Thursday, July 17, 2008

A wedding

My observation from helping out at numerous weddings in a variety of capacities is that weddings are often meticulously planned. Often by a bride who worries over every detail. And fussed over by many helpers, each of which is determined to have their part come out perfect. And the odd thing is, I don't think I've been to a wedding where the bride could actually pay attention to all those very carefully thought through details at the time (which is what pictures and video are for). And in my case, I got married to someone who had the philosophy that the details would take care of themselves. So we let everyone else do the fussing.

And apparently this was noticeable. Several vendors we worked with remarked about how calm we were about things. S's mother (who does not speak english) observed over the month before the wedding that everyone around us were nervous and stressed and rushed, but not us.

And looking back on it, we were so amused about the many little details that just happened to fit nicely, better than we could have planned it:

  • Both mothers shoes matched.

  • Both fathers had the same color tie.

  • The tool frame around the cross and alter was just right. (yes, I now know there are multiple meanings of the word 'tool')

  • Sisters wearing dresses close to the correct color (obviously, they were paying attention

  • The Pittsburgh Opera tenor wore a vest that blended with the wedding colors. (Chambourcin for those interested)

  • Flower girl just happened to have a proper dress.

  • Bouquets and boutonnieres were larger then expected, because the florist was able to get less expensive flowers (because we let them pick the flowers, we [meaning bride] picked the concept, the professionals handled the details and could pick something that was priced low for the day)

  • Tables seemed to match for good conversations (the first cut at table assignments was done alphabetically)

  • Bangkok Balcony and Silk Elephant were able to properly show off with the appetizers and rehearsal dinner.

And the required memorable events:

  • Amy Marshall tuning the piano the day of the wedding on one day notice, juggling her Saturday schedule to make it happen, because that was one detail we thought was important for us to fuss over.

  • Everyone waiting for the bride to come in. And waiting. And waiting. (one of the groomsmen had the assignment to get the groom to church. Noone seemed to have had the assignment to make sure the bride could get into the church.)

  • Waiting to take pictures at Marshall Island, North Park, and looking at the clouds coming in.

  • Boy coming out in hotel lobby, running to the eagerly waiting bride and groom, and swerving away from a hug at the last minute.

  • The bouquet toss into the light

  • The groom removed the garter in a proper manner

  • Homemade wine

  • Playing the piano, after ___ ___ of wine

  • Bride and groom stranded at the hotel, trying to bum a ride.

  • "You can dance!?"

  • Large group of girls on the dance floor, with one, obviously very worthy, little boy.

  • "Are you going to church tomorrow (Sunday)?" "No!"

  • The rainbow after the thunderstorm

Many thanks to Linli and Jim for pictures. More pictures are here:
Louis and Sha pictures by Linli

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Week in the Valley - New Market, VA

Our honeymoon was spent in New Market. When we told people that we were going there, the usual response was "Where is that?" And then we told people that it was in the Shenandoah Valley. Which apparently was not particularly helpful. :-)

Our home for the week was the Crossroads Inn in New Market, a Bed & Breakfast, where we stayed in the Blue Room.

Crossroads Inn in New Market, VA

Properly named, it is at the crossroads US 11 and US 211. Or to give it a more geographical location, the old Valley Pike off the New Market Gap. The New Market Gap is the historical reason for the town's existance, as it provides an entryway into the valley through the Blue Ridge Mountains on the east. We picked it because we wanted a home base in the Valley, and we wanted to stay in a small town. And it turned out the New Market Gap/US 211 led to the most convenient entryway into the Shenandoah National Park for us (see earlier posting).

New Market Gap from New Market Battlefield

We did spend considerable time going up and down the Valley going to Vineyards. But we also spent much time in the New Market area as well. This included whitewater canoeing on the Shenandoah River near Luray, and the town Fourth of July Parade and fireworks.

American Legion at New Market Fourth of July Parade

New Market Fire and Rescue at Fourth of July Parade

Flag lady at New Market Fourth of July Parade

The Civil War New Market Battlefield was right next to town, complete with museum staffed with very enthusiastic Virginia Military Institute cadets.

Cannon and ammunition cart at New Market

Picket fence at New Market battlefield

Disclaimer: I did not pick the town of New Market. I merely provided a list of several suitable towns in the Shenandoah Valley to my now wife, and she picked the town. And she did a very good job.

We also sampled several of the town restaurants, including Southern Kitchen (where we played Kenny Chesney "How Forever Feels" on the Jukebox. The steak was a bit too well done), The Congress Publik House (the tamarind pork was real good) and Jalesco (a surprisingly good mexican restaurant).

But the fun part about going to a honeymoon in a small town was the hospitality and attention we got. The B&B provided many good conversations over both breakfast and afternoon wine and cheese (especially when people figured out we were a honeymooning couple). Several coaches from the local college summer baseball league team were staying there as well as parents of the boys, which provided good conversation on the development of young men. People got used to seeing a young asian couple strolling down the street. The lady at the local chamber of commerce gushed over us when we stopped by. During the parade and the picnic we were regularly congratulated and wished best of luck for our marriage. Strangers said 'hello' and 'good morning' on the sidewalks. Very hospitable place. And a lot of this is probably the fact, they don't have very many pure tourists staying at the town, so they don't get so jaded. And we got a lot of attention wherever we went, more so then any high-end resort or hotel or cruise could have given. And it was a more enjoyable, less pressured time than any other we could have imagined.

During our time in the Valley, we frequently were asked by townspeople or winery owners where were we staying. And when we told them the Crossroads Inn, they immediately knew where we were staying, and who the owners were. Because, it turns out, the owner, and the person who was cooking and serving our breakfast, changing our sheets, lover of wines, had another identity. How many other newlyweds were served breakfast by the town mayor?

Mayor Larry Smith at New Market Fourth of July Parade

On July 5, all of us at breakfast expressed our delight at learning this during the parade the day before. One of life's little pleasures. And another memory for our honeymoon.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Vineyards in the Valley - Shenandoah

Virginia's Shenandoah valley is a rich agricultural area. And like many such valley's includes many artisans of various types. And in this case, vineyards and wineries, which was the whole point of having a honeymoon here.

During the first breakfast at the Bed & Breakfast we stayed in, we commented to the owner about the ceramic skillets that he used for the omlettes. He said that he got them from a nearby pottery studio, the Art Studio Pottery, on the outskirts of town. So that was our first stop. When we arrived, Joan was working on her garden, and she showed us around. We got two skillets, then went on a tour of her studio downstairs. We talked about the making of glazes, the difficulty of marking the pieces (she was using a rubber stamp to stamp 'Shenendoah Valley' on her pieces, which would get filled in along the way), and making a chop, which Louis mentioned (and Joan was rather impressed by).

Vineyard #1 was the North Mountain Vineyard in Mauertown, VA. We were greated by their 14-year old dog, then went up for the tasting. We and another couple were the first ones in for the day. We figured the owner was of german descent based on the accent, and had a wonderful time telling us the stories behind the different wines they had. And among the wines was chambourcin, so now when asked what the color was for our wedding, we can point to a bottle instead of describing it as 'burgandy, but with more purple.' We got two bottles here, including a Chambourcin.

A few days later, we went back to the North Mountain Vineyard for their picnic lunch, because we felt like taking a day to just enjoy some wine and sit back and relax. We debated on the way up if they would remember us from our visit their Thursday, Sha declared that we are cute and interesting enough. Louis figured they saw plenty of people. When we got there someone else was minding the counter, but as we set up, the owner who helped us Thursday came and informed her that we were a newlywed couple here on their honeymoon. Seriously impressing the lady at the counter with her powers of observation, until the owner let her know we were there earlier to taste the red wines. This time, we tasted some white wines and a couple of sweet wines, settling on a bottle of white and a bottle of sweet table wine. The other owner also came by to chat as he overheard we were on our honeymoon. He was prior service in Germany and had gone through jump school, although he was communications, not airborne. The picnic lunch was fried chicken, potato salad, potato chips, pickle and beans, along with their Oktoberfest wine. We at, read, relaxed, and just took in the sights and sounds of the country home. Then we were invited on a cellar tour, which was normally something that had to be paid for (or you have to buy the really good wines). We learned about the bringing in of the grapes, the three vineyards they have (including one outside New Market), the three sources of oak for the barrels, the toasting of the barrels, and how North Mountain distributes wines. Alas, they do not ship outside Virginia because of the difficulty, so the only way to get it is either to visit the vineyard, or ship it to someone in Virginia in advance of a visit. We are already coming up with such people.

Vineyard #2 was the Shenandoah Vineyard. This was probably the most marketed of the vineyards in the valley. And it was the busiest as well. Wines were so so. We did get one bottle though.

Sha with grapes at the Shenandoah Winery

Vineyard #3 was the Wolf Gap Vineyard. The vineyard was deep into the back roads of the valley. When we arrived, we met the owner, Will, also known as 'Wolf Gap Willie.' He is retired Air Force, and we joked that when he killed a fly 'air-to-air'. He told us that he actually was not planning on opening that day until we called about coming. We got a blend that he created as well as a Chambourcin (notable as the wine that our wedding color was named after). We stayed a while on his porch eating a ham and cheese plate and admiring the scenery, which included the Wolf Gap which the vineyard was named after.

Wolf Gap from Wolf Gap Winery

Vineyard #4 was Cave Ridge. The girl was the daughter of the owners, and had returned to the Valley after being in Ohio for a while. The winery looked nice, but wine was only soso. We did get couple bottles.

Sha and gate at Cave Ridge winery

We went to Vineyard #5, Misty Ray Vineyard in Harrisonburg. This was a place in someone's house who was also only open by appointment (i.e. I called Wednesday about coming.) It was a house at the end of a cul-de-saq. Phil had a small selection of table wines. We got two bottles, and he gave us a couple of house wine glasses as wedding present (he had asked us how long we were married because he guessed it was not very long)

What impressed us the most about the Shenandoah Valley was the accessibility of the people. In all but one winery, we were served by the owners. In three of the wineries, our visit included much friendly conversation and interaction (which included them learning we were on our honeymoon). Two of them were open on the day of our visit only because we had called ahead to let them know we were coming.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Camping in the Shenandoah National Park

After dropping off S's parents, we head down the highway toward the Shenandoah National Park. The last leg was going down I-81 to New Market, then taking Route 211 through the New Market Gap to the National Park Entrance station. We passed many landmarks, with there promises of things to come. Along with dark clouds to the west of us, with their own promises.

We arrived at the Big Meadows campground Monday afternoon, watching the clouds come in. We had decided to skip backpacking and just do camping Sunday night, when we realized that we would not leave home until around 11. So the whole way, S and I were joking about how happy I would be if he would have to put up the tent in the rain. We picked a site along the Appalachian Trail and set up the tent and rainfly. The tent was set up in a hurry, and it started raining while they were putting up the fly. And, while it was still lightly raining, we juggled the meal schedule and cooked tricolor pasta with pesto sauce, which did not care much if it got wet. And on finishing cooking the meal we ducked under the fly to eat to dine under the rainfly. And we enjoyed our dinner of pasta and wine. S informed me that I was not allowed to be not happy the rest of the honeymoon.

Tuesday was for hiking. Breakfast was scrambled eggs with onion and a bit of pesto sauce along with pita and green tea. The hike was in four parts, three waterfalls and the finish. First stage was to Rose River falls. We started from the campsite along the Appalachian Trail. We took some pictures at Fishers Gap, and took off our jackets as we started to warm up.

On the Rose River Trail L and S confirmed the directions for a family that was not sure which trail to take. After checking his maps and compass, the family declared that L and S were professionals while they were amateurs.

We made it to the Rose River Falls. This was in an area designated as wilderness within Shenandoah National Park. Very much enjoyed taking pictures. Someone else there took pictures of us. And we also used the Gorillapod (Thanks Guy!) to take pictures of us by the falls. Next, to the Dark Hollow Falls. The stone table bug in a supposedly wilderness area. And it started raining. And Sha experienced having rain when hiking with Louis, which apparently she had never experienced before.

When we reached Dark Hollow Falls, we were initially very disappointed. Then looking at a map, we realized we did not reach the falls. A lady with baby and toddler came down and informed us the falls were actually further up and their was a steep part to the trail. At least it was steep for someone holding a baby and with a toddler in tow. So we went up the trail to the actual Dark Hollow Falls. And that was more impressive. We had lunch on the trail, marinated salmon and pita bread. The part that did not fall on the ground.

The last falls were the Lewis Falls, which were on the Lewis Trail around Big Meadows. We got near the falls, which was not very impressive because we could not get to close to the falls. On the way back, we went up a very rocky trail, that included some scrambling. We also saw a couple that we had met taking pictures near the Dark Hallow Falls. We figured they were driving, so they got there just a little before we did.

Dinner was pad thai with egg. While getting the stuff from Sha's car, Louis picked up her luggage and dropped all her clothes on the ground. While Louis was picking up her clothes and apologizing profusely, Sha decided to dump all her toiletries on the ground too. But then we decided that dumping things on the ground was not so fun so we went back to getting dinner ready. We soaked the noodle, but we were running out of cooking alcohol, so we ended up putting in a lot of water in the pad thai to get the noodle soft. But it was still good.

Since it looked like it was not going to rain on dinner, we took down the fly, and put up a tarp to dry it out overnight. And we went to an earlynight.

Breakfast Wednesday was bagel and tea. While enjoying our tea, a ranger came by and asked if we had reserved our spot. When we told him that we came and picked it he was surprised. Because we had the best campsite in the campground because of the great view of the mountains from the site. Which we had been appreciating the whole time. We packed everything up, and it turned out just about everything was dry after being out overnight and through the morning. The drive back was along Skyline drive. We made two stops, one on the east and one viewing west. The west viewing stop was where we could see Stony Man Mountain as well as the New Market Gap. The rest of the trip to the B&B was uneventful, after all, we passed by this way on the way here. And we looked forward to what our honeymoon had in store for us next.