Blue Sapphire Ring

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April 18th 2022
Published: March 10th 2023
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We were still on a budget but I wanted us to have a family holiday. After the short anniversary stay in East Sussex a few months ago, I suggested that we go back, as this is a part of England I have rarely seen. We got a fantastic price on a Haven family caravan for 4 nights, I think this was due to our Easter half term week in Hampshire differing to this region (East Sussex) and so the week was deemed off-peak because the week prior was about 300 pounds more. The reason we went for a Havan caravan was for the kids, as there is a lot on-site entertainment for them.

The night before our trip and I keep being sick. I have a surprise planned for tomorrow and I am not nervous/worried about what I had planned so I am thinking I've picked up some kind of sickness bug. Anyway, packing is slow as I keep needing to lay down but we manage to get everyone's luggage packed (except my stepdaughter, Sienna, as she decided she couldn't possibly spend too much time away from the new boyfriend and, despite me sharing my surprise news with her, it unfortunately was not enough to tempt her to join us).

First day

We get up relatively early as I have a surprise rolled up my sleeve and I have kept it quiet from everyone. I have been telling Fiona and the children that we would be stopping off somewhere on our way to East Sussex, but I couldn't say where as it would spoil the surprise. I also asked everyone to dress smart casual. Fiona is most intrigued. Timing is also of the essence and I desperately work hard to ensure everyone is ready and in the car by 9am as we need to be at the attraction at a certain time.

The attraction is about an hour and half away and as we get closer to it I start seeing the brown signposts directing us and Fiona quickly realizes where we are going. We are going to Hever Castle. This castle dates back to the 14th century and was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I. Henry VIII's relationship with Anne Boleyn was tumultuous and changed the course of Britain's history, monarchy and religion. Anne Boleyn was unfortunately executed on charges of adultery, incest and conspiracy against the king and became the downfall of the Boleyn's family, as her brother was also executed for incest. The castle was given back to the crown, which later was given to Anne of Cleves, the four wife of Henry VIII. The Tudor history has always been of great interest to me and Fiona, so something we share in common. I have been to Hever Castle once before, although some 12 years ago, but Fiona has never been and I have been promising to take her for a while.

Once we park up at Hever Castle and walk through the entrance, Fiona is like "why is no one else dressed up" my response is "perhaps not everyone is participating in the event we are doing" which is technically correct and not a white lie. It is almost 11am and so I suggest we take a quick loo break before exploring the castle grounds. With the time fast approaching 11am, I suggest we go and look at the lake and mention about the beautiful Trevi Fountain (a mini replica of the one in Rome). I've agreed to meet a photography secretly and she and I were meant to convene by the Trevi Fountain for 11am, I have never met this photography, called Vicki, but she told me I couldn't miss her, as her hair is pink. I keep looking around and I still don't see Vicki, I try to prolong our time in the area by going towards the fountain and admiring the lake with Fiona and the kids, then suddenly I spot Vicki, we make eye-contact, and I take Fiona towards the fountain. I note Vicki is in her spot to confirm she would get her camera out. I ask Zak to discreetly video his mum and I, whilst Fiona think's we are having a photo together. I then get down on one knee next to the fountain and propose, asking Fiona to marry me. Fiona is like "stop messing around" until I bring out a blue Sapphire ring out of my pocket. Fiona is in so much shock when she realizes that I am not messing and says "yes" and in her excitement immediately puts the ring on her finger (I think I was meant to do that) and in even more shock when she notices Vicki is taking photos of the moment.

Vicki is brilliant and captures so many photos of us naturally reacting to what has just happened. We have Vicki for around an hour, and so we get lots of photos of us all, around the stunning grounds of the castle, as well as some outside the castle too. The photos are just beautiful and we are in luck with the weather being on our side, too.

After having photos taken, we say goodbye to Vicki and let the kids play in the large outdoor playground. There is even a Tudor tower for them to have fun playing in. Next, we go inside the castle, although Jovie is getting restless, I guess it has been a long and eventful day. We try to enjoy the castle best we can, but I suggest to Fiona that perhaps we can come back in a year's time, kid free. The appearance of the castle today are the results of an owner who used their fortune and restored the castle back in the early 20th century. The tour of the castle is well worth a visit and you can even visit the bedroom that once belonged to Anne Boleyn.

We still hadn't seen all the grounds of the castle, but with the kids getting restless and another hour and half journey time to our holiday destination, we decide to have a late picnic nearby to where the car is parked and then head back on the road.

When we arrive at the Havan caravan site, the check-in is all done through the car, mostly likely to reduce contamination with Covid measures. The caravan we have is super spacious and with Sienna not coming means that Jovie and Zak can have their own rooms. The only problem we have is the heating for some reason is not turning on and it's getting quite cold as the evening draws in. I find myself laying on the sofa with a blanket wrapped around me to keep warm. I hadn't been feeling well the night before and even in the morning I was being sick. I don't think it was nerves as I felt funny throughout the day.

Next day

We spend our morning at the caravan as we wait for someone to come out and look at the heating. We are quite happy to have a chilled day. The handyman comes to our caravan late morning and literally tells us the heating had been turned off, which only he had access to when using a key to a cupboard. A bit annoying as we spent our first night freezing in the caravan when this should have been checked before we got given the keys, but it is what it is. Maybe I should have called the emergency number last night instead of going to reception this morning.

We decide to stay in the area and walk down to a nearby beach and stop off at Aldi for some picnic items. The walk to Bulverhythe Beach is around 20 mins from the caravan site and is quite a pleasant walk as we can exit from the back of the caravan site, meaning that we stay clear from main roads until we reach Aldi. After a quick stop at Aldi, we cross over the railway bridge and find ourselves walking along the beach front. The beach is not the most beautiful beaches to see, but it is pleasant for us to find a location where we can sit down and have our picnic. The beach is predominantly shingle interspersed with groynes. Zak and Jovie enjoy climbing the large stones, which help with reducing coastal erosion. Jovie is occupied with finding and collecting shells.

There is a sign nearby that mentions that shipwreck of the boat 'the Amsterdam' can sometimes be visible at low tide. If we get the opportunity/time to come back, we would like to see what is left of the 1749 boat that sunk. Although the sign does show us a picture, it would always be nice to see it for real.

We spend our evening back at the caravan having a chilled one. I visit a nearby mini supermarket and get Chinese food in that can be easily cooked in the caravan oven; Fiona and I open the champagne to celebrate our engagement. Zak is outside playing in the outdoor play areas and making lots of friends with other kids staying at the caravan site. It seems we are all happy and having a good break, and it is nice to have the heating on, until Zak is sick and feeling unwell.

Next day

Zak is feeling better and we spend the morning swimming at the caravan's onsite indoor swimming pool, which the kids love. After an early lunch, we head into Hastings to look around. We have never been to Hastings. This town is famous because of a battle back in 1066, known as the Battle of Hastings, which is the last successful invasion of England, the year in which William of Normandy defeated the English Saxon army and killed King Harold, which subsequently meant he seized the throne. Fiona and I are history nerds and would love to see the field where the battle took place, but we feel the kids probably will not enjoy it and so going into Hastings town centre itself might be more interesting for them.

We park up near Hastings Pier and walk along the beach as we head towards the amusement area and Hastings Old Town. This area is very commercial and a family holiday hotspot, as there is many fun activities to do with the children. We come across the Winkle Club Statue. This statue is a 6ft tall winkle sculpture that was put together by an East Sussex charity. The Winkle Club was formed here in Hastings back 1900 to help under-privileged families living in the area. Jovie loves putting coins in the sculpture, as each time you do, it makes this bell noise. The reason we have taken interest in the Winkle Club Statue is because my mum told me to visit the fish and chip just next to it. It must be worth visiting if my mother recommends it, as she has high standards. Anyway, we decide to go back later for fish and chips as we are not massively hungry right now.

We carry on walking and discover Hastings Fishermen's Museum. The museum was created to preserve the old town due to concerns of it being lost due to demolition and unsympathetic renovations. The children are not keen to go in and visit so we walk around the old fisher boat. We find one of those photo stand-ins and Jovie finds it fun to put her head through the hole to pose for a photo.

Next, we decide to go up the East Hill Lift, which is an old Victorian lift that provides access to Hastings Country Park going up a steep hill. I appreciate the view of the Rock-A-Nore Beach as the sun beams down and reflects from the sea waves. It seems summer is just around the corner. Once we make it to the top we enjoy the views of the Old Town and beach. There are several paths to walk around the country park but we decide this might be too much with the kids and so not long after making it to the top we take the lift back down.

We grab an ice cream at Hastings Aquarium before my dad calls to say he's arrived in Hastings. I go to find him and speed walk off leaving Fiona with the kids. Once I find him, he insists on getting ice cream for the kids despite me saying we've just had one, so that's two ice creams each for the kids. We all meet back at the Winkle Club Statue and the kids sit down to eat their ice creams which are melting because my dad purchased them some distance away *rolls eyes*.

From the statue, we walk up George Street, which is a lovely walk along some characterful old buildings. This street is charmed with many old buildings that are used for antiques shops, vintage clothing retailers, cafes, pubs and restaurants.As we get to the end of George Street, we cross the road so that we are on Hastings seafront and decide to play crazy gold at Hastings Miniature Golf, but it all gets rather competitive with Zak getting upset that it is taking too many attempts to get the golf ball in the hole and doesn't seem to appreciate us finding it funny that he is getting all grumpy and agitated.

After golf, the kids enjoy throwing stones into the sea from the pebble beach. I think Zak just needs to calm down. The sun is beaming brightly as it slowly starts to moves down and makes the perfect photo shot to capture the kids with their stone throwing.

We head back to the Winkle Club Statue to visit the fish and chip shop that my mum had recommended. We discover that it had closed some 10 mins ago. We are surprised that it is closed as would have thought it be popular with both tourists and locals for a takeaway dinner. I mean it is only ten minutes past six, not 10pm. A man tries to enter the chippy and also seems surprised its closed. He tells me there is another chippy just up the road and says its not quite as good as this one but its pretty good still, so we follow him and have our fish and chip dinner there. The fish and chips are perfect as we get to have the top floor of the fish and chip restaurant to ourselves.

Our evening is spent back at the caravan site for children entertainment with karaoke and dancing, whilst us adults enjoy an alcoholic beverage. In the evening it is Jovie's turn to be sick and bless her it has really frightened her.

Next day

After a cooked breakfast prepared by myself, my dad decides to leave us and go home. Jovie seems well and lively so the rest of us decide to do a day trip to see The Seven Sisters Cliffs, which are a series of chalk cliffs by the English Channel. We pack a picnic and plan to have lunch whilst out exploring. The drive from our caravan site is some 40 mins away. Our drive is quite scenic at times as we drive along the coastline. We park up at the Seven Sisters Car Park and walk towards The Seven Sisters Cliffs. The walk is quite long and at times we wonder if we are heading in the right direction but people we pass reassure us that we are heading in the right direction. I am enjoying the walk as its really scenic and calming with the sounds of the birds singing, but for Jovie the walk is too long and so I find myself carrying her along with the cool bag.

We enjoy our picnic on Cuckmere Haven beach as we watch the sea waves and feel the warm spring air blowing on us. After our picnic, I decide to walk up the The Seven Sisters Cliffs alone. The walk up is quite dangerous and is a really steep walk up the first hill, but I am wearing my good sturdy walking shoes and I take my time, until I am on smooth grass and then I am loving the views; Fiona and the kids look like small ants as I climb higher and higher, the views are absolutely stunning as I admire the beautiful white chalk cliffs and the sea is a lovely turquoise colour. England is known to be a bit of a dull and wet country at times, but when on a good weather day, it really brightens up and makes you realize that you live in a beautiful part of the world. I decide climbing up on of the cliffs is enough for today, but I would love to come back someday (kid free) and walk all along these beautiful cliffs.

Our evening we spend back at the caravan site and enjoy dinner at the onsite restaurant, until Jovie is sick everywhere. How embarrassing when in a restaurant, but poor little dove is still not quite feeling herself. She has seemed fine all day though.

Next day

We wake up and seems everyone is ok and no sign of the sickness bug. We have to check-out by 10am, so we are busy packing our stuff. Once the car is packed, we decide to head home via Eastbourne.

Eastbourne is a large seaside resort and is situated between Hastings and Brighton. The town still has many Victorian hotel buildings and a pier. I have been to Eastbourne before, but it was quite some time ago. We park up quite far from the pier but near the promenade to take a pleasant walk. We enjoy the walk but the weather isn't as sunny and warm as it had been the past few days and at times we feel cold with the sea breeze. This does not stop Jovie wanting an ice cream when we reach towards the pier. We stop on Eastbourne beach for a while as the kids enjoying playing with the pebble stones. I just sit and listening to the sound of sea waves, I always find this relaxing. We later continue along the promenade for another 20 minutes. We find signs along the promenade for each section of the beach and it will tell you how many minutes it takes to the next stop and so on; this is quite helpful so we ensure we don't get carried away and walk too far. We end up walking down to the Wishtower Slopes where there is a Ferris Wheel and a French restaurant called Bistrot Pierre. We decide to go into Bistrot Pierre for hot chocolates to warm ourselves up. The food in the restaurant looks and smells delicious. I kind of regret not ordering food, but this place is somewhere nice to go for a romantic meal or a night out with friends and I had promised the kids a Mcdonalds on the drive back home.

Our time is relatively short in Eastbourne, but before we leave, we do enjoy some time on Eastbourne Pier browsing shops, going in the arcades and buying warm sugary doughnuts.

Our trip in East Sussex has been memorable, not just because of the engagement but because we've spent quality time together as a family and we've been pretty lucky with the weather. We all long to have a beach holiday abroad in our household but this short break did us good.

Additional photos below
Photos: 36, Displayed: 35


10th March 2023
Marry me

Will you marry me?
Lovely story of such an important and memorable moment in both Fiona's and your life. Well planned and in a magical location with photographer and a blue sapphire ring to seal the moment. Congratulations from Denise and I. You have also preserved the memory for posterity with this blog. You describe how you got on one knee and popped the question. Yet you have not included the as important detail...when and how she said, "Yes". Maybe you should edit the blog to include it, so that equally important moment is not lost in the ether.
14th March 2023
Marry me

Thank you both for your well wishes. I am so glad to have captured the moment with beautiful photos. That is a good suggestion about how she said 'yes'. I will go back into the blog and make some edits.
10th March 2023
Hever Castle

Hever Castle
I have posted this in TB's "Palaces & Castles" thread in the Photography Forum. Great memories and the photographer you engaged has captured it beautifully.
14th March 2023
Hever Castle

Hever Castle
Thank you! this castle is definitely worth a visit.
10th March 2023
We got engaged

We got engaged
13th March 2023
Marry me

Well planned!
Romance is in the air. Fantastic. You've really done a nice job here. I'm glad you had a great few days.
14th March 2023
Marry me

Thank you! I do like to add a bit of romance and make it special :)
19th March 2023

Wow, congratulations Alan and Fiona!! 😄 I initially thought the Blue Sapphire Ring was a place you visited in Sussex - then I read on...! What an amazing plan, and a beautiful place for your proposal! How unfortunate that a sickness bug was doing its rounds at the time, but it sounds like it didn't stop you much from having an amazing time! Congratulations again, and what a lovely family holiday indeed as well! 😁
24th March 2023

Thanks for your well wishes :) indeed the sickness had little impact on our vacation apart from the embarrassment of the little one being sick in the restaurant but it couldn't be helped

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