Sunday, September 17, 2023

My Greek Destination Wedding in Hydra

It's been a long time since I last wrote an article for this blog, over seven years in fact, and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.

I'm still living in Florida but there have been a lot of changes in my life. I came to America nearly thirteen years ago to marry but that partnership didn't work out and we split in 2016. 

I got into a new relationship a year or so after the finalization of the divorce and this new relationship has been far happier.

After living together for six years or so, we decided to tie the knot earlier this summer. The ceremony was on the Greek island of Hydra and we spent our honeymoon on Corfu and driving around the Peloponnese.

It was a marvelous wedding and vacation and something that I'll remember for the rest of my life!

Boats moored in the harbor area in Hydra, Greece

Hydra is such a beautiful little island. We originally visited in 2021 because I wanted to see where the writer and singer Leonard Cohen lived but we fell in love with the island straightaway and decided that we would married there.

Vehicles are banned on the island, so walking and mule are the main transport.

Mules on Hydra

My wife and I arrived a few days early and there was some time to relax before our wedding day.

My wife and I relaxing in the sun.

The wedding was wonderful and the photographer captured some beautiful shots. That said, Hydra is a photogenic place with lots of sunshine and beautiful scenery.

Wedding day. The cat looks on!

Kissing on the steps.

The ceremony was outside on the roof of the town museum. There were some worries that it might rain but the weather was perfect on the day and everything ran smoothly.

We married on the roof of the Hydra museum

With all the guests outside the front of the museum

One of the fun Hydra traditions is that the groom leads the bride on a horse from the site of the wedding ceremony to the reception venue.

We went through the busy port area which is full of restaurants and people eating outdoors. There was a lot of cheering and clapping, as well as a few witty heckles as we passed by!

Hydra tradition is that the bride rides a horse to the wedding reception
Leading the horse through the cobbled streets

Joyful at the wedding reception

Friday, February 19, 2016

Kendal, Lewes, London, Leeds, and Hamburg!

After all the drama of flying into North West England at the peak of the floods (see previous), the rest of December was generally pretty quiet for me.

Kendal Town Hall viewed from Allhallows Lane

I more or less stayed in the old home town of Kendal for a month.  I grew up and went to school there until I was 18, but now I know virtually nobody there anymore apart from my older relatives.  Pretty much all my old friends and contemporaries have moved away over the years, lured away by colleges or job opportunities.

It’s a little strange, to be honest, I know the streets and buildings so well, and the whole place has large amounts of personal history for me, but I am essentially a stranger here now in many respects.

Lower Fellside, Kendal
I did manage to track down a couple of old friends whilst in Kendal, however, who had been away and come back.  I got to chew the fat and catch up with the news about people from school that I’d lost touch with for thirty years or so, which was great!

I had a fairly quiet Christmas and New Year period with the family.  The furthest I traveled was a couple of trips into the Lake District.

The Bridge House in Ambelside - I did managed to make a couple of trips into the Lake District during December.

January was a complete contrast to Deceber, as I started some of my English/European traveling in earnest.

First on the list was a trip down to the South Coast to see my brother and his family in the Brighton/Lewes area.  The South of England has a different feel and culture to the North, for such a small place England manages to have a host of accents, dialects, geography, and cultures.

The narrow streets of Lewes
It was great to see my young nephew.  He’s currently losing his baby teeth and getting his adult ones
My nephew

I also managed to Squeeze in a  day trip to London.  I visited the National Portrait Gallery (mind-blowing!), The National Gallery and the Tate Modern.  As well as a couple of super old pubs on Fleet Street.

Approaching St Paul's Cathedral on Millennium Bridge

Looking down the Thames from Millennium Bridge

Selfie with Van Gogh's Sunflowers behind me

The National Gallery

My second journey was to Leeds, a city I lived in (or thereabouts) for about twenty years.  I met up with friends for a curry and then drinks in the pub.  You don’t really get snow in Florida, so I always hope for a little when I visit colder climes.  Amazingly it snowed that very night, making the meet-up all a little extra magical.

A snowy Chemic pub in Leeds

Towards the end of January I flew to Hamburg, Germany for a few days.  I was getting a bit blasé about traveling by this point so didn’t do a lot of preparation.  Consequently I arrived in the evening with just a crap map that I’d printed off the internet and it took me some time to find the right train and then walk to my friends from the station.

Hamburg was excellent.  My favourite part was the evening spent in the Reeperbahn district with an old German friend, seeing some of the old Beatles haunts, the famous redlight area, and the lively dive bars that never sleep.  Hamburg has definitely joined my (long and growing) list of favourite cities.

The Reeperbahn in Hamburg

Outside the /Star Club, and old Beatles hangout

Birds skating on the ice in central Hamburg

Docks area of the Elbe River

It was a great month with some unforgettable traveling but by the end I felt a little worn out and a rest was in order.  If anything, I knew that February was likely to be just as busy, if not more so!

So I laid low at my parents’ house for ten days or so.

I had Liverpool, Chester, Cornwall, London, Lewes, and at least one trip into the Lake District on the schedule for February.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

American Christmas vs British Christmas: My Top 10 Differences

It's the same holiday and the same festive season, but there are differences in the experience according to which country you are in.

Myself, drinking a pint of Christmas cheer in a pub in Skipton, Yorkshire, during the festive season.

Below is a list of the main things that I've noticed:

  1. For sure, Thanksgiving steals the thunder of Christmas in the U.S. to some extent.  Relatives often make a long journey to meet up for Thanksgiving and don't repeat it for Christmas.  In Britain, there are no nearby festivals to rival Christmas (November 5th is a very different sort of event) and so it is usually the only big meet up point for families during the Autumn and Winter months, perhaps even the entire year.
  2. Maybe surprisingly, given that America is a much more religious place, most of the public holidays tend to be secular, presumably due to the separation of church and state.  In the U.K. the longest and most important holidays of the year are Christmas and Easter, when the country closes down for at least two or three days.
  3. In the U.S. workers maybe get to leave work early on Christmas eve, then they have Christmas Day, but it is straight back to work on December 26th.  In Britain there is Boxing Day straight after Christmas Day, so the holiday is automatically longer.
  4. On top of that, the work culture is much more laid back, so Britain effectively semi-shuts down for the entire period between Christmas and New Year, making the holiday period feel much longer.  I also suspect that the Christmas period generally  involves more work social events, extended lunches, and finishing early, than the more work-intensive U.S.A.
  5. For better or worse, a British Christmas tends to involve more alcohol.
  6. Perhaps linked to the above, Brits generally tend to be more reserved in everyday life, but they go a little crazy when they party and really let themselves go.  Americans tend to be more balanced in that they are more outgoing in general life and less crazy when it comes to partying.  
  7. Most of the connotations of Christmas tend to be Wintry: reindeer, snow, etc.  This fits in well with Britain and the Northern U.S., but it can seem incongruous in the Southern states where the Winters are much milder.  Sorry, but seeing a snowman displayed next to a palm tree in Florida just looks wrong.
  8. Americans are way more outgoing, and even brash (according to British tastes) in their decorations than the more conservative folks across the pond.  It is not uncommon to see entire houses, even streets lit up for the festive season in the U.S., which is much rarer in the U.K.  There often even appears to be a competitive element, with American neighbours attempting to outdo each other.
  9. The U.S. "Culture Wars" often play out in the festive season, with high profile constitutional disputes over nativity scenes at public buildings etc.  In the U.K., where religion is less powerful/controversial and there is no legal separation of church and state, such disputes don't generally exist.  Although there is to some extent a politically correct movement in the U.K. that sometimes challenges the dominant role of Christianity, especially in non-Christian areas of the inner cities.  The disputes are minor in comparison, however, and not on the same scale as the U.S.
  10. America has produced some of the great classic Christmas movies: It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, etc. but there is not quite the same tradition of T.V. Christmas specials which go on for about a month in the U.K.  Generally speaking, the modern U.S. tends to be a more movie orientated country, and the U.K. is more focused on T.V. and radio.
A pair of Christmas crackers.  Source: Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, one tradition that you won't find in the U.S. is the pulling of Christmas crackers, which is done in the U.K. usually during the festive dinner. The cracker is pulled by two people, one at each end, it makes a crack/bang, and then the central cardboard chamber is ripped open to reveal a small present or puzzle, a festive paper hat in the shape of a crown, and a written joke that is traditionally read out to the other guests.