March 2018 was, like every year, my mum’s birthday. 2018 however was not like the other years. 2018 was her 60th birthday and this was a feat that needed to be celebrated bigger and better than any other birthday, and why not? So after sifting through seemingly endless ideas and countless cities and countries across the globe, she picked Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for the celebrations.
At the time, I did not have a blog, and my Instgram was in its infancy, so I am writing a travel throwback post, in the spirit of the upcoming Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend. Varying slightly from my typical ‘Unconventional Travel Tip’ posts and my ‘Eating Out in…’ series, this will be more anecdotal as I look back over what I can remember of my time at the track.
As soon as my mum booked Abu Dhabi for her birthday celebrations, I instantly knew what I wanted to arrange for her. However, as is the way with these things much of the time, it was never going to be as straightforward as hoped.
After making the booking in the early January of 2018, I made immediate inquiries about what we could do as a celebration based around the Yas Marina Circuit. An avid Formula 1 fan, my mum had always wanted to go around a race track in a safety-car, during a race. Whilst I knew that during a race may be a little far fetched, I was determined to see what I could do. Knowing that many tracks have ‘experience days’ where you can drive yourself around at lightening speed, I wanted to find something similar but where someone else would drive for my mum.
With their ‘experiences’ being unavailable on the date of her birthday, I was looking for an alternative. I didn’t have much luck – simply nothing compared to my original idea. We were now into mid February and time was running out. I was stuck for a gift. Then, about three weeks before the big day there were some openings on the website for a Mercedes drive, which included being suited and booted and driven around the track by a professional driver. Perfect. I had to snap it up. I contacted the team at the circuit and advised them of the situation and exactly what I wanted to arrange, given that my mum was turning 60, I needed to make sure there would be no restrictions in place that would prevent her from enjoying the experience once at the track.
Everything was good to go. I provided my details to the team in Abu Dhabi and asked that they send me some paperwork, so I could make my mum a card, detailing what would be happening and give it to her on the morning of her birthday. With everything arranged, I told my dad what I had done, wrote out everything, tucked it into a birthday card and put it with my passport, so I would not forget to take it with me!
On the morning of my mum’s birthday, after breakfast at the hotel – I distributed my gifts for her, keeping the envelope for last. With a few other little gifts already unwrapped my mum tore into the card, and for use of a better phrase, promptly lost her s^$&.
Me, my mum and my dad jumped in a taxi later that day and went across to the Yas Marina area of Abu Dhabi, which took about 30 minutes from where we were staying. The three of us spent the whole day at the track, looking around and enjoying the hospitality, which was a completely fantastic way to spend the afternoon, even for my dad who cannot stand Formula 1 under normal circumstances.
With the 30′ Arabian sun beating down and the track temperature pushing 50′, to my mum’s delight, the drive was scheduled for sunset, just like the start of the actual Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. After the safety briefing, it was time to put on the headgear to stop bones from being broken and necks from being cricked by the g-force going around the track. Making sure to capture each moment as best I could, it was time to get in the car. I don’t really know what happened after that as that part of the experience was for my mum, but the car drove off.
Several minutes later, it was all done. Slightly dazed, and high from adrenaline, my mum emerged from the car, with the biggest smile on her face. Greeted by me and my dad as the sun completely dipped below the stands, the burnt orange, Arabian sky was subdued against the glare of the white hot lights, illuminating the track.
With my partners thirtieth birthday coming up next spring and my dad also coming up to 60 himself, I am already thinking about how I can help those birthdays be just as epic as this one.
Is this something you would like to do? What is the best birthday surprise you have ever arranged for someone or had someone arrange for you? Let me know in the comments below.