Sunday Renee and I hopped a wagon and rode south to the Bristol Renaissance Faire. I've been hearing about it for years but somehow never took the opportunity to visit. Finally, after much raving from Lindsay and a well-timed weekend I made it to my first ever.
We met her at the gate with Tick and a few other people I don't see on a regular basis. I was filling out a comment form I found at the information kiosk when she found us. The form asked for comments and suggestions regarding the faire. Since I had only just arrived I wrote just that, and that I didn't have much to offer in the way of input at that time.
After a groggy morning and two hours trapped in a vehicle I was ready to move. I was ready to run around and explore. I was ready to hit it and hit it hard and... immediately get dragged to a show and sit still on a bench for another hour. I was annoyed and cranky at first. I seriously needed to move and stretch and run around for a bit before getting settled in but I didn't want to abandon my party just yet so I resigned to join them. Lindsay gave me a sip of her sassafras and I felt better. I followed her to a stand selling "butterfly" potatoes and then picked up a "Cornish dog." -- It isn't a corn dog, but a hot dog baked in bread. I would have called it "Cornwall dog." -- Before I could get back to the seating the midday parade had begun and all the faire participants marched through town in full dress and character. Lords, ladies, knights, cooks, jesters, the Queen herself and everyone else marched by and I got a good idea of what I was getting into.
The food was good and I dug in not knowing what it was in which we were about to partake. None of my group had seen it before so we were all uncertain as to what "Cristophe the Insulter" would be. It's just that: you pay, and the good Mr. Cristophe will insult the person of your choice. It's all for money and how much you give will determine the severity and duration of his abuse upon your unsuspecting victim. Insults start at $10 and go up from there. For $20 he'll get them good and for $50 he'll get them better. For $100 he'll make them cry, for $150 he'll make them see Cthulhu and for $200 he'll make them see their god. These are as close to the rates as I can remember them but there were several more options.
The show was great; the first buyer had his step son insulted for $20 who insulted him back for $10. A woman insulted her boyfriend who got her too, but only after borrowing $5 from her. It was entertaining and very well done. Tho' quite vulgar, he used very few cuss words and his insults were clever, witty, cutting and above all, funny. When I learned the premise of the show I thought I could toss back a few heckles now and then but once he began I saw I would be no match against him and merely sat back and enjoyed the seemingly endless barrage of insults cast down from his stand atop the stage, all the while secretly hoping no one in my party would see fit to fix me up with a word or two. (good thing they're cheap) It ended with a grand finale. He took a couple nominees from the audience to have the crowd vote on who would stand up to his best material. It wasn't free, of course, and a collection was taken. Well over $150 was collected and the unfortunate soul to bare his best -- or rather, worst -- by vote of the audience was none but Cristophe himself.
He wasn't too pleased. But he's a good businessman and when all the money was collected and counted he gave himself his best stuff yet. "When I say vulgar, I mean dirt-nasty" to quote his intro, and to quote an understatement. He began the show with a long warning about his content, and it was well taken by the two or three families that removed themselves along with their young children before he began. I have never before heard a man insult himself so sincerely and without abandon. By the end I had completely recovered from my bad mood and was ready to fling myself upon the faire full force and explore to my heart's content.
A minter was nearby and I watched two ladies strike coins for pendants with a 150 lb. press that was lifted by crank and dropped onto the mold. I might have purchased one for myself but I'm still very happy with the one I got at a similar stand at Universal Studios several years ago and made a point of wearing that day.
Wherever I went I usually wanted to stay longer than anyone else. I could easily have spent half an hour (and hundreds of dollars) at each of the shops but there was so much to see that I had to do most of it on the go. I decided early on (before my first glass of sassafras) that I wouldn't leave without my own mug. Lindsay and Tick each had their own that they carried with and I saw them on many costumed performers and attendees. It was difficult choosing just the right one. Naturally, the mugs I liked best were the most expensive but I eventually found one of the right price in oak whose grain shimmers in the light and fits my palm well. Of course I had to purchase an appropriate cover to protect my beverage and a belt sling for when it's empty, and once the smell of new leather fades will be among my favourite drinking vessels.
I'm glad I got the mug when I did because shortly thereafter I found a pickle stand. These pickles were eight inches long, as big around as my wrist and easily the best I've ever eaten. I've had large pickles before that tasted mostly of unseasoned cucumber but these were perfect; crunchy outside, soft inside and juicy all the way through. With a pickle in one hand and a mug of cold water in the other to combat thirst I was a happy camper.
One thing about the Renaissance is that tho' women couldn't show their undressed elbows or knees, they could display lots of cleavage. I do mean lots.
A weaponsmith had a seven foot tall evil suit of armor on display and five dollars would buy you a raffle ticket to win it. It was tempting, very tempting, but I had to pass. If I were to win something like that I would want to wear it, and I don't think they would have let me try it on. Plus, where would I keep it? So I merely admired it and moved on.
Another shop had shelves stocked with puppets, if you will, of an interesting variety. Little dragons, griffins and other furry creatures just the right size to rest upon your shoulder with a wire connected to a small spool you conceal in your hand to control its head. I was soooo tempted Lindsay fortunately reminded me of my upcomming trip to Japan (in six weeks!!!) and I was able to restrain myself.
I was lured to see the Minstrels of Mayhem for a midafternoon show. I wanted to see the falconry display at the nearby jousting arena at the same time but everyone else was so gung ho about the minstrels that I had the see what they were all about. Plus, their performance was only half of an hour and I could race to the falconry immediately thereafter, right? Well, the three men were ok, but I didn't see what the fuss was about. Perhaps if I could understand the lyrics, but I'm not big on folk music anyway and that was the general impression I got from them. I tried not to check my watch too much and when they were done I rushed out. . . right into a stand displaying and selling medieval siege weapons in miniature. Trebuchets that fling marshmallows!! As soon as I saw the big model I knew I had to have it. I've always been fascinated by these devices and have previously scoured the internet for plans to build my own. I spoke with the gentleman for a while and he demonstrated all the models. We used the handheld PDA to fire mini marshmallows at a young girl selling hair ribbons nearby and I tried out the big model to lob big 'uns to his lovely assistant. I paid for one of each and as they were a handfull I arranged to pick them up on our way out of the park. (Check 'em out at marshmallowcatapult.com.) When I came to my senses again I feared everyone else had bored of waiting and wandered off. They did, but were merely across the way where Renee was dress shopping with Lindsay and Tick was fuming at the chain mail shop nearby.
I completely missed the falconry, but something else I wanted to see was just about to begin in the same arena. I've seen jousting live once before when matt_william and I went to Florida several years ago and took a night to go to Medieval Times in Orlando. This show was nearly as good and featured four knights from various regions in competition for skill with a lance, horsemanship and jousting. It finaled (is that a word?) in a four-way battle to the "death." It was all very well done and the fake blood was a real surprise. From where we were sitting it looked quite real and gruesome. Our knight, Sir Thomas of England, was regrettably the first to fall but Sir Ivanhoe, an ally, was able to vanquish the villainous enemy knights in the final round.
It was a hot day and I wore jeans, but I wasn't very uncomfortable.There are a lot of trees all over the park providing plenty of shade and making the faux villiage all the more pleasant and cozy. I almost wore my pirate shirt but being black and long-sleeved I felt it would be wiser to go with a plain T. Even then I had to change into a lighter one after a couple hours as the other was too warm. I wanted to buy a white poofy shirt while there for a semi-costume and Lindsay was glad to point out every shop that might carry them but every time she did there was always, and I do mean always, something closer by that provided a greater distraction. I hope I don't have to wait until next year to find one but if I do I swear I will find one.
Shadows eventually drew long and criers began calling a time to bid farewell to Bristol for the day. We made our way back to the marshmallow catapult stand to collect my purchases and head for the gate. There was still much to see on the way out. Lindsay tried to catch sprites that were running around and I followed the falconer for a ways as he carried his birds. The faire participants followed us outside soon after and collected to sing a song of fond adieux. We then found our respective vehicles, packed our gear and drove home.
It was a wonderful day. It was a beautiful day and had I not another trip to take soon I would go back as often as I could.
- J I M O U T -