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Honeymooning On The Italian Riviera

by | Destinations, Honeymoons, Reviews, Where To Stay


Bec Lawrence


Image Via Five Star Alliance

Italy is known for fabulous foods and an amazing culture but the country does have one secret – The Italian Riviera. Along the Rivera are fishermen towns, colourful buildings and a life of luxury that is now about to be uncovered. Let’s take a look at what a honeymoon on the Italian Riviera could look like.

First let’s visit a place known to the rich and famous, a fishing village named Portofino. Portofino is located inside the province of Genoa, a place known for its beauty and picturesque harbours.

A place to stay:
Belmond Hotel Splendido and Splendido Mare is located within walking distance of Portofino’s centre. If you’re looking to splurge and live the life of luxury for a little while this is definitely the place to do so.

The hotel itself is fully equipped to keep you entertained with a pool (that has the most picturesque view), a fitness centre with personal trainers, a private motor boat and a shuttle service to drive you between the two hotel premises. If you’re a foodie you’ll be pleased to know the hotel has three restaurants, a piano bar and a pool bar.




Images via Five Star Alliance

Staying close to Portofino can be costly but there are some beautiful locations not far from the centre that are just as wonderful. A fifteen minute scenic car ride from the town centre will take you to Hotel Best Western Regina Elena. Not only does the hotel have a private beach but a rooftop pool and hot tub where you can take in the views of the beautiful coastline.

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Images via Best Western Hotel Regina Elena

What to do and see:

Being a coastal town there are plenty of activities in and around the water to keep you cool and entertained on your trip. Outdoor Portofino runs a range of activities from kayaking to snorkelling. The company also offers land activities if you’d rather stay dry. These include Nordic walking and orienteering which will teach you about the territory.

If the idea of snorkelling tickles your fancy you should check out the Christ Statue of Abyss. Portofino holds the original bronze statue which was built and placed in the Mediterranean Sea in 1954. The statue represents Christ raising both his hands and head toward the sky offering a blessing of peace.

Christ of the Abyss Portofino

Christ of the Abyss

Images via Outdoor Portofino

Castello Brown is a historic site which holds a perfect view of the Portofino Piazzetta. The castle was created in the 15th century and was used as a site to defend the harbour. In 1961 the castle was sold to the city of Portofino and has since become a house museum.



Images via Castello Brown

With spectacular scenery and the sparkling sea, the Italian Riveria is a glamorous destination for newlyweds looking for romance!

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Ms Chinoiserie Says: Picture postcard perfect; I can see myself dining by the turquoise sea taking in the view! Just beautiful!

Polka Dot Honeymoons Directory Mid Banner

Kiri & Damien’s Santorini Destination Wedding

by | Honeymoons, Inspired Destination Weddings, Inspired Weddings, Location Europe


Polka Dot Bride

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Kiri & Damien

The bright white and sky blue of Santorini’s buildings are always a dream to pour over and when they come with a wedding, it’s the perfect escape! Kiri and Damien chose a Santorini destination wedding as they tied the knot and they soaked in every bit of the city’s beauty with photographer Vangelis Photography.

Kiri tells the story of how she and Damien met. “Damien and I met at rooftop pool club in Sydney and he somehow convinced me that he managed the PR for the entire complex and could get me a free membership therefore obtaining my number from the form I filled out (which actually was a real membership form!). I forgave him and the rest was history.”

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Kiri and Damien worked with wedding planner Manto Theochari, Santorini Bliss Weddings. “Wedding planning isn’t an easy thing, especially from another country although it helps to have experienced help, so Manto my wedding planner did very well with communicating with the local vendors and organising all of the fine details.”

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Kiri’s best friend Bianca Linton Couture made her wedding gown, the bride remembering, “After graduating Fashion Design with my best friend who specialised in bridal couture, I only wanted her to create the perfect dress for me.

Although she lived on a super yacht in Europe (and I was pregnant) which made it a little more challenging than usual,  she created the most beautiful boho inspired dress. It was a backless halter design with the bodice embellished with french lace and silver hardware. We kept the waistline slightly higher at the front to accommodate my small bump and then the waves of silk cascaded down to the ground with a gorgeous lace scalloped hem and train.” Kiri’s bridesmaids wore white dresses from Carla Zampatti.

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“We had the bridal party walk from La Maltese to the church accompanied by traditional Greek music played by a father and his two sons. It was truly a special addition, it fit so perfectly into the scene. When we arrived at the church our guests all joined in with us and we must have danced in the courtyard for at least 20 minutes!”

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The destination wedding came to life at Anastasi Church in Imerovigli. The bride explaining, “In 2010 Damien and I travelled to Santorini together when we were first dating and stumbled across a beautiful intimate wedding in a little church on the caldera and promised each other if we ever got married it would be there, so we tracked it down a few years later and it was the Anastasi Church in Imerovigli. It had a nice courtyard out the front which our guests gathered and all had a little dance before the ceremony. The service was in Greek and very traditional which is what we wanted.”

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Of the ceremony, the bride remembers, “The ceremony was so stunning and intimate. The church was very small so we were all standing together huddled around. It was a lovely feeling having everyone so close as if we were all going through it together. And then to catch me as I fainted twice! You can only imagine how hot it was in there!”

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Of their photographer, Kiri notes, “Manto our wedding planner recommended Vangelis Beltzenitis of Vangelis Photography and said that he was the best that she knew and we were blown away. He was so professional and efficient and wasn’t afraid to get into the thick of the action (like climbing onto rooftops!) The photos are just amazing. He captured the day so well and now we have those memories forever.”

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La Maltese Estate hosted the rooftop reception, Kiri noting, “We chose to hold the reception at La Maltese Estate in Imerovigli only a few minutes walk from the church, where we had our families staying for the week. It’s a luxurious boutique resort with a large open air area next to the pool which overlooked the spectacular views of Santorini so to us we couldn’t have picked a better place, it was just what we dreamed of. The staff were so lovely and felt like part of the family.”

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“We made our own bonbonneire because we wanted something really meaningful. We painted sweet love words onto pebbles we found on Santorini beaches and put them into small handmade bowls along with gold and silver candied almonds and a bougainvillea flower (which you see everywhere in Santorini).”

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Kiri tells, “We didn’t have a traditional ‘first dance’, instead we chose ‘Love Generation’ by Bob Sinclar as our song to introduce the bridal party which was so perfect because it’s such an uplifting song it had all of the guests dancing with us. It was truly a magical moment as the sun set into the ocean our night had just begun.”

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This wedding cake, by Petran Art , was not just a wedding cake, but also an announcement that the newlyweds were expecting a sweet baby girl. Kiri remembers, “One week before the wedding Damien and I found out that we were expecting a baby girl so we kept it a secret except for telling the cake maker who made the inside of the cake pink so when it was time to cut the cake we would announce it. It was so hard keeping it from my mother and sister and the expression on their faces was priceless.”

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“Damien wanted plenty of entertainment so we had traditional Greek dancers perform, fireworks and my favourite was when one of my very closest friends who is a singer surprised everyone by performing two songs. She sang ‘At Last’ by Etta James and then some Earth Wind and Fire which got everyone up on the dance floor again! It was just beautiful.”

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Kostas Georgatzoglou captured this joyful film of the wedding day.

Congratulations Kiri and Damien! Thank you for sharing the stories of your day with us! Thank you also to Vangelis Photography  for sharing today’s wedding!

Photographer: Vangelis Photography / Cinematographer: Kostas Georgatzoglou / Wedding Planner: Manto Theochari, Santorini Bliss Weddings / Styling, Favors: Santorini Bliss Weddings / Bride’s Dress: Bianca Linton Couture / Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo / Bride’s Veil/Hair Accessories: Johanna Johnson / Groom’s Attire: Daniel Avakian / Groom’s Shoes: Bruno Cannes / Groomsmen Attire: Daniel Avakian / Bridesmaid Dresses: Carla Zampatti / Bridesmaid Shoes: Nine West / Bridesmaid Accessories: Johanna Johnson / Bridesmaid Accessories: Witchery / Hairstylist: Bella Damigou / Makeup Artist: Savva International / Flowers: Santorini Flowers / Invitations & Stationery: Celine Monnoye / Ceremony Venue: Anastasi Church in Imerovigli / Ceremony Officiant: Father Panagiotis / Ceremony Musicians: Organised by Santorini Bliss Weddings / Reception Venue: La Maltese Estate / DJ: Lambros from Multimedia Events / Wedding Cake: Petran Art / Wedding Rings: Damiani / Transport: Rolls Royce Organised by Santorini Bliss Weddings

The Hidden Culture of Aitutaki Cook Islands – The Punarei Cultural Experience

by | Destinations, Honeymoons


Polka Dot Bride

Atituaki Tiki

While the Cook Islands in my memory remains a beautiful blissful country full of aqua blue waters, sandy beaches, and fresh floral hairpieces and of course, cocktails, there was one tour we did on the island of Aitutaki that I came home and raved about. Normally on trips like this, we get to experience a lot of things, but I’m not sure anything has ever moved me so deeply as the Aitutaki Punarei Cultural Tour.

We arrived to our accommodation to find a truck waiting for us, and after a short drive around Aitutaki, our leader and guide  led us to an open field and asked us to pick a leader. It was explained that we would have to be welcomed by the tribal leader. Bemused, we went along with it and elected one of our fellow tour members to be our ‘tribal leader’.

Punarei Cultural Experience

Cook Islands Cultural Tour Punarei Cultural Experience

As we drove up a hill towards the village (and the most spectacular view over the coastline I might add) we started to hear chanting and drum noises. We suddenly stopped our chatter and all together seemed to collectively know this tour would be different from the others. Our tribal leader walked up to the warrior and presented an offering, our mock initiation ceremony beginning. The warrior accepted this in peace and then, our guide instructed us to walk through, one after the other and ask permission to enter.

Cook Islands Atituaki Tours

Punarei Cultural Experience Cook islands

Cook Islands Punarei Cultural Experience

Cook Islands Cultural Experience

Punarei Aitutaki Gardens

The Punarei Cultural Experience aims to do one key thing – bring to life the lost culture of the Cook Islands. The story goes that many years ago, a combination of disease and the arrival of missionaries led to the obliteration of 3000 years of Cook Islands’ history. The village is set up as Aitutaki once was. The huts are built based on historical stories and information, the plants representations of the original flora and fauna. All kick started by a local archaeologist Ngaa, the village is as close as possible to what life on the Cook Islands once was.

Punarei Cultural Experience Atituaki

Punarei Gardens

We wander the gardens and learn of the original Cook Islands history, the story that is not told on tourist brochures, or on glossy websites – but is filled with heartache and pain.

Completely immersed in the experience, together we sit at tables and weave the covers for our lunch out of leaves. We’re set to eat traditional Cook Islands fare from an Umukai (underground) oven. We place chicken, pork, fish and pumpkin onto hot black rocks and cover them with our woven covers as well as layers of sand, woven leaves and thick heavy blankets to slowly cook our food.  Next we work to make plates for our lunch out of palm fronds.

Atituaki Cultural Tour

Atituaki Plate WeavingAtituaki Tours

Atituaki Day Trips

Punarei Cultural Experience Review

While the oven is baking our lunch, we’re taken to a Marae, a Cook Islands cultural site. It was destroyed many years ago and through the work of the Purenai Culture tour community has been restored. We learn about the placement of the rocks – each one perfectly aligned with significance to the culture.

Aitutaki Cook Islands Murae

Punarei Cultural Experience Reviews

Murai in Atituaki

The Punarei Culture tour told us a story of pain and destruction, but also one of hope. The cultural team are not revered on the island for shedding light on a part of history that has been wiped out. The artist who carved a replica of the original Aitutaki tiki (their present day tiki is Tangiroa), remains anonymous so as to protect himself, the local schools do not teach of this culture, the greater communities shying away. The Punarei Cultural Experience team’s wish is to bring this experience to tourists so that somehow, someday, the original history of the Cook Islands becomes restored. As funds become available, development continues of this cultural site.

The tour itself is not a one sided silence either, it’s a conversation. We’re welcome to ask questions, to engage and learn, to ask the questions that would be taboo, difficult to answer. The conversation flows freely, our tour guide passionate about everything to do with this forgotten history and passionate about sharing the answers.

Punarei Cultural Experience Ground Oven

Punarei Cultural Experience Lunch

Cook Islands Passionfruit

Cook Islands Food

The team has been busily preparing the rest of lunch as we return to the village – we pull off layers and layers to reveal our steaming hot meat. There are bowls and bowls of freshly prepared tropical salads of breadfruit and taro greens which are served with tropical fruit, roasted bananas – all local produce and traditional fare along with our own Ukamai meat and vegetables. Our afternoon ends in deep conversation as we continue to peel back the layers of this somewhat dark tale.

Atituaki Views

For somewhere as picture perfect as the Cook Islands, the lessons learned on the Punarei Cultural Experience could cast a dim light, but what it taught me, is that the more I travel, the more I want to discover the truth behind the pictures. Tourism is such an odd beast, displaying at times, only what a country wants you to see. This tour brings to light the unspeakable and with that, casts its visitors as ambassadors and speakers of its very important message for the Cook Islands’ people.

The Polkas traveled to the Cook Islands courtesy of Expedia & Cook Islands Tourism. Meitaki for the amazing trip and long lasting memories. Check out my other reviews from our trip : Five Hot Spots In The Cook Islands For Your Wedding, Nautilus Resort, Cook Islands and Unique Sleeps: Aitutaki Escape, Cook Islands & The Cook Islands Bucket List.

Images by The Polkas

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