31.10.22 — Travel

Em & Lincoln’s Wedding

After having my parents over and then my sister, it was now Rhea’s turn to come and visit me a mere six months after she last came to have a little Spanish holiday here in Madrid! She rocked up on a Wednesday whilst I was working from home and settled into my flat for a long weekend of a dance event that she’d signed up to.

It was a good job that she’d a few days of event to keep her busy, however, as our original plan of spending the weekend together had been thrown into chaos from a phone call I’d had a couple of months before. Em and Lincoln had rang with giddy excitement to announce that they’d finally manage to concrete a date for their big day after all the pandemic-induced chaos!

The date, the 22nd of October, coincided with Rhea’s visit, so I’d had to ring her to check it was okay if I left her with a copy of my keys for the weekend to entertain herself. As with all good friends, she was very chill about the whole thing, and so the day after she arrived I bade her farewell as I headed for an early night.

My flight back to the UK was a disgustingly early one which saw me up at 4:30am to grab a taxi to the airport, where I flew through security and wound up having to entertain myself for nearly three hours before boarding. I managed to get half an hour’s worth of kip in on the flight, which left me at Manchester Airport where my parents had kindly agreed to come and pick me up.

From Manchester, the three of us headed to Leeds, where we did a spot of shopping around the centre of the city that I once went to university in. It was very odd but very nice to be wandering the streets of Leeds once more, as the last time I’d been in the centre of the city itself was in 2019 way before the pandemic started.

I visited some of my favourite old haunts, including Village Books, Colours May Vary, and the Corn Exchange. I also couldn’t resist grabbing myself a bite from a British institution, Greggs, where I devoured a very warm and very tasty vegan sausage roll.

Whilst in the Corn Exchange, I grabbed myself a cool new “Dirty Leeds” tote bag and then proceeded to fill it with some treats to bring back to Spain with me, including a “If it’s not from Yorkshire, it’s shite” notebook and a Yorkshire English dictionary. I also started my hunt for some bonfire toffee to bring back with me to Spain, but I couldn’t seem to find any around the city centre.

I love nothing more than a tote bag, especially when it matches my coat.

We then went for lunch at another old haunt of mine, Belgrave Music Hall, where we’d often skulk off as students in order to grab ourselves some cheap pizza slices and sit working on our laptops for hours on end. It was nice to see that it hasn’t really changed a bit, with it’s cozy charm and staff as friendly as ever.

We ordered some burgers and a huge portion of “session fries” to share, which is a literal tray full of chips topped with spicy mayo, pancetta, chillies, and cheese. These were as delicious as I remember them being and they went down very well with a pint of citrusy lager that the bartender chose out for me. My eyes were left watering though, and not just by the chillis – the price of a pint in England is outrageous recently!

These loaded “session fries” were just as good as I remember them.

After lunch, we indulged in a bit more shopping. This culminated in a trip to Ibérica, a Spanish restaurant where I’d read you can buy proper imported Spanish wine – none of that dodgy Rioja that they sell for outrageous prices over in the UK. This turned out to be a lovely experience, with the waiter throwing in some bags of picos (bits of hard bread to eat cured meats with) for free. We wound up so at home at the place that we stopped for a drink of sangría!

We then headed back to the car, where I added the wine to the various other Spanish goodies that I’d brought over for Em and Lincoln as a mini wedding gift. My parents then graciously dropped me off at Em and Lincoln’s house, where I was to stay the night before the wedding in order to save a bit of money on a hotel.

There I met the core of Em and Lincoln’s family and friends, who’d come over for a quiet drink to celebrate the last evening before the big day. We had some wine and a good old laugh, even though I was beginning to wilt from my long day of travelling, shopping, and socialising.

Once everyone had left, I was allocated the comfy spongy sofa to sleep on as the two guest rooms were full, but getting into bed was made quite difficult by another guest who’d decided it was his. Lando, Em and Lincoln’s gorgeous dog, had claimed the duvet as his own!

With those puppy dog eyes, I nearly resigned to sleeping on the floor.

The next day was the day of the ceremony, so we all got into our glad rags and headed down to Millennium Square and the City Hall where the wedding was to take place. Once the rest of the friends and family arrived, the proceedings got underway and I felt the pressure as I was responsible for two aspects of the wedding: controlling the music and bearing the rings!

Acting as DJ wasn’t too difficult, but I’d had the job of ring bearer spring up on me just the evening before. I’d held on to the box containing the two wedding bands as if it was my first born child the entire journey, and then did as I’d been briefed during the ceremony itself. It was an honour to be included in this way in such a lovely and intimate setting!

With the rings exchanged, the registry signed, and the exit music over, we all reconvened outside the City Hall for the customary confetti throwing and photo shooting. I’d shed a little tear during the ceremony itself and then I’d to contain myself during the photos, but this time they were tears from laughing as me, Em, and Lincoln grabbed a photo together.

We were quite distracted during the actual photo but I love it anyway!

Once the photoshoot was over, the group of us then headed down to Franco Manca’s for some lunch. I sat next to Ros, Lincoln’s mum, and we had a right laugh as we enjoyed our salads, pizzas, sorbets, and then a little shot of grapa (a strong Italian liquor) that Ros suggested we take as a digestif.

After lunch, the wedding party then split up for us all to go our separate ways before we reconvened at Em and Lincoln’s house for the evening do. I headed off to a hotel I’d grabbed in Headingley and checked in, whereupon I made the absolutely most of the amenities by having a two hour nap in the comfy bed and then an hourlong soak in the bath.

My decadent afternoon of relaxation had then made me quite late for the evening do, so I threw on my clothes and grabbed a taxi back up to Em and Lincoln’s place. The party was in full swing when I arrived, so I headed outside to toast some marshmallows and get chatting to everyone I’d not had chance to speak to before.

The celebration was a lovely way to end the day, with highlights including a recreation of an improv dance I made up to Sia’s “Chandelier” in my second year of university (when Em and I lived together). I met a great bunch of new people, drank some good wine, eat some good cheese, and would have stayed all night if I hadn’t plans for the next day!

The next morning I awoke in my hotel room to a very foggy Leeds – check the contrast in the two photos above! The first order of the day was some breakfast, which I’d booked in advance as a treat to myself. I thus headed down to the hotel restaurant and loaded up on all my favourite British breakfast goodies: sausages, bacon, black pudding, and poached egg on toast.

After this, I checked out of my room and headed down to a local café just down the road, where I’d arranged for another special meet up which had been facilitated by the stars aligning in a rather happy twist of fate: Luisa was in Leeds!

I’d not seen Luisa since we had breakfast together in Leeds back in 2019, and she’s changed jobs, got herself a partner, and moved down to Norwich since then – a lot can change in such a short time! It was thus a stroke of luck that she just happened to be around, so I met up with her and her partner, Sol, for some post-breakfast coffee.

We had an absolute hoot in the few short hours that we were together, with me and Luisa catching up on many, many things and reminiscing past hilarity from both Leeds and my trips over to Germany. We also spoke of the possibility of meeting up to go to another beer festival back in Germany early next year – so watch this space!

All too soon Luisa and Sol had to be getting off and I’d to head into Leeds proper to get the first of many trains over to Manchester Airport. They dropped me off at the train station and I began to navigate the delicate state of the British train system, but I’ve to say that despite having to make three changes along the way, the journey was pretty cheap and pretty smooth sailing. I didn’t even complain about the couple of interchanges I’d to run through in Manchester, as it was nice to get out a bit and see even brief flashes of the city.

I eventually arrived at Manchester Airport, which was again an absolute breeze and nothing like the horror stories I’ve heard about it. My only gripe was that I’d arrived so early, so had to spend a good three hours entertaining myself in the somewhat lacking departure lounge at terminal three.

My late flight then got me back into Madrid just after midnight, where I suffered a painfully slow journey from terminal 4S back to my flat. I was just happy to be in my bed, though, and so slept like an absolute baby to be ready to work the next day.

I then had just one last evening with Rhea, which we made a nice and chill one as we stayed in and did a spot of cooking. We whipped up a meal of prawns with homemade lemonade and some roast veggies, which we then devoured with Rhea’s tipple of choice whilst in Spain: vermouth.

The next day I then waved Rhea off as she headed back to the UK and our crazy weekend of country swapping was complete. It was great to see her, then an honour to form such an intimate role in Em and Lincoln’s wedding, and then I’d even the pleasure of heading back to a flat kept nice and cosy by Rhea after her long weekend of swing dancing.

It was quite the crazy weekend for all of us!