A Travellerspoint blog

Oh Dear... it's New Year

Doesn't That Mean it's Time to Go Home?

overcast 12 °C

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On the bottom, the two minute long walkway between the entrance of the O2 and the North Greenwich Tube station.

New Year arrived too soon for so many reasons.

First, we'd scarcely had time to recover from D'ell and Emma's wedding just two days prior, and it required some effort to get into the party mode again. I know, it's a hard life, right?

Second, of course, the passing of such a significant milestone could only highlight the impending conclusion of our journey. We're excited, undoubtedly, to return home and get back to work, but it's been such an adventure that there's inevitably some nostalgia as we wrap things up.

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Champagne helped on both counts, and we enjoyed a wonderful meal at Tapa Tapa in the new O2 arena in London's Docklands. After a feast that we couldn't possibly finish, we headed into a New Year concert headlined by British pop group Take That. If you know anything about Take That it's probably that it's the band Robbie Williams used to belong to. While the other four members have reunited for this tour, Robbie has so far declined to participate, so we spent much of the evening hoping that he would decide to make a surprise appearance for what was a much hyped - and televised - New Year performance.

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Even if Robbie failed to materialize, we had a super night. D'ell and I bopped away to all the sugery pop-songs we remembered while an exhausted Emma and intrigued Lloyd (who didn't know any of the songs at all!) could do little more than look on, stupified at our antics.

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At midnight, Lloyd and I counted down from ten and then spontaneously screamed at each other, the full realization that our adventure is approaching its end. What can we say? We have been exceptionally fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel for six months, and even more lucky to have enjoyed the wholehearted support of friends and family. So, a special Happy New Year to our parents, to Roger and D'ell, and to Dave, Martin and Sarah. We wish you all the best for 2008.

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Posted by jacquiedro 17:03 Archived in England Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

From the Bride's Perspective

A Guest Entry from My New Sister-in-Law!

rain 3 °C

A lot of people did tell me that I wouldn't sleep much the night before our wedding, and they were right. The surprise was that this wasn't due to wedding-day excitement so much as my husband-to-be crashing back into our room in the small hours after an extended drinking session in the bar. Now I understand why couples who are getting married are supposed to spend the night before their big day in separate rooms. In two decades, I might be able to look back and see the funny side but suffice to say that - on saturday morning - I wasn't very happy with the best man, since I did ask him to make sure that the groom got to bed relatively early in preparation for our big day. Simon would argue, of course, that 2am IS early....

A few restless hours later, our alarm went off and D’ell, who does not need much sleep and is always full of energy, got up to go and get his hair cut. I managed to snooze for a bit but then also decided to get out of bed, get some breakfast and head down to the beauty salon. A few hours short on the beauty sleep, I needed all the help I could get in the hair and make up department!!!

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A touch of champagne to help me forgive the best man; and Jacquie doing her best impression of Cousin It.

In the salon, I was greeted by my two wonderful bridesmaids and our hairdressers and make up artist. We chatted, shared some stories about the night before and the transformation started. A few coffees later, lots of foundation, highlighter, eye make up, mascara and lipstick and I started to feel like the bride to be. Malin, my hairdresser, spent a lot of time doing my hair and I must admit that it turned out beautifully! Jacquie and Jill also went through the transformation and we did all have some interesting hairstyles before the final versions! A good few hours later the three of us headed back to the hotel to get changed, looking and feeling like movie stars!

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Transformation complete. Thank goodness for make up!

As we walked into the hotel, we narrowly avoided walking right into the boys as they headed down to the pub for a pre-ceremony drink. We were so short of time that I hardly had any time to get nervous at all. People in the wedding party went in and out of our room and I did feel a bit guilty when I shouted to my mum and my future mum in-law to get out of the room since I quickly needed to get changed! My bridesmaids joined me a few minutes later to help me with the final touches, and we enjoyed a quick glass of champagne and some snacks (chips and mayo less than an hour before the ceremony!) so we'd have energy for the rest of the day.

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Where's a crochet hook when you need it?

Having successfully avoided smearing mayo all over the perfect make-up, the photographer arrived at 2.30pm and took some candid pictures. It was raining, so we had to quickly arrange a taxi for the mothers. Before we knew it, my Dad was knocking on the suite door to take me by the arm down to our stretch white limo. The Town Hall is only 300 metres from the hotel, but the weather in Sweden at this time is very unpredictable and we did not want to risk it by having to walk in gusts and rain ruining our hair and make up. Not to mention our shoes and dresses! In fact, Jacquie's heels were so high, I'm not sure she'd have made it if she'd had to walk!

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Meanwhile, the boys were making their way on foot.

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We effectively crawled from the hotel, as we had to give the photographer time to hoof it to the Town Hall in order to meet us! As we waited in the limo, I wondered how D'ell was feeling....

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Photographer at the ready, it was finally time to climb out of the limo. With the groom and best man waiting inside, we had the honour of being met by Lloyd, Steve (friend of bride and groom) and John (Jacquie and D'ell's father) all dressed in their beautiful kilts. Trust me, they did get a lot of looks from the locals who don't see men in skirts that often!

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My dad escorted me into the building and I was followed by my bridesmaids who made sure my dress did not touch the ground. Since we arrived a few minutes late (I thought I was supposed to do that!), we were welcomed by some glum faces in the waiting area. Turns out we were the first (late!) of 22 couples getting married that day. But when we walked into the room we were surrounded by smiles all around, with our friends and family standing in a semi-circle around the room. Up front, we faced a tiny officiant who looked like Frodo from Lord of the Rings, prompting a few cheeky glances among the group up front: my stunning bridesmaids on my left, my husband to be on my right, and next to him, the best man and my dad.

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Married by Frodo. Lord of the Wedding Rings.

We wanted a brief ceremony, and - in the event - it was less than five minutes long. It sounds short but believe me if D'ell had had his way it would have been even shorter! My Dad did a fantastic job translating the ceremony from Swedish, but D'ell apparently just couldn't wait to marry me and kept on answering the questions in Swedish before the English translation, which raised chuckles around the room. A little after 3.05pm, we were pronounced husband and wife.

After hugs all round, we headed back to the limo, this time squeezing in the entire wedding party (both sets of parents, two bridesmaids, best man and Steve in addition to the new Mr and Mrs John D'ell Ross!). Simon - who may have enjoyed a little too much champagne already that morning - cracked open another bottle which we shared between everyone in the car.

Back at the hotel we were greeted by our family and friends. We had champagne and some lovely canapés. The photographers had prepared the photo shoot in the staircase at the hotel and we were all ready to have our pictures taken. This was superbly managed by my bridesmaid Jacquie. She had a list of all different groups and people were going up and down the stairs and I am sure that the photographer got a lot of exercise running up and down to change and make sure that people’s clothes were in order. I think that he arranged my dress a hundred times. He was very much into details. I must admit that I loved every minute of the photo shoot but perhaps my guests were a little bit bored. It did take a bit longer than planned. However they were getting plenty of champagne and after a few hours we all headed down to the dining room for the party to continue!

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We felt bad for our guests that the photos took so long, but at least they were being plied with champagne and canapes in lush surroundings!

And what a night…the food was superb, the wine was amazing and the speeches were fabulous. My parents had prepared a wonderful presentation of photos of my life, to which they added witty anecdotes which got everyone laughing.

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My parents during their presentation. They picked all the most embarassing pictures to embarass me!

One of the biggest surprises was when my husband started to say his speech in perfect Swedish. Later he admitted that he has been going to a private tutor for four months learning Swedish - just a perfect wedding present and a wonderful surprise. Suffice to say that he is truly an amazing man.

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My brother, Fredrick, and Markus entertained us with a Swedish drinking song, although I'm not sure anyone needed encouragement with the seven course dinner, each course paired with a perfectly matching alcoholic beverage!

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The Swedes were intent on showing the Scots they could drink more, faster, longer....

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Steve contemplating the Schnapps...

This was beyond any doubt one of the best days in my life and something that I will never ever forget. Thank you to all our guests for coming to our big day and thank you to Jacquie and Jill for keeping me sane, plying me with just the perfect amount of champagne and reminding me to breath and to eat. Also for looking after my jewellery, mobile phone, my jacket and my flowers. Also a big thank you to Steve, Lloyd and Simon who made sure that the evening ran smoothly. And a big thank you to my dad and family, my new in-laws and all my friends for making this a truly memorable day that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

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Finally thank you to my incredible husband D’ell for making me a very happy woman and wife!!!

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Posted by jacquiedro 09:05 Archived in Sweden Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Ski, Eat, Drink, Sleep. Repeat.

A White Christmas in Are

snow 0 °C

My brother, D’ell’s, fiancée is Swedish, hence finding ourselves winding down our world trip in Are, a picturesque little town roughly in the middle of Sweden that – once the snow arrives – becomes something of a domestic ski haven.

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The view at twilight from our chalet out onto the town of Are. It was like looking down on a tiny model village!

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I truly believe that skiing is something that needs to be first attempted before the age of ten. After that, life experience of pain and injury seriously complicates things and the first time I tried skiing last December, I was so bad that I was taken out of my group beginners’ class and given the instructors’ instructor for a private lesson! So, I’m not sure if I’d have signed up for another opportunity to humiliate myself if Christmas in Sweden hadn’t also been billed as the pre-wedding party for D’ell and Emma.

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Soon-to-be-wed: my brother D'ell and fiancee Emma, pictured during dinner on the 23rd.

Lloyd skis very well, and so spent several happy days with some combination of D’ell, Emma, Steve, Jill and/or Simon on the slopes. Of course, a remedial skier like me can only dream of going as high as the ski lifts go, but it looks like there is some pretty stunning scenery up there…

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Lloyd was accompanied by a friendly fox that came trotting out right onto the slopes!

Me? Well, I suffered another session with a painfully bad instructor who reported at the end of my lesson, “well, maybe skiing isn’t for you”. A little rude, maybe and – if I hadn’t been so shocked – I might have had the good wits to retort “Judging by the quality of your tuition, I’d say maybe skiing isn’t for you either!”. But his insult was enough to keep me on the nursery slopes with dozens of two-feet high munchkins whizzing by me for hours and, thanks to Lloyd, making good progress on my turns. I have a long way to go before I could even attempt to ski with the rest of the group, but Lloyd and I will try and squeeze in a few trips to Tahoe when we’re back in California so I can try and at least catch up with the ten year olds….

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Me with my ski class. Enough to cut anyone's ego down to size....

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Not good enough to ski with the big kids. But good enough to carry the skis...

Accompanying the skiing were the associated traditional activities involving plenty of food and more champagne than is feasible for our party of seven. Lloyd and I haven’t seen anything like it for the last six months, so good quality red wine and excessive quantities of edible food (although the smoked reindeer heart probably doesn't qualify here) was a bit of a shock to the system but you’ll be glad to know we quickly got into the swing of things.

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The bride-to-be prepared a tremendous Swedish feast on Christmas Eve, which meant that Lloyd and I truly had our work cut out for us come Christmas Day. But between us we managed to conjure up 10 kilos of Roast Turkey (I know, what were we thinking?) with all the trimmings, served to an appreciative audience. We almost had a disaster, though, with the realization that we had drunk all the wine intended for the meal the previous evening. Sweden has some pretty tough regulation concerning alcohol sales which are limited to government-run “Systembolaget” shops. Despite the fact that the supermarket was open on Christmas Day, the “Systembolaget” had been closed since the 22nd. Faced with a critical wine deficit, D’ell, Steve and Jill engaged in a wine smuggling operation. No doubt the waitress in a local bar was a little confused when the three of them ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir. Each. And the sight of the three of them hoofing it down the street with three open bottles of wine carried in inside pockets must also have been interesting.

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Steve and D'ell - Caught in the Act...

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With no christmas tree in the chalet, we had Lloyd fulfil the function. Useful, no?

We enjoyed a wonderful White Christmas with friends and family in Sweden ahead of what promises to be a wonderful wedding weekend in Gothenburg. In the meantime, thanks to D'ell and Emma for hosting us in Are over christmas, and hello to Jill and Steve and Simon who also made it such a memorable time.

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Posted by jacquiedro 21:55 Archived in Sweden Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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