Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Vay and Dennis Wedding

We woke up very early Saturday morning to get to Vay's parents house in Luton to partake in one of the Chinese traditions surrounding a wedding.
We were asked to be "brother" and "sister" for Vay and Dennis, along many other friends and family to engage in an age old tradition of the bridegroom and his brothers trying to buy their way into the bride's home.
Over the years, bribing has evolved into the girls making the guys do various tasks for money, all of which are embarrassing to various degrees, until they deem enough tasks were successfully completed when the guys are then welcome in the house.

This is followed by a tea ceremony and as I understand it, this is the opportunity to give thanks and respect to their elders/family.

Around midday we drove back to London to the ceremony venue which couldn't have been more majestic! Housed in the Greenwich Maritime buildings the place was regal yet simple, stunning and just really classy. Well done to Vay and Dennis for choosing that place. Photos and canapes followed the ceremony which came to an end around 5pm to allow time to drive to the restaurant.

Now, for those who of you who haven't done a Chinese wedding before, believe you me, it is worth getting yourself a Chinese friend just to get into one of these. I have been to my share during my time in London, but they never cease to amaze me.
With typically 12 courses lasting over 5 or so hours, this isn't for the weak hearted. Joe and I particularly fared well because we were at the table with all the Chinese Wedding virgins- CWVs- (well, 3/4 of the table) which meant more food for us as they contemplated the dishes and struggled with the chopsticks. Now, now, you may think us selfish but you will be pleased to know that I championed the cause and served the food whilst both Joe and I explained the dishes to them. But, in the end, the gods were on our side and we just got more food! result!

A great day! We really loved being a part of it - so a big thank you out to Vay and Dennis for including us. Note to Luu family - for future reference, ALWAYS sit us with the CWVs, ok?

Paris one last time

Returning from Normandy, I was determined to take full advantage of Paris one last time! So, I pulled mom out for a day of walking which ended with over-priced drinks in the shadow of the Arch di Triomphe so we could "experience Paris the rich way".
Funny enough, on a different walk with Joe starting from the Louvre, we managed to finish at the Arch de Triomphe as well. Only this time, no drinks!

We managed to wipe dad out one night, so only the three of us went out high-society style one night which ended up being a fantastic evening.

We collectively must have gained 20 pounds over the four weeks of eating, laughing, exploring, etc... A great time had by all and hopefully the first of many European adventures for mom and dad to enjoy in their retirement.

Off to Normandy!

After several days in Paris, we travelled south to Angers to stay with Myriam and Yannick, some friends we met in London who recently moved back to France to be near family. Our loss, their gain!
On the way, we popped into Chambord to show mom and dad a proper chateaux - and we were all blown away.
With one more hour of driving to go, we landed in Angers mid afternoon. It was great catching up with M & Y and the French hospitality came out in full force with a 6 course meal lasting around 6 hours as we sat on their back porch overlooking the rolling countryside. What a night!

After we said our goodbyes the next morning, we drove West toward Monte Saint Michelle - a stunning, tiny island just off the Normandy coast, topped with an old monastary jutting out like a massive castle from sea level. The weather didn't cooperate much, but we did enjoy looking around. Lots of steps to conquer which left me as the prime photographer rushing up and around the monastary whilst the others sat and enjoyed the views.

Late afternoon we drove to our b&b and as it neared, the scenery just got better and better. Lush green rolling hills set between lovely stone villages, all severely impacted by the war.

Our b&b and Mercedes which I was thoroughly enjoying the WHOLE journey!

We headed straight to Ponte du Huc the next morning, one of the landing sites for the Americans who had to scale jagged rocky cliffs whilst under direct attack from the Germans above, as their element of surprise had been compromised by delays in the operation. The yanks managed to secure the area with heavy losses, and at first sight of the area riddled with massive craters, you can get a sense of the horror of war. Craters from exploded bombs cover the ground everywhere, alongside the decaying concrete German bunkers of which most were directly hit.

Now, with a blanket of green covering the horror of war, on the fine sunny morning we visited, if you looked up, it would seem to be the most breathtaking coastal cliff. However, once your eyes returned to the surface, memories and thoughts of the struggle and the pain couldn't be ignored.

What an incredibly moving place to visit, I highly recommend going.

Soon after we arrived at Utah beach. Mom, dad and Joe went into the museum whilst I stayed in the car partly because when we rolled in, we rolled over shattered window glass inciting in me a fear of our car also being a victim of crime if we all went inside. Furthermore, the lovely French B&B owner was a bit flighty and upon our arrival the night before at 9pm, she greeted us with grave news that she has accidentally double booked her rooms and that all four of us would need to shar a room for one night. In principle, no biggie. However, in practice with mom and dad both snoring the night away, it left little in the sleep department. So, I caught up with my z's while they explored. Hence no photos of the memorial. Afterwards though, we rolled into town. ate some crepes and walked around.

The town had chosen to commemorate their liberation by ereting placards throughout the square each with a local's personal recollection of a moment during that time. As we walked past the beautiful stone buildings, you coud still see the bullet holes in the walls. The placards pointed to various gun battles which took place on the patch of road we were standing on. This obviously had quite an impact on all of us.

In hindsight, we left for Omaha beach too late in the day. When we arrived, we hadn't appreciated just how incredible the museum and memorials were and found ourselves rushing to see it all. Dad was particularly moved by what he saw all day long - and he tended to walk around on his own taking it all in. In fact, we all kind of did that as it was a lot to take in.

Unbeknownst to us, the heavens had opened while we were in the underground museum, and as it was sunny the entire day we were sodden wet waiting for Joe and the car keys so we could get in for shelter!

In the heaviest rain I have seen since I moved to England, we navigated our way through the winding roads and found what we all voted to be the best restaurant we ate at. With the rain pounding outside, we sat in a covered veranda and ate away the blues.

The next day we headed back to Paris, detouring to Versailles. We all left that place with a bit of shock and awe. Shock at the blatant austerity and pompousness of the place, which when put into the context of what was happening in France at the height of this palace's life, made us all a bit put off. Awe at the ostentatiousness (is that a word?) of the decor and at the same time seeing the beauty despite it.

As we headed back to Paris for a few more days, more memories were recorded. Read the next post for more.

Lovely Paris!

Mom and Dad finally make it to France! We went for a city country mix to get the best of both worlds.
Starting with a few days in Paris, we walked and walked and walked....taking in the Notre Dame, lots of pastries and cafe au laits, the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre and much more. Sadly, the biggest moment not recorded was the visit to China Town to a French Vietnamese restaurant! Thank God for Joe's Vietnamese language skills to get past the French to order exactly what we wanted! HA!


Notre Dame

The Louvre

Eiffel Tower

Yep, you guessed it, that was just the first few days. If you can handle it, wait for the next blog entry!

Mom and Dad Visit!

For four weeks, Gene and Kathi Lock wreaked havoc In England and invaded France. A jam packed holiday with hardly any time to rest, we had them going from London to Wiltshire, Oxford, Birmingham, Stratford Upon Avon, Paris and Normandy.
Visiting family and friends, attending a wedding, sipping coffee on the streets of Paris, paying our respects at the landing beaches of Normandy - we did it all.

So, I'll go chronologically with the memoirs....

Avebury and Marlborough




Kew Gardens

More to come.....the invasion of France!