It was very dark at 5 am on August 14, 2015, my 51st birthday. We were out in the dark loading our luggage into our rental car, preparing to drive to the train station in Marseille. We started the car, and drove away from our lovely Provencal villa for the last time.
Long story short, we found the train station, dropped the rental car off, hauled our luggage along till we found the right platform, and caught our train to Barcelona. We had booked seats in first class, wanting to be comfortable as we knew it was a four hour train trip. But what a lovely trip it was! If you look at a map, you can follow the train from Marseille to Aix en Provence, Avignon, Nimes, Montpellier, Narbonne, Perpignan, Girona, and finally Barcelona. The scenery was beautiful, and we enjoyed the ride.
Once in Barcelona we snagged a taxi and arrived at our hotel in only a few minutes. Our rooms weren’t ready, but we were able to check in and store our luggage so we could head out to explore the city. We had planned to do a sightseeing tour on one of the double decker hop-on-hop-off buses, and that’s exactly what we did! We walked along Avenue del Parallel towards the port and found a small plaza with shops and restaurants. Being hungry, we opted for a quick Spanish McDonalds lunch before boarding our bus. I honestly can’t say enough about what a beautiful city Barcelona is. Immaculately clean, beautiful architecture, interesting history, we just loved it. The bus tour was a lot of fun and we saw most of the older parts of the city. Enough to decide that we’d like to return some day to actually visit some of the museums and historical places we only saw from the outside.
Returning to our hotel, we enjoyed a delicious – oh, wait, that was the dinner with the weird tasting noodles – scratch delicious and replace with interesting – dinner in the hotel restaurant, headed to our rooms and crashed for the night.
The next morning Stephen and I were awake far too early. Our room was on the outside of the hotel, overlooking Avenue del Parallel, and the hotel, despite being of the Melia chain, must not have been as well soundproofed as we would be accustomed to, as we heard a great deal of noise from outside all night. Stephen got up and went to the window to see what was going on outside. I stayed curled up in bed where it was warm and cosy. He began to regale me with a running commentary on everything that was going on outside, from the Japanese tourists already out with their cameras at 6am; the young people with their suitcases who must have been ejected from the youth hostel up the road; the sandwich seller who was roaming from one side of the road to the other peddling his wares; and most entertaining of all, the drunk young folk who were staggering back to their hotels after a night of carousing. There seemed to be an awful lot of people out and about way too early, in my opinion, and I was just wishing he’d shut up and come back to bed. However, then the street cleaners came along and we learned exactly why Barcelona is as clean as it is! First you have the guys with picker-upper things who gathered up the big garbage – sandwich wrappers, empty bottles and pop cans – tourists are incredibly messy people! Then along came someone who swept around the subway entrance. Next in the parade was a funky sidewalk sweeper, much like the street sweepers we have here, but smaller and with an articulated head that could get around the subway entrance and the street signs. It sucked up all the little stuff that had been missed by the other two. And as if that wasn’t clean enough, next up was the sidewalk power washers! Yup, a water truck pulled up and a guy got out, uncoiled a power hose and proceeded to spray down the sidewalk all around the subway entrance!
Once the streets were satisfactorily cleaned, everyone seemed to go away and it got real quiet outside. Quiet and apparently boring enough that Stephen opted to come back to bed and snuggle. Which was when life suddenly took a very interesting turn.
Stephen: I have an idea.
Me: *waits patiently for what seems like an interminably long time, but knows better than to try to rush Stephen when he has something to say*
Stephen: So we were talking about coming back to Barcelona someday when we have more time to spend here?
Me: Mmm hmm.
Stephen: What do you think about coming back here on our honeymoon?
Me: *freezes, cannot move a single muscle, does not even breathe, trying to decipher what he’s just said*
Stephen: So I had this idea that when all the family is in Punta Cana at Christmas we should get married. What do you think of that idea?
Me: *chokes, gasps, starts crying, but manages to squeeze out – * Um, I think that’s a really good idea.
Stephen: *sounding surprised* You do?
Me: Yeah. Yeah, I do.
Stephen: Well, that’s good then.
Me: Um – did you just propose to me?
Stephen: Yes. Yes I guess I did. Did you just say yes?
Me: *still crying happy tears* Yes. Yes I did!
And that, folks, is the story behind the infamous Facebook “SHE SAID YES!” status posted a few days later – after we’d had a chance to tell both my kids. Sean’s reaction was quite hilarious – it was at the dinner table that night on the ship and after we told him he leaned over to Stephen and whispered, kind of man to man, you know, “Why don’t you just make it easier on yourself and give her half of everything up front?” Our wait staff must have thought we were nuts with how we were howling with laughter!
And so I claim we actually got engaged on our birthday, because even though it was technically the 15th in Barcelona, somewhere in Canada it was still the 14th, and since we’re Canadian, that’s what counts!