Friday, July 29, 2011

Wedding, Wine, Whales and Waterfalls

This post is a bit overdue but nonetheless here it is...

Before Eric and I "officially" moved across the Pacific, we decided to tour the US (Oregon and Michigan, really) and see family, friends and have a good old fashioned vacation!  Our Oregon trip was a perfect bridge between leaving Austin and arriving in Penang.  I am so glad we spent 11 days there.  We had a respite from the oppressive Texas heat, saw family, hung out with some of our best friends and got to celebrate Dave and Em's wedding!  All in all an amazing trip!  Here's the recap:

Portland, Oregon
This was our first stop on our trip, where we spent a day and a half.  I Pricelined a hotel and got a super deal.  We stayed in downtown Portland at The Benson Hotel, think super swanky but nice.  The best part about this hotel was the bed, a nice plush Tempur Pedic King.  After staying the previous week in the Austin Extended Stay De-luxe this felt like heaven!  We hung out at a few local breweries and sampled Portland's best brews.

We also spent half a day with my cousin Eric and his wife, Beth and their kids Ethan and Katie.  It was great to have local experts take us around and show us the city.  We visited the Saturday Market, Powell's Book Store and the Rose Gardens.  The rose gardens were blooming.  Katie and I tried to find the best smelling rose!

Hood River, Oregon
After a quick visit to Portland we headed to Hood River where Dave and Em had rented a house for the week to hang with friends before the wedding.  Hood River is located on the Columbia River and has amazing views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.  From our rental house, we could see the River and watch the sunset change the colors of Mt. Adams.  Pretty awesome!  We visited Mt. Hood and played in the snow, since it will be a while before we are cold again.  We also visited several wineries and did the fruit loop, where we picked 12 lbs of strawberries and used most of them for Jenn's Strawberry Margaritas!  

Whales at Depoe Bay
Our trip to Oregon magically aligned with Aunt Jo and Inayat's West Coast adventure.  This was a huge bonus for us, since we don't get to see them too often and they are two of our favorite people!  We met up with them in Depoe Bay for July 4th -6th on the suggestion from our friends Kelle and Chris.  Depoe Bay is the Whale watching capital of the world!  Score!  We stayed in an amazing VRBO condo right on the rocky Oregon Coastline where we could sit and whale watch over our morning coffee/tea!  It was amazing!  We took a small soft-side boat out into the rough and cold ocean waters to get an up close and personal view of the resident grey whales.  We were lucky to spot several whales on that trip.  The most surprising part was that the whales feed right next to the coast in front of our condo!  From our living room window we saw whales about 20 feet off shore.  We ran down to the rocks with our tuning forks, playing and sending vibrations of positive energy to them.  The whales responded to our sounds by popping up their heads, looking at us for a second, and hanging out for a while.  It was awesome! 

 Here are a few more shots from the beautiful (and cold) Oregon Coast in July!
The right picture is a star fish upside down, it is eating mussels by pulling them open using small tentacles and then moving them to its mouth, in the center of the star fish.  Pretty sweet!

Wine is one of our favorite things in the world and Oregon makes some world-class wines.  As you can imagine, wine tasting and drinking were definitely on the docket, especially since wine is super expensive in Malaysia.  After we left the coast, we headed to the heart of Oregon wine country and stopped at the Yamhill Valley Vineyard on our drive back to Hood River.  Our "quick" wine tasting lasted an hour and a half!  We sat out on the vineyard's patio enjoying the 25,000 rolling acres of vines, beautiful weather, amazing wine, and each other! We also visited several wineries in the Hood River area - including the Naked Winery!

The Wedding!
Now to the real reason we were in Oregon, for Dave and Em's Wedding!  Wedding celebrations kicked off on Thursday with the Bachelor/Bachelorette Party.   Eric spent his day with the guys white water rafting on the White Salmon River, beer tasting at Full Sail Brewery, and spending some time in downtown Hood River.  Jenn kicked off the day with the girls doing yoga and getting a massage. The rest of the day was spent wine tasting in the Hood River area before meeting up with the guys at a local pub.  We had a great time!

Friday was dedicated to the wedding rehearsal and preparations.  Dave and Em couldn't have picked a better location to get married.  The backdrop for the ceremony was wild flowers and Mt. Hood, amazingly beautiful!  Eric was part of the wedding so we got to partake in the rehearsal brunch and dinner.  Lots of family, friends, food and fun!

Saturday was wedding day, it was beautiful, sunny and warm.  A perfect day to celebrate Dave and Em! Em looked amazing in her wedding dress.  She picked it out from a store in Merida, Mexico during our epic trip together last year through the Yucatan.  The guys looked hot in their custom, handmade, Mexican guyaberas and linen pants.   

For dinner, Em, who is a vegetarian, and Dave decided to have a old fashioned Chuck Wagon, complete with ribs and brisket, and probably the best beans I have ever eaten.  The bride, broke her meatless pledge, but only for ribs.

The rest of the evening was spent Square Dancing!  I haven't square danced since 5th grade gym class.  Let me just say, it was awesome!  We had so much fun swinging each other around the dance floor!  Dave and Em brought in a caller and a great band!  Overall, it was a great night, a celebration of love with some of our best friends in the world! We are looking forward to Eli and Robin's nuptials in March!

The Columbia Gorge has some great hikes.  We met up with Aunt Jo the day after the wedding to spend some time hiking and checking out local waterfalls. This whole trip I was pretty hesitant to do anything that was physically strenuous, since I haven't done much strenuous physical activity since my big surgery in February and I wasn't quite sure how my body would respond.  With the support of Eric and Aunt Jo we hiked 6.5 miles and saw 3 gorgeous waterfalls.  This was a huge day for me.  Instead of beating myself up and saying, "I'm so out of shape," I changed my tune to, "I'm getting back in shape."  Aunt Jo and Eric were quick to remind me that less than 4 months ago I couldn't even walk to the mailbox and back without sitting down and resting and now I can hike over 6 miles in the mountains!  Pretty awesome!  If anything this day reminded me that my body is a resilient machine and with time, all things heal, it just takes time.

This trip was just what we needed, in so many ways!  Time with family, friends, good food, good beer, good wine, and a chance to be with each other.  It was a great 11 days and helped us relax and unwind from the last few months.  We left Oregon and headed east for a quick stop in Ann Arbor!

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