Thursday, October 23, 2014

gibraltar wedding diary: day 2, part 2

For simplicity sake, I'd booked a manicure at the Hotel's salon.  I had beautiful nails going into the appointment.  For two weeks beforehand, Robert forbid me to do any household tasks that might damage my nails.  He'd say, "nails!" and take over whatever I'd been doing.

Orlando's Salon was a dark, dingy, windowless room that in location and decor looked like poorly converted storage space.  Even though it borders Spain, Gibraltar is a British territory and the local language is English. Orlando had gone for the day, leaving me with his Spanish speaking manicurist.

I wear my nails with square tips and rounded corners, but for some reason this chick had me pegged as a pointy talon kind of woman.  I've had manicures all over the place... Bangkok, Krakow, Aarhus, etc. and I've never had a manicurist not ask if I wanted to keep my shape.

I stopped her and tried to explain what I wanted, but she didn't understand, so I brought up a photo on my iPhone.  By the time she'd filed the talons back into a reasonable shape and evened out the others, there wasn't much left to my nails... then she said, "humph... corta."  Oy!  They weren't short when she'd started!

They ended up several different shapes, so I fixed them on they sly while she went for supplies... by "supplies" I mean a basket of scary purple, black, blue, red, glittery, and hot pink nail polishes.  I asked, "French?"  She sighed, but obliged, doing white tips freehand and so thin that I could barely make them out.  I'd packed my white nail polish, so I decided I'd just redo the tips when Robert got back with the luggage.  But she asked if it was ok, so I consulted the iPhone again.

She repainted them with wider tips and they looked ok, but she hadn't used a base coat and I'd declined the glitter-infused top coat, so I didn't have high hopes that this manicure was going to remain intact for 15 hours until the wedding.   I often do my nails myself, but I wanted to make sure they wouldn't chip which is the only reason I'd booked the manicure.

According to the Hotel's pricelist, a French Manicure was to be £20, but she charged me £30 and I couldn't be bothered to argue about it.  As Robert often says with a dismissive wave of his hand about things that aren't worth stressing over... "Pope Francis."  I said "Pope Francis" to the manicure and as I left the salon, Robert drove in with our luggage.

Rush hour driving in Gibraltar is not for the faint of heart mostly due to hundreds of moped riders with a death wish.  Robert reached the border after many sudden stops and swerves, only to discover near the front of the queue that his passport had flown off the passenger seat and was lost somewhere in the car.  With the agreed hand off time closing in, he'd hoped for a quick crossing. To help this along, he held his passport with the seal of Great Britain facing toward him.  He was in a Spanish registered car, and held that way the passport looked Spanish, so they waved him right through.

The only info we had regarding the delivery vehicle was that it would be a grey Citroen and it would meet him in the taxi stand.  When he got there, there was already a grey Citreon in the taxi stand.  He approached it, but it was the wrong Citreon.  So he sat in the taxi stand sweating the possibility of a ticket for quite some time as grey Citreons came and went.  Eventually ours came, and he made a quick crossing back into Gibraltar, this time showing the British seal side of his passport.

We swapped war stories and decided a bottle of Red was in order, so we took another walk to Morrison's.

Next up, our wedding...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

gibraltar wedding diary: day 2, part 1

I woke up in the dark, not immediately remembering that we were actually in Gibraltar, then feeling completely overjoyed and giddy that I was one day away from marrying the guy sleeping next to me.  That excitement completely eclipsed the reality of our lost luggage. 

One of my favorite things in the whole world are hotel breakfasts, so dirty plane clothes and missing cosmetics be damned, I couldn't wait to get up, get dressed, and hit the breakfast buffet!  I missed my favorites... blueberry muffins and hash browns, but the coffee was french pressed, the eggs were cooked to order, the view over the Strait was quite beautiful, and we were about to go apply for our marriage license!

We strolled downtown to the Registry Office; it was the first time we'd actually seen where we'd be getting married.  It was basically a construction zone and I was grateful that I wasn't a first time bride and that I hadn't planned to wear a big white wedding gown.  This of course reignited the "is this really how we want to get married" discussions.   John and Yoko had the right idea when they flew in and out on the same day.
Gibraltar Marriage Fees
Clearly, Gibraltar isn't the most elegant of places to get married ;-)
The Registry Office staff were extremely friendly and efficient to deal with.  They require a long form birth certificate and despite their preliminary approval of our scanned documents, we were a bit worried about whether or not they'd accept my short form birth certificate.   In 2014, my birth city still requires a self-addressed stamped envelope and a certified check or money order in order to request a duplicate birth certificate by mail... both of those things were impossible for me to provide from across the Atlantic, so we took our chances.

They verified our documents, we filled out some forms, and they sent us to have the forms notarized.  We were worried about finding a notary because we weren't at all familiar with Gibraltar, but there was a law office with a notary less than 30 seconds walk from the Registry Office, so about 15 minutes and £20 later, we returned to the Registry Office to file the final affidavits, and the wedding was on!  The paperwork took less than an hour, which was a lot less time than we'd anticipated.  One thing I can say for getting married in Gibraltar is that the industry is well organized and very efficient.

According to the lost luggage website, our luggage was still very much lost, so we went to Main Street to find clean clothes, and replacements for our wedding day must haves.

Guys have it so easy...  Robert pretty much grabbed a 6 pack of boxers, a 6 pack of socks and beard trimmer and was good to go. 

My felt-tip eyeliner pen was in the lost bag.  I love cat's eye eyeliner, but I'm crap at doing it.  Robert builds model airplanes, which require a lot of fine detail work with paint, so one day he offered to do my eyeliner... I let him audition and hired him on the spot :)   But he's only ever done it with a felt-tip pen from Boots and we were having a heck of a time replacing it.  As a consolation, it was very funny going shop to shop with Robert trying to draw cat's eyes on my hand with the testers. 

Gibraltar might not have a Boots, but they've got a Marks & Spencer!   M&S are my go-to purveyor of knickers and coincidentally, my missing wedding day knickers were of the M&S variety and while I couldn't find the exact retro-inspired style I was planning to wear, I got pretty close.

I also managed to find a really cool maxi dress from a street vendor for £15... we were living large on that travel insurance ;-) 

We took a walk through the Botanical Gardens, but because it was autumn everything was dead, so it was a short walk. We'd been second guessing whether or not we'd regret not getting married in the Botanical Gardens, and this confirmed that the Registry Office would be just fine.

With our swimsuits and casual clothes still missing, there wasn't much for us to do except sit on the balcony drinking coffee and tea, talking about the wedding, waiting for the wedding, for our luggage, and for my manicure appointment.  We'd periodically track our luggage, but it was always still missing.
Gibraltar Barbary Apes
At least we had a couple of Barbary Apes to entertain us!
The people in Reception had become our compadres in this saga, always asking if we had any news on our luggage and how we were getting on.  Mid-afternoon, they called up to our room sounding as excited to tell as we were to hear that Malaga airport had called, our luggage had been found! 

They helped me to get the luggage office on the phone and the guy on the other end who was Mr. Happy from the desk the day before immediately laid into me about my mobile phone not working.   We'd called out on it and I'd received a few SMS, but he claimed to have been calling me "all afternoon."  Seriously?   I kept saying, "ok, but you've got me on the phone now, let's arrange delivery."  But he kept yelling about not being able to get through to my mobile... it was crazytown!

Once I got crazytown under control, I agreed to meet the driver in the taxi queue on the Spanish side of the border at a time that coincided with both rush hour and my manicure.

Robert sent me to my manicure and I sent him to Spain to claim our luggage...

Friday, October 17, 2014

gibraltar wedding diary: day 1, part 2

I didn't particularly enjoy the drive along the Spanish coast... actually, Robert says I was a "silent, brooding, thundercloud."  The architecture and the endless billboards and strip malls reminded me of Florida, so I think we can trust his recollection :-)

He never drives faster than the speed limit and every time the GPS adjusted our arrival time, I became more certain that there was no chance we'd arrive in Gibraltar before the shops closed.  Despite months of anticipation, my first glimpse of The Rock rising into the sky ahead felt anti-climatic.  The day had beaten me.

The border queues between Spain and Gibraltar are notorious.  It can take several hours to get through but we were through in about 20 minutes.  Our first impression of Gibraltar was not good.  Actually, it looked like a dump about 30 years past its prime.   I'd gotten married in Jamaica the first time around, so the wedding bar hadn't been set very high, but this was dire.

There are only seven hotels in Gibraltar and we'd decided to stay at The Rock Hotel because we're big fans of Art Deco design and because it's the most iconic... Errol Flynn stayed here, and Winston Churchill planned the WWII invasion of North Africa from here.

We knew that the hotel was undergoing a complete renovation. They'd missed their July deadline, but the General Manager had assured me that the renovations would be completed by late September.  Famous last words.
Rock Hotel, Gibraltar
It's not looking good on the approach...
I was expecting an elegant lobby, we'd even booked our photographer to start the shoot at the hotel, but the lobby... it was still 1985 in there!

Thankful for small mercies, we were given a newly renovated room with a balcony and a big bathtub. They must've known the kind of day we were having because there was champagne on ice and a plate of strawberries in the room.  Robert wasted no time pouring me a glass of bubbly...best husband, ever!
It might have been a peace offering, but it was exactly what we needed!
As we sipped champagne, looking out over the Strait, I tried to recover the excitement I'd had before everything had gone pear shaped. 

I suggested a walk to Morrison's grocery store, which from the outside looked like it might actually be big enough to have a small clothing section!  I would've gratefully worn a supermarket dress and knickers to the Registry Office, but no dice :(

However because Gibraltar is a British colony, we were able to find all of our English favorites... Mr. Kipling's cakes, Branston Pickle, mature cheddar slices, salt and vinegar crisps, and pork pies (for the good Dr.).  And our everywhere favorite, Italian red wine!

One of the many things I love about Robert is that he's always prepared for "every eventuality."  He'd taken out travel insurance, so we had a $250 allowance to spend on "essentials" and I was able to buy some health and beauty items.  I felt a lot better after that.

Walking back to the hotel, hand in hand, discussing life on a champagne buzz, we'd concluded that Gibraltar is in fact a dump; that I need to be better at marriage than I am at wedding planning; and that from here on out Robert is in charge of all travel plans.

We also discussed various possibilities for the wedding including postponing and having it in England (or anywhere but Gibraltar) or cancelling the photographer, flowers, hair, etc. and just having it be a practical paper matter.

This conversation played out over and over across the next day...
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