Chris + Jim = The Wedding Tour
They left as singles...
...and came home as husband and wife
T plus 20 days...
...but no longer counting. :-)
Here's where you'll be able to keep track of our progress through the next five weeks, as we head across the Atlantic to prepare for the most important day of our lives (at least our mothers seem to think that...), then beyond, as we whizz around Europe on trains for our honeymoon.
We'll update this page as and when we get a chance (do they have Internet cafes in the North of Scotland?), until we come home around August 12th. It'll likely be text-only, unless we splash out and buy a digital camera!
July 5th. There! That's the shopping cart closed, after a frantic week in which I think we've sent out enough beads to keep most of the western world busy for the next month. Time to take a big breath, and look at what needs to be done before we leave on Tuesday. Like packing - lots of packing - though at least it'll be clothes rather than gemstones! More to follow as we get the chance...
July 11th. Aberdeen. Arrived safely here! Great flight over - we love British Airways, particularly when they upgraded us to Club Class after they heard we were getting married! Must try that more often... ;-) Thoroughly enjoyed the pampering but it will be very hard to go back to economy class. The sleeper train from London to Aberdeen wasn't quite as nice - we've renamed it the sleeplesser. We didn't get an upgrade there, boo!
After a 30-hour journey, door to door, today has been spent running round sorting things out: I've got my highland wear booked, Chris got her flowers sorted, and she's currently off getting her hair done. Two years in Arizona means it's weird being in a place with genuine weather, where rain, sun and cloud happen in the same hour. The countryside is also amazingly green. However, despite the lushness, the forecast for the 20th is promising; we're keeping our fingers crossed, please do the same!
July 18th. Aberdeen. Just a couple of days left now! The last few days have been spent running around trying to get everything sorted out, though the less time is left, the more there seems to do. Got our wedding wear all ready, and went out to see the minister whose performing the ceremony; best man and bridesmaid arrived this morning, so they'll be able to help out.
Never been so utterly focussed on the weather forecast in our lives; every couple of hours, we check up to see what's planned. It's very changeable, and the forecast reflects this - now it's going to be sunny, next time it'll rain. Nothing we can do though - except bite our fingernails. :-) Tomorrow sees the wedding rehearsal, the guests start arriving here in the afternoon, and then there'll be nothing more we can do except await the big day. Next update, we'll be married!
July 22nd. Forres. Greetings from the new Mr. and Mrs. McLennan! Now we is married... :-) It was an amazing day, one that could be told in great detail for several pages, but we'll just keep to the basics for the moments, and bore you at great detail with it later on, no doubt. :-) The weather was amazingly variable: it poured during the ceremony and afterwards. Totally tipped it down. However, for the reception through here in Forres, it was dry and relatively bright; given this was partly open-air, we're very happy it was that way round!
Near-disasters: Jim thinking he'd left his kilt behind in Arizona, Chris slamming her wedding dress in the apartment door on the way to the church. However, these were minor, and in any case, nothing could spoil what was a very special day for both of us - we both fell in love with each other all over again at the altar. Piccies will follow shortly, no doubt, as soon as we get near a scanner...
The party in the evening was fantastic, Jim's parents had done a great job, with decorations, catering and entertainment. It was a bizarre mix of Scottish country and "our" music that, weirdly, worked perfectly. The time just flew past, though we both discovered how exhausting getting married is, and were kinda glad to collapse back in the hotel and...do newly-wed stuff. :-)
We've now recovered: Chris is packing things to be shipped to the States before we head down to London, for the honeymoon part of the tour!
July 27th. London. All ready to head onto the Continent tomorrow morning - first stop Belgium! Headed back to Aberdeen on the Tuesday, and got all our official documents sorted, so no need for us to pop off to Las Vegas for a second attempt. :-) Spent a day in Edinburgh, and we've vowed to go back sometime as there seemed to be a lot of fun stuff to do - particularly enjoyed the spooky ghost walk.
Also on the weirdness front, down in London, we went to the Body Worlds exhibition, an amazing show of preserved bodies guaranteed to put you off smoking for life. London party was last night; great to catch up with everyone from down here. It was at the London Canal Museum, so it was educational as well as entertaining. :-) This city now seems incredibly busy to Jim, but that may just be compared to Phoenix; it's amazing how quickly you lose immunity to hustle and bustle!
July 29th. Brussels. This city is a little like New Orleans, in that most interesting stuff is in a small area in the center of town, with some great architecture, and a lot of pedestrian streets. The most famous landmark is a small statue of a boy peeing, whose origins are lost in the mists of time, and which gets dressed up in costumes (Peruvian the day we were there). Copies are available in all the souvenir shops, not least as a rather painful-looking corkscrew!
Hopped on a bus-tour today, but found that outside the center, Brussels is mostly offices, as it's the head of the European Union. Visited the Atomium, a 332ft tall model of an iron atom which is a relic of the 1958 World Fair, and is filled with "stuff" from that era - very retro! Also went to Mini-Europe, which features 1/25 scale models of landmarks from Ireland to Greece - why bother travelling? Actually, could come in handy, as just realised we fly back a week earlier than we thought. :-) Guess the French Riviera and Italy will have to wait for next time!
July 31st. Amsterdam. If Las Vegas is Disneyland for adults, Amsterdam is Las Vegas for adults. The reputation for sex and drugs is undeniably well-deserved, but outside of that, it's a pretty city - it's a canal-based city with more bridges than Venice, and a lot of tall buildings along the banks. Very easy to get lost walking around, as you always find yourself changing direction to get across the canals! Apparently, an average of one car a week ends up in the water...
Went to the Korean State Circus, which was good, but not quite as amazing as the Chinese one seen up in Aberdeen. Walked home through the (surprisingly tourist-friendly!) red-light district, which is certainly an eye-opener, with the "ladies" sitting in their windows! The next day, in one of those amazing coincidences, we bumped into Jim's sister while having lunch! Knew she was also holidaying in Amsterdam, but not only did we accidentally encounter her, she was also staying in the same hotel as the one chosen for us by the local tourist office. What are the odds against that...?
August 2nd. Berlin. Truth be told, we shouldn't be here at all, only the Amsterdam-Munich night train was booked solid, so we were forced East. Needless to say, first thing we did on arrival was get our Berlin-Munich tickets booked for tonight, to ensure we wouldn't end up in Moscow.
There's only a tiny fraction of the wall still up - the rest having been removed by souvenir hunters! - and the city has rapidly gone back to being united, and there's a blizzard of new construction work going on. It's an immense, sprawling city, so we took a bus tour to cover most of the landmarks, then went back the following day to the ones which seemed most interesting. Not least of these was a chocolate shop which specialised in enormous models of famous buildings - sadly, they wouldn't let you tuck into them!
We also tracked down locations from Run Lola Run, one of our favourite films which was shot in Berlin - would have watched it before leaving, if we'd known we were going to be here! :-) Kept noticing all these brightly-painted bear statues around; turned out to be an art project, one which we both totally loved. In one park, they gathered together 125 statues, each representing one country and painted by an artist from there. The results were fascinating and often thought-provoking - at right, you can see the United States and United Kingdom bears, which were next to each other. As it should be. :-)
August 4th. Munich + Salzburg. The night-train from Germany was amazing - the most roomy carriages we've been in, and our twin berth even had its own bathroom, complete with shower. Unfortunately, like all night trains, it arrives at an extremely unhoneymoony hour... Were happy to head straight to a hotel and crash out for a bit. Walked round the town for much of the day, found some nice gardens to sit in, though Chris was almost attacked by a swan - luckily, the arrival of a small yappy dog distracted it. Irritable birds aside, the Germans have been very friendly and, overall, if we didn't live in America, this country would be high on the list of likely residences.
We spend Sunday just across the border in Austria, in Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart - and they don't let you forget it, selling everything with the composer's likeness on it. We go around humming Sound of Music tunes all day, as much of that movie was filmed around here; there are even special tours. It's a very scenic city, with a great castle up on a rock, smack in the center of town, but it's a little too touristy for our tastes. Happy to return to Munich for dinner - though by this stage we've both kinda gone off sausages, having OD'd on them lately! After a week of sunshine, the weather is finally cracking, but we dodge the raindrops.
August 6th. Zurich + Bern. Another fabulous German train - this one with seat-back TVs! - takes us through the foothills of the Alps and into Switzerland. Zurich is largely a financial center, but sits at one end of a very pretty lake, so we pack a picnic and go for a cruise on the lake. For $3.50 each for a couple of hours, it's very good value - otherwise, things here seem expensive, but maybe it's just because Switzerland is the only place on the tour that doesn't take Euros. Having one currency everywhere else makes things a LOT easier, and when it's almost 1 Euro = 1 Dollar, price comparisons are a breeze.
Day-trip on Thursday, to Bern, the capital of Switzerland (but, like Washington, far from being the largest city). There are a lot of great old buildings to see, though the Glockenspiel clock tower was disappointing - while its animated figures were likely cutting edge when it was built in 1530, nowadays you could hear "Is that it?" in 12 different languages from the tourist hordes after its very brief hourly performances. At one end of the city are some bear-pits where the city's mascots live. For a couple of francs, you can feed them, and they are highly adept at catching the fruit slices without moving their feet.
The streets of Bern are dotted with a dozen or more fountains, each of which has a statue depicting an important figure in the city's history, a moral virtue, etc. We were particularly impressed with the Kindlifresserbrunnen fountain in one of the main streets. Presumably representing a bedtime story told to scare children into cowed obedience, the statue above it depicts an ogre stuffing a baby into his mouth - with several further light snacks dangling from his belt. We will bring this photo out whenever relatives pop around, asking us to babysit. :-)
In the afternoon, it starts to pour, and we're glad for the many covered arcades of shops. Back in Zurich, our dinner outside is also interrupted by showers, causing us to occupy four different tables over the two courses. Chris is by now so confident in German, she gets mistaken for a native any time she opens her mouth!
August 7th. Paris + London. Just a few hours to kill in Paris, but we've been there before, so we're not too concerned about seeing it. Do get up to the top of the Arc De Triomphe, which offers spectacular views over the city - takes us a while to appreciate them, as we were too busy wheezing after the 284 steps. They don't mention those until after you've paid...next time, we're bringing a wheelchair and hijacking the disabled-only elevator. :-)
Finally, we take our leave of the continent and head back to London for a farewell curry with our best-man and bridesmaid - we get more rain that evening than Phoenix saw in the six months before we left! Tomorrow it's back to Arizona after a month away - in some ways, the time has flown past, yet while we've had the absolute best time of our lives, no doubt about it, we're both glad to going back home, to our own (very comfortable) bed.
But though the holiday may be over, the honeymoon will last forever...
Chris + Jim = Mrs. & Mr. McLennan
August 9th, 2002