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Royals Make Some in the Bay Area Feel Like Kings for a Day

Marin County organic farmers are thrilled to see Charles and Camilla visit their market.

November 06, 2005|Carla Hall | Times Staff Writer

POINT REYES STATION, Calif. — Any chance that Charles, prince of Wales, and Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, might have a rough go of it in this decidedly un-royalist west Marin County town was dispelled by the scene that awaited their nine-car motorcade Saturday morning.

More than 1,000 people lined the main road in this picturesque town while the farmers at Point Reyes Farmers' Market expectantly waited at their stalls, their vegetables placed just so.

The excursion, the couple's first stop on their 3 1/2-day swing through the Bay Area, was planned so Charles could meet with organic farmers.

There were some signs of protest -- "War is Not Organic," proclaimed one. But in general, Charles and Camilla turned Point Reyes Station giddy with glee.

Camilla sampled organic cheese and Charles discussed sheep. They petted goats and even hoisted a couple of pints -- well, they drank a few sips -- of the local brew.

"I'm framing these glasses!" said Ruby Schepley, the bartender at the Old Western Saloon, carefully putting the nearly full beer glasses aside.

Charles is a high-profile champion of sustainable agriculture, a cause he adopted in the 1980s. His estates are plush with organic gardens, and he founded Duchy Originals, one of England's largest organic food brands, which donates its profits to charity. Toby's Feed Barn, in town, sells the brand.

The Marin farmers were delighted to have him descend, along with an international press corps, onto their market, and Charles seemed happy to be able to talk about something close to his heart.

But let's get to what you really want to know about: Camilla.

She looked pretty good, though neither she nor Charles were dressed much like farmers. She was rather sleek in a dark navy double-breasted pant suit, with low-heeled suede shoes. He wore a gray pinstriped double-breasted suit with a blue shirt and tie.

The press was kept at a more-than-respectful distance, and rushed the venue afterward to glean any news from the tour. About the best they got was Fred the pug, a blase recipient of a royal pat on the head, and flat narrations of quotidian chit-chat.

The pair started their 90-minute sojourn at the Paradise Valley Produce stand. Camilla picked up a tiny heirloom apple and took a bite, smiling in approval. The gaggle of photographers leaned in for the shot.

"See, Diana would never have done that -- never," said Arthur Edwards, a veteran royals photographer for the Sun in London.

There have been rumors of the size and composition of the royals' entourage, which reportedly includes a hairdresser and a makeup artist, but the Brits don't like to talk about that. British officials did confirm, however, that a tour artist is traveling with the couple, sketching different venues of this American visit. Details on the couple's accommodations were likewise kept hush-hush, though it was common knowledge they were ensconced in an upscale Inverness inn.

The royal couple moved next to the Gospel Flat Farm stand, where Charles talked with Don Murch about winter migrating birds.

"I've been following his career since he was a kid. We're about the same age," said Murch, 52. (Charles turns 57 next week. Camilla is 58.) "One man's a prince, one man's a farmer," he said.

Murch's friend, Melinda Griffith, who lives in Bolinas, also got to talk to the couple. She pronounced them lovely and charming.

"I came to buy, to meet Charles and Diana -- " said Griffith, suddenly clapping her hand to her mouth and turning organic-beet red at her faux pas in front of the international press.

It was one of the few overt, if unintentional, references to the late Princess Diana of Wales, who dazzled Washington, D.C., with Charles in 1985. After they split, Charles acknowledged an affair with the former Camilla Parker Bowles. This is Charles and Camilla's first official visit to the U.S. as a married couple, and people seemed to take them at face value.

The couple gave only the briefest heed to the assembled media corps. "Hello," said Camilla, with a slight tone of bemusement, as she walked by and waved, a small bouquet of flowers in one hand.

"What do you think of the crowds?" shouted a reporter. "Fantastic," she said.

Charles and Camilla took their time in the town, working rope lines on both sides of the street, perusing virtually every stall of the market.

Arann Harris, 31, of Windrush Farm, found a way to turn his moment with the prince into cachet after the couple left. "See the wool the prince touched!" the sheep farmer exclaimed as people approached his baskets of wool and yarn.

"He's very knowledgeable about sheep," said Mimi Luebbermann, owner of Windrush Farm. She and Charles chatted about her Lincoln Longwool sheep, an heirloom breed. "He talked about how he's been working for 20 years to protect the heirlooms," said Luebbermann. "He was at the forefront of organic farming in England."

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