Italy Trip (cont.), plus a new understanding on the importance of travel

“Mambo Italiano” by Dean Martin is the soundtrack to this post.

The power of dreams and desire. Even better yet, to put it in a less woo-woo new agey way, let us say the power of intent.   See long before I went to Italy, about a year before my family moved there or even knew they’d move there, I had started taking an interest in Italy.  I started casually studying the language, as well as reading up on tour guides and about the countries history and putting up visual representations of things related to Italy.   Those of you that have been to my place will know that on the fridge I had (and still do) have pictures of Italy.  Via Antica, Amalfi Coast, the Italian flag, etc.  …..and with the exception of Amalfi (which will happen in the future) I visited all.  Not only have I visited Italy, I have now gone twice.  Guys, whatever in life you want to do or accomplish, visualize it and plan it.  It will happen one way or another, I’ve noticed that the universe has a funny way of “coincidentally” manifesting happenings that align with what you want…what you really want, even subconsciously.   That’s a blog post for another day, but for purposes of this post I wont’ get to deep into that I just want to continue with the INSANE FUN I had with my new wife, my family, relatives and my friends from the USA in la citta eterna.

The trip was memorable, one for the ages, just in case I have not said so enough 🙂    The journey from Washington, D.C. to Europe was sort of a reality shock in that I felt a little disorienteted once I was at Dulles.  It is not that I was physically ill or anything, just that I was experiencing a simmering cauldron of emotions – mild anticipation, reflection….slight uncertainty, etc.  Like at the airport at Charles De Gaulle in Paris transferring I was like a fish out of water. It’s not like it was my first time traveling, but really this demonstrates how much one gets into a comfort zone in their enviroment and just coasts.  Like just the fact that you’re in an environment where people are not speaking English can be a shock, you do a doubletake like, “oh yeahhhh, English is NOT the language here”.   Speaking on the journey to Rome itself, it’d be incomplete without talking about the Air France trip to Europe.  As I boarded the Air France, I experienced my first serendipity of the trip.   Get this – I flew first class~!  Somehow through the grapevine, one of the ladies that worked on that flight had found out I was getting married, and had graciously prepared to set me up in first class, pending the Captains permission.  So I flew across the atlantic in first class.  It had a bed, a world class rated chef preparing the meals, etc.  I actually felt rested and refreshed after the trip.   The lesson I learned from flying first class was 1. Be nice to people.  I so much appreciated the gesture, it just set the stage for the whole trip.  That one kind act by the lady was much appreciated.  Never tire in doing kind deeds no matter how seemingly mundane.  This seems like obvious generic advice but how many people actually go out of their way to be nice to people rather than either just being plain disagreeable or snappy, or being neutral – barely acknowledging that others exist?  2. The finer things of life are there for all of us to experience.  A lot of times we rationalize limiting ourselves to the normal or average.  Now it’s not that there’s anything wrong with that….but there’s nothing wrong with the best or the fine things either.  You are worthy, I’m worthy.  I have promised myself that one way or another Stella will fly first class one day, and I hope anyone reading this will too.

Lots of private space, personal attention and special first class goodies.  Called "L'Espace Premier"

Lots of private space, personal attention and special first class goodies. Called "L'Espace Premier"

Fast-forwarding to the day after the wedding and move on to overall thoughts of the trip and city.  On Saturday evening, my brother arranged a pub crawl for most of the traveling party – we were about fifteen of us.  Now this was actually my first pub crawl (called BAR crawl in the USA I’d never really had an interest in doing one and I still wont’ wouldn’t be the same in DC outside of the novelty of Rome) but good thing I experienced it in Rome.  We met up at the Colosseum, which glowers like a burning coal at night.  Rome needs to be seen twice to be fully appreciated, see it at daytime and see it again at night.   Well, so the plan was to hit 3 bars and end at a club, in a pub crawl you walk from one destination to the next as a group, a big group like 50 or more.  It’s very fun, the camaraderie and all of that.  Free drinks at the first club, and free shots on entry at the rest.  We missed the first club so we joined in at the second bar.  I’m not going to write up about the actual partying itself as it wasn’t necessarily different from what one would do anyway, but what made the night was the people I was with, and the fact that we were walking in the streets of Roma.   In between one of the bars, some of us branched of to grab some authentic pizza – real pizza doesn’t have tomato sauce, it’s square and it’s thin crust and often has potatoes – that’s how they roll in Italia, and some ice cream, called gelato there, which was impossibly fresh.  The last club a place called Mood was the  climax of the crawl.  My brother knows the owner there, and even designed the logo, he’s a great graphic designer.   It was underground and what a majestic setting.  There were no plain corridors, in that there was seating along the corridors, but enclosed in a way that they were inside the wall, like a booth, but the seats were plush white.   Other than the dance area, it didn’t seem like rooms, it was like chambers.  The lighting was neon blue, red, and a greenish hue deepening on the area of the club that you were.  Oh we danced. and danced. and danced. and sweated.  We mingled with people, some of my friends were camera happy and getting very friendly with ladies from Italy, but there was also some ladies from Brazil and Australia who were partying themselves too.  For sure that was a night that ended too soon and we had to part our ways.  I wasn’t back at the house yet, I was to stay at the suite at the Marriot Park for the second night which was in the suburb, but we walked a group that was going back to our residence in Rome to the taxi.  That was after walking in the streets, imagine having the streets of Rome to yourself.  Fifteen or so of us, after a night of dance, song and drink, merrilly reminiscing and kidding with each other relaxing in the Piazza – the central Piazza to where most of us were located as well as the club was Piazza Novona.   We even had an impromptu 3a.m. tour courtesy of my brother haha.  There was lots of picture taking and bonding for about an hour before everyone went their way.  One of our party wasn’t even going to sleep, as he had to go to India the next day at 6 am and it was already like 4 am.  My best man and I walked him to the bridge, then went with my best man to his hotel.   If you live in a big city which has any appreciable architecture or you’d consider it intimate, pencil in a day to walk through it’s streets in its downtown between 3am and 5 am.

Rome at Night 2

I wanted to talk about the pub crawl as it was truly a peak experience.   Overall in regards of the trip, being back what I’ll ask myself is what about Italy is great?  It’s diversity for one (geographical and living diversity, not population diversity).  From the urban fashion centre of Milan, to skiiing in the Alps, to the nostalgic hills and vineyards of Tuscany, to the cliff anchored beaches of Amalfi, to the island of Sicily, to the novelty of Venice, to the pristine Florence.  And mind you that is all without mentioning Rome, which is where I was as I didn’t go to any of those other places.  From my stay in Rome I grew very attached to some random things and also the way of life.  Red Orange Juice. Villas.  Incredibly laid back and slow paced manner of people there.   Even while working people seem like they’re on holiday.  Buses that are plentiful and go everywhere. Pebble roads.  The cities intimacy think narrow streets, outdoor restaurants and piazzs. Architecture on a few fronts, first of all it’s history.  Will anything that’s being built today last 2,000 years? By the way, it’s not just the colloseum that has history, though it’s the most famous.  There is the Roman Forum, and also there are random ruins abound.  Also some of the wall of ancient Rome still exists.  While speaking of ancient Rome, I have to mention that I visited Ostia Antica with Stella.  Ostia Antica is an ancient harbor city of Rome, it’s actually older than Rome itself, and it’s ruins exist today.  The full ruins, meaning the entire actual town.  Like you walk through the streets, go the market square, see houses, main streets, etc.  I’d say it’s a lesser known Pompeii if you will, but if transport or time is a problem and you’re in Rome, it’s definitely worth a look to get your “ruined city” fix.   A second aspect of the architecture is just how epic it is.  Buildings that evoke power and status, the kind that you behold and your mental reaction is wowed.  Lastly on the architecture there is the divine.  Think Michael Angelo.  Sistine chapel.  Il Vaticano.

Unknown SoldierSistine Chapel

In conclusion I have to say that travel is a must.  I’d say it really is not an option if you truly want to maximize your life.  It’s like a ctrl-alt-delete on yourself. See when a computer is on after a while, it accumulates high usage of RAM (memory) or in a web browser, it starts storing too many cookies or spyware and it gets sluggish and slow.   People are like that too.  Naturally, after a while one gets infected with spyware (BS from others), accumulates too much RAM (stress and worry) and starts getting numb and going through the motions.  Travel is like doing ctrl-alt-delete on the computer or clearing your cookies.  It refreshes one and injects some passion via a new experience in them.  I mean after seeing the Sistine chapel, you find the idea of living your life vicariously through reality TV or engaging in gossip just ridiculous, like while you’re there or as soon as you get back, you’d react to such stuff like how you’d view 4 year olds bragging over who can swing higher.  Reading experiences of others such as that of my former roommate or from reading Tim Ferris, I realize that one big limiting belief about travel is that one needs to be rich or have endless time to travel.  That’s been something that’s held me back.  It’s not true.  Mexico is $250 flight.  Miami is $150.  One can go to Europe for $300-500 if they get a deal off season.  I’ll have to be creative.

Northern lights

I want to share with you some of the destinations I WILL visit in my lifetime outside of my resident and home countries, USA and Kenya.   Please share yours with me in your comments as well, I’m very much interested in where you want to go as well. If you live or know anyone or anything about these spots, please give me a shout  These are just the major marked places.  No doubt I’ll  have some minor destinations as well, some local travel in the USA, short weekend getaways etc, it’s not about limiting myself…but these that I’ll share with you are a must for me.  We can start with Norway, as I want to sail through the fjords, and I want to see the Northern lights with my own eyes – which resemble a curtain of emeralds, reflecting the moons light and lastly for Norway I  also want to visit the northern most inhabited city on earth.  Then there is Brazil,  where I want to experience mother earth through the amazon river and forest, and yes I also want to see what the sexy and sensous hype of that culture is all about.  I will go to Thailand to visit buddhist ruins.  I will go to England, to see the birthplace of the beatles and to watch Liverpool FC at Anfield in Liverpool, England.  I will visit Scotland and Ireland for the cliffs, highlands and endless green – have you guys seen Braveheart? Yeah, I want to go to those fields and cliffs.  Hong Kong for the ultimate in urban living, forget New York man.  One day, as my mortality wanes I want to have lived a great and productive life and to be able to tell my great-great grandchild (I plan on living to be over 100) who will seat at my feet , with conviction of the things I’ve seen and experienced in my years.

NOTE: IF anyone reading this lives in or has experience with Italy, Thailand, Hong Kong, Brazil, Norway/Scandinavia or the UK please e-mail me would love to know the insider details.

Fairytale Matrimonio (Wedding) nella Città Eterna

Wedding was good.

A little hectic and somethings lost in communication but that’s to be expected with a transatlantic wedding I suppose.

Nonetheless, it was very memorable.  Hard to communicate the excitement through text but allow me to give it an attempt.

The wedding day itself was awesome. What a fairytale. The photographers were at my place to take pictures of me as I prepared. They only spoke Italian, and they were pretty strict. I felt like a supermodel, they had me doing all kind of poses at the house. They left the place around noon and went over to Stella’s to take pictures of the girls. The girls spent the night at a friend of my mums place, who has a house like a palace.  I’ll wait for the pictures to see it.  The lady that did their makeup is from Cyprus and she’s an internationally known makeup artist who does famous figures in Eastern Europe.  Unfortunately, the wedding run late.  I got to the church much earlier than the womens’ party…it was me and three of my groomsmen. My boy Lenny and Luis, my best man, had gone to get the girls.  So while waiting we went to a bar and took some shots of jack daniels whiskey. Funny thing is I was not really nervous I wouldn’t say I was. It was more like a serene calm that had come over me. I was rather quiet and reflective, but then I usually am. My main worry as we walked the streets in the vicinity of the church was making sure I didn’t get drenched in sweat, but I had this mind-breaking idea to….take of my jacket. Heh 🙂 At this time the groomsmen I was walking around with were Nick, Peter (my sisters boyfriend) and my brother Rob/Silas. We had to keep ourselves occupied a little longer. The church is right downtown, so it’s not like a large compound to hide. We had to try and hide to keep the guests from seeing us, as people were mingling in the courtyard, but then the bridal party arrived. Ahh, the moment was getting closer!

Me goofing off outside the house.  This was when the groomsmen were leaving the residence to go to church.  My boy Nick is taking one of the pictures, and those are my aunts and cousin the background. The aunts went with the best man to pick up the bride and ladies.

Me goofing off outside the house. This was when the groomsmen were leaving the residence to go to church. Those are my aunts and cousin the background. The aunts went with the best man to pick up the bride and ladies.

The wedding party had a convoy of Luxury Mercedes cars.  This really upped the glitz, paparazzi factor, people'd be smiling and taking photos of us as they drove.

The wedding party had a convoy of Luxury Mercedes cars. This really upped the glitz, paparazzi factor, people'd be smiling and taking photos of us as they drove.

By now, Lenny and Luis had exited their cars, and some of the bridesmaids were coming in. Except the sweet girl, Stella’s sister ChiChi, who was with Stella (funny ancedote, my friend calls Stella Rihanna and Chichi Beyonce). There was almost a mishap as inexplicably they started getting Stella out her car on arrival, but I had to send my dad sprinting towards the car to keep her in as I’m not supposed to see her until she’s led to the alter. Well soon it was game time, we were running pretty late but just as the men lined up the service started, and one of the organizers from the church came out to give us the go ahead signal to enter. For those few seconds, I shared the feeling that world class athletes or performers must experience at the moment of truth. Entrance is pretty simple for the men, you just walk into the church looking cool. Luis was whispering in my ear, about speed, counting, etc etc. I should’ve reached my open palm backwards in response but i decided to be nice 🙂 j/k….that’s my man. So we walked in, by the way, seating arrangements had changed last minute but luckily it was simpler, I’d been a little worried of forgetting seating arrangements, but the change made things much simpler. So up the front I was, then the processional begun. The beautiful classical music kicked in and then the ladies came out….with Stella last, led by her dad. I wasn’t supposed to turn around, so i didn’t see her until that moment until she was literally handed to me, and my what a beautiful elegant lady she looked, draped in her white garments. Her face was so pure, a uniform caramel complexion, and her eyes seemed to sparkle. Few moments in life genuinely take your breath away, I’d have to say that was one of them. As she sat next to me, I teased her and asked her not to cry, she said she wouldn’t. Stella’s generally not the emotional crying type though. Rest of the service proceeded ok. It was long, it seemed pretty long. Funny moment that drew some chuckles was during the part when it’s asked if there are any objections, someone stood fixing something on their seat, causing some murmuring then I looked back and was raising my hands in a confused protest. Hahaha, that was a funny moment, I hope they don’t edit it out of the video.

The recessional was a Kenyan song which we danced out to. No it wasn’t as animated as the infamous Chris Brown Forever sensation, but we did ok :). Then we mingled in the courtyard a little bit before heading out to il colloseo for pictures with the very strict but fun photographers. Service was running late, so we only had time to do the colloseum, and we went to a nice hill which had the colloseum as a spectacular backdrop – you may have seen some of the self-taken pictures from there on facebook already. Man there’s no secret with facebook anymore is there?  In between the service and reception, there’d been confusion as apparently people didn’t find the shuttle bus, there was brief period of anxiety for a few people but in the end everything went ok.

St. Pauls Within the Walls church is a spectacular church right in the heart of Rome.

St. Pauls Within the Walls church is a spectacular church right in the heart of Rome.

Thats my brother and my sister with us in this photo

Thats my brother and my sister with us in this photo

Dreams come true.  When I begun taking an interest in Italy a few years go I hadn't met Stella and my family didn't leave in Italy.

Dreams come true. When I begun taking an interest in Italy a few years go I hadn't met Stella and my family didn't leave in Italy.

Arrival at the reception site presented a little more delay. But first I must say that the entrance had very much a paparazzi feel to it. Get this, I was being snapped, the video was filming and the flashes were going off as I got out the car in my tux and opened the door for Stella, and brought her out of the car. Speaking of which, it’s funny as we were driving around, lots of people in other cars were giving us smiles, and taking pictures of us. Anyway, yes, Marriot Park is kind of a glitzy elegant type hotel, so we walked into the lobby and we were being followed with all the flashes. Some guests who were waiting in the lobby were coming up to us as we marched to the elevators and asking to have their pictures taken with us. Now once at the Marriot, the girls went to a suite to freshen up, but inexplicably, I was separated from the rest of my groomsmen. This ended up causing the interesting situation (it was not so interesting at the time though, I grew increasingly irritated) in which the groomsmen took longer to get ready than the bridesmaids. I’d called down two of my groomsmen to come and help me get ready, but then the hotel manager, and invited guest was there and he led me up to the sixth floor to get the reception started. See I’d been kept away from the sixth floor with the others because the crowd wasn’t to see me. But why did they not keep the other guys as well? Anyway, so Stella and all the bridesmaids were there. I was there minus three of the groomsmen. Mum and the hotel manager came out of say enter…but waitaminute my mum said they wanted to clap and chant some Kenyan song. I immediately vetoed that suggestion. We’d specifically asked for a special entrance of our own before the reception. Why was it being overriden? I insisted on the originally planned entrance and so we marched in, men in tuxedo’s, beautiful ladies on their arms to….BOND! Yes, the theme music to our entry at the reception was 007 music, the version from Quantam of Solace. It was very much appropriate with our tuxedo outfits – the ladies didn’t change, but the men had switched from lavender vests/long tie to black bowties, and I’d switched to a white bowtie.

The reception room…what a great ballroom.  Here is a link to the photo tour of the hotel, you can look for the Da Vinci Ballroom there. Two ends of the room had windows as the entire wall. The carpet was a royal red with black and white patterns. I’d feared it’d take away from the lavender color of our wedding, but it didn’t. The tables were draped with white linen, with different types of glasses carefully placed everywhere, beatiful centerpieces of white and lavender flowers. There was a “gate” adorned with grey and purple balloons through which we entered. Each of the tables was named an animal from Kenya – the high table was Lion/Simba.

reception table

There was a buzz to the room, with guests such as ambassadors and CEOs of major companies present. It was a good mixed crowd as we had “dignitaries”, relatives, young kids, friends from Kenya, friends from USA. The menu was a sumptious selection of traditional kenyan foods such as pilau rice and chapati, but also Italian samplings like Lasagna. There were tens of desserts to select from as well, and of course the wine kept flowing all night. Speeches were kicked of by my best man, followed by Stella’s dad, my dad, Stella’s uncle, an elder from my dad’s village, my aunt, a member of the local wedding planning committee in Rome, by an Ambassador which was a great honor to be addressed directly by her, and ended by me. I gave thanks to those attending, and just spoke from my heart, about people in the USA that have been of influence to me as well as to publically express my love for Stella which I wish I’d have had more time to do. After the speech it was cut-the-cake time, Aunt Ann had been selected to help cut the cake. What a beautiful cake!! Stella and I did the honors of feeding each other, then feeding our parents. Soon after that it was the first dance. The song we selected was a version of “Malaika”. We had only practiced the first dance twice in the USA, and that was 3 weeks earlier. Luckily, it was a short song, only two and a half minutes, but we were smiling and genuinely having fun so I think we’d have gotten away doing anything. To kickoff the dance floor what we did was immediately after the first dance, a faster version of “Malaika” played and for that the rest of the bridal party got onto the floor. We’d originally wanted to do a shuffle, but I was nervous that I’d break the flow (I don’t know how to shuffle!) so we settled on freestyle. My aunts soon joined in the dancing and it was on for about half an hour. Only half an hour? Yes, there was only half an hour of dancing at the reception, then it ended. That’s because there was more….

Part three of the wedding was an after party in a lounge that was reserved for us. The lounge was called the Kalypso Wine Room (you can google that too), and was also located in the same Marriott Park hotel. Open bar. We had a different DJ for this playing more contemporary music, but also kenyan hip-hop.  The DJ playing for the after-party is one of the best known and sought after producers, mixers and DJs in Italy among the young crowd.  It was funny, even the Hotel planner recognized him when he had come the day before to do the paper work and view the sight.  Anyway, most of the young crowd moved downstairs for this. The ambience was good with dimmed lights, red and yellow accents, roundtables, and an open patio. It was good, and we even invited some curious Italian girls in to party with us. My fondest aspect was seeing different groups of friends and relatives mingle with each other. By the end of the night, due in part to the open bar and due in part to sheer exhaustion people were ready to hit the bed. I was sleeping in the lobby 🙂 My mum’d been nice enough to get Stella and I a suite for two nights at the same hotel, so we waited downstairs as people called for taxi’s then we went up to the suite and just slept.

The wedding was memorable. Ever since the wedding announcement that Stella’s sister e-mailed out for us, it’s been non-stop planning and it’s occupied mental space. It’s been the main focus of our lives, but the end event was truly worth it. Just seeing Stella in her dress, slipping her ring onto her finger, pictures with the collosseum as a backdrop, memories. I know I’m not a girl, and a wedding is more of the girls side of things, but this was truly an event to cherish, which I’ll forever hold in my heart.

I am in great gratitude to my mum, who wants the best for her son, and who insisted on making it a beatiful grand event. I’d originally wanted a small wedding, with just family and two or three friends but she’d not hear of it. Through the wedding, many travelled to Rome, and in turn had many experiences.

This note is just about the wedding, but the next night was a pub-crawl in the streets of Rome at night, with DJ dedications to me & Stella, and then there was a day2 of photography, and then there was a full tour of the Vatican/Vatican Museum – that’s all in the past 5 days, each of which a note as long as this could be written.

Best of all, I have Stella to share the rest of my life with, and more adventures to look forward too. truly I am a lucky man to have experienced what i did, and to be with who i am.