Thursday, April 14, 2011

Welcome to the Middle Ages ... and Renaissance ... and Victorian ... and Merlin ...

Warwick Castle. This is a grand building and would be impressive on its own. What has happened here, however, is a grand conglomeration of medieval village, historical waxworks, multi-media fantasy, Disney-esque mishmash.

I liked it.

Got exercise climbing the towers (530 steps) and the mound, where the oldest part of the castle stands. The grounds are done by "Capability" Brown, who as far as I can tell did the grounds of everything in England. That is, of course, an exaggeration, but he did Blenheim, Warwick and I'm sure he's in many other places.

One highlight is the Flight of the Eagle falconry shows. No actual falcons were used, however, only eagles, owls and a vulture, because falcons would just go and kill the ever-present peacocks. Tom got lots of good shots of the birds as well as venturing into the video capabilities of the camera. Getting buzzed by an eagle is a blast.

Another big one is the "mighty" trebuchet. And big it is, indeed. Volunteers sign up to walk in the giant human-size hamster wheels in the middle to pull back the arm and raise the 6-ton counterweight. A narrator gives us the story of how it works with great enthusiasm, and then, after five to ten minutes of preparation work (didn't actually count, but it does take a while), the trebuchet is fired down the river island. This happens twice a day and the second time they launch a fireball!

There is canned music piped around everywhere. I heard monks in one place, a fantsy-themed soundtrack, some martial period-type music and a bit of electric guitar.

Having just come in from the archery (I got a bullseye!) we entered another exhibit wing, where I was greeted by a costumed actor who asked me where we came from. Trying to play along as best I could, I said "The colonies." Imagine my horror when I discovered we were now in the 1850s and we were announced to the room as "My lord and lady from the Colonies!" Time-whiplash is a bugger.

The Peacock Garden is a quieter pleasure. It's a manicured hedge-maze type of garden with no less than a dozen peacocks wandering here and there, between hedges, on hedges, popping their heads up like jack-in-the-boxes from behind hedges. Delightful.

Oh! Lest I forget, their Henry VIII was perfect. Large, round, bearded and with a professional glower in place at all times, even while mingling easily with all and sundry. The other character who made a strong impression was an old man whose function I'm still not quite sure what it was, except to be colorful, who carried around the skin of a ferret, introducing him as "Fred - he's dead." From there, it occasionally went into, "Fred - he's dead. I've got my finger in his head!" as he used the pelt for a puppet.

That's all for today.

Stratford-Upon-Avon tomorrow.

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