Month: February 2012

Melissa & Rhys – Kelowna, BC Wedding

I am so happy I got to be a part of Melissa and Rhys’s wedding. They are genuine, sweet and both have such a positive, peaceful energy about them. They had a beautiful, intimate backyard wedding with their immediate family. When they were trying to decide their wedding location, they wondered where they could get married that captured everything that was important to them. They said, “We realized, standing on our patio looking out at the lake, that HOME is were the HEART is, and with that the wedding location was chosen.” It really was the perfect spot with all its rustic charm that included a chicken coop, pond, small vineyard, and garden. When can I move in? We also lucked out with fantastic weather. It was a sunny, warm spring day in the middle of February and it ended up snowing the following morning so the timing was amazing.

Another plus of the day was that Stage Right Etc put their magic to work with the decor and florals. I loved all the colour and the unique mix of vintage and bohemian decor in a modern setting. And the candles… oh my goodness the candles! There were SO many and they created the most amazing romantic ambiance at night. Ria and Danielle are true artists at what they do! I know I’m going to put way too many decor photos in this post because I just can’t help myself. haha.

Melissa and Rhys have an interesting back story. They both grew up in other countries; Rhys is Australian and Melissa spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia (wow!). They met in Canada through Melissa’s brother who was Rhys’s roommate (and soon his best friend) while he was in the country on a one year work visa. Melissa said, “Rhys left sadly a year later when his work visa ran out. We kept in touch when we could and two years later Rhys made a surprise return visit to Canada. At the very end of this 2 month visit we came to realize that our relationship was more than just friends. We had found a connection. We had found genuine love.” Then Rhys sadly had to return to Australia again. They didn’t let that stop them though and after filling out copious amount of paper work, Melissa was able to sponsor Rhys. He moved to Canada and Melissa finally got to keep him! : )

They have filled much of their time together with their mutual passions of world travel, Okanagan outdoor sports like snowboarding, hiking, biking, camping and kayaking among many others. A year ago, they welcomed their beautiful daughter, Mika, into the world. In a surprise turn of events, Melissa gave birth to Mika at their home so it’s only fitting that they added “wedding” to the list of special events that have happened in their home.

Thank you both again so much for letting me be a part of your truly special day!

And to all you other brides out there, Melissa is a very talented hair dresser/stylist in Kelowna who travels on site for weddings! She is a total natural with hair and I love to recommend her! : )

This neat vintage video camera belonged to Melissa’s grandfather’s.The left shot, below, was Melissa and Rhys’s idea and I love them for it. 😀Melissa cracked me up when she starting “whipping” Rhys when he gave her a piggy-back ride.How could I not use the bathtub for a shot? I mean really.I love the owl!This campfire surrounded with little lanterns hanging from the trees that Melissa and her family made together was so lovely!Whisk Cakes made these beautiful individual cakes for each guest. There was even one that said, “We missed you,” for all the members of their family that couldn’t be there because of distance or death.

Wedding Vendors:

Wedding planning/ decor/florals: Stage Right Etc, Kelowna, BC.

Catering: Chris Braun – Sous chef at the Vintage Room (Coast Capri Hotel ), Kelowna, B.C.

Mini cakes: Whisk Cakes, Kelowna, B.C.

Hair: Melissa Dacre, Kelowna, B.C.

Makeup: Bri Stein, Kelowna, B.C.

Melissa’s Dress: Stop Staring Clothing



Trinidad, Cuba

On our last morning in Havana, after having some yummy street vendor pizza for breakfast, we got picked up in the morning by our taxi driver, Rainel. It turned out to be the coolest taxi ride that any of us have ever experienced. Rainel was super cool and he had even made an iPod cord for his 1980’s car so I was able to put on my iPod for the whole 5 hour drive from Havana to Trinidad. He called his car and “international car,” because the engine, brakes, stereo and multiple other car parts are all from different car companies all over the world. Wow- so resourceful!

It was a beautiful scenic drive and I was so hyper and happy the whole drive, looking out the window at all the visual eye candy. We passed rice fields, sugar cane fields, palm tree forests, mango groves…. the list goes on.

We arrived in Trinidad around 4:00pm to discover our Casa Particular (Cuban version of B&Bs) was full, so they found us another Casa Particular nearby to stay at that was just as nice. It’s apparently quite common for Casa Particulars to give rooms up to people who drop by before you check-in so you just have to go with the flow. Part of the adventure!

When we arrived at our Casa Particular, we were greeted by such friendly hosts who warmly welcomed us in and showed us around. I was amused at the very different sounds between our Havana Casa Particular and our Trinidad one. In Havana, there was constant construction noises during the day with a remodeling going on below and in Trinidad there were sounds of chickens, roosters and pigs in the neighbouring backyards. haha.

We dropped our bags and left to explore Trinidad. I was blown away by the colour and vibrancy of Trinidad. Every home was a different colour with equally colourful cars ambling down the streets. We poked around a neat street market as the sun began to set, the warm light spreading over the cobblestone streets like liquid caramel. All the locals were so friendly, interesting and photogenic. It felt like everyone had to have gotten together before I came and was like, “Ok guys, Jessica is coming and loves to take photos. Everyone get to your places! Stand in front of cool walls in awesome poses, wearing colourful clothing. Go!” haha.

It happened to be festival week in Trinidad, which only happens once a year, so we completely lucked out as there was lots of live music and vendors filling the streets. Over the few days that we spent in Trinidad, we made up our days as we went along, much like we did in Havana. We lazed at outdoor cafes eating french fries, ventured down streets we hadn’t seen yet and looked in tons of art galleries (so much amazing art in Trinidad!). We all found art we wanted to buy but were unfortunately unsuccessful in finding and ATM where we could get cash out to buy the art (you can’t use credit or debit cards in stores).

We also experienced some amazing nightlife. One night, we went to an incredible night club in a cave (yes an actual cave) after watching a fantastic live musical dance performance in front of a gorgeous church in the main square. We also got steered in the direction of a local Cuban street party by the owner of a restaurant we ate at. So awesome!! There was a couple blocks completely packed with people, with a bar set up in the middle of the street and music pumping.

Trinidad was my favourite stop in Cuba and I will most definitely return…. Hopefully sooner than later. ; ) I know I have just scratched the surface of all there is to see in Cuba and can’t wait to see more of the country.

Click here to see my Havana, Cuba post.

Rice FieldWe arrive in Trinidad after our long but fun drive from Havana and promptly fall in love with the place.We caught a taxi and had a beach day at Playa Ancon, 12 kms away from Trinidad. The water was so turquoise and I loved the rusty, broken dock.On our last day in the area, we left early and went to the El Nicho waterfalls, past the town of Cienfuegos, an hour away. I was gobsmacked when I caught my first glimpse of the waterfall below. Most stunning waterfall I have ever seen. Wow, just wow. I wished for the millionth time on the trip that I had brought my wide angle lens to Cuba.There were all sorts of cool natural pools to swim in at El Nicho. SO beautiful! I need to go back and spend a full day there to enjoy it to its fullest.

And now, a few shots of Danielle, Dan and I in Trinidad. First up, us on our way to Trinidad from Havana. Bottom left photo: Our taxi driver at a highway sandwich pit stop. Right: Danielle.We happily whiled away many hours in the outdoors cafes on these sloping steps beside the main square. We had the most amazing breakfasts every morning prepared by the casa particular we stayed at. Freshest, most delicious smoothie EVER.Lovebirds, Dan and Danielle. You two make me smile. : )Danielle left; me, right. Thanks for snapping some photos of me too Danielle! I saw SO many gorgeous shades of green in Cuba. Being my favourite colour, I wanted to take this car home with me.Dan was climbing all over the waterfalls. Lol. This dude is fearless!

Havana, Cuba

I recently got back from a 10 day trip to Cuba and man oh man do I wish I could go back already! I went with one of my best friends, Danielle, and we met her friend (now boyfriend) Dan, in Havana. We flew in to Varadero and found a couple of fellow travelers to share a cab to Havana. I was fascinated with the eccentricities of Cuba as soon as we were on the road. Seeing cowboys dressed in what looked like clothing from the 1930’s driving horses and carriages along the highway with beautiful old cars whizzing past them made me feel like I was constantly seeing time machine bubbles into the past. Another odd site that caught my eye was a man standing beside the road, in the middle of nowhere, holding a plate of cheese (apparently it was for sale).

After meeting up with Dan at our casa particular (Cuban version of a B&B)  in Havana, we went off to wander the streets. Dan immediately showed his “awesome travel buddy” status when it became apparent that he already knew his way around and we didn’t constantly have to check a map to navigate. He took Danielle and I to the main squares and I just gawked at the beauty and personality of the city. I loved that everywhere we walked, live Latin music could be heard somewhere nearby. I wanted to photograph every person we passed – everyone was such an interesting character. The crumbling architecture made me think of the song “Let Go” by Frou Frou when she sings, “There’s beauty in the breakdown.”

That night, Dan took Danielle and I across a wide canal to sit on an old stone fortress wall with a view of Old Havana and the Malecon boardwalk, stretching 8 kms down the coast. It was such a beautiful view. After that, we meandered over to a nearby castle and Dan bribed the guard to let us go down and walk around in the dried up old moat. We then headed back to our Casa Particular and hung out on the beautiful rooftop patio, listening to music, talking and dancing.

The next couple days in Havana were filled with exploring and experiencing the amazing ambiance of Havana. I loved poking around the street markets and bought a cool camera from 1945 as well as some neat old photos and a pair of earrings. We checked out a really cool camera obscura high above Plaza Vieja, ate at outdoor bistros with live music, and meandered to our hearts content. With a lack of advertising, chain restaurants, and brand name labels, Havana really felt like its own little world. I’m glad we went in January as it’s apparently normal for it to be 45 degrees in the summer. One cool thing I wouldn’t mind seeing in the summer though is one of the crazy downpours where the streets flood and kids play in the water, surfing on pieces of styrofoam while holding on to the back of buses.

On our last night in Havana, it poured rain for the first half of the evening and we enjoyed it from the rooftop of our casa. The rain poured heavily on the tin roof while sheet lightening flashed outside. I love rainstorms on a warm evening. When the rain died down, we caught a beautiful old taxi with a bright red interior (a 1950’s Chevrolet, I think) to the Casa de la Musica to enjoy a live band. The band didn’t come on until after 1:00 a.m. but we stayed and danced for awhile. Everyone was paired up dancing salsa like professionals and Danielle and I made our way up to the front and did our own crazy dancing. haha. I’m hopeless at learning dance steps and wouldn’t try to out-salsa a Cuban anyways! Not possible. Afterwards, we went back to our rooftop patio, put some music on the portable speakers Danielle had brought (genius Danielle) and danced in the rain puddles on the roof. The night staff at the casa lit candles for us and made us drinks. Our very own DIY Havana nightclub. : )

Our last morning in Havana we had delicious cheap pizza for breakfast and got picked up by our taxi driver Rainel, who had been referred to me by an avid Cuba traveler before I came. I’ll leave off here and continue my next post with our journey to Trinidad, my favourite place we stayed in Cuba. Click here to view that post.


I don’t know if you can quite see it, but the lady below is smoking a cigar while doing her laundry. =)50 cent churros! YumCute little girl doing her best to wait patiently for the above churros.We stayed at a Casa Particular (Cuban version of a B&B) in Havana called Casa Emilio. The rooms were very simple but the cool lounge and our awesome rooftop patio made this place a winner in our books! Also, the food was awesome!Danielle (left) and I (I was having a bad hair day, ok? Cuba is humid! haha).Left: Dan & Danielle. Right: Random person checking out Danielle’s tattoos. This happened constantly and was highly amusing. 😀 Cubans found Danielle pretty fascinating! Tall, beautiful, blond and covered in tattoos – she stood out a mile away! haha.

Oh, Dan and Danielle. I love you guys. Traveling with these two was so incredibly fun. They have the best love story ever! I am not going to do it justice so I will just give the quick version. Twelve years ago, they were each others first kiss. They kept in touch over the years and really started to reconnect a few months ago (pretty sure they kept Skype in business in that time). Dan has been traveling for the last decade, working as a scuba diving instructor and was not too far away in Guatemala when he decided to come meet us for our trip in Cuba. It was obvious pretty immediately how perfect these two are for each other. It was pretty fun having front row seats to one of my best friends falling in love with a guy who has fast become a really good friend of mine too. I felt like I was watching an awesome romantic comedy the whole trip (where was the popcorn, Cuba?). I mean, just look at that grin on Danielle’s face in the photo below. She’s little-kid-in-a-candy-shop happy. : D I made sure to get lots of photos of these two as I thought it would be pretty special for them to look back on someday.