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Southeast Excursions

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Where Washington danced

By Steve Palisin
spalisin@thesunnews.com

More Information

  • New Bern info

    Tryon Palace in New Bern is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 1-5 p.m. Sundays. Cost: $20 (includes guided tour of palace and two nearby historic house museums, self-guided tours of stables, kitchen, gardens and admission to the N.C. History Center’s exhibits and gallery), $10 for grades 1-12; galleries and gardens only: $12/$4; gardens only: $6/$3. Details: www.tryonpalace.org.

    Area info: www.visitnewbern.com.



In New Bern, where the Neuse River widens before entering Pamlico Sound, you can enjoy North Carolina, Colonial-style.

Distance

Via I-85/I-40 and U.S. 70 East, New Bern is about 280 miles east of Charlotte; roughly a five-hour drive, one way.

To see and do

This city, founded in 1710, was named for the Swiss city Bern, a word meaning “bear” in Europe. It boasts 44 painted bear sculptures through town.

It’s fun to walk around town spotting them, but the main draw is Tryon Palace, North Carolina’s reconstructed Colonial capital. It can take at least a half-day to see its grounds and historic buildings. Guided tours inside the red brick government house, reconstructed in the 1950s from its 1767-1770 specs, cross all three levels, with hosts in period dress taking turns recounting its heyday.

The grand council chamber where the two British Colonial governors who lived there conducted business – William Tryon and Josiah Martin – includes paintings of King George III and wife Charlotte, the Queen City’s namesake. Portraits elsewhere in the home also served as conversation starters.

Tour groups ascend the central stair corridor of the governor’s palace to the bedrooms and drawing room, and are reminded that women in that time fastened their attire not with buttons, but pins, that shoes did not come in left and right versions, and stockings were tied with ribbons.

Descend to the cellar via the servants’ stairs. Underground, the highest ranking employees – the butler and housekeeper – each had storage areas stashed with wine and tea, respectively. (Tea would cost a servant a week’s pay for a pound.)

In the rebuilt kitchen office nearby, across from the original stable office, tourists catch and smell open- hearth cooking and learn tidbits such as how a job there, starting as a scullery assistant, could lead to advancement for girls and women, since measuring recipe ingredients required reading, math and some French (dishes that originated in France were popular).

Washington, who spent two nights in New Bern in 1791, danced in original Tryon Palace three years before the capital was moved to Raleigh for a more central location.

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