At the time the Berkeley Plantation was designed, many people were smaller than today. That includes the size of their feet. The steps leading down to the cellar where the guides show the introductory film and where there are many other things to see are size 9 steps and a hazard for those like me with size 12 feet. Tread carefully down there. In the basement, there are uneven floors. On the grounds tour, be careful too.
Look at this poor, sleepy guy in my car. Nat, awake please, the Berkeley plantation is just ahead! Did you prepare our trip long hours last night or we just started our trip too early? Yes, we (my wife and I) were more lucky than you. With our jetlag in the second day after coming from Europe we got up... 6 hours later than you :-). Poor visitors from eastern Asia.
Well, if you want to see anything more than just one James River plantation you should leave Richmond early to rich the plantation at its opening hour (9.00 am). A day before, better go to bed early... although VT at night is so addicteve.
The scenic route 5 from Richmond to Williamsburg passes through pretty forests but there are no parking lots or rest areas there. Instead I could always stop by a gas station.
I can't complain, I stopped in the middle of a forest first on the gravel and then on an asphalt shoulder. Hmm... was it allowed to cross this white solid line on my picture and stop there?
In Poland and Europe it is not allowed. In the USA, in contrast to Europe, I noticed solid middle lines painted along intersections (good for safety while driving at night esp. in bad weather when you can see only the line). And it was surely allowed to cross the solid line there in the USA.
It's more my suggestions for the Berkeley plantation owners than real warning tip. My improving nature, ask the owners for some improvements, which surely cost... Hmm... I would like to pay for the entrance not more than I paid ($10.50).
Just top 10 proposals...
1. Improve the road leading to the plantation (it maybe gravel like it is but should be flat with real parking lot at the end + restrooms there),
2. What about welcoming all visitors by smiling pretty woman and handsome guy dressed in 17th century costume with a welcome leaflet and... small shot of bourbon whiskey (first destilled at Berkeley) + sounds of Taps,
3. Taps maybe played (by loudspeakers) at the gift store and by the Taps monument (by a musician?),
4. Open the Coach House Tavern as soon as possible,
5. Allow to take pictures everywhere including interiors of the mansion where it's forbidden,
6. What about canoe or boat/ship trips along James River - with or without the lunch (starting from Berkeley)?
7. More written information should be put especially in exhibitions in the basement and the mansion,
8. What about opening bourbon whiskey traditional destillery + liquor store?
9. What about the first Thanksgiving show on the bank of the James River?
10. What about evening/night tours with a supper at the grounds (in summer at least)?
The only inconvinience is that like with Williamsburg or Mount Vernon, the extras would surely have to be paid in addition to the basic $10.50 fee.
There is a lot of various old and original house stuff and equipment displayed in the basement of the Berkeley mansion, mostly with no order, just put on the ground. Unfortunatelly there is no explanation on displayed items. It is not so simply to guess for what some of these things were used.
Read "don'ts" on my picture. Hmm... the grass is important in the Berkeley Plantation. Generally in the USA, in contrast to Europe, the grass and lawns are for walking not only for looking at. But not at, English in origin, Berkeley Plantation.
When you visit the interiors of the Berkeley mansion DO:
- ask questions to your guide (like Nat did) and share your knowledge on VT.
The simplest question I heard many times in various places is: are these all furnitures original? :-)
A few others I would ask now:
- who was the first Harrison - builder of the mansion, what are his roots, where is he burried?
- who is the current owner of the house?
- what happened to Harrison family now?
- sit on antique chairs,
- touch aniquities,
- take pictures if you... see or hear and understand the ban (I didn't),
- smoke, drink etc.
The walkways within Berkeley Plantation were asphalt but the road outside was unpaved and muddy after rains. The meadow in which we parked a car was muddy as well. We had to walk there to get to the plantation.
It was not so bad but cleaning shoes was necessary after the visit to the plantation.
Keep in mind that forests in Virginia and the USA are often privately owned with no access allowed unless you get the permission from the owner or... buy the forest. Otherwise you maybe shot at place - it's the citation from the only legal mass media we had in Poland under the Soviet communist regime in 70' :-). Is that true?
If you want to enjoy walking in pretty broadleaved forests in and around Charles City County, hit your car to either any James River plantations (like I did) or to more distant Chippokes Plantation State Park on the south bank of James River (bridge in Hampton) or to York River State Park.
This is a picture of a cannon ball that is still stuck in the wall of one of the buildings on the plantation. The sign reads, "From the attack by General J.B. Stuart on the Army of the Potomac, 1862".