The Week Before: Saturday, Aug 30 – Tuesday, Sept 9
As it is with any exciting getaway, the week leading up to our wedding adventure was the longest week in the history of all weeks. I was able to get in a few decent runs (including an epic 10 miler from downtown to Council Crest, crossing Hwy 26, through Washington Park / Rose Garden, and back to downtown as well as a beautiful waterfront gallivant, which included a symphony performance!). Then Jesse and I dropped off a confused but excited Riley with his BFFs Clyde and Bell and we flew away to Switzerland.
Geneva is an exciting city and the lake was nothing short of gorgeous. I, however, missed out on the first afternoon. Upon arrival to our extremely fancy hotel room (“Did you do the exercise? It’s good for the heart”), I made sleep my number 1 priority. Expecting an hour or so of rest, I awoke to an email from Jesse saying “Are you up sleepy head?” some 5 hours later. He had gone to meet up with some NZ friends to enjoy the lake while I snoozed the day away. We then found Jesse’s dad and sister and we all headed out for some dinner, where our waiter was unenthused at our order of 3 pizzas (for 6 people) and “just water, thanks”. We saw him again only once…to pay.
We wandered down to the lake once more for some evening slacklining, enjoying the beautiful weather and some good catching up time.
The next morning my parents, Jesse’s brother, and our Portland friends arrived in Geneva and after a confusing morning spent at the airport and a brief ride up the cable car for some bad paninis and a panoramic view, we began our caravan to the Alps. Jesse and I couldn’t wait to share the narrow winding roads, the renovated barns, the cowbells, and the endless croissants with our loved ones.
We kicked off the week with some paragliding. Even Ms. Sheridan had a turn! It was also Jesse’s dad’s birthday so we not-so-secretly found some beautiful cakes at our bakery (it’s hard keeping cake a secret with a 5 year old around) while we were in there confirming our wedding cake details / delivery schedule. Which, I might add, was all but lost in translation. The poor woman at the counter could only repeat herself while we looked sad, mortified, confused, and hopeful all at once.
Our crew “hiked” to the waterfall nearby – again, Ms. Sheridan was all prepared with her pack, complete with water for hydrating and a granola bar to keep her energy up. Jesse, Nic, and I continued on from the waterfall for some Alps trail running. After some decent elevation gain, I turned back to catch the farmer’s market and the boys continued on to the refuges and eventually ended up in town. Sadly, I had no ride into town and spent the afternoon lazing around the barn.
The next day we took in some rafting, which featured the good, the bad, and the ugly. Jesse and Nic wanted the solo boats, so I partnered up with Jen and we had a helluva time! After a briefing in questionable English, we hopped in our boat and struggled to paddle in a straight line! The water finally settled down some and we received another briefing, with brand new information (which ended up making way more sense the 2nd time around). Down a waterfall we went and were left to figure it out on our own – and boy did we ever! “Together! Now left! Now right! Crap, a rock! Crap, a rock! Crap, a rock!” And so we went…laughing all the way! Even the French guides joked that we were going to guide the next group; all in jest, of course, as we missed all but 3 rocks in the entire river, I’m certain.
We later learned of the other’s struggles and might have concluded that one big boat for us all with a guide to do the maneuvering might have been the better option. Live and learn.
One bittersweet feature of the week was the Mont Blanc Rally happening on Thursday-Friday-Saturday, which forced us to be up and off the mountain before 8 AM when the roads closed. But it also meant getting up and out of bed while on vacation before 7 AM. Both a curse and a blessing, as we could use the early start to take in more France-y things. Especially because most of the good shops close from noon to 2 or 3 PM…so best to get your shopping done early!
On Thursday, we all left the barns early and caravan-ed to Chamonix to see Mont Blanc on the world’s highest cable car, Aguille du Midi. I have very few words to describe what we all saw that day. At 12,605 feet, it was cold. And breathtaking – literally and figuratively. We all enjoyed the “glass box / into the void” experience and with some sort of luck, it was foggy that day – I may not have made it otherwise! I never thought I was afraid of heights, but sometimes your legs get to quaking and you have little control over how to stop it.
My sister was also able to get some amazing footage of a few base jumpers (you know, the guys in the flying squirrel suits). A lucky kind of “right place, right time” thing. I can’t imagine the adrenaline of their experience.
After the cable car fun, Jesse et al journeyed back up to Geneva to take Jen to the airport. She sadly had to leave us early to make it back to Oz for another wedding (though we luckily were able to keep Nic for ours!) and the remaining group took in Cern and the UN. Those of us who stayed behind toured the botanical garden (or the “special garden”, pronounced “pretzel garden”, per Sheridan). We reconvened at the barns later and it was eventually admitted that Cern was a bit of a let down, as Hanna and I initially predicted!
One thing I loved about having such a great group all staying together was the communal dinners. One of the barns had a big kitchen and sizable dining table, so we had a couple of meals where we just made massive quantities of food (soup, burritos, pasta, and literally dozens of eggs and bananas were eaten!). I love love loved it! And Sheridan kept us all busy with endless games of hide and seek. We finished off several evenings playing rounds of pool and one particularly funny evening was spent with my beloved Cards Against Humanity! “________! It’s a trap!” Winning answer: The Make A Wish Foundation (oh, the humanity!). It’s a game you don’t want to actually win and from our group, it turns out John is the most horrible person!
On Friday morning we met up with Jesse’s aunt and uncle from Canada, as well as his great aunt and uncle from Germany (I loved that so many countries were represented on our adventure!) We set up the slackline again and Sheridan found a sweet dog to ride (might I add, the photo of her CRACKS me up!)
We later enjoyed some rally car racing with a huge crowd and incredible views.
We then decided we should go take a look at our wedding venue, as we had no idea where it even was, how to get there, or what it looked like.
Upon arriving, we were extremely confused about what was going to happen that Sunday. The refuge seemed small (also closed and shabby) and there were motorhomes everywhere; rally car racers, we assumed. We followed the hiking signs leading to the name we recognized and it became obvious what was going to happen on Sunday: we were going to get married in the most amazing location. And then it started to downpour.
After a few minutes of smiles, kisses, and reassurances, we took refuge under a tree. Pretty soon we saw my dad driving up to get us, but he took a wrong turn! Jesse sprinted to the hut for the women and children and I sprinted toward the car to rescue my dad! Soaking wet and grinning, we all made our way down the hill.
My mom’s mission while in town was to visit all 9 of the area’s chapels, so on the way back to town we made a pit stop in a tiny hamlet to check one off the map. After wandering around a very old building and receiving some quizzical glances from a man watering flowers, we concluded it wasn’t the church at all! It seemed to just be someone’s shed! With a briskness in our steps that was so obviously mortification, we found the correct chapel, laughing and hoping none would be the wiser!
On Saturday, Jesse and Nic went mountain biking in Les Gets. I trekked with my family to Les Gets and Morzine (which was the hub for the rally cars) and we enjoyed chocolate covered pastries and café au laits. Sheridan once again suffered from the “excessive lunch hour(s)” the French love so much. The carousal in Morzine was up and running but by the time we reached it, the man locked his hut and sped away on a motorcycle, leaving us deciphering a handwritten note that I took to read “will return in 4 hours”. I didn’t have the heart to tell her. Thank goodness for Tuffy, her tiny French vending machine puppy or we would have left extremely sad faced. She perked up quickly with a trip to her greatly anticipated Indiana Jones Park, complete with zip lining! She’s totally a Ninja Warrior now!
Another group had done some wine tasting that day and brought back bottles to use for our wedding wine – I was excited to taste their selections! We were even a bit conservative and were able to bring a few bottles home to enjoy.
Our lovely photographer arrived Saturday night and Sunday was our wedding day – stay tuned for the story!
On Sunday evening we returned to the waterfall, which Jesse couldn’t resist jumping through, at Sheridan’s insistance! We enjoyed the sunset against the mountain (we named it Mt. Waas, because obviously) and taught Sheridan all about running, heart rates, and proper stretching!
Throughout the day on Monday we said goodbye to most of our guests. A small group convened for a fun lunch downtown of hamburgers, crepes, and pamplemousse juice. We then spent the afternoon with Susan and John and Jesse’s Canadian/German relatives in town. We had a great time just hanging in the yard and celebrating with a wonderful dinner at their hotel. It was really such a great conclusion to the week and I was grateful to have it wind down so beautifully.
Tuesday morning we woke up early to tidy up, pack, exchange keys, and say goodbye to the French Alps. We had a lovely drive to Chambery, France to return the rental car and boarded a train to Milan to continue the fairy tale.