27 August 2008

San Francisco

Hmm, I'm not doing too well at catching up on this blog thing am I? I must try to power through, I'm only... erm... three and a half weeks behind. Damn it!

Anyway, off we flew to San Francisco, where we were staying at the second of my Trip Advisor-recommended hotels, the Chancellor on Union Square. It was lovely, I'm so glad I picked it! Although it is officially three star, it is actually really bloody good for three stars - marble floors in the reception, staff all dressed up in nice uniforms, little gold carts for putting your luggage in, etc etc. We were up on the twelfth floor which meant we had fantastic views over Union Square towards Macy's. I had repeated my "it's our honeymoon" casual commenting technique when I emailed the hotel about the booking, and this time it actually paid off - the man on reception congratulated us when we checked in, and we had a bottle of champagne and a present (a picture frame) waiting for us in the room. Which started me thinking you should probably always say you're on your honeymoon whenever you go abroad anywhere, just to see what you get...

Anyway, San Francisco was lovely, and so much nicer than New York. New York is definitely more buzzy, with more going on and more to see, and it's a very exciting place to be because you know it so well from the telly, but in terms of actual niceness San Francisco wins hands down. It was cleaner, less rushed, more spacious, and generally prettier. The only thing that would have made it nicer would have been for it to be a bit warmer - we only had one day of proper sun, and the rest had high fog blocking out most of the heat so it was really quite cold and you needed a coat on. But frankly after New York it was quite pleasant to be cold, at least for a few days.

Again, we did lots of touristy things, but it was generally less rushed as we had more time there and there is a bit less to do.
  • On the one sunny day (the first day) we took a walk around Union Square where all the shops are, and then we went to Dolores Beach. Dolores Beach is not in fact a beach, but is instead part of a park, and it is where all the gay boys go on a sunny day to sit around in minimal clothing pretending to read and looking at each other. It was very pleasant, although San Francisco gay guys seemed to be generally older and/or beefier than my normal tastes of twinky blonds, but I'll take what I can get. I did unfortunately completely underestimate the sun and FRIED my shoulders and back, resulting in a good deal of pain, whinging, and hasty purchasing of after-sun for the rest of the week.
  • We went to loads of shops, but bought relatively little as we're not that into designer labels anyway. I did buy some nice undies though.
  • We went to Chinatown - MUCH nicer than New York's, which was a slum.
  • We saw the wiggly Lombard Street, which was thronged with tourists taking photos and must be a nightmare to live on.
  • We went to the Cartoon Art Museum, and fortuitously it was 'Pay what you like day' so we paid very little.
  • We took a trip to Alcatraz, which was really interesting, and as it was the evening it was dead atmospheric and spooky.
  • We saw the Golden Gate Bridge, and walked halfway across it before deciding it was too windy and then walking back.
  • We saw Dark Knight (very good) and The Mummy III (not that good) at the cinema.
We also ate out LOADS and were completely stuffed for the whole week. No wonder Americans are so fat, their portions were ridiculous and we threw away criminal amounts of food and felt really bad. Highlights were the best BEST milkshakes ever in Lori's Diner, and a fantastic Japanese meal in a tucked away restaurant where we were the only non-Japanese in there.

We also went to quite a few bars on San Francisco's legendary gay scene. Again, I wasn't that impressed really... We visited Harvey's, Twin Peaks, Midnight Sun, The Mixer, and The Bar. They were generally OK, either a bit empty or hugely overcrowded, and very very few boys worth a second glance. We decided that we've been spoiled by living in Brighton about 3 minutes from 9 gay bars where they often play better music and at least some of the people know how to dress properly. I think we had the most fun at The Bar, where it transpired it was Ladies Night, which meant it was full of black and Hispanic lesbians and had great music on, so we danced lots amid the lesbians and I cared not that I was twice the height of most of them.

And then it was time to come home. I wasn't sorry really, as I was quite worn out after 10 days of madly photographing everything and trekking around, and I really wanted my own bed and not to eat another calorie for a fortnight.

The flight home was 10 hours, which was far too long, I couldn't sleep, and I was pretty exhausted by the time we finally got back, but overall it was a lovely, lovely trip and a marvelous honeymoon. It's not the kind of holiday we'd ever normally take either, so that made it quite special for us. And my bed was soooo comfortable when I crawled into it and slept for almost a whole weekend...!
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21 August 2008

Post-wedding and off to New York

The lovely weather continued the day after the wedding, and as we knew lots of people would still be around we had booked one of the bar/restaurants on the beach for a late lunch. I'm glad we did actually, as it was really nice sitting out there in the sunshine, and it gave an extra opportunity to see some of the people we hadn't had much time to talk to the night before.

Mum and Dad left after lunch, having had two OK nights in the hotel but complaining that it had been noisy from the traffic on the road. Ha! They were lucky they had been at the front, the people at the back of the hotel hadn't had a wink of sleep because of the nightclub outside their window and the roadworks that started at 7am, so they should count their blessings. That was the main drawback of the hotel in the end - it's location is great in some ways, but it also means it's very noisy and you can't park within two miles of it very easily. But you're not really thinking about those things when you book it 18 months in advance, are you?? And nobody really complained to us, they just got on with it, which is good.

Sunday was our first day of proper rest and recovery, and we spent a nice couple of hours in the afternoon opening all our cards and presents. Oh. My. God. Everyone was SO generous, and we got given SO much money! We'd said "no presents" to people, because we didn't really want lots of toasters and we weren't actually that fussed about getting any presents, but everybody wants to give you something on your wedding day. So they all gave us money instead - a mixture of dollars for the honeymoon, and normal cash. I actually felt a bit guilty about how much we got in end... Well, not that guilty, but you know...

And on Monday we jetted off to New York! It was terribly exciting to be going somewhere so interesting, and that we'd never been to before. We had thought it might be worth mentioning at the airport when we checked in that it was our honeymoon, on the very slim hope that they might bump us up to first class. Alas, check-in was at an automated kiosk that didn't have a button for "We're on our honeymoon", and the lady at the bag drop looked thoroughly unimpressed when we tried it on her. So we flew normal class, but that was fine as Virgin Atlantic is quite good anyway.

We arrived late in New York, where we spent the first four nights of our honeymoon. The hotel was lovely, a little converted town house down in Chelsea that I'd found on Trip Advisor. Each room was named after a film star and there were cool movie posters everywhere, which was quite fun. We stayed in the Lee Remick room - I'd never heard of her, but apparently she's the Mum in The Omen, amongst other things.

The three days we had in New York were nice: mostly very busy, loads of walking around and doing touristy thing, and it was VERY hot. I think it was about 90 degrees, and it was a sticky humid heat with no wind. The temperature was exacerbated, and possibly caused by, the millions of air conditioning vents that constantly pump hot air out in the street from every building and subway line, so being out in the street generally wasn't that pleasant. Once you were inside on the good end of an air conditioner of course, it was all fine.

We did all the tourist things we could fit in in three days, namely:
  • went up the Empire State Building
  • walked around in Times Square and Broadway
  • saw Madison Square Garden (from the outside anyway)
  • saw Grand Central Terminal
  • went to the UN headquarters
  • went to Macy's
  • walked around Central Park - nice, but just a park really
  • went to the Natural History Museum and saw lots of dinosaurs and gemstones, and touched a REAL 30-tonne meteorite that had been in actual space
  • went up the Rockefeller Center at night
  • took the Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island and back, taking a million photos of the Statue of Liberty on the way
  • saw Ground Zero - just a big building site now
  • walked through Chinatown (quite shabby and horrible actually)
  • rode the subway and caught yellow cabs
So lots of things really. The best bit was probably going up the Rockefeller Center at night. The views of the city lights were fantastic, you got to see the Empire State Building (which you obviously can't do when you're actually on the Empire State Building), and it was lovely and cool up there compared to ground level.

We also visited a few of the gay bars during the evenings - Sport Bar, Barracuda, View Bar, The Monster, and Pieces. They were... OK. Not amazing, I have to say, but Barracuda and Pieces were both lots of fun. The others were a bit of an older crowd, or were a bit empty, or didn't have any music on. We saw the best BEST karaoke ever at Barracuda, a girl who sang I'm Every Woman and who was every bit as good as Whitney Houston. And Pieces was fun because they had shag tags and beer pong (that's a game, not the smell of beer) and good music. They also had a hot barman who had much better dress sense than most Americans, who we sort of tried to flirt with but failed because I'm so bad at flirting.

And that was New York! Lovely, tiring, hot, and photo-filled. I photographed EVERYTHING I think. On Friday we got the subway to Jamaica (not the real Jamaica, it's in Queens) and the Air Train to JFK airport, where we spent a couple of hours in the crappiest terminal ever - JFK Terminal 3 is tiny and pathetic, due to it only servicing domestic flights with Delta.

But that didn't matter much because then we flew off to San Francisco for the second part of our honeymoon adventure...
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19 August 2008

The Wedding

It finally arrived, after 18 months of build up, and went fabulously well and was a lovely, lovely day. It felt surreal all the way through, I kept thinking "oh my god, I'm at my actual wedding", but it was really nice and I really enjoyed it.

Chris and I spent the night apart on the 24th in a vague attempt at tradition, so Alice stayed over with me to keep me company. I had the WORST night's sleep because I was so hyped up and thinking about everything, and in the end I think I only got half an hour! So I woke up in a right daze.

Alice went off to get her hair done, and then I just started crying, and found it very hard to stop right the way until after the ceremony. I wasn't sad of course, far from it, but I think was just so hyped up and emotional and tired that I ended up on the edge of tears all day.

The morning went fine - it was quite a lot of waiting around really, then doing a few jobs like collecting the music equipment and avoiding Chris. Then finally it was time to go the hotel and get ready. I got dressed in our honeymoon suite on my own, we had a lovely sea-view room, and although I was a bit lonely on my own it was probably better because talking to people just made me cry. Then at 1.45pm I went off with my brother and Janine, still teary-eyed, to the Town Hall to sort out the pre-wedding formalities. A couple of people were already there, so I just gave them a quick wave and went in to see the Registrar.

We had the same Registrar as the one who entered our notice last year, Trevor Love, which was nice because we knew him, and he was very sweet and said he'd look after me (he could see I was constantly crying, you couldn't miss it). After I'd paid our fee and sorted out our music, I went to find Chris to do pre-wedding official things with the Registrar. I went out into the main hall and suddenly about 60 people had all arrived. All our friends were there and everyone was smiling and happy, and Chris was there posing for photos with his Mum, and it was all so exciting.

Then after the official bits and bobs, everyone got sat down in the ceremony room, and Chris and I were walked in by our Mums with Seaside by the Kooks playing in the background. The ceremony was lovely, Trevor made it really nice and did a nice introduction and things, and it didn't feel short at all. He did muddle our names up and kept calling us the wrong thing, but that was fine because it made everyone laugh and helped me settle down and stop crying. I was so glad I got my vows out with blubbing completely!

Once the ceremony was over, we had some photos in the room, and then a little walk-past congratulations thing of all the guests, and then Chris and I exited into a terrifying barrage of confetti and cheers and sunshine.

Sorting out the photos took AGES, and the initial bit with Mum was really hard. She'd done too much too quickly, and it was too hot for her, and she just couldn't do any more, so we only got a few with her in on a rubbish bench by the Town Hall, and then she had to go. Then we had other photos on some steps, and lots and lots on the beach, including Chris and I on the carousel (got some funny looks from tourists) and in deck chairs and things.

Then it was off to join our guests again (most had gone back to the hotel during the photos) for our drinks reception, and then to sit down for dinner. Dinner was great, everyone liked their vegetarian sausages (told them they would) and they particularly enjoyed the quiz Chris had made. Mum didn't eat with us, she took her food upstairs to the restaurant because it was too noisy, but that was OK really. Chris and I circulated around a bit between courses, and then once dinner was over it was time for the speeches.

I have to say that our speeches were really, really good (although I'm biased). Chris' Mum started us off with a lovely touching one, while Chris squirmed next to me with nerves about having to do his. Then it was his turn, and he was great! Obviously nervous, which is unlike him, but it was very funny and went down very well. It was also rather rude throughout, as he had indicated to me previously it would be, with a few more jokes about anal sex than I normally care for in front of my parents, but even they were laughing their socks off. Then Catherine did her Best Woman's speech, which was also really good and very funny.

Then we had loads and loads of drinking and dancing! The music set up worked really well, the lights (that we picked at random from a brochure) looked really good, and people danced throughout from 8pm to 1am. Oo I almost omitted our first dance! That was at 8, to Basement Jaxx - Do Your Thing. Not very traditional I know, but we can dance to it, and it went well. Chris still cringes about it, but I think we looked really good!

The drinking and dancing was lots of fun, people seemed to really enjoy themselves, although I was getting quite tired by about 11.30 once my half hour's sleep started to catch up with me. We did have three moments of drama and injury though -
  • Jeh fell down about 8 stairs in a kind of rolling sideways tumble. She'd had quite a bit to drink and must have tripped on her heel or something, and although she escaped serious injury she did bash her head, bruise her back, and whack her ankle.
  • One of Chris' work friend trod on broken glass (silly ladies taking their shoes off to dance)
  • Catherine did a pirouette, fell over, and sprained her ankle, which promptly swelled up like a melon and she had to be carried out. Fortunately that was only about half an hour from the end!
And then it was 1am and people had left or were leaving. We had to say goodbye to Zac, who was moving to Cambodia for a new job two days later, so that was quite sad as I know we'll miss him.

And then everyone was gone and we were left to dismantle the music equipment for an hour, thinking "shouldn't someone else be doing this for us???". We got it done anyway, and then went to bed in our nice honeymoon suite and sat up talking about the day, and it was all lovely.

And that was my wedding! If I've missed any details maybe I'll add them later, this is massive already. Oh yeah - Dad got wasted on wine, had to have a sit on the beach with my brother, and then be put to bed, much to the annoyance of Mum who was therefore by disturbed by his arrival, his hiccuping, and his inability to get into the bed drunk because they'd tucked the sheets in too tight.

It was a lovely, lovely day, and it was so nice to have so many friends and family there. I kind of want to do it again as it was so nice! But I'm just pleased that it all went well, the weather was gorgeous (despite forecasts of rain), Mum managed to attend practically everything, and it basically all went brilliantly.
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Four weeks later...

God, SO much time has passed and so much has happened since I last wrote on here that it's almost too daunting to want to start doing it again! But, having blogged the whole of the run-up to the wedding, I can hardly not blog the actual event, now can I? I think I'll have to try and be fairly frugal though, or we'll be here all day...

So I shall try to catch up by doing posts summarising all the wonderful and exhausting things that have happened since 25 July, namely:
  • the wedding
  • New York
  • San Francisco
  • Stuart and Helen's wedding in Wiltshire
  • The epic adventure to get from Wiltshire to darkest Sweden in 16 hours (while also finding some time in there to sleep) for Rob and Emma's wedding
I think that amount of detail is about the most I can manage! And that'll more or less bring me back up to date. Phew! So let's start with post number 1...
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