Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Team Online Wedding

Pic 1.jpgNaoya, Ike, Alex, Tyler, Greg

When you're an online poker player, it's not often that you find yourself in a situation that lends itself to formal attire (or pants, for that matter). But on this day Naoya, Ike, Alex, Greg and I were dressed to the nines - the occasion was that big.

We had arrived at the wedding of fellow Team Onliners Andre "Acoimbra" Coimbra and Katerina "Katerina289" Malasidou in style. Each of us had journeyed from all around the world to Sintra, Portugal, and it felt good to be reunited for a common cause.

The wedding was an amazing event and the festivities that unfolded after this photograph was taken will remain vivid - long term memories. However, before I get too far ahead of myself, let me go back and explain exactly how my journey unfolded, because it almost never happened in the first place.

Three months prior to my departure I received the official wedding invitation from Kat and Andre. I was honoured that the engaged couple would think of me as someone that they would like to have as a part of their special day, but given the geographical distance between us I was initially reluctant to go.Whenever you're travelling to another continent there are obviously a lot of travel costs involved as well as big time commitments. I was on the fence about going but as soon as I told my girlfriend the news, and saw her eyes light up at the opportunity to travel with me, I knew that I was going to Portugal.

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My girlfriend and I travelled around The Algarve (stayed in Lagos), Lisbon, and Sintra over the course of our stay in Portugal. Each place we visited was fun and interesting in its own right, but our favorite destination was Lagos. It's hard to beat the stunning beaches and relaxed atmosphere of The Algarve.

To access some of the world-renowned beaches that we visited, you had to walk down some massive staircases because they were at the base of tall sandstone cliffs. I joked that if you weren't in beach shape when you first arrived, you would be once you got done with those stairs!

pic 3.jpgTeam Online... online

In Lagos we stayed in a quaint apartment complex that featured very large rooms, a kitchen and an oasis-like pool. The apartment was in-between the town of Lagos and the beaches, so it was ideal for us in terms of where we wanted to spend our time. It even came with free Wi-Fi and I was able to play the Team Online Freeroll from my iPad! I think I bubbled...

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The next stop was in the city of Lisbon for a few nights. We'd been getting by fine with our minimal Portuguese vocabulary, but during our first breakfast in the city something was definitely lost in translation!

After we'd had some food I went back inside to order two pieces of watermelon. I pointed to the fruit inside the case and thought that I had successfully explained what I wanted to our server... it wasn't until she came out and dropped two massive watermelon displays on our table that I realised I might have not been as clear as I thought. Bon App├ętit!

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One cool experience that we had in Lisbon was tracking down a highly-rated cocktail bar that operated as if there was still prohibition in effect. For example, the entrance of the bar was subtle and you had to ring a doorbell to be let inside. Once you entered, you had to walk down some stairs and the bartenders were all dressed in old-fashioned attire and the place had a really exclusive vibe to it. My girlfriend and I actually met up with fellow Team Onliner DaWarsaw earlier that night and the three of us were able to enjoy some of the more creative cocktails. One of my drinks came covered by a glass of smoke and one that Greg ordered had a flame underneath it and came in a paper bag!

Pic 6.jpgThe happy couple

The last leg of our journey was to Sintra- the location of the wedding. The day had finally arrived and my girlfriend and I had accompanied Greg to the ceremony, where we were greeted by Andre and then reunited with Alex and Ike, as well as their significant others. Naoya and his wife were running late but ended up arriving just on time before the ceremony started!

The ceremony was very touching and although nobody spoke any English I didn't feel out of place. Two things that I thought were a really nice touch, including having a live choir for the music and tossing flower pedals to the bride and groom as they exited the church! It really did seem like a fairy tale.

Soon after the ceremony everyone migrated over to the reception venue (where the "Team Online Wedding Crashers" picture was taken). It was a little tricky to actually get to the garden for cocktails, especially for women in high heels, as everyone had to walk down a dirt trail carved into the side of a mountain...there were some tumbles but no serious injuries.

Drinks led to dinner and then dinner led to more drinks, dancing, and even more food later on (including soup randomly at 11pm, apparently that's a thing!). I tried my hand (feet?) at Greek dancing and didn't do too well, although most people looked like they were making it up on the fly just like me anyway.

I had a lot of great conversations throughout the night and learned a couple of new things about my teammates. Such as Alex is apparently a rock-paper-scissors strategist, but Ike not so much.
Some people were playing a "RPS" drinking game. Let's just say that I said goodbye to both Alex and Ike at the end of the night but I'm pretty sure only one of them remembers!

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After a great experience in Portugal, I'm very thankful to Kat and Andre for the invite and for also showing us around Lisbon. Even with only a couple of days before their wedding, they still insisted on meeting up with my girlfriend and I...I think that says enough about them being truly great people and now they make one amazing couple.