Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Monemvasia (Greece): Chapel of Love

Goin' to the chapel and we're gonna get married! Clearly I'm not half of that "we," but my bestie was! My Greek bestie and her adoring groom were married in a 17th century church, enclosed in castle grounds, in the beautiful Monemvasia, Greece. The whole thing was incredibly magical, so magical that it almost made a believer (of weddings, marriage, etc...) out of me...Almost.

Monemvasia is on an island off of the eastern coast of the Peloponnese, and is idyllic, so much so that I found myself just standing and taking it all in on several occasions. I could never have fathomed that Greece could be so...Stunning. It felt exotic, astonishing and swathed in history and yet, I hadn't felt so alive in months! I can't adequately express how it made me feel, but if I hadn't fully fallen for Greece yet, then Monemvasia sealed the deal.

The bride and groom arranged a chartered bus to take family, the bridal party and guests to Monemvasia since the only way to get there is by a motorized vehicle-sorry travelers! You're going to have to rent a car to get there! It took us much too long to make the journey, but, of course, we were late leaving Athens, toilet breaks, food breaks and sightseeing stops made a 312km journey (which should have taken about 4 hours), an almost 12 hour journey, lol!

Sounion: Sightseeing stop

 I actually read the sign giving background information and historical significance regarding the site!
 I TRIED reading the Greek and was unsuccessful. Shocker.
 The view from the bottom.
 The pillars are massive...Or maybe I'm just incredibly short (T_ T)
 The whole site was so picturesque!
 The water was just as hypnotic as the historical site.
I very much wanted to go down to the water and take a dip, but no time for that! We had a wedding to get ready for!

Unfortunately, by the time we reached the castle, we weren't able to see just what Monemvasia had to offer! We all-CAREFULLY-made our ways to our rooms in the castle grounds. By the way, if you're ever able to stay at Hotel Byzantino then GO!!! Don't hesitate! http://en.hotelbyzantino.com/  We didn't kill ourselves getting to our room (the walkways and stairs have been preserved and so they are not flat and can be slippery!). We showered and went to bed. Our room was AWESOME! We had no idea how awesome until we woke up in the morning and saw our view, the mountain top and the water, and oh my goodness! It was heaven!!! We stayed in a "Triple" room, room X/1: http://en.hotelbyzantino.com/x1.html and it was very quaint!

 A welcome present!
Oh, my beloved, practical bestie!

Although it took us forever to get to Monemvasia, it was well worth the wait. We had (complimentary) breakfast in a gorgeous "cafe" area and the food was PHENOMENAL! I was sooo tempted to just pull my book out and hang out there until food was no longer served, yet it hardly seemed appropriate...BUT you know me!!! I LOVE food, and their food was incredibly delicious!!!

 This ain't your run-of-the-mill "continental" breakfast, folks! Look at all that gorgeous food!!!
 Yes, please!
 The quiche was soooo tasty!
 My mouth is watering all over again as I write!!!!
 Who loves cheese??? THIS girl!!! Yeah, I'm pointing at myself.
 I didn't eat the loaves, but the Greek pastries (front row), I devoured! 
 Spoiled for choice.
 There were even teeny tiny biscuits as compliments to your tea or coffee :)
 Mmmm, sweets!
Olives! Get in my belly!!! (Yes, I'm channeling Fat B@stard from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Goldmember).

Monemvasia:

The Irish chef and I spent the day before the wedding on our own, exploring the castle and the adjoining town!

Monemvasia: The Rock
Ready to explore!
 The view on our balcony to the left.
 And even further left!
 Getting lost in the castle, but not really because it's hard to stay lost, lol!
 Yay! We found the "swimming pool"!!!!
 The waves were pounding against the rocks so fiercely that I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to swim in such rough waters...But there were people out there later that day!
 Making our way up the "hill" :)
 It was hard not to just stand and stare.
Straight ahead is the where we enjoyed breakfast :)
Decisions, decisions!
 I love the Irish chef's camera on his phone. It's a million times better than my outdated point-and-shoot, crap shot :(
 People actually LIVE here. Wonder what house prices are like??
Hard to think of this area used for defense, but who wouldn't want to protect such beauty???
 It was, clearly, windy!
 So quiet and sunny and warm! My kinda wonderful!
 Where are we??? No idea, lol!
 Realizing that we were actually NOWHERE near the top! Ha!
I need to exist near water. It makes me smile like a fool in love.
 Getting closer to the top...Only to see the "Do Not Enter" signs and wanting to enter anyway, but not, and making our way back down like a good girl and boy!
How gorgeous!
 The entrance to the castle. Seriously.
 Fortress walls!
Heading into town.
 The waters were rough everywhere!
 Beachy keen to get in the water, we decided to wait until we had our swimming clothes on :)
As we walked away from the castle, it still was imposing. It's grandeur never diminished regardless of how far away from it we were. Don't quite catch my drift? Look down ;)
The Irish chef went for an early morning walk and captured the sun rising on the island!

What would be considered the "rehearsal" dinner was actually nothing like a western style rehearsal dinner. We went to a gorgeous restaurant and had a voluminous dinner on the outside terrace, and then entertained the occupants with our Greek dancing-some people even joined us!!!

 The entrance to the restaurant.
 Our group took up two tables.
 No one else was there when we arrived.
 The FOOD!!! Greek salad.
 Spanakopita!
 Best. Feta. Ever.
 Green beans and a yoghurt dish resembling Indian raita :)
 Zucchini flowers stuffed with rice-my favourite dish of the night! Too bad I was already stuffed silly once it was delivered to the table :(
 Salted pork that was SOOO tender it melted in my mouth! I don't even care for pork, so what does that say??
 Greek french fries seasoned with salt...And oregano. Surely you're not surprised?!?
 My bestie learning new footwork from a Greek onlooker at the restaurant who'd originally only come over to say "Congratulations!" The other guests, and even the staff, ended up interacting with all of us and it made me feel like we were truly celebrating with friends and family instead of it merely being a meeting between locals and foreigners.

The wedding day was absolute chaos because we had to switch hotels (from Hotel Byzantino to Lazareto Hotel: https://lazaretohotel.reserve-online.net/). We stayed in the first stone cottage shown at the following link: https://lazaretohotel.reserve-online.net/property/LAZARETO/DBDX. The hotel was another gorgeous property and this was where the wedding reception was actually held (for safety reasons which make perfect sense if you saw how difficult it was to walk from hotel to hotel and even to navigate the castle.

 This was our view at the Lazareto Hotel as I stepped out our front door-the awning was retractable!
 Looking right: we were right on the water's edge!
 I was tempted to never leave Monemvasia.
 There was a path behind our cottage :)
Just hanging out beside the cottage!
 The courtyard the morning after the wedding. Not surprisingly, no one else was as motivated as I was to enjoy the beautiful morning. Some people were still sleeping off their hangovers and others had gone to bed less than an hour earlier.
 Hmmm, where to sit??
The view of the water from the courtyard (where you could enjoy your complimentary breakfast which was tasty, but not as good as Hotel Byzantino's).

I don't have photos of the wedding day for the simple reason that we were so darn busy that I didn't have time. We (the bridal party) were LATE to the church, and an elderly lady who works for the church was snuffing out candles on the alter while the priest was in the middle of performing the ceremony! Apparently there was another wedding shortly after ours. Hmmm, how about NOT booking weddings so close to each other?!? Just a thought.

You know, I knew from the very first moment I met my bestie's (new) husband all those years ago at Western (University) that he was the one for her. I saw it in the private moments they shared when they thought no one was watching, in the things they said to each other, in the way they made life work together. On their wedding day, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of loss, and yet I knew that the man who had won my girl truly deserved her. Nor could I deny that I was happy for them, not to mention that I was grateful to be part of their special day-I mean to be there-because, let's face it, I'd never go through the misery of being a bridesmaid for just anyone. Nope. My sister and my bestie. One down. One to go. You can't see, but I'm doing a happy dance!

At the reception I was able to observe everyone and let reality sink in: my era with Jo (my bestie), was over. Change had arrived. It came in on the breeze that tickled the ribbons that hung from the tree branches above the dessert table, laden with Greek-style baklava. It hung as particles in the particularly dry air of the atmosphere as we ate dinner, and reverberated in the bass of the music, thrumming in our eardrums as we danced. It's the change that comes with officially uniting two people, husband and wife, as best friends, all the while in my head I was thinking, "But Jo's my best friend," and coming to terms with the fact that she could have TWO best friends. Looking across the courtyard at the Irish chef, I smiled at the thought of my two best friends, too ;)

 The castle entrance and the guests watching the bride walking towards the church.
Walking through the castle to get to the church, surrounded by musicians and singers!!!
 Outside the church and not at all sure what I was supposed to do since we didn't actually rehearse anything to do with the ceremony, lol!
 A quick moment to take a picture with the Irish chef. The only picture we took together, hahaha!
 The newlyweds. Hubby and wifey already behaving like an old married couple
 The first dance.
 OPA! Greek dancing and lots of it!!!