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i’m jay
 
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Honeymoon blog

Posted by jay on Dec 10, 2007 in married life

Hi all!
Below, you’ll find the chronicle and photos of our amazing honeymoon to Australia and Tahiti. To read it as it happened, start from the bottom. Enjoy!

 
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The Trip Home

Posted by jay on Dec 10, 2007 in married life

November 29-30

Given the bumpy ferry ride over, we decided to catch a quick flight back to Papeete. The plane itself was hilarious - it was fitted for 13 people, but I swear it would have only fit 8 or 9 if it was to FAA regulations. The safety speech was even better. “Wear your seatbelts until we land” and nothing else. They didn’t verify they were on, they didn’t care if you had bags on your lap, they didn’t really care for anything. The flight itself was about 5 minutes in the air and was MUCH better than the ferry ride.

The Papeete airport wasn’t air conditioned, so the 3-4 hour wait was miserable. The islands stay pretty much 85 degrees and humid 24 hours a day. After nearly 3 weeks away from home, we were just ready to get out of there.

We were so happy to land back in LA. Everyone spoke our language, they drove on the correct side of the road, and they had air conditioning!
Of course, our flight back to Cleveland was delayed 2 hours. Ugh.
We went to hang out in the President’s Club to kill the time and watch some real TV. The only cool thing was seeing Martin Short there. Neither of us talked to him, but we can say we saw him.

Suz got to sit in First Class on the way back, which was a pretty nice way to end a beautiful trip.
After landing, we were happy to see all our bags made it and nothing at all broke!

After nearly 3 weeks, we’re so happy to be home. It was the trip of a lifetime, but nothing perfect should last forever.

 
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Tahiti

Posted by jay on Dec 10, 2007 in married life

November 23-29

Tahiti was the relaxing stop on the tour. The sole purpose was to catch some sun, relax on the beach, and maybe partake in some fruity cocktails.

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Our flight from Sydney didn’t land until 9pm local time, which was too late for any connections to Moorea (our final island destination). So, we stayed the night at the Sheraton Tahiti. The one really surprising thing was that the 3 minute cab ride from the airport to the hotel was like US $35… A sign of things to come
We also weren’t too sure of what to expect, but it ended up being one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever been in. They upgraded us to a corner suite, which was huge and beautiful.There was hardwood everywhere and had a dining area, sitting area, 2 balconies, and a separate bedroom. Since it was too late to explore, we just called it a night.

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The next morning, we went downstairs to the over water restaurant. We had 2 pretty exciting revelations there - First, we could throw food into the water and watch fish compete for it. It was all fun and games until a huge swordfish came in to ruin the fun. He won every time. Second, we could see Moorea in the distance.


After a long breakfast and an extended tour of the grounds, we hopped in a cab to the main city of Papeete (pap-ee-ay’-tay). It was a very busy, but very run down city. One of the guys we shared the cab with was headed in to get a tattoo. At the time, we both thought that was a pretty dumb idea given the condition of the city (in hindsight, we realized tattoos were invented in French Polynesia, so maybe it was an OK idea after all).
We hopped on a ferry to Moorea - the Moorea Express. It was 40 minutes and $9 each - not bad compared with a flight.
However, the seas were actually pretty rough and Suellen got a little seasick. She suffered for 40 minutes. We ended up flying back at the end of the week.

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When we finally arrived in Moorea, we took a taxi to the Sheraton Lagoon Resort. Given it was a 30 minute ride, we expected the taxi to be a bazillion dollars. Luckily, it was about the same as the night prior.

The Sheraton itself was absolutely beautiful… probably one of the most beautiful resorts in the world. It’s got about 100 stand alone bungalows, about half of which are over water. It also has a pretty big pool, plenty of private beach space, and all sorts of water activities (snorkeling, kayak, etc.). The other fact that makes the resort special and world known is all the coral reef in the lagoon. It’s located at the tip of Cook’s Bay in Moorea and is home to tons of patches of natural coral. This means lots of pretty sites and fish - it was beautiful.

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The first 2 nights, we were in a garden bungalow. That means we weren’t over water (they didn’t have any over water when we arrived. We had hoped Jay’s platinum status would guarantee the upgrade, but they were full). Regardless, the room was still pretty amazing. Each bungalow was like a mini-house with a private balcony. This meant nice room service options.
The HUGE downside were the roosters. See, there are poisonous centipedes on the island of Moorea. To control them, the natives allow roosters and chickens to roam free. Despite trying to control them at the resort, they still returned. Both mornings at like 7am, we heard the loudest damn rooster crow ever. I swear the thing was right on our porch. Luckily, we only had to deal with them twice.

The last 3 nights, we were overwater in one of the most amazing experiences ever. The rooms have a glass cutout in the floor where you can see the ocean below. At night, there is a light to see all the night creatures (including sharks!). While out there, our days were pretty consistent. We’d wake up, have some breakfast, do a bit of snorkeling (the bungalows have a private sun deck with ladder to the water), lay out until lunch time. Shower. Have lunch at the resort, then relax for the afternoon. It was extremely relaxing, but actually got a little boring by the last day.

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Our first evening at the resort, we ate dinner on-site. They had a fire and dance show highlighting the local traditions. Jay got called up to dance and pretty much made a fool of himself (as you can see from the pictures). The dinner also included all you can eat seafood. Jay had 4 half lobsters to make a fool of himself even more!

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Other nights, we either had room service or went to a local restaurant. Our favorite was Te Hono Itu, which was a french inspired restaurant. It was so fresh that they were fishing right as we arrived from the side of the restaurant. It was a shame we didn’t see them catch our dinner for the evening. Not only was the food great, but they had 4 stingrays constantly swimming around below us. Yeah, they got a bit of our food as well :)
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We rented a car one afternoon to drive around the island. Literally, there is 1 main road which goes in a circle around the island. Without stopping, it takes about an hour and a half to get around. There’s 1 other road that goes up to a lookout point, which we also took. We were both a little skeptical until we actually got up to the top, where we were totally shocked at the view. You can see for yourself….

There are a couple other things to note about Tahiti.

First - prices. Everything there is extremely over-priced. We had prepared for it a bit before going, so we expected the worst. Still, a cheap sandwich meal at the bar was around $25. Dinner the first night was over $200. Our rental car for 4 hours was $130 (and gas to fill it up was $7 a gallon!). Being such a secluded island, everything is imported, which means very expensive.

Second - the beer. Tahiti has 2 beers. Hinano (crappy) and Tabu (even worse). I know they don’t grow a ton of grains and hops, so all of the ingredients are probably imported. I don’t think I ever want to drink that again

 
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Great Barrier Reef

Posted by jay on Dec 10, 2007 in married life

November 22

Suellen has issues with the sea. It took some prodding to get her to agree on the day long visit out to the Barrier Reef. Luckily, she agreed and we left for a daylong adventure on Calypso. It’s a boat that seats about 60 people, which is the smallest of the tour companies in Port Douglas. It was the right decision, because service was great and we had an amazing time!

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We had 3 stops in total. Jay went to SCUBA on the first stop and assumed Suz would be waiting on board. Remember, she has issues with the sea. We planned on going snorkeling together at the 2nd stop, so it was a reasonable assumption.
However, when Jay got back, Suellen proudly proclaimed “I went snorkeling all by myself!”. Wow!… that’s not a bad way to experience snorkeling for the first time. On the open sea at the Great Barrier Reef.

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At the second stop, we did snorkel together… It was such a great experience, and the photographer grabbed a few shots of us. Suellen looked pretty, Jay looked dumb. I guess that’s nothing new!

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The third stop, Jay SCUBA’d again and Suz did a bit of snorkeling. She wasn’t going to, but one of the guides said “get your mask back on”. So, out to the open sea she went again.

Overall, it was such a great day. The Calypso staff was great, the food was filling, and the Reef… it was really an experience of a lifetime.

We got to see some amazing fish, but no sharks. We have some pictures from an underwater camera coming back, and we also got a CD full of shots the photographer took underwater that day. Enjoy the pictures!

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We flew back down to Sydney for one night and caught dinner at an amazing Thai restaurant. Then, had a peaceful night of sleep in Darling Harbour before heading to the airport for a morning flight to Tahiti

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Cairns/Port Douglas

Posted by jay on Dec 10, 2007 in married life

November 20-23

We flew up to Cairns to be near the Great Barrier Reef. We actually stayed in Port Douglas, which is about an hour drive up the coast from Cairns. Being adventurous, we rented a car and Jay took the driving plunge in the right side of the car on the wrong (or the right, depending on perspective) side of the road. Both of us were pretty nervous the entire ride there… mostly because the road was barely big enough for 1 car and had falling rocks to the left and a cliff leading to the ocean on the other. Yeah, fun times.

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Port Douglas itself is an old fishing town. It’s become somewhat popular lately because of the Barrier Reef tours, but is still very, very small. The main strip is less than a mile long and is filled with cheesy touristy stops, random boutiques, and some pretty neat restaurants. We had fish and chips a couples times and even had the chance to watch local toads race. Yeah, we passed on that.

The hotel was super nice. I had read mixed reviews about the service, but I really think they fixed things up. The room could have used updated, but we looked out onto part of 5 acres of man-made lagoons outside of our room.
The hotel itself was situated on 4-mile beach, but we literally spent 30 seconds out there because it was the start of jellyfish (aka “stinger”) mating season. That meant they could have been hanging out in the water near the beach, which meant we were nowhere to be found. We spent most of our outdoor time at the hotel pools.

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The hotel was so big that they had a little shopping village. Luckily, that included a couple spas (Suellen got a massage) as well as a bottle shop. Beer was still $17 per 6 pack, but it still saved us a bit of money, especially since the room had a pretty large fridge.

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A quick note about the sun up in Port Douglas. If you recall, the highest UV we see here in the US is usually 9 or 10. I think 8 is the highest I’ve seen in Ohio. In any case, the first morning we had breakfast at the hotel, we noticed a sign highlighting various facts - hotel activities for the day, weather outside, waves in the ocean, and daily UV. We thought there was a typo when we saw 17 listed. Holy sunscreen, Batman! Yeah, we used SPF 30 while up there, and Jay still managed to get a couple burn spots.

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Hunter Valley

Posted by jay on Dec 10, 2007 in married life

November 19

Hunter Valley is known for it’s great tasting wines. It produces around 10% of Australia’s premium wine, so it’s a pretty big deal (probably similar in output as Napa, though that’s a guess only). We had a great tour guide pick us up and lead us through the day.

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Before getting our wine tasting on, we made a stop at a nature preserve that’s purpose is to help nurse animals back to captivity. This meant there were kangaroos and emus running around like crazy. We also got to see and take a picture with a koala bear, which was pretty darn neat.

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The first stop - Brokenwood - was a blast. The girl giving us tastings was really informative and explained how to taste, what to look for, etc. She also poured us 12 or 13 different wines to try to understand the differences. This got us in a good mood to purchase 3 bottles - what a sales tactic.

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The second stop - I forget the name of the winery but they make Blue Tongue beer - involved lunch and more wine tasting. The foods were paired perfectly with the 2 reds and 2 whites that they had for us to taste. We also got to mix 2 single grape wines to make a blend (cab and shiraz). It was pretty neat, because it fully explained why wine makers mix things up. Single grapes only are tasted by 1 part of your tongue. By mixing, you can touch multiple parts of the tongue to fully round out the palette. Neat, but not life changing.
Since they made Blue Tongue beer, we decided to do beer tasting instead of more wine. They give you a paddle with 6 small tastings on it. Of note was their ginger beer. It tastes like really gingery soda, but with alcohol added. I’d love to have that hanging around the house!

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The last stop, Coopers, was uneventful. We were running behind on time, so they literally rushed us in and out with drop sized tastes of a couple of their wines. They did mix the tastings with cheese, which was cool.

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We also stopped at some place famous for Jungle Juice as well as a chocolate maker. We bought small memories of both.

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Lastly, we learned about the Convict Trail, which was a main road up from Sydney built entirely by convicts. It took something like 7 years and 900 men to build, but paved the way for what is now the Hunter Valley Wine Region.

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After all that excitement, we got back on the bus for the 2+ hour drive back to Sydney. Overall, it was a very informative and pretty fun trip. We’d recommend it for anyone visiting the Sydney area.

 
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Sydney

Posted by jay on Dec 10, 2007 in married life

November 16-20

The flight
15 hours of fun. We had 2 piece so of good news. First, we had sleeping meds to help knock us out. Second, Qantas had individual entertainment centers, with video and games on demand.
Nothing really eventful came out of the flight. They served lots of food, we got (enough) sleep, and we landed safely. It wasn’t nearly as bad as we’d thought it would be.

Sydney was a blast. We arrived and went straight to our hotel - The Westin Sydney. It’s probably the nicest Westin we’ve ever stayed in, and that’s really saying something. It had free wifi in the lobby and Exec Lounge. In the Exec Lounge, they had free breakfast every morning and free drinks and snacks every evening. I think that lounge alone saved us a few hundred bucks.

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Food.
I think there must not really be an authentic “Australian” style of food, given Sydney is so diverse. There was lots of Indian, Chinese, Korean, Thai, etc.
Suellen wanted to make it a point to eat ethnic, so that we did. Our best meal was at a random Indian restaurant which had a really high rating on the Sydney equivalent of Zagat. I forget the name, but it was BYO so we stopped for a nice bottle of wine on the way.
Other than that, we ate Korean, more Indian, Thai, and Malaysian - all of which were very good.

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Alcohol.
All (and I mean ALL) of the Australians we know boast about how much they and fellow Australians drink. We’re just not sure how they can afford it.
At bars, prices were relatively similar, which local pints being around $5-7 and imports being slightly more expensive. But, the take home alcohol is what put us in sticker shop. First off, you can’t even go to a grocery store or 7-Eleven to pick up your digs. You have to go to a bottle shop, which are pretty much always attached to bars that are attached to hotels. There must be some strange origin of that colocation. Once you’re there, you have your selection of various 6, 12, and 24 pack varieties (usually on a list of some sorts). The thing that will drop your jaw (as it did ours) is the prices. A 6 pack of local beer is something like $15-20. For you non-drinkers, our local beers are something like $5-7 per 6 pack. We would pick up a couple six packs and be set out 30 bones. I just don’t understand it.

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For you smokers, it’s just as bad. Packs run between $12 and $17. I don’t know the exact prices back in the states, but I do know you have nothing to complain about now!

Tourism (non-beaches).
We hit up most of the popular spots - The Opera House, Chinatown, Darling Harbour, Sydney Harbour, The Rocks… All of them were fantastic.
We took probably a thousand pictures of the experience, so we’ll post those online shortly. Of real note was the Opera House. It’s just an amazing structure, both in form and function.

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We also found a great tourist trap - Sydney’s oldest pub. It’s at the start of The Rocks area, and called our name out. Now we can officially say we’ve had a pint in Sydney’s oldest pub. It’s been around since 1832 or something, which is very old in Australian terms (the country is younger than ours).

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Chinatown was neat, but nothing like we’d expected. Suellen was hoping to find a goldmine of fake purses and watches, just like back home. Instead, we found a goldmine of fish markets and ethnic restaurants. So, we had some Korean for lunch and went on our way. The fun part about lunch was the “Hite” beer we had. It was “Fresh Taste Beer” straight from Korea. Fun times!

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Darling Harbour was beautiful, but very very touristy. We just did a quick walking tour, snapped some pictures, and went on our way. We’re staying in the Harbour one night before heading to Tahiti, so maybe we’ll check it out in more depth.

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We never ended up doing the bridge climb, mostly because we saw a “model” of someone who had done it and his arm was torn off! That’s not a very encouraging sign to build tourism!

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Beaches.
Sydney is known for it’s beautiful beaches, so we had to make it out to both of the big ones - Manly and Bondi.
At the advise of a friend, we checked out Manly beach first. This involved a 30+ minutes ferry ride from Circular Quay, which we definitely weren’t expecting. The good news is that we had some amazing views of Sydney Harbour and the city itself. The bad news is that we were preparing for a huge letdown.

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Manly is a pretty small beach located at the end of a very upscale residential area. It had some cool shops and what looked like a neat German bar, but the beach was tiny and filled with young kids. We hung out for a half hour or so, then decided to make our way back to the city to check out Bondi.
After about 45 minutes on a bus from Circular Quay, we found Bondi. It’s much larger, has many more things going on, but is in a pretty rundown part of the city. It was already 4pm or so, so we didn’t set up to get sun. Instead, we walked around, took photos, and realized why Manly was recommended. Given Bondi’s size and bigger waves, it’s a more popular beach for young people and surfers alike (mostly the same crowd).

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The Price is Right

Posted by jay on Dec 10, 2007 in married life

November 14

What an interested experience. We got up at 4am to be sure we were at the studio - in line - by 5. We’d heard from several sources that you won’t get a spot unless you’re there that early. Well, it may be a slow season, because we were #24 and 25 to arrive. The good news was that we were guaranteed a spot in the audience. The bad news is that they don’t start taping until 1pm. So, we had some time to kill.

We took that opportunity to have a bloody mary (or 2) and write out thank you cards in the car. The accomplish this, we went to the best CVS in the world. They literally had top top shelf liquor - anything you would want! We bought some stuff on sale and headed back to the car.

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How does that song go - “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere”. AM counts, right? Anyway, we got all the cards finished up so we headed back to hang out with the cool ladies we met (#s 21-23). And wait…

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…And wait some more. That has got to be the most inefficient process I’ve ever seen. Sure, I’m an ops consultant and have a freakish nature of spotting these things, but I think everyone in line could agree they could speed things up a bit. I felt bad for the poor pages that manage the process. You come early and get an “order of arrival” pass. Then, you return and exchange that for a “priority number”. That’s the number that guarantees your spot in the audience. You could probably guess our priority numbers were also 24 and 25. Then, you move to another section of waiting benches and wait some more. After an hour more, they come around and have you fill out your name, SSN, etc. After that’s done - and another 30 minutes of waiting - they give you your Price is Right name tag. That’s the price tag thing you see on all the contestants. After about 30 more minutes, it’s time for the interview with the producers.

You have about 30 seconds to show you’re right for the show. They ask your name, where you’re from, and what you do for a living. I had a decent pitch prepared involving Cleveland (home of the host, Drew Carey) and our honeymoon. As it is, you only have <3% chance of getting called down, but I was hoping those 2 things could improve it a bit. As luck would have it, they take 12 people at a time to interview. For those math majors out there, that means I (Jay - at #24) was separated from Suz (#25). So, my honeymoon act would have to be improvised. When they got to me, I did the whole “Cleveland, OH” thing, which got a few laughs. For my job, I just said I was a management consultant, but had the sole job of making my new wife happy for the next month. Cheesy, yes, but this is the Price is Right folks. The 21-23 ladies thought for sure I’d get called down.

Once you’re done interviewing, you end up moving to another set of benches (we’ve now seen 3 sides of the Studio City building) and wait some more. See, since we #s 24 and 25, we had to wait for about 300 more people to finish interviewing. The good news is that they let you get up and get food, etc. The bad news was that you were confined to the lot so you had to choose their food. The even worse news is that you had to walk about a damn mile to get back to the front of the waiting areas. So, we got some water and Doritos and made due.

Finally, at about 12:40 (a mere 7.5 hours after we arrived), we got escorted into the studio. I had 2 main impressions. 1) It felt like we were stuck in the 70s, even though the studio had apparently been “updated” for Carey’s arrival. 2) It’s way, way smaller than it looks on TV. The entire stage is no more than 100 feet wide. It’s amazing the camera angles they use to make it look so much bigger. Anyway, being such low numbers, we got seated right behind contestants row. If you watch (December 11), you see us both just 2 rows behind the right most person in contestants row. Jay yelled a lot of prices. He even got one exactly right, which the girl used and won $500. Of course, she never offered to split it, which I thought was the right thing to do! She did do a little turn around to acknowledge that I was the rightful owner of that bid. Such is life.

Before they start taping, one of the producers comes out and notes where all the contestants that will get called down are sitting. Most people in the audience must not realize they’ve already selected the contestants via the interview, because you saw some major cheese going on. They had 70s dance music playing (I guess to pump up the audience), and whichever direction the producer was looking, you saw about 50 people stand up and start dancing something fierce. It almost felt like a really bad wedding reception. In any case, she looked directly at us 2 times, which had hopes high.

Sadly, neither of us got called to come on down.

It was a pretty fun experience, though. Drew Carey is absolutely hilarious and had us laughing the entire time. It was also neat to see the behind the scenes and how they set up for the games. Given the 4am to 2:30pm investment of time, however, we’re not sure we’d go back again. It would be really fun to do in a group, so maybe we’ll keep that option open.

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Los Angeles

Posted by jay on Dec 10, 2007 in married life

November 13-14

We made a stopover in LA for pretty much one reason - to head to the Price is Right. Jay’s wanted to go on that show since he was about 8 years old (it was a sick day delight… 11am every day!). We had about a day and a half there, so we got to do some other stuff as well.

The day started off with a horrible revelation at the rental car facility. They had “upgraded” us to a Grand Marquis. If you’re not familiar with that car, it’s about the size of a house and is most often driven by cops and grandparents. After a short trip inside the Hertz booth, we ended up with a Toyota Solara convertible. That’s more of a honeymoon car.

Jay had never really done the touristy things in LA, so we made our way into Hollywood to see the walk of fame, Mann’s Chinese Theater, etc.
What a mistake. That city is so rundown - it’s actually pretty disgusting. The one cool thing we got to see was the Victoria’s Secret girls getting a star on the Walk of Fame. Actually, we didn’t so much see them getting a star… we saw about a gazillion other people trying to see it. So, we saw a crowd of people outside the Kodak theater. At least we got a free t-shirt out of the deal.

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For dinner, we at at Mr. Chows (thanks for the recommendation, Alex). For those that don’t know (because I sure didn’t), it’s a pretty famous chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills. Apparently, all the celebrities hang out there on a regular basis, though we only got to see the guy that was the setup man on Punked. We did see one Paparazzi when leaving, so we felt like mini-celebs. Or not. Dinner itself was pretty good, though not nearly worth the $200+ bill we had. We did the prix fixed menu and let them decide what we should eat (does that seem normal?). We had a bunch of pretty solid dishes, but nothing that we could say was amazing. Worse off, they seat you like sardines. For Suellen to get to the bathroom, they literally had to pull the table out. Luckily, a lady next to us had to get up, so they pulled her table out. That caused a bum rush of women near us to get up - I guess they figured it was too much of a hassle to move a table just for themselves, so when the opportunity presented itself…

After that, we just headed back home - it was time to rest of for TPIR.

 
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Rob’s photo blog from our wedding

Posted by jay on Dec 1, 2007 in married life

For all those interested in some early pictures from our wedding, check our Rob’s blog… We think he did an awesome job!

If you agree, consider him for your photo needs http://www.radproductions.org

rob’s blog

Some nice ones are below (keep in mind, he caught the rehearsal dinner as well). Right click and view image to see larger pics (they were re-sized in the post)


















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