I just got back from the most amazing trip to France. It was my first time visiting, and it was for an absolutely beautiful reason—my best friend’s wedding!
Athina and I have known each other for 18 years now (yikes that makes me feel old). We met in high school, and had lockers next to each other almost every year. We still talk almost daily, even though she moved to France back in 2013.
When I found out she was engaged, I immediately knew I would do everything I could to attend the wedding. The pandemic made it a bit trickier, since we weren’t sure where the world would be at and whether we’d feel safe traveling. Then Russia invaded Ukraine, and French President Macron was highly involved in mediating the conflict.
Basically… it was just another year in this crazy world that we’ve somehow grown numb to.
Thankfully, everything worked out for Sean and I to attend Athina’s wedding and explore a bit of the country she now calls home. There’s a lot to cover, so I’m going to split our trip into two blog posts!
The wedding itself was near Aix-en-Provence, where Athina lives. We flew into Paris, and then (after a few complications) took a train to Gare de Lyon in downtown Paris, and then on to Aix. After precarious detours thanks to lots of construction on very tiny, narrow streets, we arrived at the venue. And naturally, the first person we ran into… didn’t speak a lick of English. She luckily found the mother of the groom, who walked us over to the cottage where we’d be staying. There we met many of Athina’s friends, who very quickly became our friends!
Our first big outing was dinner with everyone downtown! We had missed the civil ceremony, but we still enjoyed meeting everyone and seeing Athina as we ate. It was also an… abrupt transition to French cuisine. Despite Athina’s brother translating for us, we didn’t fully understand what we were ordering. Several raw beef dishes and a fish head later, we figured it out! 😂 It was unexpected, but still very delicious!
The next day was the wedding, and after sleeping in a bit longer than expected (sorry, Athina….), I helped set up some of the place settings and then got ready! (Fun fact, it’s hard to set up place settings when you don’t know the French translations for the table numbers.) Then we headed over to the ceremony site, where we helped pass out programs. Thankfully, we met a woman, Celine, who spent many summers in Ohio with her dad, and her husband, Paul, who is from Philly! Yay for English speakers! We hung out with them for much of the wedding, which was a blast.
The ceremony was all in French, obviously, so we didn’t understand most of it, but it was absolutely beautiful. The only things I really understood were “she said yes,” “Butterworth en Grand Rapids Michigan,” “Monopoly,” and “Pretty Pretty Princess.” You know… the important things.
Afterward we did photos, which went amazingly well. We were in the “friends” group photo, plus two photos with everyone. While we waited, I got some fun photos of the peacocks who live on site, and got to chat more with Athina’s parents.
Once the photos were done, the cocktail hour(s) began. Sean was really nice and went back to the cottage to get my hauraches for me, because my stilettos were killing my feet. I felt SO much better after that.
We looked at photos, which they had strung up around one of the gazebos, which was SO fun. One of my favorite photos of Athina and me was on there.
The cocktail hour started at about 6 and lasted until probably 9 pm, with some hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and champagne available. There was a DJ with a whole rack of records to pick through as well, and we could request a song that he’d incorporate into his mixes, which was super fun. I chose Hooked on a Feeling, and Celine chose a song by Eminem.
Dinner was delicious. we started with gazpacho, then had chicken with fried polenta and some roasted veggies. It was SO good. Athina gave us one of the acrylic menu displays as a souvenir. 🤗
They also had a cheese course, which is my new favorite thing. We should definitely adopt this in the States. Before dessert, a plate of cheese was delivered to our table, and one of Athina’s friends asked if I would like to present the cheese, or if she should do it. I had no idea what she was talking about, so she presented the cheese on my behalf—basically explained all the different cheeses, which is apparently something French people know by default.
By the time we got dessert (croquembouche, small cakes, and macarons), it was probably 11 pm, and we stayed out dancing until 4 am! Apparently that’s pretty normal in France. It sounds like Athina and Guillaume finally went up to bed at 5 am.
Sunday was brunch, which was super fun! We woke up around 10:45, got ourselves packed up, and drove over to the main building for brunch. There were a bunch of pastries, some mini pancakes, spreads… it was all delicious. Then I changed into my suit and we swam for most of the day in the biggest, most beautiful pool I have ever seen.
We spent all day drinking Prosecco and chatting with Athina and her friends. We talked about everything from Harry Potter World (apparently the French translation of “wand” is “baguette,” lol) to abortion rights and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
After spending all day in the pool, we headed to our hotel in downtown Aix (through even more absolutely tiny, narrow streets), where we’d stay for a few more days.
That Monday was Athina’s birthday, so after wandering around Aix during the day, we met up with them for a birthday dinner. We stayed out until probably 11, catching up and enjoying each others’ company.
The next morning, we packed up and drove over to Athina’s BEAUTIFUL apartment to see their place, drop off some things they had left at the venue, and say goodbye. They gave us some rosé that was leftover from the wedding so we could celebrate our anniversary, and made sure to point out the guest room for when we return. 🥰
Then we dropped off our rental car and boarded the train for Paris!
This post was originally published August 10, 2023. Its timestamp has been updated to better reflect the timing of my trip.