Thursday, January 29, 2009

Once in a Lifetime Experiences - Annie West

Have you ever had one of those special experiences, the ones that come along so rarely we’re liable to think they only happen once in a lifetime? It might be big like a wedding in the perfect place to the perfect man just as you’d dreamed it. Or it something simple: a wonderful summer or a day doing something special with your friends that is so fabulous the memory of it lasts for years.

I’ve had some. There was the day Harlequin advised they wanted to buy my first book written for them (I remember the time, date, weather, etc in perfect detail)! On a smaller scale, recently with time running out before my daughter’s formal (a little like a prom) we ventured out after her last exams and found the ideal dress that made her look a million dollars, at a price I could afford, – within half an hour!

I’ve just been blessed with another ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, the sort I know I’ll carry with me the rest of my life. I spent December with my family travelling in Europe, visiting friends we haven’t seen in years, seeing familiar places we love and exploring new ones. It was the sort of trip you dream of.

We didn’t miss any of our connections. We didn’t lose either luggage or kids. We stayed on friendly terms through the whole month (which, let’s face it, can be a real test when travelling). Our hotels were terrific. Our friends as lovely as we remembered and almost every day brought a wonderful new experiences to be treasured.

As Australians who rarely see snow we were thrilled to have it sprinkle on us just as we walked into a walled, cobble-stoned medieval town to visit a traditional German Christmas market. We had a sparkling bright day in the Alps when we went for a horse drawn sleigh ride. We stayed in an oasthouse, a half-timbered hotel that was 550 years old, a castle perched high above vineyards and villages, and in rooms right next to the Seine in Paris. We got the last tickets to a Royal Shakespeare Company production in London, were invited to a Christmas concert in the private chapel of a German schloss and had a day in an old-style farmhouse in the Bavarian Woods.

Above all, we were welcomed, not only by our friends but by strangers as well. The woman in the incredibly upmarket chocolate shop in Paris who positively beamed when I sneaked in and used up my whole store of French (about four words) to buy chocolate truffles. The bus driver who circled back to drop us where we needed to be. The host of our tiny hotel in Bavaria who farewelled us with chocolates and a bottle of bubbly.

Being able to share it all with my family was the best thing of all. Sharing those smiles and those experiences was a tremendous gift. Plus, I have to say, I’ve now got one or two exciting ideas fermenting for future stories, inspired by places we visited. You can see how inspired I was, staying at a fairytale castle!

Have you ever had a special experience that has stayed with you ever since? Large or small, was it something you look back on with joy? I’d love to hear about it.

And, as I’m so thrilled because I’ve just seen the cover of my next North American release on Amazon, I’ll give away a copy of THE DESERT KING’S PREGNANT BRIDE to someone who comments.

The book will be in stores in mid April, or can be ordered from Amazon. A Romance Junkies review described the book like this: “Annie West captures her readers with a lure as magical as tales from Arabian Nights. THE DESERT KING’S PREGNANT BRIDE has all the magical elements of a good romance superbly woven into a timeless masterpiece. " You can read about the story on my website (where there’s also a contest running for more books).


Helen said...

Hi Annie

Your trip with the family must have been beautiful what a fantstic holiday and the photos I have seen are amazing.

I agree there have been many things that have happened to me that have been amazing, in December I was there to see the births of two of my grandchildren one on the 13th and one on the 16th and I tell you it was truly awesome I was so emotional but very glad I was there to support both my daughters and their partners.

I have read the Desert Kings Bride and my advice to everyone is get it asap this is a fantastic book Annie's heros are to die for

Have Fun

PJ said...

Annie, your trip sounds like a beautiful fairy tale, one I'd love to experience. I've never been to Europe in the winter. It must be magical.

When I was 16, my family packed me up and sent me off on my first trip to Europe for six weeks of study and travel with 120 other students from around the USA. It was amazing! We traveled through Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy while studying the French language and culture. We spent three weeks on the banks of Lake Geneva in the lovely town of Evian where the people were friendly, generous and very patient with my French. I romped in high meadows in the Alps and rode cable cars to the top of Mont Blanc. I explored the beauty and history of Paris and Rome, spent a day exploring the serene island of Capri, was amazed by the mysterious Blue Grotto and the incredible ruins of Pompeii but I lost my heart forever the first time I saw Florence and stood in awe before Michaelangelo's David. Pretty heady stuff for a young girl from a small midwestern town of 1800. It was the "once in a lifetime" experience that opened my eyes and my heart to the wonders and the people of the vast world beyond my own little town and an experience for which I will be eternally grateful to my mom and dad.

Stefanie said...

Your trip sounds as if it's been awsome! The photos look great too.

I've already expirienced some amazing events. Some of them were small (like my grandmom living until she was 92; I've had her close to me for 20 years!)
And some of them were big. Like when I went to South Africa for a month to do some volunteering.

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Your holiday sounds wonderful with your family and friends. Can't wait to hear your "Daisy" stories.

Like Helen, I've read your wonderful sheikh book and can't wait for your next!

Annie West said...

Helen, two new grandchildren in 3 days? Now that truly is amazing! You must have been wondering if you'd be able to get to both daughters in time. I hope they were in the same city. There's something special about a parents/grandparents support at a time like that. I foresee you having a very busy time ahead. (G).

Thanks for the lovely comment on The Desert King's Pregnant Bride!


Annie West said...

PJ, what a trip for a 16 yo. That's truly amazing. It must ahve been lifechanging.

One day I hope to make it to Rome and Pompeii. Maybe next trip...! I noticed you commented on how pleasant the people of Evian were as you practised your beginner French. I found the same on this trip in Paris and through Germany - people were so patient and friendly.

Thanks so much for sharing.


Annie West said...

Stephanie, sounds like you had a special bond with your grandmother - how special. Like the other end of the relationships Helen is building now with her new grandkids.

Volunteering in Africa must have been fascinating as well as rewarding. Good on you! Friends of mine volunteered in the Middle East and loved it.


Annie West said...

Hi Marilyn,

Hm, Daisy stories? Let me just say she's extremely hospitable and fun we didn't stop talking the whole time I was there (except for sleep). Had an absolute ball. What a great introduction to Dublin!

Glad you enjoyed Maggie and Khalid's story! As for the next one, it won't be too far behind. I'm just posting info on my website about my releases this year.

Lovely to see you here.


Annie West said...

Ah, Stefanie,

Sorry, I just realised I didn't spell your name right. My apologies. I've just woken up and am blurry eyed (different time zone in Australia)!


Anna Campbell said...

Annie, what a gorgeous post! I think your trip sounds absolutely magical. Thanks for sharing it with us and showing us some of your lovely photos. I look forward to seeing large numbers of the photos some time soon. Too long since we got together.

I've loved reading everyone else's experiences too! Thanks for sharing, guys.

Oh, man, I've been really lucky. I've had a few of those take your breath away moments. For some reason, the one I'm thinking of right now was a concert of medieval music I went to in York Minster just on sunset after a perfect English summer's day. We sat in the chapter house which is basically like sitting inside a jewel box. It's all medieval stained glass with delicate stone tracery in between. Because the sun was going down, you could still see the colours of the glass in all their richness and beauty. Then when the light began to fade, a singing group called Gothic Voices came in wearing monks' robes and carrying candles and singing the most beautiful music by Hildegard of Bingen. Absolutely stopped my heart, it was so perfect. The pure sound, the beauty of the setting, the electric atmosphere. Unforgettable Haven't thought of that for ages. Thanks for letting me revisit the memory.

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, and I second Helen's endorsement of THE DESERT KING'S PREGNANT BRIDE. Fantastic read!

Pat Cochran said...

When Honey and I married in 1961, we only had the time and finances for a weekend trip. We thought about a second "honeymoon" but it never did happen. In late 1998, I received notice that I had won a sweepstakes. The prize: a trip to Venice, Italy! Talk about a dream coming true!! It was all that and more: the gondola tours, palatial hotels, churches and museums, the fabulous foods, the pigeons in the Piazza San Marco (just like in the
movies!) and the joy of getting to
share this with my Honey!

Pat Cochran

Estella said...

Your trip sounds awesome! In 1983 my husband and I spent time on the islands of Oahu and Maui. I'll never forget the trip of a lifetime!

Annie West said...

Hi Anna,

Thanks for sharing that wonderful memory. How absolutely terrific. You paint the scene so well. Sounds like a heart-stoppingly beautiful experience.

Laughing because my strongest memory of York Minster is years agao - sitting outside it and sharing a cold pork pie and wondering why English friends made such a fuss about them! Think I prefer your memory.

Ah, I have so many photos to show you when we next get together.

Thanks for the lovely comment on The Desert King's Pregnant Bride!


Annie West said...

Hi Pat,

Your holiday in Venice sounds mouth-wateringly wonderful, but more so given the background of the short honeymoon. You're right - sharing something special with the right person or people is just fantastic, isn't it?


Annie West said...

Hi Estella, what a well travelled lot you all are. Oahu and Maui sound so very, very exotic and enticing! No wonder you classify it as 'once in a lifetime'. Hawaii is another place I've wanted to go for ages (would you believe since I saw a film on volcanoes?). Maybe one day.

Thanks for contributing!


Maureen said...

Hi Annie,
Your trip sounds wonderful.
I have to say getting my first job after graduating from college was a thrill for me. It was in New York and I loved seeing all the different areas of the city.

Michele L. said...

Hi Annie,

What an amazing trip! I would love to visit there someday! I have a love of places that have castles. There is something so magical and mysterious about them. Absolutely love stories where it takes place in a castle. I used to read a lot of Gothic romances when I was a teenager.

The most amazing trip I ever went on was to California. My husband and I, his mom and my mom all went there to visit my husband's sister and her kids. Well, his sister is a vacation planner. We went everywhere! We visited Universal Studios, saw a play at the famous Pantages theater (saw the Lion King), went to the Getty museum, saw the stars handprints in the sidewalk, went down Rodeo Drive, saw Movie Star's homes, went to a hot springs in the northern part of the state, toured Hearst Csstle, drove along the coast of California on highway 2, ate at some pretty spectacular restaurants including one that was on a wharf in the ocean. It was a pretty spectacular vacation!

Annie West said...

Hi Maureen,

I can imagine what a thrill it was getting your first real job AND having in in NY. Wow. You must have been so excited! What an adventure.


Annie West said...

Ooh Michele, your California trip sounds like a once in a lifetime thing. So many things I'd love to see there, including the stars' hand and footprints! That coastline is supposed to be so spectacular.

Like you I read lots of gothic romances when I was younger and the thought of being in a real live (G) castle was such a treat. I kept remembering old stories I'd read about castles and dark forests etc. As we went on our sleigh ride I was imagining it in different circumstances - I'm sure a heroine of mine would adore a sleigh ride!

Thanks for sharing.


Anna Campbell said...

Annie, I never get the pork pie thing either. They always taste like slightly damp cardboard in aspic to me. I think my memory is MUCH nicer ;-)

Hey, I'm really enjoying everyone's stories. Pat, I'm still green with envy at the Venice trip!

Annie West said...

Hi everyone,

Thanks for sharing your extra special experiences! What interesting times you've all had.

My son is just home and picked the name of a winner at random for my giveaway.

CONGRATULATIONS, STEFANIE! You've won a signed copy of my upcoming release THE DESERT KING'S PREGNANT BRIDE. Just email me at with your postal address and I'll send you the book.

To those who missed out, if you want to read a current Annie West romance, do feel free to visit my website where I'm giving away a few books as well as a commemorative calendar celebrating 60 years of publishing by Harlequin Enterprises.

Happy reading everyone. See you next time.

Annie West said...

Hi Anna, you must have posted at the same time I did. I just remember the congealed fat in the pie, and the fact that half of it was air - maybe not the best specimen. Yes, you win. Your York memory is nicer. Though, now I think about it, we did get to see a fabulous production of Sheridan's 'School for Scandal' when we were there. Now THAT was definitely a winner.