Beth and Nate are getting married later this spring and wanted their engagement session to be at a place they hold close to their hearts. Rome Valley Vineyards is a quaint vineyard with an amazing view, yummy wines, and a very Disney decor. This sweet couple are wine club members here, and after they relaxed their nerves over a glass of wine (I had a few tastes myself) we had our photo fun. Nate, just like a lot of guys, does not love his picture taken but I think you’ll agree he did an excellent job. Beth was comfortable from the start and made my job very easy. These two are so easy and comfortable with each other, very loving and laugh a lot. I had such a great time getting to know them and am looking forward to their wedding next month.
Keri’s move in 2006 sparked something in me that never died. To explore other countries and cultures and languages. Enjoy and learn about all the food and drinks. Hear new accents as silly as that might sound. I have wanted to immerse myself in other worlds for the longest time.
Last year (2012) was a rough one for me and in November I decided I was going to bite the bullet and book a trip to see her. And explore. I set aside 12 days in December to visit both Switzerland and London. My friends there kept sending me screen shots from their iPhones of the weather app – warning me of how cold it was. I was a little nervous about that and felt slightly under prepared but packed as much as I could. I was also a little nervous about traveling by myself. (My husband stayed home as he couldn’t take the time off from work and we can’t afford for both of us to travel. He’s amazingly supportive and knew I not only wanted but needed this “me time” and to enjoy catching up with old friends.)
In searching for flights to Switzerland I learned that if I flew round trip into London (and took a commuter to Switzerland) it would be cheaper. I reached out to my friend James who lives near London to see if he might be available to take me under his English wing for a couple of days.
London Part 1. The first leg of my trip.
Dec 4th arrived and excitedly I boarded my plane solo at SFO. I took a quick pic of myself with my phone to let Keri know I was on my way. I had never been on a flight longer than 5 hours so was a little nervous. Laptop in hand prepared to work and ambien in pocket prepared to sleep. I was set. iPhone photos – you know the reverse camera side – suck. Oh well.
I worked on 2 engagement sessions and a family session on the plane – in between awfully scary turbulence and pretty-tasty-for-airplane-food food. Virgin is an excellent airline by the way. Didn’t realize adult beverages were all free! I should have had more than just one glass of wine. I watched American Reunion (hilarious) and listened to music but knew I needed to sleep so I could be somewhat awake when I arrived the next day in London. Unfortunately, my ambien only provided 3 hours in the ultra NOT comfortable coach seat I was sitting nearly upright in. Honestly, the flight went pretty well and I soon landed in London. I was beyond excited – my new adventure was beginning!
I’m pretty sure this was taken on the decent into Heathrow.
Upon arrival to Heathrow I was greeted by a private hired driver (with my name on a sign! – yeah a first for me). Exhausted, I watched out the window and took in all my new surroundings. Narrow streets not intended for all the traffic. All the traffic. We eventually made it to my hotel. My first two nights I stayed in the Waterloo area. Hotel Ibis Blackwater was the hotel I selected and I highly recommend it. Everything is pretty pricey in the area and this was more on the reasonable side. Great, friendly customer service, modern interiors, smallish rooms. Perfect for a short stay. After I was all checked in, I had originally planned on doing a little sight-seeing before the evenings plans but I ended up taking a well needed nap.
Keri works for UEFA – you know, the Union for European Football Association. The original football that’s played in every part of the world but America. She was able to get me 2 tickets to one of the championship games (Chelsea vs Nordsjaelland). Our tickets included hospitality (woot!) and gave us upper box seats, a warm room to eat and drink in, and an excellent experience. So that first night, James met me after work, we took the super packed tube into Chelsea and found our way to the Champion’s Club entrance. We had free food, comfy seating, and all-you-can-drink Heineken. It was awesome. Here’s a quick photo from my phone of the game and one of James and I enjoying the free beer. Chelsea won 6-1 btw. I’ve never been much a fan of sports from home but I really enjoyed watching this match. I would love the opportunity to go to another one. Perhaps on my next visit. I’ll need to work on Keri for that…
The next day I woke up early enough to go out and sight-see. Got myself dressed and took advantage of the free hotel breakfast. I’ve never been so exhausted though. I went back up to my room for something I can’t remember before I was going to head out. I passed out for 4 hours. Um yeah, jet lag! I woke up at 3pm and forced myself to get up. I MUST SEE LONDON during the day! The concierge told me what was within walking distance. Just 15 minutes by foot to Big Ben, London Eye, Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I was out the door and on my way!
The sun was setting pretty quickly and I was able to photograph some goodies in the overcast kinda gray light.
The London Eye
Big Ben Tower with guards
Westminster Abbey – such stunning architecture
Houses of Parliament
The Westminster Bridge sign
And as the sun was setting, I was able to capture some much prettier images:
Big Ben and the Westminster Bridge
The London Eye details
London skyline across the River Thames
That night James had a fun surprise for me. His only hint was to dress warm. Ok, already done, it’s hecka cold out! Picking me up again after work, we set out to find a spot to eat. I can’t recall the place or even the area but there was a lot of walking through old London (which remarkably looks a LOT like Boston to me) in the rain and settling on a restaurant with pretty good pizza. We needed to be at the surprise place by 10 so once we arrived I was excited and recognized what it was right away. At the Ice Hotel is a bar completely made of ice! Everything is solid ice – the walls, floor, bar, glasses. They put an arctic parka on you with gloves and send you in this below freezing bar for 40 minutes. Glasses were solid ice and fun to drink out of. Blue lights everywhere. Room big enough for 30 people. One bartender dressed in probably 10 layers. Pretty cool drinks. Completely fun experience.
We walked through Picadilly Circus and the famous place where movie screenings happen but I can’t remember the name. Some other spots he pointed out that I really should have written down. It’s already been too long for me to remember. The important part is it was all beautiful and a wonderful experience. The city was decorated to the nines for Christmas and totally adorable. Down this street was the “12 days of Christmas.” I grabbed a crappy pic with my phone but it shows you just a little. Here is 8 maids a milking and 7 swans a swimming are just behind.
The next day I headed out to Switzerland to visit Keri for a week. Click here to view those fun days
London Part 2
My last weekend abroad was back in London. It just so happened Keri’s friends were all getting together for their holiday party. Admittedly, I’m kind of shy and I really do have a difficult time being around a group of people I don’t know. There was 16 of us total I think! Keri and I were going to sight-see during the day and then the plan was to all meet at her friend’s flat in London then off to ice skating and dinner.
In the few hours we had of daylight, we decided to check out Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. Also nearing sunset, I was able to get images both before and after.
Tower Bridge by day
Keri and I
Tower of London. We got to check out the Crown Jewels too! Couldn’t take any photos of them though. It’s amazing how much bling is in there.
Tower Bridge at night. Just magnificent.
I haven’t ice skated in over 15 years but after a bit I managed along pretty well. Keri and I stayed by each other’s side as all the kids and much more experienced navigated much faster around us. The night air was cool, but bundled up and gliding along to the music and beautiful lights of the London Museum the frigid night air wasn’t so noticeable. This was such a memorable experience! After our session ended, we all met up for drinks in the bar steps away and enjoyed a few until dinner.
Dinner was an incredible 7 (I think?) course meal. I was stuffed by champagne and soup by the time dinner arrived. I felt bad but I could barely eat any of my meal! I never had much of an appetite my whole trip. I don’t know if it was the travel or the time change or what but I lost 15 pounds out there! Now that’s the way to lose weight lol. I bonded with a few of her friends. What a terrific group of people! I’m so happy that Keri and David have such a network of wonderful people. Everyone is from a different country, speaking multiple languages and have the most interesting stories. I enjoyed being a part of this world for even just the evening. I’m hoping that I can connect with a few of them in my future travels!
My next and final day my friend James picked me up and took me to check out Hampton Court Palace – the home of Henry VIII. The day was bittersweet as I knew it was my last but I still enjoyed walking the halls of this amazing palace and learning it’s history. I took minimal photos as I really just soaked it all in. Here’s a few that I did take…
Inside courtyard at Hampton Court Palace
And one of my favorites from my whole trip of a swan outside the palace. I love the perspective.
Monday the 17th arrived and it was time to leave. This was a sad moment!
I had such a wonderful time on this whole trip I kept trying to figure out ways that I could stay longer! My world was expanded so much and my fire for travel only burns brighter. I’m planning on another trip… this time a working one! Still in the early stages of planning I will be first in Ireland in June for Keri’s wedding. Then where next? I hope to get connected with new clients who appreciate the value of photography and plan a series of family sessions in key locations across a few countries in Europe and the UK. And possibly a wedding? Who knows what doors will open!
Special thank you’s
James: Thank you for sharing time out of your busy life helping me plan my trip. I couldn’t have chosen hotel locations, navigated the tube and nightlife, or enjoyed my first Ice Bar or football game experiences without you. You truly made London and its lovely surrounding cities memorable. Thank you so much.
Keri: What can I say about what your friendship means to me. I love that we’ve been friends for nearly 20 years and I adore you. Thank you for spending time with me, showing me around your new home, guiding me through the metro and train systems, sharing your totally awesome home and dinners and champagne. For introducing me to Chez Mario which I crave all the time. The European life. Cobble stone streets and centuries old buildings. Your awesome radiators that are perfect for drying clothes. Giving me time to get to know David more (you’re such a wonderful couple!). Spending time with me in London and introducing me to your lovely friends (they’re amazing!). I had the most wonderfully perfect time because of you. I’m so excited for your wedding this June in Ireland and our future adventures. I love you!
Kelly and Chris are one of those couples that you kind of just want to get to know. They’re sweet, laid back and totally easy to be around. They met working at REI and share a love for nature and bike riding. We had fun including their bikes in their engagement session and exploring all that William Land Park in Sacramento had to offer. I know this couple is going to be a stunning bride and groom and I’m excited to see how all the planning unfolds in their late summer wedding!
Photography is super important to Danielle and I feel truly honored she chose me. I got to know them both quite a bit over the last year and loved how comfortable Danielle became with me over the time. She would send me pictures of planned details along the way and after all the tid-bits I was excited to see it all come together. She and Dominic opted for a first look which I was so happy for. The sun sets fast at this venue with their late ceremony times and I’m excited we got to capture such a variety of bridal portraits. These two are so in love and are truly great partners and such a joy to be around. I look forward to seeing them for years to come – I know we’ll remain friends!
Venue: Brentwood Golf Club
Makeup: Christi Reynolds Makeup Artistry
Bride’s Dress: Oleg Cassini
Bridesmaids: David’s Bridal
Jewelry and bride’s details: Etsy
Floral: Paula’s Family Florist
Favors: California Caramel Company
DJ: house DJ
Such a beautiful bride! Christi Reynolds knows how to accentuate Danielle’s features perfectly.
I love this pre-first look moment of Dominic’s…
My second shooter Nicole snapped this shot while I was getting the main angle and I love it!
Danielle is just beautiful… I love photographing her.
I just loved all her special details. That flower in her hair was gorgeous!
And Dominic, of course, is very handsome!
The bracelet and necklace (in the next image) were handmade from at Etsy dealer and given as bridesmaids gifts.
Casual in chucks!
Dominic’s daughter is just the cutest little girl and she loves her daddy!
She has such a timeless look to her. She’s going to be stunning when she grows up.
The favors from California Caramel Company are seriously the most delicious treat you can give your guests! I can attest to it! I really wish I had one that day!
Danielle calls Dom her “lobster” and found this adorable cake topper that represented the nickname just perfectly…
Kylie and Lewie (Danielle’s nephew)… both are just too adorable…
Dom got a little choked up here… it’s such a tender moment…
Lewie trying to resist cooperating! I love this.
Just a little smooch!
Dom wanted to include his dad’s classic GTO and I’m so glad we got to include these photos!
One of my favorites!
It had been a long day for Kylie and she had a little breakdown during the first dance. I know you can’t see Danielle’s whole face, but I included the left image in the finals because I love how apparent the concern in her eyes are. Eyes say so much…
The DJ got the party going!