Monday, September 28, 2009

Maryland Renaissance Festival

The only Renaissance fairs I’ve been to have been the local ones, first on Rt. 3E in Stafford, and lately at the Lake Anna Winery. But on Saturday, we were invited to join friends who were going to spend the day at the Maryland Renaissance Festival near Annapolis, and we were thrilled to go along. The Maryland festival is one of the largest in the country, covering 25 acres, big enough to need a map...a veritable English Tudor amusement park. There are ten stages with acts going on continuously throughout the day, over 100 little shops, dozens of food vendors, and five taverns.

Little Tudor-style shops and stands lined the lanes:

One of the festival stages:

We spent nine hours there, and still didn’t manage to see all of the performances and demonstrations. There were musical groups (bagpipes, drummers, Celtic music, madrigals), comedy acts, magicians, a sword swallower (I checked out sword swallowing when I got home, and it’s actually real, although pretty gross to watch), an acrobat/tightrope walker, belly dancers, swordfights, jousting, archery, storytellers...the list goes on. Comedy ruled the day--most of the performers, regardless of the act, kept up a running banter of jokes.

The sword swallower:

The Squire of the Wire:

For me, the people-watching opportunities were priceless. So many visitors wear costumes that you end up wishing you were wearing one, too. And then there’s the suspense of wondering if the tightly laced bodices of the women were going to hold up to the sheer force of the boobage. I kept expecting a major wardrobe malfunction at some point in the day, but those costumes are a marvel of engineering and there was nary a nip slip to be found.

The story line of this year's festival revolved around Henry VIII, on the hunt for his 6th wife, and if you were lucky, you could find Henry and his court roaming the grounds:

The festival is in a lovely wooded setting, and although it was quite crowded and we got a bit of rain, we had a terrific time. Two thumbs up...I highly recommend it. The festival is open from 10 am-7 pm; adult admission is $18. The festival runs weekends from August 29 through October 25. We drove up via Rt. 301 through Maryland, which was a pleasant 2 hour drive.

Now a note about the photos. I snapped pictures all day long, but my old camera had a major meltdown and I lost all of the photos. So the ones accompanying this post were all taken from Google images, mainly photos from the media and wikipedia. I am now in possession of a brand new camera, so I’ll be back to my own photos in the next post.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Yankees in Falmouth

On Saturday, my husband and I checked out what seems to be becoming an annual Civil War commemoration, the “Yankees in Falmouth.” The Yankees arrived in Falmouth in 1862, and faced gunfire from the Moncure Conway House, but ultimately drove the Confederates across the river into Fredericksburg. Despite the name, both Yankees and Confederates were well represented at the weekend event. We started at the Falmouth Waterfront Park to hear about Civil War artillery and to watch the highlight of the day, shooting off the cannon, a plug-your-ears moment. Definitely a hit with the kids.

Cannoneers at the ready...


This re-enactor explained everything you'd ever want to know about Civil War era artillery and ammunition. One of us found it fascinating:

Then we went across the street to the Conway house, where Civil War campsites were set up in the backyard, and demonstrations were going on throughout the day. As a Unitarian, I’m familiar with Moncure Conway, a noted Southern abolitionist and Unitarian minister, but I never actually knew which Falmouth house was his. The large brick home on River Road is privately owned and not generally open to the public, but for this event, we were invited into the home to see the front hall and living room.

A Confederate campsite:

Vignette of Civil War accoutrements:

A campsite showing the role of women during the war:

Portraits were taken with period cameras:

Is this what they mean when they say "Yankee dog"?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Seasonal Rhythms

We just got back from our annual beach week in Duck, NC. We’ve been going there for so long that we have our routines down pat. If the sun is shining, we’re on the beach. When the weather turns on us (as it did frequently last week), we go exploring down the beach road or hit up our favorite shopping areas. We know how many books to take, which store has the best selection of jigsaw puzzles, where to get the best seafood for cooking dinners in, how far ahead to make a reservation at our favorite restaurant for eating out. It was a completely relaxing vacation. Kicking back in the same comfortable location year after year is the perfect antidote to the little stresses and issues of life back home, and we’re already planning our 2010 Duck visit.

The neighborhood:

Beach tableau:

My husband and I are creatures of habit. Each season brings the return of favorite activities. In the fall, we look forward to Friday night football, concerts at the college, harvest festivals, and brisk hikes. In the winter, there are a host of holiday events, an inn getaway, and people-watching downtown over a cup of coffee. In the spring, we anticipate UMW baseball games, high school plays, and the Multicultural Fair. Summer brings the return of outdoor concerts at Bluemont and the library, a day spent on a nearby river or lake, maybe a camping trip, and always a beach trip or two. And always, there are walks to take, local plays to see, First Friday gallery openings to attend, and new restaurants to check out.

I’m into my third year of blogging now. I’ve written about all of these seasonal activities, sometimes twice. This feels like a good time to take a step back from blogging these routine outings, and save blogging for times when I do something new, something I haven’t written about before. I anticipate fewer blog entries, but hopefully I’ll still find enough interesting new adventures to check in from time to time.

In the meantime, no matter where you live, I encourage you to enjoy your town’s community events, check out the activities at a nearby college, and see what concerts and plays your local high school is offering. I guarantee you’ll be surprised how much is going on out there.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mount Vernon

Here’s yet another nearby major attraction that I’ve somehow missed in the last 31 years of living in Virginia. Kind of like being a New Yorker who’s never been to the Statue of Liberty. (Yes, I’m guilty of that, as well.) At any rate, we decided to spend a few hours at Mount Vernon on our way north for a dinner engagement, and I was really surprised at what a wonderfully presented historic site this is. Which of course is only fitting for the Father of Our Country.

Mount Vernon is a beautifully preserved estate, and additional visitor buildings have been added to the site to tell the complete story of George Washington. The setting overlooking the Potomac River is gorgeous, and is surrounded by green fields and lush woods. Despite its size, the mansion is actually an intimate and relatively un-lavish space, with small rooms all furnished with many original items. I’ve been in quite a few historic homes lately (Kenmore, Montpelier, Ellwood) where there is no furniture, or barely any, and fully furnished rooms really do help transport visitors back in time and give a glimpse into the daily life of the inhabitants. In addition to the house, there are so many other outbuildings and features to see: the kitchen, smokehouse, blacksmith, weaver, slaves’ quarters, stable, coach house, greenhouse, and acres of gardens. But wait, there’s more! There were more outbuildings to see, trails to walk, farm and wharf exhibits to check out, films to watch and museum displays to digest than we could possibly fit into the mere three hours we allotted to the visit. Next time, we’ll plan to spend the whole day there.

The day was absolutely beautiful for walking the grounds (lots of walking), there wasn’t a big crowd, and the $15 admission price seemed fair. If you can stand the drive up I-95 (oh, how we hate I-95), this is a great place to take guests with an interest in history. Which you probably already know.

Martha greets visitors:

The view overlooking the Potomac:

Just a tiny corner of one of the many gardens:

George and Martha's tomb:

The memorial to the Washington family slaves:

George on horseback, just one of several wax figure displays in the education center:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Shop Local(ly)

I love these Shop Local tote bags. I picked up a bunch of them for $1 each at The Cat’s Closet downtown on Caroline Street (one of the few non-feline items they sell). They’re great for groceries, books, a trip to the Farmer’s Market, or whatever else needs toting, and they eliminate the awkwardness of using one supermarket’s bags at a different supermarket. All purpose, one size fits all. Use them when you shop locally, and display your Fredericksburg pride when you head out of town, too. And by “Shop 22401” I assume we can also imply the importance of stimulating the economy of the entire area by shopping 22407 (my home zip), 22405, 22408, 22553, 22554, and all the other local zips. And I am giving the economic development folks a pass on the bad grammar, which rightfully should say "Shop Locally" but which doesn't fit nearly as nicely on the bag. Happy shopping!