My Sister’s Wedding & Two Weeks In The UK
Can I have a gin and tonic please?
The impeccably attired gentleman behind the bar breathed in and gave me a polite smile, the English equivalent of a deep sigh and roll of the eyes. His bow tie might have quivered slightly.
“We have 54 different types of gin, and 7 types of tonic”
He let the gravity of the choice sink in and smiled again, waiting patiently the same way you might for an old lady to shuffle across the road
“Ah yes then, well” I stammered, clearing my throat “perhaps you could recommend one?”
It had been many years since I lived in the UK so clearly I was out of practice, and it was taking a while for it all to come back into focus. This country, much like all places is a melange of it’s past and present. It’s got a rich and varied history to draw from both culturally and food-wise, so at times it’s so very proper and old-fashioned whereas at other times it’s incredibly modern and hip. It’s a wonderfully mixed bag and my feelings about it are often quite mixed too.
There are things I truly love about the UK, like 54 different kinds of gin, Jersey Double Cream (you literally haven’t lived until you try it), real cheddar cheese (incredible stuff), green rolling hills, cozy pubs, English rock music (it’s a separate genre in my mind) and relaxing countryside walks. There are things I don’t miss at all, like the seemingly never-ending dreary grey winters (they’re horrible, truly) and the insane road traffic on the M25. And then there are things that defy all possible logic, like separate hot and cold taps in the bathroom sink (yikes, it’s too cold…ouch, its too hot…but why modernize?).
But the whole is what makes the UK what it is. It’s the old with the new, the traditional with the modern, and if you slot yourself in and go with the flow you’ll eventually feel all that warm Englishness fold around you like a big, fluffy blanket. By the end of it all those separate hot/cold taps might even make some kind of sense…
The Gloriousness Of Summer In The UK
We were here for my sisters wedding and by the time we arrived the UK summer was in full swing.
Although I’m no fan of English winters, I sure do miss their summers! It’s a glorious time of year when everyone gets out to enjoy the rare warm weather. There’ll be families milling through old streets, shops selling no end of delicious baked goods, folks lounging on vibrant grassy lawns and pubs overflowing with people and their furry best friends (almost everywhere is dog-friendly over here you know).
And the weather, which is always a keen topic of conversation in the UK, can sometimes (not always mind you, but at times) be spectacular. A few showers here and there of course (all quite normal), but sun the rest of the time and usually very pleasantly warm. When it’s poor it’s so-so, but when it’s good it’s really good!
In our case we were were getting the best of the best with a slew of perfectly sunny, mid-20’s (that would be around mid-70’s, for my US readers) days. The water was reflecting the colorful terraced houses like a dreamy film, sea gulls were singing, and the old hotel we were staying at was overlooking it all like a fine English manor. There might even have been music playing (old-time jazz I think) and a few folks having a pint or cup of Earl Grey tea on the outdoor patio.
It was all quite magical and exactly what we’d dreamed about. I LOVE this country in summer!
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself here…
The Hen Night (Bristol, UK)
I’d arrived in Bristol the week before. I flew in ahead of Paul in order to help my sis with any last-minute details and fulfill my duties as head bridesmaid.
Amongst other things that meant organizing the Hen night, that all-important night of required debauchery prior to saying “I do” (or as it’s often done in England “I will”). Of course being a geek and a nerd (my sister is VERY much like me) we simply couldn’t do the standard get drunk and hire strippers thing. No, it had to be tailored specifically to my sister’s quirky self.
So our itinerary consisted of a Pokémon theme where we all wore matching “Pia’s Poké Hens” T shirts, an Escape Room (Locked In A Room = you have 60 minutes to get out of a themed room by solving puzzles…SO much fun!), followed by a picnic and silly games on the lawn (at College Green), finishing up with a Gin Making session (Weber & Trings = all very informative, and boozy of course) and a very respectable dinner by the Bristol river (Aqua Restaurant). It was an absolute blast and my sister loved every minute of it, which was exactly what I’d hoped for.
The following 5 days we spent at my sisters & hubby-to-be’s place in Bristol recovering and prepping for the big day. My dad had arrived at the same time I did so we did a bit of sightseeing around town (a place I’ve visited and blogged about before) and together we shared several good meals and wine with our couple-to-be. Soon, my sister would be a bachelorette no more…
The Wedding Spot (Fowey, Cornwall UK)
The following Friday we drove ~3 hrs south to Fowey (pronounced “Foy” as in “joy”) a superbly quaint town on the Southern Cornish coast.
Cornwall, if you don’t happen to know where that is, is the very southwestern tip of the English Isles, the end of the long horn-shaped bit that sticks out from the southwest corner of the country. It’s a rugged and beautiful place, packed with Celtic history and marked by a fabulously wild coastline that runs along the sea. There are miles of hiking trails running along ancient paths, remote sandy beaches and even surfing (popular on the North Coast, particularly).
And in between the cliffs and nature you’ll find some of the most charming little English towns you’ll ever see. Quaint little places often centered around a harbor, with old-time architecture and impossibly narrow cobblestoned streets that wind up steep hills past a fine selection of pubs and restaurants. The Cornish are proud of their heritage and consider themselves very much their own people with a separate culture (and even language) from the rest of the UK.
It’s a seriously wild and pretty place!
And finally there’s the food, with many delicacies specific to the area. Amongst other things there’s Cornish Cream Tea (the jam and cream are layered the other way around here), Cornish Pasties (which you may think you’ve have tasted if you’ve traveled through the Midwest of the US, but you won’t really understand until you try them in Cornwall), Cornish Ice Cream (tradiontally made with clotted cream…oh my!), Cornish Mead, Pilchards and Newlyn Crab.
I tell you now, if you’ve ever dreamt of a truly immersive English summer experience this is the place!
The Big Day (The Fowey Hotel, Cornwall, UK)
My sister and her husband-to-be had arranged for most of the wedding party to stay at The Fowey Hotel, a wonderfully quaint boutique hotel from 1882. We had spectacular rooms overlooking the harbor and every detail of their big day was organized to perfection.
The night before the big day we were given a boat-ride in the harbor followed by a classic pub dinner. So relaxing and a lovely way to start the week-end.
The following morning my sister arranged for both of us to get our hair and make-up done. We met in her room at 9AM and had a blast getting dolled up and pretty (I’ve literally never looked so “girly” in my long tom-boy life!!). Around 11AM the rest of the bridesmaids and bridesmen (yes, she had two men on her side!) joined us to chat, mingle and finalize the sister-prep.
Once my sister was ready and radiating more beauty than an Elven fairy in a Tolkein novel (seriously, she was STUNNING!) we went downstairs so she could wed her man-to-be. It was a simple and elegant ceremony in the main dining room of the hotel, and the young couple laughed and giggled like young teenagers on their first date. Perfection, literally!
The rest of the day was just one great event after the other with fine food, great wine (my dad helped procure some excellent wine from France), comedy (they hired comedians for the dinner which was both a surprise and an awesome treat!), games, music, singing and dancing.
There were lots of quirky additions specific to the couple, like Star Trek command pins for all the bridesmaids (my sis is a Trekkie, of course), a cheese tower (instead of a wedding cake…it was awesome!!) and a hangover cure kit (as favors for the guests). I made the Bridal Speech and survived (no awkward cricket moments, thank goodness), my dad danced the night away (like a youngster, I tell you!) and the whole wedding party had a blast.
I know everyone says their wedding day was magical, but this day really WAS magical, both for my sister/hubby and the rest of us. I couldn’t have imagined a lovelier setting or a more awesome day.
Home & Away
After the wedding Paul sped on home to “the beast” and the paws who’d been thoroughly pampered and loved by our friends Sue & Dave (and best pawpal Lewis) in Western NY. Polly LOVED her time there and was so very sad when she had to say goodbye.
Meanwhile my dad and I flew into New York City for our big father/daughter adventure. Plus, something terribly sad happened in-between it all that shook our foundation & changed our travel plans for this year and next. I’m not ready to write about the latter quite yet, so that’ll have to wait for a future post. Suffice to say that a phase of our lives has ended and a new one is beginning. Such is life…
The most important thing is that our big “event” for the year was complete, and it was a roaring success. The wedding was amazing and my sister and hubby are already enjoying their month-long honeymoon RV vacay in CA. They’ve rented a snazzy little van and are zooming through a spectacular ~1,700 mile food/wine, mountain & coastal itinerary which I helped plan for them. So far, they’re LOVING it!
On the other side of the country, dad and I have re-joined Paul and the paws in “the beast” and are taking an RV caravan trip to Maine with Paul’s dad and step-mom. We’ve got at least a week more of joint travel before we part ways so lots of adventures in the plans. All that and more coming next…SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Sounds like a truly magical day to celebrate their union… so happy you were able to be such a big part of it!
I’m so very happy we were both able to make it. Such a special Family event that we’ll remember forever more.
Carolyn Burelbach says
I really like the idea of a cheese tower instead of cake. Why didn’t I think of that? Beautiful pictures, Nina. Your sister looked stunning. What a wonderful celebration.
The Cheese Tower was genius! They had 4 different types of cheese, all specially procured from their fav cheese places for the day. Delish!
Another great post, Nina! You are a great writer and I love following your blog. Your campground reviews have helped us in decisions as we fulltime several times!
Coincidentally, we too are heading back to our coach after our son’s wedding! And, weirdly, we too had a similar very scary family incident happen the week before the wedding…so, emotionally, the best of times, and the sad times…simultaneously. You are not alone, girlfriend!
Oh gosh, I so understand those happy/sad feelings. Tough times for sure. I’m glad you had a wonderful wedding, and I hope whatever else you had to go through will pass and fade in strength over time. Hugs to you.
Laura Kuhn says
What a wonderful story you tell. I am so “there” in the scene with your great descriptions! Thank you for all you do with Wheeling It. I read every post from beginning to end. I hope all is well with you…. and that your future journey is wonderful.
Cheers for following along on our journey!
The wedding looked truly magical. I’m so glad we could help you both celebrate your lovely sister’s big day.
Only one thing…..we New Yorkers are very particular about where, in this big state, we live. As Dave and I travel most people assume we live in THE CITY (or downstate). We sigh and explain that we live on the other end of the state, in the rolling green hills of Western New York. Upstate New Yorkers live in the Capitol area near Albany! So very confusing I know. I guess we all feel we have to keep our individuality, defend ourselves from that big city downstate!
So, what gin did you choose Nina? The one you showed us looked mighty tempting to me!
Western NY it is (I’ll correct the post). I ended up choosing Tarquin’s Gin, although I don’t recall the exact tonic. They served the combo with red grapefruit which I found interesting. Every gin combo had a different addition.
And thanks again for everything. Truly couldn’t have done this trip without you!
Allison Mohr says
Gorgeous photos of England. Another blogger I read just returned from Scotland, which is also stunning. Perhaps next summer there will be a road trip in our future. I’m so glad it was all good and exceeded expectations.
Sue Malone says
What a beautiful day. So wonderful to be part of a wedding like this for your very own sister. Just beautiful. And Cornwall? I never had any real desire to see England, but geez, your description of Cornwall changed my mind completely. The Celtic thing maybe? Sounds a bit like Ireland
Pamela Wright says
What a special time for you and your sister. I am sure she appreciated you being there to help with the final prep. She looked lovely:) You certainly did look wonderful. How sweet you did get your hair done:) The cheese tower was such an awesome idea!! I LOVE cheese but am not a cake fan.
Enjoy your time traveling with the family:)
It was such a special event and I’m beyond thankful I got to be part of it. With you on that cheese tower too! My sister never eats cake, but lives (loves, loves) her cheese. The idea was genius!
Exquisite writing, Nina. And photography, too. I always read your blog beginning to end and feel transported. Thank you. I’m sorry you have/had a scare that is causing a detour. Literally and figuratively. Sending positive vibes your way.
Dave Hoskins says
I’ve just read your Cornwall blog. My wife and I are in a house on the North Cornwall coast. We are starting to get the tail end of hurricane Gert coming over so the sea is getting very agitated and it is currently closed to surfers as the rip can be very dangerous. It can rainy or be flaring cobalt blue skies in the space of 30 minutes. The coast is similar to 17 Mile Drive near Monterey but with history going back 5000 years. There’s a mini-stone henge not far from us. Keep the posts coming. So glad you and Paul are doing well…
I thought of you when I was in Fowey! I know you have strong ties to Cornwall and often vacation there, but I wasn’t sure exactly where you typically stay. I’d love to go back and explore more of the area. Our few days in Fowey provided just a mere taste. I can only imagine what it’s like when the sea gets rough. So fine and pretty one moment and an angry mess the next. I’m sure it’s visually very dramatic.
Dave Hoskins says
We spent an afternoon at Lizard Point today. So balmy and temperate, clearly warmed by the gulf stream…
Peter McDonald says
Generally, I have very little interest in reading about weddings. I read every word of this post and appreciate all you wrote. You are a gifted writer. What a wonderful wedding! In addition, it really makes both Nannette and I want to visit this region on the UK in summer. Thank you for your good work!
Even though I don’t comment much, and I have never met you, I read all of your blog posts and I feel like I know you and Paul. Therefore we are concerned about what has happened to change things and we wish the best for both of you! You have friends you haven’t met yet!
Jodee Gravel says
Your hens day sounds like a blast – love the shirts!
Fowey looks like a very magical and romantic place – your photos are wonderful. It’s the very best when a special day comes together for everyone.
Rene Kipp says
Your photo of the houses on the hillside is gorgeous! If I went for a visit, I might not ever want to return. Your dad must have been so happy to have both of his girls sitting next to him again 🙂
Sounds like a beautiful wedding! I love Cornwall, we spent our honeymoon there many years ago. My favourite spot is Port Isaac but it gets incredibly crowded in the summer. I work in Bristol and often go to Aqua, its very handy for a pre-theatre dinner and we are due to go there in a couple of weeks before going to the Hippodrome to see the Royal Ballet. I’m really looking forward to it!
Oh the Royal Hippodrome! I have yet to go there and must do so next time I make it to Bristol. I love it that you know all these spots. I don’t have many readers in the UK so it’s such a treat when I hear from them.
Andy P says
You were really lucky with the weather, as we departed the SW on Sunday, after spending just over a week in Devon and Cornwall. While we did have some sunny spells, we experienced rain at least once a day.
Great comment on the taps. Having grown up in UK, you are used to it, but coming back after living in Canada for 35+ years, it does take some getting used to again.
The cheese wedding cake apparently is becoming increasingly popular in UK, as we watched a program about it on the telly. Couple of weeks ago, when driving from Yorkshire to the Lake District, we visited a shop in a small village that creates them and delivers all across North England.
I def think we lucked out. We had some fog one morning, but the sun broke out for the rest of the entire wedding weekend. It was lovely. So interesting about the Cheese tower trend. I’d never seen the idea until my sisters wedding, but loved it right away.
Cheers for the comments! I so love hearing from all my UK readers!
I loved this post Nina! Cornwall looks absolutely beautiful, and both you and your sister looked stunning! Haha, you girlie up pretty well! 🙂 Been following your blog for quite some time now, and I’m not only appreciative of the very useful RV content you provide (we’re in Sun Valley, ID at the moment in the RV park you reviewed), but also for your talented writing style and photography. Always a pleasure to read. Wishing the best for you and Paul in whatever lies ahead.
I hope everything is ok Nina. Unfortunately we have a hard time recognizing the great things in our lives until something bad gives us a dose of reality.
You are in our prayers!
I spent a month in London for work about 18 years ago and loved it. Hope to return some day and see more of the great country!