Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Places we have been Part II

We started this blog to document and be able to look back on our journey together, both past and present. We always wanted it to be a permanent record of our lives together as we move towards being Mrs & Mrs. In view of this, I wanted to post about some of the places we have been together.

Although we both have a love of travelling the world together, we haven't had a huge amount of holidays. In the seven years we have been together we spent four years of it as students. Then, once in 'proper' jobs we began saving for a house, then engagement rings, and then a wedding! After we are married we plan to take a break from all this saving, and spend a year or so enjoying spending our hard earned money on whatever we please, before our money is eaten up by having babies! Having always wanted to travel to different places, it seems the perfect opportunity to enjoy being Mrs & Mrs, and see a bit more of the world together.  We have started to think about where we would love to go...New Zealand, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Morrocco have all made the maybe list so far. It's so exciting to think that we can go anywhere we like!

However, for now I wanted to document some of the places we've already been to, and the memories they hold for us. Part One of this can be found here.

We visited Cardigan Bay for a few days in the summer of 2005, just before L began her midwifery training and we knew our time together would become much more limited. We wanted to go away somewhere, but were quite poor at the time, so packed up our beloved Mini and drove to the Welsh coast (I can't believe the ancient Mini got us there!). We stayed at a beautiful little vegetarian guesthouse in the middle of nowhere. We spent the days walking along the coast, watching the seals in the sea, relaxing in the sun, and loving each other's company. We hardly saw any other people the whole time - complete perfection.

Look at this room - it really was a tranquil piece of heaven!

We have been to Malta many times (currently about 7-10 - we can't remember!) as L's family live out there. The first time we visited in 2005 we did lots of tourist type excursions, but its great that when we go out there now, we can revisit tourist attractions or just relax taking long walks along the seafront, going to our favourite places for food and spending time with L's family, who are always ridiculously excited to see us, and who are wonderfully accepting of us both.

We would definitely recommend visiting Mdina - the 'silent city' - set on a hill, the city walls do not let any traffic through, so you enter into a tranquil, beautiful city that really is silent, plus it offers amazing views across Malta. There is also an amazing cake shop there!
Valletta is the capital city, steeped full of amazing history, particularly as Malta was heavily involved in the second world war, we have spent many days filling our geek requirements here learning all about this amazing city. Plus it has views like this..
Upper Barraca Gardens, Valletta

Marsaxlokk is a tiny fishing village in which you can wander through maltese markets, see fishermen at work, eat amazing food (they cater surprisingly well for vegetarians!), and take in yet more amazing views.
The Blue Grotto -  you are taken on a tiny boat to a small collection of caves where the sea is strikingly blue and crystal clear.
The Blue Grotto

One of our favourite places in the world! We first visited Brighton in 2009 aswe had planned to meet up with some friends (who missed it as their car broke down!) and go to Pride. Although the weather wasn't great we had an amazing time wandering in the lanes and going to Food For Friends for dinner.
We loved Brighton so much we returned to get engaged there, and revisited Food For Friends. 
We adore how Brighton is fun, bohemian, quirky, unique, gay friendly and a great destination for food loving vegetarians!

London is probably joint with Malta for somewhere that we visit a lot. We have done touristy things such as the London Eye, London Aquarium, the river boats etc, but we usually go for a specific reason. We saw Phantom of The Opera in the west end for Lauren's 21st in 2007, have been to numerous gigs in Brixton, Shepards Bush and the 02, went for afternoon tea at the Berkeley for our 6th anniversary, and bought our wedding rings in Old Bond Street. We recently visited Megan from What Wegan Did Next, and very much enjoyed being shown even more bits of London. Its a fab city and like Brighton, is somewhere we would consider living if it weren't for family and our jobs! We love the shops, and the fact there is always something going on!

We saw an AMAZING wildlife photography exhibition here last year!

Christmas in Oxford St
Not the most impressive of destinations but it will always hold a place in our hearts due to it being the place where we first lived together. When we met in summer 2004, Lauren was about to move to Leeds for University. I spent so much time visiting her that I virtually lived in her halls for her first year, and even went to a couple of her lectures with her! She then changed courses and spent another year in a student house, then for the second year of her new course, we rented a flat together on the outskirts of Leeds, with me finding a full time job nearby. We loved that flat, even though it was tiny and home to some of the hugest spiders I have ever seen in my life (we shared a bathroom with a boy who lived in the other flat, and I used to leave him notes asking him to please remove the spider, with a diagram showing how big it was!) we decorated it with flower and rainbow colours themed pretty things, and made it our own. We learned how to live together in Leeds, and its one of the things that strengthened our relationship. We also have very fond memories of late nights out together in Leeds City Centre, shopping, going for afternoon tea at Bettys in Harrogate, wandering in Chapel Allerton, and dates in a little quirky vegetarian cafes.

Again, it may not be the most impressive place, but we love it! After being given each others phone numbers, and swapping messages for a while, it was next to the Bullring Bull that we first met up!
Before Lauren went to uni we spent hours in Birmingham sitting in Starbucks chatting, which remains one of our favourite things to do! We always knew we would return to the midlands after Lauren graduated, and in 2009 we moved back in with our parents for a year to save for our house deposit. This was hard work, but in May 2010 we bought our first house, in south Birmingham.
Canon Hill Park
We love Birmingham's shops (second only to London in our opinion!) the mix of cultures which means fun events and amazing restaurants, and the way there is something for everyone - whether its modern shops and restaurants in the Bullring and Mailbox, beautiful parks like Canon Hill or cute canal side bars at Brindley Place, Birmingham is our home and we adore it!
Brindley Place (image link)

There will be a final travelling post about the plans we are making for future travel plans, Lauren is a bit of a planning enthusiast so can happily spend hours researching places, modes of transport to get us there etc. I'm sure to a lot of people reading, this post won't be very interesting at all, but in these places contain so many beautiful memories, so much love and happiness was found there, it would be a shame not to post about it :)

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Our big gay honeymoon!

The thing is we don't want a gay honeymoon at all, we want a honeymoon. Just like we want a wedding, not a gay wedding. We don't want to be treated differently because we are a gay couple on honeymoon, we just want to be treated exactly the same as any other honeymooning couple. And that is why initially we struggled to find a place that we really wanted to go to. I wanted to talk about the places we looked into, and the place we have decided to go to, to shed a bit of light for other couples who might be considering these places too.

The reason for writing about this today is because..... This morning we received confirmation that our booking is complete. We have a honeymoon!! So excited!

So in the initial 'let's just talk about our ideas' stage of planning, we both had a few ideas of where we'd love to go. We both were fairly matched on the idea of wanting to be somewhere hot, sunny, beautiful, luxurious, romantic, and doesn't cost the entire earth, but a bit of money is OK. And from here we drew up a shortlist;

Sri Lanka
This beautiful island offers a perfect mix of white sandy beaches on which to lie and do nothing at all, and plenty of culture and history to keep us entertained. We discussed going somewhere that had a happy mix of the two; although we wanted our honeymoon to be the perfect escape in a heavenly place, we also want to go somewhere where we have something to learn, and an interesting new culture to explore. The buddhist ideology of the inhabitants of the island means homosexuality is tolerated and accepted. Although it is illegal under the 'Act of Gross Indecency', there has never been a case of anyone being punished due to their sexuality, and travel agents who specialise is gay holidays are very happy for their clients to travel there. So far so good....
So then we considered the weather at the time of year we are travelling, July. And it turns out July is smack bang in the middle of the monsoon season for Sri Lanka, and much of the indian ocean (who knew?!). Which means that persistent, heavy rainfall can be expected on much of the island. They suggest the best time to go is December. Well we didn't want to delay our honeymoon for five months to be able to go there, so that put it out of the running for us. But has definitely made it on to the 'Places we will visit in our lifetime' list!
Sri Lanka - not for our honeymoon but definitely a future holiday

New Zealand
We considered New Zealand simply for it being a once in a lifetime trip, one that we have always wanted to take. This kind of honeymoon would be quite different, no long hours filled lying on a white sandy beach followed by a massage in a spa, this honeymoon would involve us packing our suitcases into a camper van and exploring the islands together. As romantic as it would be driving on the open road with just each other for company, New Zealand didn't fit into what we wanted from our honeymoon. It doesn't help that our summer is their winter (gah!) either, so it'd be rather cold!

Again, this is definitely a future holiday plan!
We have, however, decided that we will travel to New Zealand at some point between being married and embarking on the great IVF journey, as its somewhere we want to go to just the two of us, while children are just a little twinkle in the clinic's eye! They are also well known for being gay friendly, brilliant bonus for us in our eyes.

Maldives / Seychelles
I have lumped these two together as they are very similar in terms of proximity, culture, weather and gay tolerance. So, for many people these two sets of islands are the honeymooners paradise, the long exotic white sandy beaches, the attention to luxurious detail, the remote nature of the huts overlooking crystal clear water, everything seems to be the epitome of heaven. However, for a gay couple looking to enjoy a relaxing and carefree honeymoon, the reality might be quite different, because homosexuality is illegal in both countries, as both are Muslim countries, and both countries punish by long term jail sentences. The widespread advice from travel agents who deal largely with gay couples, is to travel there if you want to, but don't book a double room, and when asked, say you are sisters or friends. Well that sounds like an idyllic honeymoon for us....not! If we were going on any other holiday, we both agreed we could put up with not holding hands / sharing the odd kiss / sitting a little too close to each other for the duration, but not for our honeymoon. We want to be free to demonstrate our adoration for each other and not be punished because of it, this is our honeymoon after all. I don't see why we would like to go and spend our well earned money helping out the tourist economy in a country who despise us because of who we love. So I don't think we will travel there, even on holiday, until they can accept us for the couple we are.
Just to add to the reasons we don't want to go there, July - September is their monsoon season, much of the islands are closed down to prevent damage to fragile structures until the bad weather passes!

Maldives - beautiful, but not for us
There are so many places in the USA we really would love to visit, for this reason I have put them all under one heading. For many, many years S has wanted to visit New Orleans and bits of the South. We both really want to go to Las Vegas and I (L) have bits of family who live in California so have wanted to visit them for a while, and see the amazing sights that CA has to offer. For this reason this kind of honeymoon would again be a travelling one...we'd hire a car and travel our way across the United States, beginning in New Orleans and ending in San Francisco, or something along these lines. Again, this type of honeymoon doesn't fit in with our ideal of complete paradise that we really long for for our honeymoon. As amazing as it would be to travel the breadth of a continent together, this trip will be saved for either pre-children (time and money permitting!) or post-chldren with them joining us too.

Mexico has never really been somewhere either of us have dreamed of going to. I think we both considered it to be more of an any time holiday destination than a honeymoon. How wrong could we be?! The hotels offer all inclusive, luxurious heaven. Unspoilt white sandy beaches, glorious weather, crystal clear water, and by all accounts (hours spent on trip advisor!!), unrivalled service. It also has the huge advantage of being very gay friendly. Our thoughts on going to Mexico were very much strengthened by reading and hearing about Laura and Laura's honeymoon (on their blog Becoming Mums and then meeting them in person!), who said 'nobody batted an eyelid' and 'they were treated like any other couple'. Sounds pretty perfect to us! We want to be able to wander the beach hand in hand, we want to receive a honeymoon package because it is recognised that we are on our honeymoon too, we want to be able to share a kiss by the pool without worrying about who is watching or what will happen to us if we do. There is enough culture and history in the country to ensure we have plenty of places to visit and sights to see, but mainly we will spend the two weeks relaxing, reading, sipping cocktails and having a very romantic time together. Perfect!

Final choice - Mexico
So, once you have decided which country you wish to visit, next comes choosing the hotel. This was the difficult bit for us - they all look the same! But having spent months considering various different hotels, hearing other people's experiences, reading reviews on trip advisor and looking through many google image pictures, we finally decided on the one. It's adult's only (we don't wish to be disturbed by noisy children's clubs), on the beach, all inclusive, with beautiful views of the ocean and amazing reports of the service offered. Who could say no?!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Just an awesome day!

On Thursday we had such a lovely day together I want to write it all down to remember how wonderful it was. One of the best things, in my opinion, about finding your soulmate is how suddenly all of the little things in life become magical events that only the two of you share. It is days like Thursday that I am grateful every single day, that I have found mine.

So, we began with a long lie in, perfect! Just what is needed as all we seem to have done recently is be passers - by as one of us returns from work and the other heads out. Our days off rarely seem to collide anymore. But we shouldn't complain, we are working hard to save for our wedding, and also our future (IVF isn't cheap!) so if we have to resemble ships in the night for a short time, then thats OK with us. So yes, we had a lovely long lie in together, and then I (L) suggested we should go out for breakfast together. I always think breakfast dates are quite romantic...I don't know why, perhaps being on a date when everyone else is at work or rushing about to school / play dates / appointments...and there we are, just enjoying each other's company. So two very lovely vegetarian breakfasts were consumed at Cherry Red's a tiny independent cafe not far from us.

As most people will know, our tiny baby spaniel (not exactly a baby, or tiny, anymore, but ours all the same!) was spayed on Tuesday to prevent accidental baby spaniels, so we spent the afternoon largely looking after her, and then had to take her back to the vets to make sure she is beginning to heal. We are under strict instructions to provide her with plenty of cuddles and TLC, to carry her as much as possible, and not to let her run or jump and pull her wound. We don't need telling twice - the perfect excuse to cuddle up all together all afternoon on the sofa, drink copious amounts of tea (sorry Willow you can have water) and watch lots of good TV. 

And then, the evening we had been waiting for for a very long time - an open evening at our wedding venue. When we booked our venue this time last year they very honestly told us that there would be some changes and renovating going on over Winter 2011 / 12, and that we would be invited to see the changes at some point over this summer. We were so excited when the email finally came through inviting us to an open evening, as we have had a certain level of apprehension that the place that we saw and loved when we booked it wouldn't be the same as the one we were presented with on our big day. 
Getting ready to go out..

We invited both sets of parents along to come and view the venue with us, as although both Mum's have been involved quite a lot with the planning, with visiting venue's etc, neither of them had seen the one we finally decided on. 

We needn't have been worried about the changes to the venue, they have only served to improve the feel and appearance of the place, it's even more beautiful than we remember! As it turns out the open evening had been cancelled (we obviously didn't get the email!) but the staff were still more than happy to show us all round, including the room in which we will hold our ceremony and reception, and a couple of the bedrooms including the bridal suite. It was a pleasure to see the look of approval on all our parent's faces, particularly our Dad's who both said it was a lot more beautiful than they had imagined :) I think it became real to them, that their daughter's are actually getting married. We were both incredibly proud to be showing them all round and talk them through the day as we envisage it.

My favourite part of the evening was turning into the drive up to the venue - as we turned in I got butterflies in my tummy, a mixture of nerves and excitement. When I said that to S later she said she had had exactly the same! It's over a year until we pull in to that long driveway to actually get married, I wonder how intensified that feeling will be then?! I absolutely cannot wait to marry this amazing girl, she is my idea of perfection. She makes the ordinary things in life extraordinary, she makes all the mundane things worth it, and the amazing things even more incredibly. And I am so very lucky that it is me that she has chosen to be her wife. So hurry up and let me marry her already!


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Planning.. Where are we up to?

I think this is the longest we've gone without writing a blog post since we started! With good reason, I might add. Getting time off to go to London meant we both had to work our shifts at the latter part of the week. And then last week we had lots of exciting plans, culminating in a day spent with fellow bloggers Laura and Sarah. We visited Cadbury World in Bournville (a few minutes drive from our house), and received a little bit (!!) of chocolate and learnt about how it's made.  In the evening they took us to Nandos (for our first time - hard to believe, I know!) and we ate some rather yummy food and continued to have a wonderful time.

Anyway, back to weddings...

Its hard to believe that we have been engaged for over a year already! When we got engaged, we knew we wanted to give ourselves time to save for our wedding, so that we wouldn't get worried about money. This is one of the main reasons why we are getting married in much as we would love to be Mrs and Mrs already, we knew that time was definitely of the essence where weddings are concerned, and having as long as possible means we won't get too stressed out.

We currently have just under a year and a month to go, and we have already planned quite a lot!

When we got engaged, and even before, we talked a lot about what kind of wedding we would like, but this definitely evolves with planning. Your venue shapes things a lot, and you will be bombarded with a plethora of things you didn't even know existed from wedding fairs, websites and magazines, so I think my advice for anyone planning ahead would be to not decide/book/buy everything too soon - its very likely you will change your mind about least some of it if you're anything like us! What we have really loved so far is looking at, debating about and saving pictures of what we like, and then returning to it a couple of months down the line to see if we still like what we originally did. If we do, we've booked it / bought it, thinking that we will still love it on our day.

So, a year in, this is what our planning looks like:
  • our daytime guest list is written, and we have an approximate number for the evening (we did this first as your venue need to know your numbers). We have also decided that we don't want children at our wedding - you spend so much time planning your perfect day, I really don't want our dream day to be ruined by a screaming child during our vows, or children running around us during our first dance. Its not the kind of thing children would enjoy, so we are popping a note on our info sheet in our invitations that we thought mummies and daddies would appreciate a night off! Our ceremony and wedding breakfast will be about 35 people, and our evening reception about 100.
  • Our venue is booked - we our having the ceremony, wedding breakfast and reception at the same venue (but different rooms) and they are also our caterers. Our parents still haven't seen the venue except for a few pics online, but we are taking them to an open day tomorrow (can't wait!) where they can see it set up as it would be for a wedding.
  • We have decided our colours and theme. L's favourite colour is pink, S's are purple and grey, so we agreed that pink and silver would be perfect for our summer wedding. L loves pearls and S loves diamonds, so this will be incorporated. As with our home, engagement, and much of our life, we want this day to be about us, and all the things we adore, so want a lot of personal touches - we don't want a copy of anyone else's wedding!    
We will both hold bouquets of pink roses <3
  •  We have booked our photographer - we met her at a wedding fair at the NEC and really got on with her and so didn't want to risk her being already booked on our date! Included in our package is a mini photo shoot to get us used to being photographed - we are planning on having it this autumn.
  • We have purchased things that were on offer or that we loved - we bought vases for our table centrepieces from ebay to save on rental costs, bought some candleholders that were on sale, and bought our favour bags just because we loved them so much. We also have our guestbook, and a couple of small decorations for the venue.
  • We are buying each others wedding jewellery as our wedding gift to each other. This means that we won't see the jewellery we are wearing until our wedding morning! We have both already bought some of this, and I (S) am confident that L knows my taste, and I love the idea of wearing something she has chosen for me.
  • We have our wedding rings, as they had already gone up in price which we didn't want to happen again, and because they were so perfect we knew we wouldn't change our minds.
  • We have our shoes! 
  • We are making save the dates, and have everything we need for these. We have started making them, and are going to send them out in a couple of months so that our guests have plenty of notice, especially as our wedding is on a Thursday.
Ribbon to match our fuchsia and silver theme

Whats next?

In July it will be a year to go so things will probably start to feel a little bit more intense, so we will look at booking our florist, ceremony music, and entertainment for our reception.

Our bridesmaid is organising our cake, and our parents are buying our dresses. Although we both have a bit of an idea what dress we both want, (and L has tried a couple on with her mum) we will leave this until the end of this year/early next year, and the same for dresses for our three bridesmaids, and suits for our dads and L's brother.

We are considering on booking a hairdresser to come to our venue on the wedding morning, but doing our makeup ourselves. We will likely book a makeup lesson with a Mac artist, just so we know what we are doing, and to buy any new things we need.

Around spring time next year we get to have our menu tasting at our venue - we are really excited about this as we love food! We are both vegetarian so our menu will be vegetarian - we will take a lot of consideration making sure it's something everyone will like, as we know a lot of people have a weird idea of what veggie food is, so looking forward to showing people how good it can be!

So many times we have said to each other "I absolutely can't wait to be your wife", and it's true, neither of us can wait for married life, to have that sense of belonging to each other like no other. We can't wait for our special day too, with all of the exciting big events you only get to do once, like have our Dad's walk us down the aisle. But it has to be said we are thoroughly loving this part too...the hours spent pouring over wedding magazines together, the hours spent lying in bed discussing every little detail of what our day will be like, the shopping and the visiting of fairs. As much as I want to be her wife, I also don't want the planning to end!