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...

Monday, October 13, 2014

gibraltar wedding diary: day 1, part 1

AirFrance, we'll never fly with you again!  We'd hit the road at an inhumane 4:30 am to save ourselves the indignity of flying RyanAir.  Normally, I'd be a big old witch at that time of day, but I was so excited about getting married in Gibraltar that I sprang out of bed wide awake without hitting "snooze" even once.

I'd gathered a whole trousseau for this trip, and it started with my travel outfit... black and white cigarette pants with a black top, black heels, a black poncho, and my Louis Vuitton Alma bag.  It was warm enough with the poncho for early morning Danish temperatures, chic enough for the layover in Paris, and comfortable enough for Costa del Sol temperatures without the poncho.

As soon as we boarded, the flight attendant offered to hang-up our garment bag, it was so great to not be flying RyanAir!  I looked forward to a mimosa with breakfast, but instead we were offered a stale (very) petit pain au chocolat and an equally petit cup of Nescafé.  Lufthansa serves champagne on European routes, so I had similar expectations for a French airline.  *le sigh*

I'm not a fan of Paris to begin with, but Charles de Gaulle airport is the worst! It's poorly organized, difficult to navigate, and the signage is woefully inadequate.  A tight one hour layover, and having to change terminals on a slow bus did not bode well for a happy ending to this journey, but things were about to get much worse.

AirFrance had sold our fares to a budget airline!  In this case it was AirEuropa, which is basically RyanAir with nicer corporate colors.  We'd made the connection by the skin of our teeth, and as the gate agent boarded us, she asked if we'd checked any luggage, we said "yes." She looked it up in the system and said, "it's ok" in a very it's not ok sort of way.  Then I said words I never thought I'd say... "we should've flown RyanAir."

AirEuropa gave us the winged bus in-flight experience we'd been trying to avoid by booking with AirFrance... our wedding clothes were stuffed in the overhead bin, and there wasn't even a complimentary cup of water in sight.  In the event of a loss of cabin pressure I'm pretty sure you'd have to swipe a credit card to start the flow of oxygen to your mask.   It was definitely not what we'd had in mind.

Things went further downhill in the Malaga baggage claim when the carousel stopped and we were the only two passengers left.  I'd seen it coming in Paris, but I didn't want to believe this was actually happening on this of all trips.  We'd packed all of our wedding clothes in carry-ons, but having left at 4:30 am, I didn't think ahead as much as I should have about cosmetics, spare clothes, etc. in case of this situation.

The desk jockey working the AirEuropa counter wasn't particularly customer focused.  Without a glimmer of empathy he told us our luggage was lost (no kidding, Sherlock!), filled out his report, gave us a copy along with two toiletries bags, and told us unapologetically that if our bags should turn up, we'd have to cross the border out of Gibraltar into Spain to retrieve them because they wouldn't take them through border control.

No problemo... we'd have tons of free time to spend in the border queues ahead of getting married in less than two days in a place we'd never been before!
Lost Luggage Receipt & Bridal Toiletries Kit, courtesy of SkyTeam, Malaga!
I did a rotten job of choking back tears.  How were we going to (at best) find time to cross and recross the border or (at worst) make it four days without the contents of our luggage all because AirFrance sucks?

The now not so fresh outfit I'd traveled in was to be my only outfit until we could shop, or until the luggage turned up.  It, not the elegant little black dress from my trousseau was what I'd wear to the Registry Office to apply for our marriage license.

My asthma medicine, all of my clean lingerie, skin creams, perfume, hair products and implements, eyeliner, and waterproof mascara were all lost in the Bermuda Triangle of luggage.

To be continued...
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