Enjoying golden moments in Williamsburg

Short Hop

Attractions: Its Colonial aura and Gold Course golf draw visitors to the Williamsburg Inn.

January 16, 2000|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Staff

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- If one is planning a visit to the stately Williamsburg Inn, it helps to have a keen appreciation for the Colonial period of our nation's history.

Otherwise, one may wonder if one has lost one's mind.

Or stumbled onto the set of an old "Twilight Zone" episode.

When my wife and I arrived for a recent stay, for example, it was May 15, 1776.

Virginia had just declared its independence from Great Britain, breaking all ties with the world's greatest power.

The celebration was well under way, and news of the Virginia delegates' unanimous vote was spreading throughout the city.

OK, fine, it was actually a sunny late-fall afternoon on the cusp of the year 2000.

But the colony's bold declaration was the theme of the day in the nearby 170-acre Historic Area.

Hence, a visitor to the inn could grab a piece of complimentary fresh fruit in the lobby and amble across Francis Street and take in (among other re-enactments): the military preparing for war, some poor soul on trial for gun-running, a meet-and-greet with Martha Washington, a public audience with George Washington and the freeholders of James City County discussing the complications of independence at the Raleigh Tavern.

For those not caught up in pre-Revolutionary War fervor, there was plenty to do at the inn itself.

One could take in a Doll House Miniatures Show and Sale in the lobby, which we passed on, or one could tour and gawk at the luxurious surroundings and well-manicured lawns, which we engaged in fully.

First opened in 1937 under the direction of John D. Rockefeller Jr., who led the restoration of Williamsburg in the 1920s, the inn's 98 rooms and suites are furnished in the classic English Regency style.

Unfortunately, the main building of the inn was booked the weekend we visited, so we stayed in one of the 43 rooms in what are known as the Providence Wings.

This was not exactly like making do at an EconoLodge, because the spacious rooms are beautifully appointed and each has a private terrace or balcony in a lush garden setting, complete with a nearby pond and a small platoon of friendly, quacking ducks.

While sipping coffee on the rear veranda of the inn, we could see golfers on the immaculate first tee of the famed Golden Horseshoe Golf Course.

That's another thing about a stay at the Williamsburg Inn: Along with a keen appreciation for Colonial history, it helps to have a deep appreciation for golf.

The Williamsburg area has become a golfer's haven in recent years, and many golfers make the holy pilgrimage to the Gold Course, designed and built by noted course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1963.

Conde Nast Traveler magazine rates the inn among its Best 50 Golf Resorts, and I was eager to take on the Gold Course's island greens, which are said to appear to be about the size of a pillowcase when you're aiming from 165 yards away across water.

For now, though, we were content to stroll the grounds, stopping to watch one energetic senior- citizen couple, dressed in matching outfits of white long-sleeve shirts, white slacks, white shoes and white straw hats, have a go at lawn bowling. They seemed to excel at the game, too, although with only about four people in the contiguous United States who actually know the rules of lawn bowling, this is pure speculation.

For dinner that night, we decided against dressing up for the inn's award-winning Regency Dining Room, which features live music and dancing on the weekends. Instead, we ate in the more casual Terrace Lounge, a glassed-in room with cozy tables and distinctive high-backed wicker chairs that specializes in light fare.

Light, in this case, does not mean cheap, however.

The bill for three drinks, a lobster bisque appetizer, one smoked-salmon sandwich, one grilled-vegetable sandwich, a dish of chocolate ice cream and two coffees was a whopping $72.50. Yes, it was a terrific lobster bisque, with a hint of something that tasted like pumpkin. But when you're shelling out 72 bucks for sandwiches, it's clear you're not eating out in Highlandtown, hon.

Pianist B. J. Costa entertained us with a medley of Sinatra, Cole Porter and Broadway show tunes, and she smiled graciously when one diner, perhaps emboldened by the vodka martini in front of her, began singing along enthusiastically. In fact, this diner might have sung along a bit too enthusiastically, because within a matter of minutes, two parties at nearby tables asked for the check.

Incredible coincidence?

Moon in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligned with Mars?

Perhaps.

But B. J. Costa herself didn't seem to mind the woman's singing, and after another Corona, neither did we.

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