Today entailed our 49th wedding in Aix en Provence with several female family members , France. One of the most romantic places on earth. We were going to have our hands, and our pockets full…of hankies! We also had flights to catch, pictures to take and picnics to eat, not to mention the car problems we would endure! It was going to be a big day!
We were up with the lark, loaded up Peggy with Mum and Shirley and all of their things and collected Alex’s Mum from her luxurious hotel a few miles away.
She had smuggled out several bread rolls in a napkin, knowing that we would be too stressed to eat (like every other wedding day in the history of this trip) with the early start.
We covered to 40km to Sainte Croix Abbaye, a stunning building with the most spectacular view you can imagine! According to legend, the history of the Abbey of the Holy Cross dates back to around the 9th century. Hilary, Archbishop of Arles, Palestine reported that he had found a piece of the Cross of Christ which was then used in the construction of the Romanesque chapel.
We were all slack jawed and soaking up the view (not too close to the edge though) as we met with photographers Ben and Aurore who had planned the whole wedding and were going to be taking our pictures. The couple, newlyweds themselves were as we had imagined them from their emails. Laid back, easy to get along with and funny. Ben has an instantly fun personality and Aurore, like most women. laughs along with him while lovingly rolling her eyes at his performances. We immediately knew we were going to have a good time with them.
As we were shown to our dressing room for the wedding our Mums and Aunty were ushered off for much needed coffee overlooking the gardens of the property.
We were introduced to Vanessa who would be in charge of making me beautiful for the day and she got straight to work. We were also introduced to Pierre Abramovici who was going to be filming our day and as Alex and I don’t speak a word of French poor Aurore had to translate back and forth as we rattled on to everyone.
Alex reclined with a coffee while I was pampered, creamed and powdered and we chatted happily with the team. Aurore had been very secretive about the dress and it was hastily hidden behind a huge curtain on arrival so I was excited…and a little nervous to see what I would be wearing, especially when Laurence (our officiate and the lady responsible for everything being so beautiful) arrived and together with Aurore told me that I could take off the dress the minute the ceremony was over if I wanted too as it may be a little bit small!
No-one has ever said that to me before and I was wondering how small it could possibly be!
Anyway, before long I was ready and had time to drink a coffee and eat the best chocolate croissant I have ever had in my life before I had to squeeze into my dress. Alex was removed from the room and the dress was revealed!
A gorgeous white skirt with lilac tulle appeared first and it looked like we might be ok…then the corset came next…luckily it had ribbons to fasten it up and not a zip otherwise we may have struggled. The dress by Nadia at Le Fee Corsetee was so different to anything I had ever worn before and was chosen because of the colour. Provence is famous for its lavender fields and the colour was going to look amazing next to the hazy purple fields!
BUT first, the wedding in Aix en Provence.
We had another unique experience that we rarely have which most couples look forward to on their wedding day…the first look.
Alex was outside the dressing room facing away from me and I crept up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder and did a little twirl. He gave me an approving giggle and we were on. Wedding 49 was about to start.
We walked up to the platform where the wedding was to be held and our breath was taken clean away by the view. We had a moment to pull ourselves together and then we had another first look, from our Mums and Aunty. They walked up and we hid behind a bush until they were on the platform and then we jumped out and surprised them all.
They loved the dress and of course Alex looked as incredible handsome as always and we eventually all took our positions.
Chairs had been set out for everyone and we were stood under a gorgeous arch of tiny bottles suspended by ribbon from the pergola containing pale pink roses.
Laurence was holding the ceremony for us and we grinned like lunatics as she read through the short but sweet ceremony. She handed us both a rose after our vows and asked us to exchange our roses.
We did as she said and then she asked us “what do you have now that you didn’t have before? You are both still holding a rose but you are also now holding a promise from one another. A promise that a rose will be always a reminder of this special day. A promise that if times are ever too hard for words that the exchange of a simple rose is more than all the words could express. The rose is a reminder of your vows and your promise to each other and will help you through thick and thin, rich and poor and sickness and health.”
We were both teary and also reminded of a similar gesture from our Seattle wedding which we both still keep in mind and always will.
We kissed and everyone clapped and we took a few pictures before heading to a lake for a picnic. The drive wasn’t far but it was incredibly hot. Peggy was having one of her days and every time we turned off the engine she emptied her radiator onto the floor in a very dramatic way. A great whoosh of liquid would create a huge puddle and of course instil total panic.
We had plenty of bottles of water to hand and decided to carry on regardless.
The picnic was very cute and very French albeit not in the perfect location. It was a Sunday and the place was packed with other picnic goers. We fought for a corner and laid out a blanket and enjoyed wine, cheese, pate, the company and quintessentially French snacks.
Suitably full we packed up, filled Peggy back up with water, crossed our fingers, arms and legs and hoped she started and with her signature Vrooom we were ready to hit our next stop with Laurence…to see the lavender fields.
I have to at this point give total credit to my Mum and Aunty Shirley who are known to panic at the prospect of catching a plane (which is where I get it from). They like to be comfortably early to the airport so as not to panic at levels of a coronary arrest as they go through the rigmarole of checking in. They both (again, this is where I get it from) manage to attract/create drama wherever they go..largely inflamed when they are together! Shirley was practically strip searched on her way to Spain due to all kinds of (previously unnoticed) fashionable studs and trinkets attached to apparently every item of her clothing and we had already discussed the chances of this being repeated on their way home. So the credit goes to the fact that although they didn’t fly until 8pm, they didn’t ask to be dropped at the airport first thing in the morning and came along on the wedding adventure regardless!
We set off in convoy (4 cars) to the lavender fields all still relatively calm and excited to see the famous fields and of course, to get some great snaps with Ben and Aurore whilst no doubt dodging bee stings, ant hills and animal droppings (all par for the course)…however, 2 hours into the journey we were all suitably panicked, stressing about Peggy’s water levels and thinking about the time and getting back to the airport.
We finally stopped and pulled up alongside a remarkably bald field, all 4 cars lined up like a train alongside it. We all disembarked from our varying vehicles and looked worriedly at the field without any lavender in it.
We all kind of looked at each other a little bewildered and before we knew it we were back in the van driving to Gordes the nearby winner of the ‘France’s prettiest village’ award. Disaster not so much averted but at least with caffeine or wine added it wouldn’t seem so bad.
We parked up and watched Peggy gush the remains of her radiator all over the car park as we cut out the engine and increasingly worried about if she would make it the 2 hours back to the airport and what the HELL we would do to get Mum and Shirley there if we DID break down!
We decided to have a coffee and a glass of wine and think it over. The village was indeed very pretty and we sat on its cobbled streets and enjoyed the sunshine for a while as we made plans for our next steps.
We were so disappointed that we had missed the lavender but we always say, things don’t ‘go WRONG’ they simply CHANGE! We said this with our fingers crossed as we filled Peggy’s radiator once more and prepared ourselves for the drive back to the airport. Of course, we made it on time and deposited Mum and Shirley at departures rather brusquely. I am so bad at goodbyes and to save an ugly crying scene we kind of threw them out while we were slowly rolling away.
It is always the hardest part of this trip, saying so many goodbyes! We had had such a great time with Mum and Shirley and the instant they had gone I missed them even more.
With the day not yet over…it was only 6pm, the eleventh hour, we set off in hot pursuit of Ben and Aurore to the beach, an hour from the airport, to watch the sun set, to take some pictures and to eat some French desserts. Janet came along with us and sat and enjoyed the waves crashing on the beach as we climbed up a small incline to the cliff top for some pictures.
Ben and Aurore were great fun and had us playing silly games to make us really laugh. We dipped our toes in the Med and sat on a blanket and enjoyed great Macarons and more wine and pate until the sun finally slid behind the horizon at around 9.30!
We were bushed. We filled Peggys gurgling radiator once more and begged her to start to get us back to camp, she obliged and as we said our farewells she sputtered to life for the last time that day.
We helped Laurence pack away the beautiful table and decorations, wrapped up the dress to go back to Nadia and waved to Pierre as he drove away. We hugged and thanked Ben and Aurore and made plans to meet again some day, somewhere on our travels. We even promised to learn some French, maybe once we had finished Spanish with Rosetta Stone!
We were sad to say goodbye but happy to be on route to bed. We dropped Janet off at 10.30 and caught the pizza van across the road from the campsite JUST packing up when we arrived at 10.45. We ordered a wood-fired pizza (in a truck! Amazing) and gobbled it down like ravenous animals while it was still too hot and decided to worry about the cheese burns the next day.
We fell asleep to the sound of Peggy’s radiator dripping beneath us and dreamed of lavender fields and waterfalls.
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