Santorini Destination Wedding

Wedding

Greece was on my bucket list. We even talked of taking our honeymoon in Greece. We couldn’t afford it. So, when my good friend, a sommelier and traveller, decided to get married in Santorini, we couldn’t believe our luck. I was asked to do the bride’s hair and make-up and to do make-up for the wedding party. Of course, I said yes.

What an incredibly magical spot to wed!

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The Bride’s closest friends, family and her new step-daughter!

Getting ready with her bridal party.

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Enjoying the bridal suite at the El Greco in Santorini (Fira), Greece

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I brought my favourite products for the big day – tried and true – ready for the heat!

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Meanwhile, outside the day was shaping up to be incredibly idyllic. El Greco Resort, Santorini.

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At the wedding venue, Oceanides, with my lovely wife. Just a little over a year ago, we married in Toronto, Ontario.

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Delicious food and fresh local ingredients.

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Honey, sesame and cheese…

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By the time the ‘main’ course of whole grilled fish came to our table, we were so satisfied and full!

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Plates for breaking. Opa!

The bride’s hair and some behind the scenes NON-professional close-ups.

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The bride.

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Braids and twists were the inspiration for this Grecian look. Heat-proof hair was on the ‘must have’ list. 

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At the venue, the sea took center stage as the gorgeous backdrop for their vows.

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Our friendship goes back to 7th grade. She looked absolutely stunning, head to toe.

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A rose between two thorns.

The day after the wedding; the bride, Lindsay, was ready to relax on the beach. Tunic/beach coverup from Muska - Thira, Santorini.

The day after the wedding; the bride, Lindsay, was ready to relax on the beach. If only we all looked this fresh the day after ‘the big day’! Beach cover-up from Muska – Thira, Santorini.

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Getting ready for their close-ups. Olive branch head garlands.

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The flower girl looks on as her step-mom-to-be gets her make-up done.

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Finishing touches.

And… Opa! Here are the final photos of the stunning bride (and groom!)

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding. Linds found a lovely local Nona to pose with.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

This is clearly why people fly half way around the world to get married.  Stay tuned for photos from the Toronto reception. Coming soon…

Paradise Found – A Love Poem to Santorini

style

Some smart musical theatre lyricist said to “start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” But for today, let’s think of this as an editorial to capture the magic of a destination wedding in Santorini, Greece.

Here is my ode to the beautiful friends, food, architecture and faces of the island. What do you wear on a vacation that might include walking, hiking, shopping, lounging, swimming, riding around on a four-wheeler, a wedding and…. adventure? I think I got this one figured out. I had lots in my suitcase and felt ready for anything.

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Oia’s Jenga-like architecture is every bit the post card you imagine – homes stacked precariously on top of one another, along the cliffs and hillsides. One person’s roof is another’s infinity pool.

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The El Greco Hotel – the most amazing experience. The staff was just spectacular (see the “LOVE” story about our stray puppy resue). This was home base for the duration of our trip.

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The Greek are very specific. Don’t do it. Do what? Don’t leave – is how we felt at the end of our trip.

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We rented ATVs for two days and explored the entire island.

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A shop in the traditional village of Megalochori.

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Catching the sunset in Oia.

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From the terrace of Kyprida (restaurant) we could see a pack of kittens playing in the setting sun on the roof top.

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A burst of colour – the doors of Santorini were a favourite study for us. The tank and maxi skirt were a great choice in a breezy fabric, able to be tucked up for riding the ATV, but still comfortable for walking or dining. The cardigan was a must, to limit sun exposure on the shoulders. American Apparel jelly sandals let me go from town to beach, from the hot sand and straight into the water.

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High waisted linen trousers and a cropped striped t-shirt, with Keds for walking all day and driving on the ATV.

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A posh perch at Eros beach. We drove down a long, winding dirt road, with wind-carved cliffs on either side of us, which opened suddenly onto a picturesque beach with thatched umbrellas and a beach-side restaurant/bar.

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Window shopping in Thira, Santorini. A ruffled, one shoulder dress in a bold print got me a compliment from a complete stranger. And an elderly Greek gentleman told me I had the look of a European ‘fashionista.’ I’ll take it.

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Blue beads, headscarf (to save me from helmet hair), sunnies, navy blue culottes and a lace top, with comfortable shoes for walking all day! Plus a bucket back that fit nicely into the ‘trunk’ of the ATV.

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A bright blue crop top and patterned maxi skirt, bold earrings and flip flops for drinks pool side.

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Yes, those are my wife’s legs. Yes, those are tiny fish eating the dead skin cells off her feet. Our visit to the Fish Spa was awesome. Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DrFishSpaExperience?fref=ts

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The El Greco was simply – the loveliest, most welcoming resort. It was beautiful to look at and very luxurious, but that was the tip of the iceberg. The staff was just SO nice. They helped us at every turn, especially in finding a home for the sweet puppy we fell for.

Our little sweetheart, Gaia, stole our hearts. We got her microchipped, vaccinated and the hotel's staff helped us to find her a home when we were unable to get the documents to take her back to Canada with us.

Our little sweetheart, Gaia, stole our hearts. We got her microchipped, vaccinated and the hotel’s staff helped us to find her a home when we were unable to get the documents to take her back to Canada with us.

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Perissa Beach, Santorini. Post-wedding day of recovery and relaxation.

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Rehearsal dinner outfit: Black crop top with back cutouts, bow-belt and tea-length high waisted skirt with lace overlay.

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Heading to one of the El Greco’s numerous salt water pools.

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Happy Toronto Pride! We hit the airport, ready to wave our mini flag. This is the first Pride in 16 years that I’ve missed. For travel, you carry your hat (to save space), wear culottes in a wrinkle-free fabric, a tank for arrival and a patterned cardigan for the plane.

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Allia is ready to hit the rolling sidewalk. Departures, in comfort and laid back style.

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Last supper. Falafel, salad and pita.

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Cucumber, dill, pine nuts and smoked salmon salad.

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Our final meal was recommended by the owner of Muska, one of our favourite stores in Thira. The food was delish!

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Wine tasting at Gavalas Winery.

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Crazy beautiful. Monolithos Beach.

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Incredible skies.

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The view on the way to Oia for sunset.

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The clouds and sunlight in this cemetery were so beautiful. Exploring and taking unexpected turns were some of the best parts of this trip. It was a ‘Say Yes’ vacation.

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What do you expect to find at the end of a long, off-roading adventure? Definitely a mixed martial arts ring that looks like Mad-Max-Thunderdome fights happen in it under flood lights at night.

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Chilling out max and relaxing all cool – at Eros beach with Elissa and Allia.

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Sardines. Allia’s favourite. I always make ‘yuck’ face when she eats them at home. Only allowed because we were eating at a roof top terrace.

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This car was so dusty that people had written messages from countries far and wide.

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Journalling throughout the trip. Allia likes that I enjoy writing, because it means we get to look back at our trips and reminisce – in detail. Wink.

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One of my favourite moments in Thira, at night, was seeing the gorgeous and uber-cool Elle Macpherson. She is stunning in person, and was so gracious about taking a photo even though she MUST have been bombarded 24/7. I was as close as I’ve ever been to star-struck. She is such an icon and I’ve just been re-watching Friends. It made my night!

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I loved all the donkey iconography and sculptures – a day of wandering and night out for dinner requires a beautiful Anthropologie tie dyed dress with lower back cutout.

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A bohemian mish-mash of patterns. Beach-side eating, al fresco, with swimsuits under tunics, at Waves Restaurant.

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Love to love you, baby.

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Plates to break at the Greek Wedding!

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Picked up this Anthropologie dress, regularly $258, for $30. Paired with cork and gold heels, and some bling-y costume jewellery, it was perfect for dancing the night away. I thought about wearing something lighter, more beachy, but the weight and structure of this fabric actually held up really well to the mediterranean heat and humidity… and the dance party that lasted ’til 3 am. Allia also wore a cheap and cheerful Grecian inspired, red satin maxi dress with halter bared shoulders and a drawstring waist, and gold accents.

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The ceremony and reception took place at Oceanides, right on the water with a pool and tables surrounded by the sea and candle light.

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Hamming it up for the camera. The wedding was like a high school reunion (with the best possible outcome). Turns out the bride, Lindsday, stayed in touch with all the nicest, most sincere and warm people we went to school with. Catching up with them was amazing, as was meeting their new partners and families, and having them meet Allia.

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Journaling, the morning of the wedding. Ready to do hair and make-up in a strapless ruffled dress with asymmetrical hem, and some bright beads.

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Trip in reverse: Here is our first night. The rehearsal dinner. The couple pulled out all the stops and treated us to an incredible multiple course dinner – and we ate like royalty (see below for some of the highlights).

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Truly back to the beginning. This is day one. We had no idea what an incredible trip we were in for! Thank you, Santorini, and big thanks to all the friends, new and old, who made this a wonderful week in paradise.

Puppy Love

Love

Ever cried on an ATV? It’s a long story, that only really lasts four days.

It started one night in Santorini, at the bar of the El Greco Hotel, where we were celebrating and saying goodbyes following our friends Lindsay and Rob’s wedding. Amidst the caipirinhas and wine, in wanders the most adorable stray puppy.

She wound her way through the legs under the table and found her way straight to my lap. She was a gorgeous strawberry blonde, with the ears of a spaniel and eyes to melt your heart. She was friendly, but shaking. Clearly hungry. We pitched in to get her some food and she cuddled with us. On our friend Jas’ lap, I joked as I took their picture “family photo.”

It had entered my mind that this puppy could not live her life as a stray. I’d seen how fast people drive on the island. Her side also concerned me. It was puffy and if pressed gently, there seemed to be movement below the surface. I was afraid she was full of worms.

That evening she followed us to our room. I closed the door and re-opened it to find her sitting there, staring up at me, big-eyed and adorable, breaking my heart. I got her fresh water and walked her to the company of some late-nighters from England. I hardly slept.

Mostly I worried she would be hungry, or sick, with that mysterious side bulge. Fortunately, I thought, she’d found her way to the winding, protected maze of El Greco’s villas, where no cars were near and there was an endless supply of tourists with a soft spot for cute, and buffet breakfasts to share.

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Our little pal, Santo, aka Gaia.

Next morning she was at the breakfast spot, happily sharing sausages and deli meats from guests’ plates. She sat with us by the pool and while cuddling, I resolved that not knowing what would happen to her would slowly weigh on me until I found more answers.

The front desk didn’t recognize her, but put me in touch with Helga, a worker from Santorini’s SAWA http://www.sawasantorini.org/. Allia, my wife, also looked into animal rescue in Greece and quickly received a reply from PAWS Pelion (near Athens); they advised to get her to a vet quickly and try to start the process. We also got the contact for SAWA (Santorini Animal Welfare Association) christina@sawasantorini.org

Helga met us at the hotel and fostered her, helping us get her to the vet. Within the day she had her rabies vaccine, de-worming, tick/flea medicine and we had her microchipped. The side, it turns out, had two teeth punctures that had let air below the skin’s surface and the vet, Margherita, shaved and disinfected the spots, assuring us that the air would drain on its own. Very relieved. She was such a trooper and we got her a passport, named her Gaia (pronounced GAY-a, ironically, in Greek). We were so close.

All that remained was to get her paperwork of permission from the government, allowing her to leave, and we had two days before our departure. Our travel agent also had to see if it was possible/allowed to get her on our flights. This proved more difficult, as it was Canada Day (on a Thursday) and there was no one in the office.

I tossed and turned again. Waiting was killing me. But the amount of support we had was incredible. I was so worried that somewhere along the line we would run into trouble and be unable to get her home with us. I posted:

“We are loving Santorini and we fell in love with a gorgeous little stray puppy! We have her shots, passport and are waiting on the okay paperwork from the Greek Government. Only once we are on the plane to Canada will I be relaxed. The last hurdle will be the small flight from Santorini to Athens, then onto the second plane. If anyone knows a dog lover in Athens who can step in on short noticed if we get stopped, please let us know. We are returning on Friday.”

Replies:

-Amazing!!! That’s the best story ever! You work fast too, you already found a vet and did all the paperwork in the last day?? Crazy!!

-Sending good puppy vibes! All will be well!

-There’s a lady in Toronto who operates Tails From Greece Rescue – her email address is diannealdan@sympatico.ca – I’ve seen her postings before on petfinder but she doesn’t have an actual website (but is a registered charity). She might be able to help you.

There were dozens of replies, offering help and support, six different people from the wedding offered to pitch in to help cover the costs if we could get Gaia home, and even the hotel staff was on board. Teodora from the front desk said she would foster her for the months it might take to get the paperwork and sort out a flight, the bartender Vasilis said he’d give us 50 Euros towards her travel. Everyone, it seemed, was invested in helping this little girl get adopted. She had won everyone over.

The story took a sad turn, as we found that the paperwork needed to come from Naxos and we’d need to go to the harbour to pick it up in Fira. We thought, due to the language barrier, that we were meeting a person at a desk or office down at the harbour. We did not understand that we were meeting a letter, held on the boat, that would not be left IN Fira unless in our own hands. We narrowly missed the Blue Star Delos as it left the dock, after a twisting and turning ATV ride down the side of the caldera to the port. The port police officers, a group of macho, chain-smoking uniformed men, seemed genuinely moved as my eyes brimmed with tears and they registered how sad this moment was, after radioing the vessel to confirm that the letter was on board… heading back to Naxos. We were departing the next morning and still didn’t have a confirmation about flights for Gaia, with our time difference and the question of her documents, age and timeline of the vaccines. It seemed like a sign, but there was also some VERY good news.

Although I cried, full-on tears, as we drove back up the side of the cliff, Elena and Teodora had given us some hope – the owner of the El Greco was an animal lover and agreed to take Gaia, to adopt her if we couldn’t, having heard of all our efforts to do so.

Post: “We just found out our last document from the Greek government, authorizing the transport of the puppy fell through. We tried SO hard. With the language, time difference, Canada Day, short time period and tons of contradictory info between two airlines, it’s amazing we got so close. I am so sad, because we were really invested in this little sweetheart. BUT overall I ‘m really proud of us for trying and I think the way everyone here (and online) got behind us is a sign that there are a lot of big hearts out there. So big, in fact, that the owner of the El Greco (our hotel) heard about this little gal and has agreed to adopt her. So, our goal is complete; she won’t be with us, but she WILL be healthy, happy, safe and loved. Thanks to my wife, Allia, for jumping in with me, all in, and consoling me when it didn’t work out. The staff and friends here for Lindsay’s wedding have been amaaaazing. Hugs.”

We went to say our goodbyes to her that night, visiting her at Helga’s work, where she greeted us with tail wags and face licks. She was going to have an amazing life. With a final hug and, yes, more tears, we went off to enjoy our last night in Santorini. She was going to be a very happy girl.

We left her passport and vet records, plus a note, at the hotel and quickly received word that the owner had come to get her, and would email us with updates. Update number one, from the owner Maria, was that her brother had fallen in love with Gaia and taken her home. We also received one final assurance that we could contact her to get updates. What better end to the story could anyone hope for?

If you, like us, fall in love on vacation, get the process started early.  Contact a local vet and get in touch with the animal welfare/rescue agency in the area. Also, contact your airlines immediately to arrange for travel on board your flights, checking age, weight and carrier size restrictions, as well as the necessary documents for the country you are travelling from, and your destination country. One final must: tell your country’s customs agents that YOU are adopting/own the puppy as your pet, not that it is being brought in FOR adoption, as this may be seen as a commercial transaction. Good luck!

This whole experience reaffirms that it is so much better to care and be invested, even if it’s sometimes sad, than to watch, hoping someone else will step in. Sometimes it feels really good to cry.

Mama Mia Me

Indulge

“Mama Mia,

Here I go again. My my… ” Meryl Streep did look pretty awesome in the film, like a boho goddess. Damian Cooper: he’s enough to make me want an island romance (no offence, my love). And the island’s laid back, picturesque backdrop has been calling me since before the movie, and even before the live musical version hit Toronto, starring Camilla Scott, the former Canadian daytime talk show host (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0778926/). Seriously, look it up.

So I’m going. Finally.

Wrong island. Right vibe. But, there should definitely be singing.

We are heading to Greece to celebrate a wedding and I couldn’t be more excited. I cannot wait to see the island of Santorini in person and my wife and I have treated ourselves to a gorgeous hotel for our stay.

El Greco, Santorini.

El Greco, Santorini.

El Greco's Pool, Santorini.

El Greco’s Pool, Santorini.

Apparently I will look like this when I lounge by their pool.

Apparently I will look like this when I lounge by their pool.

A piece of paradise. I can't wait to get lost here.

A piece of paradise. I can’t wait to get lost here.

Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece

Two days of wedding will get us geared up for a few more days of romance and heat.

Streetscape, Santorini.

Streetscape, Santorini.

What could be sweeter than the white buildings and turquoise of Greece, wine and olives and a killer wardrobe to make the whole thing feel like an editorial for some exotic travel magazine? We got a head start on our Santorini dreaming with our friends at YYZImports.com, while styling and being photographed for their Summer release of their collection. The colours were vivid and incredible. I could happily wear every outfit that we shot yesterday. Stay tuned for an inside peek of their gems and the behind the scenes shots from our day in the sun.

From Toronto to Greece,

Kisses and enjoy the sun!