Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2015: A Wedding Odyssey

  Getting married is a lot. Getting married abroad is A LOT. Before I kick off this tale of Italian adventuring, it's important that you understand, dear reader, the amount of prep that went into this whole affair.
  In addition to hunting down the perfect dress, the perfect suit, and the perfect rings, there were travel plans to be made: Transportation, lodging, excursions. Then, there were the things to coordinate with the wedding people in Italy: A minister. A location. Photographers. Musicians. Paperwork.

  Oh, the paperwork.

  The back and forth between us and our Italian counterpart. Hours standing in lines down at the LA courthouse. Notaries. Apostilles. Fees. But we had it all set, finally. We were getting married on a beach in Italy on July 2.

Bon Giorno!

  That beach was just up the coast from the beautiful town of Amalfi, where we'd spend our first few days. The plan was to fly into Naples, then take a private car an hour to our destination. It was a good plan, except our luggage wouldn't be joining us. It never made it out of the country.
  With nothing but what we were carrying, we got in our car and took the "road of 1000 bends" up and over the mountains into Amalfi. The views were STUNNING. I must note, though, that if you are susceptible to carsickness, do yourself a favor and Dramamine up before this ride. It's very appropriately named.
  In Amalfi, we were met in the town square by a very sweet woman from our hotel, Imma (ee-muh). It's a good thing, too, because getting to the hotel involved a climb up about a billion steps through a maze of narrow alleys. I found myself actually a little relieved that I wasn't carrying a big, heavy suitcase.

Nighttime in Amalfi

A View to a Thrill

  The best part about our hotel were the views. Our room overlooked the ocean and about half of the town, as did the patio where we took our breakfast every morning. The room could have been a complete dump and it would have still been a great deal for those views. The room wasn't a dump at all, though, and was quite nice.

The view at breakfast

  Days went by, though. Days. Days with no luggage. Calls were made. Emails sent. Nothing. Nobody seemed to know where our bags had gone. Naturally, this caused us a lot of stress as the date of our nuptials drew ever closer. We finally discovered that the bags never made it out of our only American layover: Chicago. For some reason, they were still sitting there, even though they were tagged for Naples. Instead of sending them on the next flight, as is customary, they just threw them in a room.

  Unfortunately, July 2nd came, and still no bags. The wedding would have to be delayed. But until when? There was still no confirmation of when, or even IF, our bags would arrive. We gambled and moved the date to July 4. Luckily, MOST of what we had arranged for our wedding was still available on that day. It did though, completely invalidate all the work we had done back in the states to secure that date. All those documents, painstakingly translated. The fees. The appointments at the courthouse and waiting in hours of lines. The notaries. The apostilles. All for nothing.

Our Lady of the 11th Hour Miracle

  By the grace of God, one of our bags showed up the night before our new wedding date: it was my fiancĂ©e's bag. If only one bag was to show up, this was the one it had to be. It would be much harder for her to get a new dress than it would for me to get a new suit. Now that we had her things, that's exactly what I had to do. Somehow, the night before my wedding, go find a suit in a town the size of about two city blocks.
  Luckily for me, I found a guy in town named Fabio (yes, really) who was able to put together a fine Italian linen suit for me, which he would tailor and have ready for me early the next day. Talk about last minute! He was super helpful and very nice, and I even met his mother.

Fabio does his best to make me not look dumpy and bitter

The Beach of it All

  The morning of the big day zipped by in a flash. While I was out picking up my suit, my lady was having her hair done and getting into her beautiful dress. Yes, I was going to see her before the big event, but I promised not to take a direct look at the dress until I was ready to face her and say my vows.
  A boat picked us up in the harbor of Amalfi and sped us across the water and up the coast to Positano, where we boarded an even bigger and better boat. This was the official "wedding boat" we had hired- an awesome antique sailing vessel. We were stunned to see, as we pulled alongside her, that there was a crowd on board waiting for us. Between the captain and mate, our planner, three photographers and a videographer, and a trio of musicians, we felt like royalty (or at least celebrities being hounded by paparazzi).
  We sailed up the coast to a spot the captain thought might be nice for our ceremony. There were a few people on that beach, though, so we opted for a nice little cove nearby. It was beautifully picturesque, with tall cliffs and bright blue water breaking against the shoreline.

  After several raft trips to the cove to get everybody over, everything was set up, and it was our turn. We boarded the craft and were shortly hopping over the surf and onto the beach.

  Our minister, who looked like Neil Diamond, had come all the way from Tuscany. The poor man was clearly suffering the heat of the day, and couldn't stop sweating. As our string trio played BEAUTIFULLY, the ceremony commenced, and he spoke lovely words over us.
  We faced each other, and I got my first full look at my beautiful bride. She was breathtaking. We said our vows there, on that distant shore, in front of a beautiful sea, to sound of gentle waves, and sweet strings. We placed rings on each other's fingers and promised our lives to each other.

  After a few pictures, we were on our way again, sailing toward the island of Capri.

Capri: Not Just Famous For Its Pants

  About half an hour later, we were sailing around the back side of Capri, where we were to take a raft from our ship to a nice little lunch spot on the island. It was an amazingly scenic little restaurant, tucked away in a rocky cove. Quite a few people were jumping from the rocks into a lagoon and having the time of their lives. We received many congratulations and my new wife received many compliments on how beautiful she looked.

Lunch spot on Capri

  The food, as expected, was phenomenally good, and we were even treated to a free "concert" of sorts. A stage was being set up nearby for a BIG wedding reception that was taking place later that evening, and the excellent band did a nice long sound check, performing around eight different songs. Bonus!

Wedding food and the bride's bouqet

  Once back aboard the boat, we were then intercepted shortly by yet ANOTHER boat. This one would take us back to Amalfi.

Here Comes the Bride at 800 Miles Per Hour

  The photogs joined us on this new boat, and we took off for Positano. And when I say "took off," boy do I mean it. I don't know exactly how fast we were going, but I estimate it was anywhere between 80 miles per hour and the speed of sound. With the sea being a bit choppy, the boat was flying up in the air and slamming down into the waves so hard that I thought my spine might actually poke through the top of my head. All we could do was hold on for dear life.
  After dropping off the rest of the party at Positano, we moved to the back of the superboat, where the ride was a little smoother. A few microseconds later, we stepped onto the pier at Amalfi and said our goodbyes. We had survived our wedding. For these two exhausted kids, that was saying plenty.

How to Survive Italy with One Shirt for Two Weeks

  The next morning, the wife packed her suitcase, and I... well...I put on my shoes. Actually, since I had acquired a new suit, and a couple of other clothing items, I had to find something to put them in for the next leg of the trip. What I found was a cold-storage shopping bag. Yes, like one of the ones you use to carry milk or ice cream home from the store. It cost me 12 Euro, and I decided it would do the trip. This bag has since become legendary.

"I'm ugly, but I get the job done." -World Freezer Bag

  A quick double-hop to Rome and on to Florence, and we were into the second leg of our trip, and officially honeymooning.

*I should note here that I asked about my luggage at the Naples airport. It was "on its way in," and would be "sent to Amalfi." Too bad I wasn't going to be in Amalfi anymore.

  At the airport, they took away my little jar of locally made lemon-honey. It was the only thing I had bought myself in Amalfi. Unfortunately, it was over three ounces.

Sweatin' to the Duomos

  Florence was amazing. We got in late that first night, but hit things pretty hard the next morning. Amalfi was hot, but Florence was another kind of heat altogether. It was as if someone were standing over me, pouring a glass of water on me constantly. No matter how much I drank, I was always dehydrated.


  We walked and walked and walked some more, and took in a glorious number of sights. Seems like everywhere we went, we could point our cameras in any direction and find something to shoot. Seeing things like Michelangelo's "David" and Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" was truly awe-inspiring.
  We climbed to the top of The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, we went into museums, we crossed bridges, we walked through decorative gardens. We even saw Galileo's finger.

  And I sweated.

  One night, I tore the shirt I was married in trying to wash it in the bathtub. I had owned it for four days.

Quoth the Airline, 'Not our fault'

  Still, no luggage. More calls were made, more emails were sent. Would I ever see it again? "It's gone to Amalfi, like you asked," said one representative, even though the form clearly showed the dates we would be staying in Amalfi, which had since expired. The amount of confusion caused by me telling them to send it to yet another location nearly exploded some heads. They agreed to try to send it from Naples back up to where I was in Florence, but time was running out. Soon, we'd be heading off to Venice. I felt that I would probably never see my luggage again. It was having a helluva time around Europe, though, I'm sure.

  And then, finally, NINE DAYS into the trip, it showed. It was the night before we departed Florence for the last leg of our trip.

The face of a man with far too few clothes

From Gondolier to Eternity

  Because we had already taken airplanes, cars, and boats, we decided to take a train. It was a short two hour rail-ride to Venice, after which we took a vaporetto down the grand canal to our stop at Ca'd'Oro. Because of some really bad directions from our hotel, it took us more than an hour of wandering before we found it.
  That night, though, tired and weary, we hunted down a recommended restaurant, and were completely overwhelmed by the food and staff. The place was called "La Vecia Cavana," and was actually an hour from opening when we stepped inside. Instead of telling us to come back later, this amazing waiter named Nazzareno seated us and gave us some drinks and bread. He and the rest of the staff had just sat down to their own dinner on the other side of the restaurant.
  As soon as Nazzareno finished eating, he came over and started taking our order- a full half hour before opening. He was the sweetest, funniest old guy in Italy, and we couldn't get enough of him. Total character. The wine we had was amazing, and the food blew our minds. It was a steep bill at the end of the night, because we had helped ourselves to appetizers, drinks, main course, and dessert (oh that tiramisu), but it was TOTALLY worth it.

The man, the myth- Nazzareno

  The rest of the days and nights in Venice were spent wandering the labyrinth of canals and alleyways, visiting churches and museums, and trying as much delicious food and wine as we could manage. We also found one of the coolest bookstores in the world. It's called "Acqua Alta," and is a very small building stacked floor to ceiling with books. Three cats live there, and two gentlemen operate it. One of these gentlemen is a guy named Gianni, who is a long haired, grumbling, chain-smoking character who knows the exact location of every book in the place. Believe me, that's amazing. There are books literally piled five feet high. Some are on shelves. Some are on the floor. Some are in gondolas. I bought a two-volume set of first editions of DH Lawrence poetry. The wife picked up a couple classics as well. If you're in Venice, check it out. You won't be disappointed.

Gianni, off to dig through some Godforsaken pile of books

  And then, sadly, it was time to leave. Our Italian adventure was over. Instead of taking the vaporetto and a bus to the aiport like a couple of chumps, we hired a water taxi. We got to feel like celebrities again as our private boat zipped through the canals of Venice and then blasted across the expanse of the lagoon to Marco Polo International.

  About eighteen hours later, we were back in Los Angeles, and a very talkative cat wanted to know exactly where we had been for two weeks.

  Five hours later, my alarm went off, and I was on my way back in to work. The tedium of reality crashed down like a ton of bricks. But I had a headful of new adventures, and a brand new wife. Life was good.

  Now can we talk briefly about the food? I'll just let these few pictures do the talking:

  Man, I miss that grub.

  Where are the rest of the pictures, you ask? These are all phone pictures! Well, if you go to my flickr page, by clicking HERE, you'll find 230 much better SLR pics. As far as official wedding photos? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Something will hopefully show up in the mail in the next couple weeks. Check back!