The Nups

A place where John & Heidi can write about the marriage; all the organization, all the emotional stuff, and anything else that should fit here. We might not update a lot now, as the wedding part is done, done done!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Prologue: Honeymoon Overview

If you're linking here from a goal update, this is our fourth trip. The third is here, where you can link to the others.

A significant portion of the honeymoon is coming to terms with being married. The first few days we were there, I was desperately trying to figure out what I’d gotten myself into. By the end of the week, I was there. This is going to be a good marriage. I think we ended up “doing” too much, but every now and then we’d kick back and just watch life unfold before us. We were in Italy. On our honeymoon. We were married. To each other. Wow.

Italian food is freakin’ amazing. Almost every meal we had ranked incredibly highly in our best-meals-ever list. The wine is exquisite almost without exception. And to finish it off, there’s gelato (something like Italian ice cream, but ice cream pales in comparison) everywhere. I did end up getting sick off my first pizza there, and the food outside the Vatican is crappy, but that was two meals out of many many more.

Italian bugs like ankles. ‘Nuff said.

Chapter 1: Tuscany

The trip getting to Tuscany was a torturous grind. We tried to use the Honeymoon advantage, and it seems we did get preferential treatment, although the wrong way. On both our flights, we were right next to the bathroom, which isn’t as cool as it sounds. I was trying to sleep on the way over from Chicago to Madrid (the eight hour flight), and continuously got bumped into as people tried to squeeze two people through the airplane aisles (one for the person waiting in line, one for the person coming out of the can). It was less painful on the flight from Madrid to Bologna (the two hour flight), but still annoying. Once we got to Bologna, however, we were in great shape. We got a car in a matter of minutes, and in another matter of minutes, we were on the road. Our cruising speed on the Autostrade (similar to the Autobahn in Germany) was about 140 kph (just shy of 90 mph), but I got it up to 170 (about 110 mph) at a couple points. Regarding the rest of the driving experience, you can read about it here.

Everywhere you look in Tuscany, it’s a postcard. You have to struggle to find a mildly unpleasant view. I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a more beautiful province in my life. We got to our place, a small guest house in a farmhouse area, by going down a gravel road for about two or three miles. There were three spots on the road that, if we weren’t careful, we’d hit a rock with the bottom of our car, and it would make a gastank-rending sound. We learned to be careful very quickly. The place was exquisite in many respects. It was almost completely silent, and looking out over the countryside in the morning or at sunset was a sublime experience. Sitting out under the stars was even better. It didn’t have any ventilation, however, which made for uncomfortable sleeping.

Here are some highlights of cities we visited:

Florence: Beautiful place, with a lot of rich culture. The place seems to be entirely populated with models, too. Driving there was an adventure akin to a game of dodgeball. We got most of our loot there, at an outdoor market. I definitely want to go back again.

Castillina in Chianti: A small touristy town, one of the smaller hilltop fortresses that are found all around Tuscany. It was close to where we were staying, so it was convenient and very pleasant, if a bit geared towards tourists.

Siena: Another beautiful hilltop fortress town. Don’t have a lot to say about it, other than it was freakin’ amazing to see the windy streets piled high with buildings on either side, like a rustic canyon.

Volterra: Another hilltop fortress town (seeing a trend?). This was the highest of the cities we visited, and one of the best. The place is the home of the best alabaster carvers in the world, which didn’t impress me so much until I saw it. Some of the artwork that was done in alabaster was amazing, and it feels very cool. That, and the town has a gorgeous view, with more twisty windy canyon streets.

By Friday, my camera battery started dying, so I had to be very selective about what pictures I took. I was still able to take the pictures I wanted to, but that was because I was being selective.

We traveled around a lot that week, seeing more little places here and there. We walked a heck of a lot through the whole trip, and though we ate well, we both think we lost a little weight.

Chapter 2: Cinque Terre

This is a series of five small towns on the coast that are linked by a national park and a web of footpaths. It feels a lot like Italy’s Key West. The weather was almost perfect when we were there, so it was one of the top five most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. This is one of the places that Rick Steves writes about in his many travels. We went on a weekend. The two of those don’t mix so well. We found the places to be swarmed with tourists, such as to make the places much less magical than they could have been. I wanted to do the hike through all five towns (about a five hour hike), but we ended up not doing so, hitting only three of the towns (on the hike, anyway). Still, that was one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever been on. The first place we stayed was kind of more of the same. Beautiful location, no ventilation, difficult to get to, but this one was very loud. We stayed in Monterosso al Mare, which is a lovely place, but very touristy and with an active nightlife. The second place we stayed was a hotel in Levanto, the town just north of Cinque Terre, connected to the place by train. Still lovely, and we could sleep.

Cinque Terre was a great place to swim, too. Neither Heidi or I had brought our swimsuits, so we bought some at a local shop, and went out into the ocean. Because the dropoff is so steep in the water, there really wasn’t much in the way of surf, and because of the salt content in the water, we were exceptionally buoyant. This made for very relaxing swimming. I did little more than lie on my back and float out a couple hundred feet. This was one of the most relaxing times in the whole trip.

Cinque Terre is a great place to visit, if only to see the place. I think it would have been more relaxing on a weekday, but it was a good break from the cities.

Chapter 3: Rome

Ah, Rome. A city with effectively infinite history. A city filed with gorgeous baroque architecture. A city of art. A city of substance. A city of swarms of humanity. A city of exhaust fumes. We returned our car before entering Rome, which was a wise decision. I wasn’t too hot on the idea of driving through Rome, even less so when I actually saw Roman traffic. But the city has a decent infrastructure, complete with a Metro, so getting around was not so much of a challenge (with one exception, which I’ll expand on). Everywhere we went, there were impossible swarms of humanity. Y’know those exquisite shots of the Trevi Fountain, or the Spanish steps? They must have been taken very early in the morning, as I’ve never experienced such a crush of people except at the Taste of Chicago. It’s got some lovely aspects to it, but it really just feels like any other city, with window dressing. Window dressing that attracts people like flies to poo.

Our excursions were a little limited in Rome, primarily because we were both exhausted from the trip so far. We went to the Vatican, which is incredibly intense. St. Peter’s Basilica is something that must be seen in person to comprehend. The artwork is so intense, and there’s so much of it, that pictures don’t do anything near justice. The place was impossibly gorgeous, but we both felt it was a little misplaced. We’re not Catholic, so we don’t have the understanding of Sainthood, but we found it a bit much that all these people were venerated far more than they themselves would have wanted. We also went through the Vatican museums, the end of which is the Sistine Chapel. There was so much intense artwork in the museum that it was kind of overwhelming. I think the Vatican really needs to be done in two days, simply because it’s difficult to absorb all the art that you see in one day. That day we also visited the Pantheon, which is one of the few pagan buildings that still stands (primarily because it was converted into a Christian church). That evening, we went to a fixed-price full Italian dinner, which was very much like going to your Italian grandmother’s house for dinner. It was the one place we got preferential treatment for being on our honeymoon, as we got to sit at a table reserved for four, with just the two of us. The owner of the place, the Italian grandma, also came by and cupped both of our faces in her hands, saying “La luna de miele” (honeymoon) with a big smile on her face.

We also went to the Christian catacombs. It was a very interesting place, but unless you’ve secured transportation prior to going, I don’t recommend it. Heidi and I spent the bulk of our morning walking up Via Appia Antica, one of Rome’s busy streets, with a sidewalk that consisted of a white line six inches from the wall. If it hadn’t been for the friendly guy who picked us up and took us into town, we’d have been walking until about 2 in the afternoon, and pretty much been dead for the rest of the day. After the catacombs, we thought about going to the Colosseum, but when we figured it would be a 45 minute wait and 11 euros each, we just decided to see Gladiator when we got home.

Epilogue: Madrid

I didn’t want to go to Madrid all that much. I wanted a one day layover as a mini-vacation after our real one, but on the flight from Rome to Madrid, I was regretting that decision. Then I got there. Madrid is a beautiful, clean, exciting, dynamic city. It’s everything that Rome should be, without as much opulence. We didn’t have a lot of time to do anything, so our goals were tapas, sangria, and paella. We achieved our goals, and we realized we want to hit Spain again, for a much longer time. It was a challenge to transition from Italian to Spanish (especially for me, because my Spanish is limited to what I learned from Sesame Street, and being in LA), but it certainly wasn’t a challenge to transition into the Spanish culture. Spain has this lovely habit of the town waking up at 10pm. Dinner usually isn’t till 10, but they have tapas to tide you over. The siesta (afternoon break), is an integral part of their culture. Wow, do I love that place. I need to learn a lot more Spanish, but I’m quite pleased with what I now know. It capped our trip in a lovely fashion.

The trip home, not so much. Any nine hour flight in coach is pretty rough, just by nature of spending nine hours bored in a cramped seat. Spaniards like to get up and chat with their neighbors and friends, and one woman was doing that right across from me, with her butt right next to my face a good portion of the time. I didn’t mind that, as I still had some room, and it gave me further motivation to lean on Heidi, but when the lady farted in my face, it was a bit much.

In all, I’m glad to have taken the trip, but I’m glad to be home. Home with my wife. Living our real life together. It’s going to be a good marriage.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Aaaaaaand we're done

So we are now married. I'm wearing a pretty cool ring on my finger that I don't plan to be taking off ever again (well, y'know, to wash and so on, but no other time). It really doesn't feel any different with me personally, and our relationship doesn't feel any different, but we're married. We're married people. I'm somebody's husband. I have a wife. Wow, crazy.

Anyway, yesterday was a success far beyond my hopes and dreams. Yes, the final goal was to just get married on that day, and so we did. But the wedding ceremony was one of the most flawless I've ever attended, the photos were crazy fun, and the reception was a perpetual kick in the pants. We were talking about this being the party of the year, and I honestly think it was. Some highlights: When the pastor introduced "Mr. and Mrs. John Fisher," we got a standing ovation. I've never had one of those before! When Heidi and I came out in her dress and my kilt, dozens of cameras showed up (it's an Asian wedding; there were a lot of cameras there to begin with). The food was phenomenal. We required that a story be told for us to kiss, and only a few people stepped up to the plate, but we got some dirt on each other. My cousin told me a story about hanging out with my dad, in which my dad's end quote was "There's two things that motivate John: Jesus and sex."

There's nothing that I've ever experience that validates you more than getting married. Friends and family were all around, pouring out more concentrated love than I've ever experienced. Yeah, it's weird, but dang, I can't remember a better time.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Big Day

So now we're about six hours from my life changing forever. Again I say, bout damn time. We had the rehearsal dinner last night, which was a good look at what life will be like today: A lot of family and friends (who might as well be family) and a heck of a celebration. It feels good to move from the planning to the accomplishing, and therefore, today will be a huge release. I really don't get stage fright, so the externals aren't really all that scary, but the depth of the step that I'm taking... that's kind of a rush. I think what gets me the most, my family will officially change. It's OK knowing that I'm in Heidi's family... I'm kind of used to that. I think what's weird to me is Heidi being part of my family. Like, my sister has a sister. Y'know, that's really weird. I'm not so concerned about Heidi and me, because we've already established that we're really natural together (although the thought of having sex for the first time is a little frightening), but the fact that in a few short hours Heidi and I will be members of a significantly larger family... that's a little odd, a little scary, and really cool, all at the same time.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Bachelor Party

Last night, me and a bunch of the guys went to the Hopleaf and drank and ate a little more than our share. Me, Darrick (Heidi's brother), Mattox and Jason (my groomsmen) and a couple other guys whom I really love and respect were there, really doing nothing more than guy talk (sometimes pretty graphic) over some good beer and good food. I had about 3 1/2 beers, and here's the thing with Belgian beer: it's a lot stronger than it lets on; the sum total of what I drank worked out to six or seven American beers. I was pretty heavily sloshed when I went home, and in a semi-puky state. I didn't end up calling Ralph York on the porcelain phone, as Matt told me to drink a lot of water (which is a really good idea if you've had a few too many). I stayed at Matt's overnight, and we got to have a really good one-on-one conversation about women and fear and commitment. I really dig hanging out over a Belgian beer, but that was a vital conversation, as I was able to talk about some things that I have difficulty admitting to myself.

Yes, I'll agree it doesn't sound like much of a party, but it was a hell of a lot of fun, and it's what I needed at the time.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Impossibly Busy

Heidi and I are planners. We were way ahead of the curve with finding locations, getting clothing, and getting all sorts of crap sorted out. We sent out our invitations earlier than most folks do, and got darn nearly everything ready to go with months left over. We had to wait for our invitees to respond, so we pretty much needed to take a pause in the planning. We effectively stopped planning for a month, and then started ramping up the planning again. Here's the thing though: We both know how to plan a party, but with most parties, you only have to plan so much. You get things ready, then you sit back and watch people enjoy themselves. This is really different. We have to plan the hell out of the whole evening, and then remain flexible for the inevitable problems that will arise.

All this is to say, we had planned the heck out of the day, and we effectively thought we were done. With a regular party, you get things ready, you invite people, and you're pretty much done until the party starts. Not so much with a wedding. We realized just how much more crap needed to be done, and now we're working like machines trying to get it all accomplished by the day before (we're still working on the rehearsal dinner plans). I'm sure things will sort themselves out, but it's a challenge.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The New Pad

We've started the lease on the new place. This is a little odd for me. It's not my place, it's not her place, it's our place. I mean, I've had roommates before, and that wasn't so odd, but that was a very different thing. There was a distinction between his stuff and my stuff, with all my roommates. Now, there's not so much. We're talking about "our" bedroom. I'm OK organizing our bookshelf (formerly hers) with our books (formerly hers), because I'm part of the team. I guess this just brings home how unusual this is for me. Before being with Heidi, I never thought of anything that lasted my whole life. Even my salvation was sort of "Meh, we'll see what happens." But now here we are, moving her stuff into our place. On wednesday we move my stuff in, and I start living there (Heidi will be at her parents' place until the wedding).

I'm really going to miss living in the city, but I guess I'll adapt to the slower pace of life, and I'll certainly adapt to the better parking and traffic options. I'm afraid we're going to have to leave my church in the city, just because there's not much chance of community happening with us way the heck out in the 'burbs. Meh, we'll see what happens.

Also, we just got our bedframe delivered. It's freakin' ginormous. It's easily the biggest piece of furniture I've ever owned, and Heidi got it for a little over a third of it's original full cost. The mattress hasn't come yet, so right now it's just a frame, but we're getting there.