updated 07/09/2013 AT 9:00 AM ET
•originally published 07/09/2013 AT 12:15 PM ET
Former Bachelor contestant Desiree Hartsock is calling the shots and handing out the roses as the current star of The Bachelorette. The bridal stylist will blog all season long on PEOPLE.com about her dates, the guys and the difficult decisions she must make. You can also follow Desiree on Twitter.
After such an emotional and dramatic week in Spain, I was looking forward to a new, refreshing week in Madeira, Portugal, an island I knew little about. And what a wonderful place to start fresh! The scenery was out of this world and it truly lifted my spirits. It has it all – the ocean, the mountains, lushness, cobblestone streets and, of course, five guys that I was crazy about.
I really tried to keep each relationship separate throughout this journey on The Bachelorette, but starting this week, I compared the relationships so I could find out whose family I needed to meet.
It was a long-awaited second date for Brooks and me. The time we shared on group dates was great, but we needed the alone time to reconnect. I had no idea just how beautiful our destination we be, but I loved just being in the car with him.
We were blown away once we reached the top of the mountain. I can’t put into words how majestic and breathtaking the view was above the clouds. It was a dream come true to be in such a beautiful place and to move forward in our relationship. I was really on Cloud 9!
I knew that Brooks was reflective and needed reassurance, but I has no idea that we may not be on the same page. I wish he had felt comfortable enough to tell me what he was feeling. I let the men know from the beginning that it was a two-way street, so I appreciated that Brooks wanted to be confident in his decision to introduce me to his family. I could tell from the emotion he showed that his family means a lot to him so I was glad (and relieved!) that he wanted his family to meet me.
The fireworks at the end of the night were incredible, and the date left me feeling good about where Brooks and I stood. I felt like he could be the one for me.
Saying I Love You
I was excited to see Chris, and I thought that spending a day relaxing out at sea would turn up the romance. It was nice to share that time on a deserted island with Chris and write a poem together. That’s something I’ve never done before with a boyfriend, so it definitely set our connection apart from others.
Dinner with Chris that night in town was beyond romantic. It was nice to learn more about his family. But the ultimate treat was another poem he wrote that ended with him saying he loved me. That was more than I had expected that night. It meant so much to me that he was able to be so vulnerable. It was also a good sign that I wasn’t scared when he read those words.
After a rocky two-on-one date, Michael redeemed himself and proved he is a sincere and passionate man on our first one-on-one. Madeira Island has so much to offer. We explored the tropical fruits, toboggans and gardens together. But I was really trying to explore our connection. I had such strong relationships with the other four men. Michael expressed how he felt for me and where he would like to see our relationship go.
I was glad that he could share his feelings with me, and Michael is a great guy with so much to offer, but I wasn’t sure if I could see a lasting future with him. That gave me the clarity I needed for the rose ceremony. I only hope the best for him because he will make someone feel so loved, special, and protected.
Heading into my second two-on-one date, I hoped Drew and Zak would get along. I was not prepared to repeat another awkward date – and, fortunately, I didn’t have to. Picking someone to get a rose and a hometown visit became my biggest difficulty. I know how badly I wanted that rose from Sean, and how disappointed I was when I didn’t get it. I hated possibly making Zak or Drew feel that same way.
Racing in those go-carts helped take pressure off and set the mood for the rest of the day. I loved that Zak is a creative gift giver and always kept our time together interesting. It was fun to look back and see how far we came from that first night with his drawings. Zak’s positivity and charisma are infectious and I always enjoy being around him.
Drew was always honest with me that he is a private person and doesn’t easily let people in. It meant so much to know that he trusted me and wanted me to accompany him to pick up his sister Melissa if I went on a hometown visit with him. Drew has such sincerity and kindness that reflects in his eyes. His heart and loyalty made me want to meet the family, so that is why I chose to give him the rose that day.
Throughout this journey, Chris Harrison has been there to hear the ups and downs of all my relationships. During our chat, I decided to be completely honest with him about being in love with Brooks and falling in love with Chris. But I still needed and wanted to see if my relationships with Drew and Zak could surpass the other two. I chose to be the Bachelorette to potentially find the man of my dreams and to fall in love, so it felt great to know that it was working.
Hometown dates are extremely important. It’s a time for us to see if we could work outside the world of The Bachelorette, back home with the people that know you best. I wanted the guys to make sure they saw a future with me. And I wanted to learn more about the guys by meeting their families.
Even though my hometown experience with Sean didn’t turn out the way I had hoped, I didn’t let that worry me. And since the conversation my brother had with Sean last season didn’t go well, I decided to talk with him about each guy before letting him meet anyone.
Stay tuned! Next week there is an emotional goodbye along with questions about one of the men. The ups and downs never end …
Thank you for watching and reading my Bachelorette blog!