17 August 2015

K's French Wedding - Part 2: My favourite wedding day moments

Hiya! Im back with the last set of memories from my friend K's  wedding day. The first set are here. So, without further ado, lets dive right in.

*All photos kindly provided by K's family and friends

Breakfast with the bridesmaids

Loaded with fresh pastries and fruit, the bridesmaids arrived at our apartment to surprise K. I made coffee and we sat around chatting. It was sweet, a kind of calm and casual prelude to what we all knew would be a full day. To ensure the bride had all the luck we could give her, once we'd  polished off pastries and coffee, we each gave her a gift before wrapping up breakfast: something old, something borrowed, something blue and a sixpence for her shoe.

Literally stopping traffic in Dole

We did, we took up an entire street while the photographer took photos of us walking, laughing and posing. But the drivers could see the white dress and were understanding, one of them giving K the thumbs up! And, as these thing happen, we spotted a zebra crossing and just had to have a photo taken of us reenacting the famous image of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road.

Tear-jerker moments

I don't normally get teary eyed at weddings. But there were so many moments when I did at this one. I blame K. I'd be fine till I saw her holding back tears. Maybe I should have just not looked at her, but that's kinda tricky to do as maid of honour ;) So instead, I invented distraction techniques.

Before we all lined up to go down the aisle, I went over to K, gave her arm a squeeze and wished her luck. Her eyes were red as she choked out a 'thanks' - distraction technique #1 - think about the task at hand, aka not tripping as you walk down the aisle in front of everyone.

I loved, loved, loved watching K walking down the aisle and seeing the look on P's face, he could not have looked more in love. She was incredibly beautiful and positively glowing. It was such an incredibly sweet moment and so distraction technique #2 is - no distraction, just enjoy the moment.

When K got to the front, K's dad was so flustered giving her away he forgot to kiss her. Poor guy must have kicked himself later, and poor K was leaning towards him for that kiss only to be left hanging! I could see slight disappointment cross her face and felt for her. Awkward. So, distraction technique #3 See the humour and sweetness. He'd never given a daughter away before, and it was plain he was not sure what he should be doing. K now has endless teasing arsenal for the future. And even though he forgot, K forgot all about it too as P took her hand...

Possibly the worst tear-jerker of all was when K choked up saying her wedding vows (in French!). P patiently helped her along while she clutched him tight for emotional support. Yeah, i kinda failed at finding distraction #4 for this too.

Mr and Mrs Smith

The emotions and the formal wedding done, it was time for some fun and the reception. Competitive to the end, some old ornamental pistols were 'borrowed' from the chateau and K and P posed with them Mr and Mrs Smith style before K turned a pretended to shoot P in the back to the amusement of many of the wedding guests before P retaliated. So very cheeky.

Dancing the night away

There was a moment, after the Bride and Grooms first dance, where I was tossing up whether to dance or just watch. I cant help being self-conscious and, usually, am quite happy being a wall-flower. But I don't know, this time I was like, what the hell? And I'm glad I did. It was so much fun dancing with K ans P's friends. I had my first ever swing dance too! Ive never been spun before and it was brilliant - it helps that the person doing the spinning knew what he was doing even with my being an unco. I loved dancing to Taylor Swift's 'Shake it off' and Carley Rae Jepsen's 'Call me maybe' with the girls, bopping around and being silly. There was a conga line (yep, I joined it) and I even danced to Elvis' 'Jailhouse Rock' in heels that were killing me at the time, I might add. I also managed to literally dance like no-one was watching - which resulted in possibly the most hilarious and kind moment of the night. As the evening wound down, those of us still on the dance floor all danced together in a circle swaying and doing that kicking thing from 'New York, New York' - if you know the name of that move, let me know in the comments please! I'm so glad I decided to join in and not sit on the sidelines - though I did stop when it was a song I just couldn't get the beat of or when I got too hot.

Tender is the night

When I did get too hot, I slipped out of the marquee and sat a short distance away in the dark, to cool off, while watching everyone inside dancing and the light flickering out into the night and playing on the lawn and walls of the chateau. I slipped of my shoes and walked barefoot around the grounds and loved that it was so dark that the stars in the night sky appeared within reach. It was peaceful and wonderful and just magic.

The trip home

K's friends were nice enough to give me a lift home at the end of the night. Unfortunately one of the guys had had a bit too much to drink so instead of two cars, we all had to pile into one...and he went in the boot. We drove home alternating between complimenting the day and each lost in their own thoughts, or passed out, till we heard a hesitant voice from the boot..."Ah, M...your left hand turns are OK, but can you go easy on the right?" which made everyone giggle, poor guy. When we got to my apartment, another slightly muffled "Can you open the boot please..." and a more urgent "No, you don't understand, you need to open the boot now" before he made a dash to a darkened entrance...presumably to admire the cobblestones at a closer proximity, as you do ;)

Final thoughts

But perhaps the best moment out of the whole wedding day was...finally sitting down and taking off my shoes (kidding). A word to those attending weddings, wear your shoes a couple of time before the actual day...and take flats, they saved my life!

I do have one regret...K and I didn't get a photo of just the two of us together :( So many photos were taken though and there's always photoshop!

After the crazy hectic pace, the next day it was nice to wake up late and take a stroll around the quiet streets of Dole before heading home. It was such a whirlwind few days that, in the light of day, it was had to believe everything that had happened and all of it come to such a beautiful and memorable conclusion. K and P - I wish you every possible happiness, joy, and laughter for your future together.

And that's it from my trip to France for my friends wedding. Hope you enjoyed the memories I shared. I'd love to hear some of your favourite wedding memories so drop me a note in the comments!

P.S Don't forget to check out Pre-wedding day memories if you missed them.

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09 August 2015

K's French Wedding - Part 1: My favourite pre-wedding moments

Instead of telling you a sequence of events in the lead up to my friend K's wedding and wedding day in France, (which I'd written, hated, rewritten and still hated), I figure I'll tell you about my favourite moments during the five days. I hope this make for more interesting reading and you'll forgive the delay. For the curious, they are in order :)

Meeting K at the station

A small thing but it was a pleasant surprise when I saw her text, as I was pulling into Dole,saying she'd meet me. Sure enough, she was there looking for me on the platform as I got off the train. I really wasn't expecting it and it was such a nice surprise. There is something so heartwarming about being met by a familiar face when arriving somewhere isn't there? We went to check into the AirBnB K had found (utterly gorgeous), dump my stuff, go for coffee and then a bite to eat. Which brings me to my second moment.

By the canal in Dole

French crepes by the water

It was perfect, sunny and quiet with only the murmurings from a few other diners and lapping water. We were right by the canals edge so we could watch the fish swim past while we had proper french crepes and caught up on wedding preparations. Our waiter was really nice too (another surprise!), he helped with translations and went out of his way to help us with a logistical question for the vineyard tour I'd planned for the following day.

Meeting K's family

In the three years I've known K, I've never met her family. It was so nice to finally meet her parents and sister and try to trace the family resemblance. They are as sweet and unassuming as K is and I wish I'd spent more time talking to them.

Dinner with some of the wedding guest - we had onther table at the top too.

Getting to know K's friends

Meeting K's friends (the other bridesmaids and their partners) who'd flown over from Brisbane, Australia was a bit intimidating. In all honesty, the idea of going to a wedding where I knew maybe one other person (if you don't count the bride and groom) wasn't my idea of fun. I'm not one of those people who loves, or thrives, on those situations, in fact, it usually takes me a while to warm up to people and I infinitely prefer one-to-one situations when meeting new people. So I was a bit awkward and didn't say much. It didn't help that they'd all known each other for ages and shared a love for running, cycling & swimming. It was like they were speaking another language. But I was happy to listen and get to know the people in K's life pre-London. And after dinners, a vineyard tour and wedding prep, I relaxed a bit more and was able to join in the chat and banter. And it really helped that K's friends were absolutely lovely and they made me feel welcome. By the end of my trip, I was a lot more comfortable and very glad I'd met them. A lot of my happy memories from the trip involve them.

Our very cute French apartment in Dole

Coffee and croissants by the window

It was peaceful and relaxing and felt like a proper French moment. K, being an early riser had picked up some croissants, I had made coffee. We pulled up the dining table chairs and sat by the huge open windows of our apartment, sipping coffee and munching fresh fluffy croissants. It was a quiet morning, sunny and warm but not quite hot yet with a faint early morning breeze. Simple pleasures.

The lookout over the vineyards

It was gorgeous. The view out over the vineyards, blue and white skies, and the small villages nestled in between the green vines, it was picture perfect. It was my favourite part of the vineyard tour I'd organised for K, her friends and I to go on.

Seeing the chateau for the first time

Did I mention that the reason the wedding was out in the middle of nowhere was because K's partners' family has a chateau there? The first time I saw it was the morning of the race and I was gobsmacked. The whole image of K getting married to a half French, half British boy in the grounds of his family's chateau in rural French was so chick lit fairy tale cliche it hit me like a tonne of bricks when i actually saw the chateau for the first time. It was brilliant, in a hilarious way. And I loved it. The chateau is what you'd imagine a typical rustic french chateau to be, it sits in its own walled grounds with a tree lined drive, wrought iron gate, orchard at the front and woodland out the back. Just gorgeous.

The chateau - there is more of it on both sides that you cant see in this pic

The Race

A race before your wedding day is just asking for a sprained ankle in my opinion, but that's just me. But this makes it onto the favourite moments list because it is so typically K and P (they met when K joined P's running club), not because i joined in the crazy physical exertion. A lot of the guests were friends they'd met in that club and showed up for the run that morning. I had to admire everyones passion for the sport and how well organised the race was, they'd hand made runner numbers and personalised a bunch of medals and a couple of trophy's for the occasion.

Decorating the marquee

An odd thing to make this list but I enjoyed the buzz of everyone helping decorate the marquee. The results were beautiful. By the way I cannot fold napkins. I blame the napkin. It was weird, all slopey edges and just looked like trouble. I tried, really I did. I can fold a paper crane for heavens sake, but I could not fold that napkin to save my life. By my fifth or eighth attempt the other bridesmaids were on to their fourth napkin. I admitted defeat to that irksome strip of wonky cloth: I threw in the napkin and went of to tie bows on the table cloths. Bows have a much nicer temperament, they tie themselves up in knots to make you happy ;) 

So there you have the prewedding moments :) Coming up next, the wedding and reception.

Have you attended a wedding overseas?

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30 July 2015

Dole post in progress

I know I'm late in posting this week. But I do have a post in the works. Every time I start writing I get lost in the memories and time slips by. Also I might have to split it in two to avoid it being too long a read. Be sure to check back again soon, or you can subscribe to my rss feed (button is on the left) and you'll be emailed when it's up.
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22 July 2015

Arriving at a cute French village for my friends wedding

As I write this, I'm ensconced in a comfy first class seat aboard the TGV Lyria speeding my way through the French country-side. I can see fields and villages whizz by in a blur of greys, greens and gold (thanks to the sun kissed wheat). I'm on my way to my friends wedding in the south of France. My bridesmaid dress sits by my side - a cautious move in case someone poor bugger decides to steal my bag, the dress, at least, will be safe. I'm looking forward to having a few days off in a quiet village, spending time with my friend, and meeting all her Aussie friends who have made the colossal trip out to share in the celebration.

If I can manage a stable internet connection, I'll be sharing some photos of the provincial French village and countryside on my Twitter feed (@TravelsByVP) so be sure to follow me there if you haven't already.

...well I wrote the above earlier today, and over 12 hours later, I'm finally getting around to posting it. It has been a busy day! The little town is ADORABLE! Ive met K's friends and family, all who are really nice and, my gosh, its nice to hear the Aussie accent again.

Tomorrow we're all going up to Dijon for lunch before heading out on a wine tour. I don't drink but I'm looking forward to seeing a bit more of this region, finding out about its history and (hopefully) sampling some yummy cheese!

I'm sure coverage will be awful tomorrow - it wasn't so great today even in the centre of town - but I'll try to tweet some pics.

Have you explored the French countryside or gone wine tasting?

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14 July 2015

A tiny park with a big heart

Postman's Park is a tiny bit of greenery sandwiched between buildings and street only a few minutes walk from the grand St Paul's Cathedral. I must have walked past it so many times without realising what it was and, being only a few minutes from St Paul's, its really a nice spot to visit if you are in the area, so no excuses!

The park sits on the site of the old churchyard and burial ground - some of the headstones can still be seen on the edges of the park. Might be a bit creepy for some, but that didn't deter me and clearly didn't deter the postmen who used to stop for their lunch break back when the headquarters of the General Post Office was nearby which, incidentally, is how the park got its name. Now its home to office workers taking a break, seeking respite from their day by the side of the softly bubbling fountain and the little fish swimming away in it.

The park is also home to a peculiar memorial. The artist GF Watts wanting to have a memorial for the 'average' person managed, after several suggestions and set-backs, to build a memorial "In commemoration of heroic self sacrifice". On the side of one of the park walls tiled 'plaques' remember ordinary individuals who gave their lives in order to help others. I walked along and read every single one.

I couldn't help being impressed and a little humbled at these ordinary acts of bravery. Children as young as 8, young women, and men as old as 60, are remembered for their sacrifice. My cynical side did wonder if people today are still capable of such incredible kindness. If I was capable. But despite the coldness of commuters, I have seen on many occasions how kind they can be when they need to be.

The little fountain, circular flower beds surrounding the sundial and many benches dotted around the park do make it a cute little place to escape to. Its not very quiet, being off a main street, and its a little bit odd being surrounded by buildings but, all the same, its worth a peek - even if its just to see the memorial. I really don't know of any others that are not associated with remembering soldiers. Not that soldiers shouldn't be remembered, its just nice to see ordinary bravery remembered too, there should be more.

Did I mention that this park caught the attention of Hollywood? Apparently several scenes from Close were shot there - I'm going to have to watch that movie now.

Oh, and in case you haven't seen one yet, an old blue police phone box sits outside the Aldersgate Street entrance :)

What do you think about the memorial? Would you visit?

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07 July 2015

Sandy seaside escape to Margate

This morning I was pleasantly surprised to find that Timeout had mentioned Margate as an escape from London. I did just that a couple of months ago. I was tired (shock-horror!) of my commute, the pushing, the bumping, the crowds and general routine, and wanted to escape for a bit to somewhere with a bit more space. I didn’t know I'd end up at Margate. I was looking for a place that involved a long-ish train trip, wouldn’t be expensive, and would land me somewhere fairly central so I could walk around rather than take another mode of transport.

Click to expand

And so it was that Margate popped up and Margate was where I had this view while munching on fish and chips.

It just so happened that Margate was my first sandy beach experience in the UK! Take that Brighton! When I arrived the tide was out, way out. No one was swimming, it was still a bit too cold for that, and it looked like mainly a few of the locals were out and about. But it was perfect. Lots of space, chilled vibe, just what the doctor ordered.

By the way, why is it such a pleasure to walk along the beach just out of reach of the lapping waters edge? I don’t know, but for me, it was instant relaxation.

Old market square

It was definitely the 'off' season, the main strip had that quiet, shuttered up feel to it, the arcades mostly empty and the new 'retro' funpark not yet, but I could imagine it on a hot summers day, full of beach goers, sun seekers and swimmers. I walked along the beach till I reached a set of steps leading up to the old town centre which was busy with locals and just begged to be explored. You can imagine, little shops selling antiques, tea varieties, household ornaments, books and a few cute cafes.

Cute little tea shop

Just love the name of this antique shop

But Margate is not just about the seaside, arcades or funpark. Its home to a curious little site, a good 10 minutes walk from the centre of town...the Shell Grotto...

No-one knows who built it, why it was put there or anything about how it came into being. There are theories of course but not one knows for sure. The shells come from all over the world, which makes it more interesting. It piqued peoples curiosity since it was found and has been open to visitors since. If you look closely, a lot of shells have been 'signed' by visitors. I found one that was dated 1866 - now that's really old graffiti!

Back then the grotto used to be lit by gas lanterns which is why the natural shell colours don't show anymore. This pic sort of gives you an idea of what it would have looked like.

The grotto also has a small display of shell art, history and other info before you descend into the grotto. These two carved shells are just gorgeous don't you think?

So, next time you want to escape London for a day, keep Margate in mind, you're bound to come back relaxed.

What do you do to escape your 'daily grind'?

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01 July 2015

Brunching at The Providores in Marylebone

Marylebone high street, only a short walk from Oxford Street, is a great place to escape to in central London. Its full of cafes, restaurants and shops, and retains a little bit of a 'village' feel. Because its so central, its a great half-way meeting point to catch up with friends. And that's how I came to be at The Providores for a spot of brunch with a friend of mine one weekend.

As we didn't have a reservation,we were lucky to snag a seat in the busy Tapa Room on the ground floor and quickly ordered coffee - that's the only incentive that can drag me out of bed before 10am on a Saturday - while we ummed and ahhhed over what to choose from the menu. Being run by two Kiwis, it was nice to see Vegemite on toast on the menu.

From sweetcorn and blueberry fritters, French toast, fruit salads to tortillas and fry-ups, everything seemed to have a bit of a twist. I ended up ordering a veggie fry up (my breakfast taste buds can be so boring sometimes), while my friend gave me serious food envy...

She'd ordered the Turkish eggs on whipped yoghurt with hot chilli butter and gluten free bread with a side of avocado and bacon. My gosh did it look good. It even sounds good doesn't it? I really wanted to order it too but was worried it might be too spicy. It wasn't...next time that's what I'm getting! When it arrived, everything was delicious.

The Tapa room was buzzing with chatter while the staff swiftly took orders and delivered food to ravenous customers. At our window seat, my friend and I caught up while people watching. We couldn't help feeling very lucky as people came in wanting a table but having to either wait or find an alternative. It did get a little too noisy after a while due to the small space - or maybe the coffee kicked in ;) Either way, we were happy to move our catch up to the high street and wander a while, explore a bookshop or two - not a bad start to the weekend don't you think?

Any other brunch spots you think I should try? Whats your go-to brunch dish?

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