04 Oct 2016
Proposal in Venice!
We had been planning our Italy trip since February, and finally it arrived! James was fidgeting the whole time we were in the airport, especially going through security, but when I asked what was wrong, he just said, “I don’t like airports.” The rest of the time had been very relaxed. Our trip had been delayed from 9pm the previous night to 1am, so we were pretty exhausted as our feet hit Italian soil; we landed around 2:30 in the afternoon. We grabbed our suitcases and took a water taxi from the mainland to the island, where we would be staying for three nights in an apartment through AirBnB (highly recommended, by the way). The airport was small, about the size of Bradley International, and we were relieved to see that the signs were both in Italian and English; we weren’t quite ready to practice translating just yet.
We got on the taxi and spent about an hour on the water, packed into what looked like a commercial speedboat with around 20 other people. My poor James started feeling a little queasy since we were jammed in the bottom of the boat, but the view was really spectacular through our window. The boat was traveling down water canals that quite literally cut through the city. Buildings with chipped red and yellow paint, gondolas passing by every few minutes, and people shuffling around the cobblestone streets passed by us slowly, and us tourists pressed our noses against the windows just to see more. The driver teased us lightheartedly, but was very kind.
The boat dropped us off in the middle of the city, with no direction as to where we were or should be. James and I dragged our suitcases across the cobblestone streets, trying to figure out what to do in the 90 degree weather. We passed stone archways and the alleyways were barely wide enough for three people side-by-side, and the streets were insanely crowded. Shops popped up as we walked through the maze of little streets, and crossed stone bridges as gondola drivers and tourists waved from the water below. It was like we had stumbled into a movie set, only without the director.
We wandered for over an hour, desperately searching for WiFi so we could connect with our AirBnB host. James braved the post office and practiced his Italian, and the clerk smiled and said, in English, “Please do not worry. You should go to St. Marco’s Square, and from there you can find your way much better. Here are the directions.” Hot, sweaty and tired from dragging the suitcases, we lumbered back through the streets, trying to navigate by following the confusing street signs. We probably walked another 15 minutes before we came into a little plaza with beautiful shops and a restaurant (which we later had dinner at).
Another 15 minutes later, even though our destination was only about a minute’s walk from the plaza, we wandered down a pretty but empty alleyway. Out of one of the windows, a man popped his head out and asked, “Jenne? James?” Relieved, we bustled over to the 30-lb front door. It creaked open, and there was our host. He carried my bag up the light-less stairwell to the third floor, gave us our keys, and left us to decompress. The apartment was simple, but very cute; a simple studio, it had a sliding door to the bathroom, a full kitchen, a couch, a TV and a murphy bed. Painted on the bed were the words “Carpe Diem” in a friendly cursive scrawl. On the table were maps of Venice, a list of local restaurants, and contact information. We felt right at home.
After showering and relaxing a little while, we dressed up and hit the bricks (literally). We meandered around the town, looking into the shop windows and taking everything in. Finally, James stopped outside of a little pasticceria, staring at all of the baked goods and sweets displayed in the window. The smell wafting through the open door was mouth-watering, so we went inside were greeted by a kind Italian man. He ushered us to one of the golden tables with red velvet-cushioned chairs. We ordered our espressos, and the gentleman complimented us on our broken Italian (he really was the sweetest).
James smiled at me; “Is this everything you imagined?” I nodded vigorously. “Well,” he said, blushing and reaching into his pocket, “I have something that might make it even better.”
And he bent down and held out a tiny black box.
And I stared at him. What is he doing on the ground? I remember thinking. He’s so eccentric.
The couple sitting a few tables away, unbeknownst to me, gasped. After a good six seconds, it finally clicked that the tiny black box held something sparkly, and James’ expression was one of a very nervous man trying his best to look confident after having just asked an important question. And then everything clicked. And I burst into tears and hugged him, sobbing, “Of course!”
From behind us, we heard the couple breath sighs of relief. “Thank God,” the man whispered, “she said yes!”
I wiped away my tears and tried desperately (but to no avail) to catch my breath. My head was totally spinning, and the coffee sure wasn’t helping. James was laughing and explaining to me that the ring had been in his pocket the whole time, even through airport security, and he was desperately afraid that they were going to pull him out of line and make him reveal it. The Italian gentleman who was waiting on our table came over and asked James to come with him behind the counter. I took a few deep breaths as they disappeared, and a few seconds later James came back with a long-stemmed red rose. “For you!” He laughed. “So everyone on the streets will know that we just got engaged—in a little café in Venice!”