Monday, August 29, 2016

Sean and Kelly's Wedding: Part One

It's funny to think that the first time Mike and I met Sean, Kelly's now husband (!!!) was the week of our wedding and now we are the ones at theirs!  When we found out about the courthouse ceremony that Kelly and Sean were doing this summer, we knew we'd have to be present, even though they're doing a bigger and more traditional wedding next summer (that we'll obviously be in attendance as well).

The day started out very casual and calm.  In fact, I dare say Kelly was the calmest bride I've ever seen on the morning of her wedding.  She and Sean even cooked Mike and I a full English breakfast, complete with mimosas!  We all ate breakfast, Sean went and bought shoes for the wedding and Kelly walked down the street to get her hair done.  It was all so laid back that if you didn't know, you would have never guessed there was a wedding.  By 2:15, we all were dressed and ready to go thinking that 45 minutes would be plenty of time to make the 15 minute Uber ride to the ceremony.  Who would have guessed that there would be a 10 minute wait for an Uber, our driver would go the wrong way on the way to pick us up, and that we'd actually be pressed for time?  When our driver arrived, we explained the situation and he put the pedal to the metal and got us there just in time.  He even yelled out "Congratulations!" as we dashed out of the car.  How kind of him. 

We were the last ones there, but that just made the entrance even more dramatic.  Luckily, we had a few minutes to spare, so Kelly got to say hello to her mom who arrived that morning before heading back. 

You would never guess she was almost late to her own wedding!

Kelly and Sean went back for some questioning and last minute logistics before Kelly and Sean's parents, siblings and siblings' significant others headed in.  Sadly, Giorgio the dog wasn't invited. Maybe at the next wedding!

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this legal ceremony, but it was quite nice.  They exchanged vows, had a first kiss and even asked if anyone objected. Luckily, no one did!  There were quite a few tears shed in the crowd and before we knew it, they were a married couple!

Okay, the lighting was really bad, but I actually kind of like the sillhouette.

Sean's witness, his brother Gerry, signing the marriage certificate

Mike was Kelly's witness, which was so sweet

We couldn't pass up the opportunity to do a photo shoot afterwards under the floral archway

The witnesses and bride and groom.  I love this picture!

It wouldn't be a true British wedding if the queen wasn't involved, would it?

Walking away as husband and wife!

Afterwards, we stopped at a pub for a drink before heading to this magnificent building for a celebratory meal.

Our dinner reservation had us on the 35th floor in a private room overlooking London.  We had a spectacular view of the city and the sunset.  Our Chinese food was delicious and we spent the rest of  our night celebrating the newlyweds!

We had a full duck as an appetizer and I'm pretty sure we could have had another it was so good!

Congratulations Sean and Kelly! We wish you nothing but lots of travel, happiness and love!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Greetings from London!!

Greetings from London!

Mike and I are here in the UK for a couple of weeks splitting our time between England and Scotland.  The trip all started because Mike's sister, Kelly, is getting married today (!!!), but since we knew we'd be without our furniture in Berlin, we decided to tack on an extra week in the UK and do a little tour of Scotland.  It's a rough life we live, I know ;)

We arrived in London bright and early Saturday morning and made our way straight to Kelly and Sean's flat (look at me, I'm so British calling it a "flat").  The four of us headed out shortly afterwards to pick up the rental car.  None of us expected it to take quite as long as it did to pick up the rental car, but an hour later, we were on the road with Mike and Kelly's dad heading up north to Sunderland.   Sean's father's family is from Sunderland and everyone is a huge Sunderland fan.  When we realized that they were playing at home this Sunday, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to go and watch a match (there I go again, calling a game a match! So British!).

Because it took so long to pick up the car, we were cutting it close for our dinner reservation, but luckily we made it just in time. Dinner was at an Italian restaurant and it was delicious.  Sean's parents, his grandmother and two cousins joined us and we had a great time.  After dinner, we all headed to the pub for a fun Saturday night.  Sean's cousins had planned a bachelor party (sorry, stag party) for him, so eventually, Mike, Sean and the rest of the guys headed out, while Kelly, myself, Mike's dad and Sean's parents stayed at the pub. It was a fun first night in the U.K. and definitely felt authentic.

Sunday morning was a little rough for Mike and Sean, but they persevered and we headed to the pub for a quick drink (mainly of water) before heading to the match.  I've never been to a Major League Soccer match in the US, but I can't imagine it being as intense as the soccer matches here.  The fans were loud and so into the game, chanting and singing anytime anything exciting (or disappointing) happened.  Despite the fact that Sunderland lost, it was still a ton of fun.

We ended up getting stuck in major traffic on the way back from London and didn't get back home from dropping off the car until almost eleven.  We were all pretty exhausted and happy to settle into our beds (or air mattress for Mike and I).

The next day, Kelly and Sean had to work, so Mike and I set out to do some sightseeing.  Both of us had been to London before, but I'm 99% sure I had the swine flu when I was there last time circa 2009, so we figured we'd do a walking tour to see a lot of major sights in a short amount of time.

We spent the morning at the Tate Modern museum.  I know modern art isn't for everyone, but I love it and Mike can usually get on board.  We were there for two hours and only got through one floor out of six! The guide book recommended doing sight seeing and then spending the rest of your day at the museum, which probably would have been a better strategy and allowed us to see more, but oh well.  We had Indian food to eat for lunch! Since we were meeting the Sandeman's tour in Covent Garden, we found Dishoom Covent Garden for lunch.  We both thought it was delicious, although they never believe Mike when he says he wants it really spicy.

After lunch, we met Rachel, our tour guide in Covent Garden.  Our group of about 25 followed her all around London as she told us all about the kings and queens and the history of England.  She was probably the best Sandeman's tour guide we've had because she had people acting out different kings and queens and really got the crowd involved.  That being said, neither Mike nor I thought the tour itself was especially great.  We both felt the tour included a lot of walking and talking and not a lot of sight seeing, especially in the first half.  I think if I were giving advice, I'd say go with the Big Red Bus tour because you get more sights, even though you have to pay a little more.  We did manage to see a few things and the stories behind them were interesting.

Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery

Our tour guide Rachel

Buckingham Palace

The London Eye

Big Ben

Abe Lincoln?

Westminster Abbey

I don't regret doing the tour, but I'm glad that this wasn't our first time in London because it wasn't the best tour, but that's okay.  We'll be back!

We ended the night at a pub by Kelly and Sean's flat. Sean's brother, sister, sister's boyfriend and parents all joined us.  Even Giorgio, Mike's dad's dog who has come to live with Kelly and Sean, joined us!! I'd say he enjoyed his evening out, just as much as the rest of us!

Such a cute little family!

Today is the first wedding, which is the court ceremony, so I'll be back with a post about that, but now I'm off to digest the English breakfast Kelly and Sean made us!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Alternative Tour of Berlin

We've done more sightseeing in the past three weeks than we ever did in Izmir and I'm totally fine with it.  I feel like by the time we leave Berlin, we will have only skimmed the top of this city.  Last Monday, we did an alternative walking tour of the city.  We did the regular sight seeing tour the previous week, but this definitely provided an alternate look at the city...hence the name.   

The tour focused mainly on the street art around the city, but also talked about the squatters (both legal and illegal), gentrification, and some other alternative lifestyles that are around the city.  I'm not sure if I would take this tour if I was only in Berlin for a weekend, but if I was here for a week, it's definitely worth the time. 

In Berlin, it's a 50euro fine for littering and a 2000 euro fine for vandalism.  If you use spray paint, that is graffiti, but if you use paper and glue, it's only considered littering, so many artists, like this artist, choose to do pin ups.  These dancing girls can be seen around the city and are always close to somewhere where people can dance (clubs, outdoor performance locations, etc.).  What's really interesting is that our tour guide ran into one of these girls at a club and the girl had no idea that she was all over the city!

Little Lucy can also be found all around the city.  She is a remnant of an old Czechoslovakian television show.  The artist used a dark twist with her and now she can be found all around the town killing her cat in different ways.  I think it's supposed to make some sort of comment about communism....

We also saw all sorts of other street art besides 2D art.  There were all sorts of things throughout the city that I had never noticed before, but seemed to pop up wherever we went.  People tend to take these things, so it will be interesting to see if things have disappeared when we return to these locations.  Maybe we need one as a souvenir?

We went down an ally where there is a wall that is open for street artists.  Every few weeks, the art changes, so we will definitely be back to see what is new.

Berlin, you're going to make Donald Drumpf again? Yes please!

 The two pieces of street art that don't change in this alley are the Anne Frank piece and the astronaut.

After we left the alley, we walked a little ways and found these "stumble stones."  They are put into the side walk and raised up a little bit so that you stumble on them.  They have the names, jobs, and death date (if known) of Jews in Berlin.  They are usually placed in places that they worked or lived.  I think it's a pretty cool way to remember the victims of the Holocaust.

I think one of the coolest things we saw on the tour was this man, Osman.  When the Berlin Wall was designed and built, there was a flaw in the execution.  A piece of land that was owned by East Berlin ended up on the wrong side of the wall.  Lots of people in West Berlin placed their trash and unwanted stuff on this piece of property.  Osman, who lived in West Berlin, took it upon himself and created a garden on the property and built a makeshift home with all of the materials that were dumped.  He donated all of the food to a school that was across the street. He is now 91 years old and it's mainly up to his children and grandchildren to maintain the garden, but they do and Osman still sits in his yard and waves to people when the weather is nice.   He's also Turkish, so we made sure to say "Merhaba!" as we walked by :)

Our last stop was along the spree that runs through Berlin.  There is a cool hangout place called YAAM (Young African Art Market).  There is a bar, lots of chairs and hammocks, sand and even a place to play soccer.  They had a small gallery of artists who use spray paint, which was cool.

YAAM from across the spree.  I love how welcoming Germany is, too.  Everyone here is so kind. 

That night, we celebrated a great day with Dim Sum.  We had no idea what it was, but it turns out it's Chinese tapas!! How cool!! We ordered a lot of little dishes and tried them all out.  It was a ton of fun and delicious. Mike and I aren't always the best tapas partners since he wants all meat and I like vegetables, but we were able to compromise and got a few little dishes of good stuff!

sweet potatoes and tuna tar tar


korean pork chops


It was a fun day of new things! We both found the alternative tour extremely interesting and we now get excited whenever we see any of the street art around the city.  And, we'll definitely be returning for more Dim Sum :)