Monday, November 12, 2012

A Cinque Terre Proposal

Let's just get right to it, shall we? This happened:

If you just went, "Wait... huh? What??" please take a minute read the story of Aaron and me, and then proceed. : )

It was October 2, 2012 — a Tuesday, and the fourth day of our two-week trip through Italy. We woke up in Manarola, the second southernmost village of the Cinque Terre (Five Lands), which are perched on Italy's west coast above the Ligurian Sea.

And we woke up a little... hungover.

The previous day, Italy had rained all over our Cinque Terre parade. Aaron and I managed to explore Monterosso under cloudy skies, but got completely drenched by a merciless downpour the moment we arrived by train in Vernazza.

Aaron braved the rain to take this photo while I cowered under cover nearby.

The only thing to do in the tiny town was find shelter at a restaurant and wait out the rain over glasses of vino rosso, but the rain persisted long after we emptied our glasses. We decided to skip the third town, Corniglia, and head straight to our room in Manarola to get dry.

Endless stairs led up, up, up to our room...

...which was absolutely adorable...

...and had a killer view of the sea.

The rain cleared up just in time for us to walk out to a viewpoint and catch a glimpse of Manarola bathed in light from the glorious sunset.

We then grabbed dinner and a few glasses of wine, ate gelato (just as we did every. single. day. of the trip) and bought a bottle of local wine to take back to our room.

Aaron fell asleep relatively early after a few more glasses of wine, but I stayed up late to fill out paperwork for my new job on the iPad (I got an offer the day before we left, and I negotiated my pay while waiting for my flight out of JFK!). It's much more fun to do paperwork while drinking wine, obviously.

And here's where things got a little strange. 

Aaron woke up around 2 a.m. and couldn't fall back asleep. He said he had a headache — probably from all the wine — and we didn't have any painkillers on hand. I felt terrible that he couldn't sleep, so I just stayed awake, too. He watched a movie on the iPad, and I devoured a really interesting book.

Around 5 a.m., I was so tired that I started to feel loopy and hungry. We didn't have any food, and there was certainly nothing open in the tiny village at that hour, so I drank lots of water and tea to appease my stomach. 

At 7 a.m., we were both starving and figured some place would be open for breakfast. We walked all around the village (which only took about 10 minutes) and found nothing open. I got really cranky and started exasperatedly saying stuff like, "Do Italians not eat breakfast? Aren't they hungry when they wake up? Who are these people??" Clearly, I had much to learn about the Italian way of life.

Eventually, we found a tiny grocery store that opened around 7:30. Miraculous!! We bought two apples and a four-pack of strawberry Activia yogurt — not what I would deem a great breakfast by any other standard, but heavenly that particular morning.

I was in much better spirits after we ate "breakfast" and got ready for the day.

We checked out of the room around 10:30 and grabbed more sustenance — mmm, focaccia — on our way out of town.

All five of the Cinque Terre towns are connected by hiking trails, as well as a quick train. We had used the train to travel through the first four towns, but planned to walk the 15-minute trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore. 

The walk is called the Via dell'Amore (Pathway of Love) because, after World War II, it was used as a lovers' meeting point for men and women from the two towns. It's now popular for lovers to enclose a padlock on a cable or railing along the trail to "lock" their love forever.

We came prepared and had our padlock all ready to go, and wouldn't you know... the trail was closed due to a recent landslide! No Via dell'Amore for us.

Aaron was not happy about this and said he was determined to put our lock somewhere. He suggested we walk back to the area where we had watched the sunset the night before and place our lock on the fence that overlooked the sea, but I said we should just take the train to Riomaggiore and find somewhere to put it there.

It felt like the train took forever to arrive. I started feeling hungover as we sat waiting on a bench, and Aaron said he still didn't feel well — he eventually put his head on my lap to rest. We were kind of a sorry-looking pair.

Finally, the train arrived and whisked us to Riomaggiore in just a few minutes. We both perked up as we got off the train and became excited about exploring a new town. There were signs directing tourists to the Via dell'Amore, so we decided to follow them and check out the status of the trail on the Riomaggiore side.

We walked up some stairs and turned a corner to find that the trail was fenced off on this side as well, but that plenty of people had placed locks on the fence anyway. A few small groups of tourists were doing the same and taking pictures, so we decided to go for it.

Aaron pointed out a tourist and said, "That lady is wearing TOMS, so maybe she speaks English. I'll ask her to take a picture of us doing our lock." He handed me the lock, and I put our bags on the ground out of the way as he asked the woman to take our picture and she agreed.

I began walking toward the fence, but realize the lock wasn't open. "Where's the key?" I asked Aaron. He looked thrown, and went digging through his bag to find it. I started chatting with the woman who was holding our camera, and then Aaron walked up to me and put something heavy in my right hand, saying...

"I think we should use this lock instead."

I immediately clapped my left hand to my mouth and started shaking.

I looked down at the big lock that he had given me and just saw "BOO" engraved on it twice (we call each other Boo... I know, I know... gimme a break here). I had no idea what to do with this lock. He started gesturing at it, but I thought he was telling me to open it when he was really telling me to turn it over and read the engraving on the other side.

Before I could do that, he got down on one knee and asked, very simply, and with a huge smile on his face: "Will you marry me?"

It took me a second to catch my breath before I could choke out my answer through my happy tears: "Of course I will!!!"

Thanks to that wonderful woman who shot continuous photos throughout the proposal, here it is in handy GIF format. : )

duD7Jr on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

If I had understood Aaron's directions to read the other side of the lock, I would have seen that the engraving said the exact same thing he did:

After a big kiss and hug, I got a better look at the ring. It was absolutely perfect.

We are engaged!!! I get to marry my very best friend, the guy who makes me laugh and smile more than anyone else in the world, and who makes me happier than I ever thought possible.

I can't wait to call him my husband.

We're forever grateful to the woman who took all these great pictures. When I wasn't listening, Aaron whispered to her that he was going to propose and that she should just keep taking pictures. She did an amazing job, and we thanked her profusely! It helped that Aaron's Canon 5D Mark II takes continuous shots.

There were quite a few people who watched the proposal unfold and applauded when I said yes. All the women clamored around to congratulate us and look at my ring. It really was a fun little scene.

After everyone dispersed, we actually did put our lock on the railing, as we'd originally planned. We kept the big, engraved lock as a keepsake, of course.

I suspect they cut off all the locks from time to time to make room for more, but I hope ours sticks around for a while. The next time you go to Riomaggiore, look for it and let me know if it's still there!

UPDATE: As of March 1, 2013, it's still there!!!

After we finished with our lock, we went to a nearby cafe to giggle and excitedly recap the proposal. Any trace of a hangover I had before was completely gone, replaced by pure joy and giddiness. Aaron confessed that he'd been horribly nervous throughout the whole trip, and he was so glad he could finally relax! Of course, the reason he wasn't able to sleep the previous night was because he was so nervous.

I also learned that he had taken each of my parents out to dinner a few weeks earlier to ask for their permission to propose. My mom was overjoyed and immediately said yes, but apparently my dad grilled him for three hours before he gave his permission. My dad also gave Aaron not one, but three books about how to have a long-lasting and successful marriage — complete with sticky notes to designate the really important parts. I started crying when I heard that... I love that my dad cares so much!!

This post is getting long, so I'll do a "part two" post about the rest of the surprises Aaron had in store for me that day. There was definitely champagne involved!

MNU7qD on Make A Gif, Animated GifsBut before I leave you hanging, I'll answer a few questions you may be wondering about.

First: Did I know Aaron was going to propose?

I wasn't 100% sure — and I didn't want to get my hopes up in case he didn't — but I had a pretty strong feeling that he would propose at the Via dell'Amore. He started to act a little strange the previous day, saying things like, "I think tomorrow is going to be the best day of our trip!" Then, he couldn't sleep. Then, he became really insistent about putting our lock somewhere even though the trail was closed.

And even if all that hadn't tipped me off, my dad gave me a pretty big hint when he started sounding all weepy on the phone the night before we left for Italy. : )

However, I was still really shocked when Aaron gave me the engraved lock and got down on one knee. I lost all control of my body and emotions, and just cried and shook the entire time. It was a perfect proposal!

Second: What's the story with the ring?

It really is my dream ring. You know why? We picked it out together!

Aaron says he always knew he would marry me. Our relationship definitely went through some bumps (like when I straight-up left the country to travel by myself), but as soon as I returned in May, I knew I would marry him, too. From that point on, we always talked about our future like, "When we get married..." It was never an "if."

Flashback to May: On crutches, in love.

I'm a very particular girl and knew exactly what kind of engagement ring I eventually wanted, so I suggested in July that we should look at rings sometime. I sort of expected Aaron to freak out, but instead, he said, "That's a good idea. Let's go today!"

As we looked through several stores, he got an idea of the style that I liked and started picking out rings for me to try on. I rejected each one for one reason or another — so picky, I know. Finally, Aaron pointed to one ring in a glass case and said, "This is the one." So I tried it on. And he was right — it was.

It turns out he (secretly) went back and ordered it the next day.

The ring is extra-special because the center stone is from Aaron's mother's wedding band; she now wears her mother's beautiful wedding band. I love having a little piece of the Pass family in my ring even before I officially become a Pass myself. : )

That brings me to...

Third: When are we gettin' hitched?

October 2014! We're in no rush, but we're having a great time planning so far.

I obviously have a lot more to write about — from the rest of our Italy trip to my new job to wedding planning — and I apologize for neglecting to keep this blog updated as I adjust to several life changes at once.

There's more to come soon. Stay tuned!


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  1. Congratulations! I love this story! Can't wait to read more about your trip & wedding plans.

  2. Awwwwwwww! I read this, and then read it again (and again). It makes me so happy. Congratulations!

  3. I LOVE THIS! I love reading about your travels and this whole story is just perfect. Beautiful ring too!

  4. So spectacular - another CONGRATULATIONS to you BOTH! :) <3

    I am so glad that you took the time to write out the whole story. So beautiful :)

  5. This is so fabulous! The pictures are incredible - you are lucky to have found such a great photographer at just the right moment. Congrats, Devon!

  6. Absolutely dynamite... Congrats guys!

  7. a lovely photo...

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  8. Awwww so sweet :) Congrats and I can't wait to hear more!

  9. This is the most adorable story I have ever heard! I just randomly came across your blog and am so glad that I did :) I can't wait to meet someone that makes me as happy as he makes you. Congrats! PS - I'm also traveling to Cinque Terre in December! Can't wait and I hope it was awesome! - Taylor Horen (

  10. Just read your post finally. Congrats to you and Aaron. The ring is gorgeous and I hope you two have many happy years together.

  11. Beautiful post, Devon! And how wonderful that you have pictures to document your story. Congrats to you both.

  12. I love the lock, the Toms and everything about your engagement in Italy! She sure did take some great photos of you two. The ring is stunning, D. Congrats you guys!

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  14. The scenery and the great photos for a celebration. Wish you always happy.

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