Exactly one year ago, Lauren Baxter from our office sat with two young customers at her desk, Stephanie Moreno and John Sparks. Stephanie was graduating from Dixie State University in May and like many college graduates, she wanted to celebrate the occasion with a trip to Europe. They selected an eleven night escorted tour with Contiki Holidays which included stops in England, Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. Contiki specializes in tour packages for young travelers ages 18-35, so we knew it would be a great option for the young couple to experience some of the most beautiful sites in Europe worry-free.
A few days ago, we received a review on our website from Stephanie about their trip. Now, this was not just any ordinary travel review – it literally brought tears to some of our hopeless romantic eyes. Since it is Valentine’s Day, we thought it would only be appropriate to share Stephanie’s story. Our words could never describe Stephanie’s experience, so we asked her to share the rest of the story…
We spent a couple of days in London just the two of us before meeting up with the Contiki group. And I remember him being really concerned about me looking inside of one of his suitcases, but I didn’t pay any attention. I assumed his underwear was the reason why he didn’t want me to look! London was beautiful, both days were sunny and we had a blast getting lost and trying to board the underground and busses. We visited the Big Ben, the museum of London, among other places. We then met up with the rest of the group, and we immediately clicked with the other couples that were traveling with us! We had some drinks and socialized before leaving to Amsterdam the next day. When we took the coach the tour manager started asking everyone what they were the most exited about, and I remember no one had said Paris!! Gee! Paris and Venice were the places I was there to see! I figured Paris may be a little overrated so I started to get a little disappointed.
We took the ferry to France, drove through Belgium, and finally arrived to Holland. What a beautiful country!!! Amsterdam is a must see! We took a ride on a boat around the canals and had some wine with the rest of the group. We also went to the flower market and walked around the city during our free time. I love tulips so I was amazed by the beauty of this city. Our friendship with the other couples and people from the trip started developing more so we all were having a lot of fun.
After Amsterdam we visited a cute little town in Germany by the Rhine valley called saint Goar. We did a wine tasting in an underground cellar and everything was fabulous! From there we went to Munich and visited a concentration camp which was something from a different world, I felt. We did a bike tour around this amazing city. Oh, boy, Germany is fabulous and beautiful!! It blew my mind away! At this point I still had no idea what was going to happen. I kind of knew he may want to propose in Europe, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up because if he didn’t, it would just ruin my trip! After Germany we went to Tyrol in Austria, and we geared up to do white water rafting. It was the first week of the season they stated doing it since the snow from the Swiss alps started melting. You can only imagine how cold the water was! We had a blast! But I ended up getting a really bad cold.
And of course, the next city in our list was Venice! We took the coach and started driving to Italy. I remember the tour manager randomly asked “Johnny” to come up and talk to him. I actually was scared for a second since the only person who calls him “Johnny” is his mom, I assumed it was a family emergency. When john got back to our seats, I asked if his family was ok and he said yes. So I didn’t think more of it.
We arrived in Venice during the night time. The next morning I wasn’t feeling very well, but John cheered me up and got me all excited to go see the city I had been longing to visit. We took a boat to plaza San Marcos in Venice, and on the boat the tour manager asked us to pair up with some friends since the gondolas had room for about five people or so. We signed up with another couple and started exploring Venice. What an incredible city! I am Catholic so visiting the beautiful churches was a must. We ate some gelato, drank wine and met back up with the group. The tour manager then took us to where the gondolas were waiting for us. He started calling everyone’s names but ours. He then called the name of the other couple we had signed up with, but he called other people to ride with them. That’s about the time when I started suspecting something was about to happen. John and I were the last ones standing and everyone took off on their gondolas. I asked the tour manager what was happening, and he said he had a special gondola for us. I started getting really excited! This whole time John was quiet and clearly nervous. We boarded this beautiful gondola, and John noticed we were taking a different route than the others. He asked the man that was sailing the gondola, and the man explained we were going to take a more private tour. John was really quiet, and I kind of knew why, so I just put my head on his shoulder and enjoyed the ride.
We arrived at this beautiful spot in Venice, where he stood up to give me his jacket, since I was very cold. He put his hand in his pocket, took the ring out, bent down in one knee, and popped the question! I’m not going to lie, my head started spinning and I started bawling so I don’t remember one word he said. I just kissed him and said “yes!” He hugged me so tight, he sat back down with me and finally got to enjoy the beautiful ride with me. He asked me to marry him with his grandmother’s ring. We had heard so much about crime in Europe that he was concerned the ring he had bought for me was going to be stolen (or lost!). He had been hiding his grandmother’s ring in a sock the entire time!
When the ride was over, we met up with some friends and the tour manager, who all knew what had happened, so they were congratulating us. We then took off to a romantic dinner just the two of us and explored the city. When it was time to meet back up with the rest of the group, it started raining and the city looked even better. That’s when the tour manager told the other 50 people in the group about the engagement news and everyone was so excited.
The next morning we took off to Switzerland, where we went up the Swiss Alps. We spent two days there and took off to Paris, France, our last destination. John and I clearly remember the moment we crossed the Swiss/French border. Our tour manager played Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” song, which I love. This song ended up becoming our wedding song, since it’s the biggest reminder of how we got engaged.
Later that day we visited Paris, and boy, it was more than I had ever imagined. I had seen Paris in movies and pictures, but they do not do it justice. It is, by far, the most beautiful city we visited during our trip. I truly fell in love with Paris. We brought a love lock with us, went to the Pont des Arts (love lock bridge). We went up to the Eiffel Tower, bumped into Woody Harrelson, and explored the gorgeous city. Later, we met up with the group, had a true Parisian dinner, and celebrated our engagement with the rest of the group. – Stephanie Moreno
Stories like this are why we love travel. It not only brings people together but it creates memories that last a lifetime. John and Stephanie’s engagement story will be passed on for generations to come. We can’t think of a more romantic way to get engaged than on vacation in a beautiful place like Venice or Paris.