Thursday, February 18, 2016

Feeling medieval? Channel your inner King Arthur

Where's that wench with a refill?
The crowd roars as the horses and their riders clash together. Shards of wood fly out in all directions as the two knights’ lances splinter against each other’s shield. They come to a halt, each takes another lance, then prepares to gallop at his opponent once again.

It may sound like I'm describing a scene from The Mists of Avalon or The Black Knight, but this joust is part of the evening's entertainment at the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, held at Toronto's Exhibition Place. 

The package also includes a four-course meal, served on tiers of long tables set in the Grand Ceremonial Arena where seats would normally be located.

Everyone involved with staging the evening’s entertainment gets right into the spirit of the adventure. The minute we entered the hall, a greeter dressed in medieval garb handed each of us a cardboard crown to wear, featuring the colours of the knight for who we were to cheer that evening. 

All the supporters for the black knight were seated in one section, the green knight supporters in another, etc.

Once seated, we feasted on an appetizer, soup, a whole Cornish game hen, a rack of spare ribs, potato and desert, all eaten from pewter dishes - without the benefit of utensils (apparently they hadn’t invented cutlery in the Middle Ages). 

That's SIR John, to you.
 In keeping with the medieval theme and atmosphere, the young woman who dished up our meal told us, “I’m Wendy, I’ll be your serving wench for the evening.”

During our meal, skilled equestrians first treated us to a display of excellent horsemanship, featuring Andalusian stallions. 

But the real fun began when the Druid entered the arena floor to say a prayer and mark the start of the knightly competitions, culminating in the jousts.

Even during real tournaments during the middle ages, jousts were not usually contests fought to the death. And while that maxim obviously still holds true at Medieval Times, we could certainly appreciate the athletic skill these modern-day knights require to gallop their horses against each other, trying to unseat their opponent without causing real injury.
She's following in the footsteps of Anne Boleyn.

Several knights competed in semi-choreographed battles, until one champion remained standing. 

That champion then selected a Queen of Love and Beauty from the crowd to end the tournament.

Before and after the dinner tournament, we browsed the souvenir area, where we could choose from a wide selection of clothing, mugs, swords and other collectibles to help us remember the occasion. 

We also had the opportunity to be “knighted” by the king, complete with a photo. 

Some of us chose to strike a pose with another character that better suited our personalities … like the executioner, for example.

Off with their heads!

(This story appeared previously in Westjet's Airlines Magazine in 2004).

Preparing for the jousts.

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