Expectations were feverishly high because it was after all (pricey!) Europe and well… our honeymoon. The honeymoon. One may travel to many places in his entire lifetime and promptly forget about some of these places several moons later, but nobody forgets the honeymoon.
As luck would have it, our honeymoon turned out to be nothing short of perfect. The itinerary was unsurpassed, the tour leader unrivalled, and the company unparalleled. Our group was manageably small with only 19 adults including 3 other pairs of honeymoon-ers like us, and everyone was pleasant, jovial and considerate. Everyone adhered to strict time-keeping; the only rare exception happened in Paris when a couple was late to the coach because of the long payment queue at Galeries Lafayette. They were immensely apologetic for holding us up, and we accepted the apology graciously.
If anything, I only have two minor grouses – we didn’t get to see much of Rome and totally missed out on Vatican City because of late Pope John Paul II’s funeral. I also didn’t particularly enjoy the incessant rain, in which we were told was not in congruence with Europe’s usual climate in April. I didn’t remember this, but the mister recalled that the rain started shortly after we landed in Rome, and only stopped after our day trip to Volendam in The Netherlands. He knew it for a fact that it wasn’t raining prior to 8 Apr 2005 because of a colleague who left Rome the day we arrived – apparently it was the only day which rained in the week she was there.
We were in Volendam on 19 Apr 2005 having our dinner of fish & chips when our Italian coach driver (who is a Roman Catholic) announced that the new Pope had been elected. It was raining bucketfuls of cats and dogs prior to dinner, but reduced to a drizzle when we were done with our scrumptious dinner. By the time we arrived at our hotel, the rain had completely stopped.
Was it a coincidence, or was there divine ‘intervention’? The oddity of the rainy season occurring within the period of sede vacante (Latin for ‘the seat being vacant’) of the Holy See, which promptly ended with the cessation of sede vacante – seemed to suggest that it was more than mere coincidence. We are not deeply pious people, but… it was some food for thought.
Our honeymoon coincided with the funerals of late Pope John Paul II and Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and the wedding of Prince Charles & Camilia Bowles. As you could see, we visited Europe during a very, for lack of a better word, interesting time. The trip was quite the eye-opener – we learnt how and why a papal conclave is convened, the difference between white smoke versus black smoke, Grace Kelly (not the bag!) and the House of Grimaldi from the Principality of Monaco. Speculations on the identity of the next Pope and expostulations on the sovereignty of Monaco considering Prince Albert II’s lack of a lawful heir totally preponderated the European, if not the world’s, prime time news. The media were having a series of field days.
We thought that Jeffrey Hoh, our tour leader, is the very epitome of an exceptional tour leader. He totally blew our minds with his experience, general knowledge, even temper and high level of service orientation. Following Jeffrey’s tradition of bestowing every tour group with a specific name (to distinguish all the groups he’d ever led), our group was aptly titled ’2 Funerals & a Wedding’. He professed that it would be difficult to forget our group given the unusual events facing Europe during our travel. He held true to his words, because several years later, he found and added the both of us as his friends on Facebook.
Regrettably, we’d lost contact with almost everyone in the group, with the exception of Kenneth and Sharon. If you are, or know any of our group-mates from the picture above, please email us at traipsypixie[at]gmail[dot]com. We’d love to re-connect!
‘Of all the countries you visited, which is your favourite?’
We got asked this question umpteem times, by friends and family alike, following our return to reality. Not trying to play favourites here… but we have to concede that we enjoyed Italy the most. Something about the Italians’ honest charm, warmth and gregariousness tugged at my heartstrings – possibly because being reticent and bashful by nature, I couldn’t be more different than they are. The mister readily agreed with me, for an entirely different reason, I suspect – he had been raving incessantly about the unlimited potently flavoursome shots of espresso he got to enjoy at breakfasts in Italy.
Check out CTC Travel if you would like to trace our footsteps. While we do not sanction a package tour for seasoned travellers, we highly recommend it for virgin travellers (to Europe) who have no inkling of their travel likes and peeves, as a starting point.