Day 1 – Oh, but I do love me a good Sister Act 2 reference…
… but man does it feel good to be back! Or rather, away again! This time is quite different from my last adventure, but promises to be just as rich, if in a different way. Let me explain.I’ve ventured not just beyond the pond, but truly across the pond. First up is a quick weekend stop in Sargans, Switzerland for my brother-in-law’s sister’s wedding (ya follow?) Next stop is a long overdue visit to my birthplace, the land of tea and crumpets, impeccable etiquette, world class wit, poised snark, and, of course, my Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch. To Londontown I go. Lastly, a wee (and still mostly unplanned) road trip to Wales and Scotland, because why not?
The other great difference, besides location, is that while last time was a solo trip, this time I’ll constantly be in the company of friends and family, many of whom I haven’t seen for quite some time. So you see, this is a whole new thing, new venture, new experience. Traveling in company is sure to present its own set of blessings as well as challenges, and I eagerly look forward to soaking it all in, and sharing the hilarity that will surely ensue.
Speaking of hilarity (or lack thereof), the trip to Sargans turned out to be a bit of a longer haul than originally planned. Due to a technology glitch at my layover spot – Reykjavik, Iceland – all planes in and out of their airport were delayed. Unfortunately, my plane out to Zurich was not delayed quite as much. And so instead of heading straight to Switzerland, off to Copenhagen I went, and then to Zurich where I met up with my first travel companion – the mater. Somehow she managed to snag us a dope whip (shut up, I’m a 90s kid) on the cheap, and we left Zurich in style, driving a sleek all-black-errything Mercedes. Thinking on it, perhaps to blend in with the locals? In any case, this new guy – the car that is – is a far cry from my humble little dude in NZ. I took the wheel, spent a few minutes figuring out the new-fangled everything inside, and at last we zipped out of Zurich for the one hour drive to Sargans. Except by zipped I mean we very strictly adhered to all the traffic rules. My brother-in-law ‘s (Manny) mom kindly informed us wedding guests of the following:
“Contrary to the rather generous nature of United States highway patrols and State troopers, when it comes to fining foreigners for excess of speed limits, the Swiss authorities seem to relish in having the full force of traffic law come down on the unsuspecting tourist who was busy finding his or her way, exceeding the speed limit by a few kilometers.”
Consequently, I spent the drive over with my eyes glued to the speedometer, perhaps more so than the road, which in retrospect might have been a bit of an overcorrection. Once in Sargans, we turned right around because our hotel turned out to be in Flums, a town we’d already passed a few kilometers away. Back we trekked, and then did our best – in our exhausted, jet-lagged induced stupor – to pick our way up tiny side roads and up steep isolated hills, until we finally found our little hotel on the mountain in the darkness and fell into a long, if somewhat troubled, sleep.
Fast forward to the next day, when we awake at the very late hour of noon o’clock. Quick breakfast (still in our pajamas, mind you) in the restaurant, way too long getting ready (ah the joys of accompanied travel) and off we went to say a quick hello to the latest of the travel party (fellowship?), Manny and my sister, a.k.a mini-me, Karen. As they’re a part of the wedding crew, we said a quick hello and let them be, leaving to putter around, and then headed to the Sargans castle at 5pm to kick-off the wedding festivities with a castle tour and rehearsal dinner.
First, the tour of the castle, a tour most treacherous in heels (the castle obviously hates women). Up at least 5 sets of wooden half stairs/half ladder things. Up, up, up, all the while listening to castle lore from a very gracious tour guide. We learned that medieval beds had canopies not for funsies or ’cause they’re whimsy, romantic, and lovely – but to prevent an assortment of nasty bugs from falling in the face of unsuspecting sleepers. Gah. Blerg. No. Then, of course, the obligatory torture instruments on display, the dungeon – which was weirdly on the 4th floor – and the occasional suit of armor here and there. You know, castle things.
As I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, hangry kicked-in rather aggressively at this point, and the call for rehearsal dinner at the end of the tour was received with an audible sigh of anticipation. Off we went to the dining hall. There, on the walls, were the crests of all the ancient Sargans families, including that of the bride! I learned that, unbeknownst to me, Manny and Mirjam’s (Mirjam being the bride) parents were married in this very castle some decades ago. And that Sargans is their father’s home town, stretching hundreds of years back, hence the crest on a freakin’ castle wall. That, my friends, is bragworthy. I was impressed. And of course trying not to make too many completely absurd and mostly just fanciful parallels to Game of Thrones.
The wine was cool and refreshing and free-flowing. Our first course was a piping hot bread bowl of soup, and it hit the spot like you wouldn’t believe. Tearing off bread to dip into my soup, sipping on my wine in a hall of beautiful and joyful people, while in a castle in Switzerland… I mean. ‘Twas magical. I was also blissed out because food. But objectively, it was other-wordly. The rest of the meal was delicious in a way that wedding food has no right to be, especially when it’s a buffet. In a very orderly fashion (#Swiss), guests helped themselves to a feast of flavors. Dessert won the prize, with cinnamon sugar encrusted apple slices, mini creme brulees, and even teeny tiny little ice cream cones. The sweetness of desert, however, was outdone by the outpouring of joy and love during the speeches by the bride and groom. There is cheesy and then there is what cheesy is trying so hard to be. This moment was the latter. You really had to be there, but a couple choice moments… from the bride “I was thinking of the words to use to show my gratitude, but how does one thank the parents who raised the perfect life partner?” From the groom (through an emotion altered voice and veil of tears), “What’s struck me, since I got here, is the… the immensity of the love and good wishes for our future.” Weddings. They are the worst of times, they are also the best of times.
Post-dinner came some much-needed coffee, and mingling with the rest of the guests. It is a truly international crowd, hailing from not only Switzerland but Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Greece, Colombia, the Netherlands, and in the states – Florida, Utah, Massachusetts, and, the groom’s hometown, a lively bunch of folks from Staten Island. Unsurprisingly, they’re bringing the fun.
Also bringing the fun? The Argentinians, a couple of middle-aged couples who are lively beyond measure and more inappropriate than most of my friends, which is saying something. Naturally, my mom and them hit it off from the start, and we ended up giving all 4 of them a ride back to their hotel at the end of the night, packing them in like sardines in the back of the Mercedes, the embodiment of good humor of merriment. Me likes them quite a bit.
Argentinians dropped off, the ma and I returned to our hotel in Flums, yet again getting lost in the dark side roads and alleyways. But when we found our home away from home, we settled in for sleep, too saturated with the heaviness of a full, well-lived day to let jetlag have its way.