Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A few days in Paris

July 6 Mon:
After the wedding, we spent a few days in Paris with the Wong and Ginn family (I am the oldest of two siblings, Cami & Chase). My friend from grad school, Liana, and Chase’s friend, Jack, also joined us. Ah Paris, I miss the pastries already!

I went out with Liana on her birthday, and we basically meandered around the city trying to find the “cuteness” (a cute place to eat lunch) with a bit of shopping and much needed catching up.

In front of the Saint Laurent church.

The birthday girl and her birthday snails!
Marc went to the Louvre with my family. It was very crowded, but they got to see the big ones (Mona Lisa, winged victory, etc.). We decided to meet at McDonalds for lunch though everyone got a bit lost. McDonalds became a recurring theme/eating spot for my family, and I’ll admit--I had a burger or two (the disgrace!).

Visit to Montmarte, the highest peak in Paris.

Just a couple of dancers at the Moulin Rouge.

July 7 Tues:
We made an early morning visit to the Eiffel Tower. Then we had to take our mandatory goofy photos in front of the tower.  
How romantic.
A flattering family portrait.
Finally perfected our jumping photo!
The "kids" visited the Orsay Museum (which was built in an old train station).

Visit to the Parisian catacombs. The line was long so we spent time working out riddles (message me if you have any, I love me a good riddle). The catacombs themselves were quite creepy with the remains of about 6 million people. The bones appeared to be stack up at least 6 feet high and maybe 20-30 feet deep.

Some of us were more fearful than others.

July 8 Wed:
Visit to Versailles Palace (sans Dad). Turns out it is quite cold, so Cam and I share an oversized cardigan, and got more than a few stares from fellow tourists.


The regal halls were beautiful, as expected, but actually we really enjoyed walking around Marie Antoinette’s faux peasant village.
Faux lake and faux adorable village.
Just a couple of statues, trying to blend in.

Went shopping with Cam at Les Halles mall, but underestimate the time and end up sprinting through Paris to dinner at Robert et Louise steak restaurant.

Mmm, freshly grilled meat.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Surprise Wedding Gift

On July 5th, the day after our wedding celebration, my family organized a surprise wedding gift for Lauren and I. So after a night of sleep at my aunt and uncle’s house, the Courvoisiers in Simandre-sur-Suran, and after breakfast on their patio, we were impatient to see where the day would take us.

My siblings, Marianne and Sylvain, drove us to Chamonix, a mountain resort in the French Alps, about 2 hours away. We drove up a narrow gravel path on the side of the mountain, where our final destination was, as well as a small restaurant. We stopped here for a little while to have drinks.

Drinks at the restaurant.

Then we walked the gravel path toward our final destination: a helicopter station! We were going on a half-hour helicopter flight above the Alps, flying above the Mont Blanc, Aiguille du Midi, many other peaks, valleys, glaciers, etc.

About to climb in the helicopter.
We were all wearing noise-cancelling headphones + mic to communicate with other passengers and with the pilot (4 other passengers were riding with us).
I had a good view of the dashboard from my seat.
Refuge du Goûter.
Aiguille du Midi (3842 m / 12605 ft) - the buildings at the top are very precarious looking! I remember visiting it as a teenager.
Mont Blanc (4810 m / 15781 ft), where we saw lots of people climbing.

At some point the pilot decided to make a U-turn to follow a small airplane. He caught up with it, flying at almost maximum speed (200 km/h / 120 mph), and we were close enough we could see its passengers waving at us.
One of the beautiful glaciers we saw.

After coming down from the helicopter ride, we stopped for lunch to have traditional dishes from the region: tartiflette, raclette, etc.

We drove out to Geneva to take the train to Paris. The weather was very hot: 41⁰C / 105⁰F, so we cooled off by walking in the mist of the Geneva Water Fountain and by eating ice cream.

Geneva Water Fountain (140 m / 450 ft).

We walked on one of the beaches on the shore of Geneva Lake. Unfortunately Sylvain stepped on something in the water (broken glass?) and cut his foot! We took him right away to the hospital to get stitches. We had to part ways in the emergency room so that Marianne could give us a ride to the train station.

We arrived in Paris late at night, to meet the Wong family who had arrived there earlier in the day. We all stayed at an AirBnB rental in the 11th arrondissement.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Day of the wedding!

July 4, 2015: The wedding! Not a travel update, but part of the journey. We'll have more photos of everyone once we get them from the professional photographer. Stay tuned!

The morning of the wedding was a bit chaotic, but everyone worked very hard (in the 32⁰C / 90⁰F heat) and pulled it all together.

Éva doing calligraphy for the escort cards.
Getting all prettied up.

The tables are set.
The ceremony site in the great hall is almost ready.

Marc and I made our grand entrance on a white horse named Salambo. The guests greeted us at the top of the hill.

Surprise! Children showering us with flower petals upon arrival.
We had a short ceremony (in French) in the great hall of the castle. Marc’s uncle, Michel, even did the honors in full period costume!

Marc wrote my vows in phonetic French, so I could fake it ;)

The bridal party signed pages in a bible that was more than 300 years old, from Éva’s family.

We signed in ink with a feather pen.
Marc's family.
Lauren's family (plus an adorable little girl who wouldn't let go of my hand). 
Scenes from around the castle.
View from right outside the castle.
The wish tree!
Speech by Marc's dad, Jacques, and beautiful song by Éva.
Amazing band with a growing entourage.

Loving all these dance moves :)
Our traditional French dessert cake, pièce montée, which was fittingly in the shape of a castle.

Other memorable moments:
  • Marc seeing all his relatives, and some of his cousins' kids for the first time!
  • Although the kids didn’t speak much English, one little girl wanted to show me a picture she drew, which was a Christmas scene with Marc, me, and… a baby! Whoah, slow down there kiddo, haha.
  • Releasing balloons from a balcony down into the castle courtyard and beyond!
  • I got in an epic water spray battle versus all the kids. I’d like to say I won, but those kids were sneaky.
  • Marc’s uncle, Guy, performed a complicated and well rehearsed dance ;)  
  • Marc opened a champagne bottle with a saber, yes, a small saber sword. And the rest of the champagne bottles came out with sparklers attached.
  • At the end of the night, all the guests lined up with candles lighting out way down the hill. It was magical.

[Special thank yous: Jacques and Éva did an AMAZING job of planning, organizing, and coordinating the wedding, we are really grateful for all their hard work and preparation. Marc’s sister, Marianne, did a great job coordinating and MCing (master of ceremony) the wedding, and even made us a Japanese wish tree. My friend from grad school, Liana, came all the way from Cambodia, so of course we had to put her to work translating French and doing floral design, hehe. Many thanks to Seb for his seriously awesome band that rocked out all night. Thank you to my family for all the help setting up on the day of the wedding. And last but not least, to the Hupays family for allowing us to have this celebration at their beautiful castle!]

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Preparations at the Castle

Two days before the wedding we left Le Creusot for Conflans, the hamlet where my uncle and aunt, Michel and Élisabeth, have their castle which they graciously offered to celebrate the wedding. As a side note, it was built in the 13th century!

Aerial view.

In the garden.

Main entrance.

View from one of the towers.

The first day was filled with putting together the tents and tables, putting up the string lights and even a special kite that my dad and Éva made :) My dad also built the stage with help from one of my cousins, Franck.

Stage and kite.

Tables and tents.

On the second day, Lauren's side arrived. We all went out to dinner together in the city they were staying at, Bourg en Bresse (40 min from the castle).

The two sides meet for dinner.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Arrivée en France

On June 29th, we flew out of the US, and after 25 hours of travel starting from Carlsbad, CA, we have finally arrived in Le Creusot, France --Marc’s hometown! We’re here for our second wedding that will take place in Marc’s uncle’s castle in eastern France, le Chateau de Conflans. Most of Marc’s relatives couldn’t attend the San Diego wedding, and so we decided to have this second celebration.

We flew from San Diego to SF, then from SF to Paris, then took a night train to Le Creusot. Marc and I aren’t able to sleep on planes so it was a long 11-hour night flight… oof. I didn’t take any photos of this part because I was grumpy.

This picture of us in front of the Le Creusot train sign is fuzzy and awful, which is kinda how we felt after such a long trip.

When we finally got off the train in the middle of the night, Marc ended up giving a ride to some stranded South Koreans who found themselves stuck at the train station with no taxis available to take them to their hotel, and unable to speak a word of French.

Eventually, we all arrived at Marc's family house.

Photos of the Bevand family home.

We visited Marc’s grandmother, Gisèle, and his family nanny from when he was a kid, Ginette.

Visit with Gisèle.

We then spent the evening doing wedding planning. Jacques, Éva, and Marianne have done so much work, it’s amazing and we are so thankful!