Andrea and I decided that for our 2010 vacation, we would go on a much anticipated road trip through Canada. We had about two weeks to ourselves. The plan was to drive through Michigan, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City, making our way back home through the states. Normally when we plan vacations (or anything, really), I like to be all prepared and know exactly where and how long we'll be staying. This time, I suggested that we don't make any set plans, and that we just be spontaneous and see what happens. No maps, no schedules, no booked hotels. Just a few basic ideas and goals...aka totally out of character for me. The only thing Andrea specifically wanted was to see was "rolling green pastures", whatever that means. Anyway, she was excited about my new-found spontaneity, and was all for it.
Little did she know, I've been secretly planning on my own for about 5 months, and this "spontaneity" was just a way to cushion her expectations for the trip. After all, I was proposing on this trip! And so the story begins...
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Not much happened on the first day of our trip aside from a lot of driving. Immediately after work, we hit the road on our way to visit some of Andrea's family in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Music of choice? Keeping with tradition, we started with our favorite driving song...
Oops, looks like the MP3 player won't work on your computer.
We arrived in Ypsilanti at about midnight and had a late visit with her cousin Siân. Afterwards, we snuck into her Aunt's house to spend the night. An excellent start!
We woke up and spent the day with Andrea's Aunt Lisa, talking and getting a tour of their amazing house (which was quite Andrea-like). Then we made our way to the downtown area and had breakfast at a little cafe called Beezy's and visited some great antique shops. Later we returned back to the house and enjoyed some homemade scones and tea!
In the afternoon, we figured we should start making our way to Toronto. As luck would have it, just minutes before we headed out, my car started making some crappy noises. Nooooo!!! Something was definitely wrong. Not good, because I actually had a pretty tight schedule that we were on, which only I knew about. Luckily, Andrea's Aunt Beth works at a car dealership and recommended a good repair shop. Turns out it only cost $100 to repair and we were on our way with only a few hours delay; they even drove us to Panera while we waited. PHEEEW. One panic avoided. And way better than having it happen halfway to Toronto.
So we made it to Toronto late at night (after a crazy, crazy storm)... and had no idea where to go. I did leave some things up to chance, and didn't have an actual hotel in mind (this did not work out so well, lol). We drove around for like an hour looking for a good cheap hotel. Eventually we settled on a Comfort Inn and tucked in for the night. The next day I would unveil my first surprise.
Waking up in Toronto to a beautiful warm morning, we started the day by visiting Unionville in Markham, Toronto, an old historic town that had tons of shops and restaurants. Why? Because 5 minutes of the first episode of Gilmore Girls were filmed there, so how could we NOT see it? Yes, Gilmore Girls. This show was a staple Andrea brought to our relationship, and I admit it, I got hooked. It was a very big "us" thing, so it was pretty awesome seeing where it started and finding some landmarks. We spent the day playing in the park, shopping and eating.
Once we left Unionville, we stopped at a McDonalds for a rest, and we weren't sure what to do next. The rest of our day seemed pretty wide open.
Proposal starts here!
So starts my first surprise, which turned out to be a surprise for ME too. I pull out some printed directions I had stashed away, and start making our way to a "surprise" destination.
Now, there's something you absolutely need to know about Andrea to appreciate the entire rest of this story. You see, if there is one thing Andrea adores, one story that inspired much of what she has come to love, one "favorite thing" that defines so much about her personality and style, it would be an old classic movie from her childhood; Anne of Green Gables. It's the girliest movie ever about an imaginative, red-headed orphan who comes to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert in Prince Edward Island back in the early 1900s. Yup, girly. So keep that in mind as you read the rest of the story.
Anyway, we're driving along to my surprise destination, and I say "Ok I think it's coming up on the right...." She is totally confused as we slowly come up a hill in the middle of nowhere. But gradually it comes into sight, and she starts freaking out "OH MY GOSH!! OH MY GOSH!!!" Instant happy tears. Turns out, I was able to find the exact location of the actual house that was used in the Anne of Green Gables movie. It was beautiful. It was privately owned, so we couldn't actually go up to it, but that didn't stop Andrea from trying to steal a quick photo opportunity on their driveway... before seeing their "beware of dogs" sign.
Since we couldn't stay on their driveway, we pulled into a side road that lined the property (much of it was used in the filming), and man she was in her element; tears of joy. It looked just like the movie. She jumped out of the car and started taking pictures.
So there we were, on the side of this random road taking pictures... Andrea was as happy as could be.
We're there for probably a good 25 minutes... and I'm starting to think "Ok wow, she REALLY likes this...." Now, I started freaking out. I didn't PLAN to propose here, but MAN she is LOVING this!! Should I do it here?? Should I wait? AHHH! The ring is in the trunk of the car, how am I supposed to get it?? I had no idea what to do. I had something else in mind for the actual proposal but it just felt like the right time.
So I was spontaneous (just the way she likes).
I suggested that she take more pictures of this beautiful tree that was in the distance. While she was distracted, I frantically shimmied to the trunk of the car and dug out the ring I had buried in my suitcase. My heart was pounding out of my chest.
Ring in hand, I slowly approached her as she was distracted with her pictures. I get down on one knee behind her and wait for her to turn around. And I wait. And I wait. And wait. She really likes taking pictures.
Finally, she turns around.. but I'm down low so she doesn't even seem me. I'm like "uhh, down here..." She looks down and I'm holding up the ring. I had a big speech planned, but instead I just stuttered the words "Andrea Dennis, will you marry me?" on the side of the road next to her favorite house. Her reaction was the best thing I could have hoped for; I have never seen her so happy.
So we stay on this road for like another half hour talking and laughing, and I think "shoot... NOW what." I had already broke my plans. I wasn't prepared for this! Thankfully, I did have one other small surprise destination in mind, so we started making our way out there.
Just a few minutes way, we pull into this random farm-looking building and park. We get out of the car, and I point towards a pond in the back of the area. What was it? A bridge. But not just any bridge. This was another huge landmark from the Anne of Green Gables movies that I spent hours looking for online during my research. (Thank you Google Maps!)
I was worried she wouldn't even recognize it, but it turns out she actually loved the bridge as much if not more than the house! So we went inside the building (it was public) and asked if we could go out on the bridge. The nicest lady was there, and we told her how we just got engaged. She was so excited for us, and began telling us stories about the filming that was done on the bridge and pond on their property. She was more than happy to let us go on the bridge, and she even offered to take photos for us!! AWESOME! It was such a great experience. We stayed there for another hour or so, just soaking it in.
When we left, I actually was a little embarrassed. I didn't have anything else planned (for today, anyway). It was only like 6pm and I was fresh out of surprises and ideas for the day since I actually didn't plan on proposing when I did! I didn't even have a restaurant in mind to celebrate at. Together we decided to make our way to a campground we knew about, and we pitched a tent and slept under the cold stars that night. Turned out pretty excellent.
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We woke up in our cold little tent and spent our morning reminiscing about the day before.
We started the day with an ordinary breakfast at Mr. Bean coffee, and then, once again.... I said "So, I have another little surprise for you today...."
Now the fun really begins...
We get in the car, and I plug in the secret address into the GPS, which says we have about 45 minutes or so to go. This time it was different... I wasn't all relaxed and normal during the drive. Clearly, I was nervous about something. My heart was pounding so hard, I almost felt sick in anticipation. The whole time I just drove with one hand on my chest, feeling my heart pound, while Andrea was just in a state of excited, wide eye'd confusion.
As the GPS counted down, she started looking around at our surroundings for clues. She kept reading all these signs, joking about what it might be. Passing a site of new townhomes... "Did you buy us a house in Canada?" Passing a billboard promoting new careers... "Did you get me a job?" lol, hilarious. Eventually she started noticing a bunch of signs for "Park'n'Fly". "Are we going on a hot air balloon??" The closer we got, the more Park'n'Fly signs she saw. She was convinced it was a hot air balloon ride. We entered a gigantic parking lot, and she said "Wow, a lot of people really like to Park'n'Fly." lol.... Eventually we find a spot, and I turn off the car.
"Andrea", I said. "We have to pack our bags. For 3 nights, and 4 days. And we should probably dress in layers, because it's going to be cold." The look on her face was priceless. She was shocked and confused. "Where are we going????" I wouldn't tell her the destination, just that we were going on a flight. So there we were, in the Toronto airport parking lot, re-packing our suitcases in the back seat of the car for a trip that she did not anticipate in the slightest. Huge. Success.
We make our way to the airport, both just going nuts. Keep in mind this was 5 months of planning coming to fruition for me, and this was completely NOT what she expected. We get up to the check-in desk, and the attendant immediately comments on our extreme happiness. She asked where we were headed, and I told her "Actually, it's a surprise, she doesn't know." So awesomely, the attendant goes "OH! How exciting!! Well, then YOU go over there" and points Andrea off to the side to wait while I check us both in. So cool of her.
So we make our way to the terminal and sit down for about an hour or so. I was sure she would eventually hear where we were headed, but luckily the only thing being announced was the city we were flying to and nothing else. She didn't recognize the name of the city, so she was still clueless. While sitting in the terminal talking about it, people eventually overheard us and began getting interested in our little story. "She really doesn't know where you're taking her??" Everybody played along, and nobody let it slip. I was shocked at how well it was all working out.
The funniest part of the wait in the terminal was one point when Andrea slipped and said, "Oh my God, so when we get to Pari----" She cut herself off, clasping her hand over her mouth. Apparently she was onto something, thinking we were going to Paris.... I played along. :)
So we get on the plane, and the lady that sits next to us makes conversation and I ask her not to say where we're flying. We basically tell her the story so far, and (her knowing where we are headed of course), she says "WOW, he really planned this thing out well. Wow. I'm impressed. I'll tell you one thing; the food is AMAZING." Andrea got even more intrigued. So, by this point, she knows we're going on a flight, someplace "colder", the food is "amazing", the lady was "impressed" with my planning, and the flight attendants were speaking in both English and French. Yup, Paris. Right? ...
Here's the ring!
So the announcements come on (in both English and French), but still, they only kept referring to Charlottetown, the city we were flying to, which Andrea didn't recognize. If any of you have flown recently, you know that there's usually a screen in front of you that shows the map of where your plane is on the route. I was convinced, of all things, THAT would give it away.
Nope. The entire flight, she would check in on that screen, but still couldn't guess where we were going. Eventually we were preparing for the landing. Believe it or not, Andrea actually said to me "But.. I didn't see us cross the ocean." Wow, she was really set on Paris. (She's pretty embarrassed about this part now, obviously) But all along, I was convinced the actual destination would be better.
And finally, the plane landed. She looked out the window and saw a Canadian flag, and not much else. Confused and excited, we exited the plane and walked directly down onto the tarmac, and saw the tiniest little airport before us. Smiling, trying to figure out where we were, she squinted her eyes and read the sign on the building.
A great view of PEI
As soon as we walked into the tiny little airport, she was in tears. In case you hadn't caught on, Prince Edward Island is the setting in which Anne of Green Gables actually takes place. It's basically her fantasy land, and all I wanted to do was make it come true for her, and here we were. We entered the airport and saw a crowd of people hugging their loved ones and reuniting, and there we were in our own little corner; crying and hugging. As she snuck away to the washroom, one of the men from the airport terminal that we talked to earlier found me and talked to me. He wished us well :)
The airport itself had lots of signs and posters about Anne of Green Gables. It turns out Prince Edward Island is a huge tourist destination for Anne fans.
I had a rental car set up and waiting to go, and soon we were off to drive the countryside.
We made our way to the main downtown area, and grabbed a quick bite to eat. We were exhausted after the long day and flight. At this point, Andrea was sort of freaking out to herself. You see, Anne of Green Gables is actually a huge series of books, but she never read them. She only has ever seen the movies. She was nervous that I brought her to this giant island, and that I would now expect HER to lead the way based on all of her Anne knowledge. Little did she know, I wasn't done yet.
I plugged in another destination on our GPS, and we started driving deeper into the island. Soon we started seeing the incredible rolling hills, forests, farm houses, landscapes, etc. It was beautiful. We caught our first glimpse of the ocean and got excited. Eventually Andrea started recognizing these little signs that scattered the single-lane highways that looked like a little picture of the Green Gables home. Sure enough, we were headed to the heart of where the story takes place.
I had arranged for us to stay at one of the nicest inns on the island, called Kindred Spirits Country Inn. ("Kindred Spirits" being one of the most popular expressions Anne used).
So there we were, in the middle of Cavendish, the small town in which the author of Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maude Montgomery, was born and raised; the very place which inspired the town of Avonlea where the book takes place.
We arrived at the inn on one of the very first days they opened for the season. The place was exactly how I expected to be, fitting perfectly into the realm of Anne and I knew it would be everything Andrea could have wanted. I had a special package prepared for us, and as we were checking in Andrea got to hear all about the carriage ride I had scheduled, along with a picnic, and entry to various L.M.Montgomery museums and landmarks as well as a ticket to visit the "official" Anne of Green Gables house which was located just a few hundred yards from our room.
Finally we woke up to a beautiful first day on Prince Edward Island (PEI).
After breathing in the fresh morning air, we made our way to the inn to have breakfast.
Andrea's Dream Comes True
We started the day with a walk to the ocean, stopping for about 800 photos along the way. None of the photos did the island justice. One of Andrea's dreams was just to see the beautiful rolling hills and grassy dunes just like in Anne of Green Gables. Her fantasy world. And so I took her there...
It was cold, but we made our way to the ocean beach. Once we crossed the dunes the wind hit us at 900mph. But it was worth it!
The cold didn't stop Andrea from getting a little too close to the water, shoes and socks included.
After freezing our buns off, we went to a lobster restaurant and there was a group of about 30 Chinese tourists because apparently Anne of Green Gables is huge in China. There was even a girl dressed up as Anne specifically for them. We stole a shot with her.
After we ate, we made our way to one of the items included in the package I arranged. We went to visit the house that L.M.Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables) was born in. They turned it into a museum with a whole bunch of artifacts from her life.
Next we went on a hunt for a lighthouse that might have appeared in the Anne movie. On the way we came across an awesome little fishing wharf. It was really colorful.
The cherry on top...
My final surprise was actually the one I was most looking forward to unveiling. It was the cherry on top, and it's what took the majority of the 5 months I spent working on all of this.
At night we settled in to rest and decided to watch a movie (I'll give you one guess which one). I popped in the DVD and turned down the lights. The screen flickered on with an old movie preview for I Am Sam, which happened to be the first movie we saw together back in 2002. Andrea was caught off guard, knowing it wasn't the DVD she expected. I had a big grin on my face.
The DVD menu screen came up with the music from the Gilmore Girls, but instead of the normal Gilmore Girls menu it was a picture of Andrea and me with a button that said "Play". Andrea came alive, and sat up laughing with excitement. Over the past 5 months, I've been gathering photos, home videos and music from our entire relationship, and edited them into a 35 minute movie. A huge montage of some of our favorite memories that we had captured. Some of which were stupidly funny that only we would ever appreciate, while others portions were carefully timed to music designed specifically to tug at the heart strings.
The big finale in the movie was a montage called "Build a Home", which focused on the places we have lived over the course of our lives, and the memories we shared that make a house a home. Now that we're (finally) engaged, its our turn to build a home together. I can assure you, during the course of this video there were extreme tears, gasps for air, and embarrassing noises. Our heads were in pain after the roller coaster of emotion. So worth it.
My original proposal plan was actually going to happen around this movie somehow, but as you've read I couldn't wait that long since I ended up doing it on the side of the road. In hindsight, I wouldn't change a thing about it!
After waking up and having another unbelievable breakfast (seriously, Kindred Spirits Inn... you are incredible), we made our way to the historical site of L.M.Montgomery's Cavendish homestead. This was the location of the house she lived in; the very place that she wrote Anne of Green Gables. The house is no longer standing, but the actual site is there, and you can literally see where the basement of the house was located.
The next stop was the Anne of Green Gables Museum, where we had a scheduled horse carriage ride as part of the package I had set up. Unfortunately it was once again pretty cold that day, but that didn't stop us! They were nice enough to give us some crazy rubber coats and a heavy blanket for the ride because of the wind.
Visiting Green Gables
At last, with Andrea recovering from her crazy horse allergy, we decided it was time to visit the actual Anne of Green Gables house that inspired L.M.Montgomery to write about in the first place. There was an actual house owned by one of her cousins, and this is the location of it; the "official" house from the book (not used in the movie). It was just a few hundred yards from our inn.
After spending so much of the day outside, we decided we should get out and have an official celebratory dinner in Charlottetown, the "big city" in PEI. We went to a place galled the Gahan House (by recommendation of our friends at Kindred Spirits). It was deeeelish.
And so we've reached our final day on Prince Edward Island. Thankfully we had a late flight back to Toronto, so we still had a solid half a day to spend. The weather was absolutely perfect on this day, so we're glad we got to enjoy some of it without freezing! We started the day as usual with breakfast in the inn, and took some final shots with some of the friends we made.
Having finished breakfast, we started saying goodbye to Kindred Spirits and took some last pictures in front of the gatehouse.
At last, we were ready to take the tour of the official Anne house.
Here's another little video montage of our last day! This one is a little more sad, because we were a little more sad.
After the house tour, it was time for the final item in the Kindred Spirits package. We arranged to have our picnic at the Anne house on our last day after we checked out. The nicest people at the inn gave us an envelope that said "The Guraks (almost! :))" with a card wishing us well, and also gave Andrea the first Anne of Green Gables book as a gift since she hasn't read it yet. Sweetest people ever.
We spent the next hour or two walking "Lover's Lane", a beautiful wooded path near the house where the author found inspiration and worked into her book.
And all too soon, it was time to leave.
After sadly leaving Kindred Spirits to make our way back to the airport, we thought it was too nice a day to not try and see the ocean one more time. We found a parking lot and started walking a path. The path was really long, so we just jumped the fence and ran through the field to climb over the dunes. This is what we saw:
After playing along the ocean for a while, we made our way back to the car. Once we sat down, we realized we parked directly across from a little sign.
Turns out we walked directly through poison ivy to get to the ocean. Oops! I was fine, but Andrea got a smidgen on her arms. Lesson learned: read the tiny signs.
As we left we made one more stop, to pay our respects to L.M.Montgomery who was buried in a nearby cemetary. It was kind of sad, but on the way we saw a fox wait for a stop light to change so he could cross the street using the crosswalk. Good times.
Back in Charlottetown, we visited a couple Anne of Green Gable stores before heading to the airport, and partook in some raspberry cordial.
And so we flew back to Toronto, and found our trusty Comfort Inn once again. Except, there was a problem...
My car was making more noises.
Yeah, so our return back to Toronto was not very fun. My car was making some kind of grinding noise as we drove. So our big event for the day??
At least the Midas was close to Unionville, where we started our trip. So we went back there since the repair took about 4 hours and $600. Ouch.
By this point, we were supposed to continue our trip to Montreal and Quebec City. But now that we had just completed the second car repair of the trip and spent an extra $700 of unbudgetted cash, we decided to change course. The nice guy at Midas suggested we go to Niagara Falls instead, which was only a couple hours away. We took him up on the suggestion. But since it was too late to leave at this point, we decided to see a movie in Toronto and save some money by going back to the campground. But we weren't up for the tent again. So what did we do? Bought a camp site and slept in the car. Awwww yeaaah.
Nothing like waking up to a fresh morning from the comfort of your own car.
We found a nice little diner that Andrea loved and had breakfast there before heading out to Niagara Falls.
And once again, we were on our way! We made it to Niagara Falls pretty quickly.
Just in case you missed that last reference.... you must watch this. Now.
We spent the night at a hotel and started our journey home in the morning.
And so the time has come to make our way back home. We crossed into the states (after waiting in line for like 2 hours) and started heading back. We made one little impromptu stop in Cleveland, Ohio, to see another random movie location.
The actual house used in A Christmas Story is located pretty much in a ghetto of Cleveland. It was not a pleasant neighborhood...lol. They had an awkward museum and the whole experience was a little weird, but it was fun to see it!
And that's a wrap. We were home a few hours later.
Another White Dash
Here's one last video to sum up our trip.. but keep reading for more news!
the wedding day
We can't just leave you hanging with the proposal, right? We're married! Our big day was November 5th, 2011. Below is a trailer video for our wedding, done by the excellent Plan-A Wedding Films. There are plenty of other wedding and honeymoon videos and pictures at our full wedding site, http://www.andreadavidwedding.com!
Next up, this is the full 17 minute highlights video from our wedding, complete with snippets of our ceremony and speeches.
We had a pretty "hands-on" approach for our wedding. Andrea is crazy crafty, so she of course wanted to make as much as we can! We created the invitations, favors, centerpieces and other decor.. and of course (knowing me), I had to document the whole thing with video. We showed this one at our reception!
And finally, it wouldn't be complete without a highlight reel from our Hawaii honeymoon.
0:00 First Island: Kauai
3:30 Kipu Ranch ATV Tour
5:03 Jurassic Falls Helicopter
8:21 Second Island: Lanai
9:40 Stables at Koele
See more of our wedding here!:
Thank you for sharing in our story! It was truly the most wonderful experience of our lives. We intend on going back to Prince Edward Island and the incredible Kindred Spirits Inn many, many times! This trip gave us enough memories to last a lifetime...
...but we're only getting started.
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