December 22, 2009

Engaged Abroad - Samba, Soccer & Sun (Part 3)

After a few days of rain spending most of my time indoors, the rain finally stopped. Rio was calling me outside to see its natural beauty. Rio is a very large and spread out city, so that day I enlisted the help of a guide, Madson, to get me around. Plus, I was a little starved for conversation, so it was nice to be able to talk to someone about everyday life as a Carioca (a Rio resident).

After many winding roads, a quick shuttle bus ride and an elevator, I finally made it to Rio's most reconginizable landlarks: Corcovado or Christ the Redeemer.

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I'm squinting but I made it.

There were definitely some great views from Corcovado. It provided a great vantage points for seeing much of Rio, including Sugar Loaf Mountain (see below to your left).

After Corcovado I went off to see the Sambadromo (Sambadrome). Brazilian Samba isn't necessarily what you see on Dancing with the Stars. It's the music and dance form that is the heart and soul of Brazilian carnival that takes over Rio and Salvador to the north (and other cities) each February/March. The volunteer groups of musician, dancers and parading singers called Samba Schools used to parade through the streets, but the costumes and groups got so big that they built a staging ground for them to parade, the Sambadrome. Each Samba School gets an hour to parade to strut their stuff for judges who crown the best Samba School each year.

Here I am practicing my samba skills in the Sambadrome.

Off to the side of the Sambradrome, there was a small museum and gift shop. The picture above is actually a picture of a picture of one of the porta-bandeira (one of the lead women in the front portion of a samba school's procession) of the Beija Flor samba school that won a few years ago. As I am sure you can imagine this is a pretty big honor. Plus, in addition to the big schools that parade through the Sambadrome, there are small, local samba schools that play music, sing and dance through the streets of Rio. This was just a taste of Rio's samba culture, and I wished I had time to experience more.

One of my final stops that day was to Maracana Stadium, which is the main soccer stadium in Rio that hosts international and local games and will serve as the main stadium for the 2016 Summer Olympics. O jogo bonito (the beautiful game) is a national obsession just in case you don't know. Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka have all played here. It's like a living Brazilian soccer shrine.

Here I am at field level.

I even had a chance to see a real game a few days later. This was barely a playoff game and had the same energy as probably the Superbowl. People were going wild and screaming at least an hour BEFORE the game.

Here I am before a game between Flamengo (from Rio) and Atletico Miniero (from the Minas Gerias province)

Oh yeah, by the way, Rio has great beaches. You can pretty much get anything from food, a manicure, a massage and play soccer on the beach.

Yeah, Ipanema Beach is gorgeous.

All of the colored beach umbrellas are vendors.

Here I am at one of Rio's lesser known beaches.

Well, folks, those are the highlights of my time in Rio; however, I'm going to stop there.

UP NEXT: Wedding Recaps!!! That's right. After the holidays, I'll be recapping the wedding! Thanks for following my trip to Brazil.

A great holiday season to all!

December 9, 2009

Engaged Abroad -A Cidade Marvilhosa From the Inside (Part 2)

My first stop in Brazil was to the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, a place known for its caipirinhas, skimpy bathing suits, pulsing samba, and breathtaking landscape. I am sure you want me to tell you how cool it was to sip some great tropical juice while getting a massage on the beach, but that didn't really happen. Rio was having probably one of its dreariest Octobers on record, and the beach was totally off the menu for the first few days. October in Rio has the same type of weather as April in the Northeast U.S., so the first few days I was there I experienced quite a bit of rain and overcast skies. Rio is a city that needs to be appreciated for its natural beauty especially on a sunny day, but there's quite a bit to see if you need some shelter and don't mind leaving the Copacabana/Ipanema beach area that's so popular with tourists.

Before I begin my story, let me make a confession: My name is Mrs. Swan, and I am a guidebook junkie. Not only do I collect them, but they serve as my little travel companions that don't talk back and give you great information (when they're up to date that is). I do definitely vere off the beaten path when I can, but my guidebooks are my little security blankets.

Anyways, what's there to see in Rio on a rainy day and Copacabana Beach looks like this?

Churches! Lots of 'em....

Downtown Rio has got loads of beautiful churches and other sites all with fascinating history and its importance to Brazilian history.

Here is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Candelaria with its mix of Baroque and Renaissance architecture

The Noval Catedral Metropolitana built in 1976 and serves as Rio's primary cathedral. Many of Rio's major public worship services are held here.

The inside is stunning even with very little daylight

Here's the roof. I spent quite a few minutes just staring into the ceiling.

Here's Rio's former metro church, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo de Antiga Se, which was used until 1980.

There are museums in Rio as well, but for my time there I primarily took in a lot of sites. For those in Rio with some desire for even more inside time, check out the Museu Historico Nacional for a taste of Brazilian history, and I suggest the Museu de Imagem e Som for shutterbugs and other photography buffs.

Next up: watch me dance some samba in public, possibly play o jogo bonito (the beautiful game) otherwise known as soccer, and I'll actually post some actual pictures with me in them!

P.S. Rio has a subway! Yes, I know that is not particularly fascinating, but since I am lover of rapid, underground public transportation I couldn't resist (can you tell that I'm a New Yorker?). Rio's metro system is clean, runs frequently and is a good, cheap option for traveling between Copacabana into downtown.

Yes, I am a big nerd and took a picture :)

Do you have a Plan B in case there is a icky weather during your honeymoon or any other trip you'll be taking soon?

November 24, 2009

Engaged Abroad - I Did What?! (Part 1)

Hello, everyone!

My how I've missed you! I'm in wedding blogging limbo still waiting for my pics to come through from my photographer. It's definitely hard, but I know that good things come to those who wait.

In the meantime, I thought I would tell you about one of the more fulfilling experiences that I had while I was engaged. Last October, I took a week-long trip by myself to Brazil. I'd never traveled completely by myself internationally before especially to a country where I didn't have total command of the language, so on many levels this was a total challenge for me (after a year of college Brazilian Portuguese I have the vocab of an 8 year-old...okay, better make that a 5 year-old.)

I had a different outlook on this trip though. It was the first time that I would be leaving my future husband at home. I will give Mr. Swan a shout out for being so encouraging and not freaking out when I said that I wanted to a plan a trip by myself to a city that did not necessarily have a reputation for always being super safe (Rio; I went to Salvador too.). Mr. Swan hears way too much about my wanderlust and has learned to appreciate (for lack of a better word) my independent streak. I so appreciate his confidence in me, and his willingness and ability to let me be me.

After the excitement of getting engaged I stopped myself one day and came to a deep realization: this is it,'ve got another person who will be your partner in making decisions (even about things like vacations..uh oh :)), who may occasionally worry when you walk out the door for the day and for whom you'll need to do the same. I'm just letting you know that there's nothing wrong with that. That is by far the best part of marriage. In a way, I wanted to establish with Mr. Swan that while there was also going to be this new, amazing partnership that we were forming that there could still be this space for me to explore my own interests and challenge myself while still cherishing him. I knew that I wanted to do something fulfilling for me and only me before we got married. In the end, this trip to Brazil was about not only satisfying my yearly exploration cravings but also to explore how to be me within this new us.

Anyway, without further ado, here's a picture of me in Rio:

I will most definitely be recapping my trip, but I thought I'd get the mushy stuff out of the way first. :)

Are/did you do anything just for you as you make the transition into marriage?

October 29, 2009

One Swan a Swimmin'...on Bee TV!


Hey all!

Join me for some fun conversation as I make my Bee TV debut next Monday evening at 7PM EST! With a few months of newlywed-dom under my belt, I'll definitely try to share some insights with you about life after the wedding. Also I may even whip out some dancing, but I can't make any promises :) I'm excited to "see" you all on Monday!

October 5, 2009

The Streamlined Bride

As I said before, my biggest piece of advice is to make sure that you have fun during your wedding.

I spent a lot of time looking like this during our reception:

BUT I feel like it took a lot of work on my part to make sure I was that way. I think it's because I really took a scalpel to our wedding and really tried to capture the essence of what we wanted it to be.

Whether you're at the beginning, middle or end of your wedding planning experience, there is often one word that keeps rearing in the back of your brain (or at least it did in mine). That word is: MORE. I need to do more. This wedding NEEDS MORE! I'm gonna let you know that you don't need more. You'll be just fine.

When Mr. Swan and I set out to plan the wedding, we were in agreement that we were just going to include things that were important to us. When contemplating the things that were important, we knew we wanted to make the process as easy as possible. We're simple people at heart with a clean, modern style anyway, so it wasn't going to be too hard. Also with all of the traveling I did over the first seven months of the year including a work trip TWO days before the wedding (thanks, boss!), I knew that I couldn't really mentally and physically (at least with my hands) devote a certain amount of energy to planning. That's why in the end, I called myself "The Streamlined Bride." Sometimes I think my approach may have made my wedding less "interesting" or cool, but I can safely say that I had a relatively stress-free planning process and that to me that was worth lower cool points.

How did I cut to the chase during our planning process? Here was my plan:

1. Do it early and often :) - This is pretty simple and common wedding planning advice, but if you can get a wedding task out of the way earlier in the planning, then do it. By tackling tasks early on, it really allows you to see whether various elements are really necessary at the tail end of planning. I think having an overall vision and having the determination to sticking to that vision as best you can will help ease your process in the long run.

2. Know you can't have it all - I assure you that I would love to have had certain items as part of our wedding. Let's take a lovely letterpress invitation suite as an example. Instead of having that we had one piece invitation with a small insert. It made putting together our invitations a lot easier. We could have DIY'ed something pretty special, but y'all know me (see below). There were just things we couldn't afford, realized that we could not fit in, or just plain didn't want it. My early realization that I wasn't going to be able to have it all made me really focus on the elements we were going to incorporate and to try to find a way to make them even better.

3. Less participants - As some of you may have noticed or remember, I had no wedding party. I know this is not an option for everyone, but it definitely eased the coordination aspects of the day. I'm sure I come off as cold on this one, but I incorporated my friends and family in other ways during our wedding.

4. No DIY - Writing that felt like I was blaspheming Weddingbee, but for me it actually reduced my stress. I've already said that being crafty is not one of my traits. If wedding planning has taught me anything, it's that you have to be true to yourself. If you're not a crafter, then don't become one for the sake of the wedding if it will cause you to lose time and energy that you can spend focusing on something else. As a friend would say, "DO YOU!". Your wedding can still be personal and special if you don't have handmade items. At the same time, if you've got the time and energy and it will help your budget, by all means whip out the craft paper and make a run to the flower market.

5. Research, research, research - Researching things beforehand allowed me to know the universe of what I was dealing with in terms of vendors, wedding goods, etc. By knowing what I wanted when tackling a portion of the to-do list, I was focused with my time. With the exception of venue and dress shopping (okay and maybe our photographer), I really pared down my vendor interviews and kept my other wedding related trips to the bare minimum because I did the research beforehand.

6. Just because someone else does it doesn't mean you have to - I'm talking about wedding traditions here. We actually only had one person ask us why we didn't have a bouquet toss, and it was a single dude (um..really?! Did you want my bouquet?)! Again another personal call, but if you don't want certain wedding reception traditions, don't have them or pick and choose which ones will actually enhance your day.

7. Extra stuff you think you need - We didn't have toasting flutes, a special cake knife, no special bride hoodie, or favors (Again, I know this last option may not be for everyone). It's okay not to have these items too you don't want them, have the time to look for them or they just don't fit into your budget. My budget noticed that these things were missing, but I don't think anyone else did.

8. Delegate to the professionals - We were of the mind that if you can afford it, sometimes it's just okay to have the professionals do it for you. Our venue and lovely coordinator had everything under control that day. If you can't afford that route in your planning, rally your willing family and friends. At the same time, don't feel like you didn't keep it real because you paid someone to do it for you whatever it may be.

So that's my little commentary on trying to de-stress and streamline your planning process. It's not for everybody, but I hope it helps to see that sometimes less can be more in wedding planning.

Are there any things that you're doing to make your wedding process a little less hectic?

September 28, 2009

Mini-Moonin' It - Rainy Day Fun (Part 3)

You can't always have great weather, and that was the case this summer in the Northeast. We got so much rain that we didn't know what to do with it all. That was most definitely the case during our final days in Newport.

So what's there to do in Newport on a rainy day? Tennis, anyone?

Mr. Swan and I took a trip to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. I can pretty much appreciate most sports and love live tennis. Mr. Swan and I have even had one of our most fun outings ever together at the U.S. Open. I think that it had a lot to do with the martinis they were serving, but the tennis was good too!

Here's Mr. Swan at the street entrance. You have no idea that you're about to walk into this.....

There were quite a few exhibits and items that you definitely can't find anywhere else.

The outfit Roger Federer wore when he won his 15th Grand Slam title. He's got some really huge feet!!

Some great memorabilia from the Battle of the Sexes match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973.

A painting of the amazing player and humanitarian, Arthur Ashe

A visit to Newport isn't complete without venturing out to its many historic mansions, the most famous being The Breakers. All I can say is, "WOW!" I didn't realize that this kind of opulence existed in the U.S. I'm talking Louis XIV Versailles-style, peeps.

Here's the outside..not bad for a summer "cottage"

We couldn't take pictures inside, but here's a taste of what you can see:

The Great Hall

Mr. Vanderbilt's room (His wife slept in a different one....)

That's me in the backyard :)

There are several lovely mansions besides The Breakers including Marble House. Marble House was built as a present from William Vanderbilt (brother of Cornelius, the one who built The Breakers) to his wife, Alva, who would divorce him a couple of years (or so) later after it was built. Oh well.

Here's Mr. Swan in the Marble House driveway.

This structure in the backyard is a replica Japanese tea house. Alva Vanderbilt used to hold women's suffrage meetings here.

Now it's a cafe for guests to enjoy.

In all we had a great time in Newport, rain or shine. There's quite a bit to do (and I didn't even talk about the food we ate!!). Like I said in my first minimoon post, do a mini-get-away after the wedding. It's a special time, and you'll appreciate having the moments relaxing with your honey.

Will visiting museums and/or historic sites be a part of your honeymoon experience?

September 22, 2009

Mini-Moonin' It - Wine and .....More Wine? (Part 2)

As you can see from my last post, we spent a lot of time on boats our first couple of days in Newport; however, Newport has other places to experience that don't require a lifevest or cause seasickness. I'll show you a few that the Mr. and I had a chance to see.

One thing that I failed to mention before was that SIL and BIL Swan were kind enough to give us a little basket of minimoon cheer for our time in Newport. In addition to the sail boat trip we had (and other cute gift basket items), they also gave us a gift certificate for a tour and tasting at Newport Vineyards. Yes, that's right. While it's not Napa, Rhody has got its own little wine making area right next to Newport in neighboring Middletown and Portsmouth, Rhode Island. In addition to Newport Vineyards, Greenvale Vineyard is just a short drive from the heart of downtown Newport.

One of the winemakers checking on some Cabernet

Being the foodie that I am, it would be awfully whack of me not to make some wine suggestions. Personally, we liked the whites the best, particularly the Great White, In the Buff (cool name ;)), and the Riesling. Newport Vineyards also makes this great, crisp Rhody Coyote Hard Cider.

After the vineyard trip, we had a nice lunch at the Castle Hill Inn. The Inn has a great lawn right on the water where you can relax with a drink and a nearby patio where you can eat their fabulous lunch and dinner options. We recommend the chowder, the lobster roll and the Cobb Salad.

Pretty view, huh?

We could sit and watch the boats go by while sipping some cocktails.

MIL and FIL Swan actually ended up going to the Castle Hill Inn a fews weeks later, and they witnessed a marriage proposal right there on the lawn. I wonder if the lucky bride (or groom) has discovered Weddingbee. Are you out there? :)

September 21, 2009

Mini-Moonin' It - On the Water (Part 1)

I thought that while we're waiting for my pro pics from Dante Williams that I would share our mini-moon to Newport, Rhode Island.

As I mentioned in my initial post, I was not completely sold on the idea of Newport, but as I researched all that the area had to offer, I was pretty excited to get there. We packed a lot into about five days, and yet it didn't seem rushed at all. I highly recommend a get-away after the wedding however small or modest it may be.

During our first two full days in Newport, we spent quite a bit of time on the water. Mr. Swan grew up sailing a lot with his family as well as coming to Newport, so it was like reminiscing for him. Our first few days included a trip to the Newport area's second beach, which is technically in Middletown, Rhode Island (but, hey, who's counting?).

A few hours later we took in a sunset cruise on the Amazing Grace tour boat and admired Newport's world famous harbor and learned a little bit about its history.

Well, what did we see?

Fabulous boats

Anybody wanna buy a boat? This is the Athena, apparently one of the largest sailboats in the world, and it will only cost you well over $100 million dollars. That's all! :)

Interesting Sites

A private family home out there all by itself

Hammersmith Farm
Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis' childhood summer home

This is a historic house that's now condos. I'll live there!

Fort Adams, which is now used as a state park and some Navy housing.

Mr. Swan and I also got a chance to tackle sailing on a former America's Cup 12 meter racing ship called the Heritage courtesy of SIL and BIL Swan.

The great thing about the ship was that we even got help out sailing the boat.

Here I am having just finished helping to hoist the sail.

The Mr. and I had a great time.
Here we are with the Newport Bridge behind us.

Will you or did you spend a lot of time near the water for your honeymoon?