On Monday after teaching my second class, I quickly packed and then Lucy and Jasper and I took off for Magnolia, Texas. When I googled the directions, I was told to expect a three and a half hour drive. We stopped in Nacogdoches (90 minutes down the road) for supper, and after that I consulted Delilah (our backstabbing traitorous GPS) and she said it would be another three and a half hours from there.
Sadly, Delilah was right, thanks to some road work which necessitated a detour into the northern part of Houston. So, instead of making it to the motel by 10:00 like I had hoped, we didn’t get there till 11:30 and we literally just fell into bed.
I must say that the one piece of advice I received about attending this faire was very valuable. That was to arrive the night before and then be at the faire before it opened in the morning in order to get a good parking spot. We would have had to leave at 3:00 a.m. in order to get there before opening in the morning! My plan was to get to the faire and park about an hour before opening at 9:00. We were a little late since we stopped to get breakfast on the way so we could eat in the parking lot.
So, we got there at 8:15 and realized that we were dealing with a whole different level of renaissance faire. There were cones and guys with flags managing our entrance and funneling us not just to a specific area, but to a specific parking spot. We parked near the top of aisle “4” which was quite close to the front gate of the faire. The parking area was massive. People who came later had to park much, much farther away. They were probably already footsore and exhausted by the time they reached the gate!
We ate our breakfast and then moseyed toward the gate, since that’s what everyone else was doing even though it was still half an hour before opening. To our surprise we were admitted despite the early hour, and I’m so glad we were, because that first hour or so was lovely before the place filled up with the barbarian hordes of schoolchildren. (Hordes, you ask? According to a newspaper article I saw, they were expecting in the neighborhood of 25,000 school kids yesterday, and I think that was about right.)
We had a map and a schedule we had printed off from the website, so we set out exploring. We could tell the moment we stepped through the gate that the place was huge–so much larger than any other faire we’ve been to. We looked at some of the shops and performance areas. Then we found the arena and just stood there with our mouths hanging open in shock.
It was hard to even imagine there being enough people there at one time to fill all that seating. Of course, we didn’t have to imagine it. When we returned later for the joust, it was full!
As we continued on our reconnaissance tour, we located multiple restrooms (very important for someone my age). One thing I noticed that really impressed me was that not only were the restrooms all pristine at the beginning of the day, but every time I went into one there was someone in there cleaning and keeping things tidy. When you’re dealing with crowds of that size, I suppose, cleaning needs to be ongoing.
We ended up reaching an area where I saw this sign:
I knew that if there were elephants we wanted to see them, so we continued on to where we saw a man hosing down three African elephants.
They were selling rides for $5. Who wouldn’t grab a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ride an elephant for $5? The place was still all but deserted because of the early hour so Lucy and Jasper could get on without waiting.
The ride was short, sure, but still–elephant! I’m so glad they got to do it.
After the elephant we found ourselves watching the last half of a hilarious magic show performed by a Frenchman who appeared to be mute:
At the very end of the show he spoke and told us a little about himself. He was followed by a German wearing very tight tights and a codpiece who gave a fascinating and educational lesson on swordsmanship using different historical swords.
Then it was time to head to the arena for the joust. By this time I was having a little problem. I had forgotten to pack my garb hat and I had left my umbrella in the car because it was overcast when we arrived and I hated the thought of lugging it around all day. Then the sun came out and I was in big trouble because I cannot tolerate sun exposure for very long at all without getting sick.
So, I left the kids in the very full arena and went in search of a hat or a parasol or something to protect me from the sun. Most of the hats I found were either not at all what I wanted (like a jester’s hat) or outrageously expensive (beautiful hand decorated hats ranging from $80 – $300). I was getting kind of discouraged when a custom clothier directed me to a hat place where they sold cheap straw hats for $10. They tried to interest me in much more expensive straw hats, but luckily (for me) they were all too small for my big fat head!
After finally getting a hat, I was hot and thirsty, despite having a water bottle which I refilled every time I passed a bathroom. I had seen a sign advertising frozen lemonade and I thought it would be nice to get some to share with the kids. The same place advertised several other drinks, all for somewhere in the neighborhood of $2-$4. So I stepped up to the counter and ordered a frozen lemonade. The friendly lady smiled and filled up a tall plastic tube with frozen lemonade. When I saw the lemonade came in a special receptacle, I was thinking, Rats! I bet it’s going to cost $5!
You can imagine my shock and disbelief when the smiling lady handed me the lemonade and said, “That’ll be twelve pounds.” (They say pounds instead of dollars.) What I wanted to say was, “Twelve pounds? Are you kidding me? I had no idea this lemonade was made from caviar and crushed pearls! I’m afraid I’m just not classy enough for this drink and I’ll have to give it a pass.”
What I actually did was meekly hand over the money and then walk off with my jaw dragging on the ground because I just could not believe that I paid that much for 20 ounces of lemonade. It was good lemonade, sure, but it was just lemonade. I told the kids we’d better enjoy it because of the outrageous price I had paid.
It turned out that the joust was very short and of the “theatrical” variety instead of the sport jousting that we are used to, but it was still fun to watch, apparently.
Soon afterwards, we decided to get lunch. The choices were mindboggling. Traditional faire food, Polish food, Italian food, French food, English food, and Greek food. I am a sucker for ethnic food of any kind, but I very rarely get Greek food so I told the kids that’s what we were getting.
Jasper was not willing to try a gyro, but since they also had turkey legs for people like him, he was happy. Lucy got a lamb gyro and I got a bowl full of lamb gyro filling since obviously I couldn’t have the pita. We also got normal soft drinks for a normal price! And, since it was a school day, the price of the baklava was reduced to the point that we could afford it.
By the time we finished lunch, it was starting to sprinkle a little and I realized that it had been a mistake not to spring for the $5 program at the gate. Overhearing others’ conversations, it became clear that we had missed out on all sorts of events that were not included on the website program. Since we didn’t know what all was going on, we ended up with an hour of dead time to fill before a show that I really wanted to see. I had brought knitting, but I didn’t pull it out because of the drizzle.
The kids were bored. Jasper went off in search of funnel cake and found some–for $7! Finally it was time for the musicians I’d been waiting for–Tartanic! (Bagpipes and drums!)
There were only 3 of them onstage for the school show, but they were still worth the wait! One of the things I loved about them was that they were happy to let members of the audience onstage to dance with them, and they encouraged everyone to make copies of their CDs to give to friends, teachers and principals. “We support piracy in all its forms!” they said.
Afterwards Lucy and Jasper got their photo taken with one of the drummers:
We did a little browsing through shops after that, and Lucy got a nice leather ponytail holder. By this time the kids were both very tired and anxious to leave, but the last thing on my list was to attend a performance by a group that was at Four Winds in the spring. I especially wanted to hear the Gypsy Guerilla Band again because the wife plays the autoharp, and now that I’ve been playing for a while, I figured I would appreciate her performance more and maybe even learn something from it.
What I learned is that the autoharp can’t be heard at all over the hammered dulcimer! Oh well . . .
After that we trudged out the gate and were so glad our car was so close! We still had to go back to the hotel because Lucy had left her pillow in our room that morning. Then I made the rash decision to just let Delilah guide us home.
She guided us by a completely different way than the one we took going down. It rained most of the way. I don’t really like driving in the rain very much. Then it got dark. I like that even less and find it very stressful because I know my night vision is not that great. We stopped for a snack and Lucy and I were able to change out of garb.
Later, I found myself getting very sleepy despite letting the wind and rain blow in on me. I pulled into a gas station and bought some coffee with “extra caffeine” in it. Then we sat in the parking lot while I drank my coffee and rested a little. If you’ve ever fallen asleep at the wheel and been in a crash (like I have) you know that some things just aren’t worth the risk!
The coffee did the trick and soon we were back on the road in the rain. Then a bug of some sort crashed into the windshield right in the middle of the driver’s side where I needed to see out. For the first and only time in my life I wished there was a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal hanging around to take care of whatever it was that hit me. The bug may have died, but it got posthumous revenge by smearing my windshield so thoroughly that I could barely see a thing even if I stretched my neck up like a giraffe and tried to look over the smear.
Even the continuing rain and the windshield wipers did not remove the bug remains. I had to pull into yet another gas station so that Jasper could get the windshield washing equipment and try to clean it off. It was better after that, but there was STILL a visible and annoying smear!
It was so wonderful to finally get home and be able to put my feet up!
Today is Guy Fawkes Day, but it has been raining all day long so we have decided to celebrate tomorrow. I’m sure the Guy won’t mind being burned a day later than planned! And 24 hours of rain have succeeded in finally washing off the bug remains from the windshield.
The kids by the front gate.
I’ll have a lot more photos up on Facebook, so if you’re my “friend” there, you’ll be able to see them.