As most of you probably know Brenda and I are now married. A lot has happened since I last wrote and we were of course very busy getting ready for the big event. During the month leading up to the wedding we hosted a wedding shower in our new house (planned by Brenda's maid of honor), went over final details with our wedding photographers, arranged for the rental of platform decorations, finalized tuxedo rentals, set up delivery of 30 strawberry pies for the reception, finalized our flowers, purchased food for weekend events and took care of many other details. Through the whole time Brenda was still trying her best to rest to build up energy for the wedding and honeymoon as she was still under the weather.
Bride & GroomOur relatives started to arrive on the Tuesday before the wedding and continued to trickle in for the rest of the week. All 11 of our immediate family were able to stay in our new house while other relatives stayed with local friends and in area hotels. Meals at our house were fun with 25 or more people eating together most of the time. Fortunately we were able to get an additional refrigerator so we could stock up on food from Sam's club before the weekend. Brenda and I both really enjoyed seeing everyone and although it was busy we felt like we were still able to visit with our families quite a bit.
On the Thursday before the wedding we mostly worked on projects at the house such as finalizing the wording on the programs and making up task lists. On Friday morning the girls all went to a local Tea House for brunch which they thoroughly enjoyed. Meanwhile Graham and I ran errands including picking up decorations, picking up tuxedos, and printing the
Wedding Partyprograms. We were all done with our errands by around 4pm so we had some time to relax before eating supper together at 5pm. We then headed to the church for the wedding rehearsal which went smoothly.
On Sabbath we nearly doubled the size of our young adults group with all the relatives and then after church we had a haystacks lunch for around 50 people. We had rented a room at the Collegedale City Hall for the day which was very convenient with a kitchen and plenty of room for everyone. In the afternoon I led a walking tour of our new church which was still under construction and then in the evening we had our rehearsal dinner. For the dinner we had a
Combined Family PictureGreek theme with colorful decorations, authentic food and some fun activities. After the dinner I went with the guys to ride go carts and go bowling, both of which were lots of fun.
Sunday morning we had so many people helping that when I got to the church there wasn't much left to do. I ended up making a run to the store to pick up a few things that had been forgotten and then ate a quiet lunch at the church. After lunch the guys and I got ready and then Brenda arrived and we
Cutting our Strawberry Pieshad a few minutes alone together before getting most of the pictures taken. The ceremony itself went very smoothly. We had two 1 and a half year olds in the ceremony and they both did very well. Probably the only mishap was that the Bible boy dropped the Bible before he made it very far but at least he kept going. After the ceremony we took a few more pictures and then enjoyed a nice reception with excellent food and strawberry pies for dessert.
From the reception Brenda and I traveled to a Bed & Breakfast in the country where we spent the night before heading to my grandparents house for Monday morning brunch with about 35 of our family. After eating we opened our wedding gifts and then spent some time visiting before heading back to Chattanooga to our new house for the night.
On Tuesday we headed to the Chattanooga airport to begin our honeymoon trip, but instead learned that our first flight had been delayed. After waiting for a while our flight changed from delayed to cancelled. We eventually heard that the plane had been damaged by a lightning strike on the way to Chattanooga. Everyone on the flight was fine and they landed without a problem but there were some systems which needed to be repaired before the plane could fly
Cruise Route Mapagain. The airline ended up rerouting us through Chicago where they put us up for the night. We were supposed to travel to London overnight but as it turned out it was nice to get a good nights sleep in Chicago instead. I actually got pretty sick with a cold after we left the reception and even had a fever during our night in Chicago. I felt much better in the morning though and continued to improve for the rest of the trip.
Upon arrival in London we waited at the airline desk for a couple of hours as they were supposed to provide us with a hotel for our second overnight layover. After calling every hotel in the area and finding that all of them were fully booked, the airline staff finally gave up and told us that we were out of luck and would have to spend the night in the airport. This wasn't the first time for either of us to sleep in an airport so we found a quiet corner on the top floor where nothing was open and tried to get some sleep for a few hours.
Sleeping in the AirportEventually things in the airport started to open up and we used airline vouchers to get some breakfast at a restaurant. We then finally boarded our flight to Athens and pretty much slept through the whole flight since we were so tired. After collecting our bags and clearing customs we boarded the subway and rode about an hour into town. We both had a hard time staying awake on the train and were glad to finally get showers and naps upon arrival at our hotel. The hotel was situated right in the middle of the Plaka district which is the older part of town. We were just a short walk from the Acropolis and enjoyed some very nice views of it from the hotel restaurant on the roof. After our naps we enjoyed an excellent Greek dinner at an outdoor
First Greek Mealrestaurant near our hotel and then headed to bed early.
Friday morning we slept in and then explored the old district on foot for a few hours. We found fresh apricots, fresh cherries, roasted almonds, filberts, raisins and some rice crackers for our lunch and then took the subway to the port to find our cruise ship. Unfortunately we didn't realize how far it was from the subway station to our ship and ended up walking over a mile and a half to get there. The weather was very warm with temperatures in the upper 90s that day so we were very glad to get to our air conditioned cabin on the ship. Shortly after we boarded we had a safety drill which consisted of putting on our life jackets and going to our designated
Our Shipemergency meeting points for roll call. We then enjoyed a nice dinner which was the first of many excellent meals aboard the ship. At our evening meals we usually sat at an assigned table so we were able to get acquainted with our table mates over the course of the cruise. The people at our table included a retired couple from Australia and a mother & daughter traveling together from Iceland.
On Saturday we spent most of the day relaxing and exploring the ship. In the afternoon we took a nap and then went up on deck to enjoy our arrival into the port of Istanbul. From the water we had great views of the Bosporus Straits and the many mosques throughout the city. At about sundown we headed out on our first cruise
Dinner on the Shipexcursion. We were taken by bus to a dinner show where we enjoyed some good Turkish food while we were entertained by traditional Turkish dancers including belly dancers. After dinner our bus took us across a bridge over the Bosporus Straits to the Asian side of the city and then back to our ship which was docked on the European side of town.
On Sunday we started the morning by visiting the Blue Mosque which was built in the early 1600s. We then visited Hagia Sofia which was originally built as a church between 532 and 537. It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years and was the religious focus point of the Orthodox Byzantine Empire until it was converted to a mosque in 1453. The
Food in Turkeybuilding is now a museum and is very impressive, especially considering how old it is. Now that the mosque has been converted to a museum they have uncovered some of the original Christian icons which include pictures of Jesus and Mary. The pictures had been covered over but were not destroyed. From Hagia Sofia we next went to a restaurant on the grounds of Topkapi Palace where we had a nice lunch of stuffed grape leaves, hummus, vegetables and rice. We then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the palace which was the government seat and primary residence of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire from 1465 to 1853. Highlights of the palace included throne rooms, a large collection of jewels, an 86 carat diamond,
Hagia Sophialiving quarters, ancient kitchens and excellent views of the Bosporus Straits. On the way back to our ship we stopped at a carpet store where they demonstrated carpet weaving and then succeeded in selling us a nice hand woven aisle runner for our new home. By the time we got back to our ship and had some supper we were tired from a full day and were glad for a special treat at the on board spa. The massage therapists did an excellent job of relaxing our sore muscles before we headed to bed for a good night's rest.
Monday morning we were still at sea so enjoyed sleeping in and then cooled off in one of the ship's two swimming pools. After lunch we arrived at the Greek island of Mykonos. The weather was quite hot for
Bosporus Straitsmost of our trip with temperatures reaching at least 118F (50C) on a couple of the days. Mykonos was no exception so after exploring the town on foot for a while in the heat of the day we decided to rent a scooter. Once we got on the scooter the breeze cooled us right off and we had a fun time exploring the island. We eventually found a less crowded beach and went for a refreshing swim before heading back to our ship for dinner. After dinner I returned the scooter in town while Brenda rested. I then had to walk a couple of miles back to the ship because I had forgotten to bring my shuttle bus ticket with me. It turned out alright though as I had plenty of time and was able to enjoy watching the sunset along the way. Once I made it back to the
Mykonosship we went to an onboard show featuring traditional Greek song and dance performances. They actually had different shows on the ship every night but most of the evenings we were too tired to stay up for them.
Bright and early Tuesday morning we arrived at the island of Patmos which is where John wrote the book of Revelation. We opted out of the official cruise organized bus excursion but instead did the exact same trip by taxi. We first stopped at a cave which is the traditional site where people believe John did his writing. There is now a small chapel in the cave and it is a popular tourist site. We next visited the Monastery of St. John which is located at the highest point of the island.
Rented ScooterThe views from the monastery were excellent and we also enjoyed exploring the courtyards and passageways before heading back to our ship. During the middle part of the day we enjoyed lunch and some time to relax on board as we sailed for the Turkish port of Kusadasi. Upon arrival at the port we boarded a tour bus for the 30 minute drive to the archeological site of ancient Ephesus. The weather was very hot again but at least there was a breeze which helped to make it more bearable. It was really neat to walk on the same streets Paul walked and to visit the coliseum where he spoke to crowds of up to 25,000 people. The two story library building was also very impressive. According to our guide the library was in
Mykonos Sunsetcompetition with the library of Alexandria until the entire collection of books was destroyed by a fire started by a crazy person. From Ephesus our bus took us back to the port town of Kusadasi where we explored the Bazaar (Turkish market) before walking back to our ship. By the end of the day we were pretty worn out so it was nice to head to bed early again.
On Wednesday we visited the island of Rhodes where we were hoping to rent a scooter again. We ended up walking several miles in the sweltering heat instead but did enjoy finding some souvenir placemats along the way. The shopping streets we explored were inside the walls of the fortified city which was built by the Knights of St. John as a safe stopping
Patmospoint along the route to the crusades. We also walked to a beach and enjoyed seeing some sailboats along the way. In the end we got too hot though and decided to retreat to our air conditioned room on the ship for the rest of the afternoon.
After another good night's sleep we awoke to find ourselves docked at the island of Crete. We again opted out of the official bus tour and hired a taxi to take us to the ancient palace ruins at Knossos instead. Much of the palace ruins have been controversially reconstructed which of course makes it much easier to visualize what the palace may have been like. On the other hand there is much debate about whether or not the reconstructions have been done accurately. At any rate, we
Ancient Ephesus Libraryenjoyed exploring the palace which was built and inhabited by the Minoan Civilization between approximately 1700 and 1400 BC. For it's time the palace complex was incredible with sections up to five stories high, running water, a sewer system, air ventilation shafts and stairway light wells to allow daylight to reach lower levels of the buildings. We also saw some ruins from before the palace was built which dated back to at least 5000 BC. From Knossos we headed back into the port city of Heraklion where we bought some fresh fruit before heading back to the ship. We were again under way during the heat of the day which allowed us time to enjoy a good nap before going on deck to watch our arrival at the volcanic island of Santorini. This island forms part of a giant caldera which was originally a single island until it exploded in one of the largest volcanic eruptions ever. The island is probably the most likely site of the fabled "Lost City of Atlantis". It was a center of the Minoan Civilization until it was violently destroyed by the eruption around 3500 years ago. Today four separate islands remain including two around the edge of the caldera and two volcanic islands in the center. The larger of the two outer islands has several towns including the capital of Fira which is perched along the top of a cliff 1,000 feet
Knossos Palace Stairwellabove the deep water lagoon. Ours was one of many cruise ships in the lagoon and there is no place for the large ships to dock so everyone is transferred to smaller boats to go ashore. However, we had signed up to first visit the volcanic islands in the middle of the lagoon before heading to the town of Fira. Upon arrival in the lagoon we were transferred by a small boat to a sailboat for our excursion. Unfortunately we didn't actually use the sails, but it was still fun to be out on the ocean. Our first stop was the larger of the two volcanic islands where we hiked on the dark colored volcanic rock in the heat of the day. Part way up the mountain Brenda decided to stop and wait at a shade shelter while I continued on to the summit. All along the trail we enjoyed panoramic views of the lagoon and surrounding islands. The most recent volcanic activity had occurred in 1950 and we could see the different colors of rock from different eruptions along the trail to the summit. Back aboard the sailboat we headed to the other island in the middle of the lagoon where we anchored and then jumped into the ocean for a swim. The water was very refreshing after the hot hike although we also enjoyed swimming close to shore where the water was warmed by natural hot springs. After we finished swimming we then headed to the main island
Santorini Cruise Shipswhere we were taken by bus to the town of Fira. On the way to Fira we wound back and forth up the steep cliffs and enjoyed more panoramic views of the lagoon. We could also see the location where another cruise ship recently sank as it was still marked off by a floating boundary. After they dropped us off in town we walked around enjoying the incredible views and got some ice cream. We also debated between our two transportation options from the cliff top town down to the pier. One option was to ride donkeys and the other was to ride in the cable car. We ended up taking the cable car which provided more great views. The donkey ride would have been fun though so we'll have to try that option next time. Back on the ship we had
Santorini Viewour last dinner and then headed to bed to get some rest before our morning arrival in Athens.
Upon arrival in Athens we ate a quick breakfast before disembarking and then caught a taxi to our hotel. It was still too early to check in to our room but we were able to leave our bags and head out to spend the morning visiting the Acropolis. Most of the buildings on the Acropolis hill were constructed in the 5th century BC and some of them still have portions of the original stonework today. Many of the buildings were undergoing repairs and restoration work during our visit though and a new museum was also under construction. We enjoyed some slightly cooler weather in Athens (under 100F) but
Athens from the Acropoliswe were still ready for a rest in our air conditioned room early in the afternoon. In the evening we enjoyed an excellent Greek dinner at a rooftop restaurant before taking a sightseeing trolley ride through the city at dusk.
In the morning we had another delicious breakfast on the roof at our hotel and then headed to the airport. Our flight wasn't until evening time though so we had decided to rent a car. We wanted to get out of the city and explore the Greek coast on our own so had a nice relaxing day following whatever roads we came to. We found several secluded beaches and had snacks of apricots, apples, bread & fruit juice. We also visited the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon which was perched atop a cliff
Acropolis View Diningwith sweeping views of the sea. Back at the airport we boarded our flight and were just about to leave when the captain came on and announced that we would be delayed due to "weather problems" in London. As it turned out there had just been a car bomb at the Glasgow airport (not the airport we were flying to) so security levels had been increased which most likely was the real reason for our delay. Upon arrival in London the customs lines were very long due to the increased security and also due to all the delayed flights arriving at about the same time. Once we finally got through security we met up with our friends Daren & Sujoya who took us to their home for the night. With all the delays it was a pretty short night but we were glad to have a bed
Temple of Poseidonto sleep on instead of the airport floor. As an added bonus we also got to meet baby Sioned for the first time.
The rest of our trip back to Chattanooga was fairly uneventful although we did ride the subway in to downtown Chicago during our 5 hour layover. We enjoyed a quick walk through Taste of Chicago which is a big food festival offering food from hundreds of area restaurants. The fun part is that you can get small portion sizes and sample all kinds of different foods. We tried Russian pierogis, Chinese egg rolls, Indian samosas, spinach pizza and chocolate covered bananas before we had to head back to the airport to catch our flight. Upon arrival back in Chattanooga we were glad to be home and enjoyed a good nights sleep in our own bed.
Well, this update is already pretty long so I'll save what we've been up to since we got back until next time.
Thanks to everyone who has sent cards, gifts & emails over the past few months and to everyone who came to our wedding. We couldn't have had such a great weekend without all the help from our family and friends.
Until next time,
PS There are lots more wedding and honeymoon pictures online in the gallery.