Today was the day.
First and foremost, there was to be the proposal. Second, we had decided it was time to venture off the resort to explore at least a little of the Cuban culture.
We realized that breakfast was more or less the same every day except say a few minor additions like another style of bread thrown into the mix (the bread and buns are really good), or slightly different meats. Either way it hits the spot.
Cheyenne wanted to book meals in the other resort restaurants before we left so we sat down with Kaly who I could tell out of the corner of my eye, couldn’t stop smiling during our conversation. ‘No reservations at Varadero 1887 for tonight’, Kaly tried to say in a serious manner.
So for now, so she thought, we at least had evenings of Cuban and then Italian cuisine booked for Friday and Saturday evenings.
While Cheyenne took care of a few things at the front desk, I followed Kaly over to the Cafe Bar to confirm the details for later that evening. The flowers, champaign and music were all set.
It’s about a 10 minute walk from the resort to the main road to catch a double decker tour bus. It was finally a clear day although there was enough of a breeze that it still wasn’t overly hot.
We enjoyed the old cars driving by for 5 minutes or so while we awaited the bus, and it seemed every second vehicle honked their horn or slowed down, in an attempt to offer you a ride.
We started our excursion on the bottom level of the bus, with the view of the open air through the stairway to the top a bit intimidating at first for this height challenged traveller. A couple of stops in, paused long enough to feel safe to venture into the blue skies atop the vehicle, we found a couple of seats with the warm breeze against our faces. Cheyenne took the outside railing seat and was a bit intimidated by this freedom from enclosed quarters at first, but after building up speed a few times and a few twists and turns into various resorts, we settled in and enjoyed a trigger happy ride.
At least where we are, it’s about a 20 minute walk we’d guess from the Oceans edge of our resort, to the other side of the island peninsula of Varadero. Although it’s a little river with trees on the other side and catamarans parked along the shore, it feeds into the Atlantic just a little ways up from us.
With how high you sit above the roadway, each direction of the bus trip provides you with a vantage point that makes you feel like you are driving along the shoreline ready to topple into the ocean at any moment. It makes for a breathtaking view of vast open waters with the shoreline of Cuba’s main land in the far of distance.
There are quite a number of stops between our resort and midtown Varadero where we got off, but we didn’t mind. We finally felt like we were in Cuba rather than any American resort in say South Carolina, California or Florida. Not that I haven’t loved the people and places when I visited these destinations but other than the marvel of seeing outside your country, and the various accents from the coastal cities I have seen from those mentioned above to New York, Boston, and New Jersey, this was unlike anything else either of us had seen before.
Our first stop was the bank as being unknowledgeable travellers, cuc’s (cuban convertible peso’s), were going fast and we also were relying on American credit cards which are of no use. The building was quite bland but cool, and we quickly learned that only one person could stand at the counter at a time. They weren’t mean about the request.
From there, we walked for a bit taking a few pictures before being enticed to jump on a horse and buggy ride for 5 cuc’s each. We weren’t riding more than 5 minutes before we asked to get off to use the bathroom (bano), which cost us another 10 cuc’s. Thankfully we just stopped at the bank.
Conveniently for us, the bano was at the flea market that we wanted to stop off at. We spent a couple of hours at least buying gifts for family back home including those watching over our dog and our cats.
The artwork was breathtaking from wood, leather, oil paintings, jewelry and even rum and smokes. We sat half way through for dose cervaza and enjoyed some time to just watch the people. We fell in love with one little dog who had in turn, fell in love with a gentleman and his little girl as while he and another fellow stood and chatted for some time, the dog slept peacefully in their shadows.
We enjoyed talking in great lengths to the vendors who spoke really good English. They chatted about their families, shared photos, talked of their family business, and at times dealt with rude tourists. One vendor however was that guy you are warned about by Ernesto, and before we knew it we were unwillingly paying 20 cuc’s for a leather wallet scribed with your name and year. “Come in. Come in. Free wallet for the lady. Please write your name down here. Beautiful yes? 20 pesos.” Of course we could have walked away but it was far more charming than Cheyenne’s wallet that was likely made in China.
We bought everything we wanted to and more, before taking a nice stroll through the streets with no plans, and nowhere to go.
Eventually a charming gentleman called us down into his restaurant where we enjoyed hamburgers and French fries with a cervaza for me and a Pina Colada or the lady.
We couldn’t have asked for a better day weather wise.
We were finally ready to head back well into the afternoon, so we found a tour bus stop and took photos for some 15 minutes of all the old cars and the fascinating variety of taxied beeping by. “There goes a tilt-a-whirl.”
We decided we would take the bus to the end of the peninsula of Varadero which in hindsight, might not have been a great idea after a long day. There were many breathtaking sights but the ride atop the bus was very windy and bumpy and after a 45 minute detour from our resort, we were ready to put our feet up over a quiet coffee.
At this point, Cheyenne still thinks we are just headed to the buffet tonight but thankfully, I was able to delay the surprise a little longer because she wanted to finally get dressed up nice.
To make it look like I had a wallet in my pocket and not a ring box, I put the room key and money in my shirt pocket. I awkwardly trying to hide that pant leg for the next hour, nervous all night (as I had been throughout this trip thus far), hoping she wouldn’t catch any hints from me or staff in on the surprise with coat hangers in their mouths and big wide eyes.
We returned to the lobby about 7 o’clock with an hour to spare before our dinner reservations. Cheyenne chatted a bit with her daughter while I sneakily shared some pictures and explanation of our day with friends and family, with the last picture being the ring I was about to propose with – hiding Cheyenne from viewing the post.
“We should head up to the dining room”, Cheyenne motioned around 7:45 – both starved after a busy day. This is when I told one more small lie after telling her at least, that we were heading to Varadero 1887 (more of a fine dining restaurant within the resort), for dinner.
I told Cheyenne that our tour guide Ernesto, pulls the gentleman aside after the orientation to encourage them to plan a romantic evening with their partners. She was excited and surprised, but bought it hook, line, and Cohiba.
Upon entry, I say my name and the waitress throws me a big smile. I didn’t notice until Cheyenne pointed it out later, but our table had flower petals spread across it which looking back, was a beautiful touch. There was also a bottle of champaign, at our table only, but I told her that was also courtesy of this romantic package. She thankfully was still not suspicious although at this point I think she’s dreaming of Ernesto being on our date instead of me.
Of course by now the nerves were high and my heart was pounding. This was also due to the fact that although many locals at the resort speak decent English, some words are lost so I really I had no idea when the flowers were coming or the table side music.
Apparently everything was planned for when we sat down for soon after, they brought Cheyenne her breathtaking arrangement of pink roses in full bloom. That Ernesto.
Just a few moments later, Cheyenne looked bewildered as the singer walked forwards us, and she looked around wondering if she was only going to sing to us. At that moment, with her looking the other way, I stood up, walked to her side, struggled to pull the box out of my pocket and then get it open with the ring case still in side. Had I planned better, I should have left the box back at the hotel but I threw that on the floor before Cheyenne turned around in shock as I opened up the ring case to expose the ring.
The singer had an astounding voice, singing a beautiful rendition of Ava Maria as, bent on one knee, I asked Cheyenne to be my bride. It took her a moment to catch her bearings, so I jokingly asked ‘maybe?’, before she said ‘yes, yes, yes.’
With tears in both our eyes, the room erupted into clapping and congratulations, and even a cheers from the couple behind us who had been married for 37 years – wishing us the same happiness.
Dinner was wonderful, especially with Cheyenne glowing against the stage, in utter shock, staring constantly at the ring, and then back at me with that smitten look that always captures my heart.
Earlier in our relationship, in the midst of a horrible divorce, I had stated that I didn’t want to get married again, but I did know early on that Cheyenne was the one. Last year however, I realized through everything that we had been through as a couple, that I indeed want to marry again and so tonight, almost three years together and one and a half years sharing the same roof, we took that next step.
Throughout the rest of the evening, as Cheyenne smiled with roses in hand walking around the resort, the congratulations kept flowing along with the cervaza’s.
I told her at this point that everyone – I mean everyone, knew what was happening tonight except her, so we had a few moments of WiFi time, welcomed by some 100 or so messages of congratulations.
We checked out the rock show by the pool later on with a talented female lead seeing songs from Joan Jett, CCR, AC/DC, and many others. It was a fun and energetic show.
Our last stop was the discotheque for a couple of drinks and a bit of dancing. It was full of life this time. As we watched the exuberant silliness of the young tourists, mostly in their late teens we gathered, we wondered ‘why we hadnt done these sorts of things in our youth?’ I am not sorry because I have certainly appreciated this trip that much more, but what stooped us from such adventures?
One couple came over while we were dancing, who had been in the restaurant to witness the proposal, and joked about how we made everyone wait for dinner,and then we had his wife in tears. He then asked ‘shouldn’t you be somewhere else celebrating?’
We didn’t want this night to end.
Somehow our girls and families kept this secret for months, which made this already perfect night, that much more special.
Cheyenne Gallagher was now my fiancé. Soon, she would be Mrs. Taylor.