Friday, 8 August 2014

A wedding in Cyprus

That ol' 'View From Plane' chestnut.
Memoirs of a lone traveller from Cyprus? The first time I've really travelled alone, it caused mixed feelings. While one part of me was feeling the nerves expected, the other was full of excited anticipation!

It is a truth universally acknowledged (not universally at all, but known to those who actually know me) that I am a huge fan of my own company. Even as a child (now please don't start pitying me here, I swear it has always been solitude by choice) I spent much of my time alone in my room, or I could be found racing ahead or trailing behind on family walks, always imagining. My mind is forever brimming full of goodness knows what, so time spent alone is never dull or lonely, but put to good use to think, and to be.

As most of my writing (or even my writing silences) would suggest, this time in solitude does not come around so often in my adulthood, particularly with my move to London; a city where I am almost never alone!

I begin this post in the restaurant of the hotel. The hustle and bustle of guests visiting the buffet and the waiting staff frantically clearing tables and taking drinks orders means I am not alone, although I am dining for one (and tonight the food theme is France, so the melancholic sounds of the music from Amélie are piping through the outdoor dining terrace). I would almost feel sorry for myself, as dining alone has the potential to be a little tragic, if not for the fact that I am absolutely loving life!

On numerous occasions since my arrival, I have found myself wondering, 'why have I never done this before?' There have often been (and still are, so watch this space...) places I've desperately wanted to visit, but have been unable to due to the fact that suitable travel companions have been few and far between for various reasons, but never had it crossed my mind to just go it alone!

View from the balcony of a lonely hotel room.
Only took me until the last day to realise that I did, in fact, have a sea view!

Beyond the hotel on this occasion, I am not alone. The journey in question has been made for the wedding of one of my oldest friends for whom I am bridesmaid. So in fact, an entire wedding party has descended upon Ayia Napa! Unfortunately for me, my first visit to Cyprus is an incredibly brief one, but already, it has been absolutely magical!

While Wednesday became a full day spent travelling, yesterday (Thursday) was the big day, and what a beautiful day it was! With the first of my friends to be married came my first invitation to be bridesmaid. Mother dearest had very valiantly managed to find a Cadbury purple dress and shoes to match, and with a little adjusting they were good to go!

I've never been 'behind the scenes' as it were at a wedding, so was rather taken aback by how much there is to consider. I don't know if the coordination of every step is usually so precise, but in Cyprus, it certainly was! Also, as much as I've always mocked the Americans for their 'wedding rehearsals' as observed in the films (it's not like I've ever actually been to one, giving me real grounds to mock), I can now see the value of having a small run-through, if only in order that all parties know where to walk (or in my case, totter) and stand... not that we needed one; pros!

As it was my first day in Cyprus and I didn't want to alter my body clock so dramatically that work would be an even bigger struggle on Monday morning, I decided to get up and out to the beach (after a more than hearty breakfast of course) at the crack of dawn (l exaggerate not. With a two-hour time difference (ahead), it really truly was!)! A paddle, sand between my toes and a lie-down for an hour had me in great stead for the rest of the day. So after a shower, l gathered together my bridesmaid bits and with directions from the receptionist, I was on my merry way!

Could not get over how clear the water was!

When I had asked for directions to Nissi Beach hotel, I was told I would have to 'cross' two beaches, to which I replid 'oh that's fine, I love sand!' However my journey turned into the Laura Brockway version of something resembling a cross between the opening credits to Naked Gun, and a Mr Bean stretch as the catastrophes began...

All was going well; the sun was high in the sky, I had beach and plantlife to the left of me, sparkling sea to the right. The gentle lapping of waves on the shore and the sound of crickets filled my ears... then next thing I knew, the handles of the Topshop bag I had stuffed full of my bridesmaid dress, heels and bag for the day decided to snap. Swooped up by me with impeccable timing mid-fall, I proceeded, clutching (although I'd like to think cradling) it like a baby on my hip as I hurried along (already by this point coming to the realisation that half an hour in this heat might have been a little over-ambitious). Catastrophe number one.
Having been thoroughly spoilt by a man-made footpath up until this point, by which to enjoy the view, suddenly I was confronted by the first beach I would have to 'cross'... (this is already starting to sound a little like We're Going On a Bear Hunt)!

The rather delightful footpath that ran alongside the coast when there were no beaches in its way.

Sunloungers littered the beach, there were inflatables and bodies galore, and couples and families played gentle games of bat and ball in the shallows. Now, elegance is not my thing, so instead of tip-toeing my way carefully around my many obstacles, instead I bulldozed my way through, causing sandstorms as I kicked up sand onto unsuspecting sunbathers, stumbling and tripping my way over everyone and everything. So I headed into the sea, thinking shallow water might be easier for walking than sand, but then proceeded to splash my way through every game of bat and ball, overturned multiple lilos, and probably knocked over a small child or two as they innocently hopped and skipped over the ripples that remained from incoming waves.

Remarkably well in-tact myself (makes a change) as I reached the second stretch of footpath, I thought it best not to turn to see the trail destruction I had left behind, but instead valiantly soldiered on! This time, the stretch of footpath was much shorter, so a similar scene ensued along the next, longer beach (or rather beaches), and all the way into... the wrong hotel.

Catastrophe number three. There was me feeling really rather pleased with myself having arrived bang on time despite my rather traumatic journey, only to discover that the trauma would in fact continue for a further ten minutes or so in my endeavour to locate the correct hotel! By some pretty enormous stroke of luck, my over-confident striding straight into the hotel and up in a lift to the room I was expecting to need to be outside did not end in complete disaster, as the door was open and a maid inside cleaning. At this point still unaware that I was in the wrong hotel, I sent a text to the bride;

'I'm at your room, but you do not appear to be?' (A little too self-assured perhaps?)
'... we are. Where are you??' Came the reply.

So as it transpired, my French is rather excellent, because while I was required at 'Nissi Beach Hotel', I had found myself in 'Nissi Plage Hotel', and plage means hotel, so once I realised this I didn't feel so silly (although the next time I walked to the right hotel and saw the ENORMOUS signs (two of them) above the hotel further along the beach which is where I was supposed to be, I was a little embarrassed), and made a hasty retreat, feeling beyond flustered by this point, to the correct hotel. Even once I got there, we somehow managed to miss each other a few times going up and down by lift and stairs, but we all coordinated eventually!

Hair that was supposed to be clean and dry was a little closer to hot and sweaty by the time I landed on the sofa of the hotel salon, but I had finally made it! The last time I'd had hair and makeup done was actually for the wedding of the bride's twin brother, and it's always a slightly surreal experience. There is something distinctly awkward about being so close to someone you're not about to kiss, particularly when the person in question stinks of smoke, is chewing gum loudly with their mouth open, has a pretty violent method of makeup application (no wonder she slapped so much on, we probably needed it to cover the bruises!) and looks threatening too (I may, or may not have told her how scary she was...). 'Light' makeup was not light at all, particularly by the standards of a non-makeup wearer, but the bride was happy so I was too.

Next (by this point with the first glass of champagne down me), I stepped up to the hair chair. My hair hadn't been 'styled' since it was cut short, so I was not at all sure what the end result would be; another nerve-racking experience! Again I put my foot in it when midway through I exclaimed that I resembled a poodle due to what seemed to me to be excessive back-combing. Thankfully she somehow calmed my Jimmy Neutron-esque hair down and I came away looking like I had LOADS of hair, which was quite impressive really!

Despite the rather unorthodox methods of the ladies in the salon, bride, bridesmaids and mother of the bride emerged looking fit for a wedding, and one might even say pretty if I do say so myself! So with an hour to go before the ceremony, we headed back to the room to get into the dress...

It was ENORMOUS, laid out on the bed like a whole nother person in the room and it took three of us in addition to the bride and lots of holding everything up to get her in, then another team effort to tie it all up! Seeing the first of my friends to get married in the dress was extremely special! Once secure she looked absolutely stunning and all princess-like.

Photos began as soon as we stepped out into the hotel lobby, and so the precision began. The walk down to the gazebo from the hotel was a highly structured operation, with a fifty metre gap left between each person, me in the middle trying desperately to remain on two feet in crazy high heels while holding a bouquet with both hands and at the same time retaining a smile for the camera as opposed to letting the grimace of concentration show. The bride and mother of the bride followed, and as we all reached the groom I don't think there was a dry eye in the house!

The ceremony was short, but in the most beautiful setting! There was then a wait before the evening reception which was spent in the shade drinking water for cooling down and champagne for toasting! The champagne was accompanied by canapes, one of which I of course managed to drop down my dress (fear not, I then licked up the mess with true class)... There was also wedding cake, card games and the hotel cat to keep us all entertained. It was a most lovely afternoon!

If the setting for the ceremony, overlooking the sea with palm trees and brightly coloured flowers all all around, wasn't beautiful enough, the evening reception was in a pavilion right on the beach, a BB buffet while the sun set, the waves lapped the shore and a coastal breeze kept us all cool. Then came speeches followed by a hasty exit from the other bridesmaid and best man (not as dodgy as it sounds, they had a plane to catch and were already travelling together). At this point I decided that the bride needed a wedding day/wedding dress paddle, so dragged her off into the sea (holding her dress up of course, bridesmaid duties!) while the groom stayed on dry land taking photos.

The sun set, and a DJ reminiscent of the one from the wedding reception at the beginning of Love Actually took to the decks for the first dance. After a bit of oohing and aahing, we all took to the floor and danced the night away until heat rendered us useless and we settled for sitting and marvelling at the warmth of an evening in Cyprus before exhaustion from all the excitement of the day led us to bed!

The morning after, despite a continuous stream of champagne over the course of the wedding day, I awoke bright and early for a full day of nothingness in the sun. My day was spent on the beach where I sunbathed, paddled, had an occasional dip, and wrote in the shade of a tree.

On Saturday, the bride and I took to the town of Ayia Napa for a spot of sight-seeing. Almost like a mini Vegas, it really is the most surreal place, like a toytown of nightclubs, bars and holiday accommodation. Yet somehow, in the middle of it all (literally) we managed to locate a rather more picturesque monastery where we found stray kittens, pretty plantlife, chandeliers and shade (our decision to walk into town from our hotels in the heat of the day had left us rather flustered)! As opposed to going back the way we came, we decided to take a circular route, so wandered on to the harbour and back along the sea front, and across beaches (something I was getting to be a dab hand at by this point). Although Ayia Napa is not an area of Cyprus one visits for the scenery, it filled a morning and stretched our legs, and we were back at the hotel just in time to collect the wedding photo proofs!

Sunday came, and it was time to go home. My flight was not until the evening but my hotel was very wonderful with a late checkout, a left luggage room and even a shower to use before my departure! So I spent a final few hours finishing off the tan by the pool, where in true British style, I made the most of hotel Wifi in order to access my SoundCloud as I was at this point, pretty bored of listening to the small selection of songs stored on my phone).

The view from my sunlounger on the final day.

I'm always very sad to leave holidays behind, and even more so when they 've been so fleeting! Sat in the back of the taxi with the same driver who had held up a sign with my name on it at the airport (this excited me beyond belief!), his air-con up ridiculously high, I thought about how much I had enjoyed myself, and how Cyprus had made for an Excellent location. Next stop, the reception at home for absent family and friends, and then who knows who will be next... I do love a good wedding (no pressure ladies)!