"Welcome to London!!" bellows the hearty woman after taking our tickets and ushering us in. We had finally arrived at our destination - Dickens' mid-19th century London.
And just like that, the magic began! Our early morning preparations of recounting the story of Scrooge and the good lessons learned, of discussing the evolution of the English language with our small kids (read: "People used to talk funny!"), of contemplating top hats and hoop-dresses, and the pin-pointing on London on a map - had all been for this moment. And as we enter the Cow Palace, all aglow with soft lighting and the hustle-n-bustle of a Victorian era London street scene, we are truly transported back in time, to a place best traveled with the eyes and hearts of small children.
Our first stop - Mr. Fezziwigs, to watch a dance routine while snacking on warm, sugar-cinnamon toasted almonds, served up in a paper cone.
For over 30 years I have carried the most wonderful memories of attending the Dickens Fair as a child. I remember the dark, damp air of a covered pier at Fort Mason, it's original location. I remember eating a giant, frosted sugar cookie that tasted like the finest Christmas dessert and strolling the streets among lively actors in costume, and performers on stilts. I have visions of fog lying low to the ground - a memory I'm not certain is even accurate. Were there really fog machines? Or has time allowed sweet memories to grow even sweeter? There were no fog machines during yesterday's visit, but I was far from disappointed. For three and a half hours I had a smile ear-to-ear, regretting only one thing - that I had not shown up in costume myself.
Not that popcorn is any barometer for fine food, but I was impressed with the quality of everything we ate. Bangers and mash with peas were "just like home", and the chocolate covered shortbread cookies were just like, well, just like that awesome bakery in SF!
We played games, games, games - darts being the least creative of all of them. You could also try your hand at throwing a boot towards wooden cats outside your bedroom window, or whack a hammer on a board that would catapult a stuffed chimney sweeper into a chimney. If only my knowledge of low-light photography was a bit more advanced I could share all this. But I still have a lot to learn, which is evidenced in a whole lot of blurry and deleted photos from our day.
My favorite moments were spent watching the kids go around on a six-seater carousal of stuffed African animals while a bearded man in colonial safari wear serenaded everyone with vintage tribal instruments.
We sat in on great juggling, fencing, musical and theatrical performances.
Even Father Christmas was there, which thrilled our Tiny Tim!
We finished our day with an elaborate craft project, decorating a fairy house in hopes of inviting a little magic into our garden. You've just got to believe!
For more information visit: www.dickensfair.com