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How two strangers met in an elevator in Greece and fell in love

(CNN) — Cheryl Hurst checked into the luxurious St. George Lycabettus Hotel in Athens, Greece, in summer season 2017. Upon her arrival, she headed straight to the elevator, wanting to clean up in her room.

The doorways have been gliding closed, and Cheryl nipped in simply in time, apologizing to the individuals already inside — oblivious that her future fiancé was amongst them.

“He was already in the elevator,” Cheryl tells CNN Travel.

“He” was Preet Banerjee, a Canadian entrepreneur in his 30s visiting Athens for a convention.

“I remember Preet was wearing a yellow watch — and he had a white shirt on that had the sleeves rolled up, which is just, I don’t know, instantly hot on any guy,” says Cheryl.

Even the elevator of the five-star lodge was smooth and opulent. Cheryl — a Canadian-born PhD scholar in her 20s who’d flown in from the UK — felt barely misplaced dressed in shorts and a crop prime, weighed down by her touring backpack.

Cheryl says she was “instantly attracted” to Preet. Preet says he did not pay Cheryl a lot consideration at first.

“My first impression when she came into the elevator was ‘Oh, a girl with a backpack,'” he tells CNN Travel.

Preet was in the elevator with two associates.

“We all live in Toronto,” he explains. “They happened to be vacationing at the same time as this conference, and so we agreed to meet up in Athens.”

Cheryl was heading to the seventh flooring of the lodge, and, coincidentally, so have been Preet and his get together. This turned clear when the group realized their elevator solely went so far as flooring six.

It turned on the market have been two elevators in the lodge, and just one went greater up the constructing.

As the lodge friends decamped on flooring six and waited for the opposite elevator, they acknowledged one another’s accents and realized they have been all Canadians in Greece.

“Where are you from?” Preet requested Cheryl.

Cheryl grew up in Niagara Falls, Canada, however she’s lived in the UK for many of her grownup life. Brits are at all times asking her the place she’s from, and she at all times says “Toronto” as a result of “if you say Niagara Falls, people then start up a conversation about, ‘I didn’t know Niagara Falls was a real town.'”

So, on autopilot, Cheryl informed Preet she was from Toronto.

“What part of Toronto?” requested Torontonian Preet, as they entered the second elevator.

“Oh no, I’m not actually from Toronto, I’m from Niagara Falls,” backtracked Cheryl, reddening.

“What a weird thing to lie about,” Preet teased.

The elevator carried them to flooring seven and Preet and Cheryl continued speaking. They realized they have been each engaged on doctoral theses, and each attending the identical convention in the lodge, which was aimed toward doctoral candidates of all disciplines.

Lectures and courses have been set to start out the next day, however there was a cocktail reception that night.

Preet requested if Cheryl needed to hitch him and his associates for dinner beforehand, however she turned him down.

“I thought it was a bit weird to go to dinner with a man I didn’t know,” she says now.

Still, she informed Preet she’d catch him on the reception and discovered herself wanting ahead to it. The two exited the elevator and went their separate methods down the hall.

First impressions

Preet Banerjee and Cheryl Hurst crossed paths by likelihood in a lodge elevator.

Courtesy Cheryl Hurst and Preet Banerjee

When Cheryl and Preet noticed each other once more on the reception, they have been each happy.

“Cheryl stands out from a crowd for sure — very talkative, very outgoing,” says Preet. “When we went to the pre-conference cocktail reception, I immediately sought her out because I didn’t know anyone else there.”

Cheryl and Preet began chatting, and then the convention organizers made an announcement.

“They said, ‘So tomorrow, we’re going to start with a twinning exercise. So pick someone, and you each have to present three facts about the other person, and that’ll be the nice icebreaker for the beginning of the conference,'” remembers Preet.

“So I turned to Cheryl — because I had met her in the elevator a few hours prior — and I just rattled off three things, and I said, ‘You tell me three things.’ And then I left — and I don’t think that went over well.”

Preet’s information included that he hosted a present on the Oprah Network and that he’d skilled to be a racing automotive driver.

Cheryl insists he additionally talked about that Barack Obama follows him on Twitter. Preet denies this — though the previous US President is one in all his many followers.

“I never said that,” Preet insists. “I will die on this hill.”

“Mine was literally like, ‘I have a dog, I tried to cut a bunch of jeans into shorts for this trip and ruined, like, seven pairs of jeans,'” provides Cheryl. “I had literally no interesting facts, and Preet was just spilling off these really interesting things.”

But whereas Cheryl was impressed by Preet’s information, she was lower than impressed when he disappeared straight after relaying them.

“What an arrogant guy,” she remembers considering.

Still, the next day, Cheryl and Preet ended up sitting subsequent to at least one one other in the primary convention seminar.

“I was doodling on my notepad, and I was just drawing a house — and I remember Preet looking and making fun of me for doodling,” says Cheryl.

Preet scribbled Cheryl a notice: “Bored?” he wrote.

Cheryl smiled regardless of herself, and they began writing notes again and forth. Later, they acquired speaking correctly.

“We just kind of gravitated towards each other during breaks and whatnot,” provides Preet. “It was just natural, because we had sort of similar perspectives and things to talk about.”

Cheryl and Preet had an straightforward chemistry and repartee. Their apparent consolation round one another led one convention attendee to ask how lengthy they’d been a pair.

“We literally just met in the elevator,” mentioned Cheryl.

One night, the convention attendees headed into Athens for drinks.

“I wanted Preet to come, so I went to his hotel room,” remembers Cheryl.

She knocked on the door. Preet opened it and handed her a bag of soiled laundry.

“Oh, thanks so much,” he mentioned, with out wanting her means.

Cheryl was confused, left holding a bag of soiled underwear. Preet appeared up and realized his error.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I just called the front desk to have them come and do some laundry,” he defined, embarrassed.

Despite this awkward encounter, Preet agreed to return for drinks. After just a few rounds, a lot of the group determined they have been going to go to a nightclub.

“Preet and I were both like, ‘We have no interest in clubbing.’ So we just hung out and had dinner,” says Cheryl. “We talked for seven or eight hours, ages. We just chatted.”

Preet and Cheryl loved each other’s firm. But neither anticipated something romantic would come of their connection — they lived in completely different nations, there was an age hole and they barely knew each other.

But when Cheryl referred to as her mom to catch her up on the convention, she talked about Preet, simply in passing. She questioned whether or not her mother would know him from his Canadian TV appearances.

Cheryl’s mom instantly suspected her daughter was in Preet, even when Cheryl vehemently denied it.

Touring Athens

Here's Cheryl on the rootop of the St. George Lycabettus Hotel in Athens.

Here’s Cheryl on the rootop of the St. George Lycabettus Hotel in Athens.

Courtesy Cheryl Hurst and Preet Banerjee

On the final day of the convention, Preet introduced he was going to do a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of Athens earlier than heading dwelling.

He opened up the invite to all of the convention attendees, and whereas everybody appeared enthusiastic, in the top, solely Cheryl turned up at 9 a.m. the following day. The two boarded the bus collectively.

“Preet and I just spent like the entire day, touring around Athens and just talking,” says Cheryl. “We had really in-depth conversations.”

“We covered a lot of ground,” says Preet. “We spent so much time, touring around and whatnot. A little bit was our dissertations that we were working on, a little bit was personal, a little bit was travel and whatnot. It was all over the place.”

“There were no stakes, because again, our thinking — at least my thinking — was I’ll never see this person ever again. So I can open up and get an honest third-party opinion on a whole bunch of different things, which I think led to deeper conversations.”

It was a highly regarded day, and Cheryl says she remembers the sensation of the warmth beating down, blended with the adrenaline of forging an surprising reference to a stranger overseas.

While she was comfy round Preet, Cheryl was additionally a bit nervous about being on her personal in a overseas nation with a person she did not know.

“I’m really always very hesitant about that kind of thing,” Cheryl says.

She additionally frightened Preet, who was older and extra established in his profession, would recommend an costly restaurant for lunch. She determined to be upfront about her funds.

Preet mentioned he understood, it will be no downside to seek out someplace relaxed — or else he’d fortunately purchase her lunch.

Cheryl took this photo of Preet during a lunch break from their Athens bus tour.

Cheryl took this photograph of Preet throughout a lunch break from their Athens bus tour.

Courtesy Cheryl Hurst and Preet Banerjee

“It was just a very easy conversation about money and where we were in life, and he was just really respectful,” says Cheryl.

“He wasn’t creepy or weird about it in any way. There’s your headline, ‘Not creepy or weird,'” she provides, laughing.

At one level in the course of the tour, Preet realized how glad he was that Cheryl was the one different convention attendee who’d turned up for the tour.

“In my mind, I just wanted to do the tour, and if no one comes, I don’t care, I’ll go by myself — so whether she was the only one there or not, in my mind didn’t matter,” he says.

“Later on, as we were on the tour together and chatting, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m glad it’s just the two of us and not a big group’ — because we would have had different conversations or not the opportunity to have conversations.”

After a full day of sightseeing — from marveling on the Acropolis to fruitlessly looking for a plaque devoted to Plato to watching the boats coming and going in the port of Piraeus — Cheryl and Preet went again to the St. George Lycabattus collectively, to the lodge’s rooftop bar.

“It’s got the best view of the Acropolis from a distance and all of Athens,” says Preet.

The two sat in a cushty silence, consuming crimson wine and watching the sky blaze scarlet and copper over the historic metropolis. Cheryl says it was a “gorgeous” night.

“And then we were like, ‘OK, well, you go to your hotel room, and I’ll see you in the morning.'”

The following morning, Cheryl waved Preet off as he headed to the airport.

“Goodbye forever,” mentioned Cheryl as Preet acquired right into a taxi. She was making an attempt to joke to masks a creeping feeling of unhappiness.

“I remember seeing his taxi drive off, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, man, there’s no way that’s the last time I’m going to see that guy. I just knew that I was going to see him again,'” she says now.

Still, in the second, the fact of crossing paths once more “felt so impossible.”

The two did not change telephone numbers or contact particulars.

“We thought we’d let it be a perfect few days as good friends, and not try to maintain it through any other medium,” says Cheryl.

A Canadian reunion

Cheryl and Preet, pictured here at Niagara Falls, are both originally from Canada.

Cheryl and Preet, pictured right here at Niagara Falls, are each initially from Canada.

Courtesy Cheryl Hurst and Preet Banerjee

A few months later, Cheryl traveled to Canada to go to her household. While there, she deliberate to attend a convention in Toronto, and she anticipated Preet could be attending, too.

On a whim, she determined to comply with Preet on Twitter and drop him a message to say she was in city.

It turned out she was proper — Preet was attending the convention. The two picked up the place they left off, and as soon as once more, spent hours chatting.

“That’s when we started to sort of think, ‘Oh, maybe there’s more here than just someone you met at a conference,'” says Preet.

“We kept spending more and more time together and finding excuses to talk.”

When Cheryl was again dwelling in the UK, she obtained a Twitter message from Preet.

He had emotions for her, he wrote, and needed to know if she felt the identical means.

Cheryl had appreciated Preet from day one in the elevator. But she did not suppose it might work — the age hole and the space felt like too huge a barrier. She additionally frightened what her family members would suppose if she informed them she’d began a relationship with a person she’d met solely twice.

Preet was upset, however revered her boundaries.

“I just thought, ‘All right, well, that’s it,'” he remembers. “In my mind, I was resigned to the fact that we’ll probably never be in contact ever again.”

But three days later, Cheryl despatched one other message.

“Never mind,” she wrote. “I want to be with you.”

Cheryl says she determined it was value taking an opportunity. She knew she’d at all times remorse it in any other case.

From there, Preet and Cheryl began a long-distance relationship. They FaceTimed at any time when they may, and it helped that Cheryl, who was nonetheless learning for her PhD, would return to Canada to go to her household for lengthy stretches.

Preet was additionally in a position to journey to the UK on occasion, and the two additionally met up in different locations throughout the globe — typically locations Preet was touring for enterprise.

“I think we consciously made an effort to make the most of the limited time that we had together, which I think probably helped and probably accelerated the emotional journey,” says Preet.

Six months in — on one in all their lengthy video calls — Cheryl informed Preet she cherished him.

Preet did not say the phrases again. Instead, he was a bit awkward. When the decision ended, Cheryl replayed the second over and over once more in her head, worrying he did not reciprocate her emotions.

“Then, the next day, there was a knock on my door, and he’d already booked flights to surprise me in England, because he didn’t want to say ‘I love you’ on FaceTime. He wanted to tell me in person.”

Cheryl’s fears about what her family members would consider the connection have been rapidly eradicated when her associates and household met Preet. Her dad and mom rapidly fell for him — in any case, Cheryl’s mom had suspected Cheryl appreciated him from the outset.

Preet’s associates who’d been there that first day in the elevator additionally insisted they’d picked up on the connection on day one. And Cheryl additionally clicked rapidly with Preet’s mother.

Preet’s household is of Indian heritage, however the couple say they have not had any specific cultural variations to navigate.

Preet jokes that their important cultural variations come from Cheryl’s years in the UK and his Canadian perspective.

And there’s their completely different pursuits. Cheryl’s been dragged to a couple Formula One occasions since they acquired collectively, whereas Preet attended a Taylor Swift live performance for the primary time.

The two have loads in frequent, although — their dedication to work and examine, in addition to a love of journey, watching motion pictures and attending dwell comedy. But they nonetheless reckon a mutual love of deep dialog is their largest connector.

“It was always, just even from first being in the elevator, it was just very flowy conversation,” says Cheryl.

Looking to the long run

Cheryl and Preet, pictured here at sunset in Ontario, Canada, are looking forward to building a future together.

Cheryl and Preet, pictured right here at sundown in Ontario, Canada, are wanting ahead to constructing a future collectively.

Courtesy Cheryl Hurst and Preet Banerjee

After three years of lengthy distance, Preet and Cheryl ended up residing collectively in Toronto in 2020. It was by coincidence — Cheryl landed in Canada simply because the nation closed its borders on the outset of the pandemic.

“I was in the air when Canada announced lockdowns,” she says.

During that yr of isolation, the couple had loads of alternatives to debate their future. They determined that long-term they’d settle in London — Cheryl feels strongly that the UK is her dwelling, whereas Preet is worked up for a brand new expertise.

“I see it as an adventure, as well as, you know, being with the person that I love. So that was a pretty easy decision at the end of the day,” he says.

Preet’s UK visa was just lately authorised, and the couple are actually having fun with life collectively in the UK — and planning an upcoming marriage ceremony.

“We had officially gotten engaged sitting on the couch during the pandemic in Toronto. But it was a very unromantic and unceremonious proposal,” says Preet, who organized a second proposal earlier this yr, whereas the couple have been on trip in the south of France.

The couple got engaged in Monaco earlier this year.

The couple acquired engaged in Monaco earlier this yr.

Courtesy Cheryl Hurst and Preet Banerjee

The two have been on a rooftop overlooking Monaco, having fun with Champagne on a non-public balcony. It was a spectacular night, though Preet admits it will have been extra acceptable to suggest in the elevator on the best way up.

“That would have been very poetic,” he says, laughing. “I’m just not that creative.”

Cheryl and Preet have ridden many elevators collectively since that first one in the St. George Lycabettus, so naturally they do not take into consideration how their elevator meet-cute each time they step inside one.

Still, on occasion, the two replay the second in their minds, particularly in current months, as they plan their marriage ceremony and mirror on the fortuitous probabilities that introduced them collectively.

“For me, the takeaway that I have is — you just don’t know what can happen,” says Cheryl.

“Everything just feels like this is the way it should be, and very natural and perfect, and all that stuff, and so looking back on how it all unfolded feels kind of surreal,” says Preet.

“It’s all these little forks in the road that, had the situation just been a little bit different, none of this would have happened, which is crazy, because I think that we’re soulmates.”

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