Wed, 01 Oct 2014 18:49:01 +0200

Both of our upgrades came through. I take this as a good sign for our shared future. We're on our way back from Frankfurt -- actually, Innsbruck, from which we took a Tyrolean Air puddle-jumper, drinking pre-bottled Aperol spritzes from the only airport cafe while watching intense mist gather over the surrounding mountains -- actually, San Cassiano, from which we drove this morning down a mountain and through twisting roads (that chip-and-signature credit card paid for itself at a toll booth), leaving our adorable Südtirol hotel after five nights of engagementmoon.

I'd gotten a gel manicure last Friday, ostensibly for my birthday (though I was aware that we'd been dating for 21 months as of that day, and that a planned European vacation held, shall we say, possibilities). Dragged (I thought) Jack to the opera that night (Norma, which (do you need a spoiler alert for 180-year-old operas?) is hardly the most romantic, ending in a fiery double suicide); decided on a whim to get a half-bottle of the nicer champagne for intermission ("it's my birthday!"). Leaving our seats at halftime, I tried to slide my hand in his pocket, and almost ruined the surprise. Standing on the balcony, City Hall's gilt dome lit up across the way, chimes ringing to begin going back to your seats ... and he's down on one knee, there's something sparkling, I've said yes! I glance down at my finger as we rush back to catch the second half of the opera, and notice an Asscher cut (technically, a Royal). Well done, now-fiancé. We inappropriately canoodled through the Druidic priestess's excommunication and suicide, much to the consternation of the elderly patrons behind us.

Saturday -- my 34th birthday, and the first day of our engagement -- we spent wandering around the foggy city, lunch and pink bubbles at a cafe in North Beach, calling and texting and snapchatting friends and family. Catered birthday dinner that night doubled as an engagement party -- Sierra shrieked when she saw my hand; even the sous chef needed a tissue as we told our friends. Then Sunday, having boarded a plane to Madrid, I popped above the cloud layer for the first time since the opera, and HOLY REFRACTION, BATMAN spent the next good while engrossed by the small rainbows my finger now casts in direct sunlight, 74 little facets of how much he loves me.

After my work trip in Spain, and his in Zurich, I flew over to join him; we took a train to Innsbruck, and then drove down into the Dolomites. Apfelstrudel; pastoral cows ringing with legit Heidi cowbells; mountain Hütte that would serve you polenta after a 10k hike: It didn't feel like Italy until last night, when we crossed the border from Sütirol into Belluno, and, kicking around Corvina, didn't hear a word of German until back across the Falzarego Pass that night. The Alps, it turns out, are every bit as stunning as legend would have it -- die schönste auf der Welt,, as a widower eating knödeln next to us at the Lavarella Hütte put it. Tahoe, plus mountain huts with wine, gnocchi, and Sachertorte; septuagenarian hikers who lope out of the hills, have a coffee and admonish you to enjoy this post-engagement time ("diese Zeit zu geniessen"), and stride back out into the next valley.

We're taking his advice: The flight attendants are already teasing us, asking if we're on our honeymoon. Not yet -- first, to enjoy this time.