Monday, November 25, 2013

"You There Boy! What Day is This?"

Karen and I spent half of a nice Sunday with our daughters at the Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco. Our girls went last year and were pretty sure we'd enjoy it. They were right. Think of it as a Renaissance Faire set in Dickensian London and indoors--in this case, two warehouses attached to the Cow Palace expo center.

The buildings had been set-decorated to serve as different areas of the great city: a bustling commercial street, a seedy dock, a bawdy dance hall, a peaceful park/food court. It was immersive enough that I hardly ever looked up to notice the colored spotlights hanging from the steel sky. Nicely done. And, as at a Renaissance Faire, the place was full of staff and actors in character (also as at a Renn Faire, sometimes a bit too in character), members of the public who happened to have appropriate 1850s costumes in their closets, and regular folks like us who didn't. Food, shopping, entertainment, demonstrations (for example, we met Samuel Colt, who gave us a quick demo of how his revolvers were the first to use standardized parts that could be swapped out in battle; I ordered 100,000 for my army). There was an antique bookseller who tempted me with an old edition of Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, and a print shop that actually printed shopping bags for other stalls on an era-appropriate press.

Pictures below are dim and blurry because I didn't use flash:

Spinning about the floor of Fezziwig's Dance Hall.

The main shopping drag through town. Mostly regular 21st Century folk. Or as we called them, "witches."

Sea shanties, folk songs, the usual.

This couple was reading poetry and I found it fascinating. This was just a quiet little room with a dozen people held spellbound by oratory. When's the last time you saw that happen?

This gentleman explained the workings of the weather-predicting contraption next to him. Each little bottle of water at the bottom had one string dangling into it attached to a bell up top. The bottles also held leeches, who are apparently storm-forecasting savants. When bad weather is on the way, the leeches crawl up the strings (as if squirming out of burrows) and their weight on the string rings the bell. Lots of leechy bell-ringing means a big storm's a'brewin. Don't know if I buy it but it was clever and weird.
A candle carver who, like the other craftspeople we met, was more than happy to take a minute and talk to us about her work.

A little Alice in Wonderland tableau with characters you could talk to or take photos with. The Alice girl was very good at her job.

We had a great time. Not cheap, but fun and, we all thought, well worth our time and money. We'll be repeat customers (if only I'd bought that frock coat I had my eye on....). If this is the type of thing you'd like, you'll like it. Recommended.

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