The Couchsurfer Who Changed Everything

Marcel as I imagined him...

Ah, romance! The dirty, little secret of Couchsurfing. Sure, sometimes it’s all kumbaya, joining the world’s diverse peoples in a platonic group hug. But other times, CSers just wanna have fun, at least with people whom they know have already pre-booked their ticket home.

Yet I can state unequivocally, that in over two years of Couchsurfing, no man (or woman) has ever broken my Bristol-Palin like chastity.

That is, until Marcel.

From the moment we met, I knew Marcel was different: gentle, funny, willing to share the tiniest details of his life as if we’d known each other forever.

Initially, I swore I wouldn’t “out” our love on the blog. But now that I’ve changed my Facebook status to “In a relationship,” I’ve decided it’s time to let the world experience, as I did, the man – and day – I’ll never forget…

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After Marcel and I awoke (he on his air mattress, I on my off-the-ground, queen-size bed). I suggested we hit the Lower East Side for breakfast at Panade, a “puff” cafe known for their sweet and savory choux pastry concoctions.

Panade girls staring at Marcel and me.

Marcel, having never experienced “puffs” in his country, the name of which I can never remember, took delicate bites of the cheese and rosemary and declared it better than the leaves he usually eats.

Choose your puff.

From there we walked to the Union Square Greenmarket, a perfect spot for people watching, as well as purchasing fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat, all by local purveyors, and at sizes even Marcel could chew.

Foolishly oblivious to the difference in our heights (did I mention Marcel is rather small?), I noticed his feet were worn to nibs by the time we arrived at the market! Helping steady him with my hand, we momentarily touched and, just then, something ineffable passed between us; at that moment, I knew our connection was much stronger than merely our mutual love of sleeping for free in other people’s homes.

After sharing a handmade Dutch pretzel (was he imagining us entwined?), he asked if we could stop at the Apple (PRODUCT PLACEMENT) store, to send an email. Immediately, my mood deflated. Was he writing to his girlfriend in his unpronounceable country to share with HER the fabulous day he was having with ME?

My hopes for love dashed, I sulked off to check my own email when, strangely, one from Marcel magically appeared on the screen: “THANK U FOR THE MOST PURR-FECT DAY OF MY ENTIRE LIFE!! I’M FALLING IN LOVE WITH U!!##$$, MARCEL!@#$%”

Our eyes locked across the crowded Apple store. We rushed into one another’s arms, the other guests too immersed in their iPods (PRODUCT PLACEMENT) to notice. After that, there was nothing, not even the fact that Marcel’s country only sells PCs, that could come between us.

Marcel and I relax at Sanctuary T.

Exhausted from the Apple store – and the excitement of our newfound love – we decided to recharge at Sanctuary T. There, in the dimly lit, Asian-influenced room, Marcel and I sipped mood-enhancing teas, grew tipsy from tea-infused cocktails, and ate tea-dusted main courses, secure in the knowledge that whatever herb or caffeinated beverage we imbibed could only further stimulate our feelings towards one another.

But just then, a dark cloud of recognition jolted us from our reverie: our day of love was nearly over, and soon Marcel would have to return to his difficult-to-locate-on-a-map country. Could our love withstand the oceans, mountains, hurricanes, mudslides, tsunamis, and occasional locust infestations, that routinely pummel his impossible-to-spell nation?

Teas and tea objects on display.

But there was no time to ponder, as night was upon us, and it was time for dinner.

Amazingly, Marcel had taken the initiative to read the New Yorker in the bathroom of my apartment earlier that day, and recommended we check out Millesime, a restaurant that had recently opened in a former no-man’s land (the East ’30s) that had begun trending hip.

Tiffany roof at Millesime.

There we found the Carlton Hotel, a Beaux Arts-style building built in 1904, recently renovated into a fashionable boutique hotel and now home to Millesime and the downstairs M Bar. As we entered the airy restaurant with its Tiffany glass sunroof, red leather banquette, marble bar, and candle-lit tables, it was as if – not only Marcel and I but the entire room – was aglow!

The dinner only heightened the exquisiteness of what we believed would be our last night together, beginning with the perfectly chewy yet crusty bread served with wine and olive tapenade, moving on to the perfectly prepared lobster on a bed of ice with house-made cocktail sauce and aioli, and ending with a simple yet elegant dessert consisting of a honeycomb square paired with a salty, French cheese.

The dining room at Millesime.

It was only then I saw Marcel crying.
“Why are you sad, my love?” I asked, barely able to contain my own tears.
Because,” Marcel squeaked, “We’re at the most romantic restaurant in New York, and I have something to give you.
He lowered his already small body down further to the ground and knelt on one knee.
Will you marry me?
Before I could answer, the wait staff burst into applause.
“Say, ‘Yes!'” they shouted.
And I did, amid tears and laughter, as a waiter lifted Marcel from the ground and carried him in his hand for all to see.

Downstairs at the M bar, we celebrated and danced, snacking on lamb chop lollipops and Basque-style popcorn, while the DJ spun songs from the ’50s, because Marcel said it reminded him of home.

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Now that we’ve caught our breath, Marcel and I have decided to divide our time between New York and the land mass he calls home. Happily, we both still love couchsurfing and continue to host people when they come to visit. We do though still sleep in separate beds. After all, I don’t want to crush him.

Marcel was kind enough to make this video to share himself with all of you. I think you’ll agree, he’s just as described!
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To recreate my perfect day with Marcel, we encourage you to visit our favorite places:

Panade: 132A Eldridge Street
Union Square Greenmarket: From 14th – 17th Street between Broadway/University Place and Union Square East. Open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Sanctuary T: 337 West Broadway
Millesime and M Bar: 92 Madison Avenue

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