Monday, October 28, 2013

What a weekend!

The reason we came to La Réunion now was for a wedding: Louis and Gwen. And now, that wedding has taken place -- on Saturday, October 26, 2013, at 13:30.
(This is my own shot. I was seated next to Louis and the camera was in my lap. No flash, no way to check that I was aiming at the couple. But this was the moment of saying "Oui". That's it for really personal shots in this post. Most of the other pictures have children in them and posting those is a parental decision. Family readers will get the link to my album, as usual.)
I'll post the rest of our tourist activities in another post. The wedding related activities started with a dinner for all in the wedding party, hosted and cooked by Louis, in the middle of the week. We are a fairly small party: Gwen's parents; sister; brother and his wife and two girls; an aunt and uncle; Sacha, of course; Gwen's friend, who was her witness and who lives here; Louis' witness, who is his good friend and who came with his wife and baby just a couple of weeks older than Sacha; and we three Lebelles. We ate well and all had a good time. We didn't linger because most of us intended on going up to the top of le Maïdo for the view into the Cirque de Mafate the next morning.
Thursday, Louis and Mikail spent the afternoon diving. That was the bachelor party and Louis loved it! Friday, all of the girls in the party, spend the day with Gwen. A morning at a lovely beach, with paddle boards and canoes. Just as it started to sprinkle, we headed off to another beach to the restaurant where Camille had reserved our lunch. It poured as we ate a delicious meal, but the storm was over by the time we left, so we didn't get wet. We spent the afternoon visiting a tropical garden right here in our neighborhood. The rain had stopped completely by the time we started our visit and it was a lovely, interesting walk. While we were having our day out, the men took care of the babies and prepared the house for Saturday's festivities. Gwen went off to spend the night at Camille's and Louis spent the evening with us and spent the night at Anne's hotel (she has a suite!). Anne had arranged for full sister time for Louis and he managed to speak to both Claire and Emma on the phone.
The Mairie de St. Denis
Saturday was the big day. Camille had made a hair appointment for me, so Paul and Anne spent an hour discovering St. Denis while I was at the hairdresser's. It's not a very big city, so they managed to cover most of the sites in that time and we continued afterwards, having lunch near the mairie (city hall). At about 1:00 we were all near the mairie and ready. We spent the time taking pictures with Louis. Gwen arrived, beautiful, radiant and we went up to the "salle des mariages" just before 1:30.
The couple sit facing the "maire" (or, in this case, the "maire adjoint") and the "secretaire". The parents sit on each side of the couple and the witnesses at the end. We formed an arc around the table. The secretaire read the civil code articles concerning marriage, to which they agreed, and then the full "état civil" of both Louis and Gwen (that's their full names, where they were born, their parents' full names, ...) and they signed the document, exchanged rings and were married. Simple and every bit as moving as a big ceremony.
As with most cities, Saturday weddings are in high demand, so we were quickly ushered out of the room to make way for the next party. There's a patio in the mairie with a fountain, so a few pictures were taken there, and then again on the steps at the front. We then went down the street (Ave. de la Victoire), all the way to the sea front, Le Barachois, for more photos, after which we went back to our cars to drive up to the Jardin d'Etat, (up the same street, but called Rue de Paris at this end) for more pictures. It started to drizzle but the French have a saying: "mariage pluvieux, mariage heureux" (rainy wedding, happy wedding), and it was only a little rain, in the tropics, so it did not prevent our meanderings. We left the city to head back to the house and stopped at Cap la Houssaye on the road between St. Paul and St. Gilles for some cliffside photos. L, who is nine and has very sharp eyes, saw a turtle in the water below. It even came to the surface for us. (Turtles are a sign of longevity in the Chinese tradition, so we decided that this sighting was a good sign for Louis and Gwen!) By this time, the sun had come back out. We returned to l'Ermitage.
A little goûter (snack) was waiting for us: fresh fruit and fruit drinks! After a little time to relax, we walked down to the beach for the sunset and champagne! And when the sun was down and it was completely dark, except for the stars, so bright, we lit lanterns and sent them off into the sky. Once back at the house, we settled down to a perfect dinner, good music, and a good time.
Louis finally told us what the Sunday surprise was going to be -- a day out on a catamaran!  (half day for some, full day for those who wanted to stay aboard) We set out from St. Gilles a little past nine. The sea was smooth; the dolphins came to play boatside. Later on, the sea got rough, so the afternoon shift was called short, but they still got to see dolphins, a bigger species than the ones we saw in the morning, so the day was a success, even for the few who were a little seasick. What we all remember is a good day.
And that was a wonderful weekend. Today is going to be a relaxed, no-planned-activity-or-sightseeing-day. Anne is leaving tonight.

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