We drove down around noon to Newport Beach on Saturday late morning, January 29th. Chris had everything all planned out. First we unloaded our brand new beach cruisers (which we were so stoked about!) and took a cruise down the bike path along the beach. The weather was beautiful! Everything was so relaxed, and we were having the best time. We parked our bikes and ordered a bite to eat at a Sicilian pizza shop. We ate lunch sitting on the wall that separates the sand from the sidewalk by the beach. The day was perfect. The pizza was so yummy - more than pizza normally is! We ate and discussed how excited we were about the bikes, and were just having a great time.
We then packed up the bikes and changed into nicer clothes for the next part of the day. I really suspected that he was planning more than what he was telling me. There were all kinds of little hints that I apparently wasn't supposed to pick up on. I only had a basic outline for our day, and wasn't allowed to look up anything on the internet to research what Newport Beach offers, in the weeks preceding.
We then drove over to Balboa Island, where Chris had arranged for us to go on a beautiful, incredibly romantic gondola ride in the peaceful canals around Balboa Island. It was right at sunset, in an authentic Venetian gondola, propelled by a gondolier dressed in traditional gondolier attire, the round hat, striped shirt, red scarf, the sash, etc. He had romantic Italian music playing for us (and we were told he likes to sing too), there were strings of lights, and a little candle burning in front of us. The gondolier served us sparkling apple cider, a basket of bread, chocolate hershey kisses, etc, and took a few pictures of us before leaving. We set off, and were thoroughly enjoying a peaceful ride in the narrow canals, where there was hardly a ripple. It was just beautiful! When we met other gondolas, the gondoliers greeted each other in Italian.
About thirty minutes into the ride, the gondolier turned the boat around, and pointed out something floating in the water. (Chris told me later his heart started thumping at this point.) It was on my side of the boat (strategically) so he asked me to pick it up when we got closer so we could check it out and see what it was. I couldn't quite understand why it was important, or why he was asking me to pick up trash out of the water since this was supposed to be a romantic experience. We got closer and I said "oh - it's a wine bottle with rocks in it." (The rocks were in it to make it bobble upright in the water.) He told me to go ahead and pick it up. I brought it into the boat, and set it down on the floor, still thinking it was trash. There was something sticking up out of of the top, so the top of the bottle was all wrapped up in saran wrap, secured with rubber bands. The gondolier told me to go ahead and open it up. I was still confused at this point, until Chris started to help me unwrap it. At that point, I realized it may actually be a part of what was going on here (whatever that was!), so I finished unwrapping the saran wrap to discover a rolled up love letter from Chris, wrapped with red ribbon tied into a bow. It was so beautifully written - I was getting a little teary-eyed. And then Chris turned to me, and said some very lovely things to me, he began to choke up, and then as best as he could, he got on one knee in front of me - well, I think he was actually on both, in that little gondola, and asked me to marry him. It was very sweet, quite emotional, but I of course managed to say yes. He presented me with a beautiful ring.
I found out a little later that his mother inherited this ring from Chris's great uncle's sister-in-law, Emily. She was very close with Chris and his family when he was growing up. I was completely blown away, as the ring was more beautiful than anything I'd imagined wearing. It's retro, made in the 1930's, a brilliant round cut, with smaller diamonds on both sides of the main one, the band is white gold. Absolutely perfect in every way. Everything was so surreal. The next half hour is a blur to me, but we got back to the deck, the gondolier told us even he was tearing up watching us. He took a picture of us and we walked back into the gondola office. They were happy for us, and we were deliriously happy. We left the gondola office, headed to where we were parked, and paused to enjoy a brief moment together. We were still teary-eyed, and hugged each other, having a perfect romantic moment, when suddenly we realized we were standing in the middle of a street. One car had simply done a U-turn, another car just drove around us to avoid us. Granted it wasn't a busy street - a red brick street that looked like it might have been a pedestrian path, but none the less - a real street. We got out of the street, needless to say!
We had a little bit of time before our dinner reservation, so we called our families - our parents and our siblings and told them. We then went to dinner, which was a lovely fine dining restaurant called 21 Oceanfront. We were waited on hand and foot by four different people. It was amazing. Escargot, steak, seafood, etc. Martinis with the dinner and champagne with dessert.
I took a pic of the dessert, which included the logo of the restaurant made with real Ghirardelli chocolate. They took some pictures of us and we felt quite celebrated by them all.
Chris's band saw him Sunday night, and the guys all grabbed him and threw him up in the air. We are so blessed and thankful to God, our family, and friends.