This year, I had the chance to do something totally different for my birthday. My friend, Kathryn, got married to her sweetie, Stu, on Saturday the 17th. Kathryn and I met as pen-pals (or e-mail pals) probably 15 years ago and we have stayed in touch and actually become very good friends. We met in person for the first time about six years ago and have since looked for excuses to see each other. It hasn't worked all that well, but I knew that her wedding was the PERFECT excuse for me to go visit. Jeff and I were both invited, but when he found out how much plane tickets cost he decided it wasn't worth it to him. I still wanted to go, but I decided to make a weekend trip of it. Yes, that's an awfully long way to go for a wedding weekend. But I've done London a couple of times before, I was going to be by myself, and Kath and Stu were going to be otherwise occupied and not be available to entertain me.
I left home on Thursday, the 15th thinking I would land in London at 8am on my birthday and have the whole day to explore before heading out to meet up with the happy couple. Well, wouldn't you know it that life and circumstance intervened during my connection in Charlotte and I was re-routed through Frankfurt, Germany! I really didn't mind the delay too much, although I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn't get to go to King's Cross Station to see platform 9 3/4. Still, I got to London about 2:30pm and after I cleared customs and whatnot was all set to grab the 3:30 coach out to Hemel. What I didn't know about or bank on was some kind of massive wreck on the motorway around the airport where nothing could get in or out. I ended up sitting waiting on the coach for about 2 hours before finally getting to where I needed to be. There was definitely some stress on the parts of everyone involved, including Kath's sweet family, but we got it all worked out and I got there. It was so much fun getting to meet her family after hearing about them for so many years.
After dinner at her parents' house they took me to the hotel to get checked in and settled. They had surprised me with a birthday cake and a gift of all kinds of fun candy you can't get here in the states (I'm still eating on it slowly and sharing some with Jeff) After a few minutes to get freshened up and settled in, we headed to a cute little pub where we met up with lots of friends and family members to drink and chat and have lots of fun. Really, that seems like a nice alternative to the Rehearsal Dinner. Kath did insist on having everyone there sing to me which embarrassed me to no end, but was still kind of fun. Finally, about 10pm my 25 plus hours of traveling caught up with me and I was ready for bed, so back to the hotel I went.
I slept well Friday night and woke at a decent hour Saturday morning. I went for a walk around the hotel grounds and enjoyed the wonderful weather. I skipped out on a solo breakfast at the hotel restaurant in favor of birthday cake and tea in my room. It was great! Then I got myself all prettied up for the wedding! The wedding ceremony itself was very nice. Not at all what I'm used to, but it was really and truly the first time since my own wedding that I've really wanted to do it over but to do it like they did! I was not prepared for the marathon that was the reception, though. We started partying as soon as the ceremony ended (it started about 1:30) and I finally went back to my room at 11:45 pm and the party was still going! All the people were so nice, I had a wonderful time meeting everyone and getting to be a part of all the fun.
My return trip was much less eventful. The last leg of my trip, from Philadelphia to Birmingham, I was the last person on the plane (and seriously thought i was going to get left) because I got stuck in customs. Next time I will give myself even more time to get through but even then it wasn't a big deal because I knew I'd get home eventually!
It truly was an amazing adventure and a special way to celebrate my birthday. It's one I will never forget!