They made today much more enjoyable – and a much better learning experience – than we had yesterday, when we wandered around the buildings and streets on our own.

It was a great day.

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Ten Things Tuesday

Mrs. Chili and her brood are on vacation in the Historic Triangle region of the U.S. As a result, we’ve been learning about this nation’s beginnings, so this week’s Ten Things will be of the Early American History variety!

images-31.jpeg~ Williamsburg was first known as Middle Plantation and was formally established in 1633.  It was the capitol of Virginia after Jamestowne and before Richmond.

~ Patrick Henry, who today is honored as one of the nation’s founding fathers, was considered a hothead and a trouble maker in his time. He eventually earned the respect of his peers but, for a long time, he was a persona non grata in polite, loyalist society.

images-41.jpeg~ Scholars speculate that, had he not died before the American Revolution ended, Peyton Randolph would likely have been elected the first president instead of Washington, so committed a patriot was the man.

~ The bulk of Colonial Williamsburg as it stands today was made possible because the pastor of the church, a Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin, convinced John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to make its restoration his pet project. In today’s dollars, Rockefeller spent over a billion buying land and restoring buildings to their 1700s appearances. Today, 88 buildings are originals; the rest are carefully researched reproductions.

images-62.jpeg~ Women were the center of domestic life in the 1700s. Though they could not receive formal education, it was the women who taught the children their letters and numbers, and who served as the spiritual caretakers of the family. The literacy rate in Colonial Williamsburg was surprisingly high among women and free blacks.

~ Despite the lack of quick communication (it often took a week or more to receive news from other colonies), events in Massachusetts and Virginia happened almost simultaneously. On April 19, 1775, the Minutemen of Massachusetts began their engagement with British forces in Lexington and Concord. Two days later, a contingent of British naval soldiers seized a quantity of gunpowder from the Williamsburg magazine, and an all out battle was narrowly averted in favor of negotiations with the British. It was hoped, though not really expected, that the colonies would not have to unite in war against the British; that each colony could negotiate with the Crown on its own.

images-72.jpeg~ Thomas Jefferson, Virginia’s second state governor, disliked the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg so much that he had begun to draw up plans for its renovation before the state’s capitol was moved to Richmond in 1779. In 1781, the palace burned to the ground in less than three hours.

~ If you’re going to poison someone to get your inheritance, make sure you do it quickly. In 1806, George Wythe, a patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was done in by his grandnephew George Wythe Sweeney, a deadbeat gambler, for the inheritance Sweeney hoped to secure. The poison worked slowly enough that Wythe was able to cut Sweeney out of his will entirely before he expired. Sweeney got away with the murder, however, because the only eyewitness to his crime was the cook, a free black woman named Lydia Broadnax. In those times – indeed, up until not too long ago – a black person could not legally testify against a white person.

~ It was illegal for bulk silver to be brought into the colonies, so colonial silversmiths were more recyclers than anything else – most of the pieces they images-22.jpegmade were created by melting down other items for the metal. It was prohibitively expensive to buy American made goods – a single, locally made coffee pot could cost more than three years’ wages. The same piece, imported from England, would likely cost about three months’ wages. The embargo against English goods – and English taxes – was an incredible sacrifice for both merchants and their customers.

~ According to the living history interpreters at the Great Hopes Plantation, slavery was an economic necessity in the colonial period. Though slavery as a concept was distasteful to many of the founding fathers – who were not ignorant of the dichotomy they created with their “all men are created equal” and christian heritage on the one hand, all the while keeping slaves bound with the other – the colonies would not have survived without the labor of these enslaved people. One is left to wonder, though, how much different our country would have been without the institution – and the war that followed a scant 100 years after our freedom from England was won.

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Do Nothing Day

I love the way we vacation.

Whenever we go anywhere – hell, sometimes I can see it at home because people often come to our neighborhood to vacation – I stand back and watch as other families tear through their vacations: frazzled mothers, impatient fathers and overstimulated kids checking maps, consulting their watches and trying to make sure that they don’t MISS anything.

We don’t do it like that.

That’s not to say that we don’t make plans. It’s just that we don’t feel like we need to live and die by those plans and, unless we’ve got a reservation for something, if we wake up and feel like being lazy by the pool, that’s what we do. We refuse to feel guilty about it, and we refuse to succumb to the frenetic, gotta-d0-everything attitude that most people have when they’re on vacation.

Today was a do-nothing day. We got up (late – it was lovely), and headed down to the restaurant and grille at the condo complex where we’re staying and had brunch with Martha Washington. Well, WE had brunch – Martha talked about social customs and dress and the life that she lived. The woman who put the talk on did a lovely job, even if many of the brunch guests were inconsiderate boors. (I told myself I wasn’t going to get hung up on other people’s rudeness this week, though, so I’m going to refrain from telling the stories – yes, plural…).

After Martha’s talk, we were thinking about going to Jamestown (something we’d more or less decided earlier to forego), so we headed back to the apartment to see what was what and make a decision about what we would do for the day. I read a bit about Jamestown’s story aloud from the guidebook we brought from home, then Mr. Chili read the section on Williamsburg’s history. It was round about that point, with a full belly and the sound of Mr. Chili’s voice, that I fell asleep. The family, very graciously, let me nap for damned near two hours; Mr Chili had let the girls play online for a bit, which is why there was no mutiny. That pretty much sealed the deal on not going to Jamestown today. When I woke up, we donned swimming attire and headed for the pool.

After a dip, we went into town to do some shopping. A quick run through Target (Punkin’s bathing suit needed replacing, and Mr, Chili needed a computer cable so we can BOTH use the internet – the subscription he bought was a single-user license), we made our way through the grocery store to stock our kitchen for the week. We try, whenever we stay in condominiums, to eat at least two meals at home every day, so I bought breakfast fixings, some mac and cheese and hot dogs, some salad, some ice cream, and a watermelon. That should get us through at least until Wednesday.

After hanging about in the apartment for a while, we ate the rest of last night’s pizza for dinner, then went off in search of mini-golf. There’s a place here that’s owned by the same company which owns an outfit a few towns over from where we live; it’s pirate themed and I really like the one at home, so we decided to give it a shot. It was PACKED, and not what you’d call cheap, so we found ourselves another spot on what can only be called Tourist Trap Boulevard. It was fun (Mr. Chili and I tied, can you believe it?!) and it was worth what we paid for it. I couldn’t resist a trip through the “trading post” next door, and we came out with a book about this area’s history that’s geared toward the girls’ ages, so it was worth roaming through all the junk. I’m hoping to find gifts for loved ones back home in Colonial Williamsburg – I can’t bring myself to buy kitsch as souvenirs.

I was damned and determined to get the girls into bed before ten tonight, so we came home, had a little ice cream, and Mr. Chili read them their book. As soon as I hit “publish,” I’m off to bed, too. We’re planning a do-SOMETHING day tomorrow – we’re going to spend the whole day in Williamsburg – and I want to be well rested.

I keep promising you pictures. I’ll keep that promise before the week is out, I swear – though please notice that I added pictures to the Hershey/Gettysburg entry. We just didn’t do anything picture-worthy today (though I did take a blog picture of the girls – from behind them as they jumped into the pool – but I haven’t downloaded it yet); I’m expecting there’ll be all kinds of good pictures tomorrow!

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The Chilis Have Landed in Williamsburg!

We spent Sunday night in Hagerstown, MD, after having a lovely time at Dudley and Squeaky’s.  After the girls took a little swim in the morning, we packed up, headed out for a quick breakfast, then were on the road to DC.  We ended up taking the blue line in from south of the city, figuring that it would be easier to not have to drive through DC on our way out to Virginia.  It was a good choice.

Emerging from the Federal Triangle stop, we headed straight for the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum (the girls just watched Night at the Museum (which was a lot better than I expected it to be – my hopes were pretty low based on my general dislike of Ben Stiller, but it turned out to be a really enjoyable flick).  We took in a few exhibits – most notably the dinosaur bones, the nature photography special exhibit, and the gems and minerals.  I’d never bothered with the dinosaur bones before – this is the first time I’ve visited the museum with children, and I’m not really all that jazzed by ancient fossils.  Punkin’ Pie wanted to go, though, and we were letting the girls determine which exhibits we saw, so in we went.  While I enjoyed watching her take in the sights, I have to say that it really didn’t do much for me.  Dinosaurs just never excited me at all.

The nature photography is a special exhibit going on for a short time, and I REALLY wish there were postcards or reproductions in the gift shop; some of those pictures were just jaw-dropping gorgeous.  There were close-ups of hummingbirds in flight, some absolutely stunning photographs of lions and cheetahs, and some truly breathtaking sea- and landscapes.  I think the museum really missed a money making opportunity by not offering at least a companion coffee-table book to go with the exhibit – I’d certainly have bought one.  Alas, as I said, not even a postcard.

After the photographs, we headed to the gem and mineral wing.  My favorite display in the that exhibit has always been the quartz sphere: sure, the Hope diamond is pretty, but that enormous, flawless crystal ball always captures my imagination.  There were a lot of really stunning pieces on display this time around, including an enormous emerald necklace, a beautiful jade and diamond crown, and some particularly sparkly diamond rings and brooches.  I always leave that exhibit wanting to take a toothbrush and some Windex to my engagement ring…

After a quick lunch in the museum cafe (which has, believe it or not, some spectacularly yummy chicken fingers), we made our way through the gift shops – see above disappointments – I came out with a couple of Hope diamond postcards and two quartz hearts for the girls.  I mean, really: how hard would it be to offer paste knock-offs of some of the pieces in the gem exhibit?  I’D have bought one!  Anyway, after that, we headed out into the sun again.

Our ultimate goal was the Lincoln Memorial, so we took a right out of the museum and started walking.  There was some sort of folk festival in the mall this past week, so we ended up taking most of our trip through a cavern of tents in various stages of disassembly.  We took a little time at the World War II memorial – something that wasn’t there the last time Mr. Chili and I visited the city.  We found our state’s pillar and took some pictures and contemplated, again, the sadness and seeming futility of war.  A stroll along the reflecting pool (densely populated (a propos slip there – I just typed “poopulated”) with geese) led us to the Lincoln Memorial.

I’m struck, every time I see this place, with the strangest sense of connection.  I don’t know where it comes from – whether I hold a special place in my heart for Lincoln or because I associate the memorial with Martin Luther King, Jr., with whom I share a birthday and a particular affinity because of what the man did with his life, I don’t know.  The fact remains that I feel as though I belong there somehow.  Weird, I know, but that feeling is so strong in me that I can’t pretend it’s not there.

After spending some time in the memorial, taking photographs, and reading the Gettysburg and Lincoln’s second inaugural addresses, we headed over to the Vietnam memorial.  Beanie and I were walking down the wall following Mr. Chili and Punkin’, and there were two young men between our two little pairs.  Mr. Chili took his baseball cap off out of respect for the place, and I watched as one boy nudged the other with is elbow, indicating with a nod what Mr. Chili had done, and both boys took their caps off.  I have to admit, I welled up a little.  That place is powerful and, yet again, I was struck by the idea that, pretty soon, we’re going to be erecting yet another war memorial.  We haven’t learned a thing.

By this time, little girl legs were good and tired, and we were all hot and hungry.  We made our way to the Arlington Cemetery Metro stop, which, really, is no short walk, but is closer than any of the other choices.  Back on the train we went, then back to our car.  After a quick dinner at Bertucci’s, we were on the road to Williamsburg.

We arrived here at about 10:00; a little later than we’d hoped, but we hit some traffic in a couple of places on the highway.  We’re checked into a lovely apartment; two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, a nice living room and a back porch.  Because Mr. Chili loves me (and is a wicked enabler to my blogging habit), he signed us up for wireless in the apartment!  I get to post once a day!

We don’t really have an itinerary for the rest of the week.  We know we’re going to spend time in Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, and that we want to have at least a day in both Busch Gardens and Water Country, but we don’t have a moment-to-moment plan.  I love that we can be flexible about this sort of stuff; it takes so much pressure off of vacations.  I’ll keep you updated, and will likely post pictures tomorrow.

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Chocolate and Cannons

Today was a good day! We got up at about the same time we usually do on vacation days, which is to say later than we do on school days, but earlier than we do on regular weekends. We headed down to the not-so-great-but-entirely-free breakfast in the hotel lobby, then packed up the car and headed to Hershey, PA.

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We did pretty much everything you can do on the cheap. We signed ourselves up for a trolley ride, did the “museum” tour, and bought a couple of containers of Kisses at the gift shop.

“Museum” is in quotes because it’s not really a museum at all – it’s an amusement ride. Mr. Chili and I, being the erudite snobs that we are, spent the entire time lamenting that, pretty soon, museums as we know them are going to cease to exist because they will have been replaced by automated, ride-through experiences like the one we saw today. This “museum” consisted of a walkway, on the walls of which were posters and pictures of Milton Hershey and his story. We stopped to read and, really, were the only ones to do so; everyone else was blowing by us on the way to the ride. As we continued around, we were presented with video on an endless loop of people in the tropics picking cocoa pods and of the resulting beans being dried, sorted, and bagged. The video was captioned with things like “each pod contains 20-24 beans” and “after fermentation, the beans are sorted and packed.” Wow. Educational and exciting.

The path then led to a ride, populated by singing, anamatronic cows (I kid you not) that led us through a “factory” and the process of turning beans into bars. When my MIL was little, she was able to take a tour through the actual factory but, whether because of logistics or OSHA or the FDA, that is no longer possible. Nope; we got to see Kisses glued to conveyer belts and plastic candy bars being popped out of molds and – wait for it – more anamatronic cows. Whatever.

After leaving this disappointing experience, we headed off on a trolley tour. This was more fun, but was a little more hokey than we would have liked. They’re led by costumed guides, one of whom plays the dopey new guy on his first job. He runs off the trolley at the first stop, ostensibly to get his camera so he can take pictures of the Hershey Mansion. He then appears in various guises (including the bonnet and skirt of Milt’s dear old mum), they lead the car in songs (Moonlight Bay and Daisey, that sort of thing) and finally appears as himself, flustered and upset that he missed the whole tour, on the last stop. We never got off the trolley, but were driven past the factory, a few of the stately homes built for executives, the school, the botanical gardens and the zoo and amusement parks. At various points during the tour, Kisses and mini peanut butter cups were passed around. It was a nice way to get a feel for the town, and to learn that even though Hershey didn’t make the BEST chocolate (see? erudite snob…), he was an amazing philanthropist and businessman.

After a quick lunch, we headed to Dudley and Squeaky’s via Gettysburg. We stopped at the cemetary and saw some of the memorials erected for the different battalions, then headed to the visitors’ center to see the mini-museum they’ve set up there and to buy some postcards. We wanted to show this place to the girls and have decided that we’ll make a full vacation out of the area sometime soon, maybe even next year. There are a lot of important lessons to be learned from the experiences one can have here, and they’re things I want my girls to have an opportunity to really think about.

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The only thing I can say about this is that I am always saddened to think of the myriad ways we can cause each other harm, and by how little we seem to learn from the past.

We ended the day celebrating Dudley and Squeaky’s marriage – again. We were there for their wedding in Vegas, and this was a party to include all of their friends who couldn’t make it to see the actual wedding. There were games and bubbles and lots of good conversation – I got to catch up with some friends I made at the wedding and got to meet a few new folks. We also got to see some fraternity brothers of Mr. Chili who live in the area, and that was nice. The night ended with fireworks and hugs and kisses. I’m writing this from our hotel room up the highway.

Tomorrow, we’ll get up, go to Bob Evans for breakfast, then head to DC. We watched Night at the Museum last week, and the girls are very excited to see the Smithsonian Natural History Museum (that, and the American History Museum, are my favorites – I love the gems at the Natural and the flags and first ladies’ dresses at the National). We’re planning to see the Lincoln Memorial and as many ouside attractions in that general vicinity as we can, have lunch in the city, then play the rest of the afternoon by ear. We’ll end the day by heading into Williamsburg, VA, where we’ll settle into our condo and get a lay of the land before deciding what to do with ourselves on Monday.

So far? It’s been a really great vacation. Keep checking back – Mr. Chili’s not sure about the internet access in VA, but I’m sure I can find a hotspot somewhere…

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