September 25, 2023
How two strangers met in an elevator in Greece and fell in love

(CNN) — Cheryl Hurst checked into the luxurious St. George Lycabettus Resort in Athens, Greece, in summer time 2017. Upon her arrival, she headed straight to the elevator, desirous 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 within the elevator,” Cheryl tells CNN Journey.

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

“I bear in mind Preet was carrying a yellow watch — and he had a white shirt on that had the sleeves rolled up, which is simply, I do not know, immediately sizzling on any man,” says Cheryl.

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

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

“My first impression when she got here into the elevator was ‘Oh, a woman with a backpack,'” he tells CNN Journey.

Preet was within the elevator with two pals.

“All of us reside in Toronto,” he explains. “They occurred to be vacationing similtaneously this convention, and so we agreed to fulfill up in Athens.”

Cheryl was heading to the seventh ground of the resort, and, coincidentally, so have been Preet and his social gathering. This grew to become clear when the group realized their elevator solely went so far as ground six.

It turned on the market have been two elevators within the resort, and just one went increased up the constructing.

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

“The place are you from?” Preet requested Cheryl.

Cheryl grew up in Niagara Falls, Canada, however she’s lived within the UK for many of her grownup life. Brits are at all times asking her the place she’s from, and she or he at all times says “Toronto” as a result of “in the event you say Niagara Falls, individuals then begin up a dialog about, ‘I did not know Niagara Falls was an actual city.'”

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

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

“Oh no, I am not really from Toronto, I am from Niagara Falls,” backtracked Cheryl, reddening.

“What a bizarre factor to lie about,” Preet teased.

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

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

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

“I assumed it was a bit bizarre to go to dinner with a person I did not know,” she says now.

Nonetheless, she instructed Preet she’d catch him on the reception and located herself trying ahead to it. The 2 exited the elevator and went their separate methods down the hall.


First impressions


Preet Banerjee and Cheryl Hurst crossed paths by chance in a hotel elevator.

Preet Banerjee and Cheryl Hurst crossed paths by likelihood in a resort 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 positive — very talkative, very outgoing,” says Preet. “Once we went to the pre-conference cocktail reception, I instantly sought her out as a result of I did not know anybody else there.”

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

“They mentioned, ‘So tomorrow, we’ll begin with a twinning train. So choose somebody, and also you every need to current three information in regards to the different individual, and that’ll be the great icebreaker for the start of the convention,'” recollects Preet.

“So I turned to Cheryl — as a result of I had met her within the elevator a couple of hours prior — and I simply rattled off three issues, and I mentioned, ‘You inform me three issues.’ After which I left — and I do not assume that went over properly.”

Preet’s information included that he hosted a present on the Oprah Community 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 every of his many followers.

“I by no means mentioned that,” Preet insists. “I’ll die on this hill.”

“Mine was actually like, ‘I’ve a canine, I attempted to chop a bunch of denims into shorts for this journey and ruined, like, seven pairs of denims,'” provides Cheryl. “I had actually no attention-grabbing information, and Preet was simply spilling off these actually attention-grabbing issues.”

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

“What an smug man,” she remembers pondering.

Nonetheless, the next day, Cheryl and Preet ended up sitting subsequent to 1 one other within the first convention seminar.

“I used to be doodling on my notepad, and I used to be simply drawing a home — and I bear in mind Preet trying and making enjoyable of me for doodling,” says Cheryl.

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

Cheryl smiled regardless of herself, and so they began writing notes backwards and forwards. Later, they bought speaking correctly.

“We simply form of gravitated in direction of one another throughout breaks and whatnot,” provides Preet. “It was simply pure, as a result of we had type of related views and issues to speak about.”

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

“We actually simply met within the elevator,” mentioned Cheryl.

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

“I needed Preet to return, so I went to his resort room,” recollects Cheryl.

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

“Oh, thanks a lot,” he mentioned, with out trying her manner.

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

“Oh, I am sorry, I simply referred to as the entrance desk to have them come and do some laundry,” he defined, embarrassed.

Regardless of this awkward encounter, Preet agreed to return for drinks. After a couple of rounds, many of the group determined they have been going to go to a nightclub.

“Preet and I have been each like, ‘We have now no real interest in clubbing.’ So we simply frolicked and had dinner,” says Cheryl. “We talked for seven or eight hours, ages. We simply chatted.”

Preet and Cheryl loved each other’s firm. However neither anticipated something romantic would come of their connection — they lived in numerous international locations, there was an age hole and so they barely knew each other.

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

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


Touring Athens


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

This is Cheryl on the rootop of the St. George Lycabettus Resort 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 residence.

He opened up the invite to all of the convention attendees, and whereas everybody appeared enthusiastic, ultimately, solely Cheryl turned up at 9 a.m. the following day. The 2 boarded the bus collectively.

“Preet and I simply spent like the whole day, touring round Athens and simply speaking,” says Cheryl. “We had actually in-depth conversations.”

“We lined a whole lot of floor,” says Preet. “We spent a lot time, touring round and whatnot. A bit bit was our dissertations that we have been engaged on, a bit bit was private, a bit bit was journey and whatnot. It was all over.”

“There have been no stakes, as a result of once more, our pondering — at the very least my pondering — was I will by no means see this individual ever once more. So I can open up and get an trustworthy third-party opinion on a complete bunch of various issues, which I believe led to deeper conversations.”

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

Whereas she was comfy round Preet, Cheryl was additionally a bit nervous about being on her personal in another country with a person she did not know.

“I am actually at all times very hesitant about that form of factor,” 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 price range.

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 simply a very simple dialog about cash and the place we have been in life, and he was simply actually respectful,” says Cheryl.

“He wasn’t creepy or bizarre about it in any manner. There’s your headline, ‘Not creepy or bizarre,'” 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 thoughts, I simply needed to do the tour, and if nobody comes, I do not care, I will go on my own — so whether or not she was the one one there or not, in my thoughts did not matter,” he says.

“In a while, as we have been on the tour collectively and chatting, I used to be like, ‘Oh, I am glad it is simply the 2 of us and never a giant group’ — as a result of we’d have had totally different conversations or not the chance 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 within the port of Piraeus — Cheryl and Preet went again to the St. George Lycabattus collectively, to the resort’s rooftop bar.

“It is bought the perfect view of the Acropolis from a distance and all of Athens,” says Preet.

The 2 sat in a snug silence, consuming pink wine and watching the sky blaze scarlet and copper over the historic metropolis. Cheryl says it was a “attractive” night.

“After which we have been like, ‘OK, properly, you go to your resort room, and I will see you within the morning.'”

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

“Goodbye ceaselessly,” mentioned Cheryl as Preet bought right into a taxi. She was attempting to joke to masks a creeping feeling of disappointment.

“I bear in mind seeing his taxi drive off, and I bear in mind pondering, ‘Oh, man, there is no manner that is the final time I will see that man. I simply knew that I used to be going to see him once more,'” she says now.

Nonetheless, within the second, the fact of crossing paths once more “felt so not possible.”

The 2 did not trade telephone numbers or contact particulars.

“We thought we might let it’s an ideal few days pretty much as good pals, and never attempt to keep it via some 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. Whereas there, she deliberate to attend a convention in Toronto, and she or he anticipated Preet is likely to be attending, too.

On a whim, she determined to observe Preet on Twitter and drop him a message to say she was on the town.

It turned out she was proper — Preet was attending the convention. The 2 picked up the place they left off, and as soon as once more, spent hours chatting.

“That is after we began to type of assume, ‘Oh, perhaps there’s extra right here than simply somebody you met at a convention,'” says Preet.

“We stored spending increasingly time collectively and discovering excuses to speak.”

When Cheryl was again residence within 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 manner.

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

Preet was disillusioned, however revered her boundaries.

“I simply thought, ‘All proper, properly, that is it,'” he recollects. “In my thoughts, I used to be resigned to the truth that we’ll in all probability by no means keep in touch ever once more.”

However three days later, Cheryl despatched one other message.

“By no means thoughts,” she wrote. “I wish 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 each time they might, 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 capable of journey to the UK sometimes, and the 2 additionally met up in different locations throughout the globe — typically locations Preet was touring for enterprise.

“I believe we consciously made an effort to profit from the restricted time that we had collectively, which I believe in all probability helped and doubtless accelerated the emotional journey,” says Preet.

Six months in — on one in every of their lengthy video calls — Cheryl instructed Preet she liked him.

Preet did not say the phrases again. As an alternative, he was a bit awkward. When the decision ended, Cheryl replayed the second time and again in her head, worrying he did not reciprocate her emotions.

“Then, the following day, there was a knock on my door, and he’d already booked flights to shock me in England, as a result of he did not wish to say ‘I like you’ on FaceTime. He needed to inform me in individual.”

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

Preet’s pals who’d been there that first day within 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 explicit cultural variations to navigate.

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

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

The 2 have loads in frequent, although — their dedication to work and research, in addition to a love of journey, watching films and attending reside comedy. However they nonetheless reckon a mutual love of deep dialog is their greatest connector.

“It was at all times, simply even from first being within the elevator, it was simply very flowy dialog,” says Cheryl.


Trying 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 trying ahead to constructing a future collectively.

Courtesy Cheryl Hurst and Preet Banerjee

After three years of lengthy distance, Preet and Cheryl ended up dwelling 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 used to be within the air when Canada introduced lockdowns,” she says.

Throughout 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 residence, whereas Preet is happy for a brand new expertise.

“I see it as an journey, in addition to, you realize, being with the individual that I like. In order that was a reasonably simple choice on the finish of the day,” he says.

Preet’s UK visa was just lately authorized, and the couple at the moment are having fun with life collectively within the UK — and planning an upcoming marriage ceremony.

“We had formally gotten engaged sitting on the sofa in the course of the pandemic in Toronto. However it was a really unromantic and unceremonious proposal,” says Preet, who organized a second proposal earlier this yr, whereas the couple have been on trip within the south of France.

The couple got engaged in Monaco earlier this year.

The couple bought engaged in Monaco earlier this yr.

Courtesy Cheryl Hurst and Preet Banerjee

The 2 have been on a rooftop overlooking Monaco, having fun with Champagne on a personal balcony. It was a spectacular night, though Preet admits it will have been extra acceptable to suggest within the elevator on the best way up.

“That might have been very poetic,” he says, laughing. “I am simply not that artistic.”

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

Nonetheless, sometimes, the 2 replay the second of their minds, particularly in current months, as they plan their marriage ceremony and mirror on the fortuitous possibilities that introduced them collectively.

“For me, the takeaway that I’ve is — you simply do not know what can occur,” says Cheryl.

“All the things simply seems like that is the best way it needs to be, and really pure and ideal, and all that stuff, and so trying again on the way it all unfolded feels form of surreal,” says Preet.

“It is all these little forks within the highway that, had the scenario simply been a bit bit totally different, none of this may have occurred, which is loopy, as a result of I believe that we’re soulmates.”

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