Four days might not seem much to cover in a blog post, especially when two of them were virtually spent travelling - but when a weekend is as packed as ours was - and there are 400 photographic pieces of evidence owned by me alone - then the task is not as easy as it seems. Hence the reason it has taken me this long to write!
This is the story of a road trip, a town steeped in history, a huge Italian wedding and some traumatised alpacas ~ enjoy the ride...
THE ROAD TRIP
Last time we took this road trip, we didn't really know where we were going so we were kind of kept occupied by the 'unknown'. This time, we all had a bit more of a restless trip, although the drive back home wasn't too bad. We also had DVD trouble (and therefore a delay) when leaving on both ends...we weren't silly enough to travel 6 hours each way with Thomas and Daniel and no technological entertainment, so we made sure we had everything sorted out before leaving (insert lots of frowning by Sam at both points)!
We left Samuel at home with my in-laws and although we missed him terribly, we were thankful he did not have an opportunity to leave his mark on Griffith. I can only imagine the sorts of tantrums he would have unleashed - it was a long and tiring weekend even for us.
Apart from times when we were stuck behind slow moving trucks, it was an easy drive...endless roads, endless wheat fields, endless vineyards and endless orchards.
|Maybe one day we'll get a caravan and drive across Australia...|
|The service centre at Yass is a highlight. It's the place where we meet up with |
fellow travellers, make our pit stop and refuel our cars and stomachs.
|One of my favourite photos|
Griffith has a population of some 16,000 people but is still beautifully country to its core. Sam and I are both drawn to places like this which are completely laid back. Sydney can do your head in sometimes (and we don't even live in the city)! Here's an interesting fact for you - the first set of traffic lights were only installed in Griffith in February 2010 (yes, last year)!
Today, Griffith, nestled in the Riverina region, is known for its beautiful local produce and great wine. But for many, thanks to television series like Underbelly, it will always be a reminder of the drug trade and organised crime allegedly prevalent there in the past. I wanted to take photos of anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay's furniture shop and the newly erected bust of him on the main street, but it kind of didn't feel right. So for those who were curious about all that business last time, guess you will have to visit for yourself. Just remember, Underbelly was a TV series and not everything in it can be taken to be gospel truth.
THE MAIN EVENT
The reason half the Italian population was in Griffith on the first weekend in December was to see my cousin Roy marry his sweetheart Nicole. Now, for those who don't know, Nicole comes from one of the largest and most well-known families in the Riverina district. Italians are traditionally from large families and we are all used to very large weddings (I think I had about 450 at my own), but this wedding was something else entirely. We knew it was going to be huge and we prepared ourselves to be bowled over by it.
|Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Griffith.|
For a wedding this big with so many out of town guests, you would expect panic stations galore. But true to their country setting, the main players were remarkably calm and relaxed. The groom and quite a number of guests had a big party/BBQ/drinking session the night before the wedding and the female contingent of the groom's immediate family all gathered for a Chinese meal at the local leagues club (where my boys ran riot). Even on the morning of the wedding, the bride and her gorgeous bridal party (8 bridesmaids and 2 flower girls!) were ready early and sitting about relaxing waiting for official business to get underway.
|Half of the beautiful bridal party...|
We rushed madly back and forth between make-up appointments at one end of the street to hair appointments at the other end (two different hairdressers as well). And in between? Well, we were searching for shoes for one of the flower girls - yes, on the morning of the wedding! My niece Alessia is from Sydney and the bride had bought her a couple of pairs of shoes but none fit. Luckily, my sister in-law brought a pair of pretty white sandals with her which Alessia ended up wearing when we couldn't find anything else.
The other mild panic attack was over the church readings. A few months earlier when visiting Sydney, Nicole had asked my sister and I if we would read at the wedding and we were honoured. Then we heard nothing more about it and so didn't know if we were reading or not. We asked the groom's mother and sisters the night before the wedding and nobody seemed to know. Finally, at about 11pm it was confirmed that we would indeed be reading. I assumed it would be a small Prayer of the Faithful. It was only mid-morning on the day of the wedding when we learnt that we would actually be doing the First and Second readings!! Thankfully they weren't difficult, although the teacher in me edited my one and then I had a read through whilst sitting in the hairdresser's chair.
|The gorgeous bride and groom|
|Wanted to include this pic because it was the best |
I had of Nicole's dress. A mix of modern and
antique, it was absolutely gorgeous!
|My handsome men with my niece Alessia who |
was gorgeous and brilliant in her
flower girl duties.
Admittedly, a wedding of this magnitude errs towards chaotic more than intimate...but hell, if you wanted to see a huge, happy celebration, a bride and groom partying their hearts out and guests having the time of their life, then this was the place to be and it was a sight and a half to behold! I was sitting up the front - it may have been different for the people sitting way up the back, but the dance floor was full until well beyond 2am and it seemed like everyone was having a great time. The bridal party came prepared - from the bride down, everyone had a pair of thongs that they changed into early in the night.
|The local Yoogali Club was transformed into a gorgeous wedding venue.|
|A beautiful chandelier hung over the dance floor,|
on loan from The Complete Garden Griffith.
Look them up on Facebook -
they have gorgeous homewares!
It was a wonderful night and we really had a great time. A fourteen year old with an enormous and amazing voice entertained the huge crowd (at one stage he was surrounded by children 'hitting' him in jest - a true professional to keep singing through it all). Incidentally, there were apparently 99 children at the wedding! If we had brought Samuel, that would have made it 100! The numbers still blow my mind!
|The groomsmen get into party mode.|
|Roy and Nicole's first dance was accompanied by |
smoke, fireworks and exploding confetti.
|My cousin Rocco (left), visiting from Italy, got into the spirit of the night|
with the groom and one of the groomsmen. We had to tell him this is not the
usual Sydney wedding.
|A special moment between bride and groom on the dance floor <3|
|There were even good old-fashioned streamers, |
which I probably haven't seen at a wedding for
at least 20 odd years! My boys LOVED them :)
|Everyone danced and danced and danced...Here it's the groom's turn with|
his Dad on the far left and father in-law in the centre.
Here in Sydney, once the bride and groom leave (around 11pm-midnight), guests generally also start to filter out and when all the guests have departed, the parents of the bride and groom then leave. Not in Griffith. The bride and groom departed at about 1pm from memory and soon after the parents left - and the guests kept partying! It really was a massive celebration. But for all the partying, and the size of the crowd, there was no trouble.
This was only the second ever wedding reception that my boys have been to. Along with Alessia, they fell asleep on chairs placed together (an Italian tradition in itself) after partying the night away.
Then the next day, whilst Sam and I were still in bed, the boys decided to have an after party with all the streamers they collected! They decked out our apartment and were very excited when Alessia stopped by to say goodbye before she left for home. She insisted on wearing her flower girl dress on top of her clothes - how cute!
We had our own after party of sorts. It is Italian tradition to invite immediate family and out of town guests over for a BBQ at either the bride or groom's parent's house the day after the wedding. Well this BBQ was back at the Yoogali club, stripped of its wedding decorations...and out of town guests and immediate family totalled in the hundreds! People came and went all day, some before making the long road trip home. We rocked up at about 1pm, the same time as the bride and groom.
I have to thank the Madaffari family from Griffith (the groom's mum's family) for being so hospitable all weekend, when all they must have really wanted to do was shut the doors and go to bed once the wedding was over! Pina had us over for a great meal the night after the wedding (and after the lunchtime BBQ)! Special mention has to be made of two dishes ~ Sue's Potato and Butternut Pumpkin Bake (sooooo yum - may I please have the recipe??) and Pina's Fave (Broad Beans - requesting recipe for this too please!!).
The funny thing is that my husband Sam hates fave with a passion. His parents own a small farm and they have always predominately grown broad beans. Sam remembers his mum trying to force feed them to him, his brothers and sister when they were younger...and so he refuses to eat cooked fave! But alas, that night in Griffith they looked a fresh, bright green colour and very yummy and so he decided to give them a go! He loved them! We were all in hysterics knowing he would be in big trouble with his mum.
When we got back I made sure I shared the information :) You would think that owning acreage filled with fave would result in a bank of broad bean recipes to rival the world's best chefs. Unfortunately not. My mother in-law only cooked them the one way and still does to this day. I'm not exactly sure of the recipe but it involves leaving the beans in their skin and mixing them with fennel. The dish doesn't look appealing (owing to it's colour and texture) but I don't mind it too much. However, the key to Pina's dish was the de-shelling of the beans - a time-consuming task that is well worth the effort. Anyway, when I told my mother in-law about Pina's dish and the fact that the skin was taken off the beans and that Sam had enjoyed them...she huffed and puffed a bit and told Sam he was obviously too lazy to chew! LOL she is a proud woman and an amazing cook (as Sam will attest to with anything except fave) but she will never admit that someone else's dish is better than hers.
TRAUMATISED ALPACAS AND A DANGEROUS WHIP
The final part of this post has to belong to my cousin Rocco from Italy. Incidentally, Daniel refers to him as the "boy who speaks Spanish!" Hello! - Dora has a lot to answer for! We visited Frank and Anna's farm again as we did the last time and were excited about seeing the alpacas which had grown in numbers since our last visit.
We all piled into the ute and headed down to the alpaca enclosure.
We should have known trouble had arrived when the boys followed us down there...
Rocco is from a very small Southern Italian village but he works in the city of Milan. We thought he would be fascinated by the cute alpacas. We did not realise that he would go berserk and terrorise the animals and the children!
Our first guess should have been when he wouldn't wait for Domenic to enclose the roaming alpacas and bring a couple out on a lead, as he did last time. Rocco started chasing the alpacas and trying to grab them by the neck as we shouted out to him to be gentle.
|Rocco gets his alpaca for a photo! Shaking my |
head even as I write this.
|Thomas was okay to begin with, but then took a tumble as the alpaca |
wriggled! Quick reflexes meant he wasn't injured thank goodness!
|What in the hell are you doing Rocco?! |
This isn't a horse!!
Once we had regained our composure, we climbed back into the ute so we could be driven back to the house. Francesca, 16 years old and on her L's, drove us back. I received severe head injuries as she ran over a bump in the dirt quickly and my head smacked against the door...Only kidding, Francesca!! I was A-okay! Very, very funny though :)
|Love this picture from the farm...|
|...and this one too.|