Saturday, July 9, 2011

Profesional Photos and More Registry Items

For all of our friends who complained that our registry was exhausted before they had a chance to get us a present, here it is, our glorious new registry at:

And, for those of you who are dying to see the professional wedding photos, here is a link to the newest album on our joint Picasa account:

Countdown to W-Day: Thursday, May 5

This is the story of the epic (if we may say so ourselves) Ixapa wedding of Edouard and Camelia, seen through the eyes of the latter.

Chapter 6: Last Days & Nights as Bachelor/Bachelorette

Thursday is a big day. Oh, yeah, baby! My bridesmaids are here! Tonight is my real bachelorette party!!! (I already had a pseudo-bachelorette party in San Francisco, with girlfriends who couldn't make it to Mexico, with the very notable exception of Ms. Meghan). Today we have our casual photo session (i wake up worried about what to wear, vanity getting the best of me). And, of course, today arrives most of Ed's family from France. Big day, so a big breakfast is absolutely required. 

We head to the restaurant and play musical chairs for a while until we can accommodate as many people as close to us as we can, and then devour half of the enormous buffet. The other half is kidnapped by the little black birds. Then we all scatter according to priorities: some folks head out to yoga, others to the pool bar, the majority to the beach, where we talk nonstop like chatterboxes that we are, catching up on gossip and East-European politics. Vio and Didi, as the only Romanian speakers, get more than their fair share of Mamma Draga, who is unstoppable when it comes to expressing contempt and spewing offenses towards the Romanian political class. Not that she's wrong, but she's way too intense. So we placate her by slipping her a Pina Colada. 

Later on, we get a massage on the beach, side by side, listening to the waves. Somewhere in the background someone is screaming and I can only hope it's not Ed parasailing. Turns out that as soon as I get out of the tent, he's getting ready to be strapped into the parasailing gear, head-camera already mounted.

Taking off gracefully, as though he was born with a parachute strapped to his back.

I warn him about the difficulties of having a casual photo shoot with two broken legs, but he waves cheerily from 30 feet high and climbing. I try to shoot the ascent, but either I've had too many Pinas, or my camera can't read my thoughts, because it turns out it's not on. I do my best to film the descent in detail, to try to make up for it…

The friendsies, the friendsies are here!!

Slowly the day slips by. More friends arrive, including Mrs. Shannon Moon, straight from Bali, looking hot like a Billabong model. Before we know it, it's almost 7:00 PM and we have to meet the photographer. 

I run upstairs, throw on my white skirt that is too elegant to be worn on the beach, an old red tank top and, because my flip-flops gave me massive blisters - my white tennis shoes. I also dab on a little makeup and I am stunned by the effect. A little bit of tan goes a long way - I'm reminded, as I put on about a quarter of what I would need to look decent on any morning before work in shady San Francisco. To think about it, SF is really the opposite of Monaco: Shady place for sunny people :-). I meet Ed downstairs, who, under strict directions, is wearing nice linen slacks and a cool yet elegant short-sleeved white shirt  that had been kept for the occasion in my dresser. I've seen the man eating before to know better than trust him with a white shirt and no adult supervision :-)) 

As we are greeting the photographer(s) in the lobby, we also stumble upon Ed's aunt and uncle from France, as well as two separate pairs of his Dad's cousins. We get to talking and for the first time I start feeling the pressure of switching between languages. The first few days, Romanian and Spanish were not a big deal; then, English became necessary again, still manageable, especially after a few beers - but now, if you throw in French to the mix - and I do my absolute best, I want to be a good host - things are getting really mixed up in my head. Also, I'm sober, since I'm trying to avoid the usual cross-eyed pose I take in photos when I drink. That is also affecting the quick switch between idioms. Aunt Francoise has many questions and Oncle Henry switches between firedrill French and impeccable Spanish faster than I ca keep track. I'm breaking into a sweat, and that's when i tug (gently, so not to crease it) at Ed's sleeve, to signal that we need to move. Eventually we do, but by then i seriously wonder about the integrity of my makeup. If i look like I'm feeling, we're in trouble, and these photos are for eternity…

We jumped whenever the photographer coaxed us with fresh fish.
No, wait, that was at the Delphinarium.

The casual session turns out to be very serious in the way it's conducted. Edison makes us smile, laugh, roll around in the grass, play peek-aboo amongst palm trees, hold hands, run, duck, dodge and jump. It feels very bootcamp-y. 

Real professional stuff, like rolling in the grass...

And rehearsing the big dramatic kiss on the beach.

And all this time, people stare at us like we're part of a gypsy dancing bear show. One kid even throws a lolipop at us. A lolipop! An hour and a half later, we are exhausted and can't feel our facial muscles anymore. Still holding hands, we go to the restaurant to grab dinner and we are finally faced with that most frightful situation of having to split up and entertain guests. 

Our timing is definitely not perfect: we're both sweaty from camp photo op and starving, while our guests are dressed to the nines, have already had dinner and are ready to party. I find dinner a bit stressful, what with trying to accommodate conflicting attention demands and multiple language tracks, and i also have a small panic attack because I realize none of Ed's relatives knows any of our other guests. So I do what any woman would do in my place: run as fast as i can to lock myself in my room and throw on a nicer dress…. On my way there I bump into my three bridesmaids, who are looking absolutely gorgeous and holding a big pink Victoria's Secret box. We cross paths as they exit the elevator and I (on turbojet mode) enter it, but i try to give them a loving look that conveys how much I appreciate them being there for me. From the look in their eyes I'm guessing what I conveyed is closer to desperation, but the doors close and I'm on my way up. Smart women that they are, they don't follow me, which is great because i get to the room, and for the first time in five days I am alone! Completely alone. Just me, the mugshot of Osama Bin Laden on TV and a swan made out of a towel resting on the bed. I take a deep breath and start the de/re-construction project. 

For this special occasion I had saved a shiny leopard-print number (really, it sounds worse that it is) that my mom had bought for me a long time ago. Luckily, with the weather being what it is in San Francisco, I was never tempted to wear it, so it's practically brand-new - if you don't count that Minoush played Tarzan and Jane in my closet using it as a swinging vine. The damage was visible, but not serious enough to deter me from wearing it. I put on some more makeup and slick my hair back in a tight bun (which I almost never do, but the heat, combined with the sweat and the liquor vapors will make any hair slick anyway, as I learnt last night). I throw in a pair of grey crystal studs that I'd purchased in the Munich airport 5 months ago and the result is - well, or so I think - positively French! Now I'm read to face the lions! So i head back to the restaurant, where, to my relief, everybody is getting along just dandy. Hm, maybe I'm part of the problem and not the solution, after all. 

Ksew is in charge of making sure my glass is never empty. Let's just say she is as consciencious about it as she used to be about macro midterms in college. 

After a few more pleasantries, the girls make me open the VS box, which contains - surprise-suprise - underwear with sequins, a skimpy white "sexy little bride" top that Ksew makes perfectly clear I need to wear in public sometime before getting married. And, of course, a nice little gaudy plastic crown. Clearly, my bridesmaids came prepared. We all head out to the discoteca, where we are greeted by bartenders and cocktail waitresses who expect us to put on a show again tonight - and we can't possibly let them down. 

The gorgeous ladies at the perennial Discoteca

It's sort of a funny situation because my future husband is present and having a grand time on my bachelorette party - which is not lost on Ksew and Eric (whom most of us know as Homes), who jointly decide that he deserves to get drunk. Not just really drunk, or black-out drunk, but happy-baby-posing, butt naked walking around the hotel and knocking on people's doors - drunk. Which they do. For full details, please talk to the two individuals in question, or to Ed's aunt Francoise who had the opportunity to get to know her nephew a little better than she ever wanted to. My lips are S-E-A-L-E-D.

The core team proceeds to play nurses/sushi chefs with toilet paper and Mexican hot nuts
The rest of us party until we are thrown out of the discoteca again (I see a pattern here) by bleary-eyed guards and proceed (mainly me and Ana) to take a dip in the pool, which, again, is strictly prohibited. The temperature of the water is absolutely perfect and the only thing that gets us out of it is the guard telling us that they put all sorts of dangerous chemicals in in to clean it overnight. I' shudder at the thought that I may have to walk down the isle looking green, but, drunk as i am, i quickly shrug it off. A shrunken cohort - namely Monika, Ana, Ksew, Meghan, Kelly, Shannon and Eric - proceed to the grils' quarters and party on till 5:00 am or so, when we finally pass out.

Shhh!.. little leopard is taking a nap.

 I do believe Kelly escorts me to my room - god bless her - because i seem to remember a tall blond angel opening the door for me after several failed attempts on my part. If it wasn't her, I may have had my first episode of liquor-induced dementia. So, i really hope it was her.

This time around, Mom doesn't even register that I came home. I instantly pass out, happy that none of my feet or toes were broken in the process of celebrating my last days as a single woman. 

Countdown to W-Day: Wed., May 4

This is the story of the epic (if we may say so ourselves) Ixapa wedding of Edouard and Camelia, seen through the eyes of the latter.

Chapter 5: Getting Crowded, Getting Nervous, Getting There

Today is a big day. I can tell from the moment I wake up. Mom and the girls and I have breakfast together on the Veranda where little black birds keep swooping in and stealing food from the busboys' trays and occasionally from people's plates. At ten sharp I rush to the lobby - finally ready for the photographer appointment. They show me nice slides of other gringos' weddings, I take it - to reassure me of the quality of their services. They do seem very good and i find out, to my surprise, that the total price we negotiated includes a ' casual session' for the two of us. We schedule it for Thursday evening at 6:00 PM, at the 'golden hour', and part ways. 

It feels weird to be in the hotel room all alone and sitting at the table, but I need to write many many! welcome notes for our guests and to get ice so i can have the bubbly chilled in time for my bridesmaids. I'm done with everything, including dropping off the wine and notes at 11:00, which leaves me with exactly 45 minutes of sun-bathing before I have to take off for the hairdresser appointment. I join the ladies on the beach just in time to see my mom playing "sun sergeant" (in particular with Kelly, who came pre-sunburnt from a street event in Atlanta). 

At 11:45 sharp - plus minus a Pina Colada, I head towards the hairdresser, conveniently located across the street from Hotel Presidente. Since I missed two mornings' worth of sunbathing in a row, i decide to walk towards the center on the beach, and cross towards the street over at Hotel Presidente. I notice that nobody is really walking on the beach and i ascribe it to the noon heat; but then I get to Presidente and find out the real reason: only two hotels on the whole strip allow visitors to cross over their property and they're at opposite edges of the strip, as one of the guards kindly but decisively informs me. That won't do, though, because it's 12:05 and I really need to be at the hairdresser. So I argue, beg, flirt and then beg again in my worst gringo faux-Spanish until the guard falls victim to my charm offensive and lets me through.

 I rush to cross the street and walk up to a nice, clean-looking and utterly closed salon. I ask around, wait, walk for a bit, still nothing. I remember having spotted an internet cafe close by the day before, so i head over there and take a seat in front of a computer to check my mail. I decide i've earned myself a treat and order a frapuccino. I then spend a half hour of caffeinated, wired ecstasy. I haven't touched email for five days and it feels like I'm  coming up for air. But half an hour later I've had way enough "air" and HuffPost and I'm ready to sink back into the warm, chlorine-smellling waters of internet-free vacation. I only hang around for long enough to finish the last milliliter of frappucino and then i speed-walk back to the hotel.

It turns out i get there just in time to watch most of my bridesmaids - Kseniya and Monika -  Ana gets here a little later - along with my friends Violeta and Didi check in. Hilarity and joy ensues. We hug, kiss, commingle sweats and take the elevator up to their room. Unfortunately, the bubbly is not yet there, so I return to the front desk to inquire, just in time to see Ed checking in. This is starting to be the theme of the day… He's back from his Saladita break, tanned and relaxed like only surfers can look. We hug, steal a kiss and i give him a progress report. In all likelihood we won't see each other again until drinking time, after the adults go to bed. I return to the girls' room and champagne got there, chilled and all. We drink, take hilarious photos and videos (among others, one of Didi suggestively opening the champagne bottle) and giggle till our tummies hurt. Eventually I let them unpack and make themselves comfortable, and join my mom on the beach.
Where there's a will, there's room for everyone...

Later, at dinner, Ed and I sit at separate but tables, each with his guests, until we realize how silly that is and cram all together around one round table. Dinner ends on a high note. I tuck mom in and then head out to our Discoteca, to do a quality check and make sure it's suitable for the post-wedding bash. Turns out the guests are already there and we all proceed to drinking and dancing until around 2:00 AM when we get kicked out by tired bartenders. 

Discoteca passed the test with flying colors; but we're all really sweaty and hot, so we collectively decide to go for an ocean swim. Most of us don't have swim suits on, so we just dive right in with our sweaty party clothes. Somehow I still have the common sense to take off my earrings and long skirt before wading in. Don't ask me how. It's incredibly fun and we're all behaving like the ocean is our private bathtub. I'm exhausted but really really happy, and i can tell Ed is, too. We finally retire for our rooms. My sandals are really squeaky and they wake mom up for a second, just enough for her to ask why i am wet and for me to mumble something about a rogue wave. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Countdown to W-Day: Tue., May 3

This is the story of the epic (if we may say so ourselves) Ixapa wedding of Edouard and Camelia, seen through the eyes of the latter, with (promised) ulterior posts from the groom.

Chapter 4: Thought by experts to be near extinct, the local gringo population is suddenly revived

Tuesday morning I wake up and try to coax mom into a walk on the beach but i'm met with stern refusal. She was up watching re-runs of  Sleepless in Seattle and is tired!

Prospects for a walk are not looking good...

I walk a little bit and return in a hurry to have breakfast, with the firm conviction that I need to  meet with the photographer in the lobby at 10:00 AM sharp to talk about the various sessions, poses and overall timing. I wait until 10:30, telling myself "Mexico time" and then decide to check my email, only to find out that i skipped a whole 45 minutes of morning sunbathing (the best), in vain! The photographer was scheduled for Wednesday, tomorrow, at 10:00 AM. Tomorrow will be busy: guests arriving, photographer, Ed coming back from Saladita and, on top of it all, a hair appointment at noon to take care of my neglected roots. I sigh and meet mom in the pool for a (very) early round of drinks. 

Generally I try to stay away from alcohol before 5:00 PM, but the circumstances are special and i need to catch up with her on some delicate topics that I've postponed broaching until now. So I wait until she's properly hydrated ( with Coladas) and then bring up the possibility of taking a year sabbatical from adult life to travel with Ed through Latin America. Two Coronas (moi) and another Pina later (her), we strike a deal that basically makes a compromise between mom's desire to see me save for my old days and my desire to break the office shackle. All is good and we are done just in time for lunch. 

As usual, mom has a tiny bit of salad and three deserts, to my complete disgust (feigned) and jealousy (real). I pile my plate up high with veggies and add a smattering of guacamole for desert, as I still harbor hopes to look less like a chipmunk and more like a mermaid in my white gown.

Still white, but working on it...

Upstairs, we call grandma to give and receive the report: no narcotraficantes attempted to kidnap us, but, alas, one of my mom's dogs ate one of her parrots. It's a sad moment that reminds us both that at the end of these two weeks we need to face some unpleasant facts of life. But not right now. I check my email and see that Ed wrote to me twice: once at 1:45 to say that he heard that Meghan and Kelly are getting in today (woo-hoo) and am I sure that I still want to join him in Saladita for a surfing session and overnight stay; and another email at 2:11, to say "OK, I'm leaving now!"  I reply as quickly as my vacation-mushed brain can manage to command my fingers to tell him that I have way too many appointments on Wed. to be able to go to Saladita and that he shouldn't come. I hit Send at 2:12. I don't hear anything back. 

I join mom upstairs and, sure enough, Ed and Wes show up 40 minutes later, sweaty, dusty and hot like two habaneros. I break the news that i can't go, but Ed, high on endorphins from surfing, takes it remarkably well. He jumps in the shower fully dressed (but that's not saying much - when in Mexico he generally wears nothing but board shorts.) They hop back in the car and they're gone, in a cloud of dust, like some vision from a Spaghetti Western. 

It's time to return to the beach and work some more on the tan. Mom somehow already managed to burn her cleavage a deep dark burgundy, but she bravely wraps herself into a towel and joins me on the beach chairs. Five-ten minutes later I hear two familiar voices and spy Meghan and Kelly, the first two guests from the cohort. We spend the rest of the evening talking, lying on the beach, occasionally dipping into the ocean. 
Thought by gringologists to be on the verge of extinction, the  gringo population in Ixtapa was suddenly revitalized by an unexpected migration from the North And although they were all females, scientists have observed in the past that gringo males soon follow suit. The gringologist community waited with bated breath...

After dinner, we walk to town, where I buy two bottles of champagne, one for the bridesmaids and one for the best men. Then we walk back to the hotel and talk until the wee hours about everything an anything, from neural pathways to sartorial makeovers. I take my leave from them around 1:00 AM and return to my room. The joyride is about to begin.

Countdown to W-Day: Monday, May 2

This is the story of the epic (if we may say so ourselves) Ixapa wedding of Edouard and Camelia, seen through the eyes of the latter, with (promised) ulterior posts from the groom.

Chapter 3: Attack of the Cute Dolphins 

We start the day as two women on a mission: to swim with the dolphins. But first I take an early walk on the beach and then meet with the wedding planner, Rubi, at 10:00, to talk through the details: seating arrangements, DJ, photographer, food, vegetarian options, etc. Then I pick mom up from the (where else…) poolside bar and take her to lunch. Eventually, around 3:00 PM, we make our way towards Delfiniti, reserve our spots and wait eagerly for the program to start. 

Mom is absolutely mesmerized by the two huge parrots they have sitting on a branch in the entrance. We take photos with them, then we proceed to the waiting room, where we are soon joined by families with multiple (i'm talking four and up!) kids. 
And by mesmerized, I mean really, really, mesmerized

Mom and I look at each other thinking that we're a bit older than the general audience, but then one of the trainers walks in with the two huge parrots and they start taking photos with the birds doing awesome tricks like lying belly up in your palms and perched on your shoulder with their huge wings spread out. They turn out to be surprisingly light for their size. 

Then, we move up to the pools, where we get some basic training on how to pet the dolphins - with your palm flat, the same way you feed horses. We get to put on life vests and move into the (cold) water, where we first stand on a submerged platform and then are invited by the trainers to step into the actual pool and let the vests keep us afloat. This is where it gets tricky: mom flat-out refuses to step off the platform and into the water, terrified that she would sink. Finally, after much pleading and begging on my part, she finally steps in, shrieks, flails her arms frantically and eventually settles into a stable, if uneasy, floating position. 

And the fun begins: we each get to pet the dolphins many many times, then hold them by their fins and dance with them and eventually be carried across the pool twice on their amazingly strong , cool bellies, at incredible speed. Then we move over to the other pool and watch them dance in tandem, jump and clap with their fins. But the absolute best part comes towards the end: lying flat on my belly, two dolphins come from behind and push my feet with their round noses until i'm floating above water with the speed of a small motor boat. Exhausted and a bit terrified I collapse ungracefully at the very end.

Dolphin: "Let me show you how we boogie"
Mom: "If you let go, I will sink to the bottom and that'll be the end of me"

After a nap and dinner, Mom and I head out to town and buy a little white linen dress she had her eye on - she suspects i'll be steaming hot in my corseted dress on Saturday and will want to change into something more comfortable as soon as possible. How right she is, as always… Then we come back to the hotel and talk until the wee hours of the night, as this is our last evening alone, before people start showing up. 

Countdown to W-Day: Sunday, May 1

This is the story of the epic (if we may say so ourselves) Ixapa wedding of Edouard and Camelia, seen through the eyes of the latter, with (promised) ulterior posts from the groom.

Chapter 2: Working hard on the tan!

Mom and I have leisurely breakfast and mom discovers that dessert is served with every meal. From that point on, she refuses to behave like an adult and has nothing but desserts and coffee for almost every meal… We lie by the pool in the morning and move to the beach in the afternoon. We also claim our spots in the pool bar, where we will spend many pleasant hours over Pina Colada and cigs (mom) and Agua de Melon (me, trying very hard to be good and fit in my wedding dress come Saturday). Overall, Sunday is quiet and relaxed. We work on our tans and drink and eat like fiends.

Mom is very proud of her new straw hat and bag
The view from our hotel room.

Oh, yeah, and we get wind that somehow Osama Bin Laden has been taken out of the picture for good. I take that as a good sign for Obama's reelection chances and in general for our wedding and we go to bed with the TV on, watching CNN. 

A new flower pattern on our beds every day ...

Countdown to W-Day: Saturday, April 30th

This is the story of the epic (if we may say so ourselves) Ixapa wedding of Edouard and Camelia, seen through the eyes of the latter, with (promised) ulterior posts from the groom.

Chapter 1: Attention! Gringos landing.

After taking a flight out out SFO on Friday evening and landing in Orange County to spend the night at Odile's (Ed's mom) in order to drop off Minoush (our cat), we head out to LAX,  bright and early Saturday morning, Mamma Draga in tow. 

The flight to Ixtapa is only 3 hours, but we are so giddy with anticipation that it feels like five. In fact, Ed is playing mind games with Mamma Draga and mid-way through the flight she is convinced that we are actually going somewhere in Latin America, possibly Colombia. She is also wearing a white zip-up fleece that she commandeered as her own from my closet and swears that she will not take it off when we land. Her temperature-related suspicions are based on her experience in San Francisco, which did not correspond to her visions of California as a sun-soaked windless heaven. The flight is only half-full, so we have plenty of space to lie down and sleep. We also buy a soggy sandwich and regret it immediately.

After we land and collect our luggage, we are welcomed by Wes and Eric (aka Homes), cheery and already tanned, holding a sign that says "Senor Frog, Senorita Camelia and Mom." This cheers us up immediately (not that we lacked in the cheer department at all). 

We proceed to the car rental where Ed gets a little BMW and, with Wes and Homes following in their Pirata Plata Tres (still not sure why their car had such an intricate nickname, but i'm sure there's a story there), we head out straight for the Mercado de Zihuatanejo. A small aside: the stop at the Mercado is a tradition institutionalized by Ed's dad, who after many surfing trips with the three Gendreau boys realized that logistically and financially, it made more sense to buy half of mercado and take it to Saladita rather than try to feed them there and decimate the local Huachinango population. 

So, we stop at the mercado and get the bare necessities: watermelon, papayas, apples, grapes, bananas, an inflatable shark. Then we drive to Park Royal where mom and i get dropped off and checked in and the boys head out to Saladita for three days of surfing before most of the wedding party gets here.
The Three Musketeers: Wes, Homes and Sharkie 

Mom and I have a sinful dinner at the hotel's all you can eat buffet (we are staying at an all inclusive resort), and call it a night. The adventure begins with two very full bellies.

This is just a tiny sample. Not to be confused with the ACTUAL size of the portions we indulged in...