Steve, Maite and their sons in Spain, 2018.

When Steve left his home in California to travel in Europe in June 2001, little did he know that he would meet the woman he wanted to spend his life with. “I’d gone with my friend and my brother to Barcelona,” says Steve. When they arrived, they went to a tourist kiosk to inquire about accommodation and were directed to a small hotel in El Born district.

“We’d asked for a crappy hotel near the beach and we got a crappy hotel that was quite far from the beach,” he says, laughing. They did, however, find a nice restaurant. “We went there for lunch the next day and that’s when I saw Maite for the first time,” he says. “I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend, but I knew the moment I saw her that I was going to marry her.”

Maite was managing the restaurant but, when Steve asked the waiting staff about her, he was disappointed. “They said: ‘That’s the owner’s daughter. She won’t talk to you’.”

She admits that she didn’t notice Steve initially, but he stayed in Barcelona for the next two months, regularly popping into the restaurant. “He kept ordering the same food and looking at me,” she says. “I thought he was a bit arrogant because he was staring.”

Steve, Maite and their sons in Spain, 2018.

Steve went home to the US, but returned to Barcelona on holiday. “It was an excuse to go back to the restaurant and see Maite,” he says. Whenever he visited, her colleagues would say: “The American is here again,” and try to persuade her to go out with him. But Maite had a boyfriend and wasn’t interested.

In 2003, she decided to study in Australia. “I ended my relationship and was preparing to leave,” she says. That was when she decided to give Steve a chance. “When he came to the restaurant, he always used to ask if I wanted to go for a drink. I always said no, but then I thought, what if I never see him again?”

They met on the terrace of another restaurant and, “laughed all night. We were speaking in broken Spanish, English and through gestures because we didn’t speak each other’s language well, but it was so much fun,” says Maite. She went to Australia, but they kept in touch. “Steve emailed me and sent handwritten letters and CDs. He said he wanted to wait for me.”

In 2005, he invited her to visit him in San Francisco. “I loved the trip and he treated me so well,” she says. “My English was much better by then too.” Afterwards, they tried a long-distance relationship, but Steve says it was hard. “Maite wasn’t sure about us as she was still studying. We kept in touch, but it was hot and cold.”

After she finished college and returned to Barcelona at the end of 2006, Maite began to feel “a bit lost”. Steve suggested they meet in New York to celebrate the new year. When she arrived, her mobile phone wasn’t working and she realised they hadn’t arranged a place to meet.

“By chance, I went to get an elevator at the airport. The doors opened and there was Steve. We were together for three days, but I didn’t want to leave. I was really in love by that point.” After a brief trip back to Barcelona, she packed her bags and went to San Francisco to be with him. She got pregnant that year, and began to panic because she didn’t have a visa. “Steve asked me to marry him and stay – I just knew it was right,” she says.

Steve’s friends and family pulled together and threw them a wedding in Lake Tahoe. “We planned nothing and it couldn’t have been better,” says Steve. The couple have two sons, born in 2008 and 2011. From California, they moved to Texas in 2010 for Steve’s job in manufacturing management. Maite initially took time out to look after their children, and now works as a coordinator for a clinical trials company.

Steve believes they were meant to be together. “We fit perfectly and she is one of the smartest, most caring, giving and sensitive people I have ever known. You know when you’re home – and that’s how I feel with her.”

Maite loves Steve’s sense of humour and integrity. “He’s so loving to me and the boys. When you say you love everything about someone it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I feel so loved.”

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