We changed our plans specifically so that we could return to this beautiful area of Italy. Since we only had 1 night, we decided to stay in the main town of Bellagio in an apartment we found on AirBnb. It was such a cute apartment perched on top of a cliff! We quickly checked-in and headed straight to Bellagio.
After the wedding festivities, Michael and I planned to travel through Europe with Mom, Terry (step dad), Kristy, Andrew and Lydia. We started our journey in Dubrovnik, Croatia and ended in Geneva, Switzerland. We traveled nearly 1,600 kilometers!!! This was so much fun as we got to explore a bit of Europe in a big group. Our first stop was 1 night in Split, Croatia. (This is probably our 800th time there now!) haha
It wasn’t only the party I mentioned above that would be going to Split, but also my friend Bek, her friend Sonia, and Kai joined us there as well. We booked into a walking tour around Diocletian’s Palace which was very interesting. We learnt about how the place used to look like and the grand parties that used to take place there. We even learnt about a tradition or mainstay practice where people would indulge and indulge in both food and drink and actually vomit it all up in an actual “vomiting room”. How disgusting!!! We were told that this was very common and the room was specifically designed for this purpose.
I woke up on the morning of the wedding surprised that I managed to sleep so well that night. I don’t know whether it was because all the family were together or just because it felt like the start of a perfect day. My attention quickly turned to my wife to be Meagan, wondering what emotions she was going through at the moment. I quickly got ready and vacated the room I was sharing with Meagan’s parents, before she had the chance to sneak in. I still had things to do in the morning so I started off with finding a razor to shave. Meagan wasn’t very particular about how I looked except she wanted me to be clean shaven. I found the local supermarket to have a small selection of razors, but enough for me to meet Meagan’s requirements. I still had some time up my sleeve so I decided to walk along the promenade of Cavtat, the town we were staying in as I reflected on what was the biggest day of my life thus far. As I made my way closer to the villa, I could hear the laughter and excitement coming from the living room where Meagan was getting ready. I was happy that she was enjoying herself.
I began to work on my speeches for the night, quickly realising that the Croatian version was much more difficult to put together. There were a lot of things I wanted to say but knew I would have difficulty with sharing this and I wanted to make sure these were written down so I would not forget. After that, everything is such a blur as things went so quickly. Too quick in fact, that the photographer had arrived and I still had to shower and shave. I managed to fit this in but then had problems locating my suit. Somehow it had been moved and after some frantic searching by my sister, the moment of panic subsided. The photographer was quick to take a few photographs and then I managed to finish getting ready.
By now the bus taking us to the church was here so we began moving up the street. I remember that it was really hot and I was hoping for a cool bus. Unfortunately the weather was so hot that the air conditioning did very little. We drove off from the villa and I wanted some entertainment so a few of us began singing some Croatian songs. It was an unbelievable experience to be driving towards the wonderful city of Dubrovnik singing these songs with close family and friends. I am unsure of what Meagan’s family were thinking as we were nothing like the Rat Pack even though we think we have great voices. I am sure if provided for some amusement to many of our guests.
We made our way to the church which was beautifully decorated for our day. It was how Meagan wanted it so I was happy that she would get a lovely surprise when she comes in. I stood out the front and can remember how hot it was, particularly as churches are cold. I had to get a tissue to wipe the sweat from my brow, but was comforted that many other people in the church were doing the same thing and it wasn’t from nerves. I was looking around and noticed that there were people missing so I was hoping that they would make it before Meagan arrived. The violin and cello began playing and it was such a beautiful sound which made me much more comfortable. I could see some commotion outside and realised that Meagan had arrived. I quickly turned around as I didn’t want to see her until she was walking down the aisle. When the time came, it was an absolutely amazing moment which words cannot describe. I became emotional, watching Meagan and her father walking down the aisle in tears. She looked absolutely stunning, her gown which she kept a secret from me during the whole trip fitting her perfectly. Her hair and makeup did wonders to show off her amazing features. I couldn’t have asked for a better bride on this amazing day. I was truly the luckiest man on Earth.
The ceremony began and we were not completely sure how things would go. We had a rehearsal the day before but were still uncertain on certain parts of the ceremony. It happened to go very well until the signing of the marriage certificate. Meagan went first to sign and then I followed her. I put my signature down on the paper and the priest looked at me and said in a firm tone, sign legibly. I was surprised by his comment but I couldn’t do anything about. I sign my name so it cannot be forged but father wasn’t a happy man. I wondered why this happened to me when Meagan had to go first and had to sign with a different surname. We then walked out of the church to Beyonce’s song, Halo which holds many special memories for us.
What I felt was the hardest part of the wedding was over and I was now happy to celebrate this special day with Meagan and our guests. We took some photos with all our family and friends and it was a moment when you reflect on how lucky you are to have such a wonderful group of family and friends to share this moment with. The next part of the wedding was a surprise for our guests as we were heading out for a cruise on a boat around Dubrovnik. We wanted to thank our guests for coming by taking them for a ride along the coast. It was such a great experience except that it ended too quickly. We enjoyed the beautiful views, cool breezes in the hot summer and the drinks of course. It was fun to have all our guests on the 1 boat.
We left our guests again to take some photos around the old town of Dubrovnik before we went to the hotel room to freshen up. We didn’t stay long in the room as we could see and hear our guests and wanted to head straight out to be with them. We made our way down and walked in to our entrance song of “happiness”, a dance song which we heard when we first began dating. We felt it was an appropriate song to have playing at on our wedding day.
We walked in and grabbed a drink, no drink for over 1 hour in the heat wasn’t good. We walked to our table and the music continued to play a bit longer, with all eyes on us. It was a bit uncomfortable but awesome at the same time as we had come to the best part of the wedding, the celebration.
Sitting at the table and looking at all our guests gave me goose bumps. I thought all these people had travelled to be here for this occasion. It was a surreal experience. Our 1st dance as a married couple was next and I was excited to twirl my wife around a bit. We played a Hawaiian song which I didn’t know before today but it meant a lot to Meagan and her family, enough to make them cry.
After our dance, we asked everyone else to come up to the dance floor and that’s what happened. Everyone did come up. It was an amazing site to see all the wedding guests on the dance floor bopping away. The evening was spectacular, with beautiful weather, tasty food and great company. All good things come to an end and unfortunately so did the party. I could have stayed for many more hours celebrating with family and friends but we had a curfew at the reception and had to continue the party at a nightclub not far from the reception.
After saying bye to some guests, I headed down to the nightclub to join Meagan and some of our other guests. We had a few shots (drinks), danced and chatted for a few hours before we went back to our amazing honeymoon suite. I don’t think I will ever stay in such a room again and I was so happy to be here sharing it with the girl I fell in love with 2.5 years earlier in Sydney. It was a day that people only dream about and for me, that dream came true today, July 12, 2013.
After months and months of anticipation our special day has finally arrived!!! We had our family staying in a villa in Cavtat (roughly 20 kilometres from Dubrovnik) which was very nice as we could all be together in one big house! The night before the wedding, Michael wanted to be very traditional and not see me until the moment I walked down the aisle in the church. This proved to be quite difficult as we all were staying in the same villa and had to get ready in the same location but separate rooms. Needless to say, this was part of the excitement as I knew he was nearby at all times and different people would act as messengers so that we could communicate with each other but not see each other.
The morning of July 12th had finally come and I woke up so excited and a tad bit nervous! I went for a walk with my Dad, Tammy, Kristy and Andrew around Cavtat while Michael was busy writing and rehearsing his speech. The hair and make-up stylist, Davor arrived at the villa promptly at 9:30am. The girls got ready in the living room area while family and friends gathered in the nearby kitchen area. First, Davor went through all of our hairstyles and makeup needs. He was quiet, patient and was always thinking about how to make us all beautiful. We offered him food multiple times and he kept denying any food! I couldn’t believe it. He said to not worry as all he needed was a few cups of coffee and cigarettes to work his magic. This was so true, he drank about 4 cups of coffee and had a few cigarette breaks throughout the morning. This did wonders for him as he did the most amazing hair styles and makeup I have ever seen!
I was so excited for this day to come and have been planning it for months! My Dad and Tammy (stepmom) were flying into Munich and were going to see a bit of Europe on our way down to Dubrovnik for our wedding!
Thursday, July 4th
They flew into Munich airport with all smiles EXCEPT for the fact that their luggage didn’t make it! They were promised their luggage the following day so we were all still in high spirits. Our friend Kai was kind enough to open up his apartment to 2 more guests (my parents). So we just had to run past Ikea for a few bedding needs. Sadly, my parent’s first meal in Europe ended up being Ikea Swedish meatballs! Haha Later that night we did take them to Vapiano’s as it has become our favourite “go-to” place when we have no idea what to eat.
When you say the word Frankfurt, you automatically assume I am talking about a sausage. But no, I am actually talking about the next city we headed to which is Frankfurt, the financial capital of Germany. We drove from Amsterdam in the Netherlands and so thought Frankfurt would be a nice destination to stop for 1 night on our way further south. Our knowledge of Frankfurt is of the airport only, being a hub that both Meagan and I have passed through on many occasions. We never got the chance to leave the airport and discover this city.
Why do you think Amsterdam’s coat of arms is XXX?? You may think it is because of the red light district here, but this is not the case. It was actually created in 1505 as the way to identify Amsterdam during the time when trading was so important. XXX was located on flags on the backs of Amsterdam ships so that it could be associated with the town. Now, the XXX is associated with the adult entertainment business which is also such a big part of the Amsterdam culture.
We spent 3 nights in Amsterdam and enjoyed every day of it. We could have stayed longer as there was so much more to do. Here is a snapshot of what we got up to.
Saturday – we drove into Amsterdam and met up with Jeroen and Eric Wilson for dinner!!!
Sunday – Amsterdam walking tour and Red-Light District tour
Monday – Bike ride of Amsterdam and Beyond. We also visited the Heineken Factory.
Parlez-vous anglais, Spreekt u Engels, Sie sprechen Englisch. Confused!! Arriving into Belgium and you could be mistaken for thinking you are in France, Holland or Germany. Situated around these 3 countries means that Belgium has 3 official languages, Dutch, French and German. We quickly worked out that it didn’t really matter as English is a 4th language that everyone in Belgium seems to understand. Being a smaller country in Europe, with only 11 million people, it was surprising that there is so much to see and do here. Our itinerary consisted of beer, fries and waffles so if you enjoy any of these three, keep reading.
Lille is located on the North East corner of France only 10km from Belgium. We decided to stop for 1 night in Lille on our way over to Brussels. My old flatmate in Sydney is actually from France and currently lives in Lille so we arranged for a catch up.
Since we would only be staying for 1 night, we decided to rough it out and stay in a Formula 1 hotel for only 24 Euros! We have been staying in Accor hotels which is a family of hotels including Novotel, Ibis, Ibis Styles, Ibis Budget and Formula 1. We have been staying in Ibis Budget’s during our trip in between apartments and B&B’s, however for this 1 night we decided to try out the lowest ranking, Formula 1. We were set 2.8km’s outside of the city in a pretty good area, however when we pulled up to the hotel it was evident that we were at a super budget hotel. We were greeted by the receptionist who was also doing cleaning and yard work who simply gave us a sheet of paper with our room number and code to enter. We asked for a map, which seemed like a foreign question to him as he said “A map, no, no I don’t have any maps to give you.” This was a sign that this is not a place you go to receive recommendations or insights in the city. So we headed up the stairs with our large suitcases (no lift) and reached our room. Unfortunately, the room code didn’t work as we attempted to enter several times. Michael went back downstairs and explained the situation, instead of the receptionist helping us, he simply just printed out another piece of paper and gave us another room. On the way to the next room we came across the communal showers and toilets. You see, our room is only equipped with a sink and we share bathroom facilities with the other hotel guests. Since I have stayed in hostels before, this was not a shock, however the stench coming from the toilets was a bit disgusting. At this point, Michael and I both agreed we weren’t having showers until we reached our next destination, luckily we had showers this morning. We then entered into our room and were quite surprised as the actual room was OK (for 1 night!).
I remember learning about the Battle of Normandy in my history class in high school, but back then it seemed to just be theoretical or something that took place a “LONG” time ago. When we started to look at places to go in France and I recognised the region of “Normandy”, I grew with excitement. I could bring a previous history lesson to life! Michael and I were looking forward to our full day tour that highlighted the US involement in World War II. We could have also gone on a UK or Canadian specific tour, however since I am from the US of course I wanted to learn about the US involvement in the War.
We had to wake up at the crack of dawn for our full day Omaha/Utah tour, but it was worth it. We met our tour guide and group at 8:20am. Our tour guide had a military background, however got injured during his stent and then started doing these tours. I came to find out that this was both a good and bad thing as he had a lot of in depth knowledge into the military tactics, however he used a lot of military lanugage that I could not understand. Also, his thick French accent didn’t help much! haha. Overall it was a good tour because we got to visit the actual locations where the US helped end WWII. Check out some of the highlights of our tour: