I was lucky enough to visit Ireland several times, always with my wonderful husband William. My soul mate is a-ma-zing-ly romantic. However, his whimsical ways pale when compared with the Irish’s kindness, as this story will demonstrate.
In November 2013, William and I landed in Dublin and stayed there for a few days. Then, we traveled to Northern Ireland (more stories to come about that!) before coming back to Ireland and heading to the fair city of Galway. One of our friends from Quebec City—and Irish expat— mentioned the area often and he even said his cousin lived there and worked at the Galway Bay hotel. So, naturally, we checked in at that hotel for a couple of nights.
At the time, William was just starting on his UK touring venture, and he planned a big trip for a group of High School students in April 2014. One of his bus tour contact texted him and they agreed to meet up in the hotel’s bar. The sites of the Emerald island and its fresh air exhilarated me, but the driving left me tired, so I headed straight to our room and told William I would meet them a bit later for a few drinks.
A surprise awaited me in our room. Chocolates and strawberries set on a silvery tray and a bottle of champagne chilling in an ice bucket.
Awwww… It spelled ‘romance’, the kind my William does all the time.
Knowing my husband’s meeting just started, I showered and dressed up. Several minutes passed before I began to wonder just how long it would take for him to return to our room. Surely, he would like to join me and, hem…enjoy the effects of his incredibly romantic gesture. However, he lingered downstairs. More than half an hour later, I texted him:
Will you be much longer?
William did not reply. I figured he must be concluding his meeting so I did not press things. After a few more minutes, becoming more annoyed than charmed, I texted him again:
I, of course, referred to the ice meant to chill the champagne. His answer puzzled me:
With a frown longer than the ice-cold bottle of champagne, I decided to head downstairs to the hotel bar. There, I found William and his bus tour partner deep in conversation. Which I politely interrupted.
“Hem, darling, you know it’s melting, right?”
“What are you talking about?” he replied.
William is a lousy actor. Whenever he plans a surprise for me—which is very often— he always spoils some of it because, without fail, his boyish grin gives him away. So, doubt crept in my mind at his genuinely surprised face.
“The champagne. I ate one of the chocolates and two strawberries already.”
“What champagne? What chocolates? What strawberries?”
During our exchange, I caught William’s bus tour partner smiling at us and I figured I had solved the situation.
“Oh! You had these sent to us, then. It’s so nice of you.”
The man’s smile immediately left, replaced by a shocked and slightly embarrassed air.
“Hem… No. That wasn’t me.”
The three of us stared at each other. We looked like three pieces of a puzzle that contained at least a fourth, missing item.
William’s tour bus partner said they could conclude their meeting via email, and hurried us to our room, declaring that no business encounter could justify wasting a drink—even if it was champagne instead of a cold Irish beer.
Once back to our room, we enjoyed the three offered gifts. However, the puzzle of who sent it remained complete. Aside from William’s tour bus partner, we did not know anyone in Galway. Still, we followed the man’s advice, and enjoyed ourselves.
The next morning, we headed downstairs to get our breakfast (which was amazingly good.) While we were sipping our hot drinks (coffee for William, tea for me), the hotel manager approached us.
“You be William and Annie, I assume?”
We nodded, wondering how this man knew us.
“Aye! My cousin told me you were coming to The Galway Bay. I hope you appreciated the little complimentary gift.”
The pin dropped. HE was the one who sent the chocolates, strawberries and champagne….
It was delicious. All of it.
The amicable gesture of a friend across the ocean.
The humorous comment of a business partner across a bar table.
The warm attention of a busy hotel manager.
And, of course, the chocolates, strawberries and champagne!