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On a rainy Saturday two years ago (two!!) Jamal and I said “I do” in front of 85 of our closest family and friends. It’s been a grand two years. We celebrated with an indulgent, over-the-top brunch on Sunday like we did last year (and hopefully like we will next year and the year after, if for no other reason than the insane chocolate fountain). This last year went by in a flash; the first year felt longer than the second, which may be attributed to the rut we were both stuck in last year (I changed careers about three different times, oy). Jamal is in Baltimore for the week, because of course he is. He hopped on a train right after we ate, but after two years of marriage and six years of being together, this doesn’t even faze me. Besides, I start my new role as an intern in the Fine Arts Department at an auction house today! In terms of distractions, I think that’s a good one. (More details to come, kiddos!)
Happy anniversary, Jamal! I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Thank you for making marriage so much fun.
Three (three!) years ago today, something fantastic happened.
Jamal made an honest woman outta me three years ago in Paris, in the gardens of the Musée Rodin in a light, early March rain. And despite all of those perfect details, I still found a way to inject a little (unintentional) levity to the scene:
He got down on one knee and I totally lost my shit. I doubled over laughing, shocked and surprised, and afterwards said I had to sit down because I felt like I was going to throw up.
Romance! I am the queen of it!
It was a magical day that kicked off a magical trip to Paris, and perhaps even more magical was that our engagement spawned the creation of the moniker “Jamal.” You see, when I announced our engagement on the blog, I was très jetlagged and had reached a stage of sleepiness that made me deliriously giddy. I realized as I was writing that my new fiancé’s initials, JML, were just one vowel away from being JAMAL, and, well, I couldn’t not call him that after discovering such magnificence, right? Bien sûr.
So really, two fantastic things happened three years ago, and both have made me fantastically happy. Sorry to get all sappy on you, kiddos, but needs must. Happy engagement-aversary, Jamal! Je t’aime!
This past Sunday, Jamal and I celebrated one year of marriage. Besides not being able to truly believe an entire year had passed since September 13, 2014 (where did the time go? Can anyone remember what happened in March? Wasn’t it just June?) the day was a delight. We treated ourselves to a super indulgent brunch overlooking Rittenhouse Square, with a mimosa for me and a bloody mary for him, and way, way too much food, and then we went home and put on sweatpants and lazed about in a food coma for the rest of the afternoon. Marriage! The traditional first anniversary present is paper, so I got Jamal Rick Steves’ Spain 2016 guidebook, which he flipped through that day, every so often stopping to say, “Happy anniversary! I’m so full!” My mommom made a sweet point: going out to dinner is routine, but going out to breakfast is rare and special. (It’s even more special when there is a chocolate fountain involved.)
So, to reflect on these past 12 months: We went to Athens and Santorini for our honeymoon! We went to Italy and Paris this spring! I left my job of the last four and a half years for something that would finally make me happy. Jamal continued to travel like a maniac, darting and zig-zagging across the country nearly every week. It was a big first year, with the requisite ups and downs. I wouldn’t say that marriage is hard, or that our first year of marriage was hard, because really, when you’ve been dating for four years and living together for three, what else is there to adjust to once you put a ring on it? But it wasn’t always smooth going; Jamal and I each had a hard year (for reasons that were independent of each other), which caused some strain. We figured out late in the game that rather than turning on each other, we should turn towards each other for support. And nearly all of that strain was eliminated the day I changed jobs. I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made in my mental (and marital) health.
And now, to look forward: We have a trip to Spain scheduled for next April-May! I’m turning the big 3-0! Jamal has some big career wins in the foreseeable future (which, bien sûr, comes with more travel). Other than that, the 2nd year is our oyster. What’s not on the agenda? A baby. Seriously, guys, what is with people asking when you’re going to start having a kids? It’s like the moment our officiant pronounced us husband & wife, the badgering started. Jamal and I have always agreed that, if we’re going to have one at all, it is going to be just the one. Une. Uno. But right now, we don’t know if even une bébé is in the cards; it’s certainly not on the table in the next few years. A few months ago, apropos of nothing, Jamal said to me, “You know, if we didn’t have a kid, we would have so much more money and time to travel.” But when people ask us (and seriously, we get asked this all the time), “When will you have a baby??”, “Are you guys going to have a baby soon??” and we say, “Not anytime soon, and maybe not at all,” (or, as Jamal responded when his best friend asked a few weeks ago, “Nah, we’re going to go on vacation instead.” <3 <3 <3) it's invariably met with a smug, "Oh, you'll change your mind." Maybe we will, and maybe we won't. Frankly, Fitz is enough of a handful to deter us from voluntarily saddling ourselves with a human baby. We each have too many personal goals we want to achieve (I need to finish this novel!) and countries we want to visit (we’re already planning for 2017. Japan? Scandinavia? Scotland?) still. So our second year will be filled with many exciting things, but a baby ain’t one of ’em. (Apologies to our parents.)
Happy first anniversary, Jamal! I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
A few weeks ago, our wonderful wedding photographer, Inna, reached out to me asking if a local wedding website, Delancey & Penn, could feature our wedding. I said yes without hesitation, and sent her a little write up about the day, which was fun to revisit from the perspective of six+ months out. Their post went live this week, and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share some more photos with you from the day that I hadn’t yet. You can read all about it, and see even more photos, here.
Thank you, Delancey & Penn, for featuring us, and thank you Inna, seriously, for being the best photographer we ever could’ve asked for.
Some long overdue reception photos. That last photo is my favorite photo from the entire evening, and (because?) I’m not even in it. My beautiful bridesmaids and friends and husband, dancing the night away. Left to right: my WBFF (Work BFF) and flawless designer Herbie, bridesmaid and best-roommate Lyndsey, maid of honor and my other, original spouse Sarah, bridesmaid, cousin, and New Kids on the Block fan Stacy, and Jamal! I really wish I knew what song was playing, but it doesn’t matter. Everyone is so gorgeous, so happy, so perfect. I have a print of this photo on my desk at work, and it makes me beam every time I see it.
Have a wonderful weekend, kiddos.
On our last day in Athens, we arrived in the city early in the morning from Santorini, and were leaving equally as early the following morning for our flight back home. Though we’d stayed in an AirBnB rental the first two days of the trip to get a more local experience in Athens, we decided to stay at a hotel on the last day, both for the convenience of having a line of taxis waiting to take us to the airport, and to splurge a bit.
Since Jamal travels so frequently for work (our flight to Athens was booked on miles), he has a slew of hotel points for all the major chains. This came in handy for us in Paris on our first trip there together, as well as in Brussels. For the end of our honeymoon, we wanted something central, luxurious, and elegant. The King George Hotel, part of the Luxury Collection of Starwood Group hotels, is situated right on Syntagma Square, in the center of Athens, and usually costs upwards of €280/night. We wanted luxury, and we got it.
We had a balcony overlooking Syntagma Square and the Parliament building, complimentary chocolates and a bottle of Mastic waiting in our room when we checked in, and later, as we were reading/napping/trying not to succumb to exhaustion, a complimentary bottle of champagne and a glass of strawberries, delivered by a kindly bellhop. And the bed. I don’t know what sort of magic they inject into the mattress, bedsheets, or pillows, but it was the perfect level of plushness. We loved that bed so much so that Jamal, who shuns pillows entirely and prefers to sleep flat against the bed without any (I don’t know, he’s weird, don’t ask me), raved about the pillows for days after we checked out. “Weren’t those pillows so soft? They were so soft!”
After some Internet Squirreling on my part, I found that you can buy all of the bedding (pillows, sheets, mattress and all!) online. So after a lot of help from customer service, who called the hotel to find out which pillows specifically we had in our room during our stay, I went ahead and bought two new feather and down pillows, hoping to replicate the bed-bliss we had at the King George. At $105 each they weren’t exactly cheap, but the last pillows we bought were $4 and from Target (and both of those facts are extremely evident after two years of use), so this was a very adult, very necessary splurge. I can’t wait until they get here!
That just about wraps up the honeymoon posts, kiddos! Thank you for being such good sports and sitting through all my photos. Back to your regularly scheduled programming (read: Paris) on Monday. Have a great weekend!
As both a avid reader and devoted bibliophile, Atlantis Books had popped up on my radar on more than a few occasions before our honeymoon to Greece. I love bookshops, so a bookshop in paradise was a no brainer. I’ve made it my mission in life to visit as many English bookshops in foreign countries as I can, starting first in Paris with Shakespeare & Company, Galignani, The Abbey, and San Francisco Book Company. (I’m excluding W.H. Smith from this list, even though I did frequent their location on the Rue de Rivoli more than I’d like to admit for the easy access to British chocolate, only because they are an English chain that happens to have a branch in Paris, and aren’t an independent store) Sure, I’ve only been to English bookshops in France so far, but I take my newfound raison d’étre very seriously, and I knew a trip to Santorini would be incomplete without visiting Atlantis Books, in Oia.
So the afternoon we took a bus to the town and had lunch on Ammoudi Bay, we scouted out the shop, and had a peek around. Nestled into the side of a cliff and situated below street level, making it feel like you’re descending into a secret literature lair, Atlantis Books was opened in 2004 by expats from the US, England, and Cyprus, who fell in love with Santorini (obviously) and decided to stay. From their website: “We found an empty building facing the sunset, drank some whiskey and signed a lease. We found a dog and cat, opened a bank account, applied for a business license, found some friends, built the shelves, landed a boat on the terrace and filled the place with books.” Simple as that. And the result is something extraordinary.
There are books everywhere, stacked to the ceiling, displayed on tables, wrapped around columns. There are books in every language, books they print and hand-bind themselves, old first editions of books you’ve only dreamt about seeing in the wild. There was a sleeping pup in the doorway, and a lofted bed in the back I immediately thought about claiming. It is, in short, magnificent, and I made three laps of the space, Jamal trotting dutifully behind me to catch me if I passed out from joy. We left, eventually, with a paperback copy of Eleanor Catton’s behemoth “The Luminaries,” a Michael Lewis non-fiction for Jamal, as well as a cotton tote bag with the shop’s name and logo as a souvenir. I could’ve spent days in there, and on the way out I had a fleeting vision of begging for employment, jettisoning all our belongings, setting up a home on the island, and figuring out a way to keep Fitz from diving into the water at every turn.
Are you totally sick of seeing Satorini photos yet? I’ll spare you the countless sunset photos from here to eternity. I didn’t realize I took quite as many as I did, it didn’t feel like I was glued to my camera the entire honeymoon –I promise, I was glued to my honey on my honeymoon– but Santorini is so pretty I couldn’t help it. You got that gist by now, right? Heaven on earth, gorgeous blue everywhere, etc etc. The weather was a glorious 75-80 and sunny the whole time we were there, dipping into the 50s at night with a strong wind. Mid-day, I was clinging to the shade on the side of buildings, fanning myself with my sun hat. But our walks back from dinner usually were at a fast clip, wondering why we wore sandals and not fuzzy socks, our arms wrapped around our torsos. Our cave room was always the perfect temperature, as an upside.
Many of you have asked some variation of, “How could you come back?” and the answer is, “In tears.” Truly, leaving Santorini was a struggle, which I suppose is the most complimentary thing to say about a honeymoon. Sure, we missed Fitz (who somehow managed to develop a skin infection on his belly while we were away, because he’s Fitz), but I could have survived another week or month or two just fine. I wouldn’t have fit into any of my clothes and would have had to wear the bedsheets on the plane back to Athens, but it would be a small price to pay for living in heaven.
On our first morning in Santorini, our hotel manager gave us a map of the island circled some of his favorite spots to visit. George is a Santorini native, he grew up in Imerovigli, so we trusted his judgment about which beaches were best and which tourist sites we could skip. He recommended we rent a car for at least one day, so that we could drive down to the southern part of the island. I was hesitant at first; why would we want to do things like leave the lounge chairs on our terrace?
Needless to say, George was right, I was wrong, laziness is sometimes conquerable, etc. etc. We got our teensy rental car early one morning and headed half an hour down the coast to the bottom corner of Santorini, to Perissa and Perivolos, two black sand beaches where the topography is drastically different. Those of you who know me know there are few things in this world I detest more than sand (green peppers, republicans), and that I’ve spent my entire life avoiding having to touch it. It gives me the ultimate willies and makes me feel like I’m suffocating. I don’t know why, I’m weird. HOWEVER. Black sand? Seemingly the novelty of the entire thing worked to dispel any of my weird anxieties about the stuff. We pulled into Perissa well before any beach-goers had arrived, and had the entire stretch to ourselves. It was unbelievable. Black sand! And it wasn’t so much sand as tiny little pebbles. In retrospect, I wish I’d bottled some up and brought it back. Perissa seemed like a great town –tons of beach bars, really casual vibe– and Jamal and I vowed to go back one day.
We drove a few miles to Perivolos, which is just up the coast and also boasts black sand, but we were more impressed by Perissa, because of the huge cliffs that border it. At George’s recommendation, we went next to Ancient Akrotiri, the Bronze Age settlement that was destroyed and buried during the volcanic eruption in 1627BC. We’d visited the archeological museum in Fira earlier in the week, and couldn’t get over how many relics were rescued from Akrotiri. Bowls, vases, figurines, full pieces of frescoed walls, all dating back to 2000-2700BC. The excavation site was massive and, thankfully, indoors, covered by slatted wood planks, with elevated walkways winding through the half-dug zones. It was pretty incredible.
Then it was back on the road to the aptly named Red Beach, which is exactly what you’d expect. Only we felt like brazen explorers in our quest to reach it; you park in a designated parking lot, and then you have to climb over rocks, around a bend, down a cliff, through some more rocks, down a path, and then voila. The first time you round the cliff bend and see the striking red sand though, and so worth the effort (though I wish I’d been wearing different shoes, as my sandals were useless). I could have stayed and stared forever. The contrast of colors was almost too much for me to even process accurately. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
We stopped for lunch in Vlychada, an almost deserted beach town with a fishing port, and had lunch at another Dmitri’s Taverna (we’d eaten at a Dmitri’s in Ammoudi Bay in Oia, too). Vlychada beach was your more typical beach, regular sand and all. We gorged on tomato fritters and saganaki and tzatziki, before heading all the way to the very southernmost tip of the island. We were told there was a lighthouse, but we wouldn’t have made the trip just for that. The views, however, made it feel like you were at the end of the world.
We decided to head home, back to Firostefani, but made one last stop at a winery. We missed the last tour of the day, but were happy to park ourselves in their wine bar and have a wine flight tasting. They tried to push an 18 glass flight on us to share, but we figured with the winding, narrow two-lane highway back up the island, we were better off sticking to just three each. We bought a bottle of Vinsanto, a sweet dessert wine and a Santorini specialty, and drove home.
We took a bus –an experience in itself– to Oia one afternoon, at the northern tip of the island. You’ve seen Oia if you’ve ever seen a photo of one of those iconic blue-domed churches, framed against the blue water. You know, that first photograph up there. Everything in Oia is postcard perfect. The town itself felt a little more prim, the shops a little more expensive, than our beloved Fira, but the views were just as amazing. At the suggestion of our hotel manager, we trekked down 280 winding, steep stairs to Ammoudi Bay, a small fishing inlet and beach, to have lunch at one of the four little restaurants set up on the water. And the water. My god, that water. I almost fell in during lunch (because this being Europe, there was nothing in the way of a protective barrier between our table and the end of the patio), craning my head to get a better look at the schools of tiny fish swimming by and to just stare at the turquoise and cerulean goodness. Why isn’t water that color everywhere else in the world?
Ammoudi Bay was heavenly, and worth the effort to get to. The climb down was fine, expect for dodging the occasional surprise left by a passenger donkey. The hike back up was more challenging, our bellies full of grilled fish and Santorinian beer, made all the more difficult by the oppressive midday Mediterranean sun. A very sweet passing tourist (Canadian!) took approximately fifty photographs of us, even running up the stairs ahead of us and shooting down like we were in a photoshoot (I thought she was trying to steal my camera).
We had a glass of wine at a rooftop taverna overlooking the sea. I made a special pilgrimage to an English bookshop (photos of that coming soon!). We got “lost” wandering the back streets, and then shared a can of beer on the bus back to Fira, where we enjoyed yet another amazing sunset.
Later in the week, we rented a car and drove around the southern part of the island, and I have a bunch of photos to share on Friday of the black sand and red sand beaches we visited.