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Nation

Royal couple tours Calif.

| Monday, Nov. 7, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO -- Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, attended Sunday services in a tiny rural church near San Francisco before an evening of theater in the city as they continued the eclectic Californian half of their U.S. tour.

The prince and the Duchess of Cornwall were watched by several perching turkey vultures -- and a large pack of journalists -- as they arrived at St. Columba's Episcopal Church in Inverness, about 40 miles north of San Francisco.

"You're still here," Charles said wryly to the reporters, photographers and camera crews who are following the couple's first overseas tour since they married in April.

Amid fog and drizzle, Pastor Tom Brindley welcomed the couple to the rustic wooden church, set within a redwood-shaded former mansion on a hill overlooking Tomales Bay.

They sat on simple wooden pews beneath the chapel's vaulted redwood ceiling for the hourlong service, staying afterward to chat and pose for photographs with some of the 70 parishioners.

Charles' Clarence House office said that, weather allowing, the couple planned to spend the afternoon picnicking and painting amid the area's rugged hills and seashore. The prince is an accomplished amateur watercolorist, and the duchess also paints as a hobby.

The prince and duchess are spending more than three days in California's Bay Area, as their weeklong U.S. tour shifts from the power centers of New York and Washington to more remote communitie and issues close to the prince's heart -- organic agriculture and sustainable food production.

The couple spent Saturday night at a luxurious rural lodge near Inverness, where officials said they enjoyed a "convivial" -- and organic -- dinner with leading figures from the food world, including winemaker Robert Mondavi and Eric Schlosser, the author of "Fast Food Nation," which assails the fast food industry.

On Saturday, the heir to the throne received a robust welcome in the staunchly environmentalist town of Point Reyes Station.

Several hundred people lined the tiny town's main street to greet the couple on a visit to an organic farmers' market. Some waved Union Jack and U.S. flags; others held signs protesting telephone masts and pesticides, placards declaring "War is not organic," and even a handwritten sign proclaiming "Charles for governor."

The prince is a firm supporter of environmentalist causes and runs an organic farm on his Highgrove estate in western England. He also has a multimillion-dollar line of organic foods, Duchy Originals, whose profits go to charity.

The couple spent more than an hour touring Point Reyes' farmers' market, chatting with vendors and sampling some of the organic produce on sale.

Yesterday evening, they were due to attend a performance in San Francisco of "Beach Blanket Babylon," a comic musical full of spoof pop culture references that has been running for more than 30 years.

Producer Jo Schuman Silver said the show -- which is constantly updated to keep the pop-culture references fresh -- would have plenty of added British content.

But she said the prince and duchess would not become targets of the show, which is known for its good-natured ribbing of pop culture icons.

"They're guests of ours, and it's just something we wouldn't do," she said.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip attended the show in 1983.

Today, the couple plan to visit a Berkeley school organic garden sponsored by chef Alice Waters. The tour wraps up Tuesday.

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