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Image by Garrett Hill. Nashville: the music city.

Image by Garrett Hill. Nashville: the music city.

One of the great mysteries to me will always be how Las Vegas seems to lure Aussie honeymooners to the USA more than Nashville, Tennessee. I think it comes down to the countless films romanticising the Las Vegas experience, but if it’s a party you’re looking for, Nashville is the place to go. I think the opening line on the Nashville Music City website hits the nail on the head: “You won’t find a city more accommodating, authentic and accessible than Nashville.”

And the music scene? “Second to none.”

What to eat

We could probably just do a whole article on ‘what to eat’ in Nashville – music may be the star here, but the cuisine is close behind!

Let’s talk barbecue. There are so many options in Nashville and you’ll find they all have lines to get in – so get there early. Check out this list from the Nashville Eater for a few options, but my fave is Martin’s Bar B Que. These peeps put a “fresh hog” on the pit each day, leaving it to cook for the next day’s customers. “We believe in the importance of good technique and doing things the right way,” the Martin’s Bar B Que team says. From ribs to chicken, whole shoulders and sides made from scratch, you can’t go wrong.

What to drink

I was more than a little sceptical about the ‘Bushwacker’ – which I kept seeing signs for at every bar I went to. For starters, something called a ‘bushwacker’ in Australia is not exactly appealing. So what is it? Basically, it’s a boozy thickshake and in the Nashville sunshine, it really hit the spot.

I tried to find out what was in it, but I got that coy local response of ‘it’s a trade secret’. After a bit of research, I found out they’re usually rum based (but you can get whiskey too) and naturally, they feature milk and/or ice cream. Just trust me, get one.

But wait a bit before you get number two!

Image by Paul Brennan. Nashville is a music lover's paradise.

Image by Paul Brennan. Nashville is a music lover’s paradise.

What to do

It would be remiss of me not to mention the music scene, after all, this is the Music City we’re talking about. If you’re feeling chill, you can head to the Johnny Cash Museum or even take in a line dancing class at the Wild Horse Saloon while the sun is still high in the sky.

But Mrs Houndstooth and I waited until the sun went down and then headed out to Lower Broadway in the city’s downtown core. This place was amazing. Every single bar had live music playing. Every. Single. Bar.

It got to the point where we’d stroll down the street and stand out the front of the bar, listen for 30 seconds and if we liked the song and sound of the band, we went in. I’ll never forget heading into a Honky Tonk bar to hear a band play, only to discover they were all the way from North Queensland! If you love live music, Nashville has to be at the top of your list.

Just for fun

I was amazed at the amount of bikes pedalling around the streets of Nashville and I don’t mean hipsters on fixies. I’m talking party bikes! Also known as ‘pedal taverns’, these things are pretty much the most fun you can have riding a bike.

Sitting side by side with fellow Nashville tourists, you help pedal your oversized bike (with someone responsible steering the way) with beer in hand (it’s BYO) and music cranking. It’s a great way to see Nashville while having a few drinks. The Nashville Pedal Tavern has custom,15-passenger bikes with certified tour guides to reveal the secrets of Broadway’s legendary Honky Tonks and Midtown’s Music Row.

About Mr Houndstooth: I am a happily married man. I enjoy a fine whisky, a new suit and swashbuckling around town with my beautiful bride. Looking back on my wedding day always makes me smile, even though it began to rain just as I said ‘I do’.

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Olivia & Mark

If there ever was a place that was ripe for a destination wedding, we’re pretty sure Tuscany would be it. Today, we’re specifically talking about the Italian town of Chiusdino, and it’s stunning Italian villas (14th century!) and historic Abbeys (13th century!) because it turns out? They’re just the most amazing spot to tie the knot Just ask these two Aussie, Olivia and Irishman Mark!

Enlisting the help of photographer Pixel and Halide, the pair planned a fun-filled holiday for their guests (their invitation, of course, worthy for inclusion in The Invitation Issue), all culminating in an outdoor reception under the Italian sky. With seeing their venue only 72 hours before the wedding, and not speaking any Italian, I’m pretty sure these two nailed it (and can we talk about Olivia’s blush pink gown?)

The pair first met at a house party, in the bride’s words “I was taken along to a house party – I almost didn’t go. Mark lived there and was half-heartedly participating in the festivities. I asked him out afterwards and the rest is history.”

Mark popped the question on a romantic picnic. “I was studying for a University assignment one weekend when Mark suggested we go for a picnic to the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane so that I could study outside. Once we got there, Mark waited for a couple of hours, with the ring burning a hole in his pocket, because he knew that there would be no study done once I said yes!”

Carefully considered invitations were packed with information for travelling guests. Of their decision for a destination wedding, the bride recounts “Italy chose us!. We just wanted a destination wedding that would make a nice holiday venue for all those who made the trip. Once we started looking into locations in Italy, it’s beguiling beauty meant that we couldn’t shake the idea.”

“We didn’t have a theme per se, the beautiful postcard-perfect Tuscan countryside provided the vibe and would have outshone any theme if we had chosen one” notes Olivia. “I did carry over the blue and gold detailing from the invitation to the place cards, but they were definitely secondary to the beautiful brickwork, rolling hillsides, olive branches and regional wine.”

The groom, set on wearing a suit, chose an ensemble by Wil Valor.

Olivia opted out of dress hunting, instead, she worked with Suzanne Spicer to create her beautiful blush gown. She shares “I didn’t try on a single dress (too scary/too itchy/too much pressure/too much lace) or venture into a single bridal-wear store. I chose to have my dress made because I knew what I wanted. I was nervous about my decision. These nerves made me second-guess my ideas, but I was well supported and kept steadfast by a lovely, talented dressmaker; the ladies at Fabric Collection with legendary fabric fitness; and my beautiful friend. My favourite part about the experience was playing dress-ups with beautiful silk, and my favourite part of her dress was the pink layer and how the silk flowed and moved.”

Olivia walked down the aisle with her mother to “Ave Maria” by Schubert. “We had a different idea of what we wanted” explains Olivia. “But the gentleman who was hired to play let us know what song would ‘create more feeling’; we chose to trust his expertise and are glad we did.”

“The ceremony was held at Abbey San Galgano; it’s a roofless gothic style XIII century ruin of a monastery,” remembers Olivia.

Siena Flowers styled the floral details of the day. “Simple greenery decorated the tables” remembers Olivia. “The only other flowers were my bouquet. The groom had sent, via email, a rough idea of what I wanted. It turned up on the morning of laden with beautiful, chubby peonies and then I never wanted to put it down!”

And of course, what better to serve up at an Italian wedding than gelato? Gelato Frullalla coming to the party for delighted guests.

“One in a million. A tireless artist, cheerleader and friend” tell the newlyweds of their photographer.

Tenuta Di Papena hosted a beautiful outdoor reception for the newlyweds The bride telling “We wanted a reception venue that family and friends could stay at. Tenuta Di Papena is a converted XIIII century monastery that is not only beautiful but also had room for family, was close to other accommodation, and is a short drive from what turned out to be a beautiful venue for the ceremony. The team was so supportive and even helped us complete all the paperwork!”

“I’m sure it is particularly difficult for any bride and groom to choose just one favourite moment”  notes Olivia. “We were particularly moved by how many family and friends made the long journey to Italy to celebrate with us.”

For their first dance under the Italian sky, the newlyweds chose The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love”. “We are not and will never be good dancers” explains Olivia

A big congratulations to you both Olivia and Mark! Thank you for sharing your beautiful day. Thank you also to Pixel and Halide for sharing today’s celebration.

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Photography by Carolina 

You’re invited to an Italian honeymoon with an itinerary we loved! You’ll be able to check off some of the popular sights in Europe as well as explore some of the hidden gems. It’s the perfect escape for the European Summer or Spring. Here’s a list of our hot spots and what to see and do while you’re there. 

Rome

You can fly into Rome from most major airlines and it’s a great place to kick start your honeymoon. Transportation to any city is easy from Rome. Jump on a plane, catch the train or take the scenic route and opt for a bus trip. Within Rome itself, it’s easy to get around by foot and often better as you can explore the cobblestone streets as you walk to your destination. 

Image via Bec Lawrence Greenhalgh 

What to see and do:

  • The Colosseum is obviously a must for everyone 
  • The Trevi fountain is iconic and not to be missed. Make sure you toss a coin over your shoulder, legend has it you’ll return back to Rome. 
  • Villa Borghese is a great place to escape the fast pace of the city though it’s only a short walk away from the Trevi Fountain. Explore the gardens, museums and spend the day enjoying the sunshine.

Perugia

Perugia is the perfect hub for exploring the surrounding towns in the Umbria region. Just a short train or bus ride away, you’ll find Assisi and Spello, making for an easy day trip of exploring. 

 Image via Bec Lawrence Greenhalgh 

What to see and do:

  • Casa Del Cioccolato Perugina is a must for any chocolate lover. We were lucky enough to have a private tour where we wandered the factory, learned the history and of course were able to taste the chocolates being produced. We recommend booking this activity in advance.
  • Museo-Laboratorio di Tessitura a Mano Giuditta Brozzetti is a traditional textiles laboratory. Witness a family tradition still take place in today’s modern world as Marta demonstrates the different weaving techniques. Greeted by two cheerful pooches we were able to hear stories on the history of the laboratory as well as purchase a little keepsake at the end.

Image via Bec Lawrence Greenhalgh 

Florence

Florence is another bustling city with plenty to see and do. You’ll find most tourists gather at Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge you’ve seen in many photos or below the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. There’s a reason many of the 17 million tourists gather in this area and in part it’s because of the number of cultural attractions to be seen.

Image via Bec Lawrence Greenhalgh 

What to see and do: 

  • The views of Florence from the Duomo are stunning! Join a tour group to maximise this experience and climb the 463 steps of the Duomo. We expected the walk to be difficult but it was surprisingly easy with a few stops along the way to learn the history of the art and creation of the Duomo. 
  • You must take part in a cooking class while in Florence. There are a number of offerings depending on what meals you’d like to learn and what time you prefer to cook. Our cooking class was one of the highlights from our trip, we still make the same pasta at home now!

La Spezia

La Spezia is a good base if you’d like to explore Cinque Terre but don’t have the budget to stay in the area. The first of the five towns is less than a five minute train ride away so I’d recommend getting a single or two-day train pass and exploring each town that way. 

Photography by Carolina 

What to see and do: 

  • Cinque Terre is what draws most tourists to this region. The five seaside villages are famous for the brightly coloured houses the latch on to the steep hillsides. The five towns that make up Cinque Terre are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. We splurged a little and participated in a honeymoon photoshoot during our stay and cannot recommend the experience enough. 
  • Portovenere is often forgotten about because of the hype Cinque Terre receives. Whilst we were only there for a day trip Portovenere is one of our favourite towns in Italy and you could easily spend more than a day exploring the little alleyways and seaside views. 

Portofino 

What better way to finish off your honeymoon than in the village of Portofino. Enjoy an aperitivo just as the rich and famous do and spend the day shopping in the high-end boutiques that line the street.

Image via Bec Lawrence Greenhalgh 

What to see and do:

  • Take the hike up to Castello Brown, a 16th century fortress, to view the seaside village from above. The coloured buildings that line the harbour look even prettier from up here.
  • The Portofino Lighthouse is a nice walk after you’ve reached Castello Brown. Take in the views of the dark blue ocean and enjoy a light snack or beverage at the Lighthouse Lounge Bar.

Ms Zebra Says: Ahhh I’m in love with Italy and could eat their food all day, every day! This is a great itinerary to maximise your time in Italy. Thanks Bec for the wonderful recommendations.
About Bec Lawrence: I’m an animal lover, sustainability advocate and natural landscape enthusiast. On a good weekend, you’ll find me hiking with my two adorable beagles and my equally adorable husband.