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Colonial Williamsburg was a familiar name, because my cousin married a girl from the area, and his parents moved here from New Orleans after they retired. My parents visited on several occasions, and I heard all their glowing reports. We planned at least two trips but never made it. Then, in 1997, we decided to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary here. It was Christmastime, when the historic district was decked out in all its holiday splendor. While here, we drove over to Charles City County to visit my relatives; and we explored Jamestown, America’s first English settlement, and Yorktown, the site of Cornwallis’ surrender to Washington. We were hooked.

The CW magazine, packed with interesting articles on American history and culture, was in our hotel room; and I discovered that for a $100 donation, I could get a subscription to Colonial Williamsburg. Sold.

Next I learned that for a somewhat larger donation, we could come for a special day of events each year and take marvelous-sounding trips with the group. While we never took a trip with CW and we did not make the meeting every year, we were impressed by how welcome we felt. Because family was nearby, we came to Williamsburg more often. And because Williamsburg was nearby, we saw family more often.

When Lev died, I decided to shrink the list of organizations he supported. I was not interested in war museums. In a self-centered move, I chose to increase support for organizations that enriched my life as a widow. CW was (and is) one of those. For a slightly larger donation, I could go on all the trips and attend an annual weekend event. Little did I know just how much I would benefit.

Royal Scotsman

Colonial Williamsburg Trip on the Royal Scotman

In September 2011 I took a giant step, flying to London for a few days alone before taking the train to Edinburgh, where I joined a group of strangers from CW for a rail tour of Scotland. That was the first of nine trips in three years with an outstanding group of like-minded travel companions. On every trip I joined old friends and made new ones, building a network of acquaintances across the country and finding community in Williamsburg. Even in Dallas, I have a group of friends whom I first met in Williamsburg.

This week I am back in Williamsburg, the longest I’ve ever stayed here. I came to see family, write and attend the annual weekend event.

But I have all these new friends. Serendipity. I dashed into the casual hotel restaurant after checking in Sunday evening, and there were friends from the CW staff whom I have traveled with and seen in (of all places) Nantucket. Monday evening I met my cousin’s daughter and granddaughter for an early dinner at the Fat Canary before they drove back to the farm. Tuesday evening I went to dinner at Le Yaca with another staff member. Wednesday I had lunch at Opus 9 with travel buddies who have retired here. Today I’ll drive out to Peace Hill to see my family, and Friday I will meet Dallas friends for lunch before our meeting starts that evening. I am blessed.

And I am eagerly awaiting another trip and making additional friends. Think how much I would have missed if I had not had the courage to step out of my comfort zone and join a train full of strangers in Scotland four years ago.

Photos: Top, the Fat Canary in Merchants Square, Williamsburg, Virginia. Bottom, boarding the Royal Scotsman, September 2011.