Summer loving: Three women's tales of holiday romances
As Northern Ireland prepares to pack its bags for the holiday season, three local women tell how their holiday romances blossomed into love.
Moonlit strolls along a quiet beach, al fresco dinner dates, watching the sun set on your last night together, tearful farewells at the airport ... it's that time of year when thousands of singletons will indulge in a little bit of summer lovin' of their own.
For many, a holiday romance is as much part of a sunshine break as sun-burnt shoulders and too much sangria, while for others, it's a surprise added bonus to their annual getaway.
While it's a proven fact that sunlight make us feel happier, it also boosts testosterone levels in men, which might explain why foreign flings tend to be so prevalent.
But while holiday passion might fade quicker than your sun-tan once you arrive home, for others, it could be the start of something special.
We speak to three women who met their partners on holiday.
Coleen Matovu (35), who runs a travel agency, is married to Uganda-born Moses (38), a boxer and TV/film extra. They live in Conlig and have one daughter, Ivy (2). She says:
I met Moses in 2006 in Las Vegas. I'd been working for a travel agency in Belfast at the time and had been living with some girls in a shared house, when I decide to go travelling. We all sold up the house and I headed off on my travels, taking in Australia, New Zealand, Figi, The Cook Islands, Tahiti and then to the States, to LA and Las Vegas. It was really a whistle-stop tour as I was only away for three months.
We were backpacking the whole time and staying in hostels and it was in a hostel in Vegas that I met Moses. He worked there as the driver and also did limo tours from the hostel on a Saturday night. Moses was born in Uganda but after his mum died, he'd moved to Boston with his dad, then to Vegas, to go down the boxing route.
Initially when I met him it was physical attraction but as I spent more time with him, I just felt really comfortable with him. We just clicked. I thought he was gorgeous and didn't think he'd be interested in me but then we just got together. There wasn't a specific moment when I thought 'oh, I'm his girlfriend now', we just spent as much time together as possible and became an item.
I stayed in Vegas from the end of March to the end of May, but I'd already booked a flight to Toronto to meet up with my parents, who were flying out there. I came home to Northern Ireland then with them but I knew in my heart that I had to see Moses again, so I went back out again. We were both singing off the same hymn sheet, we both wanted to be together. He was living in his own apartment at that stage. I remember thinking that I didn't want to be without him, I just couldn't imagine not having him in my life.
I had to come home after 90 days but on my third trip back out, emigration officials at Dublin Airport wouldn't let me on the flight. Moses didn't have full citizenship at this stage and couldn't leave the US. It was a horrible time, the worst time of my life.
There was a lot of paperwork to sort out but in September that year, he got his Fiance Visa and came to Northern Ireland in December. The following year, on February 26, we were married. Both our families were there and lots of friends from all over the place. It was perfect.
Of course we've had people say hurtful things to us but I don't really care what they say. We've been together for nine years now and have a daughter and are happy. And he loves it here. He has full citizenship now and we lead a very normal life. Yes, it was all a bit of a whirlwind and very stressful at times, but it was all worth it. Moses is my best friend and I'm so glad I made the decision to go with my heart.
Jade Hamilton, (23), a hair salon receptionist from Londonderry, now lives in Glasgow with her boyfriend Dale Fleming (22). The pair met while on a working holiday in Magaluf. She says:
I've been going out with Dale for just over a year now although we knew each other for a year before that. I met him while I was working in a club in Magaluf in Majorca two summers ago and he was working as a bar crawl rep in the resort. One night he came into our bar and we just got chatting. I loved his Scottish accent and we shared the same dry sense of humour. It was me who asked him out though. I asked him if he'd like to go to a party for the workers from the bar. It was in a strip club, but there were no strippers on that night, just an acoustic indie artist set!
Lots of the guys who work in Magaluf are really cocky and think they are God's gift, but not Dale. He's really lovely and likes to have a good laugh. And he's not chauvinistic at all. I stayed in the resort until October and towards the end, we were even living together. When I got home to Derry I was heart-broken because I missed him so much. I cried all the time. My mum felt sorry for me so she booked me a flight to go back out to Magaluf to see Dale.
I went out to Australia for a bit and had the chance to stay there but wanted to come home to see Dale. We went back and forth a few times but at this stage, it wasn't official between us. Then on May 15 last year I went over to Scotland for his sister's birthday and that's when he asked me if I wanted to be his girlfriend. He came back to Derry with me but then in August I moved to Glasgow to be with him.
When we were in Magaluf, people kept saying to me "this is just a holiday fling" and "you know it won't last" and yes, those things did hurt me. I know Magaluf isn't exactly the most romantic of places, but I knew I wanted to be with Dale. I'm glad I didn't settle for someone back home that I didn't really want. I'm with the man I want to be with and I couldn't be happier."
Ciara Henderson, (40), an Omagh-born midwife who now lives in Broughty Ferry, near Dundee, is married to Steven (39). The couple has three children, Conall (11) and twins Oran and Lana (9).
In the summer of 1999 I went on a week's holiday to Tenerife with my friend Kate. We were staying in the Playa de las Americas resort and one night, near the start of the holiday, we were out in a bar, when Kate got chatting to a Scottish guy called Gary.
While they were chatting, this four-foot-nothing man with a moustache came up and started talking to me. I asked Gary then if he had a friend, because I really needed rescuing from this other guy. He went over to his mate Steven, who happened to be talking to another girl at the time, and brought him over. I remember thinking 'oh, he's nice', when Gary introduced us. He was wearing a white shirt that really showed off his tan and when we got chatting, I realised he was actually really nice, really easy to talk to.
That night, the four of us sat up until 4am, just talking. We ended up spending the rest of the week with the two lads and had a really nice time. I liked Steven because I can be quite quiet sometimes and he did a lot of talking, which suited me! He was just so easy going and we got on very well.
On the day Kate and I were heading home, the boys came to the bus to see us off as they were staying on for another week. Steven seemed genuinely sad that I was going, I won't say emotional, but he was definitely sorry to see me go. I remember thinking 'wise up, it's only a holiday fling', though I did really like him, I must admit. A few days after we got home, I was in Kate's house when Steven rang her and said that Gary was ill and asked her for advice, as Kate is a nurse. Then he asked if I was there and if he could talk to me. That was that then.
We stayed in touch and the both of us went back and forth between Northern Ireland and Scotland a few times. He also stayed with my family that Christmas. I knew by then that he was the one for me. However I'd already planned to go travelling to Australia with Kate and my friend Deirdre the next year but Steven flew out to see me. A year to the very day we met, on August 3, he proposed to me in Brisbane. Some people thought we were mad, as we'd only known each other a year and hadn't really spent that much time together as such. But I knew it was right, we both did. I had no doubts at all.
I came home in October and moved to Dundee straight away. Then on June 29, 2002, we got married. We have three lovely children now and are very happy. But when I was in Tenerife I must admit, I never imagined I'd end up marrying my holiday romance. It didn't take me long to find out that he was the one for me though.
A few years ago we too the kids to Tenerife and my daughter wanted to know where her mum and dad had met. We didn't want to take her to Veronica's Strip, with all it pubs and clubs, so we brought them down to a big rock on the beach, with the waves crashing against it - a much more romantic setting!
Maureen Coleman: Why my holiday romance failed to go the distance
There's nothing quite like a sizzling summer fling to put a spring in one's step.
A holiday romance with a sexy Spaniard or a frisky Frenchman could be just what the doctor ordered after a long, miserable winter - provided there are no surprise souvenirs, of course!
Even the most fleeting of affairs can seem so much more heady when you throw sunshine and exotic locations into the mix.
Picture the scene - you're strolling along a moonlit beach in Sorrento, hand in hand with a handsome Italian, whispering sweet nothings in your ear. Let's face it "sei bellissima" sounds so much more seductive than "you're beautiful", trotted out in a strong Belfast brogue.
I've always had a soft spot for foreign men, from olive-skinned Latinos to blue-eyed Scandinavians. Maybe it's the accent that I find attractive, or maybe it's the long-distance factor that appeals to the slight commitment-phobe in me.
I've enjoyed brief dalliances with a German barman, an Austrian soldier, a Norwegian welder and an Italian ski instructor. I like to think I'm doing my bit for the United Nations. The flings were fun while they lasted but I've never been interested in carrying things on.
Then last year I met someone while holidaying with my aunt in south Italy and breaking with tradition, agreed to stay in touch with my inamorato. He was good looking, charming, funny and smart.
He spoke four different languages, five if you count the language of love! He was also incredibly intense and tactile, much to the discomfort of my poor aunt. But she liked him. It was hard not to.
As this wonderful holiday was drawing to a close and I was preparing to pack up and head back to reality, my Italian announced that he had a great plan. He'd always wanted to visit Ireland, he said, and as Sorrento closed up during the winter, he suggested moving here for a few months. He insisted he'd get a job and pay his way, that it would be fun getting to know each other better and depending on how things progressed, I could always accompany him back to Sorrento, come the summer.
With hindsight, I can see that I was totally swept away by the romance - some might say madness - of it all. And when I came home he contacted me straight away. He missed me, I missed him.
We talked about his big plan to follow me to Belfast when his job came to an end. I fantasised about moving to stunning Sorrento, to live out my days on a goat farm, surrounded by lemon trees and the bright pink bougainvillea of the Amalfi coast. I imagined myself sipping Pinot Grigio as I watched the sun set over the azure blue sea. I'd write my first novel...
However, not long after my return, the rose-tinted spectacles through which I'd admired my Italian, began to slip off. I became anxious about him coming to stay with me. It all seemed so full-on, so fast. We argued constantly, the distance and language barrier not helping matters. Things we attempted to say to each other got lost in translation. We fell out, fell in, then fell out again. Our personalities, attitudes and cultures clashed too many times. We just didn't get on and after seven roller-coaster months, it all came to an end.
Looking back, I can see that I fell for the dream perhaps more than the man. But that didn't stop me from getting hurt.
My experience has taught me several things though. Firstly, holiday romances, for me anyway, are best left where they belong - on holiday. And secondly, maybe local men aren't that bad after all.