November 21, 2015
Arriving in Monterey – 16th – The hotel
An ode to Helge Pedersen – a well known adventurer who’s held in high regard in the riding community and who’s book titled “Ten Years on Two Wheels” has been a bible in our upstairs loo since 2010 inspiring us everyday in our own little adventures. Needless to say, our title would more likely be along the lines of “Ten Days, Four Wheels and a Wedding” may seem to lack the same luster, but you’d never know it judging by the enormous smiles on our faces when we arrived at The Monterey Bay Hotel. We were floored. The first leg of our tremendous journey was done. It was time to chalk it up on the board and get to celebrating.
The bell hop had us in a room early, luggage in tow and we were feeling pampered beyond belief. This is the place we would call home for the next 8 nights and get some much needed R&R before the next phase began.
Right on cue, Mum’s wine and flowers appeared as we arrived at the room – certainly a good omen to the weeks stay.
Day off 1 in Monterey – 17th – Track Day – Salinas
Oh joyful, joyful morning – big sky, clear and blue. We were happy and healthy and finally back to the place where our journey together began. On the agenda, a morning spent finalizing some last minute wedding details, picking up our Marriage License at the local county clerks office and hitting the race track where we first met, for a round of the American Le Mans race.
It all seemed quite do-able and we woke early and focused on getting the county clerks run in Salinas done. Into a cab and on our way we began to realize that Salinas isn’t as short a jaunt as we thought. As we pulled up to the clerks office the meter had just topped off at $55 and the eerie stillness of the streets quickly made us realize that in our desire to look after the details we’d missed an important one – it was Saturday. Crap. By the time we’d made it back to Monterey we were down $125 and no further ahead. Our cabbie Adel, saw the pain in Issa’s eyes and, knowing that we were looking to get our license dropped the price to $80, offered to take us again on Monday for 30% off and refused any notion of a tip. “For happiness. I just want to be a part of it.” It was a lovely thing to happen.
In reality the next few hours didn’t really improve. The florist who told us to stop by on Saturday (by appointment only) decided not to show, and the restaurant where we were having our pre-wedding dinner didn’t open until 4:30 – totally our fault with some poor planning. With a couple of ours to kill and our moods a little grey we walked to the beach, along the wharf and into an art show. In our minds the trip to Laguna Seca, the place where we met, was a no-go. Tickets were $60 a piece and the thought of another cab ride was just not where we wanted to go. Just the we noticed a bus with “Laguna Seca” on the side and Issa asked the driver what the deal was.
“We go to the track every hour on the half hour. It’s free.” So after our trip to the restaurant at 4:30 we hopped on. We asked a couple of fairly crazy ladies if we could get tickets and they pretty much laughed in our faces. One with a thick southern drawl let us know that she’d bought tickets six months in advance. So “no” to getting it was her take. Still, we thought we’d catch the bus up and at least snap a pic of us together at the track to commemorate our return to this spot.
As we exited the bus we just kept walking along the track waiting for the ticket booth and, at best a couple of $60 tickets. But it never happened. We just kept walking deeper and deeper into the venue, me with my clipboard in hand and Issa snapping pics. Soon enough we were in the hot pits with teams manically fixing smashed parts of prototype and GT cars. Every once in a while someone would notice us and smile and if the gave us a look like “who the heck are you” Issa would take their picture which would always yield a smile. Then we’d scurry in the opposite direction ;)
We spent just over three hours at the track where we met – walking to the exact spot where our first “Hi” was shared. It was wonderful. It was also completely free! It’s nice when that happens…
Day off 2 in Monterey – 18th – Welcome packs
With some minor ego bruising from the previous days unexpected twists and turns, we appreciated the blue bird skies that greeted us once again this morning. It would be 20 hours until our first guests began arriving. This day would be spent in our gorgeous bay view room, writing, slowing down the clock and preparing welcome packages for guest. A quick workout in the hotel’s fully equipped gym and a dip in the roof top terrace hot pool, would help set the tone for the day.
Family and Friends Arrival
It was like a dream. We were getting ready to celebrate our lives together and our future together as husband and wife. This in itself was already and overwhelming sensation. To have come on such a long journey, to have seen so many amazing things along the way and now to be given the greatest wedding gift of all – watching as family and friends began to appear and surround us with their unwavering love and support.
The first day of arrivals on the 19th brought almost all family and wedding party in, with the rest or our friends arriving the day after. This worked out great, allowing for some quality time with both groups. It was like clockwork and all just flowed together so well. After initial greetings and some quick time to get settled in, most everyone just set off on their own little explorations of the area, which again allowed us to some much needed prep time before the big pre wedding dinner.
The sky was rich and blue. The Sea Lions and low flying birds skipping across on the bay reminding us that we are far from home. We to snuck in a massage and headed back to the quiet of the room. Attempting to stay “in the moment” as much as possible and slowly take it all in.
September 20th – 5:30pm – Pre-wedding dinner for 42.
Wedding Day Reflections
Foghorns and bird songs floated through the air as I reflected on the previous evening. One lonely fishing boat in the bay was barely visible through the thick, water-grazing cloud that offered a haunting and calming effect on my obviously over excitable heart. It was 5am in the morning and I was wide eyed. After all, what bride can sleep the night before her big day? In truth, I fell asleep without hesitation just after midnight. We had the most spectacular evening with forty-two of our closest friends and family for dinner, minus one lovely (but sad) Nuri Wernick, due to an unexpected flu. She had to stay back at the hotel in bed, hoping for some relief before the Wedding day.
Adel, the cab driver who was so good to us the few days before hand ended up unexpectedly in front of our hotel as we were all heading to dinner. We grabbed him immediately for a hug and a handshake. We asked if he would take Issa and myself to dinner after everyone else was in a car or shuttle, he of course said yes. We were thrilled since we wanted so bad to thank him, pay him properly for his services and leave him a lovely high ended tip. Once again, as he dropped us off at the doors he said, “Congratulations, now get out.” Refusing us once again payment. An early wedding gift from a lovely soul we have met along on our journey. We promise to pay it forward.
Montrio Bistro, our favorite restaurant, had been visited by us on a number of occasions during our stays here. It was a renovated 1900‘s firehouse and we’d rented out the Parker room on the upper level. A gorgeous exposed brick wall, lined with floor to ceiling windows against the fading blue sky of the evening was the perfect backdrop to another lovely day on the Pacific coast. We wanted to share our love for the cuisine here with our guests and give everyone a chance to feel settled into the area and help make connections with the folks they would be celebrating with. This was a moment 35-40 years in the making. Friends and family on both sides, from different walks of life, various time zones and chapters in our lives were all here… in one room. Just an overwhelming feeling of joy and we were certain everyone was feeling it.
The night was filling in so many ways. The evening was decorated with large smiles, continuous hugging, camera snapping, glass raising, in-the-moment-just-happy-to-be-here gazing, all with in the first 30 minutes of the night. Time was fleeting and standing still all the same time. It felt like the room could have gone on this way all night, with dinner constantly being pushed back 30 minutes at a time. It was lovely and lively from beginning to end. With full bellies, empty glasses and connections well made by 9pm, we headed back to our hotels balcony bar for additional moment-sharing. So, as I mentioned, sleep came easy this night. I wasn’t spent – I was peaceful. I was full.
Wedding Day Prep
It was 9am when I received word that we could check in early to our hotel in Carmel, where we could begin prepping for the wedding. And thank goodness since we hadn’t a minute to spare all day. The La Playa Hotel was very different from the large scale and vast air of Monterey. The hospitality factor at the Monterey Plaza was impeccable. You felt cared for every step of the way. “Yes ma’am”, “Thank you ma’am”, “My pleasure”, “Our pleasure”, every single day. We wanted family and friends to experience both areas and Carmel’s secret garden style surroundings was just another taste of what Northern California had to offer. With that said, the hospitality factor was, perhaps, kept a little too secret. The four small cottages that we rented supplied an ample amount of space for the number of family and wedding party we had to prep and yet maintained the intimate setting we had hoped for between everyone and visually, this place was nothing short of magic. Lush colorful gardens surround craftsman cottage homes. Carmel’s coastline and the moody, mystical Pacific ocean view was spell-binding to say the least. The contorted Cypress trees and flocks of blackbirds added a Tim Burton feel to the stage and once again you felt fortunate to have uncovered what seemed to be a forbidden world within worlds.
Time was flying. The main Log Haven cottage was filled with parents, bride’s party, bride, photographer and little bride’s helpers. Dresses were being steamed in one corner, hair curled in another. Thank goodness for three bathrooms and a house that sleeps eight. It was an event in itself and we had no idea what we were doing. A reveal of myself to Issa was on the horizon in mere moments since we were planning to walk the aisle together. Silliness had begun and word from the Home Port cottage, where the guys were prepping, was not only had silliness kicked in, but bourbon-filled flasks were being emptied and rung out on the half hour, every hour.
The circus was in town and the show was underway. We were lively and delirious. Time had finally put up it dukes and was fighting us tooth and nail. But in the end the bus was right on time. A three o’clock stroll through the garden’s secret pathways would lead me to Issa. A tap on the shoulder would be just the beginning.
The fog was thick through most of the morning and into the afternoon. The forecast had called for clear skies in the evening so there was still hope for sun with a 5pm ceremony. Everyone was attempting to unlock the secrets and mysteries surrounding the unpredictable climate shared by the Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur. We knew all in all it was going to be a gorgeous day no matter what. Haunting and moody or vibrant and clear, either way it couldn’t be bad with all of the amazing folks here to share it with. We all piled in the black SUV and made our way to the Chateau Julien, attempting to get there early so we had some time for photos and to hide from guests while they arrived. Fog followed us almost the entire way. Then, about 1000 ft from the Chateaus entrance, the blue broke through and it seemed as though the fog just hung beside an invisible and uncrossable line. I felt like dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Somehow a tornado way off in the distance would have been no surprise at all.
The dirt road between the two main vineyard lots of the Chateau was so fitting for our ceremony. A sign marked “Home on the Road” situated on a vintage motorcycle parked at the aisle entrance had us feeling, well, right at home. A single white window pane framed a long vanishing view of the road up ahead. Below it a white vintage dresser with 50 white wood chairs defined the intimate space. Lush green vines in full bloom surrounded us. It was stunning. We began a slow march with our wedding party who were leading up ahead onto a paved path through the tall vines just outside of our reception area. The paved road was directly intercepted by the dirt. We took a right and paused as the path reveal 42 gorgeous faces standing up ahead, watching on as we turned the most important corner of our lives. It was brilliant.
We rounded the corner passing the long string of tall vines and watched as the faces of our friend and family were revealed to us. The song “Ben” from the soundtrack to the movie “One Week” was playing. A movie that Issa and I hold close to our hearts. Reminding us always to go without hesitation. We were immediately filled with joy. We paused for a moment to take it all in, I danced a little happy dance and we continued down the road towards our guests. Trying not to run, we took the slow long walk finally reaching ear to ear smiles and tear-stained faces , whispering tiny “hellos” here and there as we passed. This had me near breakdown. I clung on to every moment knowing that at some point down the road, this would all seem like an amazing dream I once had. Rob Namba’s voice was smooth and calming as he began to talk – almost Stuart McLean-like. He wove our story through shared philosophies of life and love and finished with the words Issa and I had chosen to say. When the time came to say our “I do’s” Amy handed me a camera and helped me to hoist my dress so that I could take a pic of our feet in the dirt to mark the moment – a little custom we honor at different places along our way together to always remind us where we’ve been. Issa was surprised, he had no idea I was going to postpone the confirmation until after the pic was taken. “I do” I said. I caught a glint in his eye and I knew immediately that I’d given him an opportunity to repay the favor. The look of completed self satisfaction came over him. “Do you take Nita Le to be you’re lawfully wedded wife?” asked Rob. With a grin, Issa reached into his back pocket and revealed a half full flask of bourbon – a gift that was given to all the groomsmen from our friend Larry Mosca. After a long sip, a pause and another long sip I figured it was time for the bride to take a sip. “I do” he said with a huge smile. Everyone was joining us in laughter. It was lovely.
We shared this special day with one other very cherished couple. Michael and Nuri Wernick, who had graciously offered to share their wedding day with us. Day one for Issa and I would mark 27 years for the Wernicks. We had asked Michael to carry our rings and of course in his own little joker style had decided to place the rings on our feet before handing them to us, for one final snapshot. The moment was sealed with a kiss and we headed back down the road toward the reception.
Our dinner and reception celebration was held in the Chai (Shay) Barrel Room just a quick walk from the ceremony. A monumental, white octagon shaped structure where sky-high wooden carriage house doors guarded hundreds of Chateau Julien Wine barrels. 10ft topiaries lined the long walkway entrance into the main courtyard and barrel room. The surrounding decor accents would bring the vintage motorcycle travel feel together.
Our amazing wedding day coordinator Katie Hund from Wylie Weddings and her little helpers were fluttering around all morning and worked so hard to bring our vision to life. They were just so wonderful to work with.
Dinner was from a well known catering house called Michael’s and chef Terry definitely out-did himself. The food was excellent, more so than we could have ever expected. With so many mouths to feed time always plays spoiler, the “if you get a hot or cold dish” is always called into question. Not to mention the quality aspect. It can be very tough to ensure a more than just edible meal at a large event like this and we understood that going in. With that said, we were delighted with the results. A server asked Issa if he wanted a second round, but with so much to eat he sadly declined.
Amy Billings also from Wylie Weddings created the most sumptuous baked goodies to replace the traditional cutting of the wedding cake ceremony. A delicious selection of cupcakes, strawberry tartlettes, croquets, mini cream-puffs and a handful of other sweet treats were baked and offered in a gorgeous colorful spread.
We danced, laughed, caught up and delighted in the celebration. Thoughts of Bilbo Baggins’s send off party came to mind many times :) For love and adventure with family and great friends was truly the theme of the night and beyond a wedding this was an event that would propel us into what will always be called our greatest adventure and the beginning of the rest of our lives together as husband and wifey.
At the end of the night however, it wasn’t the wedding that was doing the propelling. Issa stepped over a divider and, AFV-style, started an amazing display of long-distance tripping. With arms windmilling over his head and his face just feet of the tarmac, he somehow managed to crash shoulder-first, at speed, into the front wheel of a motorcycle – the only thing parked in an otherwise empty parking lot. A hole in his jeans and a flapper on his knee that was bleeding fairly well was off-set by his laughing. It’s funny now and then.
We returned to the cottages at the La Playa to wind down. What a night!
A special thanks:
To our family and wedding party for all of your love and support. Mom, Dad, Mum, we couldn’t and wouldn’t be here without you. You’ve helped us become who we are today and we can’t imagine a more inspiring and hilarious bunch to call parents. To the little Le family, Mike, Amy and Isabelle, we carry you with us everywhere we go and can’t wait to get back to you every time we leave. To Anne and Ally for always blessing us with infectious laughter. To Grace, one of my oldest friends, for all of your help on this day, the next day and many that came before it. You’ve always been a rock in my world. To Victoria and Jihad for the long fully loaded drive and your unwavering love and support since the day we met. To Xerxes and Ninalee for always seeing us from the inside out. For the safe keeping of my dress and Issa’s garb. For smiles, meat nights, fight nights and so much more. To Yusef and Sarah, we just love you guys to pieces and are so happy to have you in our lives we can’t wait to share more cherished moments with you. To Uncle Ahmed and Wendy, you guys are just awesome fun and so full of warmth, joy and love. Thank you for buying us our first home on the road. And remember, “actually, there is no need to say actually”. To Wade and Karen for opening your doors to us and for just being there whenever it counts. To Gramma Joan, Aunt Kristine, Uncle Hung, Cuz Stephen and Leanne. You are never far in our thoughts. Your support and love will never go unnoticed. To Vita, for blessing us with your gift of song. You are so beautiful in so many ways. Thank you for being there.
We love you all so very much.
The Aquarium – September 23rd, 2011
After the wedding, whispers of the Monterey Bay Aquarium began to surface once again. Rumor had it, this was the greatest aquarium around, so confirmation had to be made immediately. With two days of guests and family happenings still to go I found the opportunity to go twice, which was a blessing since there was 322000 sq. feet of space to cover. The structure itself was spectacular. Set on Cannery Row and boasting a vast waterside deck observatory, the design and layout was easy to navigate and the floor to ceiling aquarium windows create a true underwater effect where giant kelp seemed to inhale and exhale as they sway beneath the water’s surface. The marine life was spellbinding. Various underwater worlds collide under one large roof. Touch pools helped us make tangible connections and the seahorse exhibit took you under and beyond.
We highly recommend you charge your camera battery the night before and keep an extra memory card on hand. Entering any area in the aquarium, you’ll immediately become a part of the dueling camera club thinking, somehow, only you’ll have walked away with the money shot.