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Friday, February 8, 2013

Williamsburg Guild School 2013

This was my sole mini purchase in Williamsburg. It was made by Deborah Mackie of Alaska and sold by Bill Studebaker as an accompaniment to the rifle he taught in his class. See how the leather bag and horn for holding gun powder matches the one in the picture (which comes from the Williamsburg collection)? I bought the last one Bill had. I didn't take Bill's class, but Cheryl Kerfoot told me about the bag, so I snagged Bill during one of the class breaks and was able to buy it.

So how was Williamsburg? Great! I would come back in a heart beat. Classes and lodging are at the Williamsburg Lodge, which normally runs $200/nt, but the Guild School is able to work out a special price of over 50% off, so it is a great value.

If you decide to do the Williamsburg Guild School, you might consider reading my experience below and learn from my mistakes.

The closest airport to Williamsburg is Newport News, which is 20 min away. I chose to fly into NORFOLK Airport, which is 43 mi to Williamsburg. I rented a car, which was surprisingly inexpensive. I made a car reservation the wk before arrival, and the going rate for 3 days rental was as low as $35, including taxes. The drive from Norfolk to Williamsburg is easy. It's all highway driving, no toll roads. Definitely bring your own GPS unit, use your smartphone, or print out the directions from Mapquest. I brought my Garmin GPS unit, but it took an hour for the Garmin to acquire my satellite location, and by then I was in Williamsburg. Good thing I had my Mapquest directions to refer to.

When you arrive in Williamsburg, it's like stepping into another time and place. Everything is orderly, clean, and old fashioned. It has all the modern amenities, but it retains the charm of the past. It really is a village feel, and having a car seems like an intrusion because the roads are narrower, the buildings are smaller, the sidewalks have cobblestones not concrete. The College of William and Mary is in Williamsburg, so if you wander 6 blocks from the Lodge, you will see students ambling the campus.

Parking is free at the Lodge. They give you a tag to hang on your windshield. The website says they have covered parking, but I didn't see any. When I checked in at the Lodge, I was given a manila envelope, which contained my name tags for the Guild School, the essential guide to Williamsburg (a book that sums up the history and development of Williamsburg, the history of all the buildings in Williamsburg, all the restaurants and hotels/inns in Williamsburg and their amenities; the book retails for $11 so it is not a freebie for Lodge occupants), a coupon that gave me 15% discount at all Williamsburg shops and the Lodge spa, and the Guild School schedule.

The Lodge only has two floors, and there are no elevators. The Lodge rooms are in the main building or smaller buildings connected to the main building by a small courtyard.

The workshop classes begin 8.30 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday, 8 am to noon Monday, so 18 hours in all. They have 2 breaks each class day. The morning break is at 10 am and they provide coffee and water, except the water is in a glass tank with chunks of fruit (strawberries, orange slices, pineapple) visible. Even so, it tasted like water. The afternoon break is 3 pm, and they provide sodas and water.

Food at the Lodge is EXCELLENT. Pretty reasonable priced too. I ate at the Traditions restaurant for lunch Saturday and had their buffet, which included artisanal cheeses with crackers and fresh fruits, a sandwich bar, hot dishes like shrimp fettucine or sliced beef tips, soup of the day (sweet potato bisque), and at least 4 desserts. I had their shrimp fettucine, which was excellent. The shrimp were large, succulent, and plentiful. Dessert bar was FANTASTIC. I tried their green tea cheesecake (delicious), chocolate cake pop (MOIST fruitcake infused with liquer), and chocolate iced chocolate cake (pretty good, but not the best I've ever had). Buffet lunch includes a drink---I had the raspberry iced tea, which was unsweetened, but you could taste the raspberry flavor. All for $16, which I thought was very reasonable given the quality of the food.

Saturday evening includes dinner, which was preceded by a cocktail hour in which you could have one alcoholic beverage free of charge. I asked for champagne, but it was not available (free that is), so I settled on a glass of Chardonnay. For dinner, you had a choice of vegetarian, beef, or fish. I had their beef, which arrived looking black, but the meat was TENDER and just flaked off as you cut into it. Good flavor too. The beef sat on top a bed of scalloped potatoes and spinach. Prior to the main entree, we were served salad and rolls. Dessert was cheesecake with chocolate icing---delicious, served with tea or coffee. Then we saw a slide show of Williamsburg in the spring and summer when flowers are abloom. The slide show presenter gave all of us 2 notecards with his pictures of Williamsburg, tied up with a red grosgrain ribbon and in a paper folder made of nice textured cardstock , as gifts.

Sunday lunch was at the Lodge again. I tried the Virginian sandwich, which I can highly recommend. It's a pork sandwich, but the meat is white and resembles chicken or turkey. French fries were crispy and good flavor. One of the ladies tried their flatbread drizzled with cheese and chunks of chicken--it came on a PLATTER, so not an appetizer sized type of dish. I tried some of it---it was good.

Sunday dinner I ate with Cheryl Kerfoot and her roommate at Cracker Barrel, which is about 3 miles from Williamsburg. If you like such kind of chain store restaurants, it's not too far from Williamsburg by car.

Monday lunch was the graduation meal. We were in our own room. Each table had a large lazy Susan, which had servings of salad, the main entree (beef and fish), vegetables sides, mash potatoes (best I've ever had), and rolls. Dessert was a slice of chocolate iced chocolate cake. It was all good. They had tables set up to display students' finished items in class. Susan Sirkis, who oversees the Williamsburg Guild School, then thanked us for coming to Williamsburg and thanked all the people who make the Guild School possible. Traditionally Susan announces the Guild School classes for next yr, but one of the instructors had not yet responded, so she said she would email all of us next yr's class selections (before it is officially unveiled to rest of the world).

Flying to Williamsburg was painless, as I only had one connecting flight. Flying home was a nightmare for me. I had two connecting flights to make, which I didn't realize until I was in the process. I gave myself 2 hrs from the time Guild School officially ends (1 pm) to flight departure. Sounds reasonable, except it was terribly hectic. I checked my luggage before I left the Lodge and realized I was missing items and my classmate I sat next to told me I had left items behind in class. So I ran back to class and saw I had left behind the wallpaper flooring for the roombox and tools I bought from the Boorums. I re-shuffled my luggage, then hurriedly left. I got some directions from the front desk for Norfolk Airport, but made several wrong turns, so I had to do a U-turn.

If you ever have a rental car, fill up your tank in Williamsburg. There's a Valero gas station just as you leave Williamsburg, and it's cheaper than the gas station one block away from the Norfolk Airport. Also less crowded. The Shell gas station closest to the Norfolk airport was FULL as everyone filled up before they turned in their cars. I don't know why I had not programmed my GPS unit the night before, cuz it would have saved me at least 30 minutes from not getting lost. I made it to the airport with about 30 minutes to spare before actual take-off. Fortunately, the Norfolk Airport is not too big, so navigating it is easy.

During check-in at Norfolk, they confiscated my Easy Miter Cutter scissors. It was over 7" long, so I couldn't take it in my carry-on. The guy asked me what I wanted to do with it. I told him, "Keep it." He said, "I can't keep it. It's going in the trash." As if that was supposed to make me feel better that he wasn't benefitting from this. He may have been doing his job, but he wasn't saving the country from a terrorist by taking away my miter cutter scissors.

I made my first connecting flight with a minor hitch. I had to board two buses to switch from the US Airway to American hub, but then managed some down time watching the inaugural festivities on TV.

The 2nd connecting flight was at O'Hare, which you should avoid if you can. I had to walk a mile to get to my gate, and when I got to the gate I was informed I had just missed the LAST American flight to Wichita KS. There were 2 other guys in the same boat as me. The service desk person put us on STANDBY for a United plane flying to Wichita. Another mile walk to that gate. I couldn't even get on one of those vehicles they have in airports that zip around. I don't know what criteria they used for getting on those vehicles, but being a small woman carrying a bag half her size didn't qualify.

At the United gate, I was told the plane could only hold 50 passengers, and everyone was confirmed for the flight. And it was the LAST flight they had flying to Wichita. They flashed the names of 3 passengers on standby for the flight, not including the 4 of us waiting at the gate to get on. I wanted to cry. I called American's toll free # and the person told me I was scheduled for the 8am flight next morning on American if I couldn't fly that evening, except that would do me no good because I had to work the next day. The person at the United desk told me I had "Very little" chance of getting on the flight---I was the last person in line on standby. I called American again about maybe getting a hotel paid for me to stay in if I could not get on the plane that evening. Nope, I was told I had to go to an American desk at the airport to get the hotel, they couldn't do it over the phone. I didn't feel like walking another mile to get to the American hub, so I bothered the United desk person again. "What's the difference between very little chance vs zero chance of getting on? Why wouldn't he just say I had zero chance (because I felt I had zero chance)?" He said he couldn't say "zero chance" until he called everyone on board and see who showed up and who didn't. As far as he knew, his computer system indicated everyone was confirmed for the flight. So I waited.

Finally, it was boarding call and I was amazed that one by one, the 3 guys in the same boat as me were able to get on the plane. I went up to the United desk as the boarding area was EMPTY except for me. The United people were typing furiously, and YES, they had one last seat available! I couldn't believe it. I gave the lady at the desk a hug. She seemed genuinely happy for me, and the guy who I was a curmudgeon to was also relieved to see me get on, too.

Bottom line---if you happen to be placed on standby status for a flight, don't give up until everyone has boarded the plane. 2- Try to avoid two connecting flights if you can. 3- Fly in the morning, so if you happen to miss your flight you have a better chance of getting on the next flight out.

If I had to do over again, I would have flown into Williamsburg on Thursday morning, so I could take in some of the Williamsburg sights Thursday afternoon and Friday, when they traditionally have dinner at Sue Rountree's. You can also pay to go on the tours they have of the Williamsburg museum collection. Then I would have flown out in the morning Tuesday.

The weather, being in January, can be unpredictable depending on your region. They had predicted a blizzard for the Williamsburg area as I was about to depart Friday afternoon, but it never materialized (thank goodness). However, some of the people coming from places like Connecticut had to deal with ice, which delayed her from driving her car for several hours. The weather was sunny and beautiful while I was in Williamsburg, staying in the 40-50s F, but flying into Chicago, the weather had dipped below zero (but no snow or ice). Bottom line---you need to account for possible inclement weather coming and going to Williamsburg and schedule extra time to get back and forth. Once you are at the Lodge, it really is nice to take in the beautiful surroundings, have fun acquiring new skills and knowledge in mini making, eating great food, and meeting miniaturists around the country. 

1 comment:

  1. You made me think about getting to Castine, it is quite a journey, the first year I arrived on the Saturday just two hours before everything started, it was just too hectic. Last year I arrived on Friday, it was so nice to just have a bit of time to settle in, catch up with some friends, once the week start, there is almost no time for being social. The food at Castine is good but remember it is a college cafeteria, so no fancy food. See you in June!