London: A Love Story

by Andrea on February 14, 2012

This story ends with a castle, a diamond ring, and a big ole ‘YES’!  But before we get to the good stuff, let’s back it up a bit.  It was the Fall of 2003, and there was a flutter of excitement running through my office.  British Airways was selling roundtrip tickets from Seattle to London for $250.  Yes, no joke.  The sale only lasted 24 hours and decisions needed to be made quickly.  So I, of course, called up Emily and invited her to join me in London.  She was excited to say the least.  She’d been once before for a few days in high school.  I’d spent a total of 8 hours in the city during my college years. The stars were aligning, and we decided to make our plans that evening.

After work we connected, and Emily said that her boyfriend, Sid, had never been to Europe and would just love this opportunity.  She threw out a crazy idea – what if we just bought the tickets for all four of us to go (Brian included) and surprise the guys?  Hmmm… surprise them with a trip to London?  I love surprises, and this was one helluva surprise.

Tickets were booked, and the big surprise was planned.  Instead of just telling them that we were taking them to London, we sent them around Seattle on a scavenger hunt to figure it out for themselves!  At each location, we were either there in person to deliver the next clue, or we left it in an obvious place.

It’s been eight years now since that scavenger hunt, and I don’t remember how many clues we left around town.  I do remember that they were busy chasing them around for about 3 hours.  We found ‘Kensington Pl’ in Seattle and left a clue there.  We sent them to find a classically British red phone booth around town.  We sent them to the Bathhouse theater in celebration of Shakespeare.  In the end, their final clue led them to the George and Dragon Pub in Fremont where we were waiting with pints in hand.  For the grand finale, they had a word scramble to solve using highlighted letters found in the clues along the way.

They solved the puzzle, and the big surprise was revealed. It looked something like this.

Fast forward three months, and the four of us board the plane in February to coincide with Emily’s mid-Winter break.  We did happen to be there over Valentine’s Day, but neither couple is particularly into Valentine’s Day – so it was more of a coincidence really.  Here we are on Valentine’s Day at Piccadily Circus.

Good times were had by all.  We visited museums; we saw Big Ben; we had high tea; we drank many pints; we attended the theatre; we explored markets; we witnessed the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace; and Emily and I went window shopping for wedding dresses.  Why?  Were either of us getting married? No, we were just giddy girls in our early twenties.

Towards the end of the trip, we took a daytrip to Windsor Castle. It was a crisp day, and we enjoyed walking around the grounds and visiting the castle.  Emily and I *may* have gotten a few details of British history confused, and in asking for clarification on who the Queen was married to in her first marriage, we *may* have totally scandalized one of the guides in the castle.

I can’t remember if it’s off the side or the back of the castle, but there is a long tree lined promenade that looked like the perfect spot to take a walk.  We made our way over, and the guys ended up a few feet in front of us.  Emily and I were just chatting away, not really paying attention to what Sid was doing.  As we approached, Sid had a funny look in his eye and had a sweet little box in this hand.  (As a side note, Brian thought it was chocolate – it sooo was not chocolate – and asked for a piece.) I think what was happening dawned on me and Emily at the same time.  I was trying to get as far away as humanly possible, and she was gripping my arm.  I remember squealing, dropping my gloves, grabbing Brian, and scurrying away.  We tried not to watch, but do we take photos?  Here was my internal dialogue: 

Don’t look.  Ooo, but Emily and Sid LOVE photos.  Should I take a photo? No, that’s intrusive. Is it? What if they hate me for not taking one? He’s on his knee!!  Okay just one photo. 

Photo taken, don’t look.  What’s happening?  One more photo.

Don’t look.  Has she said yes? It’s official?  Yes!

Success!  You can see my gloves in the last photo.  I literally just dropped them while squealing and scurrying away.  Apparently, holding onto those gloves was more than I could handle with all of the excitement.  Anyway… back to the story.  Ahhh, Sid.  He knew he wanted to propose in London, just not sure how and when.  Instead, he carried that diamond ring around with him EVERYWHERE for almost a week.  Looking back on it, he was rather protective of the backpack and wouldn’t let any of us carry it or grab something from it.  We just thought he was being extra helpful.  No, no, let me get that for you.  If memory serves me correctly, I believe he had a momentary anxiety attack, which none of us noticed, when he was forced to leave the backpack in coat check at the British Museum.  I believe he transferred the ring to his coat, but once again, none of us noticed.  You know, Emily and I pride ourselves on being really observant.  We clearly were off our game that trip.

Anyway, Emily said yes.  They were married that year, and just a few short years later, as fate would have it, they got the opportunity to move to London for two years.  It turns out that our scavenger hunt, big surprise, and week long trip was just the beginning of their love affair with London.

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