My Wedding DiaryVenezuela

Following is a brief recap of the events of my trip to South America.
For further inquiry, do not hesitate to ask Dave.

December 14, 2003

My sweet sister, Debbie, was so sweet that she drove me to the airport for my 6:15am flight! I switched in Miami. The movie was some unmemorable Xmas flick. I arrived in Caracas at 3:40pm.
Goldy was there waiting for me. We returned to her casa. Greeted everyone warmly, and vice versa. For dinner, we had hallacas, cornmeal squares, from a tusk, with ground beef inside.


After a unique breakfast of another new Venezuelan specialty, perico, eggs, tomatoes, onions mixed together, we visited the synagogue for the first time, and met the Rabbi. We went over several facts, questions, the ring, the Ketubah, the certificate, etc.
For lunch, we ate at Mery's casa. Teresa made a (typically) delicious meal, the highlights of which were chicken meatballs and homemade bbq sauce. After, just relaxed, hung out, etc., not much else notable.


Checked out the Hebraica, the local Jewish Community Center where the wedding would be held. It is not like the American JCCs, this is on a much grander scale. There is a banquet hall, but also a huge parking facility, tennis courts, health club, raquetball courts, swimming pool, wading pool, ballfields, and more! All of this is surrounded by huge security walls. The kids came with us, and we went swimming. I was very happy with this facility as the venue for our wedding.
After, we went back to Andres' casa, and Nancy cooked anotehr typically delicious meal.
Went to Sambil mall, billed as the biggest mall in South America.  Saw movie, "SWAT."  Was good enough, enjoyed learning new phrases in Spanish from the subtitles.

After, we visited the hotel to welcome our first American guests, Larry and Sandra Jabenis!  Sandra, the daughter of my grandpa's sister Rose, and her husband, Larry, from KC, were in the bar, and delighted to see us.  We all chatted for a while, and looked forward to the rest of the week.


Went to the neighborhood called El Hatillo.  Here we saw the restaurant for the first time where the rehearsal dinner would be held.  The neighborhood is also an excellent place to browse, shop, and schmy.  The Jabenises came with us, and were also impressed!

That evening, we went for ice cream, to a popular Venezuelan shop.  Called 4D (cuatro de), it featured very creamy ice cream with unique flavors.

Later, in preparation for the upcoming events, I moved from Casa C. to the Hotel Tamaņaco. 

Today also saw the first time we tried cachapas, which is a Venezuelan specialty, consisting of a corn pancake with white cheese wrapped inside.  Yum!


Today was slow, so I walked around the area of the hotel.  There are two major malls there, I visited them both.  Paseo Las Mercedes was the closest, at a block away.  With 3 floors, it was sizeable, but too many were for just clothing!  Tolon was 5 blocks away, and slightly bigger.  It was also brand new, at about one month old.  Foreign malls do get old after a while, but they are fun periodically.

In the afternoon, my parents arrived.  We went to CCS airport to pick them up, all went well.  Dinner was at the hotel bar, we had bbq pizza.  Later we met my Uncle Marshall and Aunt Judy, along with my Uncle Michael, upon their arrivals.


Andres and the kids and Michael visited the Teleferico today.  This is a cable car that takes you to the top of one of the higher mountains in the city.  The trip up takes 20 minutes, and costs about $5.  The views were fabulous, and we enjoyed the activities on top (walking, eating, playing, etc).  After we were convinced to visit 4D again.

That evening we enjoyed Shabbat services at the local synagogue.  We then retreated to Goldy's casa, where a delicious Shabbat meal was waiting.  The delicacies included 3 different hors d'oeurves, salad, rice, turkey, lomo, and more!


Judy/Marshall, Mike, Sandra/Larry, and myself took a city tour today.  First we went to the Murano Glass Factory to check out the making of the glass art, then we browsed in the store.  Then we stopped at a military memorial, where several figures in Venezuelan military history were highlighted.  Finally we perused the Museum of Contemporary Art.  Many exciting exhibits were featured, especially a special exhibit on Picasso.

The evening had us returning to El Hatillo for the rehearsal dinner at El Jaleo.  About 40 people came to enjoy a delicious Spanish-style dinner.  It featured tapas (small) portions of soup, chicken, shrimp, paella, and more!  Thanks Mom and Dad!  After we enjoyed a flamenco dance show.
As Goldy advised me that toasts are not offered at Venezuelan weddings, we figured that this dinner would be a more ideal time.  So I got toasted, and then, as this was the ultimate occasion, I gave my own.  It was a special poem I wrote to my bride for the occasion.  You can read it here.  I also wrote a song, but I didn't have the chutzpah to actually sing it.


I relaxed today by working out, swimming, sunbathing, shopping, eating, and surfing.  I then moved from my room to Cabana #77.

Around 3, as I was preparing, the film crew showed up to begin documenting the historic event. Gave them a good show, and light memories.  We then took photos outside.  This was the first unofficial time that I saw my beautiful bride.  I was speechless.  But not for long.

We then carpooled to the wedding site, the Hebraica. I signed the Ketubah (after the rabbi translated it for me).  Then I got married!  The ceremony was in Hebrew, Spanish, and English.  Our parents walked us down the aisle.  Goldy arrived wearing a veil.  Since this was supposed to be the first time I saw her officially, per tradition, I lifted the veil to check if it was, indeed, actually Ms. Goldy (shoutout to Rachel and Leah).  It was, so I gave the thumbs-up sign.  The rabbi asked us both the famous wedding question.  My reply was "I do." Goldy's was "Si." Afterwards, we took some more fotos, then joined the reception. 

The party was very high energy!  The band played seemingly non-stop!  As the Head Couple, we were apparently expected to be dancing most of the time.  While this was fun in theory, soon it was necessary to rest.  We barely had time to make a buffet trip!  But it was my wedding, I wouldn't miss my own buffet.  Per tradition, we were lifted up on chairs, danced the Hora/Hava Nagila, performed the garter dance, threw the bouquet then the garter, donned court jester hats, and more!


Today we relaxed, watched tv, surfed, opened some gifts, etc.  Went to Mery's casa for her traditional Chanukah party.  She offered spring rolls, baba ganoush, and more!


Breakfasted at the hotel with both sets of parents. Played tennis with Andres at the hotel (I won 6-2, 7-5).  We then packed, and left on the 6pm flight to LIMA, PERU for our honeymoon!

Arrived on time, were met by Brandon tour representatives, and were taken to the Swissotel.


Embarked on a tour at 10am.  Saw Plaza Mayor (everything must be in yellow), San Francisco Monastery featuring tiles from Seville, Spain, and mass tombs with graves and skulls.

Then we walked independently up and down Conquistador Avenue.  Lunched at Segundo Muelle, a seafood place, where I ordered crab ravioli.  In the evening we went to Larcomar shopping center, in Miraflores, but most places were closed due to Xmas eve.  I was forced to eat KFC.  We wandered around the neighborhood.


This morning we took a taxi to Jockey mall, but unfortunately, most stores were closed.  Were forced to eat at Tony Roma's.  So we took the bus, for a scenic route.  All busses featured a side guy who shouted out routes.  Walked lazily around.  Went back, home early, went to hotel deli and created elote and creamy blended coffee drink.


Flight to Cuzco.  Airport seems so disorganized that Goldy is prompted to comment, "If this country didn't have Machu Picchu, they would be nothing."  I had to agree, that is why most tourists come to Peru.  In Cuzco, we rested for an hour to acclimate to the height of 11,000 feet.  No problems. 

On our first tour, we saw the Plaza de Armas, a cathedral with beautiful, detailed sculptures, and walls, most of which contained some gold.   
Next we saw Saqsayhuman, which is a giant configuration of stones crafted to look like, coincidentally, a sexy woman from the air.  This is where we learned about step architecture, the Inca way of building.  This means that they do not use mortar.  Steps hold the material in place. We also learned that the Cusco flag is a rainbow.  This is, as our guide quipped, because the Incas had great respect for the rain, they were not gay.  Bought CD-ROM of Peru, $8.  Had dinner at a pizzeria, enjoyed cream of corn soup, ham/salami/onion pizza, and an Inka Kola, all for $16!

Walked around Cusco some more.  This city is home to about 10,000.  Biggest industry is tourism.  It was the original ancient Inca capital of the world.  The most conspicuous part are the orange roofs.  The streets are narrow, and there are plenty of little shops and vendors.  Had a blast there!


Yesterday we were given a pass with 16 destinations on it.  At each place we visited, a hole would get punched.  The entire pass cost a ridiculously low $10.  Today we went to the remaining destinations.  These included mostly museums.  Ate at Bagdad cafe.  This place, which was unrelated to Iraq, featured a balcony on the town square.  We also ate llama meat (after a palta (avocado) salad.  It tasted similarly to lamb, but stronger.  Shopped some more, ate empanadas for dinner.


The suspense continues to build towards Machu Picchu.  Our tour bus picked us up at 8:30,  First stop was the town of Pisac, where they had another huge market.  Bought some music CDs (about $6 each), and an Inca Kola t-shirt.  Then went to Urubongan.  This was a huge site of ruins with hundreds of steps, terraces, paths, and incredible views.  The mountain featured a natural formation of the sun god. 

Returned to the hotel at 5:30.  We were in the remotest place tonight.  There was a playground next door, some kids were playing soccer, others on the equipment.  I played on the see-saw with some local kids, the photo is on the photo page.  Tonight we read, played ping-pong, rested, etc.


Were driven to train station.  Except it was being rebuilt, so the station was a bare piece of land by the river!  Train ride was almost 90 minutes.  We arrived at Aquas Calientes (hot springs).  Registered at the Machu Picchu Inn.  Problem:  This room, like the last, had two single beds!  Went to bus stop at base of mountain.  Trip up the mountain was scary, many cliffs and sharp turns, took 25 minutes.  Had buffet lunch upon arrival. 

We were finally at Machu Picchu!  Our guide was Nilo. Our group was just 6.  We entered ($20) and were mesmerized.  The 2-hour tour included:

Took the scary bus trip back, ate at the hotel.  Was a not-impressive meal of chicken, soup, and fries.  Walked around. 
Our room's window had no screen.  A butterfly came in!  We spent some time trying to shoo it out. 


Got up at 7 to visit MP again!  Got there at 9.  Today our visit featured:

Ate lunch at Indio-Feliz, one of the better restaurants.  Had quiche, chicken.

Caught 1:20 train back to non-existent station, got picked up and driven back to Cuzco (total 3.5 hrs).  Ate dinner at a mideast place, a falafel/gyros wrap.


Flew back to Lima.  Relaxed at hotel, then went on tour at 3.  Saw Larco Herrera Museum. This one contained mostly ancient sculptural ceramics.  These people left behind detailed descriptions of their culture in this format.  Their erotic collection is also notable and worth seeing.  We were then driven around, and dropped off at an Indian market.  We shopped.

We ate dinner at the hotel, at their fondue restaurant.  Goldy was worried about the Peruvian drivers on New Year's Eve, so we stayed in.  Watched celebrations from around the world.


Flew back to Caracas.  Did some laundry, relaxed, caught up, went to Crystal Ranch for dinner, had beef. 


Relaxed some more, shopped, caught up, surfed, did errands, ate at French restaurant.


Got early start to drive to Porta Azul.  Made it around 10.  Enjoyed the beach for 3 hours, the sand, the ocean, the pool, the high dive, the kids, etc.  Flew back to Chicago.

Ready to start our new life!

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