Liv & Benni get hitched on the Aurdal farm

Liv and I studied geeky old Norse things together in a master’s program back in 2012. She’s from Norway, but had a special place for Iceland in her heart and never really left. Except for that one semester she ‘studied abroad’ in Oslo. A couple of years later, a fateful Tinder swipe right (that her gay best friend’s finger decided for her) led her to Benni, her Icelandic better half. Their ‘legal’ wedding took place in Keflavik a few weeks ago, but the ceremony and celebrations went down during a long weekend getaway to the Aurdal farm.

Liv & Benni say I do

Somewhere between Oslo and Honefoss is a little place called Aurdalsveien. The 100+ year old log farm house has been in her family for four generations, and her brother is the resident farmer, and her parents still live there. There are cabins all around, hidden among the forest and hills, and the nearby lake at Jevnaker makes a perfect beach. It was hot, I mean like tropical hot. Temperatures above 30°c, and one of the worst droughts in a hundred years.

Liv’s stagette party

The bride-to-be had a surprise bachelorette party two nights before the wedding in the nearby town, Honefoss, Her childhood friends from the region and college friends from Oslo joined the Iceland-era friends and a group of girls, plus one male guest of honor (he likes men too so he fit right in). We didn’t find any mens feathers to rustle, but we decorated Liv in some balloons, dined in Liv’s favourite, historic Brasserie, and had sunset cocktails with a view over the river.

dining at the far during prep days

I stayed in a guest house cabin across the field from the farm with the bestman and a few other overnight guests. We drank sparkling water with various fruity flavours, and filled the rest of us with joy, booze and grubs. The first few days were spent preparing for the wedding – name tags, decorations, slideshows and speeches, and the last couple of days were lost in recovering from the wedding. Lazing in the sun or a hammock, filling our bellies with more Norwegian home cooked meals, was the only way to survive the wedding aftermath.

bathing with the groom and honorary guest in the creek

The heat was wonderful, except for the fact that it dried up all the wells on the farm and surrounding cabins. Bathing in a shallow creek in the forest beside the farm was the most sustainable way to bathe, though I was never sure if I was cleaner or dirtier after stirring up all the leaves and mud on the creek bottom while washing my hair.

the barn interior before the wedding

My contributions to the wedding included a bit of artistic creativity – decorating the cold drinks fridge and writing name tags for the seating arrangement that didn’t include any real names. People had to identify with their personality type at each table, choosing from options like
‘the intellectual’ or ‘the lustful.’ I made potato salad for 100 people in a small kitchen that had more flies in it than potatoes, so the most difficult choice of the day was whether or not to keep the windows closed after killing them all and having fresh air or preparing the salad in a small sauna (we decided on the latter, for hygienic reasons).

wedding guests cure their hangover at Jevnaker

A large lake nearby in Jevnaker was a refreshing dip with a bit more success, which we finally got to on the day after the wedding. The bustling little farm started to empty, the first overnight guests leaving in their RV at 8 am. We started shuttling guests to the airport and I left a day later, and made my way to Bergen where my Norwegian journey could carry on in the cool rain.

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A wedding in MSP and an engagement in YVR

I don’t know why, but it’s always more fun to book one way or multi-city flights than just a simple return ticket. Instead of making a trip to Minneapolis for a wedding and then another trip to Vancouver for an engagement party, it was better (and cheaper) to fly: Keflavik – MSP, MSP-Seattle (drive to Vancouver) YVR – Edmonton (5 hour lay over), and Edmonton back to Keflavik.

 

the newlyweds

 My favourite Canadian Clio lives in Minneapolis where she just finished her Phd in something smart and intelligent like clinical child psychology. She celebrated the best way I can think of – she got married to her beau at the same time! It was a small wedding in city hall, only 7 or 8 in attendance, and then 150 friends got together on the weekend for a reception party. My plus one was Ursula who I had just surprised 2 weeks before in DC for her birthday, and now she flew out to MSP to join in on the festivities. We couchsurfed with a swiss guy in his 1920’s house, and took one touristy day to go to a major league baseball game – the Minneapolis Twins against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was my first live game and Im still not sure how it works, but I think I cheered mostly for the Canadians.

 

first row at the ball game

 Then I was off to Seattle, where my photographer and arctic loving friend Mike lives. We went out to my favourite restaurant, the Spaghetti factory, and spent the night catching up. The next morning it was a short 2.5 hour drive to mom’s house in Chilliwack. There we feasted on home made curries and roti and bathed in the hottub and sunshine for a couple days. My older sister Kristjana held an engagement party for her and Michael, the fiance I hadn’t met until then. All our family met all of his and we ate some more homecooked food – I don’t realize how much I miss it til I have it again.

 

my sisters engagement cake

 The way home was Vancouver to Keflavik through Edmonton, a city I’ve never been to and only know a couple people. One of them is Caleb, a guy I lived with in student dorms in Montreal 6 years ago for french immersion. I introduced him to a girl back then who he dated ever since and now lives with, and we all met for an afternoon of brunching and beers on some patios. It was a warm and sunny day, with those fluffy white Simpsons clouds speckled through the sky, and I couldn’t belive how flat and wide the plains were. I guess it really is true that you could see your dog running away for days if he tried. 

the flat praries under some Simpsons clouds

Two Weddings and a lot of planes

My first friend as a freshman in university was my next door neighbour Maya. Then I lived with her in they bay when I went to Berkeley for grad school. Now, 10 years later, I watched her get married to her longtime boyfriend Mike. Their wedding was in the hills of Lafayette, a beautiful wooded hillside with an open-air ceremony. The bridesmaids wore different shades of pink and Maya shone in her off-white gown. There were 6 groomsmen to her 4 bridesmaids, a friend of theirs was their photographer, another friend of hers officiated, and that friend’s husband DJ’d, so it was all a very friendly event. Other friends from UBC came too, and we danced the night away to some ridiculously bad rap and pop music from the early 2000’s.

the UBC reunion of Maya and her lady friends

the UBC reunion of Maya and her lady friends

Its wierd how I can refer to different decades and Im only 27… amazing how time flies, and people are all growing up and settling down. This was one of 3 weddings I attended in 6 weeks, and I had to leave Maya’s wedding bright and early the next day to attend a wedding in Hawai’i. We were 35 friends and family, not only invited to a destination wedding on Maui at one of the most famous wedding venues in ‘Merica, but also to a week-long vacation with the bride at groom at our very own hotel. We stayed at Mama’s Fish house, apparently one of the top 3 restaurants in ‘Merica, and rented out all the cottages around it, with our own beach, BBQ’s, patios and hammocks to cook our own delicious food. I didn’t bite for the $50-$75 chance to try eating at Mama’s, but I did get my fill of sand and surf, and hiking and roadtripping around the island. The famous road to Hana was filled with waterfalls and freshwater pools, but the road from Hana was more exciting, with unkept gravel roads clinging to the side of sea cliffs and a desolate no-mans land of dried up praries and homeless horses.

our topless roadtrip car

our topless roadtrip car

I know the groom Kyle from Semester at Sea. We were next door neighbours and shared a paper-thin wall we used to talk to eachother through. We also conquered Korcula island in Croatia together as novice backpackers, but left with a few sea urchin needles in our feet. Another friend of a friend from Semester at Sea, Orion, lives on Maui, and he took me up to watch the sunrise from the top of Halekala crater. At more than 10,000feet/3,000m, its the tallest peak on Maui, and the crater sits above the clouds, so we watched the sun light up the whole sky before it broke through the cloud line and rose as it probably rises every day in heaven.

Halekala sunrise

Halekala sunrise

Kyle and Kali’s wedding was also a little slice of heaven. It was held at an old sugar mill called the Haiku Mill, and only our party of 35 got to call the place our own for a few hours. We were served on by probably half as many staff, engineering cocktails with succulent plants frozen in ice to cool us down. The ceremony was short and sweet, the cocktail hour was nearly 2 hours, and then dinner was just a slight delay to the dancing night we were all so looking forward to. Even though the dance floor was made of red bricks, we shook it hard, and sweat poured so heavily from every square inch of our bodies that we had a hard time gripping onto our fancy cocktail glasses and lost a few of those to the bricks.

the bridesmaids and co.

the bridesmaids and co.

Our last day together in paradise was spent trying to finish all the food and alcohol 35 people had over-bought for the week. I invited Orion and his girlfriend over to help us, and after probably a dozen beer, they were a little intoxicated. That wouldn’t normally have been a problem, except that they were running a 42km marathon the next day at 5 am, so I saw them off the finish line, hungover or drunk, Im not sure, then drove myself to the airport to hop on another jet plane.

Being a Tourist in Beautiful British Columbia

Beautiful British Columbia

Beautiful British Columbia

I used to call Canada home, having lived in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley for nearly 12 years. I went to highschool in Chilliwack, a town that always smells like cowpoop and only really has 2 highschools. It was the 10 year reuinion of my 2004 Sardis Senior Secondary graduating class, and also a friends wedding, so I had two good reasons to go back home. My sisters and mom still live there, and I still have a room at moms house, and grandmas home-cooking is reason alone to make sure I visit the family. But, I also wanted to experience BC as a tourist for a change, combine a familiar place with the novelty of exploration, and so I ended up on a roadtrip around Vancouver Island.

A friend of a friend from Vancouver came to visit Iceland in May, so after helping him out with his westfjords roadtrip, he so kindly repaid me with the best Vancouver Island roadtrip I could have ever asked for. We started by taking the ferry from Horseshoe bay to Nanaimo, and then drove along the east-coast beaches and lake-side parks on our first day. It was sunny and 30 degrees C, and I was slightly jet-lagged and in weather-shock, but nothing that a good nights rest in a tent and a campfire-cooked meal couldnt fix.

foggy Tofino

foggy Tofino

We stayed in Tofino and Ucluelet, hiking almost every trail between them in Pacific Rim National park. Sadly there wasn’t much surf those days, but we managed to see a whole pod of gray whales on our way to Hot Spring Cove. Theres a place, only reachable by boat or floatplane, where hot water pours out of the cliffside, into pools of water beside the sea. As the tide came in, the seawater mixed with the hot water to create little cold pools, but we could hop between them to find the perfect temperature.

Hot Springs Cove

Hot Springs Cove

On our way back to Nanaimo, we stopped in Port Alberni for a little wine-tasting. We spent the afternoon at Emerald Coast vineyard and the Chase and Warren estate winery, but got a lot more than just wine at Chase and Warren. We were hosted by the owner, who was maybe a little tipsy himself, and enjoyed home-made chocolates and sockeye salmon along with our free wine samples. We left with a case, as you do, and enjoyed a few bottles that night in Ladysmith, where we slept in a beautiful house on the water, complete with a (not-so-natural) hottub.

Reid and Erin

Reid and Erin

The other highlight of my trip was Reid and Erin’s wedding, a couple I’ve known since UBC days, and a perfect occasion to have an informal 2004 cohort UBC reunion. Friends came from all over north America and enjoyed the serene setting of North Arm farm, cradled between the massive mountain peaks in Pemberton, and witnessed the most beautiful outdoor wedding I’ve ever seen. After a night of dancing and romping around in some blueberry patches, I got on a plane back to Iceland, wishing I could have taken some of that summer sun with me on my next horse tour.

Beaches, Buzios and a Brazilian Wedding

the beautiful bride and the next brides to be

Click to see the whole Photo Album

I left the Mediterranean for Brazil and thought I was going from Portugal to something similar, but not even the language seemed familiar when I landed in hot and humid South America. The attitude and energy changed even on the plane ride over, the friendly flirtatiousness slowly oozing out of the beautiful Brazilians on board. I landed in Rio´s international airport at 9pm and thought it would be too late to get to Buzios, a beach town 2 hours away, but the first driver I saw when I walked into the arrivals hall was a guy holding a sign with ‘BUZIOS TRANSFER.’ I walked past him and went outside to feel the warm sticky air again, and parked directly infront of me stood the Buzios bus. I figured it was a sign, so I went straight to Buzios.

I didnt have the address where my friends were staying and my phone conveniently didn´t work, so I arrived at 2:30 am with my backpack and wandered around the streets unsure where to go. There were many people still out partying and my friend in Rio had said to find my friends at Pacha nightclub… but Pacha was closed. I decided to go to the busiest bar with the biggest crowd, and spotted my friend Matt almost immediately, sitting at the bar with a glass of whisky and a Skol beer.

We spent 3 days exploring the beaches around Buzios, one day by means of a sand dune buggy, which would have come in really handy the one day we braved a sandstorm to get some beach time. The day we were on Geriba, we couldn´t really lay our sarongs on the ground because they were buried by blowing sand within minutes, and so were we if we tried to lay on them. We sat in beach chairs that blew over if we stood up, and our umbrella functioned more as a wind shelter than as shade.

We returned to Rio to meet a group of travelers all attending Mara and Rich´s wedding, two friends of mine from New York City. Our first night together, we gorged on caipirinhas and meat at the Porcao churrascaria, while torrential downpours flooded the city streets and drenched us to the bone in the 30 seconds we had to spend outside to get in and out of a taxi. It kept raining the following days, with only glimpses of sun phasing in and out during the day, so you had to time yourself really well to benefit from Ipanema or Copacabana´s near empty beaches.

The bachelorette party was held inside Leblon, a shopping mall full of bikini and lingerie stores of which each and every one we visited. The wedding was held at Villa Riso, a regal mansion located in the rain forest near Sao Conrado. The lack of sunshine was well received by all the guys in suits and tuxedos, who would otherwise have never made it without sweating through all their fine clothes. Mara was the most beautiful bride I´d ever seen, including every cheesy wedding magazine and bridal model you could compare her to, and the lights, cameras and action constantly surrounding her confirmed I wasn´t the only one thinking that.

The wedding ceremony was held in the chapel, and the reception followed in a big atrium, and I´ve never imagined so many white flowers and yellow roses possible in one place. The champagne flowed all night, with caiprinhas and whisky as bountiful as the salmon and sushi being served all night. There was an entire room of candies and deserts, served in roses, and every woman received a pair of Havaiana flip flops half way through the party to ensure she stayed on her feet dancing the rest of the night.

When the energy in the room started to slow down just a little bit, we didn´t even get a chance to notice the emptying dance floor because a band of 20 dummers overtook the room with such sound and rhythm that noone could stay sitting down. Everyone rushed back to the dance floor and let the drum vibrations move their hips, and before we knew it, an hour had passed and we were still jumping up and down to their contagious beats without even remembering how tired, full, or drunk we had just been feeling.

My Little Sister's Wedding

I grew up with 2 sisters, one older and one younger, raised by my mother and grandmother, sandwiched in a testosterone-dry family. We were raised slightly strict and conservative, with men out-lawed from getting too close to any of us. My mother remarried and divorced in a quick 2 years, and other than that the only men coming around were uncles and ‘friends’ I could never admit were boyfriends. Yet somehow we all knew Ruth, the baby of the family, would be the first to get married. We knew that when she was only 4 years old, still attached to my mothers umbilical cord, and grew up the most ‘domestic’ of us all, baking with my grandma and learning all my mother’ secret recipes.

the beautiful bride

Ruth went to Trinity Western University, a private school nearby my moms home town. She started dating a boy in her second year, and then we all started predicting when the wedding would be. It was still a light-hearted joke after they had been dating a couple years, but before we expected it, they were engaged.

After an 8 month engagement, finishing all their final exams, and graduating from University, they were married a week later. We weren’t surprised, but still scratching our heads with the unusual feeling of marrying off the baby in the family. Me and my older sister, unmarried and childless, were the maids of honour, watching in awe as our youngest sibling out-aged us somehow, as a youthful beautiful bride already starting her life with a man after all these years of being an integral part of our women-only family.

the original hen house

They were married  in a beautiful spring ceremony on an apple orchard in Kelowna, at the grooms home in the interior of British Columbia. My sister wore a $50 dress she found at a bride-swap fair, and layered it with lace from another second-hand gown the grooms sister found for her. She wore a belt around the smallest part of her waist, he hair down and curled, with lacy flats she bought somewhere for a few dollars, and looked like a million bucks. She glowed from the tips of her manicured fingers to the ends of her pursed lips, and her colourful bouqet made from an arrangement of flowers picked from the garden couldn’t distract you from her smiling face.

the getaway car

The wedding ceremony was simple; my mom catered it with home-cooked food, only a few people made speeches, and with no alcohol or dancing, it was over by 9pm. We watched the newlyweds drive away in a blue convertible 70’s Volkswagen bug, dragging behind them cans and balloons, and couldn’t help but feel a pang of loss at the sight of our little sister being the first chick to fully flee our home nest.

A Chilean Wedding Reunion

My first good friend from UBC got married this year, causing good reason for a UBC alumni reunion of old friends and roomates. We all started our undergraduate degrees in 2004, as young, naive teenagers, far away from home for the first time. Now we’ve matured, grown up, moved away, gotten jobs, and for those as lucky as Stefan, found someone to share it with.

Stefan and Mane, the newlyweds

Stefan is a New Mexico native, born in Chile to American parents. He speaks Spanish and has a Chilean passport, so he decided to take his exchange semester from UBC in Santiago. We all took our exchanges in 2nd or 3rd year, many went to Australia or New Zealand, but not many dared to venture out to a non-English speaking university. Stefan extended his stay from one semester to a whole year, working in Portillo Ski resort and traveling through his birth country, and I was lucky enough to be backpacking through South America when he was still there. I visited Stefan in Santiago, only weeks after moving in with his girlfriend. Mane was also working at Portillo as the nurse, and Stefan had set his eyes on her the moment they met. I could tell instantly from the moment I met her that she was adorable, fun, smart, and confident. Stefan must have noticed she was a keeper, so he did exactly that, keep her.

the UBC crew

Ten UBC friends (plus one highschool friend and Stefans family from New Mexico) attended the wedding, which was held in Santiago – a long way to go for the Americans and Canadians. Though we were largely outnumbered by the Chilean guests and Mane’s family, we certainly tried to make up for it by being louder and more obnoxious. Apparently we drank the same amount of pisco as a wedding of 400 by the time 6 am rolled around and the party finished with the last 30 stragglers (all of Stefan’s foreigner crew still present).

Their wedding was held in the most beautiful setting, a place you picture only in romantic fairytale movies. When we arrived, a flock of peackocks walked past the small lake between the mansion and the stone church, and flowers and champagne glasses shone in the sunlight. Their ceremony was magical, with live music from family relatives, tears flowing from bride and groom, and 100+ guests dressed in their Sunday’s best taking pictures and throwing a rainbow of flower petals.

the view of Vina's coast

We spent some time together in Vina del Mar, on the top of a hill in a highrise building with an incredible view of the coast. We rented apartments in Santiago for 4 nights, drinking wine and coke and having completo hot dogs as all good tourists should. My highlights were the Fish Market and Pablo Neruda’s home-turned-museum, and the 6.1 Richter scale earthquake that hit us while on the top floor of an old apartment building. The whole thing shook, and we all looked at

a completo

eachother with a mix of confusion, panic, and even glee, while debating which door frames to stand under and who should get in the bathtub. Needless to say we survived, so a few days later we were on our separate ways, some going South to the Lakes Region, some going home, and I flew across the South Pacific to Easter Island.