(Note: Blog title makes the most sense if you like Red Hot Chilli Peppers. If not, just smile and nod.)
RideWriteRepeat has been a little quiet as of late, because its manager, publisher, author and picture editor has been a little busy getting married, honeymooning, and still trying to maintain some freelancing. So I am afraid this here blog suffers when there is a lot on.
I’m back in Caterham now, with my amazing new husband, a living room FULL of cards (thank you! such a sight to come home to!) – and a serious Italian espresso withdrawal headache.
Now usually, this blog is reserved for cycling topics – but since it’s my blog, I’m going off-piste to record major life events, too. At times, the blog serves for me as a bit of a diary – an online library of memories that can’t fail, burn, get wet, get a virus… it’s a safe place for storing – so forgive me if some of these details seem boring to the reader, but I’d like to remember them.
Lets start at the very beginning… a very good place to start. We’ll whizz through the wedding so you know what the honeymoon was all about..
Mr Brennan and I became husband and wife in a church out in the countryside on Saturday 12th July, 2014. A 12th century building that stands atop a large hill, surrounded by woodland and wild flowers – it was actually covered in scaffolding on the day, that was meant to be removed by July. I’d be upset about that, but I’m not really the type – and it added a funny little quirk – perfection has to have a hint of imperfection to make it unique, after all.
Our photographer was Jo Sheppard from Capture Fine Art Photography, and she caught some absolutely stunning shots, as well as being an amazing help – setting my mind at rest, helping me be where I was meant to be and when, and keeping making sure all the guests where entertained and orderly in equal measures.
All her shots are gorgeous, and can be found separately on Flikr here, since they are way too big and beautiful for the blog.
We returned to Gatton Manor for a relaxed carvery with no seating plan, and just two ‘non-speeches’ (in the words of my Dad: “Michelle and Maurice organised everything, and they organised no speeches – so here I am not making a speech”) and many pictures. We kept our guests entertained (I hope!) with bubbles, jenga, connect 4 and skittles – just because.
When evening came, we cut the beautiful vintage inspired mega-Victoria-sponge made my Maurice’s sister Lorna (thank you!!)..
…swayed slightly awkwardly to Kiss Me, Six Pence None The Richer…
…before the DJ moved onto some of our favourites. We had Steven from FirstDanceDJ – and he played us an excellent set that was exactly what we asked for, and even commented to my best friend that it was one of his favourite set lists ever.
We had a ball, enjoying most memorably: Teenage Kicks (The Undertones), Sultans of Swing (Dire Straits), Blondie, Rock the Casbah (The Clash), Lovecats & Friday I’m in Love (The Cure), The Zephyr Song (Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Handbags and Gladrags (Stereophonics), She’s Electric (same), some Oasis, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Deep Blue Something), You’re Gorgeous (Babybird)- plus lots of ‘get people dancing classics’ as requested, including the Macarana…
Our wedding day really was perfect, and absolutely made so by the guests – so thank you all. Ok – soppyness over…
This blog is really about our honeymoon – which was genuinely my best holiday ever, largely thanks to Mr Brennan.
We started off in Rome – arriving pretty late on Sunday night to a hotel room that was not just a room – but a lovely little studio flat, complete with jacuzzi, balcony, and awesome vintage radio and phone (it’s the little things, ok!)
Our first full day was one of many sights. Rome is a bizarre city – you can’t turn left or right without spotting a monument of historical significance – so we spent about 8 hours taking in the historical significance. It’s just got to be done.
Late afternoon we collapsed back at the hotel, then we both nipped out for a run, before finding dinner – plus a bottle of red for not very much, and two shots of Jack Daniels for significantly more..
Day two saw a wander through the park near our hotel, which became a bike ride when we found a hire stall offering pretty decent mountain bikes for just 5 euros an hour. At first I anticipated a slow amble on the paths round the park – assuming the MTBs were simply there because people thought they were ‘comfy’… but actually the park appeared to have quite a few singletrack paths. Since I’ve not actually ridden a proper mountain bike really ever (excluding the scary experience in Scotland with the terrifying trails.. less said the better – safe to say Maurice didn’t disappear into the distance and leave me alone trying to tackle some hairy sections!) it was quite an eye opener and I left with the learning that I need to buy one..
On to the Vatican. I’ve seen it before, Maurice hadn’t – so we embarked upon the security and queues to get inside. Once in, we were both a bit unimpressed, and pretty sure any God who created the Earth is living more happily in the park we’d just visited, than in this greedy building which seemed more to represent the gluttony and pride of very rich men. It’s actually all a bit sickening and really we were both quite happy to leave it behind and emerge into the sunlight again.
Politics over, it was off to the Vespa meuseum – then the Trevi fountain, which appeared to be under scaffolding, before coffee, then dinner (Bruchetta, epic Ceaser salad, apple cake) – and a hop skip back to the hotel.
Day 3 brought quite a bit of waiting. We killed a few hours before the 11.30am pickup of the hire car – we’d booked with Euro Car Hire, surely you sign a form, collect keys, and drive off into the sun? Oh no. We got to the queue for the hire car stand at 11.30am. 2 rather hot and sweaty hours later.. we left triumphant (seriously) – the only person we felt more sorry for was the bloke who endured the 2 hour wait,only to get to the front and discover he was at the wrong desk.
Next – a stop at Sutri to see some tombs we initially thought were houses (oops), an ampetheatre…
…before back in the car for a stop at lake number 1: Lago Trasimeno. Hot and sweaty from the drive, we jumped in pretty quickly. We were almost joined by an emergency air ambulance, which was dropping off 2 doctors seeing to someone who had had an accident – which was all very James Bond, as the helicopter flew metres from us over the water.
From the lake, we went on to Siena – dropping our kit off our hotel, and heading into the town for dinner (salad with Grapefruit, Avecado, Salmon – all the best things). Siena at night was basically breathtaking – the clock tower illuminated against a darkening sky, and clusters of people filling the bowl shaped ‘square’ with it’s semi-circle of terraced restaurants.
Day 4 was the day for bikes. About 2 days before the wedding, Maurice had decided if I was taking trainers, he was taking cycling shoes and pedals – so I decided to take mine, too. I am so pleased we did. We found a hire place with beautiful Italian carbon bikes and took to the hills. The tarmac was swooping and the longer climbs were interspersed with rollercoaster-esque rises and falls in the road.
If you ever find yourself in Siena looking for a bike, this is your shop: DF bikes.
After our ride, we returned the bikes – and went on to Maglione – with the purpose of finding dinner by the lake. That we did not find, but we did seek out a hotel in the hills, which seemed to me a horders delight. The owner clearly had an eye for antiques and collectables. From our hotel, we went over to the town, and found there a perfect restaurant, which overlooked the beginning of the Festival de Band – an annual celebration of brass band and twirling sticks. The locals preparing, setting their plastic chairs out on the street provided the most entertainment for a people watcher like myself.
Day 5 started with a jog up a hill and back down (kid you not, I started humming ‘the bear went over the mountain’) and we opted for a chilled morning – books (or Nooks) and bikinis (just me) by the Lago Transimeno. The water was teeming with tiny fish, and I made friends with them over a couple of lengths up and down the bay, then we ordered two Cappuccinos to fuel us on the way to Assisi, then Norcia.
Assisi was a walled city like Siena (and so many others) but it lacked the grandeur. Instead of designer clothing and fine dining, there were craft shops, statues, paintings, and an artist recreating the Mona Lisa on the pavement. I loved both cities fairly equally.
From Assisi, onto Nocia. Norcia smells a bit funny. They like hunting wild boars, and sticking the heads to the outside of butchers. Not going to lie – not my favourite place. Still, our hotel was once again in a gorgeous tucked away locations, and I’ve got to admit, the Norcia-ans know how to cook a good sausage… we had a 3 course meal, with pasta, a mixed piggy grill, and a cake that I think was based on Tirimisu..
Day 6 and we set of the the National Park to hire MTBs. Amazingly, for almost the same cost as the carbon dream manchines in Siena, we got suspension-less rust buckets with wobbly saddles that pointed skywards at every bump. Regardless, the ride was beautiful enough to mean that the quality of the bikes wasn’t really an issue – more a source of constant amusement (and a little grumbling from myself on occasion… until gallant husband offered to swap and I realised his was just as bad and had a saddle like a razorblade…)
From the park, we drove our way through the hairpins to Reiti – and meandered the streets, drunk 2.5litres of Aqua Frizzanete between us, and checked out the antiques and jewellery stands. I’ve always loved a good antique stand, but not so much as Maurice, who made a good find, getting himself a Swiss Automatic watch at a steal.
Our final hotel was probably the most breathtaking in its setting. Near Ternie, the lake is used by the Olympic rowing squad, who were staying at our hotel – and was just a few km from a waterfall. Pictures say a thousand words, so…
Finally, we drove Percy (the car, by the way – all cars have names) back to the big hire place in the sky and had a last day in Rome.
First some Nook reading, some napping from me in the park, then lunch, coffee… And yes, we went back to the park to hire the bikes, again… (they were good). This time I wore shorts with my dress and we found some better singletrack sections.
So – in short, this is where we went:
The best holidays are the ones that generate the most memories – and I wouldn’t want to forget a moment of our honeymoon.