Proof that a holiday romance CAN last a lifetime!

Stephanie and Gareth met on a boozy Ibiza holiday in 2011. Seven years on, with three children, they’re one of the happy couples who are proof that a holiday romance CAN last a lifetime!

  • Sue Pumffrey met her husband Nigel while on holiday in Majorca in 1982
  • The pair reconnected when they returned to England by using a directory 
  • Sue and Nigel are about to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary
  • She believes they wouldn’t have been together if they met in everyday life 
  • Stephanie and Gareth Buckley met in Ibiza and married two years later 
  • The couples shared how their holiday romances became lasting relationships  

When 22-year-old Sue Pumffrey went on a package holiday to Majorca with a friend in 1982, she hoped to come home with a suntan. The last thing she expected to find was a husband.

But on the first day of her trip, Sue, a nurse, was swimming in the hotel pool when she met Nigel, a policeman three years her senior.

‘I saw him again in the bar that evening,’ she recalls.

‘He and his friend asked us to have a drink with them. We ended up spending the whole week together, travelling around the island. Over the last couple of days, Nigel and I had a couple of slow dances and a kiss.’

And, as with most holiday romances, that should have been that.

They said their goodbyes, didn’t exchange contact information and went back to their own lives — he lived in Staffordshire, she in West London. But on her first morning back at home, Sue, now 58, couldn’t get Nigel off her mind.

Stephanie, 37, and Gareth Buckley, 37, (pictured with their children Beatrice, 5, Aurelia, 2, and Perdita, 7 months) met in 2011 while in Ibiza. The couple began a long distance relationship when they returned to the UK before marrying in 2013

‘He was such a lovely person, and so good-looking. I realised how much I wanted to see him again.

‘Knowing his unusual surname, and the area he lived in, I rang directory enquiries and got the number of the only Pumffrey in his town.

‘Nervously, I dialled — and when he came to the phone I said, “Guess who this is?” He said, “Well it sounds like Sue, and if it is it’s a real coincidence because I was going to ring you tonight. I’ve just been to the library to get your number.” ’

Three months later, Nigel proposed. The couple, who live in Sonning, Berkshire, are still deeply in love and about to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. They have two children and two grandchildren.

And yet Sue says if they’d met in the ordinary course of their lives, she probably wouldn’t have given Nigel a second look.

‘I’d have liked him, but I’d probably have thought he was too quiet and reserved for me. Being on holiday brought him out of his shell.

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‘I had the whole week to get to know who he was.’

There’s nothing like the heady rush of a holiday romance — but the unwritten rule is that all that excitement, whipped up by a sense of liberation from the usual rules, lasts only as long as the trip itself.

Any residual feelings quickly evaporate when you return to reality and realise you hardly know your new partner, who may live many miles away. Yet for a tiny, fortunate minority a holiday romance really can last a whole lifetime.

Christine Fiorotto, 75, met her late husband Roberto in 1970, when she was 27 and on holiday in Venice. They were married for 45 years until his death from heart failure two years ago.

‘Roberto was sweet-natured, generous and gentle, a perfect husband who smothered me with love throughout our marriage,’ says Christine, a romance novelist who writes under the pen name Lucy Gordon.

Stephanie (pictured right with Gareth in Ibiza) who had been abroad for a friend’s hen do says her family were skeptical that her holiday romance could last long term 

‘Hard as I try, I can’t analyse it. I was meant to go on that holiday. I was fated to meet Roberto and love him.’

Christine recalls her first impression of Roberto — an artist who was working as a guide on her tour of a glass factory — ‘a tall, dark and handsome Venetian in his late 30s, who had more charm than any man has a right to have’.

At first, though, she was cautious about engaging in a holiday fling.

‘When he asked me to have dinner with him that night, I said “Definitely not!” I only changed my mind when he promised it would just be friendly.

‘But he didn’t keep his word, and thank goodness!’

Just 24 hours later, Roberto proposed, and the following year they married and settled in the UK.

‘I remember that our first kiss was very gentle and sweet. When he proposed, he just said: “You will be my wife.”

‘I remember not being quite sure if it was a request or an order, but luckily I was very glad to say yes. It was complete madness to marry so fast, but I was in love.’

Christine adds: ‘I think meeting him in that strange way helped inspire me to write romantic books — the experience was so intense.

‘Cynics might say Roberto only wanted to live in England. But, in fact, he’d spent several years living in the UK before we met, and had only gone back to Italy to look after his sick mother.

‘It helped that he spoke fluent English — we laughed at all the same things and he became my best friend. Regardless, my family thought I was bonkers, but I didn’t care. Once we were married, they saw how in love we were.’

Pam and Steve Lewis, both 61, (pictured at their home) met in 1975 during a visit to a Spanish holiday resort. The couple who now have three children and three grandchildren plan to return to Spain to celebrate their 40th, ruby, wedding anniversary this October

Unsurprisingly, family and friends often react with concern when strangers fall madly in love on holiday. All the more so when the holiday in question is, shall we say, a little less than decorous.

Stephanie and Gareth Buckley met when she was on a hen do, and he on a stag do on the party island of Ibiza in 2011. On the way home to Manchester, one friend of Gareth’s advised him: ‘You’ve had your fun, now delete her number.’

Stephanie says her family, who lived seven hours away in Taunton, Somerset, were equally sceptical: ‘Nobody could believe it was anything more than a bit of holiday fun.

‘And once we started our long-distance relationship, some of his friends resented me for taking him away from them every weekend. Our only advocates were our two best friends, who were there when we met.’

Stephanie and Gareth, both 37, have proved the cynics wrong. The couple, who married in 2013, now run an insolvency practice together near her family in Taunton and have three daughters, Beatrice, aged five, Aurelia, two, and seven-month-old Perdita. So, what’s the secret? Why do some holiday romances turn into solid, sensible relationships?

Perhaps it’s partly because there’s no better time to meet — and attract — a partner. Tanned and relaxed, with a flood of endorphins, or ‘happy hormones’, released by spending so much time in the sun, we look and feel our best.

Christine wonders if Roberto fell so quickly in love with her ‘because I was in a more light-hearted mood than usual.’ On holiday you’re also likely to meet someone who would never usually cross your path, whether it’s because they’re from a different culture, another class or just live hundreds of miles away. That in itself can be a powerful draw.

Pam and Steve Lewis (pictured on holiday in Mallorca, 1980) met for a party after they returned to England and went on to spend every weekend together

Psychologist Dr Arthur Aron, of New York’s Stony Brook University, has found that physiological stimulation — like travelling and experiencing new cultures — can create a strong romantic attraction.

On holiday, he believes, we might fall head over heels for someone we’d never consider at home. Stephanie admits: ‘Gareth wasn’t my normal type, either physically or personality-wise.

‘I think being on holiday made me open to meeting someone different, precisely because I wasn’t looking for a relationship, let alone a future husband.’

And, although the travel was exhausting, Stephanie says the slow-burn nature of a long-distance relationship actually helped turn their initial passion into lasting love.

‘The fact that we couldn’t see each other all the time, and didn’t speak every day, meant there was no pressure. Yet we had those treasured memories of our intense holiday romance. The relationship stayed fresh and exciting, but at the same time was able to grow and deepen naturally.

‘I remember ringing my mum just a few weeks in and saying to her, “I think I’m going to marry this guy.”

‘I’d had lots of ups and downs in love, but when I met Gareth it felt like my real life started.’

Three months after they met, Stephanie was visiting Gareth in Manchester when they had a silly row. She suddenly realised they were really quarrelling because of unspoken feelings they had for each other, which they were too scared to confess.

Sue and Nigel Pumffrey (pictured on their wedding day in 1983) met while on holiday in Majorca in 1982 and now have two children and two grandchildren

‘I stopped and said, “What’s going on?” and Gareth admitted he had fallen in love with me.’

Stephanie confessed she felt the same, but couldn’t keep travelling indefinitely. He invited her to move in. ‘And that was that,’ she says. ‘On Valentine’s Day 2012, he proposed. And that night I became pregnant.’

The following May, six months after their daughter Beatrice’s birth, they went back to Ibiza to celebrate their marriage with their friends. ‘It was lovely to be there, back in the place that changed the course of our lives — although on a very different sort of holiday,’ Stephanie says. ‘It felt very special.’

Small wonder that couples who turn holiday romance into marriage are drawn back, often many times over, to the place where they first met.

For Pam and Steve Lewis, both 61, the Spanish holiday resort where they met in 1975 holds great significance.

They’ve visited many times over the years, and in October they will return to celebrate their 40th, ruby, wedding anniversary with their three children and three grandchildren.

Christine Fiorotto (pictured right), 75, met her late husband Roberto in 1970 while on holiday in Venice. The pair were together for 45 years before his death two years ago

Pam, a hospital PA, recalls that her holiday back in 1975 was an 18th birthday treat from her parents. Soon after she arrived, she saw ‘three nice-looking boys walking into the hotel’. One of them was Steve.

‘He looked like one of the Bay City Rollers, with a thicket of auburn hair, although he is bald as a coot now!’ she laughs.

‘I’m from Newcastle and he was the first Cockney I had met. I found his accent intriguing.’

They spent a happy week together, but her holiday came to an end before Steve’s.

‘I said, “If you’re interested, drop me a postcard.” I really hoped that he would!’

Once home, Steve invited Pam to London for a party. ‘From then on, we spent every weekend together, taking it in turns to travel and taking the milk train home overnight.

‘My brother was disgusted to think I’d go out with a Londoner. He didn’t speak to me for a month. And my mother said, “I’ll not have any Cockney barrow boys staying in my house.”

‘He used to have to stay at my friend’s house instead!’

Keeping in touch before mobile phones or the internet was challenging, and Pam had to call from a phone box at the end of her street.

But the young lovers found a way around that. ‘I used to write him a soppy letter every night,’ Pam admits.

‘I’d buy fancy paper and put kisses on the envelopes. We’ve still got them in a drawer.’

They married three years after that holiday — and celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with the first of several trips back to the same resort. ‘We couldn’t stay in the hotel where we’d met because it was being renovated.

‘We went to see it anyway and they wouldn’t let us in.

‘But Steve didn’t take no for an answer. He said to them, “I’ve waited 25 years to bring her back here. Get her a hard hat if you like, but she’s having a picture taken at that bar.”

‘It was a wonderful feeling to be back — we were just the same, but almost 30 years older. And next time we went, we stayed in our old rooms.’

Pam sometimes wonders how her life might have turned out were it not for that holiday.

‘It’s just chance we were both there. Steve’s family had actually been in Australia for several years, but his brother got asthma and they had to come back to live in the UK. If that hadn’t happened, he’d never have been on that holiday in the first pace. I guess it was all just meant to be.’

Read Lucy Gordon’s latest story in the Harlequin Dreaming of Italy collection, £6.99

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