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 Virginia City Hotels

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2: Searching for hotels in Virginia. To locate your hotel, click on one of the blue links below

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Traveling through VIRGINIA, the oldest, largest and wealthiest of the American colonies and the single most powerful influence on the early United States, is a nonstop history lesson. Pretty and rural it may be, but the past predominates: wherever you go you’re pointed towards this or that painstakingly restored two-hundred-year-old building, where something or other happened a long time ago. The more you know about it all, the more rewarding Virginia is to visit, but the historical plaques get a bit ridiculous after a while, marking every spot where George Washington slept, Thomas Jefferson thought or Robert E Lee tied his horse to a tree. You can see why Disney chose northern Virginia as the site of its proposed theme park of American history a few years back; and you’ll also soon realize that Virginia takes itself a bit too seriously to allow such a project to get off the ground.

Virginia’s recorded history began at Jamestown, just off the Chesapeake Bay, with the establishment in 1607 of the first successful British colony in North America. Though the first colonists hoped to find gold, it was tobacco that made their fortunes. The native strain – used for hundreds of years by Virginia’s indigenous population, of whom almost no trace remains – was too strongly flavored for European tastes. When a smoother, more palatable variety was introduced in 1615 by John Rolfe – the same man whose shipwreck on Bermuda inspired Shakespeare’s The Tempest – tobacco quickly became the colony’s major cash crop. Before long, vast plantations, owned by a very few aristocratic families, sprang up along the many broad rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. To grow and harvest tobacco required both an immense amount of land – so the Native Americans had to go – and intensive labor – so the plantation owners brought in slaves from Africa. By the end of the seventeenth century, enslaved African-Americans accounted for nearly half of the colony’s 75,000 people; a hundred years later, they numbered over 300,000.

Virginians had an enormous impact on the foundation of the nascent United States: George Mason, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and four of the first five US presidents were from Virginia. However, by the mid-1800s the state was in decline, its once fertile fields depleted by overuse and its agrarian economy increasingly eclipsed by the urban and industrialized North.

As the confrontation between North and South over slavery and related economic and political issues grew more divisive, Virginia was caught in the middle. Though this slaveholding state initially voted against secession from the Union, it joined the Confederacy when the Civil War broke out, providing its military leader, Robert E Lee, and its capital, Richmond. Four long years later, Virginia was ravaged, its towns and cities wrecked, its farmlands ruined and most of its youth dead. It has never regained its early prosperity, nor its prominence in national affairs.

Richmond itself was largely destroyed in the war; today it’s a small city, with some good museums, and is the best starting point for seeing Virginia. The bulk of the colonial sites are concentrated just to the east, in what’s known as the Historic Triangle. Here the remains of Jamestown, the original colony, Williamsburg, the restored colonial capital, and Yorktown, site of the final battle of the Revolutionary War, lie within half an hour’s drive of each other.

Another historic center, Thomas Jefferson’s Charlottesville, sits at the foot of the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, an hour west of Richmond. An attractive small college town in its own right, it’s also within easy reach of the natural splendors of Shenandoah National Park and the small towns of the western valleys. Northern Virginia, often visited as a day out from Washington DC, holds a number of restored homes and several preserved Civil War battlefields. Click here to go to Virginia State web site.

 

 

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