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but i’m still calling him boyfriend

August 11, 2009

[warning: this post is looooong. and i apologize. however, it’s an important story and i don’t want to forget the details!]

It’s no secret that I love to plan. What others find stress inducing or annoying, I find incredibly calming. Have a bad day? Do a few budget airline searches. If that doesn’t cheer you up, look up hotels within a six hour radius or $100 flight. If you are STILL feeling irritated or depressed, go to flickr and type in the destination you were just researching & filter by “interesting.” See? It’s like Xanax, right?

Anyways. Of late I have started doing a whole new kind of planning. BUT. I can’t talk about what a disaster that’s been until I share some background. Cart before the horse and all that.

So. Let’s rewind a bit, shall we?

Back in December I was obsessed with planning trips to Christmas markets. Downright obsessed. I made a spreadsheet of every worthwhile Christmas market within a 10 hour drive of Brussels (for the record, that took into account festivals in Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Netherlands and Germany. I left out Switzerland. No reason to go nuts my first year), ranked them by feasibility, distinguishing characteristics (ferris wheels, ice skating, gingerbread cookies the size of my head) and the like. Boyfriend put the kabosh on the ones that were far away or in the middle of Podunk, Germany and put Paris at the top of his list.

Being the gracious and considerate person that I am, I acquiesced to his request and put together a weekend in Paris in December (13th & 14th).

In an attempt to make it somewhat special, we booked a nicer room than usual – The Hotel Victor Hugo – near the Arc de Triomphe. We found it easily enough but panicked when we walked in and they DIDN’T have our reservation. Which prompted me to look at Boyfriend and say “If we had just booked the 60 Euro room at the IBIS this WOULDN’T have happened” solely with my eyes. He responded “Just wait and see” via a shoulder shrug and we both glared at the receptionist ala “YOU FIND US A ROOM.”

By some dumb luck she never found our reservation (computer system was down) but she did hook us up with a SUITE to compensate for the inconvenience! Ahh! A suite!!

What did our Parisian suite look like? Obviously I didn’t take a single picture. Because I’m awesome. But it was almost the size of a Motel 8 hotel room (which is huge for Paris), had a jacuzzi, marble floors in the bathroom and the most elegant, French boudoir feeling to the room. Lovely. So nice, in fact, that we immediately left and went for a walk down the Champs Elysees.

Which was miserable. Absolutely miserable. It was about 34 degrees outside and poring rain. Sheets of sideways, cold rain would hit the pavement and then rebound back up and hit your knees. Which would have been okay had we had TWO umbrellas or if there hadn’t been hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of other people packing the sidewalks, poking you with their umbrellas. We walked the length of the Champs Elysees to one of the Christmas Markets, bought a banana & nutella crepe + a hot chocolate, found a metro and immediately went back to the hotel room.

Where I took a loooooong bubble bath in the jacuzzi while BF set about making reservations for the evening. With the help of the quad-lingual receptionist he scored us tickets to a violinist performance at the Theater des Champs-Elysees and a table for two at The BEST Restaurant EVER. After our dissapointing afternoon everything was coming together and it seemed like it would be a perfect night.

While getting ready I had something weighing on my mind. Something round. And something square. When combined they could be worn on a finger. The fourth finger. On the left hand. To be exact.

Yes, a ring. We had gone diamond shopping together in Antwerp back in October (more on that in a later post) and I KNEW that all the recent “I have to go to Antwerp for work.”  “I’m craving Wagamamas (in Antwerp).” “I think I’ll go to the gym in Antwerp tonight.” had all been a cover for his dealings with our jeweler. I KNEW he had it in his pocket or somewhere else in his belongings. I KNEW it was in the hotel room. I KNEW it was why he had insisted on Paris (it’s pretty much his favorite city in the world). I KNEW he would propose that night.

So, while prettifying myself I couldn’t help but tailor my outfit to that most important of accessories. Which would go better with diamonds? My black dress or the grey skirt? Would this hat clash with the ring? What about earrings? Oooh! My diamond studs from Aud. These would be perfect. And so it went.

I eventually selected the *perfect* proposal outfit and we made our way to the theater. After several wrong turns that resulted in me running after a taxi down an alley and slipping on the wet pavement (note: nothing hails a Parisian taxi like a wipeout) and taking said taxi exactly three blocks (in Paris you are nearly always a mere 3 blocks from your frustratingly elusive destination) we arrive at the theater.

We settled in to our seats and the evening unfolded perfectly, as if choreographed by a master. The art deco interior of the theater cast everything in a glamorous 20s glow. Nestled in our front row, center balcony seats, we were mesmerized by the violinist.

View from our seats.
Art Deco Ceiling

During intermission, Boyfriend surprised me with champagne (champagne! ahh!). I checked the glass in the light – no ring. Hmm… he was just doing this to be thoughtful. Even better.

After two encores we walked out into the cool night. The rain had stopped and the streets were quiet. We strolled underneath trees twinkling with lights as if we had all the time in the world. I paused. “Maybe this is it? We are all alone. There are lights. Dry ground for kneeling. This must be it.”

And then I checked my watch – our dinner reservations started five minutest ago! We took off and 2 metros + several wrong turns later we arrived at The BEST Restaurant EVER (aka L’ Entredgeu).

Our Favorite (real) Restaurant in Paris

More on the restaurant at a later date, but let’s just say that it was spectacular. It definitely lived up to its reviews by my favorite gastronomic guru and the wonderful Chez Pim. After 3 courses of truly special food and a lovely bottle of wine, we left the restaurant on a gourmet high. Walking hand in hand it was all very textbook romance. So I did the obvious thing – started skipping along singing a medley Disney love songs. Apparently my rendition of “A Whole New World” remixed with “So This Is Love” and “Tale as Old as Time” sounded a bit too similar to the seagull in  “Kiss the Girl”. If he had ANY intention of proposing, that killed it right there.

So. We caught the metro to the Champs Elysees in order to admire the giant ferris wheel set up for the holidays and walk past the stores (while not overwhelmed by crowds). It was downright sparkly:

From How Could I Say No…
From How Could I Say No…

I did a quick atmosphere inventory. Twinkling lights? check. Nothing rushing us? check. PARIS? Check. Christmas-time? check. Cute outfit? check. Manageable hair? check. Relatively alone? check. PERFECT evening? check.

I stared introspectively at the ferris wheel and prepped myself to say “yes.”

From How Could I Say No…

But we just kept walking. We saw the most adorable family ever – all matching in their santa hats – and commented that that could be US some day.

From How Could I Say No…

He laughed and said “sure” and then proceeded to play with the camera:

From How Could I Say No…

Then. We paused. And were about to have a moment when he was distracted by a car:

From How Could I Say No…

and I was distracted by window displays:

From How Could I Say No…

and then we went home.
Yes. Back to the hotel. Where he passed out before he even got his sweater off.
I, of course, was mildly devastated and highly irritated.
My naked fingers and I drifted asleep while watching an episode of Grey’s on my laptop. One of the ones where Meredith doesn’t get engaged.

Anyways. The next morning was just as cold & rainy as the previous day. While layering up for the elements I gave little thought to my ensemble. Clearly this was not the weekend we were getting engaged.

We drove around Paris on a photo hunt and took pictures of landmarks obscured by fog.

From How Could I Say No…

Then we headed off in the direction of the Christmas markets – the attraction that was apparently the whole point of the trip. We parked near Notre Dame and took the obligatory pictures there and, as we were walking past Sainte Chapelle – our FAVORITE church in the ENTIRE WORLD, BF says “hey! there’s no line. Why don’t we get some pictures with the D-80?” (The last few times we were there we just had my little point & shoot. Made sense to get pics with the DSLR.) Although I definitely complained a bit: “But we’ll have to pay admission again. And the light is probably bad. Are you sure you want to stop?” Boyfriend feigned ambivalence and was all “Eh. I guess we don’t have to. But who knows when we’ll be here next? Might as well go now.” So we went.

As I walkeded up the final step of the spiral staircase to the upper chapel, the sight took my breath away (as it always does). No matter how many times I go, surrounded by intricate stained glass windows, I just can’t help but think it’s the most magical place in the world. Boyfriend took off to document the scene with his fancy pants camera and I sat down to take it all in.

From How Could I Say No…
From How Could I Say No…

I stared at the what may or may not be the crown of thorns, I looked up at the panels of glass and then… I looked down.

And boyfriend was there.
On his knee.

And I was in total shock.


He smiled and said nice things and opened the box and said more nice things which I can’t quite recall because the ring was so gorgeous. And even though there were other people around, no one was looking and it was perfect because I would have felt awkward if anyone was staring. But no one was and it was like it we had our favorite place just to ourselves. And although I knew it was coming and I knew what the stone looked like, I couldn’t have been more surprised by the moment or the ring itself. If I had all the rings ever created to choose from, this is the one I would pick. Which I suppose is appropriate since it’s a ditto for the guy who was holding the ring.

So I said yes. Because really, how could I say no?

Sadly, this is the BEST shot anyone got of us. No one could figure out how to use the camera.
Me post engagement. Fortunately BF knew how to use the camera

ring solo The ring… could you say no to this? I couldn’t…

But, ’til death do us part or not, I’m still calling him Boyfriend.

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