The honeymoon was all mine. Christina left it up to me. The one thing we had to do was meet the Pope. Father Augustine Tran helped with the arrangements.
I decided to leave the trip a surprise, for no reason other than it was fun to keep her guessing.
We agreed on traveling, rather than staying in one place. I did let her know we’d be flying around Europe, but that was all she knew. Well, other than we were meeting the Pope and obviously starting in Rome.
The trip started out as a disaster. We were married on January 4 and planned to leave for Rome on January 6. She lived in midtown Atlanta, and as of January 4, so did I.
Since we lived in the big city, we – mostly me – decided it would be exciting and city-like to take the subway to the airport. Also, we would not have to bother any friends or family to take us.
So, we were all packed and ready to go. We walked a few blocks to the subway and waited for the train. And waited. And waited.
There was no train. And, this being MARTA, no announcement. So we continued to wait.
You know when you are waiting for something and it’s already taken a long time? You don’t want to leave, because you just know whatever you are waiting for is going to happen the second you stop waiting, or in our case, leave.
Well, we kept on waiting. It got to the point where, if we left to find a taxi, we probably would miss the flight.
Finally, after way too much time, and our first argument as a married couple, the train finally arrived. Still no explanation as to what happened. Someone on the train heard another train had broken down.
We got to the airport very, very late. Got to the Lufthansa desk, literally 2 minutes after they closed down. They lady at the desk was extremely nice. She made some phone calls, but they could not let us through. We were too late.
Christina cried. I felt horrible. The Lufthansa agent tried to get us on other flights, but none were available. Our only option was to fly out the next day.
No problem, right? Wrong. Our audience with the Pope was at 10:00 AM on Wednesday. If we left tomorrow (Tuesday), our flight would not arrive in Rome until 10:30 AM on Wednesday. This was the only reason we were going to Rome.
We went home and I got on the computer. Finally around 3:00 AM, I found a one way ticket flying from Atlanta to Rome that would get us in at… 9:30 AM. One hour earlier than our scheduled arrival and only 30 minutes before our audience with the Holy Father.
If the flight was delayed or if we got caught in customs, we’d be late. But, it was our only chance. Keep in mind too, that it takes about 30 minutes to drive from the airport to Rome, plus we’d have to find a taxi, and there’s usually a line.
I booked it. I should probably mention that the deal we had on Lufthansa was great. A two for one special. Both roundtrip tickets cost only $430. That’s for two people! This new one way ticket, bought on the day of travel cost more than the entire honeymoon, flights, hotels, food, etc. But, if it worked, I guess it would be worth it.
Who would’ve thought I’d be sleeping on the couch after just 48 hours of marriage?
Christina was not happy. Not happy with our MARTA experience. Not happy with missing the flight. And now, not happy paying all this money for these tickets. Most importantly, not happy with me.
So, here’s the deal. When one meets the Holy Father for a nuptial blessing, one was required to have special tickets. The bride must wear her wedding dress and the groom a suit.
Our flight was scheduled to land at 9:30 and we had 30 minutes to not only get into Rome, but have our tickets and be dressed. Getting dressed was easy for me, I just wore my suit on the plane. Not so easy for Christina. She would have to figure something else out.
By the grace of God, we arrived ahead of schedule, just before 9:00 AM. We breezed through customs, as is almost always the case in Rome. Christina ran for the restroom, wedding gown in tow. I found an illegal taxi – someone that charges a ridiculous amount of money and is not licensed to drive a taxi. But, for him there was no wait. For the legal option there was a huge line.
Christina emerged from the bathroom looking as lovely as she did at our wedding. We got quite a few stares sprinting through the airport dressed for a wedding.
Even though we arrived early, we still did not have time to go and pick up the tickets for the audience. So, we took another risk and headed straight to St. Peter’s Basilica, luggage and all.
The driver got us there in record time. He somehow managed not to wreck while watching Christina finish getting dressed in his rearview mirror. I gave him enough money for us to take multiple legal taxi rides and we rushed across St. Peter’s Square.
We checked our luggage and ran back across the square to the hideous Paul VI Auditorium. The Swiss Guard did not even ask for our tickets, he just pointed us to the newlywed section.
As soon as we got to our seat, the Holy Father came out.
He did his usual Wednesday Audience thing as we tried not to fall asleep. Not because we didn’t care what he had to say, we did, this was a very special moment, but because neither of us slept on the plane. Add to that the stress of our travel day. And don’t forget our wedding was just a few days ago.
Finally we could rest.
After the audience all the newlyweds lined up to meet the Pope.
Just before it was our turn, we were asked our language and told not to kneel or kiss the ring.
Well, we couldn’t help it, we knelt in front of the Holy Father and kissed his ring. It’s the Pope, how could we not? He spoke to us in English. Unfortunately, neither of us can remember what he said. We could understand him, it wasn’t that, but here we were face to face with Pope John Paul II. He was touching our hands and talking to us.
I can remember his ring, it was very thin. I can remember the smell. He smelled Pope-y. I can’t really explain that one, but it was almost a grandfatherly smell mixed with incense and a bit wintery. I can remember the voice and his eyes. But, not the words. Maybe someday it will come back to me.
After the audience we took advantage of the sights of Rome and Christina in her dress. We got some great pictures and Christina was applauded almost everywhere she went. Young kids came up to her several times and sang songs.
It was a beautiful day.