Shots, bar crawl, laughter and friendship

I’ve chosen this photo for this week’s What’s the Story? link up with PODcast

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March 25th 2005.
It was a Friday night.
It was taken in a bar in Albufeira, Portugal. Renos, to be precise.
In the photo is me and the man who is now my husband.
I remember this night like it was yesterday.

It was 2 months minus 1 day after this photo that we went on our first date and started our relationship.

This particular night had started out like all the others had that holiday, with Shelley and I drinking shots and vodka at BJs Canadian Bar with our new friends. Our new friends were the bar men!

Damian was sat at the bar drinking on his night off from the bar he worked at. When it came to the time Shelley and I were about to move on to do our bar crawl on The Strip he asked if he could join us.

What followed was hours of 3 people laughing, drinking shots, dancing, drinking vodkas and lots and lots of talk about anything and everything.

Although neither of us realised at the time, looking back it was that night that created the initial sparks of attraction between us.


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2. Visit Dubai – ✔️

My first tick can now go on my 40 things before 40 list.

On 13th March 2014 we flew from Manchester to Dubai and spent the most amazing two weeks there with our friend.

We explored almost everything we had wanted to before we went and have a long list of things we want to do on our next visit. We are not normally people who would visit the same destination more than once but we will definitely go back to Dubai.

We went to Dubai Mall on our first day there. I will never be satisfied by a visit to Meadowhall again now I have been there! Inside they have an Aquarium part of which you can look at as you pass whilst wandering around.

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It was full of rays, sharks and various other fish. The girls were amazed by the sight of it as were we. We visited the Dubai Mall three times during our trip (and didn’t cover all the mall!) and each time we would visit the tank and stand in front enthralled by what we saw.

Outside the Dubai Mall is the World’s Tallest Building – the Burj Khalifa. It was dark the first time we set foot outside the Mall and craned our necks to look up into the night sky to see how tall it actually is. It was quite a weird concept for me to be in awe of a building but it was totally mind baffling thinking how these people designed this structure knowing it would work, but then wondering about the builders brave enough to put those final pieces right at the top.  We have many photos from various different views in and around the city of the Burj Khalifa. It wasn’t until our final day that we got to go up to Level 124 and be 452m up in the sky – above the clouds! And unfortunately on the day we did go it had been raining and cloud cover was thick. We still saw a hell of a lot and it just means that we have to go back and do it all over again on a sunny day!! My husband and eldest daughter went out on to the outside observation deck but I couldn’t do it and had palpitations at them being out there as there were gaps in the windows! Obviously no one could fall through but it turns my stomach even thinking about it now!

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At the foot of the Burj Khalifa lies the Dubai Fountains. Starting at 6pm each day the fountains dance to music every half hour up until 11pm.  The crowds that gather then disperse every half hour is quite incredible. The crowds here gave me quite a good insight into how busy the city actually was. We visited the fountains on all three occasions we visited the Dubai Mall, and on one occasion we went on the boat ride of the fountain lake ……you are out of the way as the fountains perform though so don’t get drenched!

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Our first weekend in Dubai was out of this world thanks to our wonderful friend. We were lucky enough to be guests at the Atlantis The Palm hotel which is situated on The Palm which is manmade island.  From the moment you walk in to reception you know things are just incredible. We arrived at 11.15am – check in wasn’t until 3pm but we were able to use the facilities at the hotel from 10am on check in day until 6pm on the day we check out so we wanted to make the most of our stay.  There was absolutely no fuss and we were immediately given a room and allowed in it despite being almost 4 hours early!
We spent the afternoon at Aquaventure – the hotel’s waterpark which can be accessed by anyone for a fee but is free to hotel guests. There were plenty of sunbeds available and many areas of various different slides and pools.  Dinner and breakfast were also included in our stay, so we ate at the Kaleidoscope restaurant then visited the other hotel attraction free to us as guests – The Lost Chambers Aquarium.  Again they haven’t done things by halves and have a huge fish tank as well as lots of smaller ones with all the fish you could think of (including Nemo and Dory much to our eldest’s delight!)

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Day 2 at Atlantis included our treat at Dolphin Bay. Due to the girls’ ages we weren’t allowed in the water with the dolphins so our experience was titled “Dolphin Photo Fun”  We were stood at the edge of the pool and in turn we kneeled down to first kiss the dolphin, then dance with her. Unfortunately neither of the girls were overly keen at the dolphin popped out the water to greet us, but typically our eldest tells people how much she loved it! We got a photo each of us included.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon at Aquaventure and Damian and I both braved the Leap of Faith slide that is shown on most TV programmes and magazine pictures when the Atlantis is shown. You fall 9 storeys in a second!  Now I hate being splashed in the swimming pool, so doing this was quite incredible for me but boy am I glad I did it!! Even though my eyes were kept firmly shut throughout I had the biggest smile on my face when I was getting out the pool!

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So what else did we get up to?
Shopping, shopping and more shopping at various different malls – all of which make our shopping malls look like a dilapidated town centre. There is a huge mix of UK shops, US shops, European shops and more.  There’s an enormous amount of jewellery shops. And the amount of dessert/ice cream/cake shops and cafes just blew my mind!

Knowing we were going to Dubai, for Christmas my husband bought my eldest daughter and I a Penguin experience at Ski Dubai. Ski Dubai is situated at the Mall of the Emirates and is a huge indoor “real snow” ski centre. For anyone who’s visited XScape here in UK – its like that, but better!  We were given snow suits and snow boots and all children under 13 have to wear helmets whilst in the snow and ice. We first met Gentoo penguin which were told was called Lucifer. He had been taken there from Sea World, Orlando where he was called Devil.  We weren’t able to touch this penguin as they don’t like it, but he waddled about a little and we had photos with him sitting next to us before we moved on to the next enclosure and met a King Penguin. We were able to touch this penguin and it felt rather odd. You can see the feathers but its almost the shiny, non-wet slimy kind of feel that a snake has. Thankfully Taylor was much happier about meeting and touching the penguins than she was the dolphin!

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We visited the beach too. Our friend took us to a hotel beach where you can pay to use the facilities for the day. There are public, free beaches, but having the girls using the hotel beach meant we had easy access to drinks and also had the option of shade. It was a hot day and shade was a must. The girls had a great time building sandcastles and were in and out of the sea and swimming pool. The sea was the warmest I have ever been in and quite clear.

This is turning in to quite a long blurb about our stay so I’ll leave it there. We had the most amazing two weeks ever. Dubai really is an amazing city and I would recommend it to anyone. We’ve had a lot of people say to us that they know how amazing it is from photos, or they’ve been at the airport on a stopover, or they’ve been told……but these things do not do it justice. It is definitely a place that needs visiting to actually feel what it’s like. If you get chance to go – go.  We will definitely be going back.

This trip wouldn’t haven’t been possible without our wonderful friend who was an amazing hostess and tour guide and her levels of kindness and patience (!) were astounding.

So that’s tick number one – Visit Dubai – DONE ✔️;

The Plane

This is my first post linking up with PODcast for What’s the story?

After searching the thousands of photos I’ve taken I’ve chosen this one taken on 25th May 2009

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So why this photo?

This is the plane that took my husband and I – newly weds having married the previous day – to Orlando, Florida …….. and we reboarded the same plane within a matter of hours and we were back in Manchester Airport crying in my Mum’s arms less than 24 hours after we had set off.

Now we can laugh about it, and it certainly is a tale we can tell our children and grandchildren. How many other people can say they were denied entry into the USA, ruining the 3 week honeymoon they had planned?!


The Proposal

After a conversation with some friends about how we were all proposed to it got me reminiscing.

My husband and I had been together for just under 17 months when we flew off to Kenya for a 2 week holiday together. Sun, sea and safari.

During our stay we went on one of the standard trips with First Choice to Mombasa. As seems obligatory on all these foreign tours we got taken into a large jewellery store to see Tanzanite. The cabinets were full of gorgeous, sparkly items and I walked round admiring everything, but Damian seemed to keep going back to one particular cabinet. The assistant asked him what he’d like to see and he asked about a specific ring. The ring was white gold with a large tsavorite garnet and 8 small diamonds in the design. Soon it was on my finger and my eyes couldn’t look away, that was until the assistant who’s English wasn’t that good, typed a figure into the calculator to show us the price. The ring was soon off my finger, the dream of diamonds on my hand broken into millions of shards in my mind.

But Damian picked the ring up and started to barter with the assistant, soon agreeing on a price much less than the original figure shown to us but still too much in my mind for a piece of costume jewellery and I said as much.

“But it’s not just any old ring is it? I’ve been looking for a ring for you to propose at Christmas and this is the only thing I’ve found that I want for you”

I think at this point my eyes were as wide as saucers and my jaw on the floor. Before I could say much more my finger was measured, money exchanged hands and the ring was taken to the workshop to be altered to my size.

By this point everyone had left the store and was on the coach ready to go to our next stop off on the day trip. The rep was hopping from foot to foot asking how much longer we would be.

10 minutes later we sheepishly took our seats on the coach under the glare of all our fellow day trippers. The ring box was securely put in the bag across my shoulder, but I couldn’t help but check every few minutes to make sure it was still there.

This photo was taken about 5 minutes after leaving the jewellery store. The ring safely tucked into the camera bag!

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A few hours later we were back at our hotel and the ring placed and locked in our bedroom safe.

We laid on the bed watching tv as had become our evening routine whilst there and I could tell something was on his mind. I told him just because he’d found the ring didn’t mean he had to propose now. He should wait until the moment is right for him.

“But I want to”

Amongst many happy tears I was told how much I was loved by him and then one of the most amazing questions was posed “Will you marry me?”

Of course I said yes immediately and the ring was then placed upon my finger where it has been nearly every day since 20th September 2006. The week it was sent away so my wedding ring could be made to match was the longest week ever!

I love my engagement ring as it not only reminds me of how much my husband loves me, but reminds me of an amazing holiday that I’ll never forget.

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