The Big V…Part 2!

So after that last trip to the US Embassy that left me physically sick I was hoping they were a thing of  the past! But becoming Mrs Richter meant I had to get a new passport and with that a new visa. So sadly a trip to the US Embassy was back on the cards! Yep scary times were back! This was the part of getting married that I was definitely NOT looking forward to! But it had to be done if I wanted to go back to Atlanta and to the German! So after filling in the relevant forms online I booked an appointment for an interview – I was nervous doing this never mind the actual interview and it was just 4 days away….ARGH!!! Oh and it was at 8am, that meant an overnight stopover in London to make sure I didn’t miss it!

Ma Cook decided to come with me so we booked train tickets and a hotel room (sadly it wasn’t within walking distance of the Embassy – they were just too blummin expensive!!) and prepared ourselves for our trip to the big smoke! Ma Cook wanted to take 2 pairs of shoes along with a selection of tops for just one night – I soon made sure she narrowed it down so there was enough room for my stuff in the suitcase!

Tuesday morning came around and we headed to the train station with our little wheely suitcase, my brand spanking new shiny passport (that I got the week before after a trip to Liverpool for the day that left me £128 lighter!!!) and the essential paperwork for getting that all important visa that would get me back into the US of A!! I was already getting nervous.

We made it to London and found our hotel just off High Street Kensington but we couldn’t check in yet – our room wasn’t ready. This meant leaving the suitcase with that aforementioned all important paperwork in. Now I’m not saying the hotel would have rifled through my case, not at all! But I certainly didn’t want that to disappear! So I made sure it was padlocked in before we trotted off for a look around London!

But I wasn’t really feeling it…especially after we strolled past the US Embassy! I already had visions of my last trip and the 3 HOURS I spent nervously picking my nails and hoping for a big fat yes! It did not make me feel good at all!!! But I plodded on, in a feeling kind of sick mood, and went to see if Liz was in at Buckingham Palace (turns out she was, the flag was up!) checked out the shops of Oxford Street and the lights at Picadilly Circus before heading back to the hotel, having some food and attempting to sleep! This was the tough bit, I was worried I was going to miss my alarm, sleep in and ruin my chances of a new Big V!

But 6am came round though and the alarm went off…it was time to go, well once I’d had a shower and stuff! I don’t think turning up with a bed head, morning breath and my pjamas on!! I smartened myself up and picked up this…

Don't lose it!!

Don’t lose it!!

Yep it’s that all important paperwork!! We jumped into a cab and headed to the US Embassy where I joined the end of the visa queue, full of others with all important documents like mine, all wanting a visa but for all different things! By this time it was 7:30am, I was half an hour early but we were allowed to go in! I was kind of used to this now, I’d done it before! They checked my documents, sent me through security (where I had to take my belt, watch and necklace off to prevent me beebing!!) and headed inside for round 2. We were ON!

The lady on reception checked my documents (again!) scanned them and stuck some stickers onto them, then once again told me to head up the stairs, take a seat and wait for my  number to be called. Last time I did this, as you all know, the room was so full there was nowhere to sit. This time though, thanks to an early morning appointment the room was practically empty! RESULT!! I was hoping this meant a quicker trip in and out, less nail picking and less stress. Here’s hoping! I sat down with my number (This time it was E951) and my new friend I’d made in the queue – she was an air hostess needing to renew her work visa!

We sat chatting for awhile until 8am came around and the numbers started to be called. Not mine, not mine, not mine, not mine…MINE!!! I think it must have been about 20 minutes – a HUGE improvement on the hour and a half spent waiting at my last visit! Now I kind of new what to expect, this wasn’t going to be my interview and they were just going to take my documents. Not the scary part! So I headed on up to window number 15 and did my stuff! It was a lovely lady who congratulated me on my wedding, took my stuff and told me to sit back down, fill in the blue form to get my passport returned if I’m successful and wait for my interview – the scary part!!!

Now the nerves were kicking in. What if they said no? I’d be married with a husband living and working in American and me stuck in England! Not the best way to start married life! Anyway I waited, chatted with my new Embassy friends and then…E951 to window number 23. This was it. Interview time. Eeeeek!! So off I went and behind the window was a lovely American man who had a picture of the German’s visa in front of him. I said hello with a friendly smile on my face and waited for his questions…

‘So this is your husband then?’ pointing to the picture of the German. ‘Yes’ I replied. ‘How long have you been married?’ he asked. ‘Three weeks’ I replied. ‘How long have you been together? he asked. ‘3 years in October but I knew him as a friend before that.’ I replied. ‘What does he do?’ he asked. ‘He sells frozen cakes. His job is to build up the business and get them into the major supermarket chains’ I said showing him a letter from the German’s work stating how long he’d worked there and that I was now his spouse. Then he went silent. This was it. Decision time. I waited for a couple of minutes, well it felt longer than that, and then heard the words…’I’m going to issue your visa.’ YES!!!! I was back in the country!!!!! Woooooooooooo!!! I was armed with pictures of the German and I throughout the years and our wedding day after my last visit but this guy wasn’t interested in them and didn’t even ask!! Slightly disappointing after I’d gone to the trouble of printing them all off!!

But off I skipped to pay for it (yep another $105 to add to the $270 it cost to set up the interview!!) took it back to the window, walked out with that blue sheet of paper and paid to get my passport back!!! The American dream is continuing with a new name, passport and visa!!! But this also means my days as a temporary lady of leisure may soon be over…getting married and getting a new visa means I am now allowed to get a job. And the German isn’t letting me pass the opportunity up! He’s already been onto the lawyer to get me a work permit!

Exploring: The Florida Keys, FL

That we didn’t actually eat whilst in the home of the good stuff the Florida Keys!! I know – we’re useless! So this was the next and final stop on our Florida road trip – sad times I know! We planned to stay for just the one night and then start the loooong journey back to Atlanta with a stop off on the way but that didn’t actually happen and this is why…

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Yep it was bloody lovely!! We rocked up at the hotel that we’d booked for one night – the Hilton in Key Largo and it was AMAZING!!! Yeah it was an old hotel but it literally had everything!! You didn’t need to leave it at all!! It had swimming pools, 2 beaches, a basketball court (Jannis was majorly impressed with that one!!) tennis courts, table tennis tables, a restaurant and everything else you could need on a holiday including one of those beach bars with a single barman like the one in the film Cocktail! At one point it felt like we were in a film, especially when one loud and slightly tipsy American bloke was getting the rest of the drinkers to chant the barman’s name!! Classic!! We were amazed and after literally 2 minutes in our rooms we were out exploring our new surroundings! Oh and we’d already wished we’d booked for 2 nights!

Off we trotted and discovered the swimming pools but decided to take a little stroll to the beach! We started out on the small beach simply because it was the first one we found, and had a little paddle in the clearest sea ever!!! You could literally see all the little fishes in the bottom and at one point some jellyfish – this actually scared myself and Melanie but we were brave enough to dodge them!! Then we took a stroll to explore the larger beach and it seemed this was where it was at!! We spotted the table tennis tables and the very competitive Jannis tried his luck against the German and Melanie but sadly wasn’t victorious! Here’s a pic of them in action…

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I went up against the German but failed miserably! For some reason he won’t just play nice and has to try to spin the ball and hit it in fancy ways! In the end I gave up and purposely lost!! He always has to be big and clever!! We also found a game that had 2 wooden boxes with a hole in and bean bags! The aim was to get the bag in the hole. We played couple against couple and the Cook-Richters (as we were then!!) were victorious on 2 occasions – much to Jannis’s disappointment! Sorry Jannis! It was purely a game of luck though and Jannis and Melanie were close to winning in just about every game!!

So after our afternoon of relaxing and making the most of our new surroundings we decided to see if we could stay for a second night but sadly this wasn’t to be – it was fully booked. Boooooooooo!!! But all was not lost – we found another place just down the road! Result!!! So the following morning we packed up our stuff (AGAIN!) and drove a whole 5 minutes down the road to our new apartment!! Then we decided to explore more of the keys and headed down Overseas Highway towards Key West. And we saw some amazing sights along the way! The sea was so blue and so many different colours, it was so pretty!! Some parts of the road were literally over the sea (hence the name of the road!!) and had no land at either side a little bit like this…

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I think it has to be the prettiest drive I have ever been on! You NEED to drive down this road if you’re ever in the area – it’s not to be missed!! Check out this beaut – one of the many pics I tried to take whilst driving along – therefore you need to excuse any car parts that may have made it into the picture – it’s not the easiest way to take a pic!

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We drove for about an hour and a half past a place called Marathon and made it to the Bahia Honda national park. Now this place was supposed to be picturesque so we thought we’d check it out and we definitely weren’t disappointed!! It was beautiful! Pure white sand, clear water and spectacular views!! Here’s just one of them…

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

We had a wander around and took some more pictures before spotting this beast…

WOWZERS!!

WOWZERS!!

He was the biggest lizard I have ever seen!! And despite my fear of all animals I somehow plucked up the courage to get kind of close and take some pics! I don’t know what came over me!!! I just couldn’t believe how big he was!!! He soon wandered off into the distance though – the German missed him completely! I think he was taking pictures somewhere!!

After chilling out in the water for a while we decided to head back to the apartment but not before stopping off at Taco Bell to give Jannis his first taste of the fast food delight!! I wouldn’t say it’s the best fast food in the world  but I would go again!! It wouldn’t be my first choice though! Ha! Later that night we ventured out to find some food and went to a place called Tasters. I think this could have been the BEST food of the holiday!! It was amazing!! You seriously need to check this place out! (Once again food is one of the main elements in a blog post – I really am obsessed with it!!!) So we decided to eat outside and brave the bugs – the only people to do it! We literally had a private dining area with flame lanterns and everything! I tucked into some shrimp and grits (stereotypical southern food!) and it was beautiful…

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The BEST shrimp and grits I’ve ever tasted! And I topped it off with some bread pudding – now this wasn’t just any bread pudding like you’d have over here, it had chocolate swirled in it and tasted amazing!!!! You NEED to try it! We did ask to try some key lime pie (seen as though we were in the keys!) but it wasn’t actually on the menu and when we asked our server where the best one was served she said Publix – the local supermarket!! It would appear you don’t have to go to the Florida Keys to have a taste of the best key lime pie!!

Sadly our Florida road trip was coming to an end…boooooo! And the following morning we loaded up the car and set off on the loooong journey back to Atlanta. We planned to stop off on the way but myself and the German took it in turns behind the wheel and we made it home 12 hours after we started. Our first ever American road trip was over but we’d had an amazing time and it ended with that lovely feeling of sleeping in your own bed!! You can’t beat it!!!

So what will I tell you about next now the trip has ended…well my new status as a wife means I had another trip to the US Embassy this week! Want to know what happened this time? You’ll have to wait til my next post for that one…after I’ve caught up with some of my amazing friends on a hen weekend in Leeds! I see carnage on the horizon but hopefully I’ll survive and be able to string some sentences together to fill you in on my latest Embassy adventure!!

Exploring: Miami, FL

Yes I know my trip to Miami was AGES ago but as you know a lot has happened since then (remember my last post? you know the one where I told you I’d got hitched? Yes? See I told you so!) I’m now taking you back in time, back to that Florida road trip and it’s journey to Miami!! Here goes…

After spotting Gators in the Everglades our road trip took us to where the beautiful people hang out…Miami Beach! Now I’m not sure about the rest of you but as soon as the word Miami enters my head I instantly think of a fair few songs including Will Smith’s ‘Welcome to Miami’ (classic in anyone’s books but of course it wasn’t his best work – that honour always goes to The Fresh Prince rap!!!) and this little beast by David Guetta – I’m in Miami Beach! Yes this became the song of the Miami stop – well for me anyway! I was the only nutter who was singing it all the time!

Now I was VERY excited to be heading to Miami! Before moving to the states it was always somewhere I wanted to visit but never really thought I’d get there, choosing somewhere like LA or New York instead! So you can imagine how I reacted when I realised that we were actually going to stop off there!!! OH YES!!!! It was HUGE idiot style celebrations all round! So after driving for about 3 hours my excitement had grown even more (much to the dismay of my fellow travellers!!!) and this was our first sight of Miami…

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Yes there were palm trees but sadly the sky was full of grey clouds and it was raining…not the best start but hey it was nearly 8pm, the weather over here changes in an instant so we stayed optimistic! It just ruined the we’re about to hit Miami pictures!! (May I also add that I was driving at this point and the German was in charge of pictures…hence why half the car is also in the shot!!) After making my way through the Miami traffic (And at one point possible shouting ‘I don’t know where I’m going!!!’ and getting a little bit stressed!!) we made it to our hotel – remember the one I told you about in the post about the Everglades? Yep we were at the Riviera South Beach and so far it was looking good! Lots of people were milling around and the hotel lobby was lovely!

So we dumped the car outside and headed in where a lovely man began checking us in. He was so lovely in fact that he gave us a free upgrade to the new building so that we could have rooms together! Result! So we got our keys, got our bags out of the car, gave the car to the valet (very American I know!!) and trotted off to our rooms, hoping they were much better than the last one! The first signs were good – the hotel grounds were modern and very nice indeed! Then we got to our rooms and it’s safe to say we weren’t disappointed at all!! They were AMAZING!!!! Check this beast out…

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Modern, bright and very trendy, so much so that the ceiling was bare cement – something Jannis couldn’t get his head around!! There were iPod docks, lovely toiletries and a very comfy bed that was expertly made as you can see! And yes there was some of this action…couldn’t be avoided…

Yes...I am an idiot!

Yes…I am an idiot!

Safe to say we were now happy road trippers as this was now our home for the next 3 nights! Yaaaay!!! So we bobbed inside, got changed and headed on out to sample the nightlife of Miami! The streets of Miami are ace – art deco buildings with neon lights! We took them all in as we headed to a cuban restaurant recommended to us by the hotel and once again we weren’t disappointed! You have to try this place if you’re ever in Miami! It’s called Havana 1957 and is located on Espanola Way – a lovely little street with lots of different restaurants on! The food was beautiful and the cocktails were amazing! Melanie and I indulged in a couple of Mango Mojitos which looked like this…

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Yes we too had no idea what the big sticks were in them but we took one for the team, looked around and spotted someone eating it so we gave it a go…it didn’t actually have a taste so we gave up and stuck with the good stuff – the drink!! After a few more we trotted back to our hotel and sunk into the extremely comfy beds ready for more Miami action the following morning!

Morning came and guess where we were headed – oh yes the beach!!! Our lovely hotel gave us complimentary sun loungers on a the beach along with beach towels so off we went in search of some rest and relaxation!! And it’s safe to say our view for the day wasn’t bad at all…

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Although most of the day was actually spent under the umbrella thanks to that lovely sunburn we picked up in Clearwater! Oh and the water in Miami – you’ll be pleased to hear it was very clear indeed! I think you could see some little fishes swimming in the water and everything!! Miami Beach is definitely a cool place to be! They have the best lifeguard stations ever! They’re all slightly different but still run along the art deco theme – check this one out…

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After the beach we took a stroll through the streets and checked out the art deco buildings in daylight – I loved them!! Each one is different but they all run along the same theme – it’s a little bit like stepping back in time! You feel like you’re in a film or TV series like Miami Vice and can picture the scenes as you’re walking around!!

Oh and here’s a little gem I failed to mention about the hotel…every night it has a happy hour! This means free drinks between 7pm and 8pm and I’m not talking soft drinks! Oh no no! You could have spirits, beer, cocktails…just about everything!! And they were good! So we headed to happy hour before stepping out for another tasty meal…this time at an Italian again on Espanola Way! Cafe Nuvo did us proud! I think I tucked into lobster ravioli – definitely a good choice if you’re heading in that direction!!

Day 2 in Miami saw Melanie celebrate her birthday and if you ask me it’s a pretty good place to do it!! We again headed to the beach to bag some of those freebie sun loungers and soaked up some rays (you’ll be pleased to hear my sunburn was definitely getting better thanks to lashings of aloe vera gel!!) did some reading and generally chilled out! Then it was time to party for Melanie!! We obviously headed to the happy hour and then checked out the Mexican restaurant Oh! Mexico again on Espanola Way! (It would appear we like to try different cuisines from different countries but we like to stick to the same street in Miami!!) It’s another one for you to try if you’re ever in da hood – we tucked into nachos that were loaded with cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream and then went onto things like enchiladas, burritos and quesadillas all washed down with of course a margarita! And yes we did sort out a birthday surprise for Melanie…well I say we…it was actually Jannis!

Happy Birthday!!

Happy Birthday!!

After food was of course birthday drinks!!! And to make our way there we hitched a ride on a Miami Freebee – basically an electric mini bus type thing that will take you from one end of Miami to the other for free – they just want a tip. Now this sounds kind of boring but believe me it isn’t! The driver blasts out some music and hey presto you’ve got a party in an electric car! Our driver chose this little gem for our trip…Daft Punk and Get Lucky! Tuuuuuuune!! It soon became the song of the road trip and random dancing was done by me every time I heard it – again I am an idiot!

But sadly our stay in Miami was about to come to an end…boooooo! But the Florida Keys were waiting for our arrival so it wasn’t all bad!! So the following morning we waved goodbye to our gorgeous hotel rooms, had the valet man bring us the car, packed it up and continued on our merry way…next stop Key Largo!!

 

Wedding Number 1

Right now I’m back in England and I’m supposed to be telling you about the next stop on our Florida road trip Miami but a LOT has happened since then (hence the lack of blog posts!!) and I need to tell you that first! Brace yourselves…it’s along the lines of the big, huge, mahoosive news so it might just shock you! We’ve already shocked others with it!! Get ready…here it comes!!

So as you know the German shocked me with his marriage proposal and of course I said yes! We then started talking about when we’d get married and decided it would be a year or two. We told our families and they were all happy with the news and the thought of a wedding in a year or so! But then the German and I had other ideas…

Nearly 2 weeks ago we jumped in the car and went back to Florida for the weekend, Destin to be precise where there’s white sand, blue sky and lots of sunshine!! We planned to stay for a long weekend, getting there on Thursday and heading back to Atlanta on the Monday. And here’s the bit that will shock you…we also decided to do this…

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Yep we only went and got married…tied the knot…got hitched whatever you want to call it!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! I am officially a wife with a husband and called Mrs Richter!! Does make me feel a little old but I LOVE it!!! Now I suppose you’re wondering why/how it all happened? Well here goes…

So after the proposal the German turned to me and said why don’t we make the most of the place we’re in at the moment – bearing in mind we were heading back to Europe in a month or so – and get married…on a beach…with white sand and blue sky? I thought about it for a moment and of course I said yes! And with a time frame of a month the planning immediately begun!

But we had a problem, our friends were visiting and we were heading on that road trip to Florida! Now the fact our friends were visiting and we were going on said road trip to Florida wasn’t actually the problem – that was fab! The problem was that we needed to get a wedding sorted and fast! We were leaving to Europe in less than a month! Oh and here’s something I forgot to tell you – nobody knew we were planning this!! Well apart from my best friend, Toby’s best friend and Toby’s boss Rob who somehow managed to keep the secret – a mahoosive achievement for him!!

So whilst on the road trip Toby and I were secret squirrels and managed to decide a date and book the wedding! Result!! But we still needed rings, a dress, a shirt for Toby, a hotel and a photographer so once we got back and our friends left we set straight to work!! We had just over a week but Toby found a hotel and a photographer, I finally got an engagement ring a week before the actual wedding along with wedding rings for both of us and within one shopping trip thanks to my fab friend in Atlanta I had a dress and some jewellery ready for the big day! Oh I also got a shirt for Toby too…don’t worry he wasn’t going to be half-naked on his big day!! We were ready to head off and get married…in secret…with nobody knowing!! Sly dogs I know!

So off we trotted and we visited a new state on the way…

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Yep we drove through Sweet Home Alabama (I know you’re all singing that song now, I know I am!!) and after 6 hours on the road we made it to the courthouse in Okaloosa County in Florida where we needed to get a marriage licence before we were allowed to get married the following day! So into the courthouse we went and filled in the necessary forms before trotting out with the legal documents to make us Mr and Mrs Richter! This thing was getting real!!! (Oh and while we were in there a couple got married at the window next to us in literally 2 minutes…I kid you not! They were just in normal clothes and I think they even went in there without the intention of getting married! Talk about doing something off the cuff!!) Anyway back to the story!

So then we headed to Destin, checked into the hotel and checked out where we were going to get married…it looked a little bit like this…well it did look like this, this is the spot we actually got married!!!

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Beautiful isn’t it? I decided it was the perfect spot to say I do! We woke up that morning, looked at each other and said…’We’re getting married today!!!!’ The wedding day had arrived but it wasn’t your typical wedding day! For a start we were with each other – that’s obviously not the norm! We went out for breakfast like normal people on holiday, went to the supermarket for emergency snacks for the German (he’s like a child and gets miserable when he’s hungry!) and I had my nails done – that bit is typical of a wedding day at least!

Then at about 4pm we started to get ready – this obviously took me longer than Toby! I locked myself in the bathroom so the German couldn’t see me because it’s not allowed on your wedding day! The German had no idea what I was wearing, I kept that a secret (Well I think I did, I gave him strict instructions not to go into the spare closet but he wanted a screwdriver one day and forgot the strict instructions! He reckons he’s a boy and was focused on finding his screwdriver so he didn’t see it – I wasn’t so sure!) Eventually I emerged…as his bride! I think he was impressed with the transformation!!

We then walked out of the hotel, got in the car and went to the beach where we met our photographer Larry and the most important person, our minister Mary Lou (Yep I loved the American name too!) This was it…we were getting married!! We wandered onto the beach, found the perfect spot and said our vows! Within 10 minutes we were officially Mr and Mrs Richter and the German was allowed to kiss his bride!!! Wooooooooohoooooooooo!!!!!!!! Best day EVER!!!

Then it was time for photos…here’s a little selection for your perusal…

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Within an hour and a half we’d made it to the beach, got married and had loads of pictures taken! It passed really quickly and seemed kind of surreal but I can asssure you it did happen!! And it was the most perfect wedding ever!! Now it was time to celebrate! We went back to the hotel and cracked open the champagne which resulted in this picture…

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Yes we are idiots! Well myself more than the German! He’s the sensible one of the pair!! After that we trotted out to finish off the celebrations with a beautiful meal at Mitchell’s Fish Market (If you’re ever in Destin (well it’s actually in Sandestin!) you NEED to go there!! AMAZING!!!) The German chose well!

Newlyweds!!

Newlyweds!!

Amazing desert!!!

Amazing desert!!!

But the next day came around and we had the lovely task of informing people of what the secret squirrels that were myself and the German had been up to…oh dear. This I was kind of worried about but we got on with the task and started with the FaceTime calls to Germany. First up Mutter und Vater Richter. We called, put our hands in front of the camera and once they’d realised what we’d done we waited for a second and yay there were smiles!!! Phew!!! Then it was the brothers and sister of Toby, all smiles there too!! Phew again!! Next up was Mum and Dad Cook, except they weren’t in. Balls. So we skipped them and went to my brother and sister-in-law who also weren’t in! But they were heading back from the pub and would be home in 5 minutes! We made the call and there were shocked faces all around but they were happy with the news! The next question was ‘have you told mum?’ Erm no she wasn’t in…the brother replied with ‘oh Lord’ and put his head in his hands! How was this phone call going to go??

After hanging up with the brother we made the call again, and they were in…we sat them down, slowly raised our hands and there was some definite shocked faces…but once they realised nobody else was there they were happy bunnies and pleased to have the German as their son-in-law!! MAHOOSIVE PHEW!!!! Huge relief there!

Now everybody knew – well the important people anyway…it was time to enjoy the rest of our mini-honeymoon! And we did it in style…here’s what we did in pictures – it’s easier than writing and probably more fun for you!!

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Sun, sea, sand and food was the main theme!! And it was ace!!! The best time ever!! But then Monday came around and we had to trot back off to Atlanta, but this time as Mr and Mrs!!!! And when we got back the German carried me over the threshold and everything! Best husband EVER!!!

Oh and what I failed to mention was the reason why nobody went mad when we told them we’d got married…we’re doing it all again next year in Germany! The big wedding day will still happen – we just got the civil ceremony that has to happen before getting married in a church in Germany out-of-the-way in the best way possible!! And it was absolutely perfect!!

So there you have it…more big, huge, mahoosive news for you to digest!! Next up for me is a new passport and another trip to the US Embassy for a new visa – remember the last trip? Yep I’m not looking forward to it much either so expect more blog news from that one!!! Oh and there’s that wedding to plan in Germany next year!! That’s bound to throw up some more interesting posts for your perusal…especially with my German skills!! Busy but very exciting times in the Me, Myself and Atlanta camp!!!