I was also very happy to put any plans for my birthday into Lauren's hands - prompting much amusement from people who asked what my plans for my 30th were, only for me to reply "I have no idea!"
My 'birthday week' started on Monday, when I was given a card, informing me that something lovely would happen every day that week. Mondays surprise was a bunch of beautiful autumny flowers, and a meal at a cute local cafe I'd been wanting to try, who have a yummy vegan menu.
On Tuesday, Lauren had arranged for me to have lunch at Starbucks with one of my best friends, Laura. We talked for ages, drank huge pumpkin spice lattes, and ate lots of cake.
That evening Lauren and I then saw Pride at our local cinema. We booked one of the sofas, where you can get food and drink bought to your seat - veggie platters, tea and cake for us! The film was brilliant - interesting, sad, and funny, all at the same time - "I heard something at the market about lesbians that just can't be true…surely they aren't all vegetarians?"
Wednesday, the day before my birthday we had dinner at my parents house- my favourite, Indian takeaway!
Going out for a meal with my wife, Starbucks, my family and friends, Indian food…so far the week had included lots of my favourite things!
On my actual birthday, I was made an AMAZING breakfast of vegan pancakes - a stack of pecan pumpkin spice, and a stack of jam donut! I opened cards from my family, and then my presents from Lauren.
There was a huge pile of presents, despite me saying I didn't want anything except pancakes for breakfast!
I was extremely spoilt by my naughty wife - a box of vegan goodies including the Oh She Glows cookbook, vegan chocolate making kit, and a subscription to monthly food and beauty vegan box, Victoria's Secret clothes and pj's, beauty products, La Perla underwear, a beautiful purple Vivienne Westwood purse, and my absolute favourite present, an Alexander McQueen bag. I love McQueen, and a bag has always been the thing I'd buy 'one day'. I'm sure my face was a picture, the bag has rarely left my side since!
After presents, it was time for another of my favourite things, a walk around one of our local parks, with Lauren and Willow. We took pictures of the early autumn leaves, watched Willow chase squirrels, and laughed at a line of geese wandering through the park to a pond!
When we returned, Lauren had arranged for me to go for hot chocolate with my other best friend, Adam, who had also bought me a huge bag of presents including cinnamon whiskey, a make up bag, a book and a beautiful All Saints top.
When I returned, this was when things got rather strange! As far as I had been aware, the plans for my birthday had been going to the park, hot chocolate with Adam, then Lauren and I going for a meal. However, I was told we were going somewhere else first. I asked if we would be returning home before the meal, and was told yes. So we got in the car, and drove. I was confused as the only thing I could think of that we would do in Birmingham involved food, which seemed unlikely as we were going for a meal later. We kept driving until we got to an area of the city centre where we usually only go to when we visit a vegan restaurant, which seemed unlikely so early in the day.
We then pulled up outside my favourite hotel in Birmingham. We've never stayed there, but we love going for afternoon tea there. My immediate thought as we got out of the car was that we were going for drinks, and I was worried as I was still dressed in the casual dress and boots I had gone to the park in.
As we got to the reception however, Lauren walked over to the check in machines and checked us into a prebooked suite! I was absolutely stunned, and even more baffled when I realised that whilst I'd been out with Adam, Lauren had packed our bags for us and put them in the car!
The room was absolutely gorgeous, I felt so lucky. There was even a TV over the bath tub! We got ready for our meal in the hotel, then drove the 10-15min journey to where Lauren said our meal was.
I noticed she was getting quite stressed when the traffic lights all seemed to be red, and we arrived at the car park near the restaurant around 15mins late for our reservation. I said it was fine and that I sure they wouldn't mind as it was my 30th, but Lauren seemed quite anxious still! When we turned the corner, and I realised we were going to my favourite restaurant , I was really happy, as we hadn't been there in years but always have an amazing time there. It's a beautiful Italian restaurant in my favourite part of the city.
However, what I wasn't expecting, was that when I walked into the cocktail bar part of the restaurant, 15 of my family and friends would jump out at me! Lauren had got together my mom, brother, aunty and uncle, cousin, nan (who is in her 80s!), cousin and her boyfriend, her parents and brother, and my best friend Laura and her fiancee. I was stunned! The table had been decorated with sequins and balloons, and once I got over the shock, I was so happy to see so many of my favourite people there. It was lovely to see everyone talking and laughing and generally really getting along!
People joked that surely I had noticed that before this evening they hadn't given me presents, but I honestly hadn't! We also laughed about how if I had known in advance Lauren would be packing my bag for the hotel I would have had a huge panic, worrying she'd have forgotten something!
Just when I had gotten over the shock, everyone starting singing Happy Birthday, including a large group of waiters carrying a cake. Being shy, I was suitably mortified by the attention! However, I soon forgave everyone once I saw the cake, that Lauren had designed herself, and had made by a bakery. It was Tim Burton themed! Made in my favourite colours (purple and grey), featuring Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas holding hands with Emily from Corpse Bride, surrounded by two more of my favourite things - pumpkins and bats!
It was the most beautiful cake I have ever seen, and even people who had no clue what the theme of the cake was, everyone commented how beautifully made it was. I was sad to cut it, but apparently the sugar figures and pumpkins will last forever, so I have kept them.
The next morning, I thought our plans were to meet Lauren's cousin for coffee, who couldn't attend the meal due to recently adopting a baby girl. So we checked out of the hotel, and started on the drive, only for Lauren to inform me we weren't going for coffee, we were going on an adventure! She then handed me a gift bag full of car snacks, the book I have been reading, and a CD she had made for the journey of my favourite songs!
I had no idea where we were going, only been told that the journey would take quite a few hours. I worked out that we were going south west after a while, but that was as much as I could work out!
I actually didn't work out where we were going until I saw the locations welcome sign. It was the Scarlet, a hotel that we have wanted to visit for years. A luxury, eco hotel on the coast in Cornwall. Lauren promised that this was the last surprise and its just as well - I honestly think I was on the verge of a heart attack from all the surprises by now!
The hotel has very weak wifi and no phone signal, and devices such as phones and ipads are banned from many areas. Everything is as eco conscious as possible but it still maintains a feeling of luxury, in a different way to the norm. Our room had been upgraded to the suite, as they knew it was a surprise 30th trip - it was beautiful, and very unusual. The open plan, circular room included a large rain shower, bath tub, large beds, sinks, dressing area, lounge area, and a balcony overlooking the beach.
After unpacking, Lauren had arranged for us to have a hot tub on the cliffs. I was nervous it would be freezing! But sat in hot bubbly water, overlooking the sun setting behind the sea, and being bought drinks, it was perfect.
That evening we ate dinner in the hotels restaurant, who make everything from scratch, and had a vegetarian menu. The food was tiny portions of perfectly mixed flavours - gorgeous. It was a beautiful end to a wonderful day.
The next day was a beautiful sunny day, so we ate our homemade breakfasts of smoothies and pancakes in the beautiful sea view restaurant, and went for a walk along the beach.
We spent the afternoon in the spa, which was beautiful. It featured herbal tea stations, a relaxation room overlooking the sea filled with bean bags, a swimming pool, steam room, meditation room, and treatment rooms.
Lauren went for a swim whilst I enjoyed the steam room and relaxation room. We spent some time in the meditation room listening to Buddhist cd's, then went along for our treatment, a couples hammam. We had experienced a traditional hammam when we visited Marrakech earlier this year, but liked the idea of getting to practise the treatment on each other! It was relaxing, so much fun, and we emerged silky soft and beautifully scented!
As we got back up to our room, their was a breathtaking sunset over the beach. The hotel sent us up some champagne as a birthday gift, which we enjoyed whilst watching the sunset.
That evening, we visited Rick Steins fish and chip shop, and had the best ever halloumi and chips we've ever had! (Sorry Brighton!)
And so the next day, after another delicious breakfast, it was time to return home. It had felt like a holiday rather than a weekend away, and I can't believe that despite visiting amazing places like Paris, Amsterdam, Marrakech, Barcelona, Iceland and California, one of my favourite ever holidays was in Cornwall! We are so glad that The Scarlet was as much our kind of place had we'd hoped, and can't wait to return.
Which brings us to the end of my birthday week! I can't believe when we left the house on Thursday afternoon, I thought it would be for an hour or so - instead I'd be staying in a beautiful hotel in the city centre, going to a surprise party with my family and friends in my favourite restaurant, then going away to a beautiful spa hotel, and wouldn't actually be home until Sunday night!
My thirtieth has been my best ever birthday, and one of the best weeks of my life. Full of all my favourite things, amazing memories, and the thoughtfullness of my family and friends. Most of all, it was made possible by my generous, thoughtful, imaginative, amazing wife - I still can't believe she planned all this for me - and without me knowing! I'm sure she is getting bored of me thanking her, but reliving the week for this diary entry reminded me of just how much sheer effort, generosity and general amazingness she put into it. Thank you for a week I will never forget.