It was the Christmas of 1999, and my boyfriend gave me a wonderful surprise, but when I opened the present, I found an apple and the look on my face said “I hope that’s not all he’s got me!” The clue didn’t register until I was given a hint from his parents; the Big Apple?! “Oh, wow!” I was off to New York for 6 days. I was one happy girl.
A few days into the new year, we found ourselves in Manhattan. We had a fabulous time there, but one story sticks in my mind. A night we went clubbing.
We got all dressed up and went out for dinner and then made our merry way to a club, called Liquid. It was quite a big club, from what I remember, and the pink and purple colours dazzled as the lights flashed around us. It was early when we got there, so there weren’t very many people there. We made our way to the bar and asked for two red bull and vodkas. We nearly fell over in shock with the reply we received! There was no liquor license! That was the year 2000, and only 10 years after the internet started, so it wasn’t really the norm to check out places before going there. Had we been able to do that, I don’t even know if the club had a website back then, but we would probably have found out that Liquid didn’t serve booze.
We were slightly taken aback, seeing as we were in the city that never sleeps, it seemed that was true, but we would just have to experience a night without our vodkas, after all we had paid money to get into the club, so we weren’t going to leave just because of a minor (in our case, major) detail. So, we ordered red bulls, minus the vodka, and moved away from the bar and found a place to people watch.
What happened next really made our night. As we sipped our non-alcoholic beverages, both of us thinking, “once we’ve finished these, we are outta here and gonna get drunk,” when a circle of people formed in front of us. We wondered what was going on, a fight maybe? But the atmosphere didn’t feel like that, there was no-one sizing each other up or shoving going on.
All of a sudden, music blared and, in the middle of the circle of people, a guy began break-dancing, moving this way and that, head spinning, body popping and getting into seemingly impossible positions. It was thrilling to watch. Another guy, who had been on the other side of the circle, took over and it was his turn to display a variety of gymnastic movements; one-handed handstands, leaping so high in the air and almost defying gravity. The determination and skill these guys had was phenomenal. It’s very difficult to balance you’re body on one hand, while trying to spin (believe me, I’ve tried, I didn’t even get to the spinning part!) yet, these very talented men were doing it with ease. We were blown away and couldn’t tear ourselves away from the action, our eyes not daring to look away in case we missed anything. It was the longest time I’ve ever taken to drink a vodkaless red bull in my life. All too soon, the break-dancing stopped and the crowd dispersed, and we were left to our drinks. It was like it never happened.
What a night though. How fantastic that we were there when they decided to have a break-dancing battle. We left not long after, excitedly chattering about what we had just witnessed, found another bar and got drunk!
Over the years, I have travelled to over 20 countries and I’ve seen and done so many amazing things. But, there are a few places that I hold dear to my heart for one reason or another, so here is a list of my favorite places on Earth.
My home for the past three years, Bangkok excites me like no other city. Before I lived here, I never thought I would be a city girl at heart, but it turns out I am. It’s exciting because it is so diverse, there are traditional Thai temples, Hindu temples and Islamic mosques. Shopping malls that will make your eyes boggle at the sheer size and extravagance, some of the most delicious food you’ll ever eat, and rooftop bars where you can gaze in wonder across the city and almost touch the stars. The city has a fascinating history, part of which has European influences and people from all over the world call Bangkok their home. It’s a fabulous place for exploring and every twist and turn throws something new at you. It’ll take a long time to ever get bored.
Darling Harbour, Sydney
The first time I went to Australia, in 2005, I was wowed, I loved everything about it. The Blue Mountains, Fraser Island, travelling across the outback, but one of my favourite’s is a simple pleasure. I love everything about Sydney, but the best place to be is sitting in a bar, just as the sun is setting, in Darling Harbour. The day’s light slowly diminishes and the neon lights of the city and office lights of the skyscrapers, across the harbour, come on. It is, quite frankly, spectacular, especially when the lights are reflected in the water. I remember sitting there one day when I had a sudden rush of happiness and comfort, so much so, I had to ring my mum, back in the UK, to tell her how amazing it was.
Northampton is the place I’ve lived since I was 12, and it’s the place I go back to for holidays. It’s where my family are, and the friends, that know me the best, who welcome me home with open arms to pick up conversations, just like it was yesterday. My family are the single most important thing in my life, so I look forward to my annual trip, where I can spend time with them, eat some of mum’s delicious food, drink wine with mum and dad, and share more than a few laughs along the way. I get to see my gorgeous niece and nephews, who seem to be growing up way too fast, and spend precious time at Christmas with my sisters, brothers, and their families, it’s a fabulous time all together. Time that goes all too quickly, so it’s time to relish every moment spent with them.
Sri Lanka is where I got married first time round, and it’s a place that I probably would never have gone to if it hadn’t been for my marriage. We spent two glorious weeks there before jetting off to the Maldives for our honeymoon. We stayed at a plush hotel, which has since been rebuilt, following the 2004 tsunami, and we had our wedding ceremony in the hotel grounds. On the morning of our wedding, we got into our wedding outfits, both in handmade sarongs and tops to match. We met each other in reception, and walked outside to the gardens, accompanied by a troupe of Sri Lankan dancers, we signed the register, fed each other cake, our arms entwined with silk ribbon, and then sat and watched the dancers perform a traditional dance, while we sipped cool champagne. After that we went to the beach and had photographs taken, and we spent the rest of the day in the pool with the few guests that had gathered to watch our special day. This marriage never lasted, but it’s still there in my memory. I’ve been back to Sri Lanka twice since then, and it’s always going to hold a piece of my heart.
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
I only spent a few hours here, but the reason I was in Mexico was for my husband’s sister’s wedding. We stayed at the Moon Palace, a palatial and beautiful hotel, and, apart from the odd day tour, we didn’t really see much of this part of Mexico. However, an evening out saw us in Playa Del Carmen, which, back in 2000, was a world away from the glitzy malls, bars and clubs of Cancun. The thing that I remember was hundreds of tiny streets, with restaurants filled with locals who were there to enjoy their evenings. I bet it’s a different story today.
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi is another place that holds some fond memories for me. I was travelling in Thailand with my friends and they had the most wonderful birthday surprise in store for me. They had been plotting with my family for my folks to come and visit. It was nothing short of amazing when my family turned up at the bar we were having drinks at. We shared a wonderful week all together and it’s on record as the best birthday I’ve ever had.
I went to KL the first time in 2005, when I was on the way home from Australia. It was the first time I’ve ever travelled to the other side of the world alone, and I spent 3 days in Kuala Lumpur. I stayed in a lush hotel, which is, sadly, no longer there, and it’s there I dined alone for the very first time. I went to the bar to have a couple of drinks first and chatted to the bar man, who made me feel a little less nervous about being on my own. When I went to the restaurant for dinner, I remember feeling very self conscious when I first sat down, thinking everyone was looking at me, they weren’t. I ordered, and then the resident band sang a Robbie Williams song to me, making me feel even more uncomfortable, but then I relaxed, helped along by the wine, and started to enjoy myself, I even started singing along with them.
Fun Island, The Maldives
Fun Island is where I spent my (first) honeymoon. The island was small enough to be able to walk around it in 10 minutes, pristine white sand, and private beaches to go with our private villa, such a romantic place, ideal for a honeymoon. The water was turquoise blue, and so clear and warm, we went swimming every day. We saw dolphins and sharks, and swam with the many other beautiful fish that made those waters their home. We ate good food, drank cocktails, and even paddled across to a smaller uninhabited island which we had all to ourselves, because no one else was stupid enough to wade between the two islands where the current swept our feet from beneath us.
Ibiza was where I spent my (second) honeymoon, but first my boyfriend and I used to go there every year for at least 5 years prior to our wedding. We loved it there, the clubs are amazing, and the island, if you get out of San Antonio, is beautiful and we had many wonderful holidays there. We needed a holiday after the holiday, mind you, because of all the partying we did, but still, it was an exciting place. Not only did we spend our honeymoon there, but we got engaged, sitting outside Cafe Del Mar, watching the sun disappear below the horizon, followed by applause from everyone around us. They weren’t applauding us, they, as well as us, were applauding the sunset. It made the hair on my arms stand on end, and to add to that, we were sporting huge grins as we continued our celebration into the night.
Adelaide, South Australia
Adelaide is home from home. I have family there, my mum’s second cousin, Helen moved there over 40 years ago. Helen and her family all make me feel so welcome whenever I go and visit. And it’s in Adelaide that I made a life changing decision. I originally went there in 2005, because my second husband and I needed to have time apart to decide whether we should continue our marriage. It took many walks up the beach to come to the decision that would set me on a path that would, eventually, lead me to living abroad permanently. Whenever I’m in Adelaide, we share so many laughs together, I just love spending them with them, they’re like my second family.
My mum’s other second cousin, Gill and her husband Norm, live in Bundaberg, and the first time I visited them, we went on a road trip together to the town of 1770, Agnes Water and Fraser Island. They were so gracious and I was astounded at just how much Norm knew about everything, from the different species of trees to the history of Australia. They took me to the rum distillery and we watched bats fly off from the mangrove trees in town, we took a drive to Bargara for lunch and walked across their property in the countryside. I did so much with them in the short time I was with them and it was the first place I went to when I went travelling alone for the first time.
Uluru is the place I got to sleep in a swag under the stars on the first night of a 6 day trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide. The whole trip was one of the best experiences of my life, but Uluru seemed almost mystical, once the sun left for the day, only the sounds of the outback to keep us company, and it’s around 600 million years old. From a distance it looks smooth, but get up close and you see holes and gorges, springs and caves, it’s just incredible. Throughout the trip, I did some amazing things, like walk around Uluru before sunrise, hike up Mount Ohlssen Bagge, and spend the night in Coober Pedy and Parachilna, but I also met some wonderful people who are still my friends today. And travelling through Australia’s outback was such a memorable adventure, I didn’t want the trip to end. In fact, when we arrived in Adelaide, we had one more night all together before leaving.
I spent seven weeks in New Zealand, travelling across the whole of the North and South islands on the Magic Bus. When I first arrived, I hated it. I had just spent five months in Thailand, I left behind some good friends, it was freezing, and I couldn’t muster a smile for anything. But when I started my journey around the country, I realised just how spectacular it was. The scenery is just stunning, especially in winter when the mountain tops and valleys are covered in snow. I hiked Mount Tongariro and Franz Josef Glacier, I went cave tubing, sand surfing and horse riding. I spent time with new friends and time alone, I even took a road trip and had waterfalls, gorgeous beaches, and hiking trails all to myself. When I left, I vowed I would never return, but I’ve since changed my mind and will go back someday. I learned a lot about myself there, like how to enjoy being alone, and it was New Zealand where I acquired a love of walking and getting out and about.