Provins, France. How was it? Well, imagine taking your usual run-of-the-mill Renn Faire and dropping it in a town that actually existed in Medieval Times, and then imagine that everyone in the town gets in the spirit of the thing, you have a pretty good idea of what the festival is like.
For some reason, I can't manage to go to Provins unless the temperatures are at an extreme. The last two times I went, it was so cold I couldn't feel my fingers. This time it was so hot they were making announcements to remind festival-goers to drink plenty of water at the free well water stations scattered through the town.
One of the nice features of this festival is that those who arrive in some kind of costume gain free entry. This leads to costumes from as simple as little girls in Fairy Princess costumes and guys in leggings and funny hats to elaborate brocaded dresses and men in full armour (whom I'm surprised we didn't see strewn all over the roads from the heat). We eventually ran into bands of knights templar, a family of barbarians, and one Robin Hood type fellow with the best up-close make-up job of an axe-wound in his face that I've ever seen.
After a brief visit to the Leper Colony (which is indicated by the photo here), we made our way to the center of town, which had so much stuff going on I'm sure we didn't even see everything. There were food stands, roving musicians, vendors selling everything from helmets to leather goods, and the crowds were something to see themselves. After a refreshing(ly strong) cup of apple cider, we visited one of several "camps" set up around the town and headed back to the center to find something to eat.
We grabbed a couple of medieval sandwiches and sat in some welcome shade for a few minutes before continuing around the town. We made our way this time towards the main gate of the old city, passing yet more vendors and circling around a large encampment before heading outside the town to visit the vendors camping outside the town. Here we saw people actually living in their medieval tents for the weekend and selling their wares. Unfortunately, it was much too hot to stay down in the moat without a breeze for too long (I really don't know how those people managed to stay down there) so we made our way back in the town. Once back in the center of town, we treated ourselves to some medieval ice cream (?) before making our way back to the present day and our air conditioned car.
There are so many things I would have liked to have seen, but the weather was just so miserable that we could only stand walking around outside the three or so hours we were there. There was an archery tent set up which I would have like to have tried (I took archery in college so it would have been funny to see what I've retained), as well as shows featuring falconry and siege weapons of the era. Maybe next year the weather will be a bit more cooperative.