Just a little chocolate…

May. 1st 2013


After my wonderful day running around Norfolk Botanical Gardens, I decided to spend some time with our daughter, Alexa on Monday. She has been in college working on a degree in psychology and was in bad need of some stress relief before one of her finals. So true to form we decided to take a break in one of our favorite day trip locations… Colonial Williamsburg.

After a quick lunch of sushi and catching up, we headed up from Chesapeake. She had been just the weekend before and had seen a hoodie at the William and Mary Bookstore she really wanted. The traffic wasn’t too bad on the way, but the rain didn’t seem to want to let up. I was getting concerned that our trip would mostly have to be inside the stores at Merchant Square. Not that that is a bad thing per say, but it can be hard our budget. But when we arrived, the rain seems to know and just stopped.

After purchasing her hoodie, she did a little arm twisting and “forced” me to go to the Wythe Candy Store. This is one of our favorite stops in Merchant Square. Coming in the door, you gain five pounds just breathing in all the sugar in the air. I am surprise they don’t hand out napkins at the door because by the time you leave, your month is watering.

Cheese Shop Merchant Square

Cheese Shop
Merchant Square

Before we got to the Candy Store,  we stopped at the Cheese Shop next door to the “Fat Canary” Restaurant. If you have never had a chance to eat at the “Fat Canary”, when you are in Williamsburg, you must stop! It is a little pricey, but well worth the cost! After looking over the cheeses they had and not finding any that jumped out at me, we headed to the Candy Store.


As we walked in, we were greeted by a staff member dipping carmel apples. Just in front of him were cupcakes with so much frosting on it, you would have died from a sugar coma! There were tons of different types of fudge and then we saw them. The chocolate covered candy apples! Oh my….


As we made our way around the display case, we saw clusters, chews, jelly beans, sours, licorice and endless confections! We rounded the back of the display where we were greeted by truffles of every shape and size. There were truffles that looked like cupcakes, egg shaped truffles, small “pop in your month” truffles and tons and tons of different favors.


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Alexa knew quickly what she wanted and had it boxes up before I knew it. She picked out a blueberry truffle and an Irish Creme truffle. I knew that I couldn’t go home without brings some back to Brett and our son Tyler. So I picked out four truffles for them to pick from. They had a choice of peanut butter, key lime, Irish Creme or raspberry.

The top right is a blueberry egg-shaped truffle

The top right is a blueberry egg-shaped truffle

I picked out some chocolate almond bark that was sugar-free for me. One was milk chocolate and the other was white chocolate. I know what you are think! Sugar-Free at a Candy Store, but yes! They make some of the best sugar-free chocolates I have ever tasted! And I don’t feel so guilty for eating it!

Once we finished purchasing our choices and heading out just in time to miss a large crowd of teenagers, I asked Alexa to allow me to find out if the “Young James Madison” was working today at Colonial Williamsburg. Bryan, who is the historic interpreter that plays “the Young James Madison” has been following us on our Belle Grove Facebook Fan page for several months. When he first contacted us, he was just studying for his part as James Madison. He had told me that he was given our page and blog information by the librarian in Williamsburg. So I knew I wanted to meet him if I could since I was there.

I stopped at the ticket booth there at Merchant Square, but she didn’t have any information on him. She sent me to the Visitor Center. So Alexa and I drove over to the Visitor Center. There I talked to the ticket supervisor who placed a couple of calls to find out for us. She ended up with his manager on the phone. When I told him who we were and what we were looking for, he told us that Bryan was there today and that he was at “Revolutionary City” doing a program. His manager then gave us the cell number of his direct supervisor there and asked us to call him in about five minutes because they were in the middle of program change. This gave us just enough time to jump back into the car and head back to the parking lot at Merchant Square.

When we parked, I tried to call the supervisor. No answer…

I looked at Alexa and said, “Well do we pack up and go home? Or do we hike down to the Revolutionary City Capital and hope that we might get the supervisor on the phone or see if we can meet him through someone there?” Now when I say it’s a hike, I am not joking. It’s seven large blocks down. For Alexa that wouldn’t be much of a hike, but for me… well…

Alexa said to me, “Mom, what do we have to lose? If we don’t go, you could have missed your one chance to see him.”

So you guessed it, off we went….

Now the walk isn’t really bad when you can stop and catch your breath on one of the many benches along the way. But because it had been raining most of the day, all the benches were wet! And I don’t know if you know this, but most Colonial Homes didn’t have front porches! So most of the steps were wet too! Just before we reach our final stop, I did manage to find one dry spot to catch my breath. It was here that I started noticing historic interpreters walking pass as if they were leaving.

We quickly go up and stopped a lovely Colonial woman who was pushing cart filled with baskets. She informed us that the programs were done and that all the interpreters were heading home! I asked her if she knew if the Young James Madison had already left and she told me that she thought he had just walked by! But she asked me to follow her and she would see if he was still there. As we reached the next block, she pointed to another Colonial young man that she said would know where he was. I thanked her and headed over to him.

This kind young man did indeed know the “Young Mr. Madison” and asked me to stand by at the corner as he went inside to see if he was still there. We stood there for what felt like a long time even though I am sure it wasn’t. I started to think at first that we had missed him. Then I started to think the young man had forgotten us! Then I looked up to see “Young James Madison” coming out of a doorway.


Bryan was wonderful. I introduced him to Alexa and we discussed his studies and programs. He is working on a new script for a new program he will be doing soon. In the middle of our conversation, Bryan mentioned that we looked familiar to him. I thought maybe he just knew our faces from the blog or Facebook. But was we spoke, he mentioned that he lived in Chesapeake. A couple quick inquires and we found out that we attended the same church for many years together. Bryan was a couple years older than Alexa and several years older than Tyler, but we have known his family as members. Fun how we both had to travel to Williamsburg to find someone we knew from home.

We thanked Bryan for taking time to talk with us and promised to return to see him in his programs soon. As we headed back to the car, the rain started lightly coming down. It wasn’t too heavy to get us really wet and the trees offered some shelter from the mist.

We decided to end our outing to Williamsburg with a drive down Colonial Parkway between Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown. This is a beautiful drive and with the rain on the new leaves, the greens were just so bright and wonderful! We took our time as cars rushing home from daily jobs passed us. It was nice to just drive to see what you can see and not to worry about when you are going to get there. Rushing around, we miss so much in our lives.


To see more photos from our past trips to Williamsburg

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Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History, Food and Recipes | 14 Comments »

Happy Independence Day!

Jul. 5th 2012

Happy Independence Day!

This morning when I woke up, Brett informed me that someone on our Belle Grove Plantation Facebook page had sent us a message. He is from White Stone, Virginia, which is about one and a half hours from Belle Grove. Since 1999 their site has chronicled the restoration of 18th century Enon Hall in Lancaster County, Virginia by a family descended from its original residents.


Thank you to Enon Hall for reminding us about the 4th of July celebration in Port Royal!

In his message, he mention that he and his family were heading to Port Royal, Virginia for their annual 4th of July Celebration. I had remembered reading about this in the Port Royal Historic Society Newsletter when I first started researching Belle Grove. So true to form, I jumped up, got dressed and headed to Port Royal. Brett stayed behind to get dinner ready when I returned around 6pm. He is such a great husband.

Civil War photo of the Evacuation of Port Royal. The house on the other side of the bank is Walsingham Plantation

You may remember Port Royal, Virginia from our hints at the beginning of our blog. Port Royal is located across the Rappahannock River from Port Conway and Belle Grove Plantation and is located in Caroline County.

According to Wikipedia:
“Port Royal is one of the area’s more historic towns. It was first established in 1652 as a port on a navigable portion of the Rappahannock River during an era when waterways were the major method of transportation of people and property in the British Colony of Virginia. It was an important point for export of tobacco, Virginia’s cash crop.

Local tradition holds that Port Royal was named after the Roy family. Dorothy Roy and her husband John owned a warehouse chartered by the crown, a ferry service across the Rappahannock River to King George County and a tavern. In the 21st century, the chimneys of the Roy house are preserved landmarks in the town.

Port Royal was incorporated as a town in 1744. The “town green”, upon which stands today the Town Hall and the firehouse, was forever reserved “for public and civic use”. Shipping of property from the port began to decline after completion of railroads which began in Virginia in the 1830s. The last scheduled passenger ship service ended in 1932, supplanted by highways. However, Port Royal was served by the new highways which became U.S. Route 17 and U.S. Route 301, with their crossroads at Port Royal.

Probably Port Royal’s most notable claim to fame is that John Wilkes Booth was killed about two miles outside town by Sgt. Boston Corbett, part of a contingent of federal troops, at the now obsolete Garrett farmstead (look for prominent markers along northbound Rt. 301) on April 26, 1865 after Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln on the night of April 14, 1865 in Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC.”You

You can also see more history on Port Royal at their website:  http://www.historicportroyal.com/

The Port Royal Annual 4th of July Celebration was free to the public. This festival was a celebration with period dress from Colonial to Civil War periods. They had patriotic music and speeches and 18th century dancing. There was even a horse drawn carriage for you to tour Historic Port Royal in. As you tour the town, you can see these beautiful historic homes, which have dated sign for you in front.

The Lekie House 1775

The Pearson House 1775

The Riverview House 1846

The Tavern 1750

The Timberlake 1750

The Townfield House 1745

The Brockenbrough date unknown some time before 1765

St Peter’s Church 1835

St Peter’s Church 1835 – Interior

St Peter’s Church 1835 – Interior

St Peter’s Church 1835 – Interior

I meet some really wonderful people who shared their love of history with me. I also met the mayor of Port Royal, Mrs. Nancy Long, who welcomed me to the area and told me that they were excited that we were opening Belle Grove. Brett and I are looking forward to becoming part of this celebration next year!

The Rappahanock Colonial Hertage Society – www.RCHSinc.org

The Rappahanock Colonial Hertage Society – www.RCHSinc.org

Westmoreland Long Hunters

Caroline County Minute Men

Time Traveler

13th Virginia Infantry Co A Montpelier Guard – www.13vacoa.net

13th Virginia Infantry Co A Montpelier Guard 5 – www.13vacoa.net

23rd Regiment USCT – jjwmuseum.org

23rd US Colored Troops – 23USCT@jjwmuseum.org and 54th Mass Volunteer Infantry Reg Co B – www.54thmass.org

Hundley Carriages, Inc – www.hundleycarriages.com

Port Royal Mayor Nancy Long

Afterwards, I made a quick stop at Belle Grove, to see what damage we might have had from the recent storms. Happily I can report that Belle Grove is safe and sound. Two hundred twenty-one years, and she is still standing strong. We did lose a branch from one of our older trees at the front entry. This tree has had damage from a lightening strike as well, so I am sure that had something to do with the branch breaking off. We also lost one of the Cypress trees that lines the front drive in. The caretaker had already removed it, but you can see the way the wind just twisted this tree off. Wow.

Belle Grove Plantation – Tree at the front entry gate

Belle Grove Plantation – Tree along the front drive

I am also happy to report that James and Dolley’s nest on top of the chimney is still there. With the high winds, I expected it to have been blown away. I am also happy to report that both James and Dolley were at the nest. We are glad to see James back. He had us worried that something had happened to him since we had not seen him the last several times we were at the house. The caretaker also told us that the eagles have been flying around a good bit lately. Could be that they are looking to pick off James and Dolley’s nest.

Belle Grove Plantation – Dolley on her nest

On my way home, as I rode into Tappahannock, I noticed an antique store that was opened. So you guessed it, I had to stop. And score! I found two more wonderful tea plates to go with my tea cups and saucers.

A to Z Antiques – Tappahannock VA

A to Z Antiques – Tappahannock VA

I arrived back home, just in time as the food was coming off the grill and got to spend some family time with our son, his girlfriend and my father. I have to say for a Wednesday, it was a really good day!

Brett and Hurley

Brett, and I and even Hurley want to wish each of you’re a wonderful 4th of July. Next year, who knows, we might have to have our own cookout at Belle Grove Plantation!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 54 Comments »