Aug 25, 2011

Kate & Andrew's Wedding

June 23-28

On June 26, Brian's youngest brother, Andrew, married Kate, his high school sweetheart and an all around awesome girl, so Brian and I traveled to Michigan to celebrate with the family!

We did the flight home a little differently this time. On Wednesday night after work, Bri and I flew to Amsterdam and stayed in a hotel by the airport that night. And early the next morning, we caught a flight to Detroit and then onward to Traverse City. This schedule allowed us to arrive in Michigan on Thursday afternoon, so we had more time to hang out! Our flight to Detroit from Amsterdam was delayed 1.5 hours, so we BARELY made it to our connection (I left my bag with Bri and sprinted to the gate to beg the flight attendants to wait). So when we got to Traverse City, we were both shocked and relieved to see our bags had made it!

On our way to the condo, Stefan took us to Don's Drive In, where we indulged in delicious American treats - malt chocolate shakes and hamburgers!!

On Thursday we spent some good quality time with our niece and nephew, Alyssa and Evan. They had grown so much since we had last seen them in December!

Alyssa playing with the swans

I love family time on the deck

Isn't he adorable??

We also got to see Brian's grandma, Marilynn, and her husband, Roger, on Thursday afternoon. We hadn't seen them in almost a year, so it was nice to catch up with them.

For dinner that night, Janet, the kids, Brian, and I went to our favorite Elk Rapids restaurant, Siren Hall. The kiddos started to get tired while we were there, so they started to get a little fussy. Janet knew exactly what to do to calm them down, so she took care of them. It was so funny, though, because to the other restaurant-goers, I felt like the kids probably appeared to be ours and we weren't taking care of them. Like Brian and I looked like slacker parents or something - haha!

When we got home, we put the kids to bed, and Brian fell asleep shortly after. I wanted to stay up late to be sure I'd get on a regular sleeping schedule, so Janet and I stayed up and chatted until almost 11. It was so fun to have girl talk!

On Friday morning, I went for a jog and Bri biked next to me. I love jogging in Elk Rapids - it's so peaceful and pretty! On our way back to the house, Brian and I stopped by the local bakery and picked up donuts for the kids. When we got home, Alyssa and Evan were anxiously awaiting our return with breakfast : )

That afternoon, Brian and I went to pick up his tux, and it was all wrong! He didn't even have shoes that were the same size. So we were glad that we checked while the shop still had time to get the correct tux before the wedding!

Then we went to the Chateau Grand Traverse to meet up with the wedding party - let the festivities begin! Andrew and Kate had arranged for everyone to stay in one big chateau for the wedding weekend, and I was so glad they did! Brian and I didn't know all of their friends too well, so staying with all of them gave us great quality time with everyone to celebrate Kate and Andrew together. Plus, the chateau was incredible - it had a huge wine cellar, game room, beautiful rooms for everyone, a really cool living area, and a kitchen with a huge breakfast selection! And, my sister-in-law, Alicia, was my roommate for the weekend, so we had great time to catch up.

Anyway, so Friday night, the entire wedding party went to dinner at a place called Firefly. We had an entire area to ourselves, and the restaurant was so cool - very modern. Most importantly, the food and drinks were very tasty! I sat next to Kate's friends Esra and Megan, and I loved getting to know them. After a fun dinner with everyone, we walked to a local pub. Live music, good drinks, and family and friends - you can't get much better than that! We had an awesome time!


We were out pretty late on Friday, but Brian and I were still a little off-schedule, so we woke up earlier than everyone else and were able to have breakfast and coffee together in the beautiful sun room. As others started to wake up, we all lounged around and Brian and I got to have great catch-up conversation with Eric and Alicia. They had recently gotten a new boxer puppy, Matilda...isn't she cute??

Saturday afternoon, Alicia and I drove Matilda to Alicia's parents' house in Ellsworth, and I got a little tour of the area where Alicia grew up. Then we went back to the condo and hung out at the pool with Chris, MaryBeth, the kids, and the groomsmen. Stefan and Janet had ordered bbq for everyone, and it was so yummy! Unless I make it, we don't get bbq in Frankfurt. It was a gorgeous day, so Stefan took us out on the boat, too!

Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for the rehearsal!

Bride and Groom at the rehearsal

Bower's Harbor Inn, where the wedding would take place the next day

Rehearsal dinner at The BoatHouse

Alyssa opening her flower girl gift - so much excitement!


Stefan and his brother, Christian

After the rehearsal dinner, all of the wedding party went back to the Chateau to sip on wine and relax before the big day!

Sunday morning, we woke up to this out of our window! Perfect weather for an outdoor wedding! I went for a jog through the vineyards down to the lake that morning - such a gorgeous and peaceful area.

At Bower's Harbor Inn, waiting patiently and with so much excitement!

Beautiful bride

The wedding was so perfect! Here are some pictures of the gorgeous ceremony:

Mother of the Groom and the Groom

Cuties! They did so well

You may kiss your bride!

After the ceremony, the reception was just as wonderful! They had a jazz band that sounded a lot like Michael Buble, which I loved! The building was perfect for a wedding reception - it was elegant and warm with its dark wooden beams and great lighting. We danced, ate and were merry with family and friends. It was so great to see Omama, TK (Bri's aunt Katrine), Dave, Christian, Cindy, and their girls.

Signing the marriage certificate - it's official!

Brian's mom, Omama, and dad

Roger, Grandma Marilynn, Kate, Andrew, Omama, Janet, Stefan

Listening to the Best Man's speech.
Kyle, Andrew's lifelong best friend, did a great job - he was so funny, but it was so sweet, too.

Delicious, beautiful cake! Kate did such a great job with the color scheme

First dance


On Sunday night, we went on an evening boat ride with Janet, Stefan, Eric, and Alicia. Janet, Alicia, and I went into town to pick up pizza, and we all soaked up our last night together.

Eric and Alicia had to drive back to Chicago on Monday afternoon, but before they left we had a family breakfast and enjoyed chatting with them one last time. The rest of the day Brian went to return tuxes and went real estate shopping with his Dad, and Janet and I went shopping in Elk Rapids. I love those little stores and always find some fun treasures : )

That evening we all sat out on the deck and had happy hour, which included a whiskey tasting thanks to Andrew's groomsmen gift!

Brian and I had to fly out on Tuesday afternoon, but before we left, Bri's parents took us to Black Star Farms winery and to sample some Michigan wine, which was so tasty! We actually bought a couple of bottles to bring back with us to Germany. One was an oaky chardonnay, and we also bought maple and cherry dessert wines.

After lunch at Bri's favorite sub place, Jimmy Johns, we headed to the airport for our flight home. It was a quick trip, but it was a wonderful wedding weekend!

Aug 24, 2011

England & Ireland

May 28 - June 5

Ever since we bought the motorcycle, Brian and I have had the goal to ride the motorcycle through Ireland. But planning that trip was much more difficult than anticipated! The ferry websites were not the easiest to navigate, and there's just so much to see! But we picked our favorite sites and found ferry schedules that worked, and we couldn't have been more excited about the trip!

Before I recap the trip, here is the video Brian made about this vacation. It is so well done! I think it explains our vacation way better than words every could.
Wasn't that cool?? I don't even know why I'll try to write the rest of this, but here goes nothin!

We woke up early on Saturday, May 28 to pack the bike and make our way to our first ferry. At this point, Brian and I have packing the motorcycle down to a science, so it doesn't take us long to get our act together :)

Packing in front of our apartment

The drive started out great along small, scenic German roads. For lunch we stopped at a gas station in the Netherlands and had delicious brie and meat sandwiches with Dr. Pepper! We don't see Dr. Pepper in Europe too often, so we took advantage of the opportunity.

We made great time and pulled into the port area as it started to rain, so instead of sitting outside, waiting to get onto the boat, we went to a small pub close to our port gate and enjoyed some hot tea and a couple of games of Jenga. We left the pub at 4:45 because our gate was supposed to close at 5, and when we handed over our reservation information, the lady told us we were at the wrong port! Our port was about 2 hours away, which meant we'd never make it in time for our boat. At this point I was absolutely devastated because I thought our entire trip was ruined. If we didn't make the first boat to England, we wouldn't make it to our next boat to Ireland.

However, we were so lucky. The boat in front of us was going to the exact same port our other ferry was going to, and it actually was going to arrive an hour earlier! I couldn't believe our luck. I had looked and looked for boats to Hull, England, and there weren't many. And there was room on the boat. Trip saved! I was still in shock for about another hour, though.

So we got ready and had a celebratory dinner on the boat as we cruised toward England.

We slept quite well in our little bunk room on the boat, and we forgot that we gained an hour overnight, so we were ready for breakfast an hour early. Nap time! Then we went to the ferry's buffet breakfast where they had the worst coffee we've had in Europe. The rest of the buffet was decent, though!

As we exited the boat on our motorcycle, we saw lots of signs like this:

Brian adjusted to driving on the opposite side of the road really well. Maybe because we spent a year driving on the left in Pakistan? Who knows, but I'm so thankful for Bri's great driving skills.

It was cloudy all day on Sunday, but we didn't see much rain. We started out driving on the highway, which was quite boring, but then we made our way to some smaller roads that were gorgeous.

We saw cute, perfectly manicured little towns; cool architecture; lush, green hills; lots of baby animals; old rock walls; and thick forested areas.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called the Egerton Arms, which was a super cute restaurant that had a really friendly staff and amazing food.

I was very surprised that our first meal in England was so tasty, because Brian and I both had heard that British cooking was bland.

Our starter platter - warm Camebert cheese, fried mushrooms, falafel, bread, salad, olives

And we shared the lamb with potatoes and veggies as a main course. While we ate, we noticed there were tons of little kids all around us, and they were all so well-behaved! It was a great first dining experience in the UK.

Part of our drive after lunch was along a road called the Cat & Fiddle route, which was a twisty, turny road that was a blast on the bike. Then we drove along the coast, where we saw dramatic hills and signs everywhere in Welsh, which is a very strange looking language.

Dyma beth Cymru yn edrych!
Translated - This is what Welsh looks like! Lots of y's.

We made it to the port right on time, and it was the correct one this time! Yay! This ferry ride was only a couple of hours long, and it was a really nice boat. I napped the entire time - it was a very relaxing experience!

B on the ferry to Dublin

The drive to our hotel in Dublin was very quick. We stayed at the Morrison, and we got a corner room, which was awesome.

Driving through Dublin

We quickly got ready and then it was time to explore Dublin! Dublin was everything we wanted it to be - cool Irish pubs, great food and beer, and a lot of fun. We started out by going to a "famous chipper" and got fish and chips in a paper bag. The Irish lady in front of us confirmed that this was the BEST spot to get fish and chips. Bri wished the fish was fried a little longer, but I loved it.
The Chipper

Streets of Dublin

Next, we went to a bar called the Stag's Head where we drank some delicious Kilkenny, Guinness, and Jameson. The bar was quite crowded for a Sunday night, and we had a blast hanging out.

We were a little hungry after the bar, so we went to Abrakadabra Doners, where they put chili sauce on the doner kebaps, which is so brilliant!

On Monday morning (30 May), we slept in and then drove toward St. Patrick's Cathedral. On our way, we stopped at a little place on the street for breakfast.

Onto St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was overwhelmingly huge and beautiful.

We had some sun for a little while as we drove along some small roads heading to Northern Ireland.
We saw this cleverly named hair salon

We saw gorgeous coast, lots of farms, more old rock walls, and a lot more green.

As we arrived at the famous road along the northern coast, it started to rain.

So we took a break to see if the weather would roll over. Bri found a great tea room, and we enjoyed some tea, scones, and carrot cake for lunch.

Our plan worked! The weather blew over, and we loved the ride along the coast.

Our last activity for the evening was a rope bridge. To get to it, we had a nice hike with some great views like this one.

The bridge was actually pretty sturdy for a rope bridge, which made me a lot more comfortable on it.


Bri took this picture to give a better perspective on how high the bridge was. I'll talk more about this picture in a minute :)

After the bridge, the ride to the hotel was so pleasant and pretty. It was a really nice evening.

We spent Monday night at the Bushmill Inn, a really cute B&B in Northern Ireland. The hotel staff was extremely nice and even gave us an upgraded room - they didn't think Bri would fit well in the bed of the smaller room :)

The Inn

Our room

We had dinner at the Inn, which had a really nice restaurant with amazing seafood and even a Guinness soup!

My date :)

As we were finishing our meal, we saw the couple that Bri photographed on the bridge! Random. We found their table at the restaurant and offerred to email them the picture when we got home. They were quite excited about it! As we talked with them, we found they were a really cool couple, so we invited them to drink some whiskey with us by the fire when they were done eating. So after dinner, we had a whiskey tasting and then sat by the fireplace to chat with our new friends.

We had great conversations about music, traveling, technology, and our jobs. As we talked with them, we started to figure out that the guy is a famous musician! His name is Steve Lewinson and he's in the band Simply Red. It was definitely a fun night!

On Tuesday, May 31, we had a hearty breakfast at the Bushmill Inn and then went to see Giant's Causeway, which is an amazing formation from an ancient volcanic eruption. We hiked along the coast for a couple of hours to really enjoy the Causeway.

Then we rode to the Old Bushmills Distillery to take a tour and buy some whiskey. The ride to town was so pretty!

While at the distillery, we learned a lot about Bushmills whiskey - it's the oldest licensed distillery in the world, they age their whiskey in up to three types of barrels, and it's delicious!

For lunch, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at this cute little restaurant called The Copper Kettle.

Our drive that day was amazing, as usual :) Here are some things we saw!

That night, we stayed at a hotel near a lake and had dinner at the hotel bar. We talked to this guy who works for Samsung, and he gave us recommendations on what to do during the rest of our stay in Ireland.

Wednesday, June 1 was rainy, but we still saw some cool stuff!

When we stopped for a break, we met another GS couple from Germany, and they gave us some great recommendations on things to see along the rest of our trip.

Break time! Traditional Gaelic whiskey cake - yum

After lunch, we saw lots of little lakes and we drove along the ocean. Then we made it to the Burren, a cool rocky landscape.

That night we stayed at this B&B

View out of our room at the B&B

After getting ready, we walked down the hill to Gus O'Connors Pub and had some delicious fish and chips!

After dinner, the pub started to get more crowded, and then the musicians started playing!

Shamrocks on our Guinness!

While we were enjoying the live Irish music, we started to talk with the people sitting next to us. First we talked to a group of teachers from Vermont, and then we met a couple of Raytheon employees from Boston.

Our friends from Boston

Thursday, June 2 started out with a great breakfast. I had porridge with a shot of Bailey's in it, which was SO delicious! I highly recommend trying it. We sat with a group of 3 young couples from Philadelphia (all related in some way) and enjoyed getting to know them briefly. Then we went to see the Cliffs of Moher.

After the Cliffs of Moher, Brian found some more really cool cliffs further up the coast, so we drove along those for awhile.

We drove to Loop Head and saw the Bridges of Ross. There were great views with mountains in the distance. For lunch, we stopped at an Indian fast food place and had doners, and we still had a long drive ahead of us! Here are some things we saw:

Lots of little bars with cool Guinness adds


There were a lot of these adorable little straw roof houses

When we were getting close to our B&B for the night, we stopped at this little stand for fresh, sweet strawberries.

Our B&B for Thursday night was this castle, which was built in the 1400s.

That evening, on our way to dinner, we stopped at the castle owner's driving range to hit a few balls. It was such a gorgeous evening!

For our last dinner in Ireland, Bri had one more round of fish and chips, and I had a steak. For dessert, we shared a Bulmers cider.

Two straws :)

As we walked home from dinner, we stopped to hang out with the cows for awhile. They were so cute.

When we returned home, we opened one of our new bottles of whiskey and had a nightcap as we read about the history of the B&B castle - it has been a B&B since the 70s!

On Friday, June 3 we woke up early to make it to our ferry. The B&B owners made the most elegant, delicious breakfast, complete with homemade jams, yogurt, granola, and applesauce. The stewed apples with cloves and the rhubarb with orange ginger were my favorites. The green and white china she served with was so beautiful!

We made it to our ferry just in time - the gate closed as we drove onto the boat! We watched Runaway and Tangled on the ferry, and then we arrived in Fishguard, England. It was definitely the prettiest port we had seen so far.

For lunch, we bought sandwiches, jammies (cookies), and Dr. Pepper (again!) at a gas station. The drive was so green, and we had the warmest weather of the entire trip.

One of our main stops on Friday was Stonehenge, which was amazing to see. We took the audio tour, but it didn't add a lot to the experience because no one really knows why or how Stonehenge was built. We did learn that the stones are from Ireland and weigh 45 tons. That's a long way to transport huge rocks!

The last part of our drive that day was great. The roads were winding and completely covered by tree tunnels, which looked awesome.

We stayed at a hotel chain called the Premier Inn that night and ate at their restaurant called the Red Lion. Since it was our last night in the UK, we ate traditional beef pies that looked like this:

On Saturday, June 4, we skipped the hotel breakfast and grabbed scones at this little bakery, which turned out to be a wise decision. Super cute, right?

While we were eating by the motorcycle, an older British motorcycle enthusiast stopped by to talk with us about the trips we've taken, and he told us all about his adventures as well. Everyone we talked to on this trip was so nice!

Today, the word that we kept repeating was "Cute!" because all of the towns we drove through were perfectly manicured. We took a break at the Swan Inn because it had a nice garden in the back. The inside of the inn was really cool too - lots of old wood beams, which were super short and difficult for Brian to navigate around!

We made it to Dover early, so we went to hike around the cliffs before getting on the ferry.

For some reason, we got "VIP" access to this ferry, so we were treated to a glass of wine in the ferry's business lounge. It was pretty nice!

Cliffs of Dover from the ferry

We arrived in France to find I had booked our hotel there for the wrong night (whoops), so it was 10pm, we had nowhere to stay. We tried stopping at a couple of hotels to ask if they had a room available, and when we had no luck, I jumped on Expedia to see what I could find in the area. EVERYTHING was booked. It was so crazy - even in Brussels, there was only one hotel with a room available. We ended up staying at a Brussels airport hotel - we got there around 1am!

On Sunday, all we needed to do was make it back to Frankfurt. And because we had driven a lot further than planned the night before, we were able to take our time on Sunday. We rode along the Rhine River and cruised home. What a trip!