What could be more painful to a kid than hearing that the weekend will be spent at an upstate Renaissance Fair - especially when you can get all you need to know from our friends at Freecreditreport.com. On the other hand, recreating the middle ages becomes a lot more interesting when a trip to England can provide ample infrastructure of the era and the living history to go with it. Sort of reporting from England, I recently traveled overseas to visit my English Girlfriend, and Warwick Castle in Warwick, England was a Saturday destination.
About 10 miles from Stratford, which is the birthplace of Shakespeare, the 10th Century rose in grey against the blue sky. We gained passage over a now waterless moat to the castle grounds, as I tentatively eyed the spiked iron gate. Intrigued by a thousand years of sturdiness that guarded the interior, I was ready to see the past from the inside, but I remembered that "Me Lady" had said something earlier about jousting at 1 O'clock.
Having seen the "Cable Guy" and with a good draw and quartering probably out, I wasn't too excited. I did think it interesting that the show was done with proper British accents but then I remembered I was in England. Otherwise, the kids (and the maiden), liked the humorous horseplay and the jousting jesting of the players.
The child's play over, we traveled forward in time, as the interior turned out to be more William Pitt than William Wallace, but it was the 1066 Conqueror that awaited us in wax in the main state room. Having commissioned part of the build in 1087, I've always found it confusing that some Frenchman made himself king of England. Additionally, it seems, England also had a civil war, which to my surprise the Brits also call, "The Civil War." Seemingly significant, Oliver Cromwell earned an actual death mask right next to William for his part.
Strolling past a series of hollowed out knights on guard, numerous royal portraits and setting for high tea, Henry VIII had a few trophies of his own on display, where we could pose for a picture with him and all six of his (intact) wives. Kinder than we commonly remember him, only two of his wives fell under his sharpened sense of succession problems.
History lessons aside, emerging from the interior, I felt deeply for the Dads who got caught in the long line for the "Princess Tower." Duty to daughters done, the day's real prize lay in the falconry exhibition.
Sydney the American Eagle swooped in on us with a majesty that the colonies supposedly gave up upon independence. "Don't duck, she'll just fly lower," said the falconer, as an 8 foot wing span gave her easy access to the castle walls above and the sightlines just above our hairlines.
"I'm off again, see you in a half hour," the birdman made segueway of Sydney's exit for the less regal English Vulture. Happy enough to prance around the ground for chicken slices, his enticement upwards turned at least one stomach. "I can't believe he's doing that at a family show, the falconer critiqued his own performance, as the bird lightened his load by throwing up before taking flight.
Not to be out done, Warwick's 15 pound Stellar Eagle made his own mark on the audience with an equally unconventional aerodynamic form. The heaviest eagle in the world, his laborious flight to castle top and cartoon like air break landing earned him a wit that Oscar Wilde would have taken in earnest. "If he looks like he's going to fly into you, he probably will," joked the host.
All told, the authenticity of the day inspired me to fill my glaring gaps in English Culture and History. It could certainly do the same for your children.