Almost five years ago I was given an anniversary gift of two airline tickets anywhere in the world that frequent flyer miles would take me. I was surprised and grateful. As a thank you for 10 years of service in ministry, my boss wanted me to take a little time off and travel. Wow! What a great gift!

My colleagues kept asking me, “Where will you go?” My response? “I’m not sure. I need to pray and plan and save some money, but there a lot of places I would love to see.” Okay. So it took me five years to do that… but hey, I’ve been busy!

Rick and I loved the two Carribean cruises we have taken so we started looking into a cruise. Something extraordinary, something we wouldn’t do on our own. We settled on the Mediterranean. I’ve dreamed of Greece and Italy – sure that I would never be able to actually get there. I found an itinerary that was perfect:

  • Venice, Italy
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Ephesus, Turkey
  • Santorini, Greece
  • Corfu, Greece
  • Venice, Italy

Seven days cruising with 4 full-day ports and then 3 days before/after the cruise in Venice!

The entire trip was a dream come true. Not only was the weather PERFECT, but we really didn’t have any travel headaches until we hit a delay on the way home through Washington, DC. It was as though God was smiling down on us and paving the way for a wonderful time. From the unsolicited upgrade to a suite stateroom to locals pointing us in the right direction at just the right time, the entire trip seemed to be one blessing right after another.

We went completely unplugged. No cells, no laptops. I was twitchy on day one but recovered quickly as I realized… I’m in Europe! It would be an understatement to say that I enjoyed getting reacquainted with my hubby of 27 years. I can’t explain the connection we had during this trip, but I kept thinking… “I’m really glad I married you!”

We jumped outside our comfort zone and spontaneously came up with our own little “adventures” every day. This wasn’t something we talked about – it just happened naturally – and it was a blast! Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Getting lost – we intentionally got lost at least 3 times just to see where we would end up.
  • Do what the locals do – eat what they eat, go where they go. I was intrigued with the languages and tried my best to chime in. Rick gravitated toward the culinary side of things: unusual items on the menu and shopping at local markets.
  • Public transportation – I have no idea why we ended up exploring each of these countries best in mass transit, but we hit them all! We even eavesdropped on a British tour guide to figure out when to catch a bus… when in doubt, walk around until you hear someone speaking English.
  • You may never be back – We tried to remember this and go ahead and splurge a little. A midnight Gondola ride, a rental car in Corfu, a mid-afternoon snack with orchestra playing in St. Mark’s square…

The cruise itself did not disappoint either. Of course, we weren’t expecting a suite but sure were thrilled to have the extra room and all the amenities that go with it (I had no idea how well they treated the “suite” people til now). Our tablemates were interesting too – two mother/daughter couples, one from MI/MN and the other from NY. The girls were about 25, so we regretted not having TJ along! As usual, the ship was clean and the service was great, the food spectacular (and lots of it). We both got massages after a long, hot day in Turkey – what a treat!

But I have to tell you, the most memorable part of the trip was visiting Ephesus. I’ve not been to a lot of ruins, so I’m a bit of a rookie. But as we walked on the ancient marble roads and saw the city that was so powerful and had so much significance in our Christian heritage, I was overwhelmed. It took my breath away to realize what had happened there so long ago.

Pictures are on my Facebook page if you are interested.