True to form, Sunday’s social event – a "Mediaeval Evening and Concert" at the Duke’s Palace — was another expensive comedy of errors. On the bright side, I met some great people who joined me in a quest to find the venue after the bus (tonight, there was a bus) left without ever having announced its arrival.
The taxis dropped off us off as a grand looking building, and our little group wandered through courtyards and alleyways and pulled on locked doors to find the right entrace. One sharp-eyed person spotted a group of parked catering trucks, so we tried the nearest door, and this one opened. It led into a dingy hall, and we followed the sound of voices up a dingy staircase. I imagined that all the rest of the participants were now well on their way through the first course of the meal in a dining room, so it was a bit of a shock when we found everyone standing corralled into a small room. A large number of people were huddled in line against the far side of the room, holding small butter plates in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. Then it hit me: a buffet. A stand-up buffet with bread, some pate, and cold bean salad. And lots of wine, thank goodness.
As a social event, it had its intended result: People bonded. Bonded over their common dismay, but bonded nevertheless. I met some very funny people who laughed with me at the absurdity of it all.
I had imagined it would be like other "mediaeval evenings" I’ve attended, with a sit-down meal in a decorated room in a castle, entertainers in period costume, and a recital. But there was no "and" in this "Mediaeval Evening and Concert"; it was just a recital of music from the middle ages. After the buffet we were herded out of the small buffet room and into a larger room set up with a stage and chairs for the audience. It was probably once a nice room but now was distinguished only by the peeling faux-marble paint on the walls. Worst of all, we were soundly chastized when we tried to take our wine in with us.
I managed to sit through the first two songs of the recital, but alcohol would have made it all much easier to bear, really. The music wasn’t terrible, and the conductor was charmingly animated, but I was hungry and grumpy. The musicians reminded me of a high-school band accompanied by a church choir. I walked out with a fellow Canadian and we went in search of a decent meal.
Every restaurant we tried was either booked solid or out of food. We were too late. I returned to the scene of my first evening’s meal, and the owner was genuinely sorry not be able to accommodate us. Another gentleman standing nearby was a friend of the owner’s, and he offered to take us to his own restaurant near the market. There he joined us for a meal and conversation, where we learned that his particular interest in Nova Scotia, where my companion was from, had to do with the love of his life from a decade ago. The mathematics were a little confusing since we also learned that his wife of 17 years lives in Dijon, but no matter… it’s France. We had a great meal, great conversation about Halifax, fishing, Costa Rica and European politics. An evening better than salvaged, after all.