Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Honeymoon Take 2 Pt. 3: It's A Nice Day For An (English Countryside) Wedding!

We woke up Saturday morning feeling refreshed after a good night's sleep. We decided to take another walk through the town, grab some breakfast, and then get ready for the big event. It was a bit rainy, but we kept our fingers crossed that it was just morning showers and it would clear up for the wedding (it did!).

We started the day with a cup of tea and some pastries (for Ryan) at hOwGiLLs Bakery & Tea Room, and then walked to check out the church where the wedding would take place. The church, Saint Andrew's, was built around 1130 AD. It is technically a Church of England parish, but they have an agreement worked out with the Catholic Church, where a Catholic priest says mass at noon on Sundays, on holidays, and for sacraments such as marriage.

 Beautiful flowers already decorating the church gate!

 Wedding today? I think I have to be there...

 Rocking my dress from the night before & my new pretty pink umbrella. If Kate Middleton can recycle dresses, so can I! Hmmm, I wonder what Kate would do if she lost her luggage...

 Walking in the rain.

 I love everything about this shop.

 This makes my heart break into a million little candy pieces.

 I think this guy is smashingly handsome! I say smashingly, because, well, it sounds more British.


 See that hill? I believe the groom and groomsmen ran up it the morning before the wedding. The wedding planner in me had heart palpitations over possible broken legs. Luckily, everyone survived.

 Ryan and I stopped in this cute little centre, where I met more of Colette's relatives (an aunt & uncle from Indiana). I'm pretty sure the town was 90% wedding guests that weekend. I also found an sheep ornament that said, "Ewe Are My Sunshine." It may or may not be my current most prized possession. 

After our walk, it was time for a quick lunch at Duo Cafe, where we ran into even more wedding guests!  I was initially very nervous about finding places to eat because of my food allergies, but I would say that the restaurants in Sedbergh were even more aware and accommodating than most restaurants in the U.S. It was a huge relief!

Soon it was time to get ready and head off to the ceremony! The rain cleared, the sun came out, and the church bells announced that it was time for a wedding to take place!

Wedding Bells for James & Colette!

Time to make it official!

Pretty Topiaries! 

I'm pretty sure my heart swelled a thousand times with pride & love when Colette walked down the aisle with her dad. Doesn't she look so very beautiful and elegant?!

Teary dad, Teary daughter= Teary Guests

Colette was quite possibly the most excited bride ever. She would make eye contact with a guest, then break out an enormous smile, as evident in the picture above. There was so much joy in this little church. 

Right after the marriage license was signed. In England, signing the marriage license is part of the ceremony. I wish we did it this way in the States! It's such a nice tradition. 

Mr. & Mrs.!

Handsome Groom & His Beautiful Bride!

We were all given cones of flower petals to throw. It made for some stunning pictures!


Petals & Lace.

After the ceremony, the bride & groom led the way as we all walked through the town and up some hills towards the cocktail reception at James' grandmother's house. Seriously, does it get any more amazing than that? 

Luckily Colette had her sister & James' sister to help carry her train! 

First walk, hand in hand, as a married couple!

The wedding guests followed along. 

Soon we were heading down a little lane towards the cocktail reception! I would like to take a minute to give Past-Katie a pat on the back. At the last minute, I threw a spare dress into Ryan's garment bag, just in case I wanted a choice of dresses for the wedding. This meant that I had two items of clothes to wear while without luggage. Past-Katie, you are awesome. 

Finally we arrived at the cocktail reception, and were greeted with lots of champagne & delicious hors d'oeuvres! Cheers!

Next Up: Cocktails, Sheep, Dinner & Dancing!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Honeymoon Take 2 Pt. 2: Sweet, Sweet Sedbergh

After a rather sleepless flight, we landed in Manchester Airport on Friday morning. We immediately headed over to the lost baggage kiosk, and filled out all of the appropriate paperwork. They confirmed that our luggage was going to leave Philadelphia and arrive sometime Saturday evening. Because we had to fly out at 6:30 am Sunday morning (our original flight was scheduled to leave later in the afternoon, but it too was cancelled. Worst. Luck. Ever!), they said it was best to keep our bags in the airport. We were given a number to call, and were told that a representative would bring our luggage out to us when we arrived to check in, as we could not access the baggage claim part of the airport until we had gone through security. And, well, we couldn't go through security until we had our bags. They assured us that they were open 24 hours a day, and that it would be a smooth process to reclaim our luggage. This will be an important fact to remember in part 4 of this story!

Once we had that settled, we went on our merry way to pick up our rental car. The girl working that day was kind enough to put in the location of the nearest mall (Trafford Centre...which is huge!) into our GPS, and we were on our way to pick up some toiletries, sweaters (it was 50 degrees cooler in the UK), and an umbrella. We caught a lucky break on our way into the mall, and immediately stumbled upon a Boots and H&M. One hour, and a Starbucks stop later, we were on our way (on the other side of the car & road) to Sedbergh!

Ready to hit the (other side of) the road! 

Two and a half hours later we arrived in beautiful, sweet Sedbergh. The town is literally the definition of English countryside. Beautiful gardens, crisp green rolling hills, adorable streets and shops, and.... sheep pastures. More on those later. We stayed in a quaint little home called Reader's Cottage

 Our front door. 

We decided to spend the afternoon strolling around town, taking everything in. It's hard not to feel peaceful in a place like this: 

 View outside of our cottage

 Lovely hills

 Union Jack flags!

 Gray and Lavender...one of my favorite color combinations

 I wish my garden entry looked like this. 

Winding roads

 Beautiful old church. 

 Ubiquitous phone booth picture

 I love crooked signs.

Ryan liked this home because it reminded him of Lord of the Rings. 

Eventually we stumbled upon the house where most of the bride's family was staying. Colette & James placed a message board outside to update everyone on where they would be during the day. 

I was outside taking pictures of the sign (not realizing that anyone was in the house), when Colette's uncle came downstairs and welcomed us to the town. He was very, very sweet, and even invited us inside for some cold drinks.  We had a wonderful time chatting with her aunt, uncle and cousins. It gave us a chance to catch our breath, and made us even more excited to celebrate the wedding the following day.

Afterwards we decided to grab some dinner at The Red Lion. The area is known for their sausage, and I can see why. I'm pretty sure it was the first meal we had since lunch the previous day, and it was delicious. Yum!

 Yummy dinner restaurant! 

After dinner, we headed to the Dalesman Inn for a pre-wedding welcome happy hour. We got to catch up with old friends, and make a bunch of new ones! It was a great way to kick off the celebrations!

Me & the Bride! 
p.s. See the blue cloth in the background? That's my airplane blanket. I used it as a shaw. No shame. 

Suddenly, it was 10:00 at night, and since we had not slept in around 36 hours, we thought it would be best to get some sleep to rest up for the big day! 

Random Fact- The sun does not set until around 10:30 PM in Sedbergh. This means that you will think it is 7:00 when it is in fact, much, much later. Eyemasks are a must! 

Next up: Colette & James get married! 

Here are the pictures from our first day: 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Honeymoon Take 2 pt. 1: How I Almost Missed My Best Friend's Wedding

As I alluded to in my last post, the beginning of our trip was nothing short of a monumental disaster. But, I digress...lets back it up two years and explain why this trip meant so much to us. Just three short days after returning from our honeymoon in 2008, I became severely ill and ended up in the hospital for almost a week. Some may say that I was giving that "in sickness and in health" part of our vows a run for its money. What was supposed to be a quick recovery, turned into a 2 1/2 year journey to try and piece my health back together again. Needless to say, the memories of our honeymoon were quickly overshadowed by the challenges that we now faced.

So when my bestest Colette got engaged, we were over the moon to plan a trip to England to celebrate her & her fiance's wedding. We decided to make a long vacation out of it, and considered it a honeymoon do-over. For two years we'd scrimped and saved, spent time at the coffee shop researching and planning, and dreamed of the day we'd finally be able to take some time off. I also used the trip as motivation to keep moving on my mission to get better. There were so many times I wanted to give up and throw in the towel, but I kept trudging forward knowing that I couldn't miss this wedding. Needless to say, there was a lot of emotion built into this trip.

Fast forward back to present time...

We went above and beyond to make sure everything was in order before our trip, so that the day we left would be as relaxing as possible. We got to the airport fairly early, and were surprised at the lack of traffic we had heading into Philadelphia. There were no lines to check in our bags, and again no lines to go through security. Everything was running extremely smoothly...a little too smoothly for airport travel.

We settled into the chairs in the waiting area, and that's when things started getting weird. We saw a firetruck go flying across a runway, sirens blazing. Then one of the alarms above a door in our section kept going off. It probably went of 14 times before they were able to stop it. Then we looked at the tv and saw the massive thunderstorms that had stopped the Phillies game. The game that was taking place just a few miles away from the airport where we sat. We looked up and saw the black clouds billowing towards us. It was like the universe was telling us that everything was about to get out of control.

And out of control it got. It was about 15 minutes before we were supposed to board our plane, when a fellow passenger came over to our section and said, " I think our flight is cancelled...it says cancelled on the board!" No announcement had been made about a cancellation, so everyone ran over to the U.S. Airways desk. Here's just how awesome U.S. Airways is (insert sarcasm). The people at the desk had NO IDEA the flight had been cancelled. So they told us all to calm down and go back to our seats. No one followed their directions, and we all stood there just waiting for an update. The knots began to form in my stomach, but I tried to convince myself that if the flight was cancelled, surely the airline workers would know it, right?! Oh, how naive I was. About 10 minutes later, one of the desk people grabbed a microphone and made the announcement that our flight, was indeed, cancelled due to mechanical failure.

I broke down in a mess of sobs. I'm not usually a crier (especially not a public crier), but I was just filled with a whole mess of fear (that I'd miss my best friend's wedding), frustration, anger and sorrow. Two years of planning for this? Flight delays I had mentally prepared for...but mechanical failure... I had not. Instead of being helpful, the U.S. Airways people handed all of the passengers a piece of paper with a phone number on it, and told us that they wouldn't be able to assist us in getting flight information. We were to call the number and they would answer all of our questions. (Horrific customer service, I know.).

Ryan got on the phone and tried to get a hold of someone, anyone, who could help us. I could hear the people around me who had gotten through to a representative. "Your next flight to London isn't until tomorrow at 4:45 PM? With a layover in Germany? So, we won't get into London until Saturday afternoon? The connecting flight to Manchester won't get in until the early evening?"

I may or may not have started hyperventalating at this point seeing as how the wedding was a 2 + hour drive from the Manchester airport. If this was the only flight we could get on, we wouldn't arrive at the wedding until 9:00 PM.

All of the sudden, my husband ran off down towards the other part of the airport. I had no idea where he was going, and since I had conveniently forgotten to charge my dead phone, I had no way to text him to see what was going on. So there I sat in the middle of the airport for 20 minutes with tears running down my face, all of the worst case scenerios running through my head.

All of the sudden Ryan came running back, and said, "Come on! A direct flight to Manchester was delayed due to the storms, and we can get on that flight!" We went to try and get a hold of someone to ask about our luggage (which was loaded on the broken plane). There were a bunch of U.S. Airways managers standing in a huddle (not behind the desk where they could help people, off to the side standing away from the people they had just left stranded). We ran up to see if we could get our luggage put on the other flight. That's when they told us that the luggage could not be taken off the broken plane. We were flabbergasted...it's not as if the flight could go anywhere. And it's not as if any of the other flights were leaving or coming in because of the storms. All of the working planes were just sitting, going nowhere. We explained that we really needed to get our luggage, because there wouldn't be time for it to be delivered to the town we were visiting...we had to fly out early Sunday morning to another country. One of the managers called the luggage workers, and explained our situation. But it was a no go. They refused to take anyone's luggage off the flight, and they refused to give anyone a reasonable answer as to why.

Given the choice of missing my friend's wedding and having luggage, or making the flight (and wedding) and having no luggage, the choice was pretty easy. We made our way onto the new plane, luggage-less (and not quite sure if we would ever see our luggage again on our trip) and exhausted, but on our way to England. The sad part was that the plane had a lot of empty seats, and that so many other travelers on our original flight were not given this new flight as an option. It was just another major fail by U.S. Airways...

Because we were so worked up, we didn't sleep at all on the flight. But there we were, on our way, determined to try and keep perspective on our situation.

Here are the blessings that we were able to come up with:

- The thunderstorms caused the Manchester flight to be delayed. If it had not been delayed, it would not have been an option for us.

- Our original flight had a layover in London. We were now on a direct flight.

- When we first got on the new plane, the pilot announced that we may be sitting on the runway for 1-2 hours, as we were 15th in line and the runways still were not open due to the storms. 10 minutes later, he made another announcement...the runways were now open and we were now number 3 in line! Because everyone had been taxiing for so long, a lot of planes had to refuel.

- We were going to make the wedding! Granted, we had no clothes to deal with the 50 degree temperatures (it was 100 degrees in Philly), but we were going to be there!

I promise the next two posts will be happy :) Before luggage saga part 2 happens!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

And, We're Back...

with a few more stamps in our passports!

Ryan and I just returned from our 10 day adventure through 4 countries, 3 airports, 2 car rentals, and 1 stranded island (insert Gilligan's Island tune here). The trip started off a little rocky (well, extremely rocky...thanks to a U.S. Airlines and then a Manchester Airport debacle) which left me having more than one breakdown. I'm still a little jaded over the awfulness of it all, but I'm hoping that all of the good memories (and there are a ton!) will gradually wear down the memory of the bad experiences. 

Oh, and those good memories...they are so very, very sweet. 

I got to watch one of bestest friends get married in a truly stunning countryside wedding (complete with walks through sheep pastures... seriously, sheep pastures!), with one of the most moving wedding homilies I have ever heard (I teared up more than once) . It was one of those British country weddings that everyone here in the U.S. tries to emulate, but falls slightly short of because, well, we're missing the British backdrop. I cannot wait to share the gorgeous, gorgeous pictures. 

After the wedding, we headed off for a Croatian (and Montenegrin, and Bosnian- Herzegovinian) vacation. Words cannot describe the wonderful time that we had. Each town that we visited was uniquely special, and it was truly an honor to learn so much about the history of each place from the amazing people who took the time to show us their countries. All of our research paid off, and we were able to do every. single. thing that we wanted to do on our trip (and more!). It truly was the perfect vacation for us filled with lots of walking, espresso, history lessons, border crossing, and just the right amount relaxation (ok, we probably could have used maybe a tiny bit more of this). Not everyone's cup of tea, but I'm happy to be blessed with a husband who has the same travel outlook as me. 

In the end, we left with big smiles on our faces, lots of joyful and funny stories (to over-ride the sad and frustrating ones), some new friends (hi, ana & andy!), and a new place in our hearts for each town that we visted. Success. 

My plan is to spend the next few posts going through each part of trip (with lots of pictures!) as we experienced it. We can't wait to share our memories with you! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Letter to Cole-Slaw

Dear Colette, 

It seemed like only yesterday I moved into the halls of West AJ and started my adventures at Virginia Tech. It quickly became apparent that my roommate was a "princess" in more than one sense of the word. I watched my parents start the six hour drive back home, and knots of dread filled my stomach as I wondered how I would make it through the year being so far away from everything I was familiar with. 

Then I met this girl next door who also had a crazy roommate (although crazy in a completely different way). We commiserated over how we could have possibly ended up in a situation like this, and quickly bonded over Deets ice cream. Oh my goodness, how much do you miss Deet's ice cream?!? Little did I know then that we were placed in those rooms so that we could end up becoming best of friends. 

You were the Blink 182 poster to my Monet. The free spirit to my overly cautious mindset. The techno music to my pop. The Aurora to my Belle. The Cole-Slaw to my Katie-Did. But for as different as we were, we were also a lot alike....we ruled over the study room at the end of the hall working our backsides off for those good grades, and unknowingly, as a joke, we even bought each other matching princess tiaras for our birthday. The year was filled with ups, and downs, and lots of ketchup. But somehow we survived. And then we made the decision to be roommates for the rest of our time together at college. 

Looking back, the years seemed to fly by. There were lots of good times, crazy times and a good amount of late night talks.  But through it all, you were always by my side. Before we knew it, graduation came and we had to move our separate ways. It was scary and exciting all at the same time (mostly scary though). 

Then one day you called me up and told me about this guy you met through work. I knew right away that he was different than all of the other guys you dated. Well, for one, he wasn't American (hello, charming British accent!), but more than that, he was confident, funny, intelligent, worldly and adventurous. The perfect fit for someone who was the product of parents that met in the Peace Corps. And when I finally met him in person, it confirmed what I already knew...he was the one for you. You had finally found your "prince charming." 

A few years went by, and an amazing proposal came on a hiking trip. You both then set off to travel around the world for a year, before coming home to plan your wedding. The wedding that will finally be here after two long years this weekend! Tomorrow, Ryan and I will hop on a plane and fly all the way to Sedbergh to celebrate with you and James. We could not be any more excited for you both! 

This is just the beginning of a life filled with even more wonderful adventures, happiness (and probably lots of ketchup). Thank you so much for always being there for me, and I can't wait to be there for you as you start your married life together! 

Hokie Hugs and Lots o' Love,