A little history first. Alex has been one of my best friends since 1995, the summer we both moved to Dubai, UAE. We were both about to start 9th grade at the International School of Choueifat in Dubai and I guess it was determined that we needed to attend summer school to get us up to speed with the curriculum. He arrived at summer school late, a couple days after it started, and the desk next to me was the only empty one. So in walks in this awkward looking guy with his pants pulled up and belted on tight and wearing these dorky huge glasses and sits down next to me, takes out his notebook and pencils, and starts scribbling down notes in an awful, illegible scrawl handwriting. Over the next few days we started chatting and got to know each other more. We came to realize that we both came from expat families and had been traveling most of our lives, both had annoying younger siblings, both had a love for sci-fi and other such geeky interests, both had been quite adept at swimming since a young age, and we would be living 3 houses apart (us in #89, them in #86) in Al-Nakheel Villas which was a 10 minute walk from the school.
So as the high school years rolled on, our friendship continued to grow. We went to swim meets, tennis lessons, basketball games in front of our house, played waaay too many hours of video games, birthday parties, and sleepovers where no one ever got any sleep… a few of the things we did together. High school culminated with a trip to Ayia Napa in Cyprus at the end of 12th grade where myself, Alex, my cousin Alex, and our friend Adam spent 2 weeks on the island. At the end of the 2 weeks, as Alex was boarding the bus that would take him to the airport, he turned back to say goodbye and I knew that from then on things would never be the same because, as expats do, his family was moving away. Actually his dad was retiring and he was going to go to boarding school in England to finish 13th grade.
But of course, as good friends tend to do, we kept in touch, as much as possible, but it would be a full 4 years before we would see each other again when Jackie and I went to visit him in New York City and he proceeded to get us lost in the middle of the night. He also tried to light an electric stove with a gas lighter but that’s a story for a different time. When Jackie and I got married in 2007, Alex & Heather flew out and were in Vancouver for a total of 36 hours, but had made the effort to come out for our big day which meant so much to me. When he called me up and told me the big news the he’d proposed and wanted me to be there as one of his groomsmen, I of course said yes and so began the plans for our trip to Italy.
And so here we are, headed towards the city that was our primary destination for this trip to Italy, Ancona, for Alex & Heather’s wedding. We had to get up at a ridiculous hour to catch the ferry taxi to the train station to get to our 07:15 train to Ancona. We checked into our hotel shortly after 13:00 where we found a note from Alex & Heather informing us they would stop by in the mid afternoon. So we dropped off our bags and went for a walk around downtown, finding ourselves at a pizza place for some lunch. We met up with Alex, Heather, Giusi (Alex’s mom), and Elena (Alex’s sister) at the appointed time and walked down to the church to meet with the priest and have a little rehearsal of tomorrow’s events after which I joined Alex in picking up the rings from the jeweler, meanwhile telling him that he still had time to make a run for it if he chose!
Alex’s dad, Paolo, picked us and another couple up in the evening to head to the rehearsal dinner. Paolo is an avid fan of sailing and when he retired he bought a beautiful boat that he spends a lot of time on. So, in his excitement in having not seen me in over a decade, and his son’s upcoming nuptuals, he took us to the boat first to open a bubbly bottle of Riesling and enjoy the sunset. Of course this made us late for the dinner and he got into a bit of trouble, but he shrugged it off with his usual casual manner and we all sat down to enjoy a fantastic Ancona style fish dinner.
As expected, the wedding day was an early morning start, making my way over to Alex’s parents’ place after my morning shower. The boys got dressed and goofed around, teasing Alex, and getting some good shots for the photographer. Once dressed and photographed, we hung around there just chatting and eating some pastries until it was time to make our way to the church. When Heather and her bridesmaids finally made it to the church, 30 minutes late, the priest started the wedding ceremony. As usual there were quite a few teary eyes in the crowd, lots of would-be photographers, and a cheer went up as the priest pronounced them man and wife! The wedding party posed for a few photos with the newly married couple in the church, a few more with the parents, and then we headed to the front of the church where we were able to throw confetti at them, wishing them all the luck in their new adventure.
The reception was being held in a villa about an hour’s drive away and there was a bus organized for the guests. The wedding party got split up into cars and we headed over to Villa Boccabianca while Alex & Heather went around Ancona with the photographer for their photos. Upon arriving at the villa, which was gorgeous, we tried to cool down a bit and enjoyed some appetizers until the married couple showed up after which we took a few more photos and then headed inside for a fantastic dinner, wine, and live music.
After dinner we headed outside again for the cutting of the cake and further eating of dessert… as if we had any room left after that meal! We were told there was some time before Alex & Heather had their first dance so we decided to take a walk to the tower on the property and climbed to the top to admire the view of the Italian countryside and coastline. We got back just in time to watch Alex and Heather dance. Now let me preface this by saying that Heather grew up dancing whereas Alex, not so much. Apparently he had made the effort and they had gone to ballroom dancing classes because he totally killed it in the first dance which can see seen here. After the dances with the parents and all the mandatory dances, we were invited to dance and so we got up there and busted a move or three.
Soon after the dance there were the bouquet and corset tosses, some ridiculously funny incidents with Ricardo (groomsmen) misunderstanding what the corset toss actually meant, and the “fountain incident”. What was this fountain incident you may ask? Well let me explain.
Alex decided to take his shoes off, roll up his pants, and step into the fountain to cool off a bit; all makes sense. In his eternal wisdom, he decided to send a few splashes of water my way and seeing this, I of course proceeded to take my shoes off, roll up my pants, and start to get into the fountain to go after him. He managed to convince me not to wrestle him fully into the water and being his wedding, I conceded not to dunk him. A few minutes go by as Jackie and I are chatting with other guests near the fountain, and I notice that Alex has proceeded to splash other people and has made it out of the fountain but is on the ground with 3 people trying to lift him and drag him back in for having splashed them. He’s wriggling around and nobody can get a grip on him and so I decided that he now deserved to get dunked, walked over to the four of them, latched onto one of his bony, wriggly arms, and the four of us hauled him and dunked him in the fountain.
After the glorious fountain incident, we sat around and chatted with the remaining out-of-town guests until the late bus arrived and they left the beautiful villa setting. The wedding party and spouses/girlfriends as well as a few other people were spending the night at the villa so once the last bus left we all said our good nights, went up to our rooms, and I quickly passed out into dreamy-land.
The morning after the wedding we went down for breakfast with everyone, had a quick walk around the villa’s grounds again, and headed back to the hotel in Ancona. We packed up all our bags and headed over to Giusi’s place where she had some lovely tiramisu laid out for us as well as pastries and watermelon while we waited for Heather & Alex to finish packing. Both couples were headed to Rome on the same train since they were heading to their honeymoon and we were spending a night in Rome before heading to Beirut the following day to visit my family. So we got to sit together and enjoy each other’s company for the 4 hour train ride, mostly teasing Alex of course, and said our goodbyes as we went our separate ways at the main train terminal in Rome. We found our hostel without any issues and hung out there for a quiet evening. Tomorrow we’re off to Lebanon!