A fantastic way to understand history is to see it recreated. We were lucky enough to be able to see the Medieval Jousting at Dover Castle arranged by English Heritage (EH). Before witnessing the exciting horsemanship and death defying combat, we explored the Castle's central tower. Built by Henry II, it has been lovingly reconstructed by EH with displays of furniture, food preparation and clothing to bring the Medieval period to life. No expense was spared to recreate Henry II's bed with real silk, fur and gold leaf.
Due to the event being on, English Heritage had arranged various re-enactments and displays in the King's Tower. To see just how fit you had to be to be a knight, a chainmail suit and headdress had been made out of iron, just as it would have been in the Middle Ages. I struggled to lift even the headdress it was so heavy! Having the construction method explained and displayed was fascinating and gives one a real respect for those craftsmen who toiled so long to make this chainmail. No wonder it was only the very rich who could afford it - it must have taken weeks to make just one - and iron was hugely expensive. There were displays of fire breathing and a group of 'wandering minstrels' played medieval music. Children ran around dressed as knights whilst grown ups watched EH volunteers/actors dressed as serfs and gentlefolk from the 1200s. We listened to a debate on the Magna Carta in the King's Hall including public participation. Fun for all the family.
After exploring the basement to the roof terrace of the King's Tower it was time for the Joust to being. Who would think that so much excitement could be generated by such a short gallop. The crack of the lances hitting the shield or body of the opponent could be heard well away from the Tilt Yard. The four 'knights' in full armour with horses decked out as in medieval times was a spectacular sight. The judges and other helpers looked fantastic in their costumes. They must have been boiling in their velvet on such a hot day!
All in all, a wonderful day out. If you love living history, why not request that an event like this is built into your tour or travel itinerary in the UK.
To keep up with the demands of their passengers, airlines are now competing to offer the best wine lists in the sky.
Since carriers like BA realised in the late '70s that wine tastes different in pressurised cabins at great height than at ground level, the quality and style of wine offered changed dramatically. Softer and more fruity wines started being served and the craze for Australian wine perhaps started there. Premium wines began to be served in first class, including quality champagne, getting away from the more acidic wines of old.
Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, has spent more than $500 million to develop their wine service. At any given time there are 70 different types of wine across its network. Wines offered depend on flight path and serving the best vintages at the right time. Emirates have even bought their own warehouses in France to store wines they buy and "lay down" until the right time. You can order Dom Perignon on every flight.
On Qantas a staggering 250 different wines are served on their flights around the world and they are the third largest buyer of Australian wines. On any of their flights you can ask for a wine tasting in the galley. The tastings will be conducted by one of their specially trained flight attendants (a result of their Sommelier in the Sky programme). The service is not advertised but just ask onboard. Although not all trained as Sommeliers, all the Qantas flight attendants have been trained on their all Australian in-flight wine offering (champagne not Ozzie of course).
Singapore Airlines wine menu is excellent, not surprising since the airline's panel of experts includes Australia's first Master of Wine, Michael Hill Smith. Classic regions are selected for example a Château Loudenne claret, as well as new world standouts like New Zealand's Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc. You can order a tawny port too.
Cathay Pacific has an award winning wine list which continues to wow experts and punters alike. A mixture of well established names and new classics are offered. Cathay keep their Bordeaux well-cellared and excellent vintages are available in first class.
Of course you'll get the very best in first class but business and even economy have great wine lists on airlines these days, especially on long haul. Cheers!