How to be a Cool Wedding Guest

DO

  1. Remember that the bride is the most beautiful, fantastic, breath-taking creature you will see at a wedding. Period. Be sure to get a good look at her as she enters and to tell her later just how beautiful, fantastic, breath-taking she is. It’s a truth universally acknowledged.
  2. Take a look at the groom’s face as his beautiful, fantastic, breath-taking bride approaches.
  3. Be in the moment and enjoy all the carefully prepared parts of the festivities. Sniff the flower arrangements, admire the church or the city hall, compliment friends or even women you don’t know on outfits you admire (but not in a creepy way) and smile around.
  4. Say yes when the married couple asks you to join in opening the dance floor.
  5. Be sure to convey heartfelt thanks to them for the lovely occasion that’s filling your heart and for taking such good care of their guests, whether in person or in a message. An enormous amount of work goes in to preparing a wedding, and a large part of it rests on the bride and groom’s shoulders.

DON’T

  1. Lose your cool if something is unclear or temporarily goes wrong.
  2. Forget to say hello or something nice to the best man and maid of honour.
  3. Diss or criticize. It’s not your place to do so, it’s uncalled for and it’s plain rude. It won’t be appreciated by anyone even if something is not up to your standards. I went to a wedding a few years ago and was surprised to hear a group of people at the next table heatedly axing the reception arrangements. Just no!
  4. Freak out if your pantyhose rips, there’s a huge bruise on the back of your leg and your dress is cocktail length, you lose your lipstick etc. Everyone will be looking at the bride!
  5. Underestimate the combination of comfortable in addition to pretty when picking your shoes.

A cool wedding guest (suitably sized) clutch or small handbag includes:

A packet of tissues

A packet of cleaning swipes

Band-Aids

Hairpins

Rubber bands

A pocket mirror

Lip-balm, tinted if you like

Gum

Enough cash for a cab to take you back home

A credit or ATM card

A fully charged phone

All set!

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Ondříkovice – a Weekend in the Czech Countryside

“A wedding, I love weddings!” says Jack Sparrow, and the same goes for me, though probably for different reasons than the ones he concluded his statement with. Seven hours on a Eurocity Express from Hamburg to Prague, and then I was picked up by one of the wonderful maids of honour to continue to the wedding location, Statek

I had mostly been to Prague before and it was exciting to see the landscape change to the stuff of those Czech fairytale films I remembered from my childhood. Hilly, green, lush – the busy highway eventually gave way to narrower country roads boardered by fields, grass and occasional forest. I was indeed in a village and we had to ask for directions despite the GPS. But time moved differently here. And when I stepped out of the car and breathed in, it was as if great buckets of something else entirely were being poured straight in to my lungs, making them expand. A city girl I am, through and through, and this air was immediately and completely different. “You don’t go to places like this often, do you?” one of my co-passengers remarked shrewdly.

Located on the edge of what is known in the Czech Republic as the Bohemian Paradise, Statek is a lovingly restored farmhose which combines comfort with features that help retain its original charm, like the wooden furniture and staircase. Flowers spill from windowsills and corners, and it’s all so idyllic I can’t quite believe it. It’s also very warm and summer is simply everywhere. Wide fields surround the property and a spacious courtyard makes for breakfast outside in good weather.

The sounds from the cosily creaking staircase in the lobby mingle with the excited voices of guests running to and fro between rooms as they prepare for the wedding. I step outside on the wooden balcony spanning the second floor and run my hand carefully along the railing, watching stripes of sunlight settle on it. It feels like a happy house.

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“Recycling” Your Clothes

As has probably been clear from this blog, I do my fair share of pop-culture related and celebrity media coverage reading. It provides smalltalk or even full-fledged conversation fodder and taps in to my non-malicious sarcasm streak. It’s also, at times, simply baffling. Especially in the area of this type of coverage focusing on women. And I have just about had it with one particular wording repeating itself in English-speaking media all over the world:

Kate Middleton recycling her clothes. Seriously! Here’s a small selection of headline examples:

From the giggling…

MailOnline: A royal blush! Kate recycles a shimmering pale pink £3,000 Jenny Packham gown as she and Prince William attend an opulent charity gala in Norfolk.

to the gossipy…

Independent.ie: That looks familiar! Kate Middleton recycles Roksanda ress for Wimbledon.

…to the possibly breathless with excitement (I mean, Snapchat)…

Celebuzz: Kate Middleton Makes her Snapchat Debut in a Recycled Dress.

…to the profound, mind-shattering questions:

EOnline: Is It Time for Kate Middleton to Stop Recycling Clothes?

Is it time to throw away clothes entirely and go outside in creations improvised from stuff lying around the house?

At least as a grown woman I finally know what I have been doing with clothes all my life that I have actually kept – I did not wear them, I recycled them. Regardless of what one thinks of the Duchess of Cambridge and the British monarchy, I say kudos to stepping out during public events in dresses the media is dilligent enough to recognize and zealously catalog. And to be honest, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t care. She shouldn’t. But must there be a term for this? Yes, society, celebrity and style coverage play by their own rules, but the word  “recycle” just irkes me.

Ah, who cares about the media anyway.

kate

 

 

 

Disneyland Paris as an Adult, Day 2

I discover that I’m hearing Disney film music buzzing in my ears even when none is playing nearby, or even screams from the more extreme rides in the park.

We make good use of our early access tickets and tick a few more stops at Park Disneyland before proceeding to Walt Disney Studios. We journey along with Pinocchio until he becomes a real boy, with the presence of BABIES reassuring me that this is not a secret breakneck speed type rollercoaster, and we make it out of Snow White’s forest alive – considering most of Disney’s animated features are aimed at children, they sure contain some scary stuff (which I said to avoid using another word). Another mark of the enduring power of these creations if you can still acknowledge that as an adult.

The Pixar short film festival plays throughout the day at the Discoveryland Theater also in Park Disneyland – a very recommendable stop. 4D glasses add to the excitement, as well as some convincing effects. For the Birds was my favourite, points out of ten for moral elements and humour, plus of course anyone who has ever been bullied or felt like they needed to defend their individuality will identify with the story. And something else – this cartoon reminds us that karma sees everything.

At Walt Disney Studios we sit down in another theater and lose ourselves in a multilingual montage of Disney’s animated classics (with particular emphasis on those with French origins or set in France). I am, quite simply and humbly, reminded of what makes Disney Disney. As my sibling points out, we haven’t seen Mufasa die on the big screen since 1994, and I’m just as banged up about it as ever. Scenes of Bambi crying for his mother do not help.

Riding some (almost) magic carpets on an Aladdin-themed carousel afterwards brings a pleasant surprise, I can look down and around me, see it all, “…shining, shimmering, splendid.”

Yes, I was just singing that at the top of my voice. If not here, then where else?

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The Arena by Lindsey Stirling

The inspirational, home-hitting and ever relevant quote from Theodore Roosevelt about facing life and what courage really is opens Lindsey Stirling’s latest music video, The Arena. And Lindsey would know, through personal experience, and in thinking this I immediately go back in my mind to her autobiography The Only Pirate at the Party. Many will shout, only a few will do – an ongoing theme in her music.

Visually grittier than most of Lindsey’s previous music videos, The Arena shows a story set in a seemingly fantastic space, but immediately painfully realistic in the scenes it depicts. People are thrown in to the fray of life for whatever reason, and even without actual lions waiting to pounce, the frowning crowd watching emanates a threatening sense that this could get ugly, as Lindsey and her partner, played by Derek Hough, move towards the center of this arena.

Is it a dying circus? A gang? Steam punk meets tribal meets Western meets dystopia? As always in Lindsey’s videos, the myriad of genres, ideas, associations and styles blends together to create something unique and memorable. Stepping next to a partner (relatively new for Lindsey) who looks like one of the fastest ballroom dancers in the world, her petite form is more obvious, but her posture is both graceful and determinedly strong at the same time.

It’s like Roundtable Rival flipped over, a mirror version, but in a world grey and desolate. Something needs to be reclaimed here. Love? Self-respect? Bravery? Happiness?

The sharpness of Lindsey’s violin cuts through my hearing, matching the dizzying speed of the dance movements. Once again both take mybreath away.

Anyone can become a target and be forced in to the arena, and it seems the message in the video is that a battle, whether big or small, is never far away, but whether fighting or not, it’s about not stopping being yourself. And, importantly so, to look around and realize that you don’t always have to do it alone, as you might have thought.

Welcome to The Arena.

Disneyland Paris as an Adult, Day 1

“Everytime I come back, it’s like becoming a kid again,” a French colleague of mine said to me dreamily when I shared my weekend plans. “I think I never really stopped,” I replied.

I thought about this some more in the RER train en route to Disneyland Paris, making my fluent in perfect French sibling laugh with my literal English pronounciation of the Noisy-Champs station we passed. It translates as nutty fields, by the way. I don’t know which I enjoy more. But hey, to quote Daria, it’s a nutty, nutty world, and maybe with Walt and Mickey’s help I could escape it for a while.

I want to remember her as well, I realize. The child who discovered herself, not just the adult. I want to carry the things she found out then inside myself, because they still make me who I am. And she is me, just independent, bill-paying, more knowledgable about polite sarcasm and prone to sentimentality.

Somehow I felt this trip would round up all these thoughts anew, since Disney animation was such a big part of my childhood and continued to be so later on in life, coloured by a special sense of memory and appreciation for discovering the stories from an adult point of view.

Trekking along to our hotel independently at first with the aid of Google Maps proved fruitless, as despite Google’s encompassing power, the Maps failed to recognize the high rows of trees blocking our progress as impenetrable. But we were already essentially in Disneyland, with Disney thinking and Disney music inflitrating our brains, so off to the bus shuttle we went, which just didn’t arrive for a while – one of the easiest things to do if you want to make someone who’s lived in Germany for years twitchy.

Once we reached Hotel Cheyenne it was truly like stepping back in time.

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Except we were larger and the security check in the lobby was a painful reminder of current events. What I notice is also how I automatically switch to accommodating this necessary procedure in my daily routine for the moment, while simultaneously thinking it’s just sad.

Hotel Cheyenne is one of the affordable accommodation options at Disneyland Paris. Family-friendly and spacious, many buildings with apt names like Billy the Kid or Calamity Jane spread beyond the main one with the lobby, lining a broad street built like a typical scene from a town in an American Western. Not only do they look the same as I remember from the one time I stayed here as a child, but so does the interior of our room. It’s almost bizarre to see the exact same table lamp with a cowboy boot for a holder, or the horse-patterned stripe of wallpaper just below the ceiling. A short attempt to climb the ladder to the top bunk proves that this is a) painful and not advisable in socks; b) silly as the bunks are too small for us now anyway. There’s also a weight limit I’m pretty sure I exceed nowadays.

If you can walk from your hotel to the park, do! The surrounding area is green and wide in the summertime, otherwise bus shuttles from the hotels actually are frequent. As for booking the travel package and all that practical stuff, two words: in advance!

One more predictable security check and we were strolling towards the gorgeous, prominent and posh Disneyland Hotel. I was still having trouble believing where I was, so I settled for the dreamy state of acceptance.

Little girls dressed like Belle and Snow White skipped past me along Main Street. Bachelorette party (or hen do) groups from England popped up every few minutes in a flurry of sequinned Minnie Mouse ears and young sisters holding hands dashed in to shops overflowing with Elsa and Anna dresses, some emerging as two Elsas or two Annas. Yes, Frozen was being marketed very heavily indeed, despite being released all the way back in 2013.

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Lunching and snacks immediately and predictably wander in to the fast food area, especially if your weekend budget revolves around the € and not the €€€. Service is efficient and quick, though, and visitor traffic moves fast enough so that seating opportunities don’t require major waiting time. The Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlour beckons from accross Casey’s Corner, bringing back memories of reading The Langhorne Sisters by James Fox, but the hot dog and fries I had don’t leave room for more.

Leaving the beautifully decorated shop window displays on Main Street behind us, we proceed towards Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Blush pink and blue-capped, just as I remember, it’s animation come to life without being overdone and the elegant landscaping around it reminds of the various aspects of hard work connected to putting Disneyland Paris together.

A major point of excitement was exploring the castle inside, where I promptly went Disney crazy with my camera among all the carefully reproduced scenes from the eponymous animated classic.

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And then off to the Dragon Lair we went. The wailing I heard inside confirmed what my Disneyland Paris app said – some of the scenes could frighten younger guests. While I wasn’t one, I still clutched my sibling’s hand simply because it was so dark in there.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant was the first ride stop on that day and the slight nerves I had about going up and down (I know, pathetic, it’s a carousel that kids go on) dissipated as soon as I took in the view seated atop our little soaring elephant.

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I’ll just have to suck it up and watch Dumbo to the end, because when I was little the scene with him and his mother in separate cages broke me and I couldn’t continue.

My logically thinking sibling successfully took us through Alice’s labyrinth, leaving me only slightly dizzy, but not late.

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A quick dash in the Mad Hatter’s Teacups (no, we didn’t want to turn the wheel in the middle of our cup to make it spin when the WHOLE PLATFORM of the ride was already doing so) made us laugh. And then, like any self-respecting Disneyland visitors, we set off for the Princess Pavillion, me singing along loudly to various instrumental Disney soundtracks wafting from hidden speakers around us.

While waiting in line I busied myself with my camera once more, particularly enjoying the glowing Disney artefacts displayed behind glass panes and accompanied by a short snippet from the relevant story in French and English.

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“Is there anyone else here without kids?” My sibling whispered. “I don’t know,” I replied, “But look, it’s from The Little Mermaid, it’s the shell, the shell!” I succeeded in getting the lady in front of us to turn around and give me a look, though I didn’t care. The shell! Yes, the Princess Pavillion is essentially for kids, but once we were there, I wanted to see it through. Snow White was lovely, by the way, and she said she liked my earrings. She also compared us to Elsa and Anna, so a good day’s work for us, I say.

The boat ride through Storybook land followed all this princess excitement – a ride I thoroughly enjoyed, with all the recognizable details in the careful miniature reproductions of some of Disney’s most iconic animated features.

To shake things up and with more memories running through our minds, we lined up to go on Pirates of the Carribean just as it started to rain. Savvy! Deeper and deeper we ventured until we reached our boat. Even my limited French was enough to understand the dad seated in front of us saying excitedly to his kids, “Descente!” and I screamed my head off even if it was a short drop, because I’m a scaredy cat. Points out of ten to this ride in terms of atmosphere, though, and I could understand the British teenagers dashing past us to line up again. “We’ve already been three times!” Due to the movie(s) having already come out since I last visited as a child, scenes of looting pirates laughing were all the more impressive and for a few minutes you forget where you are.

One more stop was on our list and as we rounded a corner, the Phantom Manor suddenly came in to view.

During my last visit I was successfully scared in to not going inside, and I said I would come back. Convincingly draped cobwebs adorned the lamps above our heads and the darkness in the antechamber we entered was immediately intimidating. My feverish visual scan of the premises strengthened the hope that this house didn’t include hidden roller coasters, as did the presence of small children around us. I don’t want to include spoilers, of course, but I will say that the wait of many years was worth it and the interiors are fantastic. Surely fun stop at Halloween.

Sated with impressions and walking as we already were, there was one more special point of the evening left to attend to – Disney Dreams, the evening show. Darkness was starting to settle as we approached Sleeping Beauty’s Castle later. People were lining Main Street as we grabbed some hot chocolate and found a good spot.

Music began to play and the castle became an illuminated mesmerizing stage for a medley of Disney animation and music. With the rest of the crowd I sang my heart out to Elsa’s Let It Go amid one of the most beautiful fireworks I have ever seen.

A truly enchanting end to a special day, not without “adult” thoughts (How much does it cost to put on such a display? How eco-friendly are those flames? Is all the merchandise produced under the same unfair employment conditions we read about so much?)

But I do still remember her, the girl I was thinking about on the train ride here.