Getting engaged in the Adirondacks

Now that it’s Valentine’s Day, I realized that I never said much about how Jake and I got engaged. It’s just that, when it happened, I told the story so many times out loud that I got lazy about putting it into writing. But, it’s also one of my favorite memories of all time, and I’m feeling nostalgic. So here goes.

Jake and I started looking at rings in late 2015 / early 2016. I remember it being winter, and we were home in Connecticut, so it was probably around the holidays. We went one time to Dunstan Jewelers in Avon, CT (now permanently closed), tried on a few different shapes and sizes, and then left. And then Jake never said another word about it.

A few months came and went, and in May we planned a tenth anniversary, long-weekend trip to the Adirondacks. We had just taken a 9-day trip to Europe, which I had planned and book almost completely on my own, so allegedly “as a thank you” Jake insisted on doing all of the planning for the anniversary — down to researching different restaurants, hikes, and Airbnb options.

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This is me, before I knew what was coming.

I had hoped this meant a ring was coming — it was our tenth anniversary, after all. And, we would have seclusion and privacy, which was something I had expressed a preference towards if there would ever be a proposal. Not to mention the fact that we share a mutual love of being outside, and everything about the trip felt perfect. Until, within literally minutes of arriving at our Airbnb, we lost the keys.

Luckily, the owners had a spare set, but we spent a while searching the front walk and digging through our bags. At one point, I asked, “Hey babe, do you mind if I check your duffel one more time?” And Jake said, “No prob, go ahead.” Which meant there was not a ring in there. And that kind of freaked me out.

This freakout spiraled a bit, and by the end of the evening I was crying in a grocery store parking lot because Jake had so thoroughly convinced me that I had been terribly mistaken, and there was no ring coming after all. In fact, I believed this so thoroughly that I didn’t think twice when Jake gently nudged me to go on a hike the next morning even though I didn’t feel well. And I didn’t think twice when he wheezed his way up the mountain, lagging behind me and constantly stopping to pee even though he has much longer legs and is in much better shape. Nor did I think twice when he started waxing poetic at the peak, talking about “the last 10 years” and having a future together. Until he got down on one knee.

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I was absolutely stunned. Turns out, Jake had intentionally hidden the ring elsewhere and was thrilled when I asked to look through his bag. He knew that I’d be obsessing over where it was and that I’d think the worst when I didn’t see it, just like he knew I’d feel better after getting some fresh air and going on the hike regardless of my upset stomach. And it turns out that he was lagging so far behind because his heart was pounding so hard he could barely walk. I don’t know about you, but all of that that is extremely endearing to me.

Maybe the cutest part, though, was that he arranged for our parents to meet us at dinner that night. On the walk back down the mountain, after the proposal, I was raving about how I couldn’t wait to get home to Connecticut to tell everyone. He insisted we stay for dinner because “the restaurant had promised champagne.” Which, like…fine, you’ve convinced me. We’ll stay for the champagne.

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Of course, the champagne was just a very successful ruse and our families were in on the surprise. I walked into the restaurant thinking we’d be heading for a table for two and literally looked past where everyone was sitting. By the time I realized what was going on, my legs had given out from shock and I burst into tears. Then Jake’s dad started crying, my dad started crying, and we all sort of stood around hugging and wiping our faces for a few minutes. It was, quite frankly, the best. (And yes, you read that right; the men cried first).

Now here we are almost two years later, and I sort of can’t believe he knew me so well. He knew the kind of place I’d want to stay, my thought process on where the ring would be — the lost key was not part of the plan, by the way. It’s gone forever and we still don’t know what happened to it — and the fact that once it was official I would want us to be with our in-laws-to-be. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

So anyway, that’s my mushy Valentine’s Day post. I feel incredibly lucky to be married to someone so thoughtful and creative and kind, and I am so excited for him to come home this weekend after 5 weeks away.

Some more practical takeaways for those of you who are here for the recommendations rather than the romance: the two particular items of clothing I was wearing during the hike which made the whole thing much more enjoyable since it was quite chilly.

  1. My EMS puffer jacket, which I bought at Jake’s mother’s urging shortly before our trip (because she knows I hate being cold and that Jake was planning on proposing). I still wear it all the time and I think about that weekend every time I pull it out of the closet. Thanks, Cathleen!
  2. My hiking boots. I wear these much less frequently than the jacket, but I’ve been grateful that I have them every time I need them. This particular pair is comfortable, durable, and — maybe most importantly — waterproof. I love wading through streams and mud in them becuase I feel untouchable.

Also, please stay at that Airbnb if you’re in the area; it’s absolute perfection. And I’d recommend the restaurant, too, but apparently it closed a few months after our dinner there.

Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope all of you are doing something really special.

Love, me.

 

The road to Da Adolfo

Da Adolfo is a beloved hidden gem on the Amalfi Coast — a favorite among locals and travel bloggers who seek fresh ingredients, exclusive beaches, and a story to tell. By some fluke in the universe, though, we got a table during our honeymoon. And this is how you can, too:

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First of all, the place basically never answers their phone, and rumor has it that they only pick up for local numbers, nor do they take online reservations. So your hotel has to call to book your table during a particular window of hours when they do answer the phone, as far in advance as possible, and it’s very competitive. Then, on the morning of your reservation, you take a boat from the main beach in Positano to the beach where Da Adolfo is located, which the restaurant shares only with Le Sirene hotel. Oh, and though the boat ride is free with restaurant reservations, the skippers on board the boat will make sure your name is on the list before letting you board. If — even by a fluke — it isn’t there, they will turn you away. Then, after an admittedly beautiful ride to the Da Adolfo beach, you rent lounge chairs (and umbrellas, if you don’t want to fry in the sun), and wait for your table to come available around lunchtime. That’s…three hoops just to make the call, a literal boat ride and the hope that they remembered to write your name down, money to rent space on the beach, and a few hours waiting.

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But none of that is necessary if you stay at Hotel Pellegrino. If you stay at Hotel Pellegrino, owners Luiggi and Sandra will refuse to call and book you a table because it’s “too hard” (something I initially doubted but now understand to be extremely true). They will, instead, cryptically drive you to a stretch of cliffside highway as early in the day as you’ll let them, point you to an incredibly inconspicuous set of stairs, and wave goodbye. And then down the cliff stairs you go.

When you finally reach the bottom, you are standing on a beach and staring at the back of the Da Adolfo building. Walk around the front, add your name to the list, et voilá. You’ve skipped the entire reservation circus and get to spend your morning on a private beach with an Aperol spritz, followed by lunch at an iconic restaurant (likely surrounded by influencers, celebs, and more). And you can take the boat back to Positano at the end of the day — if only so you don’t miss out on that part of the experience.

So, basically, you have two options: go the insane phone call route and cross your fingers it works, or stay at Hotel Pellegrino and be dropped off at a secret cliffside staricase early enough in the day that it doesn’t matter you don’t have a formal reservation.

Some extra tips: maybe don’t try to do the latter with a big group, since it’s easier for restaurants to accommodate two surprise guests rather than, say, four or five. Also, ask nicely since you’re asking for a spot on the waiting list, get comfortable with a good book, bring sunscreen sunscreen, and relax. Tip generously. If you’re lucky, you’ll get seated at a table next to a celebrity chef (hi, Thomas Carter and Danny Meyer) or just your average, run of the mill A-lister like Gwyneth Paltrow.

No matter what route you take to get there, it’s worth the trip. You can read about what (and how) we ordered here.

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I hope this helps at least some of you! Feel free to comment or ping me with any additional questions.

Love, me.

Honeymoon, part 3: The Amalfi Coast

Honestly, where do I even start? The Amalfi Coast was one of the most effortlessly stunning, luxurious, romantic places I have ever seen. Neither my photos nor words will do our experience there justice, but here are the highlights anyway:

We stayed at…
The Hotel Pellegrino in Praiano, an independently-owned and family-run hotel with an in-house restaurant and views of the sea. We paid approx 160 euros per night — which was a steal for the quality of hospitality we received — and were within easy walking distance to downtown Praiano and a short public bus ride to Positano (tickets for which were free of charge, courtesy of the hotel). Luigi and Sandra upgraded our room when we mentioned we were traveling on our honeymoon, as well as greeted us with a free dessert at the restaurant upon our arrival. For the price, quality (of service and of food), and views, the Hotel Pellegrino went above and beyond.

Note: Praiano worked for us because we wanted something smaller and less touristy than the nearby Positano, and we didn’t mine walking or bussing. But Positano is where a lot of the Amalfi Coast attractions are. If we were to go back, we’ve agreed that we’d splurge on the indulgent San Pietro di Positano, which would be more relaxing and more central.

We ate at…
1. Da Adolfo, a hidden gem on its own beach that forces patrons to jump through proverbial hoops to score a table. If you can get a reservation — and I am honestly still thanking the food gods that we did — don’t try to order for yourself. Let the waiter give you his recommendations and go with those. We ended up with mussel soup, grilled mozzarella on lemon leaves, linguini and clam sauce, tuna carpaccio, and panna cotta to finish. It was up there with Frenchie as one of the top three meals best meals of my life.

2. Ristorante Santa Croce, after a long, extremely difficult hike. This was a recommendation from Luiggi (remember, he’s the owner of Hotel Pellegrino) and we managed to get there just before they started to close for a few hours between lunch and dinner.  We didn’t want to eat much since Jake knew I’d spoil my appetite we knew we had reservations at La Sponda later on, so we split a shrimp scampi and salmon carpaccio to keep it light. Unfortunately, this was one of the only times I remembered to order an Aperol Spritz  — a traditionally Italian cocktail — and I barely drank it. I was so exhausted and dehydrated from the hike that alcohol was the last thing on my mind.

3. La Sponda, the Michelin-star restaurant inside Le Sirenuse. We had certainly worked up an appettite that day, so we ordered two tasting menus and a wine pairing to share. Honestly, I can’t even remember what we ate except that there were so many incredible courses I lost count…and that the wine pairing for one was more than enough to drink for the two of us.

We spent the evening enjoying some of the best food in the world while overlooking the ocean and reminiscing about our 11 years together. All I could think about was how happy and lucky I was. I will treasure that memory for as long as we live.

We hiked…
Il Sentiero degli Dei, also known as Path of the Gods, which was recommeded to me by a friend who had just done it. Traditionally, hikers start at Agerola and work towards Nocelle in Positano. We…sort of did that, but we started at our hotel in Praiano, which means we tacked on an extremely strenuous hike up to the Convent of San Domenico (where we popped in to say our vows again). It was one of the only times I’ve ever been legitimately concerned about throwing up or passing out from heat. That said, it was 100000000% worth it. The views were stunning, the workout was great, and it was just an all-around awesome experience. Word to the wise: pack sunscreen and a ton of water.

We took day trips to…
Capri. And only Capri. There was so much do to do nearby that it seemed silly to stray too far, but we happened across a tour company on Spaggia Grande, the main beach in Positano. We paid 70 euros per person which included a lazy, sunny, round-trip boat ride to the island, several stops to swim, drinks, and visits to the various grottos along the way. It technically included a stop at the Blue Grotto, but we ended up not doing that because the wait was several hours, which is apparently something that happens all the time. Still, we saw plenty of other grottos that were equally impressive.

We shopped at…
Schettino di Capri. This was part of our day trip (in Capri, obviously), and was not planned. Truthfully, and especially if you ask Jake, you will find that the last things I need are more shoes, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with a few pairs in the window. So in we went. Turns out that Aldo and Lydia, the owners and shoemakers, have been making shoes for decades — including several pairs for Jackie Kennedy and countless other fashion icons. I bought myself some 70 euro sandals and wore them every day for the rest of the summer.

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Warning: they stretch! Buy your usual size and don’t be deterred if they’re tight at first.

We also made a stop at Ceramiche Casola. One of the things we registered for as part of our honeymoon fund (thanks, Zola!) was ceramic, Italian servingware. My aunt kindly donated to that part of the registry, so we spent an hour picking out our favorite pieces from this iconic Positano destination. The quality here is truly unbeatable, the business is family-owned, and the customer service is outstanding. We left with several gorgeous trivets and a spoon tray, all of which serve as both practical pieces and decor when they aren’t in use.

There were a few other shops of, of course — for limoncello, linen, and lunch — but I found so many of them overpriced and indistinguishable from the others. Seemed prudent to whittle this list down to my favorites, in order to be the most helpful for those with limited time and budgets.

So that’s that for the Amalfi coast. We left full of seafood pasta, vitamin D, and a deep wish for more time.

I had actually forgotten this, but we stopped in Pompeii and Naples during our last 24 hours in Italy, so I’ll have one more post. And then also probably one or two others about getting to Da Adolfo and maybe how I packed for the whole thing. Any preference? Ideas? Am I being insufferable? Let me know.

Love, me.