A Venice Proposal (a @getbusgo travel blog)
After Verona, we arrived in a little town called Segusino. We were deep in the heart of northern Italy now and the landscape had changed dramatically; we were surrounded on all sides by beautiful misty mountains and everything was much greener and lusher. From our park up we also had a great view of a beautiful old bell tower, the sort of architecture that is very typical of the region, as we discovered.
I'd run out of clean pants which was definitely gonna become a major issue if it wasn't sorted in the next week, two weeks max.
The weather had turned pants though, so we decided to hang around Segusino for a few days and wait for the weather to pick up again before heading for Venice, the secret proposal destination.
We spent the days idling around the van, making use of the free electricity. This trip has really taught me to appreciate electricity. At one point I boiled the kettle eight times in a row. Only joking.
Each day we had a stroll into the town for a coffee. Every time we bumped into Creamy Paw, a friendly local cat. Things had gone quiet on the cat front in the last few months, so it was nice seeing Creamy Paw every day. He always chilled outside a series of back gardens, all of which had a dog in them, each going absolutely berserk.
I bought an emergency pair of boxers from a little local shop which sold everything from underwear to electrical goods to toys and ornaments. As if excited for the sale, the old lady of the shop enthusiastically dismantled their entire shelf of boxers boxes, so I felt a bit bad only buying one pair. I would've loved to explain that they were only to tide me over but she didn't speak a word of English. I also felt bad for walking in naked from the waist down. I should've gone commando really.
So, I had my clean boxers, it was time to propose.
First though, we had one more stop. A friendly Austrian couple we'd met at the park up had told us about the 'Prosecco Run', a famous mile or so stretch of vineyards, outlets and bars, where all the world's Prosecco is made. The stretch apparently started just up the road from us. We decided it would be rude not to. We drove through Valdobbiadene and onwards past an ocean of grapevine fields to Osteria Senz'Oste, an amazing old Prosecco bar and cheese place situated in the hills. We parked the van on a very steep slope (which Rach was cacking herself about) and walked up through the hills past a team of sweaty harvesters and their tractor in order to get there. It was well worth the effort and the strain on the van's handbrake. We enjoyed a mini bottle as we sat mesmerized by the views of the vineyards below. Unfortunately and to my deep regret, we couldn't get hammered because of driving n that.
Finally, after 15 months of traveling and almost six months later than planned, we were on our way to Venice. I was gearing up for the final phase of Operation Proposal, Codename: Put Your Finger In My Ring.
We parked the van up in a 15 euro per night place on the edge of the mainland. Obviously I'd spent about 100 hours in the last week or so desperately trying to find a free place but, if park4night is to be believed, the mainland part of Venice is teeming with motorhome burglers. So fuck that.
After settling in, we left for the glorious island. Thankfully, the weather was now at a temperature where I could get away with wearing a jacket without it looking weird, so the ring could be hidden pretty well in one of its pockets. We'd planned to be in Venice for at least three days, but I was still unsure when or how I was gonna ask her to shove her finger in my ring, so I decided it was best to just carry the ring around with me at all times, then I would always be prepared to 'host the one question quiz' if ever the moment felt right.
We got the bus onto the island, which is way less glamorous than boating it. Also, it obviously lands you right on the outskirts of the island where the taxis and coaches park which, it should go without saying, isn't the prettiest. For a brief second we wondered if we were even in Venice and hadn't somehow got an unfathomably swift bus service to Birmingham. It didn't take long to get through it though and very soon we were on the famous canals. All bets were now off. The 'offer of wifedom' could happen at any moment.
As it turned out, it didn't happen on that first day. We just enjoyed being back on the island again and having all the same feelings we'd had when we were blown away on our first visit a few years earlier. There had been a potential opportunity to 'pop the Q' at dinner but I decided that doing it either during or after Rach's minor disagreement with the defensive waiter over the quality of her pizza would have been disappointing.
This was 'definitely' going to be the day I did it. I put my best shirt on and everything. I even suggested we push the boat out and get the boat in. Much, much nicer than the bus and it dropped us straight into the heart of the city. So far, so good.
Unfortunately my belly conspired against me. Bloated to buggery all day. I get this from time to time and it's fucking baffling. I've tried to work out which food causes it, but there is no rhyme or reason to it. Not that I expected there to be a rhyme to it particularly. That would just be a bonus. But yeah, I've tried a week off dairy, a week off carbs etc. but I just can't seem to narrow it down. I swear, if it's cancer I'm gonna be fuming. Then I'll show my bowels what irritation really means.
Anyway, back to asking Rach to marry me. My belly situation meant we cancelled our meal plans and I postponed 'ringing it' until day 3. Rach ended up getting yet another pizza, this time at a takeaway place where the pizza was amazing. Much better than the one we'd had at the posh restaurant the night before. The guy running the place obviously really took care over things, as evidenced by the fact he began thoroughly cleaning the whole place as we sat outside munching (we were his last customers).
So, going into the third and final day we remained un-engaged. Under normal circumstances I suppose it makes sense to wait until the final day to propose; sort of climactic. However, on this occasion it was shaping up to be a very risky strategy indeed. You see, Rach's bi-monthly migraine was arriving. She'd managed to keep it at bay for the last two days, but felt like it was gonna break through properly on day 3. Shite.
[I know this last section makes us sound really unhealthy but apart from the belly thing, I haven't been ill once during this trip. In 15 months, nothing. Not even the sniffles. That is some achievement, no?]
I was running seriously low on decent shirts now. I only had the chequered green and cream (used to be white) number left. It would have to do.
We boated it in again. My belly was back to normal, thank fucking Christ. Unfortunately, as feared, Rach's head was booming. As we sat in a particularly lovely square with a coffee and a beer, Rach mentioned how bad it was. So disappointing. There was no way I could 'ask her to legally bind herself to me' while she was in this state, which would mean it wouldn't happen in Venice at all. Inside, I was a mixture of frustration and amusement. Eight months ago I bought this effing ring. And here we finally were, as planned, in Venice, and I still can't get it done. Why won't that stupid bitch just let me propose to her?
If anyone reading this hasn't seen Peep Show, you will probably think that last thought was a harsh one, to which I would say, watch Peep Show.
The Venice chemist angel
Thank the Lord many of you don't believe in for the angel he sent to us on day 3. Rach had gone into a chemist on the off chance she could get something to help with her head. She said the woman behind the counter was super friendly, listened carefully as she explained her symptoms and immediately understood the exact type of migraine she had. She then recommended some kind of oil, to be rubbed on her temples. It's funny but I could tell the woman was going to be a big help just by the warm smile she gave me when she briefly caught my eye through the shop window.
As we sat in a small square with a couple of red wines listening to a brilliant electric guitarist busking, Rach all of a sudden became a picture of relief as her migraine dissolved into thin air within moments of applying the oil. Amazing. WE WERE BACK ON! The guitarist threw us yet another winning smile as we threw some coins into his guitar case and continued our dreamy tour of Venice.
Where in the f*ck are the gondolas?!
Rach had what she said was the best ice cream of her life. It didn't really matter when or how I 'initiated engagement' now, nothing was going to compete with that. Still, I suppose it meant some of the pressure was off. Regardless, I was still clueless as to how and when I was gonna do it. Did I want to do it in the daylight? We were now getting into the early evening, so we only had an hour or so of daylight left if I did. And where? A gondola maybe? Yeah, that'll do. Next time we pass by one I'll 'spontaneously' say ''come on, let's get in this''. Perfect.
Only problem was, Rach's magic medicine had taken us below the EIGHTY EUROS the gondola would cost, so we'd have to take more money out for it. The spontaneous plan had to be jettisoned immediately.
We were walking along when I casually - as casually as I possibly could - put it to Rach that maybe we should screw the EXTORTIONATE RATES and have a gondola ride. She was surprised, to say the least. I kept things casual, very casual: ''Yeah, you know. We promised we would last time we were here. So we probably should''. We took the extra money out then stopped for a drink. One final brew before I sign my life away. I mean, not that. Before I romantically ''plight my Troth.'' Yes, that's better.
After the nerve-calming drink I spent the next half hour running around fuming and red-faced as I couldn't find a single gondola rower/driver/captain/man. They're fucking everywhere usually! How could I not find one?!
The reason for my panic? The price went up to 100 EUROS after 7pm. Fuck that. That seriously is silly money. Ludicrous. WHERE ARE THE STRIPEY BASTARDS?!!
With minutes to spare before the big 7pm deadline (and I really can't stress that enough), I finally saw a boat floating on the water beneath a nearby bridge. ''There's one!'' I ran off in a completely different direction to Rach as I shot through an underpass, gambling on that being the quickest direction to the vessel. I was right.
''Mate! 80 euros, yeah?!'' The gondola jockey responded in the affirmative, so I ran back to the underpass and shouted Rach over. Then we got on. Christ almighty, I needed another drink. What a fucking palaver.
I got in the gondola first and sat on the right, not thinking that I really should've been on the left of Rach, as the ring was in my left pocket. Afterwards, Rach did say she felt something hard during the ride and wondered what it was... but enough about my organ.
The gondola ride began. One of my fears very quickly became a reality as the gondola chauffeur started talking us through the history of every building we passed. I wasn't gonna get a word in edge ways at this rate. I decided to just chill and enjoy the ride for a bit.
And it was amazing. We traveled along some really quiet and narrow canal-ways and saw some nooks and crannies that are impossible to see from the streets. It was so peaceful. Inside though I was starting to feel a bit nervous, which surprised me as I never really thought I would. Eventually, the gondola lecturer went quiet for a few seconds. This was the moment. I managed to lean my phone against a seat leg on the boat floor in order to 'take a picture'. Really, I was filming.
After a few seconds of fake posing for a photo, I fumbled and pulled the box out of my pocket.
''I suppose this the good as... is as good.. as moment as ever...'' Shit, I was nervous.
Rach's face went red. She said ''what?'' A fair question. I opened the box. Rach looked down.
''Will you marry me?'' I said. Rach said, ''oh my God.''
''Will you do a marriage with me?'' came my next string of words. Perhaps I should've thought about this a bit more...
Rach asked if I was serious, to which I responded ''I should hope so'' while nodding towards the ring. Arguably not the most romantic response.
"Congratulations", said the gondola pilot, for probably the fifth time that day.
I think it's fair to say Rach was pretty happy. Never seen her like it before. I think that means it went well. To be quite honest the biggest relief was when the ring fit her. I'd actually had it engraved with the words ''This had better fit'' on the inside of the band. True story.
A few moments after the proposal, with Rach an ecstatic mess, the gondola exited out onto the great expanse of the Grand Canal. The sun was setting and the lights were on. It was a magical moment.
After the ride, I told the gondolier (thaaat's the one) ''cheers'' and went to walk off, before Rach reminded me that we still had to pay him. Damn. Still, a small price to pay for the most clichéd marriage proposal ever.
Finally, it was done
As what I'd just done began to sink in and with Rach constantly glaring at her ring, we sat in a nearby square with a couple of celebratory drinks. Then we went for a 'major slap up' at a great restaurant we'd found the day before. Finally I could tell her the full story of Operation Proposal. A real saga.
From Rach's point of view, she said there'd been some moments during the last couple of days which had made her wonder if something was up. Things like me saying ''let's go for a nice meal'' and wearing a nice shirt were apparently 'suspicious behaviour'. I really need to sort myself out.
After the meal, we realised we were pushing it for the last bus. I had to navigate us from the far east side to the bus stop on the west side in the dark, with only a paper map, in 20 minutes. Somehow we managed it.
Thanks to everyone who helped me through this epic saga. My mate, Rob, my dad, and the few people who knew for months what I was planning and remembered not to tell Rach. Also, thanks to Rach's dad for saying yes during the equally romantic pre-proposal.
Rach said yes, by the way.
You can read more about out travels at https://getbusgo.blogspot.com/