Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Honeymoon Part III: Our Friends Get Hitched

We made our way to the chateau exhausted and weary from our travels thus far, but we were excited and pretty amazed at what we saw as we pulled up.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around the chateau and the grounds just falling in love with everything, except maybe all the taxidermy (we're talking giraffes, baby elephant, chimp, lions, it was ridiculous).

Our Room!  For reals.

Some of the taxidermy we could have lived without.

The next day the I headed into town with our friend, the soon-to-be-groom and rounded up provisions for that night's dinner.  We roasted chickens, made my Grandma's recipe for rice pilaf and haricot vert with almonds for dinner.  Dessert happened to be some lovely fruit tarts from the local patisserie, and we also grabbed some amazing cheeses and cured meats for everyone to snack on, oh and over 40 bottles of wine.

The groom, with seven French hens.

Mr. Moonbeam helping with the wine.

On a side note, the 40 bottles lasted us approximately 1.5 days.

Good thing there was a wine tour scheduled the next day.  We learned about terroir and appellation and some quick tips for picking yummier wines.  Oh, and we sampled a lot of it as well.

Then we headed back to the chateau for a hog roast.  It was pure yumminess.

And there were mustaches, because what's a wedding without 'em these days.

Dinner was followed by macarons, and various other pastries that tasted even better than they looked.

The next day was the ladies luncheon, it was held at an adorable bistro in the nearby town of Cande.

While we were enjoying our food, the guys were out shopping for dinner provisions.

Then a few of us headed down to the kitchen and started making dinner.  I made a flourless chocolate cake, a  nut tart and a lemon tart.  Dinner that night was fish, mashed potatoes and various veggies.  But the main event was the Murder Mystery Dinner!  The maid of honor, her husband and her twin brother spent the day setting up the mystery.

I wish I had gotten my camera out, but sometimes you're just having too much fun, and a big shout out has to go to Mr. Moonbeam.  He played the murdered Earl's old friend who was just released from prison.  In Mr. Moonbeam's mind this meant that he had a paunch, cigarettes, an empty bottle of wine and a surly, half-passed out attitude all night.  He split the prize for best character with the Maid of Honor's Dad, also a standout.

I highly recommend a murder mystery as a fantastic group activity for a destination wedding, maybe even a rehearsal dinner (which, technically, ours was).

After the dinner, we danced in the basement until the wee hours of the morning, I can not overstate the willingness of the British to have a good time dancing, singing and drinking all night.

The next day was the 'Big Day'.  We woke up at some time and everyone sort of helped out where necessary.  I was helping with the steaming and ironing of various garments.  Then Mr. Moonbeam and I got our fancy duds on and hung out with the groom until it was time.

I found out that getting ready on the guys side involves things like ice cream (if you go to Europe, get Magnum bars, as many as you can find) and sandwiches.

Then there all the last minute things happened, lint was removed, bouts were pinned and it was time to go.

We all went out to the garden for the short and sweet ceremony.

There was a reading from the Mother of the Groom, a poem written by the Bride's Uncle (officiant) and read by her Aunt (his wife).

Vows were said, rings were exchanged, there was a kiss and they were Man and Wife.

We all went to a lovely treed area for cocktail hour.  Then the Bride and Groom finished their portraits and joined the party.

Check out the radiant Bride.

Hair flower perfection.
After cocktails we headed to the front of the chateau for some group shots.

The guys picked up the Bride.

So, naturally the girls picked up the Groom.

Love the backdrop.

Then it was time for dinner, there were slideshows, and then the Groom announced the honeymoon surprise, they were going to Corsica.  Perfection.  And dinner was amazing, I can not overstate the decadence of a French roasted duck.  Then there was croquembouche, I've always wanted to try it every time I see it in a picture.  It was great, but I had always thought that there was cream inside and I was wrong, it was something with hazlenut and it was super yummy.

Then came the formal dances.

After that it was time for the happy couple to head to their honeymoon.

I'm in love with this dress, btw.

Next, we took over the foyer for drinking and dancing.

Dancing with old friends

A crazy Frenchman

And all of our new buds.

Many of the people there were Texans, and there were a couple of Scots in attendance as well, so we traded cultural info.  Some of us Texans taught everyone how to Two Step, Line Dance and Cotton Eyed Joe.  The man in the kilt taught us the Gay Gordons and Whip the Willow.

Cotton Eyed Joe.

Whip the Willow

I have determined that Scottish dances are mainly about drinking large amounts of alcohol, running and spinning around in circles.  They are great and even if you're not Scottish, I'd recommend them at any wedding.

Then we caught a few zzz's and head into town for our way-too-early train to Charles de Gaulle to head back home.

Ah, we had the best time and how I wish I could go back.  My favorite part was definitely at the chateau, we met some great people, got to hang out with a few people we never get to see any more, and we got to teach the Brits about breakfast tacos.

And, I'll leave you with a pic from our mini photo session on the grounds.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Honeymoon Part II

After our Eurostar ride, filled with the loving sounds of a crying child, we arrived in Paris.  We rode the Metro over to the Marais district and walked around for a bit trying to find our hotel.  The Hotel Place des Vosges was a great little place that is currently undergoing renovations, and we were lucky enough to get a renovated room on the top floor.  It involved some stairs and the tiniest elevator you can imagine to get up to, but it had great exposed beams, neat little woodwork niches and an awesome bathroom entirely clad in a cool grey stone.  We had a skylight and, if you needed them, there were two pull out beds.

After a quick shower we headed out to find dinner in the cool-ish Paris evening.  We had crepes and cider at a cidrerie.  I didn't know chilled, fizzy cider was a French thing, but it was perfect after the hot day travelling.  I didn't feel like pulling out a huge camera at dinner (hazards of a DSLR), but I can safely say that my crepe with a pan seared disc of goat cheese on a bed of mixed greens topped with balsamic and candied walnuts was lovely and yummy.  We saw this random church on our way home and it was off to bed for us.

The next morning I woke up at an unbearably early hour due to jet lag, so I headed to the nearest pastry shop.  I got us a sampling for the morning and have to say the the chocolate pistachio was my absolute favorite, there could not have been more butter in there and it was delicious.

After hanging out in our room until a reasonable hour we went for a run around the city.  It was lovely, quiet and a great way to check out our surroundings.

Place dus Vosges (the plaza near our hotel)

Afterwards we found some of the other people we'd be travelling with as guests of our friend's wedding (not surprising, since we were staying in the same hotel as almost all of the other guests).  We hung out in the local cafe catching up with old friends and meeting the new people we'd be hanging out with for the rest of our trip.  After that we decided to spend the rest of our only rainy day on the whole trip (lucky us) in the Louvre, it was certainly big enough to spend an entire day in.

Random artist sketching in the Louvre

It was huge, and overwhelming, but ultimately something we were glad we experienced.  As an architecture student I've heard about the building for a while, and I did love the space underneath the pyramid.

Oh, I. M. Pei, how you make the most of a grey day

After that we grabbed a quick bite, met up with the bride and groom and some friends and made our way to Crazy Horse.  The girls ended up sitting in a row behind the boys and watched them gape at the lovely ladies on stage.  I definitely recommend it, if you want to see something a little risque in Paris.

Then we got a few drinks at a nearby cafe and Mr. Moonbeam, another girl travelling with us and I decided it was a brilliant idea to run to the Eiffel Tower (about a mile away) in our dressy clothes.  It turned out perfectly, because we caught the midnight light show.

The next day we saw Notre Dame, Centre Pompidou and took an ill-advised venture to try and find the Dali Museum in Montmartre.  I'd heard it was neat, and I'm sure it was, but we never found it because we only had the Metro map.  Word to the wise, if you head to Montmartre bring a very detailed map if you want to find anything but Sacre Coeur.

Sorry about all that, but seeing Notre Dame in person was cool, and all of the incense from the Priest made the inside even better.

That evening everyone gathered for dinner in Montmartre, Mr. Moonbeam tried the tartare and loved it.  We went to Sacre Couer and took in a lovely view of the city. 

Then, on our way home we found the very closed Dali Museum, we had been soooooo close (hand slaps forehead).

Early the next morning we all got on a bus for a tour of the Normandy Beaches.  We had a pit stop in Bayeux to pick up our tour guide.

Then we went to Point du Hoc and learned about the battles of World War II.  It was eye-opening to see just how difficult these battle situations were for soldiers on D-Day.  And with all the Texans in the crowd, we were a touch pleased that the largest crater was made by the U.S.S. Texas.

Then we stopped for lunch at Omaha Beach (another amazing crepe) before learning more about the specifics of that battle.  Our last stop was the American Cemetery (as seen in Saving Private Ryan).  It's really beautiful and definitely instills respect.

Then we all slept on the way to chateau!