Well, we’re safely back from France and what a trip it was! Our three weeks away were jam-packed in every way imaginable. Not only were we busy the entire time (a shock for me because that’s something I have definitely not been lately, by choice), but emotionally the trip was quite a whirlwind, filled with many ups and downs. On one end of the scale I experienced anxiety, frustration, sickness (ie. having a nasty cold for an entire week!) and extreme tiredness, and on the other hand I experienced happiness, joy, love and gratitude. Of course, the positives outweighed the negatives and we had an absolutely wonderful time.
I still can’t believe we did it!
Our wedding day was honestly the best day ever. My in-laws had taken care of everything, from the venue to the food to music to the decorations. My mother-in-law even surprised me with a gorgeous wedding bouquet that matched my dress perfectly. Weather-wise, a cold, rainy morning transformed into a cold but not-so-rainy afternoon just in time for the ceremony, then – amazingly – a beautiful, warm, sunny afternoon and a clear night so we could take plenty of photos then eat, drink and dance the night away!
Anyway, before I get into how things went down nothing-new-wise while on our trip, here’s a little rundown of how our holiday played out:
Brisbane → Shanghai → Paris
While the trip over there went well, it goes without saying that it was soooo long. I’m a very positive person but Shanghai really was intolerable. In the past I have only ever stopped over via Dubai and Singapore on my way to Europe, never via China. Here’s some advice: avoid Shanghai airport like the plague! It took us almost four hours to transfer from our first flight to our second (a simple process in most airports), and we made it onto the plane with only 10 minutes to spare. When we finally touched down in Paris, however, the frustration dissipated and the excitement kicked in. After keeping the in-laws waiting for two hours (due to long queues at customs then the airline temporarily misplacing one of our suitcases), we finally met and the whole journey was worth it! Naturally, on our way back to Mr SLE’s village (about 45 minutes out of Paris) we stopped off at the local bakery to pick up croissants and an armful of baguettes. I nodded and smiled and dutifully ate all the carbs. It would be rude not to. 🙃
Well, it turned out we had arrived in the middle of a heatwave. The heat was relentless, but fortunately as a Queenslander I wasn’t too shocked by it. We spent most of the first week meeting and greeting a huge number of relatives and friends, an excellent opportunity to practise my French! We also headed back into Paris one day (on an un-airconditioned torture ride known as the suburban train) to meet with our celebrant and finalise all the details for our wedding day. On Friday night one of my sisters-in-law had organised a bachelorette party for me, so we were back in central Paris and it turned out to be an unforgettable experience. The evening started at 11pm (well past my usual bedtime!) and I was completely exhausted and out of my comfort zone at first but had such a fantastic time being the bride-to-be and managed to stay awake until almost 7am. We enjoyed champagne on the house and literally danced until the sun came up. Something I have never done before! On the Sunday we also enjoyed a day trip to Normandy as a family, visiting a number of seaside towns in the area as well as visiting one of the many cemeteries commemorating the fatalities of the Normandy landings in June 1944.
Our second week was supposed to start out with some more sightseeing in Paris and a trip to the palace in Versailles, but unfortunately I came down with a cold (unsurprising given the weekend I had just had!) and was feeling like crap for a good part of the week. My family flew in to Paris on Wednesday, so I joined them in Montmartre at an Airbnb for two nights and we enjoyed the views from the Sacré-Cœur, walking by the Seine (with all the other tourists 😊) and just discovering Paris on foot together. Speaking English for two days was certainly a real treat! We then headed back to the village for introductions, and the wedding itself! By the time the wedding rolled around on Saturday, I was still a bit sniffly but fortunately for the most part had recovered from my cold. Phew!
The last few days went by in a flash. We were exhausted from the wedding and two weeks of good food, good company and barely any sleep, so our last few days before our flight departed on Wednesday mostly involved sleeping and saying goodbye to everyone. And looking at our wedding photos 😍
Paris → Shanghai → Sydney → Brisbane
Our Paris to Shanghai trip was my most incredible flying experience to date, because we were upgraded to business class! One of Mr SLE’s sisters works in the industry, so thanks to her connections we found ourselves being escorted to the upper deck of the plane, sipping champagne and feeling awfully smug. The seat that turned into a bed was fantastic, but my inner zero-waster was incredibly taken by the whole experience, too: real cups, real glasses, real cutlery, cotton hot towels, cloth napkins and absolutely everything served on ceramic dishes. No plastic in sight! I was in heaven!!! And the fact that dinner was a four-course meal wasn’t bad, either 😁 I still can’t believe I didn’t take any photos…
As for my Nothing New Project, everything went well. Mostly.
To begin with, I was pleased to discover that walking past a gazillion shops in Paris didn’t do anything for me other than provoke a mild sense of curiosity. Whilst we were out and about, my in-laws – being the very generous people that they are – were keen to buy me various things along the way. I had to explain to them that they would actually be doing me a favour by not buying me anything, and I reassured them that I would be taking something home with me – many lovely memories of my time in France.
I did acquire a few items permissible in the project (see photo below), however a mishap occurred when our wedding day rolled around. Basically, when we woke up that morning it was bucketing rain and I started to freak out about my choice of wedding footwear. I had taken a pair of flat Ipanema sandals to wear with my dress, but given how wet the ground had become with all the rain and the length of my dress, I could see a very muddy situation emerging. With only a few hours remaining before I had to start getting ready, I had to make a quick decision. I recruited my sister-in-law and her fashion-savvy best friend, who dutifully trailed around the shopping centre in a neighbouring town with me until we found a pair of shoes in my size that would keep my dress clean.
So, I failed in my aim to buy nothing new for a year, but in all honesty I’m actually quite glad I bought the shoes. They ended up looking great and kept my feet dry (and therefore warm) and my dress clean. Fortunately, I also managed to minimise them by bequeathing them to a friend of my SIL with the same shoe size who willingly added them to her collection! I’m considering the incident a minor mishap, and am now back on the bandwagon and ready to take on the remaining six months of the challenge with renewed resolve!
My biggest nothing new win of the whole trip was my wedding dress, of course, which I had bought from Gumtree here in Brisbane several months before our departure. I was so pleased with how it looked and if I had to do it all over again, I would choose the exact same dress. It was a perfect fit and I felt the style was very appropriate for the vibe of our wedding – simple and casual, but still glitzy enough to make me feel like a bride!
Well, that’s it for now. Over the next little while I’ll be sharing more about our trip to France and I’ll also be posting about our second wedding here at home, which is quickly approaching (22nd July)!