So, LC, FS and I had made it to America for the family wedding. Yay!
Our first adventure was simply getting from the airport to the condo we had hired for the week. This involved picking up our hire car (which was easy); fitting the child seat we had hired (which was definitely not easy, especially when the assistant said he couldn't even advise on how to do it, for liability reasons); and fitting six people, six cases, six sets of hand luggage, and a stroller all into a seven-seater car (which was just barely possible).
And then the drive. Here, we'd made a crucial mistake - I had decided not to pay for GPS in the car, on the grounds that we'd print directions and, if necessary, we'd switch on our phones' data and use that (and pay through the nose for it). However, on making our way out of the airport we immediately went in a different direction from that indicated by the directions, rendering them useless, and proceeded to drive five miles in the wrong direction!
Getting turned around, we then drove for a while in the right direction before starting to wonder just how much further we had to go. We'd turned on data on one of the phones, and discovered that it didn't connect properly, and was consequently useless...
At this point, we noted that the road parallel to the one we were on was the one we wanted*, so we turned right and then left, and started looking for numbers. It became clear that the numbers were higher than we wanted, and increasing, so we turned around and drove for a while, looking for the place. And then, "Aliens"-like, we discovered that we'd passed the number and had gone too far...
Well, it turned out that we were in Myrtle Beach while the place we were looking for was in North Myrtle Beach, where all the streets had exactly the same names but independent numbering. (* So, not really the road we wanted after all...)
Naturally, by this point everyone was tired and ratty and starting to snap at each other. Fortunately, FS took this opportunity for a highly-strategic cry and demanded to be fed. So we had to pull in to a car park to let LC do this.
I say 'fortunately', because the place we stopped at had a group of people clustered around the entrance. So I went and asked for directions, whereupon they promptly pulled out their phones, pulled up the map, and we were all set - three steps, 23 minutes, and we'd be there!
And, sure enough, we were.
(The other crucial mistake we made: Google Maps does of course allow you to download maps for offline use. Since the condo had wi-fi available, we were able to do this later, and so never got lost again. Still, we should probably have done it before we went. But then, I know that now...)
The condo was really nice - three large bedrooms, each with some sort of en suite facilities, and a vertigo-inducing balcony. We were on the top floor, which gave really good views, but enforced a "stay back from the railing" policy.
The focal point of the week was, of course, the family wedding on the Saturday. So, on the Thursday I unpacked my pipes and practiced briefly, mostly to make sure they'd come through okay. They had indeed, though playing in the heat was pretty intense - the pipes actually sounded great, but it was exhausting. Still, it was good fun looking out from the balcony and seeing everyone walking around coming to a halt and looking around in puzzlement. Plus, the applause I got at the end was rather nice.
The rest of day one was mostly spent getting groceries for the week and going to the beach. Which was fun, but a bit of a blur - we were all still pretty worn out from the journey.
Day two was dominated by the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, where I learned what I was actually doing on the big day. It turned out I was doing more than expected - in addition to the normal 20 mins before the service, I was doing a processional for the mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom and a second processional for the entrance of the bridesmaids/matrons of honor/maid of honor (of whom there were 9 - it was a big wedding party). Then I was playing a recessional for the full weddding party. But that was good - having come all that way, I might as well be useful!
The rehearsal dinner was great - a good chance to get to know a lot of the bride's family and to mingle, plus some really great food. I especially liked the mac & cheese, and the garlic bread rolls were amazing.
And then came the big day, and with it came the usual nerves.
The day started with me taking LC to get her hair done for the day - she had decided to wear it up that day, and the stylist did a really good job. (More than that I'm not qualified to comment. Sorry!) Then back to the condo for a very quick lunch, then a flurry of getting ready (with a strategic meltdown by FS, who of course demanded to be fed and changed just as LC really needed to be getting herself ready). And then to the car, and on to the church.
The service was lovely. The bride wore a white dress (tee hee), off the shoulder, with a long train and a veil. Surprisingly, the only singing in the service was from one of the bride's matrons of honor, firstly for the entrance of the bride and then again as they lit the "unity candle". The service was really quite touching.
The piping went well. I was happy with that.
Then we went to a nearby hotel for many pictures and the wedding breakfast. That was all pretty standard stuff. There were also speeches, and dancing - the first dance, a father/daughter dance, a mother/son dance, a dance of the bridesmaids, and then more dancing during the evening.
All in all, it was a really great day. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The rest of the holiday is a bit of a blur, as the tiredness really started to catch up with me. There was a visit to a nearby town (that, sadly, turned out not to be particularly interesting), a little shopping, a massive thunderstorm (including a walk home in very heavy rain... damnit, should have taken the car!), more rain, a visit to a mall, and then to an alligator park. That was fun.
And then we came home. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable time.
So... why "The Promised Land"? Well, that stems from a discovery that I made while we were waiting in the airport in Charlotte - the US haven't joined in with this made crusade against sugar in all their soft drinks, which meant that Sprite doesn't use artificial sweeteners (technically, they use high fructose corn syrup instead of actual sugar, so it's not the same as it was over here... but still). It was a massive pleasure actually having a choice of things I could drink. And, incidentally, it really puts the lie to the notion that you can't tell the difference between the drinks.
#28: "Norse Mythology", by Neil Gaiman (sadly, not his best book...)