A Surprise Engagement Proposal
The sun was shining bright in Barcelona on a beautiful summer morning. We headed a few blocks from our hotel to check out Via Vespa, a vespa and scooter rental place. I gave the cashier my ID and my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, insurance is covered at no cost if something should happen. Plus, no foreign transaction fees!
After the paperwork was done, Amanda unknowingly hopped on the back of a bright red vespa as we sped out of town. Little did she know, her life was about to change.
It was Sept 3rd, 2019 and we were headed to Parc del Laberint d’Horta in Barcelona Spain. It was day three of our eleven day adventure. I had been planning a surprise engagement proposal for months. In July I was ready to book the photographer. I was browsing Instagram, like I usually do and messaged a handful of prospects. In the end, I chose Svetlana Dubovenko, see her website here for more information. I had been going back and forth with Svetlana for several weeks on deciding the perfect location for my surprise proposal. I wanted a quiet place with a beautiful setting and backdrop. I’m so happy I picked Parc del Laberint d’Horta! Coming from the USA, all I had was the internet and social media as my set of eyes. Svetlana helped me through everything.
Parc del Laberint d’Horta
The park itself costs roughly $3 per person to get in and it’s worth every penny. The gardens are exquisite, the labyrinth was fun and the flowers were in perfect bloom. In the moment, everything was perfect, except my nerves. The country, the city, the beautiful garden and of course, I had the ring in my backpack.
As I tried to be as leisurely as possible throughout the park, we made our way up to the top of the stairs to look over the labyrinth. I set my camera down on the railing ledge and told Amanda I wanted to take a picture of us looking out at the labyrinth. And, because I love to take photos, she didn’t expect anything more. I tapped her on the shoulder to turn around, but at first she didn’t, so I tapped again. My voice was trembling as I got down on one knee, my palms were sweaty and my hands shaking. I had spent days before practicing for the moment. I stumbled with my words and mumbled something that I can’t remember, but in the final moments, I had asked her to marry me and…
SHE SAID YES!
After the tears of joy were done flooding our faces, we began our photshoot with Svetlana for the next hour. Nothing like taking 80+ pictures after you just got done crying, right?! I guess I didn’t think about that when I was planning, my heart was just focused on capturing the moment.
The shoot went well and we got plenty of shots to capture the memories for years to come. If you are thinking about a surprise proposal or a family photo shoot while in Barcelona or the surrounding area, I highly recommend Svetlana!
Now, back to the park itself. You’ll appreciate the quiet atmosphere, nature walks, ponds, small waterfall and stream. Mature trees overlook Spanish architecture and well-groomed fauna. The labyrinth is fun and entertaining for all ages! It’s a decent size but you wont be lost for more than 30 minutes or so. It seems as if its always well kept as we noticed more than a few landscapers. This would be a great place for a picnic or pleasingly stroll. It’s not a very big park, but its beautiful and outside the hectic city center.
What do you think about my choice of location for the surprise engagement? Let me know in the comment section below.
Navigating up Mount Tibidabo
After our photo shoot at Parc del Laberint d’Horta, we strapped on our helmets (it’s the law) and set the GPS for Mount Tibadabo. The vespa could only reach speeds of about 45mph and making our way down the highway was sketchy. If you’re not confident in your motorbike skill set, please rent a car or get a taxi instead. To say it was dangerous, is an understatement. Most of the cars were whizzing right by and semi-trucks and motorcycles were zipping in and out of lanes. I have a motorcycle license in the USA and also own a motorcycle, so I felt confident on the road. Not to mention, Amanda and I have rented scooters and ATV’s in other countries before. See the article below for our Greece adventure.
Read More: The Santorini and Mykonos Greek Islands
Luckily, we were not on the highway for very long and took a sharp exit. I had a place I found on Instagram (surprise, surprise) in mind with an incredible view of the city. So, we decided to stop and grab some lunch. It was called Mirablau in Sant Gervasi-La Bonanova.
The open-seating and open panoramic windows were awesome. With a slight cross breeze across our faces, it was a great place to kick back and soak in the moment of our engagement. This called for celebration as we rose our wine glasses in celebration.
Let me take a moment here to say, good thing the vespa was great on gas mileage, because after we left Mirablau, we made more than one wrong turn on the way. Ha! The sites from the twisty and curvy roads were a delight, but navigating them was no easy task.
However, the roads did give us a great view of Barcelona from above, as we enjoyed the fresh mountain air. I loved every second of doing my best impressions of an Isle Of Man TT rider. If you don’t know what Isle Of Man TT is, you’re in for a treat. Google it, it’s insane!
As we got closer to the top of the mountain, the roads and GPS only got more confusing. At one point in time, we ended up going a half-mile or so down a dirt path that was probably only meant for off-road vehicles. The vespa took the bumps and rocks like a champ, as I kept my composure to keep the wheels from sliding out beneath us.
Just as we were about to turn around, we spotted the road we had passed about ten minutes ago. We couldn’t believe it and safety pulled back on the road. We believed were close to Mount Tibadabo so we headed back the way we came. I remembered seeing a sign a couple miles back but it was a one way road…which didn’t make any sense. I took us back to the sign, looked both ways, and twisted the throttle to jet up the hill. One way road or not, we were determined to make it to the top.
With no law enforcement in sight, going the wrong way was not a problem, but I dont recommend it. We creeped past the entrance gate and pulled into the motorcycle and scooter parking area, quickly took our helmets off and locked the vespa. “Nothing to see here, officer, everything is under control.”
The adventure was worth it, because the view from the top of Mount Tibadabo is amazing. You get this incredible reward of a panoramic view of the city below. On a clear day, you can see for miles and miles, all the way to the ocean.
Mount Tibadabo actually has a small amusement park as well. So, if you have kids or want to embrace your inner-child, this is the place! But, it was closed on the day we were there. Not a big deal for us, as we are not big amusement park people. We did, however, come for the view and the cathedral. The cathedral is massive and the architecture gorgeous.
Inside the cathedral was charming as well. It’s said that you can visit the towers above the cathedral but we couldn’t figure out how to get in. Let us know in the comments below if you were successful! If you’re interested to know what camera I use besides my iPhone, I’ve linked it down below.
Travel Gear: Panasonic Lumix G85
What I enjoyed most about Mount Tibadabo was the freedom to roam away from the herds of crowds in the city center. It’s possible, because it was a weekday, that there were far less people around. But, we very much enjoyed it. It was a more romantic walk than a marathon to see the sights and sounds of all Mount Tibidabo had to offer. I highly recommend making the stair-climb journey up to the top, you will not be disappointed.
The Magic Fountain & Palau Nacional – Barcelona, Spain
Believe it or not, at this point, the day was only about half-way over. We were still riding high from our big moment earlier and that continued throughout the day. The descend from Mount Tibidabo was much easier than the climb. We seemed to find the base of the mountain in about twenty minutes or so, twice as fast as the journey up. But, it was back on the highway for a hot minute to find our next destination, Font màgica de Montjuïc or The Magic Fountain in English.
The fountain is much more than just a fountain, its a must-stop area when in Barcelona, in my opinion. The first performance of the magic fountain was on May 19, 1929 during the Great International Exhibition. We arrived mid-afternoon and while it was very hot, we were glad we stopped, it was spectacular. The amount of water that shot like a canyon through the air and the ambiance or the area, I quickly understood where the fountain got its name. It’s said that the color, light, motion, music and water acrobatics – if you mix these elements together in just the right combinations, you end up with pure magic at night!
You can’t miss the fountain or Palau Nacional standing tall in the background from Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina. The climb to the top is strenuous but luckily there are escalators should you get tired. I loved the architecture of Palau Nacional and the system of waterways cascading down from its front doors. The view from the top is breathtaking and makes you feel like a god. Check out this view!
Vendors can be seen walking around selling water, beer, and gelato. Another pop-up style food stand can be found halfway up the stairs to the Palau Nacional entrance if your fancying for a soda or something to eat. Again, anywhere you go in Spain, always make sure to have at least water. Most restaurants will charge you for it and they don’t offer ice. If you’re an international traveler, this may be news to you. It’s very important to stay hydrated throughout the day. I like to carry something like this collapsible water bottle. It’s super cheap on Amazon.
If you’re planning on going to the magic fountain, make sure to check the weather and the show times before you head out. You can check the show times on this website, here.
Aside from the fountain itself, let’s not glance over the four gigantic columns you see in the background in the picture above. The Magic Fountain of Montjuic was designed by engineer Carles Buïgas i Sans to occupy the space that was left after the Four Columns were demolished, in 1928. The new columns are replicas of the original four columns that were demolished under the Spain dictatorship of Fransico Franco. Franco dictated Spain from 1939-1975. The Four Columns where designed by Catalan Modernist architect Puig i Cadafalch, and they symbolized the four bars of the Catalan flag, the Senyera.
So, not only is there a lot to see, but a lot of history as well in this part of Barcelona. Down the street from Monutjuic, and perhaps you passed this on your way in, you will find Plaça d’Espanya. The landmark was also constructed, as was the magic fountain, in 1929 for the International Exhibition. On the outside of the circle roundabout, you will find two 47m high red-brick towers that were designed by Ramon Reventos and inspired by the bell-tower of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice Italy.
The architecture around this area is stunning and you can see Spanish and other European influences in every building. However, the most modern building, Arenas de Barcelona, that replaces an old bull ring, is now a shopping mall. The building on the outside still blends in with the others in the surrounding area but inside, you forget you are in Spain. Modern luxuries, food courts and designer stores. Personally, this may be a local favorite for shopping, but it wasn’t my cup of tea for any souvenirs.
If you thought the day was over, you will be surprised to know that I had one more trick up my sleeve for our perfect engagement day.
Aire Ancient Bath Experience Barcelona
Our vespa tour around Barcelona concluded just before sunset. It was a good thing too because I didn’t want to ride in the dark without proper gear. If you have not noticed by now, while riding the vespa was a blast, it was merely a means of transportation. Albeit, a very fun means of transportation. I had plotted the days adventure on a map and realized it would just take too long to get from one spot to another via public transportation. Since Uber or Lyft is banned in Spain, that was not an option. A private taxi would’ve been much more expensive. Our only other option was to rent a car and then you have the problem of parking. The car would’ve been slightly cheaper that the vespa, but not as fun. In the, I was so glad to have rented the vespa, it was well worth it!
We decided to grab dinner at Tucco Real Food as it has good ratings. The pasta bar has a ton of options and while they may not be fresh offerings, it was a good meal. I suspect they have some frozen dishes but I could be wrong. I would advise to keep looking if you’re looking for something unique. It wasn’t bad by any means but its most likely the Barcelona version of Chiptole. if Chiptole had a pasta menu.
Up until this moment, my master plan had worked flawlessly. Three months of planning, booking, overthinking and overthinking some more, everything turned out perfect. I wanted to cap the day off with something super special and relaxing, key word, RELAXING! The ancient baths and massage at AIRE Experience Barcelona was the perfect match.
At the heart of fast-paced Barcelona, there is a place where time does not exist. An old warehouse built at the end of the XVII century, right next to El Born Market, turned into a temple to disconnect your mind and body from the surrounding reality. This is a space full of magic in which history and water converge to provide you with a unique total relaxation experience. But first, we had to drop off our ride.
From the moment you walk through the doors, your spirits are lifted. Warm tones, fresh plants and decor that blends in well with the old Spanish warehouse. The receptionist kindly greeted us and had us patiently waiting for an experience of a lifetime. Mind you, this was a very long day for us and while it was all worthwhile, we couldn’t wait to enjoy pure relaxation.
We were shown the way to the dressing rooms to get changed into our swimwear. The locker rooms were very nice. They were equipped with showers, bath robes, slippers, deodorant, shampoo and a drying station for your wet swimwear. After changing and exiting out a different door of the locker room, we were greeted by the host to show us the way into the ancient baths.
The Ancient Thermal Baths will allow you to enjoy your bath area at your own pace, with baths at different temperatures including the Caldarium (Hot Bath 102ºF), the Frigidarium (Cold Bath 57ºF and Ice Bath 50ºF), the Tepidarium (Warm Bath 97ºF), the Balneum (Bath of a Thousand Jets), the Laconicum, and the Flotarium (Salt Water Bath).
Ancient thermal baths are great for the mind and soul. We spent about 45 minutes enjoying the various temperature pools and floating in the salt water. Afterwards, we threw our robes on and rode the elevator to the top floor to wait for our massage. It wasn’t long before we were taking our robes back off and lying down on a nice and soft bed. The room had a sensual aroma to it. The couples massage lasted around 30 minutes. However, there are options for shorter or longer massages, depending on your preference.
It was merely midnight now and to say the day was a success, would be a complete understatement. This was the best day of my life.