Europe Wedding Adventure – Part 2

The Week After: Tuesday, Sept 9 – Monday, Sept 15

After 9 glorious days in France (and Switzerland) we said our good byes to our loved ones, cleaned up the barns, and drove our silly rental car to Chambéry to catch a train to Italy. And I was super sick. Go figure. My summer cold package came complete with a sore throat, headache, runny nose…the works. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, and I should have known that between the anticipation of a wedding and spending a week or more with everyone who arrived from around the world by plane…someone was bound to get sick. At least my cold kicked in AFTER our wedding day.

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Returning the rental car in Chambéry was a little bit of an adventure in and of itself. First, we had some trouble finding a gas station that would take an American credit card (seriously, with the chip and pin already!). So we tried to navigate all around the town to find a gas station with an actual human working. After a few stressful attempts, we finally found one (insert funny story about Jesse pulling up to the gas pump here). Then, we had some difficulty finding the rental car return place at the train station. After finding it, they, like the rest of France from noon to 2 pm, were closed. The note on the window said to go to the nearby hotel, which Jesse did, and he was told to park the car on the street, bring them the keys, and they’d deal with it. Umm….okay? Since we didn’t have a lot of time to question them, that’s exactly what we did. I think I asked Jesse about 10 times if the person who told him that ACTUALLY worked at the hotel and he assured me he did. Apparently it worked because 2 weeks later we received confirmation that our car was returned (and not just stolen by some dude we gave the keys to). Lucky.

The train ride to Milan was just over 3 hours and I slept the whole way. It was a surprisingly luxurious train! Well, that may be a stretch but it was way better than a plane ride, anyways! We arrived in Milan and remembered our rental car place was almost a mile from the train station so we’d have to catch a cab. Problem: everyone else and their dog needed to catch a cab as well and the line was at least a kilometer long. That’s also probably a lie, and I don’t actually know how long a kilometer is (that was my one attempt at using my non-existent knowledge of the metric system). Suffice it to say, it was ridiculously long…so we walked, dragging our luggage along, looking like tourists with our phones out trying to navigate, and me about to pass out from all the sickness. I’m sorry Italy, that I was not more prepared for you.

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We picked up our silly little rental car and drove to Lake Garda, which was about an hour and a half drive. We both enjoyed the autostrade and comparing the giant warehouse-style shops along the freeway to those in America (and sadly missing every AutoGrill, which we regret to this day). We arrived late to our tiny village, but our hosts were graciously waiting up for us. The narrow streets were everything I dreamt they would be.

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Gabriella, our host, and her lovely daughter had made up our room in true “honeymoon style” with rose petals, balloons, etc. It was seriously adorable.

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Over the next few days we were greeted each morning with a gorgeous breakfast, which we enjoyed with the sunshine on our bare feet under the persimmon tree. And the fairy tale continues…

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Also, I’ve never eaten so much bread in my whole life. It was a dream come true!

I was sick for most of the time we were in Italy, so we didn’t do as much exploring as we normally would have. But we took in Venice one day…

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IMG_4907 IMG_4919This “warning” in Venice was posted in numerous places in various translations. It was never quite clear if the pickpockets WERE the pregnant women, or if pregnant women should be more aware of pickpockets. I found it incredibly hilarious, either way!

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Enjoyed a nice run by Lake Garda…

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Relaxed in some small towns by the water, including an Italian market…

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Explored the giardino botanico…

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Extra points to anyone who can find both lizards in this photo:

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Took in what we thought was a castle [insert another funny story here]…

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And my favorite day; hiking to a refuge in the Dolomites. There are no words to describe that day. Spectacular, amazing, incredible…all of those and much much more.

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We finished off our “honeymoon” with some sparkling wine at our new favorite restaurant.

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And just to share these miscellaneous photos because I love these 3 bikes so much.

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This blog post turned out to be mostly photos because there are some things in life that are better left as private memories…I am choosing to leave the details of Italy just between Jesse and me. =] I am so looking forward to a lifetime of memories with him.

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Sunday 9/21/14

Since we didn’t do as much running as we’d hoped for in Europe, I knew I’d need to get some serious runs in upon returning to Portland. We’ve committed to the Condor 25k on October 5th and I’m feeling nervous ready.

Jesse was working all weekend so I got up early on Sunday and headed to Forest Park by myself to just run. I had some water in my pack, a couple GUs just in case, my favorite skort, and a good podcast; I was ready for an adventure. I was debating with myself what a good distance for the day might be and kept reminding myself: “It’s not about what you’re capable of, it’s about what you are willing to endure.” –Orrin Woodward

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15 miles later I was done. I had a few issues towards the end (well, throughout the whole run actually, but nothing worth whining about on here) but it was a fabulous fall morning and was pleased that I was able to finish and will hopefully be in good shape for our Corvallis event coming up. Except I’m paying for it a little today (and made the foolish decision to climb tonight as well. Ouch!)

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Europe Wedding Adventure – Part 1

The Week Before: Saturday, Aug 30 – Tuesday, Sept 9

As it is with any exciting getaway, the week leading up to our wedding adventure was the longest week in the history of all weeks. I was able to get in a few decent runs (including an epic 10 miler from downtown to Council Crest, crossing Hwy 26, through Washington Park / Rose Garden, and back to downtown as well as a beautiful waterfront gallivant, which included a symphony performance!). Then Jesse and I dropped off a confused but excited Riley with his BFFs Clyde and Bell and we flew away to Switzerland.

Geneva is an exciting city and the lake was nothing short of gorgeous. I, however, missed out on the first afternoon. Upon arrival to our extremely fancy hotel room (“Did you do the exercise? It’s good for the heart”), I made sleep my number 1 priority. Expecting an hour or so of rest, I awoke to an email from Jesse saying “Are you up sleepy head?” some 5 hours later. He had gone to meet up with some NZ friends to enjoy the lake while I snoozed the day away. We then found Jesse’s dad and sister and we all headed out for some dinner, where our waiter was unenthused at our order of 3 pizzas (for 6 people) and “just water, thanks”. We saw him again only once…to pay.

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We wandered down to the lake once more for some evening slacklining, enjoying the beautiful weather and some good catching up time.

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The next morning my parents, Jesse’s brother, and our Portland friends arrived in Geneva and after a confusing morning spent at the airport and a brief ride up the cable car for some bad paninis and a panoramic view, we began our caravan to the Alps. Jesse and I couldn’t wait to share the narrow winding roads, the renovated barns, the cowbells, and the endless croissants with our loved ones.

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We kicked off the week with some paragliding. Even Ms. Sheridan had a turn! It was also Jesse’s dad’s birthday so we not-so-secretly found some beautiful cakes at our bakery (it’s hard keeping cake a secret with a 5 year old around) while we were in there confirming our wedding cake details / delivery schedule. Which, I might add, was all but lost in translation. The poor woman at the counter could only repeat herself while we looked sad, mortified, confused, and hopeful all at once.

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Our crew “hiked” to the waterfall nearby – again, Ms. Sheridan was all prepared with her pack, complete with water for hydrating and a granola bar to keep her energy up. Jesse, Nic, and I continued on from the waterfall for some Alps trail running. After some decent elevation gain, I turned back to catch the farmer’s market and the boys continued on to the refuges and eventually ended up in town. Sadly, I had no ride into town and spent the afternoon lazing around the barn.

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The next day we took in some rafting, which featured the good, the bad, and the ugly. Jesse and Nic wanted the solo boats, so I partnered up with Jen and we had a helluva time! After a briefing in questionable English, we hopped in our boat and struggled to paddle in a straight line! The water finally settled down some and we received another briefing, with brand new information (which ended up making way more sense the 2nd time around). Down a waterfall we went and were left to figure it out on our own – and boy did we ever! “Together! Now left! Now right! Crap, a rock! Crap, a rock! Crap, a rock!” And so we went…laughing all the way! Even the French guides joked that we were going to guide the next group; all in jest, of course, as we missed all but 3 rocks in the entire river, I’m certain.

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We later learned of the other’s struggles and might have concluded that one big boat for us all with a guide to do the maneuvering might have been the better option. Live and learn.

One bittersweet feature of the week was the Mont Blanc Rally happening on Thursday-Friday-Saturday, which forced us to be up and off the mountain before 8 AM when the roads closed. But it also meant getting up and out of bed while on vacation before 7 AM. Both a curse and a blessing, as we could use the early start to take in more France-y things. Especially because most of the good shops close from noon to 2 or 3 PM…so best to get your shopping done early!

On Thursday, we all left the barns early and caravan-ed to Chamonix to see Mont Blanc on the world’s highest cable car, Aguille du Midi. I have very few words to describe what we all saw that day. At 12,605 feet, it was cold. And breathtaking – literally and figuratively. We all enjoyed the “glass box / into the void” experience and with some sort of luck, it was foggy that day – I may not have made it otherwise! I never thought I was afraid of heights, but sometimes your legs get to quaking and you have little control over how to stop it.

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My sister was also able to get some amazing footage of a few base jumpers (you know, the guys in the flying squirrel suits). A lucky kind of “right place, right time” thing. I can’t imagine the adrenaline of their experience.

After the cable car fun, Jesse et al journeyed back up to Geneva to take Jen to the airport. She sadly had to leave us early to make it back to Oz for another wedding (though we luckily were able to keep Nic for ours!) and the remaining group took in Cern and the UN. Those of us who stayed behind toured the botanical garden (or the “special garden”, pronounced “pretzel garden”, per Sheridan). We reconvened at the barns later and it was eventually admitted that Cern was a bit of a let down, as Hanna and I initially predicted!

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One thing I loved about having such a great group all staying together was the communal dinners. One of the barns had a big kitchen and sizable dining table, so we had a couple of meals where we just made massive quantities of food (soup, burritos, pasta, and literally dozens of eggs and bananas were eaten!). I love love loved it! And Sheridan kept us all busy with endless games of hide and seek. We finished off several evenings playing rounds of pool and one particularly funny evening was spent with my beloved Cards Against Humanity! “________! It’s a trap!” Winning answer: The Make A Wish Foundation (oh, the humanity!). It’s a game you don’t want to actually win and from our group, it turns out John is the most horrible person!

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On Friday morning we met up with Jesse’s aunt and uncle from Canada, as well as his great aunt and uncle from Germany (I loved that so many countries were represented on our adventure!) We set up the slackline again and Sheridan found a sweet dog to ride (might I add, the photo of her CRACKS me up!)

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We later enjoyed some rally car racing with a huge crowd and incredible views.

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We then decided we should go take a look at our wedding venue, as we had no idea where it even was, how to get there, or what it looked like.

Upon arriving, we were extremely confused about what was going to happen that Sunday. The refuge seemed small (also closed and shabby) and there were motorhomes everywhere; rally car racers, we assumed. We followed the hiking signs leading to the name we recognized and it became obvious what was going to happen on Sunday: we were going to get married in the most amazing location. And then it started to downpour.

After a few minutes of smiles, kisses, and reassurances, we took refuge under a tree. Pretty soon we saw my dad driving up to get us, but he took a wrong turn! Jesse sprinted to the hut for the women and children and I sprinted toward the car to rescue my dad! Soaking wet and grinning, we all made our way down the hill.

My mom’s mission while in town was to visit all 9 of the area’s chapels, so on the way back to town we made a pit stop in a tiny hamlet to check one off the map. After wandering around a very old building and receiving some quizzical glances from a man watering flowers, we concluded it wasn’t the church at all! It seemed to just be someone’s shed! With a briskness in our steps that was so obviously mortification, we found the correct chapel, laughing and hoping none would be the wiser!

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On Saturday, Jesse and Nic went mountain biking in Les Gets. I trekked with my family to Les Gets and Morzine (which was the hub for the rally cars) and we enjoyed chocolate covered pastries and café au laits. Sheridan once again suffered from the “excessive lunch hour(s)” the French love so much. The carousal in Morzine was up and running but by the time we reached it, the man locked his hut and sped away on a motorcycle, leaving us deciphering a handwritten note that I took to read “will return in 4 hours”. I didn’t have the heart to tell her. Thank goodness for Tuffy, her tiny French vending machine puppy or we would have left extremely sad faced. She perked up quickly with a trip to her greatly anticipated Indiana Jones Park, complete with zip lining! She’s totally a Ninja Warrior now!

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Another group had done some wine tasting that day and brought back bottles to use for our wedding wine – I was excited to taste their selections! We were even a bit conservative and were able to bring a few bottles home to enjoy.

Our lovely photographer arrived Saturday night and Sunday was our wedding day – stay tuned for the story!

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On Sunday evening we returned to the waterfall, which Jesse couldn’t resist jumping through, at Sheridan’s insistance! We enjoyed the sunset against the mountain (we named it Mt. Waas, because obviously) and taught Sheridan all about running, heart rates, and proper stretching!

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Throughout the day on Monday we said goodbye to most of our guests. A small group convened for a fun lunch downtown of hamburgers, crepes, and pamplemousse juice. We then spent the afternoon with Susan and John and Jesse’s Canadian/German relatives in town. We had a great time just hanging in the yard and celebrating with a wonderful dinner at their hotel. It was really such a great conclusion to the week and I was grateful to have it wind down so beautifully.

Tuesday morning we woke up early to tidy up, pack, exchange keys, and say goodbye to the French Alps. We had a lovely drive to Chambery, France to return the rental car and boarded a train to Milan to continue the fairy tale.