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lourdes, ladies and no gentlemen. our real life bride & celebrity columnist jane reveals all about le hen do

September 2nd, 2015 | Rachel Parry

Jane's Hen Party (2)

Last month our real life bride and celebrity columnist Jane Witherspoon, took a brief break from her hectic showbiz reporting schedule to jet off on her hen do to the south of France. Fancy!

Joined by her top ladies, Jane and her squad enjoyed a memorable weekend (well sort of), of culture, relaxation, fine food and wine – oh and champagne, oh yeah, and vodka!

Here she reveals all they got up to (well the bits she can remember), as in true bride-to-be hen do style, Jane adopted a somewhat go hard or go home approach. Jane, we salute you!

Now back home in the UK, Jane has less than six weeks to go until the big day and so is shoehorning in the last minute preparations and planning around her numerous work commitments, which includes covering London Fashion Week. Sounds glam hey? But seriously we don’t know how she fits everything in, she certainly works hard – and from what’s about to follow, she plays hard too…

Jane's Hen Party (9)

jane says: It’s often billed as a last big hurrah for many brides to be but I feel like I’ve been practicing this partying business for quite a while now. As for my hens – they definitely know how to have a good time.

I’m very lucky to have some amazing girls around me especially as I approach the six-weeks-to-go milestone. They threw me the most brilliant bash in the south of France and this blog post is dedicated to each and every one of them for the part they played. Mam, Emma, Emsy, Nicole, Karthi, Sara, Karyn and Krysia – love you ladies!

Jane's Hen Party (12)

An early start in drizzly Stansted didn’t dampen our spirits as we began our little jet-set jaunt. We were soon air bound having cleaned up on free shots in Duty Free. That’s as tacky as it got…who am I kidding!

On arrival in Lourdes we were soon in a taxi and taking a short detour to nearby town Tarbes to pick up Nicole who was travelling by train from Poitiers to meet us in the Pyrenees. I arrived wearing a fancy dress nuns habit which the girls had insisted on. Not even a ‘hello’ let alone a ‘bonjour’, ‘where’s my prosecco?’ Nicole asked. That’s how it started…

Jane's Hen Party (7)

Karyn and Krysia had invited us to spend the long weekend at their 18th Century farmhouse in Bernac-Debat, Midi-Pyrenees. As we pulled up to the iron gates we muttered ‘wow’ in unison. The place was incredible. Shutters, chandeliers and champagne. After a not so quick (the place was huge) tour of the grounds and pool, everyone bagged their four-poster beds and it was down to business. We had a weekend of eating and drinking ahead of us.

For anyone thinking of a trip to the region I couldn’t recommend our base in Bernac-Debat highly enough. It is 20 minutes from the airport on the edge of a fabulous mountain region and nearby Tarbes town and Lourdes is a must.

Jane's Hen Party (3)

After a few rounds of hum bug (a guessing game where you hum songs. Sadly these videos have been deleted) we had the most amazing roast duck meal cooked for us. So I’m told. I sadly had to leave the girls to enjoy this without me after a forfeit involving a tumbler of vodka put paid to my plans for the evening. Yes I missed the first night of my own hen do. On the plus side, my 13 hour sleep meant I was fresh as a daisy for day two.

A short bus ride meant we spent the day exploring the beautiful town of Tarbes, its cafes and fountains. A quick trip back to the house to freshen up and we were on our way to dinner.

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Emsy had booked us into a restaurant which features in the Michelin guide called Trait Blanc – albeit the booking was for the week after we were there. Our lack of French vocabulary was brushed aside and waiter Jean-Henri sat us in a private garden out the back (which was just as well because of the noise we made). The reviews said ‘look nowhere else’. The food was incredible. I’d highly recommend if you’re looking for great food that’s reasonably priced.

Sunday was pool party day. We soaked up the night before with a fry up then cranked up Gloria Estefan on the music system and went for the burn. More cheese, wine and laughs from the moment we woke till we slept. The weekend was drawing to a close far too fast. But, there was one tourist spot just down the road we had to squeeze in.

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You can’t go to Lourdes and not visit the town itself and the famous grotto. So it may not be very ‘hen do-ey’ but it’s definitely worth a visit whether you’re religious or not. It’s a beautiful town and the Cathedral is stunning. After a brief whirlwind tour and a quick prayer we were headed for the airport and UK laden with holy water! Well, we certainly didn’t need any more duty free booze!

Follow our real life bride and celebrity columnist Jane, at @Janeyspoon.

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by george (clooney)! a catch up with our real life bride and celebrity columnist, jane

May 27th, 2015 | Rachel Parry

Jane at Tomorrowland premiere

Last month on the blog we introduced you to real life bride & celebrity columnist Jane Witherspoon, who is sharing her planning journey exclusively on Brides Up North in the run up to her October wedding.

If you recall Jane has a pretty cool but extremely busy job as a showbiz TV reporter and presenter for the likes of Good Morning Britain. And while that does mean rubbing shoulders with the celebs, it also means a hectic schedule full of early starts and late finishes, making finding time to plan a wedding all the more challenging.

In this month’s post Jane brings us up to speed with her glitzy TV work (which includes chatting with a certain Mr Clooney – jealous, much!) and she also spills the beans on the gorgeous venue for her big day. Over to you Jane…

Jane at Tomorrowland premiere (3)

jane says: As I sit down to write this month’s blog the panic sets in. I keep telling myself we’ve got loads of time to organise our wedding but it’s now just over four months away – 17 weeks to be exact (I’ve just read the last line out to Alex and his reply was ‘Oh thanks for that, you’ve got me worried now’)! I’ve discovered as time goes by that Alex has been approaching the organising of our day very cleverly. Let’s put it this way – he’s a great project manager! Then again I can be a bit of a control freak so it works.

May has been a crazy month workwise. It started with a charity ball with the cast of Downton Abbey followed by the General Election. No matter how much I do it, waking at 3am is never easy. It was a buzz hanging outside Conservative HQ waiting to grab the first shots of the Prime Minister to arrive from his count in Whitney.

Jane at General Election

And then there was George! Clooney that is! I’ve been lucky enough to interview him a few times over the years and he’s always a dream interviewee – so charming and professional. When reporting from the red carpet of the premiere of his new film Tomorrrowland in Leicester Square I seized the opportunity to ask him a bit of advice for that first year of marriage. His reply: “I would say, your husband is always right…just a thought.” That’s apart from when he’s wrong of course George!

Jane at Tomorrowland premiere (2)

It’s quite full on trying to organise a big event around our work schedules but we’re getting there. I think that’s mainly due to the fact that we decided on a venue very early on. Alex is from a very small family which is just as well as mine is huge. Speak to any bride and groom and I’m sure they’ll tell you the most stressful thing about organising a wedding is deciding who to invite. It’s the most awful thing having to whittle down a list of friends and family. In fact, it’s quite brutal. Everyone tells you to just invite who you want and people will understand. That’s all well and good but they’ve never met my Mum. She had her own list from the off!

Brinkburn Priory 4

Luckily the venue pretty much dictates how many people can be accommodated so that does help in deciding numbers. When choosing where to get married there were only two choices for us, Wigan (where Alex is from) or the North East (my roots).

Just after the New Year we decided to visit two potential venues in Northumberland: Short Flat Tower in Belsay and Brinkburn Priory near Rothbury. We went to Brinkburn first. We never made it to Belsay. From the moment we pulled up to Brinkburn we were sold on it. It is the perfect place. Emma, Jan and the team there are so welcoming and totally got us and what we wanted from the day from that very first meeting.

Brinkburn Priory 3

The priory was a 12th Century Medieval monastery built on a bend on the River Coquet. It’s beautiful. The priory church is like a mini cathedral and the converted stables mean there’s lovely spacious accommodation on site for family. We’ve decided on welcome drinks on arrival and then our 120 guests will take their seats in the Priory before dinner, drinks and dancing in the tipis which will be erected on site. I love that we don’t have to move location throughout the day and that it’s all confined to this beautiful English Heritage site.

The food on the day is being organised by Wilkins Fine Dining. Their menus are incredible and we’re actually off to the North East next weekend for a tasting session. This is surely one of the fun points in organising a wedding! Wilkins source and use local produce for their meals which I’m thrilled about. It’s great to support local businesses.

Jane at Tomorrowland premiere 4

There’s one question that I keep getting asked about the wedding and that is ‘What’s your theme?’  I didn’t realise how important this is to some people. I still don’t have a theme as such but I know it will be a classic, fun day and night. There’ll be lots of laughs, candles and fairy lights to enhance the already magical setting.

I’d love to know: have you picked a theme for your big day, and if so, what?

Follow Jane on Twitter @Janeyspoon

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