Our Engagement (and subsequent MAGICAL trip to Quebec City)! / by Alaina Kaczmarski


February 11, 2016. It was a very normal Thursday. Wasn't particularly cold, sun was shining. I was wrapping up stuff at the end of my work day and had to run to a nearby corner store where yet another work package was waiting to be picked up since our doorbell doesn't work. Danny was just coming home from a work trip and I knew he had to park his ZipCar a few blocks away from where we live, so I called him and said "In the car, I'll pick you up!" I asked how his trip was and informed him two of my girlfriends were coming over for Thai takeout in a couple of hours. Little did I know he had other plans. 

I ran my errand and we came back home. I had just worked out despite feeling really sick all week, looked and felt like crap, and started making a pot of tea. He was acting really strange. I heard him talking to the dogs in the other room (not a weird thing around these parts), but he was sounding particularly coo-ey. If coo-ey is the right word. I even laughed and asked, "Did you bring a baby back with you? Who are you talking to like that?" He replied Tucker. Hmmm ok... I later learned he was trying to put Tucker's bow tie on him for the big event. Then when I was pouring my tea, he hovered over me awkwardly and when I looked at him he just said, "Oh. Can I have some?" It was strange. I even told him so. Multiple times. But little did I know...

So I proceeded to go into the living room with my tea, kick my feet up, take this photo for Instagram. Ya know. The usual. Moments later... 

Time out.

Allow me to rewind here for a second.

Let me take you back to where this all started.

Three years ago, on March 22, 2013, two of our good friends (who are now married) decided we should meet. We grew up fifteen minutes apart in the Chicago suburbs (he from Naperville, I from Clarendon Hills), but it wasn't until that fateful night at the Bird's Nest (a decently dodgy corner bar in Lakeview) that we were introduced. We started talking right away and by the end of the following week, we had gone on four very fun dates. 

One of said dates was a Little Green Cars concert at Lincoln Hall where the lyrics
"it's easy to fall in love. it's easy to fall in love with you..." 
melodically rang out around the hall. I remember standing there, awkwardly swaying, holding my beer thinking Yes... yes it is... and wondering if Danny was thinking the same thing. I am SO aware of how cheesy this sounds, but I love every romantic comedy on the planet where stuff like this goes down. So believe you me when I say this is how my mind works.

You can hear the whole song here where I blogged about it on Live Creating Yourself right after Danny introduced it to me, days before seeing said concert. I mean come on, how adorable is that?

Fast forward back to today. Well, back to February 11.


Ok, time in.

So I am busy, nose in phone, editing the aforementioned photo for Instagram. Meanwhile Dan is putting on the record of our song. Again, a normal thing around here. I then got up and left the living room, while he, unbeknownst to me, set up a video camera on the bookshelf to record what was about to go down. Sneaky man. You can thank him for the photo above. Not a reenactment, which oddly enough several people have asked assuming it was...

I was back in the kitchen (STILL editing said photo...) when I hear him call me to come back into the living room. He was quasi-on the ground petting Tucker so I immediately looked to Tucker to see what he was doing. 

As I got closer, Danny nervously and oh-so-sweetly got down on one knee, with our song playing in the background, and asked me to marry him.

I said yes.

Well, actually, I threw my hands up and laughed, not believing him at first and even saying "Oh stop!" when he got down on one knee. (He reminded me later that he had never once jokingly got down on one knee before this moment.)

Then I saw the ring in his hand. (Round with a halo and dainty diamond band. Perfection.) And I screamed as "OHYMYGODITSHAPPENING" flashed through my mind. And then I started to cry. Tears of absolute joy in its purest form. It's a thing. 

And then I said "yes, yes, of course, yes" and hugged him and kissed him and all that good stuff.

Before I could even mentally process what had just happened, he stood up and said: "And pack your bags, we're leaving for Quebec City in two hours." 

"What?!" was my reply.

"We're flying into New York. Then taking a train up to Montreal. Then driving to Quebec City."

My mind was gone. I couldn't process all of this (I blame the looming sinus infection). We didn't even have time to call anyone. I had to shower, pack a carry on for freezing temps in Canada and then a work trip to Washington DC I had planned for Monday morning. So I didn't really think. I just did. The love of my life had proposed and was now whisking me off on a romantic getaway...

We finally texted family in the cab on our way to the airport. (His family had actually known it was coming since they were going to be our dogsitters for the weekend.) Our cab driver was hysterical listening in on all the excitement. And after rushing to get to Midway, we learned our flight had been delayed two hours due to weather and we wouldn't land in NYC until 1am or so.

I'm calling another Time Out here because his plan really was perfect.

I never saw it coming. I always knew Danny was never going to propose any time anyone expected him to. No Christmas proposal. No big trip proposal. No anniversary proposal. No taking me to the spot we met proposal. No Valentine's Day proposal.

Er... or so I thought. I was so convinced it would never happen any time anyone assumed it might happen that he ended up doing it leading up to a time (Valentine's Day) that I 10000% did NOT expect it. And he knew any time we had a trip planned I'd be thinking "maaaaybe now" (like when we went to Punta Cana in January). But instead he did it in the place most special to us - our home. Then whisked me away on a perfect celebratory getaway. To a place I'd been dying to go no less.

He's kinda great like that. :)

Obligatory ring selfies were taken to send to sister, family, friends, et al. following the proposal.

So we landed at Laguardia circa 1am and cabbed to our hotel in Midtown. After a few hours sleep in NYC, we caught an early train headed for Montreal. Danny booked the round-about route for three reasons. 1. After binge-watching Downton Abbey all month, he thought the train ride would be romantic. 2. He booked it two weeks in advance and the cost of direct flights were through the roof! 3. He wasn't expecting me to be sick. Like really sick. The flight to NYC did nothing good for my sinuses but we grabbed a box of tissues and some meds at Penn Station and boarded what was supposed to be an 11 hour train ride. I was optimistic there was no way it would take 11 hours to get from NYC to Montreal. After all, it's like a 6 hour drive! And I was right. It didn't take 11 hours. It took 12. Due to an impromptu delay with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. But alas we made it... and immediately went out to dinner at an amazing restaurant I highly recommend... when I think of the name of it. And when we came out of the restaurant an intense but perfectly fluffy snow storm had begun so we opted to walk back to the hotel in it. It wasn't too far.

Happy, cold, and in love.

When we woke up the next morning, it was -30 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest weekend of the year so far. But it was sunny! And we were heading to Quebec City! 

We cabbed over to the car rental nice and early. And an hour later we made it out of Montreal city borders thanks to a faulty GPS system and not having phone service out of the country.

But road tripping is kind of our thing. I was feeling MUCH better after a great night sleep. And I was engaged! To Danny! And he was taking me to the city I had been dying to see! QC wasn't a far drive from Montreal... two hours or so. Lots of singing, one bathroom stop, and a short nap (for me) later, we were pulling into the walled city. My jaw dropped. It was even better than I imagined. And Danny booked us a room at a really amazing hotel in the Old Quarter right off this perfect little cobblestone street. We dropped off our bags and immediately ventured out. Stopping every ten feet for me to take a dozen or so photos. (He is VERY patient with my incessant picture taking.) After going about four blocks (and 100 photos later) we popped into a restaurant for French onion soup and cappuccinos. Then we walked up the massive hill to the Chateau Frontenac and town center where we purchased a piece of art for our home to commemorate the trip. Then we found shelter and warmth again with wine and food. I was on cloud nine.

I could only describe this perfect place as the real life French version of Diagon Alley for adults. I haven't been to the Wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando but I suspect I don't need to anymore. (Ok, that's a lie. I still want to.) Just look...

We took a short break back in our room for champagne (thank you, Mom!!) before heading back into the tundra for more drinks and dinner. Or maybe we had dinner at the hotel. Doesn't matter. 

Seriously how amazing is this place?!

 I crawled out of bed at 6:30am the next morning to snap a few shots before the city woke up and the crowds filled the streets. Yes that happens in Canada no matter what the temperature is. We left early that afternoon to head back to Montreal before catching a flight home to Chicago (direct flights this time). But Danny didn't even leave O'Hare he had another work trip, and a few days later I left for Vietnam... the next month we saw each other 4 or 5 days because of all the travel we both had.

But Valentine's weekend 2016 was an absolutely perfect weekend. The start of our new life together.