A matrimonially-inspired trip
We've travelled quite a bit to Europe over the last half-decade. There was our big Italy trip in 2005
; Our Dolomites-focused trip
in 2007, and our Vacation with Asmir and Miriam
in 2009 -- just last fall. As you can see from the above, these sorts of things seem to happen on a roughly 2-year interval. So you'd think that this time around, in 2010, we might continue with the tradition and focus our wanderings elsewhere. This year, however, was special. Special because of an event that occurred during the last of these trips, with Asmir and Miriam. On that trip, Asmir proposed to Miriam
. The wheels of matrimony were quickly set into motion, and a date of June 18, 2010 was set for their wedding -- in Germany, in Miriam's home town of Niederstotzingen, Germany. It was not too long afterwards, then, that we were invited to attend. It looked like the next trip to Europe would be coming sooner than we had expected!
We weren't the only friends living in Canada who were invited to the big event: among our immediate circle of friends, Pu, Bob, Alanna, and Graham were invited -- and had accepted. This circle formed a like-minded contingent that decided that 'hey, if we're going to go all the way to Germany for a wedding, we might as well make good use of our time and have a vacation, too'. Thus was born the plan for this Europe 2010 trip: a combination of wedding, mountains, family-visiting, city-visiting, and all-round cultural experience.
The organizational run-up to this trip was more intense than most. Not only did the planning for the 'vacation' part of the trip have to get done, there was also a bunch of logistics surrounding Asmir and Miriam's wedding. There was Asmir's bachelor party (a paintball and BBQ man-fest held two weeks before the wedding - see here for pictures
). Additionally, Asmir's choice for wedding photographer fell through, and so Graham and I were recruited to fulfill this important function. It's a big responsibility, shooting a couples' wedding photos: there's only one chance to record what amounts to one of the biggest moments in their lives. To help assuage my fears, I hastily arranged to get tips from Graham (him having much professional wedding-shooting experience).
Across the Pond
Wednesday, June 16
He's jus' foolin'
One of the nice things about having a bunch of your friends all invited to a far-away wedding is that you can travel together. We had all managed to book on the same flights, and so on Wednesday, June 16 -- two days before the wedding -- we all converged at the Ottawa Rail station for the first leg of our journey to Niederstotzingen, Germany.
Overkill on the space
My brother George kindly offered to drive us to the station. What we didn't realize was that he was going to do it using his schoolbus. There it was - shiny and long and yellow, sitting outside our place at 10:30 a.m. Owing to us being the only passengers in a 40+ seat school bus, there were no luggage space issues. The seat at the back of the bus was much bumpier than I remember it being in junior high school.
Bus ride to YUL
The reason we were at the rail station was this: we had booked our flights with Air France. However, Air France does not serve Ottawa directly (the closest city served is Montreal), nor does it have any partners that do. However, Air France obviously feels there's enough of a market for their flights from Ottawa-Gatineau residents to provide Flight 7110: A somewhat slow, square, bus-like flight that stays very close to the ground. The agent stressed that we should be at the station two hours before 'departure', but as it turns out we waited around in the train station for 90% of that time and only really needed to do anything of consequence just before leaving (which was to basically sign a sheet as we boarded the bus).
Triple-seven to Europe
In any case, our trip to Montreal went well and we were comfortably in time for the boarding of our next flight -- this time a real one -- to Paris. Our plane today was one of the most commercially successful jets of the last decade - a Boeing 777-300ER. It's particular combination of size, efficiency, and range have made it very popular with many airlines. It's the largest twin-engined airliner in the skies today.
As a result of some respectful last-minute pleading with a gate agent, we managed to go from being scattered about the aircraft to being almost entirely sitting next to one another. Graham and Alanna in particular lucked out, managing to secure a couple of infinite-legroom seats just behind one of the exit doors.
We left more than 30 minutes later than scheduled (for no particular reason of which we were aware), causing me to think a bit about our somewhat tight connection in Paris. I was fairly sure that the airline would hold flights (somewhat, at least) for transfer passengers, in any case. We were decently impressed with the meals on our overnight flight, which were pretty good considering we were flying in economy. It was practically multi-course, and included red wine and a small bottle of port. Plus pretty decent dessert.
Pretty good legroom
We arrived bleary-eyed in Paris the next morning, and by the time we got off the plane, we had just under one hour to get to our connecting flight. This seemed tight but still doable. However, from a crowded passport control point to a very long commute to our departure terminal (it takes quite a while to move between terminals at CDG!), we had whittled that time down to just minutes. Still, we figured that since both flights were Air France flights (and they knew that our flight had been late in departing more than 7 hours before), that they'd just hold the plane for a few minutes. We were wrong.
The LED departure display showing our flight flickered from 'boarding' to 'closed' just as we were rushing to the gate, and nothing we could say or do would stop the sequence of steps that were now in play. We were rebooked on another, later flight - FIVE hours later, and that was that.
Return to the Fetal Position
After all that frantic running, it was now time to just stop, drop everything and whittle away the time. Most of us had gotten very little sleep, so most of our time was spent dozing in the terminal. A terminal which seems to have virtually all of its seats expressly designed to prevent the human body from stretching out in any way, shape, or form -- Except for three organically-shaped lounger chairs (occupied, of course), that nearly every person in the lounge was covertly eye-ing with sideways glances. Eventually we resorted to laying out on the carpeted floor.
I took some time to get out the laptop, buy some ridiculously expensive internet access, and message Asmir that we'd be late. Then bought a phone card and telephoned the rental car company in Zurich -- our flight destination -- to tell them that we would be late in picking up our rental cars. Oh, and I took pictures of planes. As you've probably noticed, I like taking pictures of planes.
We were scheduled to attend a pre-wedding barbeque dinner this evening at the Tesro factory (Miriam's family's business); we had hoped to arrive a few hours before to have a small breather and rest, but that was now not going to happen. It would be drive, drive, drive, then eat and start doing our job as official wedding photographers.
Finally it came time to board our little city-hopper Avro RJ-85 (A plane I like due to the overhead wing, meaning that pretty much all window seats are good seats!) to Zurich. I tried to catch a bit of sleep on the 1.5 hour flight to Zurich -- something I felt I would need, as I'd soon be driving a car for three hours.
We arrived in Zurich and proceeded as quickly as possible to the Sixt car rental desk. Graham and I had booked two 'BMW-1er' class vehicles for a very respectable price (one of the reasons we chose Zurich as our destination city), but we were unsure if the rental car company would give us an equivalent-class vehicle -- often they'll substitute. I had my fingers crossed for the BMW.
We were in luck: we both got nearly-matching BMW 118i 4-door hatchbacks: one silver, and one gray. Both had 6-speed manual transmissions and navigation systems. Sweet.
We were already behind in our duties as wedding photographers: the first 'event' of the wedding was the evening barbeque at 6pm. It was now 4pm, and we still had a three hour drive to Miriam's hometown. There would be no sleeping or settling in for us - we only had time to drive directly there, and even then we were going to be late.