I am getting married.
Or rather, we are getting married.
But maybe you’ve never met my wonderful fiancé (full name: “Daniela Amestegui”) so this might come as a bit of a shock. If it does, then bear with me. I’ll tell you all about her and how we met in another blog post. But first: This is the story of the weekend. The VICTORI(a)OUS one.
The story starts in Vancouver. Dani is about to head into her second stressful and busy semester at Regent College so we decide to cap off the blissful summer with a Labour-Day-long-weekend adventure. We had always talked about visiting Victoria, the city of my roots, and her friends from Bolivia (Yare and Octavio) had recently arrived to study at Regent. So we took the opportunity to get away and relax before everyone hit the books. Dani had no idea what was coming.
At 6 in the morning on Saturday, September 2nd, the four of us caught a ferry to Vancouver Island just as the sun came over the horizon. It sailed through the narrow channels of the Gulf islands where we saw the picturesque west-coast archipelago. For Octavio, it was his first time he had ever been on such a large vessel (Bolivia is land-locked). After disembarking we took a scenic route along the coast. I spontaneously stopped at a small park cuz I spotted one of those nifty public pianos. It so happens a small family of deer passed at exactly that same moment. Everyone who had never seen a deer (a.k.a. everyone except me) started yelling “Bambi! BAMBI!” while taking touristy photos. After the deer had scattered into the trees with abject horror on their faces, we calmly gathered around the piano to sing worship songs and take romantic photos.
Who wouldn’t kiss that handsome face?
Once we were on the road again, we headed along Beach Road, the coastal winding suburban street that follows the curving beaches of Victoria. Every so often we stopped to take more photos of deer (“BAMBI BAMBI”) and at one point we briefly paused on the spot where my grandfather proposed to my grandmother (many years ago). It was at the thirteenth hole at Victoria Golf Club in Oak Bay. We could see it from the road. Then we continued to the cemetery where the man of my namesake, Walter Brynjolfson (my great grandfather) was buried. I showed Dani the gravestone so she could witness the legacy of my clan, the Brynjosojsfdldlkson.
At this point we were nearing to downtown Victoria. So we parked the car near the Legislative Assembly (i.e. the house of commons for British Columbia) and began exploring the city. We walked through the Premier’s Rose Garden, got a free tour in the heart of BC’s legislature, explored the marina, ate at a food truck festival, saw old wooden boats, danced at a blues festival… well, I danced… and we finished the night off by separating for “date night.”
Yare and Octavio were aware of the whole plan. They knew I would be proposing. So they played it off as though “going our own way” for dinner would be a great idea. I took Dani to Rebar, a famous vegetarian restaurant in the city. Then just as we were about to eat a dessert I said, “why don’t we get out of here and have a super fancy dessert somewhere else?”
She said, “What do you mean, super fancy? Where?”
At first I was reluctant to reply. I didn’t want to make it seem too elaborate or she might be suspicious. So I just said, “Follow me, I know a place that makes an amazing chocolate cake.” It’s true. I wanted to take her to the Fairmont Empress Hotel, and I had seen this youtube video, so I knew ALL about their cake. And DANG, it looks good.
She seemed convinced enough. So up from our table we went, through the streets we walked. While en route we did some window shopping for engagement rings (a clever little red herring), and just as the Fairmont Empress Hotel was coming into sight, I told her a story:
In September 2014 I had come to Victoria with my friend Jonathan. It was the final destination of my hitchhiking trip across Canada. As usual with our antics, we tried to sneak onto the roof of the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Unfortunately we didn’t get far, we only got as high as the sixth floor. But even that was memorable:
The spot was gorgeous; located a few doors down from the royal suite where Queen Elizabeth stayed on previous visits. With the setting sun over the Victoria Harbour, I told myself that if I ever proposed, this would be an ideal place.
Now, back to 2017. I didn’t want to ruin the surprise. So I didn’t tell her that last bit. I just told her (with an heir of spontaneity of course): “Why don’t we try to sneak onto the top floor and checkout that view?” She already knew about my proclivity for brash adventures, and she knew what she was getting into when she chose me, so she agreed (a true sign that she can put up with me). Before entering, I gave her a briefing. I told her to act as though she owned the place; a strategy that has never failed.
At this point, my heart was beating vigorously.
While approaching the main entrance, we passed a street violinist. If it hadn’t been for his Darth Vader outfit he would have contributed nicely to the romantic moment. But we didn’t pay much attention to him. Like a tractor beam, we were pulled to that hotel. Nothing could stop us. It felt like I was in the brain of 85 year old Walter, and I was nostalgically watching myself. Remembering everything unfold.
We entered the main lobby and approached one of the golden elevator doors as it was closing. I jammed it with my arm and stepped in. The poor unsuspecting man in the elevator, wearing only a towel around his bathing suit, must have been shocked and awed by my sudden display of manly determination (or at least, I like to think he was). With vigor, I pressed the highest number on the dial pad. Floor six.
Eventually the doors opened and we stepped into the space. A small foyer with two plush chairs made golden by the rays of the setting sun. We sat down and took a second to appreciate the view. The distant sound of the blues festival below and the glint off the surface of the sea gave the whole setting an unnatural appeal. In the midst of all this, the most amazing thing was the simple fact that the woman of my dreams sat there next to me. Reveling in the moment as I was. I couldn’t have been more happy to do what I did next:
I turned to her and said: “Dani, there’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask you.”
She paused, looking at me with the playful expression of a woman who knows I’m up to no good.
I reached into my ukulele case and grabbed the Ring Box.
But just at that moment an elevator opened with a rowdy group of American tourists streaming out. I paused. Stalling. Then she nervously repeated her question.
Waiting for the Americans to vacate the foyer, I eventually looked her in the eyes, got on one knee, and presented the ring box.
Before I could even ask the question, she started kissing me.
Eventually, with gasps of air, I asked, “will you marry me?”
“YES YES YES YES YES!”
The moment felt surreal.
Things eventually wound down. We went to the bar below and had some of that famous cake. The waitress gave us free champagne. Walked back through the Premier’s Rose Garden, met up with friends, and drove onto our next destination, an AirBnB house in Duncan.
Now, I’ve chronicled this important milestone in my life and I look forward to the day when, despite many highs and lows in our future marriage, Dani and I can remember it together with a sense of joy and fulfillment. Maybe even a bit of wonder. It was a rare moment when destiny became tangible and real.