Our flights from Istanbul to Marseille were as cheap as we could get them, at the expense of any comfort, convenience, or logical route. Our first plane landed us in Paris Charles de Gaulle a little after 10pm and from there we caught a train into the city. First stop was any open pub to wash the circulated air out of our mouths and work out how we’d spend our seven odd hours in the city. We found a terrible Irish-themed chain pub, packed almost to capacity with drunken idiots watching the Brazil game; the perfect spot for some quiet internet research. We worked out that we could catch a night bus from southern Paris to the airport in Orly for our 6am connecting flight, so with five hours to kill and the pubs closing up, we grabbed some more booze and started to wander vaguely south.
We found the bus easily enough, caught the flight no problem, the only part that didn’t work out was my plan to get some sleep in transit. At 8am we arrived in Marseille exhausted and with a full day’s work ahead of us. Sash and Gosh picked us up in the hire car and since we hadn’t seen each other in over a year (not counting the occasional virtual pint through skype) first stop was a little village cafe for a catch up over coffee. Then the great projector hunt began.
We needed one for the best-man speech, and Sash had jotted down the a few possible addresses all of which came to nothing. Our final attempt led us up a shady cul-de-sac where a slightly demented older lady told us that her husband did rent large scale electrical equipment to studios and the like, but it was unlikely to be what we were looking for. She called her daughter, who spoke some English and had some sympathy for our plight. We were given the address of a friend who owned an audio equipment shop. Worth a try. After an hour of searching the industrial estates around Avignon we finally found the place. They had one projector left and could give it to us for the weekend. It was expensive but there was no way we were going to shop around so we got it loaded up and headed back into the midday heat. Time for a celebratory beer.
Our little break over, we checked into our hostel (handily just round the corner) bought enough food for eighty pizzas to cater for the pool-party and then headed to the venue. Everything was predictably hectic so we got stuck in where we could, but we still had the looming spectre of the speech to prepare, so after a few hours we decided to rendezvous with best man number three. Danny and some of the guys had rented a sickeningly cool villa about an hour’s drive from the venue and were busy drinking all day, lounging by the private pool, lazily keeping an eye on the barbeque and were seemingly only vaguely aware that there was some sort of ceremony happening in the near future that had brought them down to the Riviera. After sharing a couple of beers to settle in and get a taste of the good life the three of us retired to the pool house to get the speech and slideshow together while everyone else was occupied with the Holland game, taunting us with the sounds of cheers and bottles opening. Finally in the early hours of the morning we called it a day, and I was practically carried to my hostel to collapse for a couple of hours.
Sash picked us up again in the morning and we headed back to the venue, the eye of the chaotic little storm. Our satnav had packed in so we were negotiating the little back streets by memory, but made it there with enough time to have a quick practice run of the speech. Ben arrived, we got suited up, and gave a last look around the room before heading out to start the ceremony. What’s in the little black bag on the bed, Ben? Ah, the rings, you’ll be handing us those at the alter. Cheers for that, mate.
The ceremony was cool; unique and personal. I’m not much of a public speaker and the prospect of the upcoming speech was starting to get to my nerves. Luckily some little genius had started passing around a hipflask of Talisker, and that mingled nicely with the sparkling rose and cooled everything down. After a while the guests wandered off for poolside canapes, but best-man’s duty called, so we spent the next few hours frantically trying to set up a broken set of sub-whoofers for the party, aligning the projector and re-making our slideshow from scratch, so it could be played on the big screen. Apparently the food was very nice though. Luckily I at least had a steady flow of beers sneaked in by Maria, so the essentials were covered.
Over dinner a card was passed around for bets to be taken on the length of the speech. I wrote something along the lines of ‘4 hours of stuttering, unfunny humiliation’. How amusingly self deprecating I am. Turns out there was a forfeit for the most incorrect guess and I was treated to a near naked cannonball into the pool. On the plus side I was immediately followed in and spent a few hours of drunken nightswimming with the lads. Typically reserved wedding behaviour.
Between the relative lack of food and the relative excess of courage-inducing whiskey, I spent very little time on the dancefloor and quite a lot of time trying to find somewhere comfortable to be horizontal. Around about three in the morning I was carried to my hostel to pass out. I’m noticing a pattern there.
I woke up fully suited to the sound of the cleaning lady pounding on the door. I guess we missed check-out. It was a sunday so public transport was scarce, but we had a wander round Avignon to shake off the hangover then caught a bus to as near as the venue as we could get.