Whilst working at Reading Chronicle last summer I had the following feature published in their annual Wedding Planner magazine.After months of stressful planning for the wedding of your dreams, a honeymoon is essential for every newly married couple. It is a chance to spend quality time together and reflect on the past chaos and celebrate a long and happy future. If planned properly it can be a once in a lifetime opportunity to choose an extravagant holiday or experience you have always longed for.
Before setting off to the travel agents it is important to consider your budget. Yes, for the perfect honeymoon it can be expensive with the average cost now well over the £1500 mark. However, whatever you choose to spend, there are plenty of options out there to ensure you make the most of the honeymoon period. And, you could always add travel vouchers to the wedding gift list, that way your guests can treat you and all that’s left for you to worry about is the destination.
Perhaps relaxing in an exotic country with glorious sun, white sand and clear blue sea is what is needed. With everyone gathering around, keen to offer advice and help you plan wedding it may be that seclusion and alone time with your partner is all you hope for. You need to choose a country where the weather will be hot at the time of year you are planning for and a hotel that meets your need to be pampered. There are many all inclusive honeymoon packages available in islands such as The Caribbean, The Canary Islands, Mauritius or places like Dubai. If you can’t decide on one destination then why not consider a cruise? Wherever you choose, be sure to let the locals and hotel staff know that it is your honeymoon and then prepared to be lavished in luxury…or at least receive a hamper on the house!
It might be that you would prefer an action packed honeymoon hiking in a jungle, experiencing a safari in South Africa or having a cultural adventure in India to create everlasting memories. If you wish for a selfless and rewarding experience with your partner then volunteer honeymoon’s are becoming increasingly popular. The UK charity Globalteer offer volunteers an opportunity to spend a couple of weeks rebuilding communities in developing countries. Whether you work on schemes with Cambodia Kids or Thailand Animal Rescue, the challenging shared moments with your partner will take your relationship to new depths right from the start of your marriage.
For an assignment in January 2009 I wrote a feature interview about Karen Murty (wife of footballer Graeme Murty) about how she uses her status as a WAG positively.
If asked to imagine a footballer’s wife, it is likely the image of a stereotypical ‘Chardonnay’ will appear in your mind. A Gucci obsessed woman, full of self importance who at every opportunity grabs fame and fortune off the hard work of her husband. Karen Murty, wife of ‘The Royals’ (Reading FC) captain Graeme Murty, subverts this representation with her casual fashion, down to earth nature and willingness to express her family values and love for using her status as a ‘WAG’ to help others. She can now proudly boast her Sue Ryder Care ‘Woman of Achievement 2008’ award for her hard work within the community as co-founder of ‘Royal Families’, the fundraising organisation set up by the wives and girlfriends of the players. Karen explains the success since the organisation was established and her charitable plans for 2009.
On arrival at the exclusive development near Basingstoke where the large, modern, family home was placed, a warm greeting was made by Graeme followed by a wide smiled welcome by Karen. She was carrying and doting on her nineteen month old daughter Freya Caitlin. After I was comfortably seated on a luxurious brown leather sofa in the ivory schemed, open plan kitchen, I witnessed the loving and playful nature of the family . After lots of cuddles between Freya and Graeme he had to rush off to his busy schedule, leaving Karen to explain more about her work with ‘Royal Families’.
“We never expected to raise so much money”, exclaimed Karen when discussing the achievement of raising over £112,000 in the first year of establishing the organisation with Amanda Hahnemann (wife of goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann) following Reading’s promotion to the premier league in 2006. She laughed, “when asked in a press interview how much we intended to raise, I randomly said £60,000 as a target and Amanda nearly fell off her chair saying she would have said £10,000. Well you’ve got to aim high haven’t you?” A champagne tasting session kick started the partner’s events in the first year and its success was followed by a Valentine’s Day ball, a race night and a golfing day. Although, Karen commented, “The champagne tasting was the most funny as each glass was a full one.” The money was split evenly between the two local charities ‘Parents and Children Together’ and ‘Berkshire Women’s Aid’.
Karen believes that the wives and girlfriends can use their status as footballers’ wives positively in order to make the events a success. “We can turn around and say the players are going to be at the events and then give them a kick up the backside to go,” she joked. ‘Royal Families’ had a lot of media attention due to their originality Karen explains, “lots of footballers’ wives raise money individually but we are the only club to do it collectively.” When questioned about why this is the case and the motives behind their hard work she replied, “well, my reasons are quite selfish really; I love it when you see the smiling faces of the people you give the money to.” However she continued “charities which are family related are especially important to us because we are very family orientated”.
The three large family portraits centrally positioned on the wall above where Karen was seated highlighted the importance of family in the Murty household. Karen was a dedicated teacher before having Freya, yet she informed, “I’m happy at the moment. I’m not interested in going back to work until a lot later on.” With a smiling, thoughtful expression she claimed, “I don’t want to miss a thing. So far I’ve been there for every single first.” When discussing how happy Graeme seemed playing with Freya, Karen recalled their family Christmas 2008 when he was unable to play in the Boxing Day match against Cardiff City due to his recent leg injury. “Had it been a couple of years ago he would have been really arsy all Christmas break as he hates not being able to play but having Freya here has really softened him.” Christmas was relaxing and special this year according to Karen, “we had a quiet family Christmas with my sister and brother-in-law, Graeme didn’t have to leave for training Christmas day and he could have a proper Christmas dinner as he didn’t have to do the whole carbohydrates load up!” With a childlike grin she explained her meaning of Christmas, “we made it really magical for Freya. I love the magic of Christmas and having the family together”.
The ‘Royal Families’ website states that to date they have raised more than £200,000, yet, according to Karen, there is still more to give in 2009. “This year the main focus is going towards the charity Graeme is patron of, ‘Swings and Smiles’, as it’s his testimonial year with the club” Karen explained. The charity’s vision is to create ‘a place to play’ for children with special needs. “We’re definitely going to do another bowling night and the R-Word (Reading’s version of Gordan Ramsay’s F Word) was excellent too,” Karen revealed in encouragement to anyone interested in taking part in events and helping the organisation. Then she pointed down at the royal crest printed on the pink hooded jumper she was wearing, “these are sold in the RFC shop and the money goes to Royal Families and also the money from each sold calendar.”
Karen beckoned me over to the window where her sparkling ‘Woman of Achievement’ award was proudly and deservedly placed and joked, “it’s not just Graeme who has trophies!” Then a well behaved Freya called her Mummy into the living room where she had been playing with a friend of Karen with new Christmas toys; a toy piano and a children’s kitchen set. However, among such lovely toys it is a little football she was fixated with, kicking and passing it to Karen. “She takes to football naturally, although I would have liked her to be a dancer like I was,” Karen laughs. Whether Freya is gifted with football or dancing, with such an inspiring mother as Karen Murty it would be no surprise if she too dedicates her life to helping the community.
According to celebrity gossip website TMZ, actor Nicholas Cage has had to auction off his two Malibu properties. They were worth a staggering $8,878,886.82! He also lost his Bel Air mansion (pictured) earlier on in the week.
There were no takers on the properties auctioned at ‘only’ $10 million each…but how devastating this must be for Cage who is allegedly suing his former business manager for leading him to financial ruin.
However, this got me thinking whether money really leads to happiness? Imagine having an extravagant mansion, overlooking a glorious landscape view, with enough room to invite all of your friends and family around to. Would all of the space and luxuries, complete with swimming pool, tennis courts, a games room, a cinema room etc etc really make you happy?
Of course it would!
The world-famous Neverland Ranch in California. So big it needs its very own train station. Not only a gigantic mansion but also private fun fair, zoo, swimming pool and guest house. The photo above is just stunning with that massive sparkling lake and surrounding greenery.
Wow! J-Lo’s LA mansion looks like a princess castle, it’s beautiful… And look at all those security camera’s around, there are rumours that after their twins were born the couple had security guards and signs warning trespassers to keep out.Ooh but can’t we just have a swim in that pool?
Well this is truly unique. You can’t help but laugh at the jumbo jet parked up outside…most homes are lucky to have a driveway big enough for a couple of cars!
Absolutely huge! This is such a great family home…so much space for the kids to run around and make lots of noise playing. Could you imagine how long a game of hide and seek would last?
If you thought Will Smith had a big home then check out Eddie Murphy’s…it looks more like a holiday resort! Definitely boasts the best swimming pool so far!
And finally, you can’t look at celebrity homes without having a nosy at the Beckhams.This was their house in Hollywood, however it has supposedly been bought by close friend Tom Cruise who wishes to use it as a guest house. Oh to be a celebrity…or at least friends with one!
Seen any bigger, better or more extravagant mansions than these then let me know!