Today was Chris’s buck’s day/night, which is British/Aussie slang for bachelor party. He decided to have a multigenerational celebration, so his uncles and dad came, as well. While he was away with his male family and friends, his mom treated me to afternoon tea at the Hotel Windsor, one of the oldest and most glamorous hotels in Melbourne. On weekends, they have a special treat for afternoon tea guests, as they serve you a glass of French champagne and have a full dessert buffet in the middle of the tea room that includes a tall chocolate fountain, in which you can dip various chunked fruit and cakes, a Christmas pudding station, a custom crepe station with a server making each delicate crepe from scratch, and what seemed like an endless variety of petit fours, French sweets, and other individually portioned cakes, pies, slices, and desserts, everything from mango cheesecake, crème brulee, vanilla mille feuille, pistachio and raspberry cakes with intense pistachio flavor, fruit mince pies, multiple flavors of macarons, and mousses.
The usual tiered afternoon tea stands were gracefully presented at our table with a layer of crust-less tea sandwiches, little savory eclairs, mini meat mince pies, and savory pumpkin tarts, and topped with these perfect little scones, some plain, some with dried fruit. The variety of mango and passion fruit desserts made this experience uniquely Aussie vs. American, as well as the fruit and meat mince pies. The savory use of pumpkin was also more expected of the Aussie use of pumpkin in food, whereas I’d never seen this before at any afternoon tea spot in San Francisco or New York. Another thing that made this experience more Aussie was the subpar service. At afternoon tea at a five-star hotel in the U.S., such as the Plaza Hotel in New York, where I’ve had tea once, they present your tea almost immediately after you choose your leaf selection, and they eagerly come to refill your tiered trays as soon as they are even just half empty. There, they constantly come to dote on you and ask you if you need anything else. Here, a server came to ask to replenish only once, and our individual tea pots came out almost 20 minutes after our tiered trays came out, which was pretty ridiculous. No one came to replenish our hot water until almost an hour and a half into our dining session, too. And when I exclaimed in excitement, “Wow, there’s a custom crepe station?” when I saw the crepe chef in the middle of the room flipping, she grunted, “Yes, there is,” with the most surly facial expression possible. The servers here really seemed to hate their job and hate serving.
We came back home, and in a few hours, all of Chris’s female cousins, aunts on his dad’s side, and mom’s cousin and daughter in the area came for a semi-surprise “hen’s night” party in honor of me. We enjoyed food, conversation, a game that included a video of Chris, another around clothes pins, and Loaded Questions, and so many laughs that triggered the lingering effects of my whooping cough and further exacerbated the aches and pains in my back muscles and ribs through the night. We were all together for just over five hours, yet when I think back to my original bridal shower and bachelorette weekend back in San Francisco and Monterey in September, I realized I probably laughed more and harder tonight than I did at my own event with my own friends and family then. I guess it makes more sense since everyone here knows each other really well and we have a connection to each other, as opposed to the people back home who didn’t really know each other at all and were meeting for the first time, but it was just an observation and take away I had at the end of the night. We did have Chris’s mom’s cousin and daughter come, the daughter I met once last year and really liked, and the cousin I was meeting for the very first time tonight, and somehow they fit in straight away and got into all the inside jokes.
I guess if I really had to sum it up, the group of ten women tonight vs. the group of six in Monterey and about 16 in San Francisco are just more laid back and easy going. Uptightness doesn’t seem to exist in this group (a smidgen with Chris’s mom, but even that is so mild compared to my circle back home), and everyone truly does go with the flow and doesn’t take anything that seriously. I don’t know if uptightness is a disposition that one is just born with or something one is conditioned to be or not be based on nurture and environment, but it’s a relief to not worry so much about what I am saying or doing, fearing that I may offend someone in the room. I know if we were ever to play Loaded Questions or listen to Chris on video answering questions about himself and then me answering and comparing, a lot of my own female family members, if not ALL of them, would decline or refuse to partake in the activity, and some, like my mom, may even get offended at Chris’s answers or some of the Loaded Question questions. What will be really interesting to see is how all these women get along during our wedding week coming up in March, and if my side will even make the slightest effort to get to know these women traveling so far over beyond “Hi. How are you?” and “How do you know Yvonne/Chris?”